Lannae's Food and Travel

I hope you like my food and travel blog.

March 29, 2011

State Capitals

My new addition to Cool Links Alli's Adventure, she loves to visit state capitals and capitols. I thought that was just a nifty idea. I was wondering how many state capitals (I have stay in at least over night) and capitols I have seen and remember the city. I am not counting Santa Fe because I don't really remember much as I was so young. How about you, if you live in the USA, or have visited the USA, how many capitals and capitols have you been to? Here is my list alphabetically by state.
1 Montgomery, AL
2 Phoenix, AZ
3 Sacramento, CA
4 Denver, CO (I have a photo of the mile high survey maker)
5 Hartford, CT (Oh the Rt 84/91 traffic)
6 Dover, DE (sobering)
7 Tallahassee, FL (home of the strongest magnet)
8 Atlanta, GA
9 Frankfort, KY
10 Annapolis, MD
11 Boston, MA
12 Jefferson City, MO
13 Trenton, NJ (We Make, The World Takes)
14 Raleigh, NC
15 Columbus, OH
16 Harrisburg, PA
17 Providence, RI
18 Nashville, TN
19 Salt Lake City, UT (right before the winter Olympics, fabulous!)
20 Charleston, WV

March 25, 2011

Fresh Fish Fuji

variety of sushi
(taken with my iPod camera)

I have been going to Oxford, AL for over a dozen years, sometimes many times per year, sometimes once per year. A dozen years ago, there wasn't much in Oxford, AL, a town not too far away from Talladega Super Speedway. As a matter of fact, a dozen years ago it was cell phone, motel and food desert. For a decade of travel to Oxford, I had no cell phone service, there wasn't anywhere I know of that had free wifi, there wasn't one restaurant that I could find a fresh vegetable outside of a wilted iceberg lettuce salad, and there wasn't a motel that made me smile. As a matter of fact, I frowned many times at the one motel I stayed, as the various rooms had bug problems like ants, flies, and the last time I frowned it was either an infestation of millipedes or centipedes. That was just gross, but I had no choice, there was no where else to stay that wasn't down wind from the wastewater treatment plant. Oxford, AL was not high on my list of places to roll into. But what a difference a decade makes. There are now multiple motels of name brands that are clean, have wifi, are new and have no bugs to be seen. There is now cell phone service. There is a "big box" strip mall now with a giant target, a book store, clothing stores, etc. which is great if I forgot something and need to buy an item. It is a new Oxford, AL that is actually quite pleasant to visit now.

The big breakthrough is the food available in Oxford now. For a decade, there wasn't one fresh vegetable to be had at any of the restaurants and believe me, after a decade of wonder up and down the 2 main strips, there was virtually nothing. Seafood was all fried. The freshest veggies were French fries. The healthiest meals were either pizza or bbq. For a short period of time, there was a Korean restaurant that closed quickly, and there was a sushi restaurant downtown, but that closed quickly too. Outside of those 2 momentary blips, Oxfords was a food desert. But within the past 2 years or so, Oxford has seen a growth in restaurants including a Mellow Mushroom which as a fresh spinach salad, and Fuji which offers raw fish that is not deep fried.

Fuji is the best sushi Oxford, AL has (it might be the only sushi). Is it the best I had, no, but it is certainly the best I have had in Oxford, AL. The night I went, the fish looked fresh, clean and well cared for. The fish was tender. They had salmon roe, a favorite of mine. When I was done eating, I did not feel weighed down, I did not consume gallons of oil from fried fish, and I felt like I did something decent for my arteries. At my table, there were people who got the teriyaki combo dinners. Again, the food isn't the best I have ever seen, but it is the best that Japanese style food Oxford, AL had. The upswing though is that everyone agreed we did not feel like we just added plaque to our arteries, and that we were not weighed down with fatty foods. Fuji gave us decent calories for fuel for another day without hardening our arteries.

Fuji doesn't have a lot of veggies, just an iceberg lettuce salad and edamame, but at least it is possible to have a meal sans deep fried foods. Reading other's comments on Fuji, I would agree, it is a bit "pricey" for the area. But then again many other Oxford options are of fatty cheap food-desert foods. Fuji is just refreshing to have in Oxford, AL.

Fuji Japanese Cuisine on Urbanspoon


March 21, 2011

Vinegar Experiment Part 1

My vinegar mother arrived at my house on Wednesday, and stuck her in my refrigerator until I was ready to deal with her. No, I am not talking about a tiger or overbearing mother, I am talking about acetobacter, a type of bacteria that converts alcohol to acetic acid, the acid found in red wine vinegar. I looked around Nashville for anyone who makes red wine vinegar, and there is no one I know who makes vinegar in and around Nashville for at least 50 miles. I asked the bio dynamic organic farmers I know from Davidson, Macon, Williamson, Sumner and Wilson Counties, and not one makes vinegar. I asked all of the talented cooks from the Nashville food blogging world, and not one makes vinegar. I asked all the farmers from West Farmers Market, and not one makes vinegar. I asked all my buddies who have the Wild Fermentation book, and not one makes vinegar.

Vinegar Mother from 25 year old mother stock from Northampton, MA

So, I decided I wanted known stock with longevity, so I looked back to my old stomping grounds Amherst and Northampton, Massachusetts. Amherst and NoHo are areas where there has been a local organic, vegan, vegetarian, make your own culture for as long as I have known about these towns (so that would be over 30 years). I contacted the NoHo brewing company, and they have 25 year old vinegar mother started with love in Northampton, MA. That is the mother I want, and that is the mother I got.

Red wine turning into vinegar, Day 1

So, here is my container with leftover wine from various bottles, the vinegar mother and a little water. And now I wait.

March 17, 2011

The Original Take 2

grilled shrimp lunch plate with potatoes, collards, and hushpuppies
(again, sorry so blurry, photo from the iPod, not a real camera)

This place is called the Original Oyster House 2, but how can it be original when it is the 2nd one? The 1st one is in Gulf Shores, AL, and this one, the 2nd one is on the Causeway overlooking Mobile Bay, and across the street from the famed and National Historic Landmark U.S.S. Alabama. Should that rename the "land"mark to "ocean"mark? The Original Oyster House 2 is located on really interesting ecological and environmental land. The OOH2 is build high on stilts just in case of flooding. Along the causeway, where OOH2 is located, you will see little wood and chainlink fences that are about 1 - 1.5 ft high. How silly it is to have fences that low, even a shorty like me can just walk right over them. These fences are not for humans, they are to project the sea turtles that live around the area. The fences are for sea turtles who come ashore to lay eggs. The turtles walk out of Mobile Bay, and continue to walk until they can't anymore and then they lay their eggs. These little fences protect those sea turtles from walking up to the road and inhabited areas, and keep them on the sandy bay areas perfect for the nests.

I have been to the OOH2 multiple times, and each time I was just a little bummed out because I had always been steered to get fried fish. I just don't like fried fish of any kind. This time, absent from the table was the fried fish pusher, I discovered that there are grilled, broiled, and boiled options which I like better. Also, I have lived landlocked for so long now, that fish, even averagely prepared fish is better than no fish in my landlocked state. On this day at OOH2, I got steamed crab claws with old bay to start, and a grilled shrimp plate as my lunch entree. The steamed crab claws were actually really delicious. For years, I thought you could only get the crab claws fried, which I did not like at all, but I discovered they had steamed. What a world of difference. Steaming the claws just brought out the flavor of the crab and the accent of old bay was quite nice. I played it safe for the entree, and it likely the shrimp I ate was not from the Gulf of Mexico, but rather they were farmed somewhere because they were just too small and perfect in size to each other. The last time I got Gulf shrimp, they were all different size and bigger and heartier than farmed shrimp. I really liked the grilled shrimp and the boiled new potatoes. I have also reconfirmed I dislike hushpuppies. I don't like the texture, flavor, or greasiness of the hushpuppie. It doesn't matter if they are the world's best hushpuppies, I am not going to like it.

It was a real treat to see the USS Alabama, see the natural splendor of Mobile Bay, and have some unfried seafood to boot.

Original Oyster House on Urbanspoon


March 13, 2011

Green Celebration

March 9, 2011

The Royal Scam

fish tacos (sorry so blurry, old phone camera)

It is a challenge to find fresh veggies, not-fried fish, and healthier options while traveling in some of the south USA. I am guessing it is more of a challenge being a vegetarian and traveling where I travel. Actually, I know it is tough to find nutritious foods for the self-imposed vegetarian and the religious vegetarian with whom I travel. One trip, there was only one place to out eat, and they ended up getting a "veggie sandwich" made special for them and fries. The sandwich included one leaf of iceberg lettuce, and a slice of mealy tomato on a generic hamburger bun. There was another town and restaurant where all of the side items had meat mixed into it, including the slaw and green beans. While on travel, I will eat anything, but I crave fresh vegetables because sometimes they are so hard to get.

As we traveled to Mobile, AL, the city was getting ready for Mardi Gras, as Mobile is the home of the original Mardi Gras (not New Orleans). The last time I was in Mobile, I was only informed about the touristy fried fish places with no veggie in sight except for the fries. This time, I was told about a comfortable hole-in-the-wall called The Royal Scam. The Royal Scam is a small restaurant and bar located on the corner of Royal and Government streets. The brick interior, and dark wood on the bar makes it feel like this place has been around for 30 years. The variety of food available at this place will be able to satisfy meat eaters, veggie eaters, and non-fried food eaters alike. There are really big fresh salads for $6 including a green mix salad and an Asian slaw salad. One veggie eater got the Asian slaw salad and supplemented the meal with fries on the side just to make sure that there was enough calories and satisfy the daily requirements. To our happy surprise, the salad was overflowing the plate, it had a nice toasted sesame and sriracha hot sauce, the noodles and cabbage were a nice mix, and it was certainly more than enough for a decent meal. The fries were good, but completely unnecessary to fill the calorie requirements for the day. Also, special orders to make dishes veggie friendly were not a problem for this cute bistro.

Others including myself, were craving un-fried fish and veggies. The tuna tartare was beautifully served in a martini glass with lettuce and wasbi sauce. The grilled fish tacos were piled high with fresh cabbage, and there was nothing deep fried about it. From the bar, the dirty martini was a thing of perfection.

The Royal Scam is close to many of the downtown hotels, so from most hotels it is less than a block walk. But, I don't think this place is set up for just tourists. The vibe I get from this place is that there are locals eating and drinking here right after work, and before they commute home. I think there are some regulars that belly-up to the bar for a decent meal and chat with bartender before calling it a night.

Another thing we all noticed about this restaurant and bar, was the no smoking policy. I imagine at one time, because of the bar, there used to be smoking in this place, just like ever other restaurant in Alabama that I have been in in the past decade. Parts of the south including TN, KY and AL have been slow to adopt no smoking rules in restaurants, and Alabama was one of the last holdouts for that. We all sat there enjoying our fresh meals in a smoke free environment when we noticed that we spent an evening breathing well with no smoking. I wonder if it is just this restaurants policy, a Mobile city ordinance, or a state-wide rule. None of us knew because we are not from Alabama. But, we certainly enjoyed ourselves as we breathed easy at The Royal Scam.

The Royal Scam on Urbanspoon


March 1, 2011

It's a Flint Thing

UPDATE: Sadly, this little delicious Flint Style Coney Dog place has closed.

Detroit/Flint Style Coney Dogs made
the traditional way

The proper way to make a Detroit/Flint Style Coney Dog is to use Koegel's hot dogs made with a natural casing that gives cracking snap when you bite into it, Michigan style Coney Sauce (loose meat chili) from Michigan, on a steamed hot dog bun topped with yellow mustard and chopped onions only. There is no cheese, kraut, ketchup, chilis, pickles, relish, etc. The chili is a a loose meat chili with no onion, no beans, no peppers, just loose meat in a brownish gray gravy. The Michigan Style Coney Dog is a thing of beauty. My buddy who grew up around the Motor City and Flint, MI discovered Jim's Coney Island and went into a happy kid dance after taking one bite of the hot dog that was exactly how he remembered them as a kid. I believe my buddy is so dang happy every single time he gets a chance to visit Jim's Coney Island and get at least one of the perfect Flint Style Coney Dog.

fresh cooked fries with seasoning salt

Not only are there the perfect Flint Style Coney Dogs, there is also Vernors Ginger Ale and Faygo sodas served along side the hot dogs. Vernors Ginger Ale was formulated by Mr Vernor, a Detroit Pharmacist back in the 1800s when soda was consider medicinal, created this drink. The perfect pairing to take you to Detroits finest hot dog dining is a Vernors Ginger Ale and Flint Style Coney Dog. If you don't want a Vernors, there is also Faygo brand soda, another Detroit soda maker, and maker of the Red Pop soda.

If you go and dine with friends who don't want a hot dog, there are wings, burgers, fries, and onion rings. I am not sure about the burgers because I am not going to a hot dog joint for a burger. Anyway who goes to Jim's and gets a burger needs to let me know how the burgers are.

red hot wings

All of the components of Jim's Coney Island (Real Detroit Coney Island Hot Dogs) are the real deal, and the sodas available to wash down the hot dogs are also Detroits finest and the real deal as well. I love that Nashville has this little gem of a place that brings a little Detroit to a funky little hot dog store off of Harding Place near the I65 interchange. Don't expect red chili, beans, cheese, kraut etc, this not the gig for this place. This place is about the Detroit/Flint Style Hot Dog.

How to find this place, it isn't necessarily a place you would drive by normally. It is on Trousdale Drive just north of Harding Place near the intersection of I65 and Harding Place. From Harding, turn north onto Trousdale. Pull into the Marathon Gasoline Station. Jim's Coney Island is in the little retail space of the Marathon Gasoline Station. By the way, this Marathon Gas Station is one of the only places in town that sells real gas, not that ethanol gas.

Jim`s Coney Island on Urbanspoon