Sunday, March 1, 2015

Oh, Sugar! Ribs in Chattanooga


Seems like The Friends are heading to Chattanooga a lot lately. On our last trip with the family, we visited the Boathouse at the suggestion of our friend, Will. When Will recommended the Boathouse, he also gave the thumbs up to the Boathouse's sister restaurant, Sugar's Ribs. Sugar's is located right off I 24 E as you head through Chattanooga toward Knoxville. You can see Sugar's huge sign from the interstate, perched high on a hill right in front of the King's Lodge. I think King's Lodge used to be a nice place to stay back in the '80's but it looks pretty sketchy now. 

On this day, Luanne and I were in Chattanooga to visit with a sweet friend who was in the hospital. We were getting dinner for her family waiting at the hospital and having a bite ourselves as well. Since our friend's husband had requested barbecue, we thought this might be a good time to check out Will's suggestion.  

I have heard that Sugar's has a herd of goats outside the restaurant. Maybe the weather was too bad for the goats on the day of our visit, but we did not see them while we were there. We did however, smell the barbecue! Good golly! If you aren't starving before you pull in to the parking lot, you will be by the time you walk across the parking lot to the door!

The first thing you do when you enter the restaurant, is place your order. Beware, the cute girl taking the orders has a wicked sense of humor. If you ask a question like, "What comes with the bbq pork?" You will get an answer like, "bbq pork!" Or, if you dare venture to ask, "What is the difference between the smoked jalapeños and the smoked peppers", she will, with a twinkle in her eye, say, "The smoked jalapeños are smoked jalapeños and the smoked peppers are not jalapeños." Trust me, we went back and forth like this for quite a while! We were all in tears from laughing so hard before we ever completed our orders. But, complete them we did (finally) and our hostess informed us that she would also be the one delivering our food. This seemed to be a one woman rodeo! I peeked to see if she was also in the kitchen smoking the jalapeños and the non-jalapeños, or if, perhaps, she was smoking something else! Just kidding! She was funny and personable and Luanne and I just love a good sense of humor.

                           

Our take-away from all the ordering was: 1) nothing is fried at Sugar's, 2) the entire menu is à la carte and, 3) the service, once you get past the ordering, is fast! I am not kidding! We had no sooner gotten our drinks (the drink bar is self-serve) and picked out a table, than our food appeared. The other thing we noticed was that Sugar's is all about the sauce. Holy moly! There were six bottles of sauce lined up on our table and you know I had to try every single one of them! FYI, Hot Lips is hot! But, after the discussion with our literal hostess, I should not have been surprised. And then there was this sign on the wall...
                          

                                     

My meal consisted of pulled pork, vinegar slaw and potato salad, accompanied by a corn muffin, sliced onion, pickles and six large puddles of sauce. I loved it all except for maybe the sauces. I had a hard time finding one that suited me just right. I know...there were six of them. I should have been able to find one! Actually, the one I liked best was the oddest of all. It was a clear sauce with the name, Clearly Great Sauce. 


Luanne knew right away she was going with Sugar's namesake, the ribs! Those ribs were falling off the bone, smoky and absolutely delicious. She chose the vinegar slaw and some wood grilled onion rings to party with her ribs. I thought the grilled onion rings were a strange choice until I tasted them. The not-fried, non-battered, smoky onion rings were really good. Luanne hates pickles of any kind, so I removed the offending dills from her basket and wished that she hated corn muffins, too. As far as the sauces go, Luanne liked the cloyingly sweet, Sweet and Goopy sauce



We decided to share a dessert. Our hostess/server informed us that the only in-house made dessert was the banana pudding, so we went with that. Just before our pudding was served, another friend called to check on our buddy in the hospital. I was giving her a report when our dessert arrived. I tried my best to get Luanne's attention not to destroy the pudding before I got a picture, but she was too fast or I was too slow. Either way, Lu tucked into the dang thing with the speed of light and this was the best I could do with the picture!


I guess you could say, we liked the banana pudding!



I stepped outside to the porch to get a snapshot of the view of Chattanooga overlooking the interstate. When I came back inside,  Luanne was getting directions to a nearby convenience store from our snappy little waitress. With her sense of humor, you will have to forgive me when I say I wondered where we would end up! If you visit, Sugar's Ribs, be sure to tell our friend, "hello" from Three Friends and a Fork!





 There are other locations of Sugar's Ribs around Chattanooga. We don't know about any of them except the 15th Avenue location and we will go back there. We want to try the smoked okra. We've heard it is really good. Until then, Three Friends and a Fork give Sugar's Ribs 3 sweet and smoky Yums UP. Thanks again, Will!


Sugar's Ribs on Urbanspoon

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Arabian Night at the Sicilian




It was back to my roots for Three Friends and a Fork this week. We traveled to nearby Marshall County and the town of Arab, (rhymes with Ahab). There is a story there, which I will share in a bit. But first, a little background. My family moved to Arab in 1964, in the middle of one of the biggest snowstorms to ever hit the area. My dad worked at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, and my parents liked the idea of raising a family in a smaller town, so we moved, along with a lot of other folks who also worked at Redstone. My daddy tells me that there were so many Redstone Arsenal families moving to Arab at the time that the local Arabians called us by the derogatory term, "Arsenics". Funny, I never knew that then. If people don't like you and you don't know it, it must not matter too much! I guess they were concerned with how their little community might be changing with all the outsiders coming in so suddenly. But come we did and we soon learned to love the little bedroom community about 30 minutes south of Huntsville. 

I don't know if anyone knows with absolute certainty all of the exact details of how the name Arab, with the funny pronunciation, came about, but the most commonly told story, and the one that was printed in the front of all our phone books, was that the town's first postmaster, Stephen Tuttle Thompson, was the person who chose the name. He submitted three unusual names for the new town, Ink, Bird and the name of his son, Arad. Of the three, Arad was chosen,  but somehow, in the paperwork, the d got switched to a b, so Arab was born. I'm thinking Tuttle Thompson would have fit right in out in Hollywood, with his penchant for odd names.

Arab is a little town with a big personality. Even now there are only about 7,000 residents, but that smallness never shaped the opinions of the community when I was growing up. For some reason, as a group, Arabians have traditionally always had lots of optimism and confidence. Maybe it was the fact that we were perched high atop beautiful Brindlee (or Brindley) Mountain. Maybe it was the attitude of the Arabians who came before us and it just rubbed off. Maybe it was because, economically, Arab wasn't a community of great extremes, so we didn't get the feeling that anybody was better off than any of the rest of us. It might have been because Arab was a safe place to grow up and, since we didn't have to worry about our safety, we could concentrate on becoming rather than surviving. Or, perhaps, that unusual name, Arab, made us feel special. I don't know what it was, but I know I wasn't the only one of my friends who felt that kind of confidence and optimism, and from the conversations I have had with many of them in recent years, it is something we have been able to maintain. 

I have also learned, since I left Arab, that the high opinions we held of ourselves were not necessarily held by others. Let's just say, I was surprised to find that other people, in other nearby communities, were not as impressed with us as we were! Nevertheless, the confidence and generally sunny outlook I learned growing up in Arab has served me well and I think many of my classmates would say the same. As Taylor Swift would say, "Haters gonna hate!"

Arab is still finding ways to overachieve. From the school system which consistently receives high marks and the high school band which is one of the most celebrated in the southeast to the stellar productions of the high school musical theater, Arab is the little engine that could.

Speaking of the musical theater, that was the reason for this latest visit. Luanne had an appointment in Arab on the same night that the musical theater was kicking off a performance of Bye Bye, Birdie at the high school, so she asked Lavinia and me if we wanted to meet her for an evening of dinner and theater. Of course we said, "Yes!"

                          

We decided to eat at a place called, The Sicilian. Luanne had learned that the owner was from Greece and a friend of hers had said the food was authentic and delicious.  When we pulled up to the outside of the building, I will admit to being a little skeptical. The outside is not much to look at. I remembered the building as being a dry cleaners when I was growing up. We went on in, hoping that Luanne's friend was giving us good advice. We were glad we did not let the outside appearance deter us from venturing on in.

Once inside, we were warmly greeted and quickly seated, menus were delivered and our drink orders were taken. We decided to order an appetizer of flaming saganaki or, in lay terms, cheese on fire! We were as interested in the presentation as we were in actually eating the appetizer. The saganaki came with a basket of homemade bread that was delicious. Our server bravely lit the pan of cheese and the entire staff yelled, "Opa!"






After selecting our appetizer, we all ordered Greek salads which were fresh and wonderful. We loved the vinaigrette dressing. Next, we were on to the main course and we went in three different directions. Lavinia chose a chicken dish, Luanne went with lamb and beef and I, unsurprisingly, took the seafood route. (I could not help but wonder what Parker would have chosen if she had been with us!)

Lavinia ordered chicken marsala, a dish of thinly sliced chicken cutlets, grilled, covered in a buttery marsala wine sauce and served over linguini. It was delicious!  

                                   

Luanne went with a gyro platter of thinly shaved beef and lamb topped with onions and tomatoes and served with tzatziki. It reminded me of a Middle Eastern version of fajitas. Luanne loved it. It came with pita wedges and, curiously, French fries. Luanne's condiment phobia prompted her to ask for the tzatziki to be served on the side. I was glad she did, because she shared it with Lavinia and me. We all liked the tzatziki, by the way.


I opted for a Greek style pasta called Pasta ala Greco, which was penne pasta tossed in a red tomato sauce with black olives and feta cheese. I ordered my pasta topped with grilled shrimp. It was very good and very filling. In fact, all three of us had lots of leftovers. The portions were generous. 


As stuffed as we were, we each took one for the team and ordered desserts, which are all made in house. Lavinia picked the creamy cheesecake, Lu couldn't resist baklava and I got a Greek custard encased in phyllo called galaktoboureko. Every single one of our desserts were delicious. Lavinia's cheesecake was rich and thick. Luanne's baklava was sweet and sticky. My galaktoboureko was warm and cinnamony.

Galaktoboureko
                   


Baklava


Cheesecake

Overall, our favorites were our wonderful Greek salads, the warm breadsticks, Lavinia's chicken marsala and my Galaktoboureko. But, really, it was all delicious. After we left the Sicilian we scurried over to the high school to watch a very professional presentation of Bye Bye Birdie by some super talented high school students. We were not disappointed in the night's entertainment either. When I tell you that the performance was professional, it is no understatement. Arab's Musical Theater is one of the best programs in the state. Who knew...tiny Arab with authentic Mediterranean cuisine and Tony worthy musical theater? But then, Arabians are overachievers!

Three Friends and a Fork are proud to give The Sicilian and Arab's Musical Theater 3 creative Yums UP! Opa!

The Sicilian on Urbanspoon

Friday, February 20, 2015

Thyme for Taters



Just the other night, I got a message from my sweet niece, Haley. It came with a picture and a plea. She was sending me a picture of some oven fries that were flavored with thyme and asking if I would make her some. So, being the precious aunt I am, I got out my knife and started slicing potatoes. I have made potatoes like this many times, but thyme was a new twist. This was about six medium potatoes, peeled and sliced into thick wedges. I got eight wedges per potato.


I soaked the potatoes in salted water to remove some of the starch.


The recipe Haley sent me used dried thyme, but I braved the cold, snowy weather to find the thyme I had planted in my garden last summer. It was still growing...still green.


I brought the thyme in, stripped the leaves off the stems and chopped the leaves very finely.



Next, I removed the potato wedges from the water and dried them thoroughly.



Now the potatoes were ready to season. Haley's recipe used canola oil, but I drizzled the thick wedges with olive oil and sprinkled them with salt, freshly ground black pepper and my fresh thyme.  The potatoes were spread on my large, stone baking sheet and put in an oven preheated to 425 degrees. You have to babysit these tater wedges a bit. Check on them as they cook, stir them around and flip them so that they brown evenly and the ones on the edges don't burn. It takes about 30 minutes.


Here's the finished product. These potato wedges were delicious.




The only problem? Haley wasn't around to enjoy the recipe she inspired. She isn't thinking I am such a precious aunt right now! Sorry, Haley! I promise to make them again when you can share them with me!


Set Sail for the Boathouse Rotisserie and Raw Bar in Chattanooga


                                            

                            

On a recent trip to Chattanooga, our family had something of a dilemma. We couldn't decide where to eat lunch. So I took to facebook and asked friends for suggestions. My friends did not disappoint. We got lots of great suggestions and after eliminating the ones that didn't serve lunch, we let the boys decide. They finally chose a seafood restaurant called the Boathouse. We set sail in two cars, since we all couldn't fit in one. 


The Boathouse sits right on the banks of the Tennessee River, so even though the restaurant is located on a busy highway, the views out of the back of the restaurant are scenic. We were warmly greeted by the staff and quickly seated. 


The boys wanted to start with a couple of appetizers, so we ordered freshly made guacamole and ceviche.  I had a hard time getting pictures of the appetizers, because the boys were much too fast. They really liked the guacamole. They had never had ceviche before. I think Rob liked it better than JD did. I thought both were good, but the guacamole was my favorite as well. 


When the server told us the trout amandine was her favorite dish, mom and Scott quickly decided to order that and they both chose a light slaw with a sesame oil vinaigrette and a baked sweet potato to accompany their fish. It was all a huge hit. In fact, Scott said it was the best trout amandine he had had in a very long time. I might have been insulted because I am sure I have made it not all that long ago. Whatever! The trout was locally caught, which might have accounted for the difference.

Daddy picked the fried catfish with olive fries. I had to ask what olive fries were. Our server explained they were just french fries fried in olive oil. They were really good and Daddy liked his catfish, too.

                                   

Rob settled on a rotisserie brisket with au jus and horseradish sauce. The brisket came with slaw and olive fries. Rob said it was all very good and he ate every bite.



JD was very happy with the wood grilled salmon he chose. The salmon came with two sauces for dipping. One was a ginger sauce and the other was a hot chili pepper sauce. His sides were the slaw and olive fries. He said the sauces were so good, he was looking for things to dip into them after all his salmon was gone.

                               

I ended up with an overstuffed oyster poboy, also with olive fries and slaw. My sandwich was wonderful and I thought the fries were delicious.


                           
View of the Tennessee River from the Boathouse porch.
If your party doesn't include more than four people, ask to be seated outside...even in winter! Seriously, the side porch is enclosed and there are huge heaters that keep the place toasty. We had too many people or we would have moved to the porch. You can sit and watch the boats go by and enjoy the views of the river.

Notice the empty bowl of guacamole. Those two ate nearly the entire bowl by themselves.



Love this bunch!



The inside is huge...lots of tables! We were seated in a corner table near the porch. You didn't feel like you were right up against other diners. It was private and spacious. 



They were actually burning real wood for grilling in the kitchen! We loved the old postcards which were enlarged and used to decorate the walls. You can't see it here, but ice for bar drinks dropped down from an ice maker in the ceiling into a bucket at the bar. It was really cool. We were so mesmerized by the falling ice that JD took a video, but I couldn't get it to upload.



For the wine lovers in your group, there is a Sips Bar for sampling the wines! Boathouse is fun and delicious. We are happy to recommend it to our friends.


Three Friends and a Fork sends our thanks to our friend, Will, for the heads up about the Boathouse and we give Boathouse 3 splashy Yums UP!

Boathouse Rotisserie & Raw Bar on Urbanspoon