Fill up on great food during this foodie road trip
Published 10:46 am Saturday, June 25, 2016
by Sameerah Brown
Happy summer to all my foodies! Summer is the perfect time of year for eating and traveling. This month, I am taking you all on a road trip and I hope you are all packed up and ready to go. We are going to travel down Route 58 into Emporia, Virginia, then on Interstate 85 to Charlotte, North Carolina, then off to Interstate 40 to Asheville, North Carolina, and Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
Farm to Fork in Emporia was recommended to me by one of my readers that stopped in the office one day. She asked me to stop by a local restaurant owned by Marcus Gilliam that opened up earlier this year. This was actually my first time traveling into the heart of Emporia and getting off of Highway 58. Farm to Fork is a simple, rustic, chic-style restaurant that offers casual dining and a limited, but good menu. For this trip, I bought along my co-worker and friend, Loretta. I ordered the smothered chicken (grilled chicken topped with peppers, onions and cheddar jack cheese) with mac and cheese and braised collards.
After a lot of convincing, Loretta stepped outside her box and tried something new: she ordered the shrimp and grits (jumbo shrimp and stoneground grits with sausage and peppers), which she absolutely loved — she only wished that it had a little more sausage. The mac and cheese wasn’t what I expected; it was a creamy Alfredo-type sauce with penne pasta, the braised collards were tender, flavorful and seasoned to perfection.
I will be honest that I was a little disappointed during my visit, mainly with the lack of knowledge our waitress had on the description of some of their menu items, but overall the food was decent. My most memorable and enjoyable experience while dining here was Loretta taking my advice and trying something new and truly enjoying it.
Farm to Fork is located at 647 S. Main St. Emporia, and is open Monday through Wednesday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Thursday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
While at a sales conference in Charlotte, I decided to break away from everyone and meet up with one of my friends. While spending time with her, we both decided that we were hungry and wanted to grab a bite. She recommended for us to go to Midnight Diner. I have never been inside an actual boxcar-style diner. Yes, I’ve driven past many and seen them on TV, but this was the first time stepping in; so I was already impressed and in awe.
The menu consists of breakfast and lunch/dinner entrees served all day. I knew I wanted breakfast, but really couldn’t decide, so I got a little of everything I had a taste for. I ordered the Midnight Special, which included two eggs over-easy, hash browns smothered and scattered (onions and cheese), turkey sausage and a buttermilk biscuit.
I really wanted some grits, too, so I had our waitress add a side. Adding the grits was the best decision I made. Those grits were honestly the best grits I ever, ever, ever, ever had. One taste of their grits made me forget everything else I had on my plate. Usually when I order grits from a restaurant I have to load it up with salt, pepper and butter, but these grits required no additional flavor or season. They were absolutely perfect. The grits at Midnight Diner were so exceptionally creamy and flavorful, you would have sworn they added cheese (like I did), but nope. I know that there is some form of cream involved, but of course our waitress wouldn’t share the recipe.
Everything I ordered was great and tasty, but the grits stole my heart and the show; months later I find myself still thinking about them and finding random ways to bring those grits up in a conversation.
The next time you are in the area of Charlotte or driving by on I-85, make sure you stop by Midnight Diner, located at 115 E. Carson St., Charlotte. They are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Next stop is Biscuit Head in Asheville, owned by a husband-and-wife team Jason and Carolyn. Before traveling to Asheville for another sales conference, my inner foodie decided to Google top places to eat in Asheville. Biscuit Head popped up in my search with high reviews and rumors of them having long lines sometimes wrapped around the building.
My first thought after reading the reviews was the food must be great if customers are willing to stand in a line that long just eat. Biscuit Head has two locations; one in West Asheville and one in the Biltmore District. I must confess I actually went to this restaurant twice and visited both locations. First when I was in Asheville for work, and then I decided I wanted to bring my best friends Krista and Sarice there on my birthday on our way back from Gatlinburg.
During my first visit I was so determined to try their food that I woke up at 6:15 a.m. and walked 30 minutes up and down hills to get there when they open, I wanted to beat the line I heard about. I ordered the Brisket Biscuit, which is a biscuit-topped brisket, pickled onion, smoked chevre, poached egg and a buffalo hollandaise sauce. When they called my number and I saw this monstrous dish, I thought to myself ‘How are you going to eat all of this?’ This dish wasn’t just huge in size, it was huge in flavor. The biscuit was fluffy and light, the sweet tanginess from the BBQ brisket mixed well with the creaminess of the smoked chevre and yolk from the poached egg with just the right amount of kick from the pickled onions and Buffalo hollandaise.
Even after being beyond full, I was still trying to conquer this biscuit which I soon regretted because what was only a 30-minute walk to Biscuit Head felt like an eternity walking back to the hotel.
On the second visit I wanted to try something different, so I ordered the Asheville Benedict with a side of fried chicken. The Asheville Benedict is an open-faced biscuit topped with charred scallion cream cheese, fresh tomatoes, two poached eggs, hollandaise, roasted red peppers and a tossed kale salad. This biscuit was just as impressive in size and flavor as the first one, but the fresh veggies on it made me feel less guilty in indulging.
Krista ordered the Fried Green Tomato Biscuit (biscuit with fried green tomato, brie, tomato, two poached eggs and smoked tomato hollandaise) Sarice ordered the Fried Catfish Biscuit (Biscuit with fried catfish, spicy slaw, tomato, poached eggs and creole gravy. They both highly recommend giving those a try.
Biscuit Head is located at the following locations: 733 Haywood Road, Asheville; this location is open Tuesday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.; 417 Biltmore Ave., Ste 4F, Asheville is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. The next time you take a trip off I-40 or heading to the mountains, make sure you stop by.
My last stop on this road trip, and honestly my favorite, was Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Usually when on a road trip or traveling I like to find some local eatery, but the only thing I was thinking about when arriving here was making my way to the distillery. I had the opportunity to visit all the distilleries located in downtown Gatlinburg, but my favorite was Sugarland Shine. Sugarland Distilling Company opened up in March 2014, and is proud to be a locally owned and a community-minded organization.
My best friends and I signed up for a private tour and tasting and had the opportunity to taste all 14 flavors. I never knew moonshine came in so many flavors. We tried: Peanut butter & jelly (70 proof); Blueberry Muffin (70 proof); Southern Sweet Tea (40 proof); Old-Fashioned Lemonade (40 proof); Blockader’s Blackberry (40 proof); Root Beer (70 proof); Mint Condition Peppermint (100 proof); Butterscotch Gold (40 proof); Appalachian Apple Pie (50 proof); Tickle’s Dynamite Cinnamon (70 proof); Mark Rogers American Peach (70 proof); Mark & Digger Rye Apple (80 proof); Jim Tom Hedricks Unaged Rye (100 proof); and Silver Cloud Tennessee Sour Mash (100 proof).
Most people I know who have tried moonshine usually tell me about Apple Pie. Well, once you’ve tried Sugarland’s Appalachian Apple Pie it will be the only one you want. Their recipe gives you a layered flavor effect. When you first try it, you can taste the zesty snap of the green apples that finishes with a lingering caramel flavor. It is by far the best apple pie moonshine I ever had, and a lot different than the normal apple and cinnamon flavor you usually taste. You can find some flavors of Sugarland shine at your local ABC store.
Sugarland Distilling Company is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 7 p.m. during the summer; and located at 805 Parkway Gatlinburg, TN.
I challenge all my foodies to get out this summer, do a little traveling and try somewhere new eat. I have a few trips/getaways planned for my summer and I can’t wait to share them with all of you. Please continue to send in your recommendation on places you would love for me to visit outside of Franklin to firstname.lastname@example.org. Until next time.