Sunday, March 20, 2011

SUNDAY DRIVE....Holiday Edition

So I am a little late with this one, but I still recall this "extended" Sunday drive as if it were yesterday. The NFL lockout reminded me that I never finished writing it..LOL!

Like most men, I am an avid football fan. My colors of choice: Burgundy and Gold. Every Sunday it's "GO SKINS!" I have a lot of friends I jaw with week in and week out. I just so happen to have a cousin who is as loyal to his Black and Red as I am to my team's colors. His weekly tailgate in Atlanta, Georgia has been touted to me as a "must see". Sports and good food... Is there anything better? Done with the holiday catering season, I exchanged presents with family and friends and on Christmas night, I put the car on cruise control heading for everything southern.

With the Washington monument in my rear view, I pulled onto 95 south for the 10-hour trek. I skipped the traditional fixings I was used to at Christmas dinner and opted to give a roadside restaurant a try. With slim to no options, I selected Trevo's in Richmond, VA. I am generally not a fan of hotel restaurants but beggars cannot be picky.

I expected a lackluster staff forced to work on Christmas, but I was pleasantly surprised with a warm "Merry Christmas" greeting. The modern Italian eatery was nicely appointed with wood features and halogen lighting.

It was snowing outside and I needed warmth. The hot chocolate hit the spot!

The menu offered your typical "Italian fare" so I went with the classics: Caesar salad and spaghetti and meatballs. I nibbled on freshly-warmed bread, roasted garlic and compound butter. Warm bread is always a plus for me.

The meal: simple salad, good sauce and slightly overcooked noodles. Trevo delivered AT expectation on food and ABOVE expectation in service. Thanks to Tirissa and the team at Trevo for making my Christmas dinner at a hotel a delightful road stop...ho-ho-ho!

I forged on through the snow storm that was now crippling the highway. At 50 mph, I could tell it was going to be a nice long ride. I pulled into South Carolina early morning to visit family before moving on to meet my cousin for his legendary tailgate.

After a Sunday of more gift exchanging and family bonding, we needed to get out and have a nice "post- Christmas" meal. Charleston may be the capital of South Carolina, but this metropolitan still has a small community feel with southern charm. We headed downtown to one of my family's favorite spots: Hall's Chophouse.

I loved the pianist's melodies that flooded my ears as I entered. I was happy to see a full restaurant; always a good sign that at least the food is good. The 2-level steakhouse had a great atmosphere:  flat screens at the 12-stool bar, a plush lounge and a polished staff. Our party of 10 was accommodated nicely upstairs in a private room.
Hall's is a solid steak house with quality meats and great sides.

Red meat is like a sleeping pill for me.  The "itis" sets in quickly.  After my brief slumber, I hopped back on the road at the crack of dawn to make my way to the ATL. There is something peaceful about the open road just as the sun begins to emerge.

I pulled into Atlanta primed for a day of football debates, dishes and music.  My cousin had premium parking in the trail wagon of SUVs stocked with their homemade sauces, seasoned meats and dockered-up side dishes.

The Smorgasbord began from the moment I arrived. Feeling the effects of the low temps, I warmed myself on a delicious gumbo.  The richness of spice warmed me as much as the temperature of it.

Surveying the options, I continued down the line: Beef hot dogs, quarter pound hamburgers and anything else you can fit on a grill.

I was amazed to find fried turkeys coming out the vats of hot oil.

There was fresh seafood galore.

In between making plates, we danced some of the calories off with mobile dance floor and Electric Slide movement.

Guaranteed to bust a gut, I threw my hands up to signal a "touchdown" in flavor, fun and fullness.  I came for the food, but there was also a game going on.  The "dirty bird" Falcons lost.  Better luck next year, Atlanta.

With half a wing in my mouth and a plate full of memories, I put the truck in reverse for DC.

I always make the most of a road trip, so on the way back to DC, I decided to stop at a couple of "must-see" spots in North Carolina.  My first "pit-stop" was The Pit in Raleigh North Carolina. The barbecue spot is the creation of PitMaster and barbecue royalty Ed Mitchell.  North Carolina barbecue starts and ends with his name.

I'm a barbecue purist, so I had a to-go order of pulled pork with complimenting sides.  Barbecue is one of the few types of food I smell first before I look at presentation.  With the approval of my nostrils, I dug into the famous vinegar-based barbecue.  One word: OINK!

Only a few miles away in Chapel Hill, UNC students take time out for TIME OUT!  The popular college grub spot is known for filling the bellies of students cramming for finals with country classics.  Their famous chicken biscuit was the sole purpose of my going there.

This Flintstone-sized square biscuit is glazed in melted butter and filled with a moist, generous portion of fried chicken.  The biscuits are like well-seasoned clouds.  The chicken is a masterful crisp outside and succulent inside cutlet.  It quite simply is the perfect handheld meal to soak up any college night of drinking.

I had to lean back in my seat as I jumped back on the road.  My belly was full like jelly :)  But after a few hours my third stomach insisted I stop at the original roadside southern diner: The Waffle House.  Personally, I never go down south without making one of my meals a "Double waffle with hash browns."  That meal is truly for the fatty in me.

Six pounds heavier and 10 hours later, I rolled back into town and up to my house.  The southern comforts of hospitality and food were fresh in my mind and stomach as I unpacked the food wagon.  A fitting end to a wonderful holiday season.  On to 2011 and all the upcoming "Sunday drive" road trips.

Me and my fam!
Bon Apetite!

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