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Friday, July 21, 2017


Buttermilk Creek Farm in Burlington, North Carolina is open.  Peaches. Raspberries. Blueberries.  The nicest people you would ever want to meet.  We are going to make jam!

We first went there two years ago when we were house hunting.  We couldn’t be too ambitious in our picking then because we were heading back to New York and a load of peaches was just not in the cards. 

Buttermilk Creek Farm is beautiful: row upon row of peaches ripening throughout the season.  Butterflies, bees, green leaves, and yellow and red ripe peaches, or ripening peaches. 

Row upon row of peach trees making the air fragrant and the walk beautiful

Row upon row of green-leafed blueberry bushes with stalks bent over, heavy with fruit and beckoning your fingers which, somehow, can’t resist popping one (or two or more) into your mouth, marveling at the warm, tart taste that you never find in a grocery store. 

You can see the unripened blueberries.
Berry pickers were here bright and early.

Row upon row of blackberry bushes with fruit in all stages of ripening, so your eyes are treated to an array of colors long before you find the plump blackberry,

Picking fresh fruit right off the bush, vine, or tree, is a remarkable treat simply because most of us don’t have that opportunity often.  If you’ve never done it, you don’t realize that a ripe, sun-warmed peach or blackberry or blueberry does not taste like the fruits we buy in the stores that have been picked long before they are ripe and then ripen as they are shipped and then stocked on our shelves.  Eat a tree-ripened peach right in the grove where the air smells of peach, and feel the juice drip down your chin.  Pretty incredible.

While we visited Buttermilk Creek Farm on the first day it opened this year, there was sadness as well.  This past winter, as you probably remember, there was frost and storms.  Buttermilk Creek Farm lost almost 90% of its crop.  Trees were damaged as well.  They opened anyway so the fruits that were undamaged would be picked and eaten.  That’s a fact of life on the farm.  Good years and bad years with the hope that the good years outnumber the bad.

The owner, who we met on our first visit, looked at the fruit we picked which is sold by the pound.  As he put our fruit on his scale, he picked out a few peaches that didn’t look quite perfect to him.  “We don’t sell damaged goods here,” he said.  After weighing the fruit and quoting the price, he put the peaches back in our box.  “They’ll be fine,” he said.  But he did not charge us for them.  Principles.

He also told us an interesting story—from his perspective.  He can tell Northern transplants from Southerners by the berries they pick.  Northerners like blueberries, and he makes sure he has them.  But Southerners like blackberries and have plenty of recipes for them.  Can’t say this is gospel but can say this is one man’s feelings.  At any rate, this year we went for blackberries.

It was a wonderful experience.  If you are in the state while peaches are in season, visit one of the many farms.  You don’t have to get a lot, but enjoy the rich experience of picking from a tree and eating the warm, sun-ripened, globe of sweet delight.  And if you want to experiment, there's always peach jam to make.  It's yummy!!

Our first attempt at canning peach jam.
Edible immediately.
But some to save.
Absolutely yummy.
We're thinking of making more!

Friday, July 14, 2017


Isn't this how we feel these days--
the Dog Days of Summer?

Wednesday, July 05, 2017


Sitting on the beautiful deck of Persimmons Waterfront Restaurant overlooking the Neuse River in New Bern, North Carolina, eating a superb early dinner tastefully and creatively presented, and drinking vodka martinis and then a glass of wine is a perfect way to spend a late afternoon slipping into evening.  Trust me.  I’ve been there.

This New Bern waterfront restaurant is locally owned and is in every way worth a visit.  I’ll share with you the way we spent our time on the outdoor deck, but first I want to share a piece from Persimmons’ own website, a site I visited before our trip as I was compiling places we should add to our must-see list.  This excerpt explains some of Persimmons’ unique appeal.

“The most-asked question…”what is the origin of our name?”  When our building was originally constructed, we dredged the adjacent marina…one of the logs that was found was a persimmon tree.  We took the persimmon log down the street to Bill Nelson of Precision Molding, who milled the wood, which was used to create what is now our host stand found at the entrance…Persimmon trees…are one of the only fruits native to Eastern North Carolina.  The Roman name for persimmon means “fruit of the Gods.”

Intriguing?  For me, it set a positive tone.  This restaurant made the list.

The day of our visit was hot, as most late spring North Carolina days are, and Rob and I were ready for some liquid refreshment and, at least, some accompaniment.  We’d walked along the beautiful waterfront admiring the boats, the gorgeous homes across the street from the riverfront, and the magnificent river.  It seemed the perfect time for Persimmons.

It was late afternoon, so we initially had the deck almost to ourselves. We could sit back, admire the view, and have a cocktail as we perused a beautiful and too tempting menu.  The truth is we planned on cold oysters to accompany our martinis, but the offerings of Southern-inspired, locally sourced American cuisine, were so tantalizing, we decided on an early dinner.  Even the menu at Persimmons is lovely.  This is a restaurant where details are important.

From the Locally Inspired Beginnings, I chose the Fried Green Tomatoes and Pimento Cheese Beggar’s Purse (Arugula, Crisp Country Ham, Roasted Tomato and Shallot Vinaigrette)

I’ve found that in each restaurant in which I order Fried Green Tomatoes, I am served a different variation.  I love that.  These, at Persimmons, were extraordinarily different and absolutely delicious.  The presentation was lovely, and they were melt-in-your mouth spectacular.  The tomatoes were topped with a flaky, light, crisp “purse” surrounded by the complimentary colors and textures of the rest of the dish. This was true artistry on a plate and every bite was a delight.  Am I coming across as loving this?  Wow!

Rob has been anxious to try Shrimp and Grits, so he ordered the Carolina Shrimp and Local Stone Ground Geeche Grits (cave-aged white cheddar, Tomato Butter, GF).  How beautiful does this look?  And it tasted just as lovely.  Presentation is important, of course, but the taste buds make the final judgment, and Rob’s taste buds gave this dish a resounding TEN.

Oh, how we lingered.  This would have been enough, for as you see, these were hearty portions as well, but we had ordered dinner.

Rob chose the Grilled Ahi Tuna (Smoked Potatoes, Fresh Cherries, Petite Herb Salad, Black Garlic Vinaigrette, Horseradish Créme Fraiche, GF).  Artistically presented and prepared exactly as he likes the tuna.  My taste proclaimed it amazing. The tuna was done to perfection.  He loved it, and that’s the important thing. Delightful and satisfying.

I chose the Mountain Trout (Sugar Beet Risotto, Tomato, Marcona Almond, French Beans, Brown Butter Lemon Reduction GF) How tantalizing does this look?  Trust me.  It was that wonderful!  The fish was flaky, perfectly seasoned, and not dry.  The vegetables were fresh, crisp and seasoned nicely, allowing the vegetable flavor to dominate.

Isn’t the menu made more attractive by adding the details of each dish.  While I don’t look for it, I also noted that dishes were labeled GF—gluten free—as well.  The customer should not need to ask.

We ate slowly, enjoying the ambiance, the wine, the food, and, of course, the sterling company.  What is also lovely is that there is no pretense in any of this.  Persimmons is simply spectacular, and it doesn’t have to do more than be exactly as it is—natural, caring, professional.  A perfect early evening for us.  I highly recommend a stop there.

Friday, June 30, 2017


Driving home yesterday, I stopped to take this photo
about a mile from my home.
This is tobacco.
Isn't it absolutely lush and beautiful as it grows?

Tuesday, June 27, 2017


As we got into the car, I wasn't singing "Going to Kansas City" for any reason other than anticipating a return to barbecue heaven on hearth.  I was looking forward to Kansas City's renowned brand of barbecue--a craving I've had since our last visit here more than two years ago.  Rob, Michael, and I decided on an early dinner,so we headed for Smokehouse Bar-B-Cue in Zona Rosa, Kansas City, Missouri as it is exactly the craving satiator I was looking for. 

The restaurant's cavernous setting has a set of double entry doors, and once you leave the street and enter through the first set, you are transported to a separate universe of special offactory delights.  The splendid aromatic combination of spiced and rubbed hickory smoked meats and sauces fondle your receptors until hunger and desire are overwhelming.

I am not exaggerating.  We’re certainly not the first to discover Smokehouse Bar-B-Cue.  Go on a weekend and expect a wait.  We were lucky on a Monday, early, and were seated immediately. By the time we left, the place was filling up.

The wait staff is knowledgeable and friendly.  The restaurant, a family-owned business with two other locations, is redolent of comradery and good cheer, so it is at once comfortable and familiar.

Our drinks of choice were beers.  Rob went for the hoppiest IPA, Firestone Union Jack IPA, brewed out in Paso Robles, CA. (another delightful place) Michael and I went local,  KC's own Boulevard Brewery's Pale Ale for him and Boulevard Wheat for me, after a sample taste to make sure this beer would do.  I really liked choosing a Boulevard brew as we had a wonderful tour and tasting at the Boulevard Brewery on our last trip to KC.  This choice was like coming home.  I drank it throughout our Kansas City stay.

Boulevard Wheat is served with a slice of lemon.
Great beer!
Trying to satisfy those barbecue-hungry taste buds in one meal is tough, but we were determined.  After suitable deliberation, we all ordered the Chef's Special which includes pork spare ribs, baby back ribs, bone-in chicken, burnt ends, thick slabs of toast, and two sides.  Here Rob and I agreed on Cheesy Corn and Hickory Pit Beans.  Michael joined us in the corn but went for the cole slaw instead. 


Generous is an understatement when I describe the portions.  The meats were juicy, tasty, fall-of-the bone deliciousness, dowsed in a delightful sauce at once tangy and sweet, thick and sticky, a pleasure to enjoy. I’m smiling even as I write this!

The secret of great barbecue is in the sauce.  Smokehouse's is sweet, spicy, thick, and sticky.  It's tomatoey and sharp.  It clings to the meat, and there is no need to add anything to it.  It's wonderful.  If there is any left on your plate or in your bowl of beans, you take a piece of your thick hunk of toasted bread and wipe it up and eat it.  It's too good to allow it to be washed down some drain!

Do you know what burnt ends are?  This is part of the uniqueness of Kansas City barbecue.  Burnt ends are considered a delicacy. It is the thoroughly cooked point end of the brisket, separated before or after the rest of the brisket is cooked, so the ends are crispier with a decidedly well-done flavor. At some smaller barbecue restaurants, burnt ends are not offered everyday because they don't cook a sufficient quantity of brisket. Not to worry at Smokehouse. They cook plenty.

The beans, too, slow cooked in a savory, thick sauce, were delicious.  Ever try Cheesy Corn? It is so unusual, creamy and mixed with a thin melted cheese sauce.  The corn is sweet and crisp, not overcooked soggy kernels, and the sauce does not overpower; it compliments. It's a side I fondly remembered just as soon as I saw it on the menu. Scrumptious and different.  I’ve never seen it on any of our other barbecue junkets outside Kansas City. Here it is a menu staple but prepared differently in different restaurants.

What a dinner! What a welcome to a great week in Kansas City!

Dessert?  Are you kidding? Sometimes there really is too much of a good thing! 
Take my word on this--Smokehouse is a great place to go if barbecue is your thing!