Foodie Travels: Day Trip to Southern West Virginia

New River Gorge

The allure of West Virginia’s beautiful New River Gorge attracted us to visit. And while the gorgeous outdoor experience left an impression on us, we came home to North Carolina talking just as much about the delicious food we ate.

I’m not certain that’s only because we’re foodies. The area surrounding Fayetteville, W.Va., offers a broad menu through a deep roster of restaurants for a small town. Food must have factored into Fayetteville earning several honors as one of America’s “coolest small town” designees in the past decade.

I will go ahead and divulge that there are more restaurants we didn’t try in a single day in West Virginia’s southern mountains than what we did experience. There’s Pies & Pints, a well-known pizza and craft beer spot. There’s Vandal’s Kitchen, a delightful-looking take on Southern cooking. And there’s Gumbo’s, a cajun and creole option. Oh, and the temptation also includes West Virginia-based Tudor’s Biscuit World. Just look them up online and let your mouth start watering if you’re a biscuit and Southern food lover.

Those restaurants didn’t make our one-day cut in what was an extremely hard choice during a short visit. (Also keep in mind that as a travel tip we often surround our meals at delicious local restaurants with snacks from home and cheap breakfasts or lunches in between.) But we urge you to consider them if you travel U.S. 19 through Fayetteville. Here’s more about where we did eat, with a little bit about what we liked most at those spots.

Cathedral Cafe

Cathedral Cafe

This coffee shop, cafe and book store is located in an old historic church right on the main street through town. The building’s past and the eatery’s present offerings were what drew me to it during an online search of Fayetteville dining spots.

During our visit, we shared brunch for a nice light meal between a long drive and a hike to Long Point for a breathtaking view of the famed New River Gorge Bridge.

For drinks, we shared an Almond Joy iced coffee (which was so strong but also tasty) and an iced tea, which was less sweet than we’re used to in the Carolinas.

Since we were already past the breakfast menu, we decided to share a pair of appetizers: the chips and salsa and the salmon pita pizza. The chips were nice and salty and warm, and the salsa had a nice homemade feel that offered a tasty mix of restaurant-style and chunky.

The pita pizza was the star of the show here. A nice warm pita was topped with vegetable cream cheese, fresh salmon, greens and incredibly flavorful capers.

We made a good choice as the meal didn’t weigh us down on our long gorge hike, and we spent less than $20 combined for enough to fill us with energy for our hike. And, although the books were difficult to access with seating so close to them, we enjoyed the atmosphere in the Cathedral Cafe. The place even offers a small store upstairs.

Pita Pizza

Secret Sandwich Society

Photos of the most notable American presidents line the walls. A delicious American diner smell fills the air. A line of people stretches out the door throughout the afternoon and evening.

Secret Sandwich Society is not so secret, and that’s a good thing. This place has perfected the customer service end of the waiting list. Not only do they put your name on a Yelp list and then text you when your table is ready, they also offer a lounge upstairs that offers drinks (including sodas), music and a variety of seating where you can stay cool (or warm in the right season) while you rest and await your meal. We were very pleased with our accommodations during a 45-minute wait that started with our arrival around 4:45 p.m. By the way, that wait had stretched to an hour and a half by the time we finished our meal around 6:30 p.m.

When you make your way downstairs, you can sit inside or outside on the porch. If it’s hot, I absolutely recommend a table indoors.

Secret Sandwich burger

The menu is just what you’d expect from the name: sandwiches. But these sandwiches all come with a special blend of toppings, a home on a delicious fresh-baked bread and a unique name to boot. The burgers all have a tasty blend of well-seasoned beef that carries a signature name. The juicy chicken, roast beef and other meat options are accompanied by yummy toppings and the names of American presidents and other national and international leaders from the past.

Bring an appetite here, which is not difficult to do with all of the outdoor adventure sports in the area, because there’s plenty to eat. Along with our sandwiches, we enjoyed seasoned fries and our Cokes from the lounge. To top off the meal, we split a piece of Key Lime Pie, which I will remember for its very flavorful cashew Graham cracker crust.

This place was a hit for us, to the tune of what is probably one of my 10 or 15 favorite burgers in the southeast. And we were very pleased with the value for the $30 we paid.

Secret Sandwich Society

For more about the adventures awaiting you in Fayetteville, W.Va., click here.

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Juicy Oven Burger Sliders

There’s a strong possibility these cheeseburgers will remind you of something you’ve tasted before if you’re familiar with a wide variety of basic restaurant cheeseburgers. Molly found a recipe for Aunt Kathy’s Oven Burgers online, and I modified it slightly to fit exactly what I craved at the time we tried it out. The result was one of the best burgers we’ve ever made in the #FoodieScore kitchen.

As much as I love a nice, thick cheeseburger, there are times when more of a slider sandwich hits the spot. There’s something about the bite-size option that’s really simple and satisfying. (And I don’t feel bad about eating more than one!) So, that’s the route we took on this burger creation, which is the first to find its way to our #FoodieScore blog by way of Pinterest. Most of our burger creations have actually started as recipes from one of two cheeseburger recipe books I have in our kitchen, or as on-the-fly tests that have popped in my head due to a craving for a specific ingredient combination.

This burger is unique for its sauce and its cooking method. Here’s how we made it. (You can always modify this recipe to meet your tastes and needs.)

Burger ingredients
(yields 6 sliders)

1 pound of fresh ground beef (Never use frozen beef for a great hamburger.)

6 small, fresh hamburger buns (A smallish regular burger bun will do.)

3 slices of American cheese (Change cheese depending on taste, but American offers a nice gooey factor.)

roll of aluminum foil

Sauce ingredients
(adjust accordingly for more burgers, bigger burgers or more/less sauce)

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1/2 tbsp ketchup

1/2 tbsp mustard

2 slices of dill pickle, finely diced

1/8 tsp garlic powder

1/8 tsp paprika

1 pinch of cayenne pepper

Directions

1. Mix a couple of dashes of salt and pepper into your ground beef and then separate and roll into six individual balls of meat.

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2. Press the meat balls into flat patties and round the edges.

3. Add the meat balls, three at a time, into a large skillet on medium-high heat on the stovetop. (Repeat this step and the next until all patties are cooked.)

4. Cook the patties until they’re almost done, and you can leave the slightest bit of pink in the center because they’re not done cooking. Drain the burger patties.

5. In a mixing bowl, combine all of your sauce ingredients with a whisk.

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6. On the inside of the top half of each bun, spread a generous portion of sauce.

7. Place each burger patty on the bottom of each bun and top with half a slice of cheese. Then put the sauce-covered top bun on top of the burger and cheese-covered bottom bun half.

8. Wrap each completed burger individually in foil and place all wrapped burgers on a baking sheet.

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9. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 12-15 minutes to melt the cheese and cook slightly.

10. Remove your burgers from the oven and serve.

Matthew’s Take: I expected this burger to offer gooey cheese and a delicious combination of pan-fried and oven-juiced meat. I did not expect baking the full burgers in foil to crisp the buns ever so slightly. I actually worried the sandwich might be a bit soggy with a sauce and a wrapped soft bun, but it was actually toasted perfectly. The sauce was delicious. The meat was juicy. Everything about this cheeseburger was delightful. And on top of that, it was fairly cheap and simple to make. I give it an A+ for taste, an A+ for ease and an A+ for cost. This would be a great cheeseburger on the cheap to make a batch of and serve for a group of children at a birthday party or other gathering, or just for your family one night during the week. And with the method of cooking and wrapping, you can save burgers you don’t eat in the fridge once they cool, take them out and heat them up for lunch or dinner for the next several days. I don’t know who Aunt Kathy is from the original recipe, but she had a great burger idea! What a #FoodieScore!

Molly’s Take: These oven burgers were a fantastic find on Pinterest. I took one look at a picture of the cheesy interior and decided we had to try our own variation. The original recipe called for twice the amounts of sauce, but I knew we wouldn’t need that much. Our recipe is halved already, and it’s the perfect amount of sauce for six burgers. Now, how do they taste? In a word, fantastic. The way the cheese melts and the juice cooks into the burger due to the oven method intensifies the flavor. And the sauce means you don’t need any other toppings once it comes out of the oven. I, too, was surprised at how the oven baking method using tin foil caused the buns to toast on top. Remarkably, nothing was soggy. It was perfectly cooked. These would indeed make a great party option, whether for a picnic or a cookout. The foil will keep them warm until ready to eat, but it’s also super easy to store them in the fridge until you’re ready to use them. This was one of my favorite burgers that we have ever made together, and definitely one we’ll try again. Confession: I even ate two!

Foodie Travels: White Duck Taco Shop, Asheville, N.C.

Mexican food is always a viable option when Molly and I are deciding what and where to eat. We’re attracted to the free or inexpensive appetizers of chips, salsa and queso dip, the ability to mix and match a variety of tortilla, chicken, beef and cheese entrée options, and the atmosphere you experience in each Mexican-style restaurant.

White Duck Taco Shop takes that experience to a whole new place altogether—quite literally in its Asheville River Arts District location.

We first discovered this place while on our honeymoon in 2015. The arts district was on our list of places to visit in the city, but White Duck wasn’t really foremost on our radar. That radar, by the way, wasn’t very accurate as we initially had a difficult time even finding the arts district along a beautiful but lengthy stretch of river.

A bit frustrated from driving around a bit more than expected, we came upon the taco shop, which we had heard of but hadn’t necessarily planned to visit. Hungry, we decided to make it our lunch stop.

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Already in a graffiti and creativity-covered waterfront section of an artsy town, White Duck’s setting in a colorful old industrial building gave us the feeling of being somewhere outside North Carolina.

When we walked inside and took note of the pub-style seating, the underground-feeling environment and the somewhat-hipster customers, we felt like we had stepped into a travel portal and out the other side in Europe. Upbeat music filled the air and a variety of drinks covered patrons’ tables around us as we surveyed the menu.

At first glance, you might think more than $3 for a taco sounds expensive. Normally, you’d be right, but these are unique and large tacos. We decided to order three and share all of them to make the most of our experience. We highly recommend the fish taco, the carnitas and the black bean variety.

You should expect to have a hard choice, as this place appears to offer about 10-12 different taco options on its menu each day, with slight variations depending on when you visit.

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White Duck’s tacos are packed with the kind of intense flavor that many Americanized ethnic food restaurants are lacking. The different meats were clearly seasoned in their own unique spices, the vegetables were fresh, the sauces added to the experience instead of feeling like a way to hide a lack of taste. And the portions were more than satisfactory for the price.

Past the tacos, most of your chip-and-dip combinations are also about $3 and are a satisfying prelude or sidekick for your main courses. And the side order offerings provide $2 choices that are a mix of traditional and unique for a shop that serves Mexican-style food. We had the options of black beans, cowboy pinto beans and chipotle cheese grits on the day we first visited, seeing a chance to mix Mexican and Southern recipes to accompany the tacos.

We liked White Duck so much we’ve referenced it ever since that first visit as a Mexican-American favorite within an hour of our home in western North Carolina. That affinity even led me to stop by to pick up takeout for dinner on my way home from a conference in Asheville earlier this year. There’s always room for tacos on our household’s menu, and White Duck is absolutely one of our favorites.

 

White Duck Taco Shop

1 Roberts Street, Asheville, N.C.

(There are also locations in downtown Asheville, the Charleston and Columbia areas in South Carolina and in Johnson City, Tenn.

whiteducktacoshop.com

Protein-Packed Smashed Avocado

Let’s just get right down to the point on what this dish is and what it isn’t. Smashed Avocado is an incredibly flavorful, unique and flexible option for a fresh and light breakfast, brunch or small meal option. It’s not something everyone will enjoy because of the ingredients or methods of cooking. But I will warn you that you’re missing out if you don’t at least consider it by reading through this post.

We recently experienced Smashed Avocado for the first time at The Collins Quarter, an Australia-influenced restaurant in downtown Savannah, Ga. Molly’s already an avocado fan, and Collins bills “smashed” as its signature dish. While their version was no doubt fancier and created with more culinary expertise, the plate we created at home was just as good in many ways.

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One of the best things about this dish is that you can mix and match so many of the ingredients. Collins served its Smashed Avocado on toast; we decided to use English muffins. The restaurant served its dish with a side of fancy greens and veggies; we used a simple mix of tomatoes and green peppers and added a little bit of bacon for flavor and crunch. You can switch up many of the parts as long as you have the basic elements of bread, avocado and egg.

That egg is traditionally poached for this dish, and I considered going another route since I had never previously poached an egg. I decided to expand my horizons and learn a new skill, and poaching an egg was much easier than I expected. Basically, I cracked the egg into a small glass dish less than the size of a coffee mug and then slid that egg straight into a pot of simmering (bubbly, but never boiling) water. The egg white eventually begins to cook around a yolk that stays somewhat soft. I used a sturdy metal slotted spoon to remove the egg to check its doneness and once the outside felt firm, I took it out of the water.

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On one half of each of the two toasted, open-faced English muffins, I spread the insides of a well-ripened avocado that I had only lightly salted (some recipes suggest you also add lemon juice in the smashing mix), and then I topped it with one poached egg. That was topped with a little crispy bacon, then a small sprinkle of shredded cheese, and finally diced tomatoes and green peppers.

That’s all there is to it for a dish that seems fancy but really doesn’t even require a formal list of ingredients or cooking steps to complete. Regardless, I will list the ingredients to offer a clearer picture. Remember: You can change many of these to meet your tastes.

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Ingredients

(yields serving for two)

2 English muffins, split into two halves

2 eggs (poached)

1 ripe avocado (skin should be dark and relatively soft)

Any additional toppings and seasonings you desire

 

Molly’s Take: This dish wowed my tastebuds at the Collins Quarter, so when Matthew suggested we try our own version at home, I was totally up for it. Poaching the egg was far easier than we thought, and the smashed avocado spread on an English muffin, even better in my opinion than on toast. I loved the addition of bacon, as it gave the dish a saltier taste and a great meat option. Smashed Avocado is easy and light, yet filling and packed with great ingredients that taste amazing, fit together well, and energize you for the day ahead. Want my advice? Go for it! 

Matthew’s Take: My affinity for this dish surprised me from all angles. I enjoy avocado and guacamole in several iterations, but I didn’t think Smashed Avocado on bread with a poached egg would be so good. A lightly salted avocado, smashed on bread and topped with the egg and veggies was such a flavor experience. It was so good that I wanted another one when I finished mine. If you’ve never poached a simple egg, you’ve got to try it. Not only was the combination of these ingredients full of flavor, altogether the dish was light and didn’t give me the heavy feeling that a traditional Southern breakfast of eggs, bacon/sausage/livermush and toast can cause if you eat a large portion. This one gets a perfect A+ score for flavor, a B for presentation (it is smashed avocado, after all) and an A- for cost, as the ingredients aren’t difficult to locate or particularly expensive, but outside of eggs the items aren’t necessarily staples in every kitchen.

Foodie Travels: Pawleys Front Porch, Columbia, S.C.

Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” (or DDD for short) resoundingly succeeds in sharing some of the most tasty, interesting and American restaurants from coast to coast. The show has served as a locator map for restaurants Molly and I have visited across the country, and it’s been a primary source of dining ideas for a couple of our trips this year alone.

When we planned to hit the road for a recent summer trip through South Carolina, Molly explored DDD options on our route. That’s how she discovered Pawleys Front Porch, an American food restaurant in the Five Points community of Columbia, not far from the University of South Carolina campus and the confluence of interstates 26 and 77.

Pawleys is a well-known burger spot in Columbia, receiving praise beyond just the Food Network. One of my mom’s friends even suggested it as her first choice when she learned we’d be traveling right through the South Carolina state capital.

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As if the menu’s primary reliance on cheeseburgers wasn’t enough to reel me in, this place names its specialty burgers after South Carolina islands. That’s a major selling point for me, since my family has frequented Kiawah Island south of Charleston for nearly 30 years as our vacation haven.

There’s a Kiawah burger on the menu, and that was naturally my easy choice. Along with an incredibly well-seasoned beef patty, I enjoyed the Brie cheese, fire-roasted peppers and portobello mushrooms as my toppings. And the burger was more than a mouthful in each bite.

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Other island options include Fripp, Edisto, Wadmalaw and Sullivan’s, with a wide range of toppings that make each burger a special experience. But that’s not all that we enjoyed about this place.

When Molly and I can travel to a restaurant that offers me a burger and her a Mexican food option like a quesadilla or taco plate, we’re especially happy. Pawleys delivered on those options, including a special shrimp taco offered on the day of our visit.

With burgers and a mixture of other food options, Pawleys has an atmosphere you’d almost expect to find at a more coastal location. There is a front porch with seating, as you’d expect with the name, but there’s also inside seating in an all-American restaurant kind of environment with college-aged wait staff members, which you’d expect with the location proximity to USC.

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We usually order water for drinks, but with that in mind this is a place where two can eat well for about $20. When we left, our stomachs were full, our tastebuds were happy, and I didn’t have any reason to complain about pricing or service. Give it a try if you’re traveling through the middle of South Carolina. I’ve had burgers from Greenville to Charleston to Myrtle Beach, and Pawleys’ was the best in taste, creativity and price.

Pawleys Front Porch

827 Harden Street, Columbia, S.C.

pawleysfrontporch.com

Gooey Chocolate Cobbler

As our family prepared to gather for a July Fourth cookout, my mom searched for a fruitless cobbler recipe that could accompany homemade vanilla ice cream. She discovered this recipe for Chocolate Cobbler on Pinterest, a haven for a never-ending supply of foodie ideas both sweet and savory. There were several versions, but this one was the simplest, she said. It also has a very unique preparation method.

Ingredients

1 cup self-rising flour

3/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons cocoa

1/2 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 tablespoons melted butter or margarine

 

Steps

1. Mix your ingredients and pour into a greased 9×9 or 8×8 glass baking dish.

2. Mix 3/4 cup of brown sugar and 1/4 cup of cocoa and sprinkle over the batter in your dish.

3. Pour 1 3/4 cup of hot tap water over everything in your dish and DO NOT STIR.

4. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes.

5. Serve immediately if you want a dish with more of a saucy consistency, or let the dish cool for a while to serve a dish more like a pudding with a cake-like top.

 

This paired perfectly with our homemade vanilla ice cream. It’s also a dish that you can add nuts, fruit, or chocolate or other sweet baking chips to for embellishment.

Molly’s Take: This dessert is a perfect accompaniment to ice cream and it can also stand alone. It has a great soft pudding consistency and is sweet without being too sweet. The use of cocoa rather than any type of melted chocolate is the secret behind that just-right sweetness, and it also gives it a great homemade taste. Give it a try! It’s super easy to make and would be a delicious warm treat in winter, as well as a delectable summer treat, like we had, with ice cream or whipped cream.

Matthew’s Take: I thought it was interesting to pour hot water over what was essentially a brownie-type batter to make this cobbler. My mom and I thought it would be more of a liquid consistency because of that, and it was when it first came out of the oven. But we let it cool for a while as we ate dinner, and by the time we were ready for dessert it was a tasty pudding-like cobbler accompaniment to our ice cream. If you want a cobbler with more of a crispy crust, this would not be the recipe for you. But it was a delicious dish with great flavor and a nice smooth texture, and I would absolutely recommend it. I give the Gooey Chocolate Cobbler an A for taste and an A for ease of baking.

Foodie Travels: Cupcrazed Cakery, Fort Mill, S.C.

A whisk handle, the smell of icing and a counter full of cupcakes greet you at the door of Cupcrazed in Fort Mill, S.C. This baked goods factory has received praise on Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars” competition show, and you quickly understand why when you enter their space, just off I-77 a few miles south of Charlotte.

We discovered Cupcrazed on Instagram, and we’ve liked and commented on the business’ foodie posts for months. On a recent trip through South Carolina, we stopped in for the first time.

The atmosphere is like a cross between a cozy coffee shop and a big-city bakery. Colorful decor, including room for a few patrons to sit around tables and on couches, awaits, as well as an employee at the counter.

This is the kind of place where it’s helpful to stand in line to have time to make your selections. In addition to cookies, brownies, cake pops and cakes, an assortment of cupcake options awaits each day. Be advised that specialty concoctions change daily, but there are always the classic vanilla, chocolate, carrot cake and other options.

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When you’re interested in more complex flavors, it can be a tad difficult to decide what choice your stomach wants to make that day. So, step back and take a minute. We had to select between Cookies and Cream, Reese’s Cup, Key Lime Pie, S’mores, Triple Chocolate, Raspberry and a variety of other unique flavors. You should know that these aren’t basic cupcake flavors. My S’mores cupcake came with a Graham cracker topping, a toasted marshmallow and a fun-size Hershey bar on top.

Individual cupcakes at Cupcrazed are $3, but you get a bit of a deal if you want to buy a half-dozen or dozen and share. Six cupcakes will cost you $15, essentially giving you a free cupcake. Twelve cupcakes will cost you $30, meaning you’re paying for 10 treats and getting two for free at that rate.

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We enjoyed a cupcake each on our visit and then took four cupcakes to our family to share. One cupcake at a time will more than fill your need for a sweet treat, but later that day or the next, the memory of that delicious cupcake makes you wish you had bought more while you were in the bakery. Luckily, this place is easy to find in a shopping village less than a mile off the interstate. That’s a good thing because the Instagram posts each day make me a bit Cupcrazed.

Cupcrazed Cakery

936 Market Street, Fort Mill, S.C.

Cupcrazed.com

Creamy Homemade Ice Cream

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My fondest childhood memories of ice cream fit vividly into two categories. There are the Sunday afternoon trips to Dairy Queen in Dallas, N.C. And there are the summer afternoons at home when mom and dad would churn homemade ice cream in our kitchen in a one-gallon Proctor-Silex machine.

It seems like the flavor in our house was always cherry. That’s Dad’s favorite, and one we all could enjoy, too. But the method of churning that my parents shared with me during a Fourth of July weekend cookout this year (and the one they’ve used for years) can be adapted for any flavor you like. They made cherry and vanilla batches this time, and a neighbor who heard about their ice cream making and decided to try his own made a flavorful batch of banana pineapple.

Your first question might be where you can obtain an ice cream churn. The simple answer, of course, is Amazon.com, where you can purchase a wide variety of models, beginning at about $25.

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Here’s what you do next for basic ice cream, and you have the choice of adding what you like to personalize each batch.

Ingredients

10 cups milk (This can be a combination of milk, cream or other similar liquids, but you should stick to 10 cups or fewer of liquid if your machine is a similar size to my parents’ to give yourself plenty of room in the canister for the mixture to expand as it churns and freezes into ice cream. You should also be careful to not use more than 2 total cups of fat, such as a whole milk or cream, so that the mixture doesn’t thicken and turn into more of a butter-like substance. Also be aware that any extra juices you add to make a specific flavor should be part of the 10 total cups of liquid and not in addition to it. For example, you can add cherry juice for a cherry flavor. That amount of juice should be part of your 10 cups of liquid ingredients.)

2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla (if making basic vanilla)

Dash of kitchen salt

You will also need a 10-pound bag of ice and a container of ice cream salt for use in the ice cream-making process, NOT in your liquid mixture that will be part of what you will eat.

 

Steps

1. Mix your 10 cups of milk and cream ingredients and allow that combination to chill together in your fridge for just a bit.

2. Once you have chilled the mixture, pour it into your canister, which will go inside the ice cream tub. Then place the dasher in the canister and the lid on top. You can also go ahead and place the motor on top and secure it.

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3. Surround the tub with an ice and ice cream salt mixture. Use eight parts ice to one part ice cream salt. Alternate layers of adding them until the tub around the ice cream canister is almost full.

4. Plug in the machine to start the churning process.

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5. Be sure not to put too much ice cream salt into the tub so that it gets up into the ice cream canister and ruins your ice cream. You don’t want the ice cream salt in what you will actually eat. The ice cream salt is only used to help melt the ice and transfer the cold in the ice into the canister to your ice cream mixture. It’s a scientific principle of heat transfer that my chemistry and physics-minded dad can explain in further detail if you’d like. He helped explain it to me as we made our tasty summer dessert.

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6. There should be a spout on your ice cream machine. Be sure it is pointed into a sink if you’re making your cream in the kitchen, or have it in an acceptable place if you’ve connected your machine to a power outlet outside. Eventually, the spout will flow water and some ice from the tub out of the machine entirely. You can also expect to see your tub frosting a bit on the outside. It’s a great idea to keep a towel beside or on top of the machine (but not the motor as it gets at least a bit hot) to help wipe excess condensation.

7. You will need to continue to add ice to the tub as it melts throughout the churning process.

8. When the motor and machine slow down, you’re getting closer to having completed ice cream. Mom and dad’s older machine takes about 40-50 minutes to churn a canister full of delicious ice cream. If you stop the machine sooner, you’ll have something more akin to soft serve. If you churn longer, you’ll have a thicker ice cream.

9. Unplug your machine before checking out the ice cream and make sure the ice and salt have melted down far from the top to avoid getting those items in your food.

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10. Enjoy! You can store your ice cream in the freezer for a period of time (which varies by ingredients and mixing). Be sure you remove the dasher and clean it off before storing ice cream in an air-tight container. Be aware that homemade ice cream can get hard or icy and can lose some of its creaminess if you keep it too long.

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I have a big head, but the ice cream dasher (mixer) on mom and dad’s machine is bigger, especially when covered in fresh vanilla ice cream!

Foodie Travels: Eating Through a Weekend in Savannah, Ga.

We recently traveled to Savannah for a long-weekend-style summer vacation. As much as we were excited to explore the city’s history, culture and natural beauty, we anticipated its extensive and varied culinary offerings. When we arrived and started to sample food at a wide range of different restaurants throughout the area, we were even more pleased with our plates than we expected.

Savannah sits in what I’d call the Deep South, right on the border of South Carolina’s Lowcountry and Georgia’s short-and-sweet coastline. So it’s reasonable to expect a delicious lineup of stellar Southern cooking. We found that, but we also discovered so much more.

The following is a breakdown of our #FoodieScore journey through the restaurants we chose in Savannah, including when we visited and a variety of other thoughts. Keep in mind that we were in town for a total of about 72 hours over four days, that we ate a small breakfast early each morning at our hotel and there is a lengthy list of other eateries that we must try when we return, perhaps most notably the famed Mrs. Wilkes’ Dining Room, a legendary spot that offers a variety of Southern comfort foods in dishes that you pass around tables with other guests. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Well, that’s what Savannah offered us everywhere we turned our stomachs, and here’s the play-by-play of where we picked up our forks.

Each bit of information includes a dollar sign to denote the relative price, with one dollar sign meaning most affordable and three dollar signs meaning most expensive.

 

Friday night

Leopold’s

After a four-hour drive and a few hours exploring the Savannah riverfront in the Georgia summer heat (mid-to-upper 90s), the ice cream spot seemed to be our best source of refreshment. It was the right choice.
LOCATION: Broughton Street, known as Savannah’s Main Street
FOOD TYPE: Ice Cream and American Deli
WHAT’S UNIQUE: This place is all about the fabulous ice cream, and the constant line out the door proves that Leopold’s has achieved high satisfaction since 1919.
PRICE: $
SEATING: Expect a crowd, so you may have to take your ice cream to one of several tables out front or on a walk through town. The option of getting a milkshake makes the walk possibility much better.
PARKING: We parked in the Drayton Street garage nearby and lucked out on a $2 total charge for the evening. That was much simpler than feeding a meter and it kept us from parking on the street.
LASTING IMPRESSION: This was the smoothest and most flavorful ice cream I’ve ever had in a milkshake (and I had the lemon custard). They even delivered the extra milkshake that wouldn’t fit in my glass and offered complimentary water.

ONLINE: leopoldsicecream.com

 

Saturday morning

The Collins Quarter
Everything about this place beckoned us to try it, but we decided on brunch to sample a delicious menu alongside a cup of coffee from the coffee bar during weekend breakfast time.
LOCATION: Bull Street, along a fabulous walking tour route for checking out the city’s beautiful park squares.
FOOD TYPE: American
WHAT’S UNIQUE: Don’t let the “American food” fool you. The owners have ties to Australia (hence the name, Collins Quarter, which references a cafe district in Melbourne) and the menu gets Aussie and other global infusions.
PRICE: $$
SEATING: Arrive ahead of the typical meal times. This place fills up quickly.
PARKING: I would again recommend the inexpensive Drayton Street garage, but be aware that the prices for parking in the city’s garages vary on the weekends.
LASTING IMPRESSION: I tried eggs benedict for the first time and the balanced flavors blew me away, as did the surprising potato bites as a side item unlisted on the menu. Molly had the smashed avocado, billed as the house specialty. It was heavy on the avocado, but she also enjoyed it. The atmosphere in this place was also incredible. It felt like we were dining in another country, save for the music. I counted four Michael Jackson songs in the playlist during our brunch, but that didn’t bother me because all of the music was upbeat and added to the ambiance. The modern decor and use of natural light also really made this place shine.

ONLINE: thecollinsquarter.com
Saturday afternoon

Pie Society

After a filling brunch, we took a self-guided tour of the public squares along Bull Street and then headed to the market portion of the city to browse a few shops. We had seen the words “British Bakery” the night before and knew we wanted to return to the spot. It was the perfect time, too, as we decided to have a savory item (sausage roll) and a sweet item (vanilla custard tart), along with a water, all for $8. That combo provided a nice small meal in the afternoon to supplement our morning feast.
LOCATION: Just a few blocks from the riverwalk in the city’s North Historic District
FOOD TYPE: Bakery
WHAT’S UNIQUE: Its British ownership offered more of an English-style taste, with different savory foods than you see in American bakeries, as well as treats that are less sweet (but not less satisfying) than American bakery goods.
PRICE: $
SEATING: Not much room, but many patrons get their baked goods to go.
PARKING: We would suggest parking elsewhere and walking to Pie Society. The parking garages closer to the riverfront are more expensive (more on that later) and the meters are less plentiful in this area.
LASTING IMPRESSION: We enjoy pies and other goodies that aren’t quite as sweet as the typical American chocolate-based desserts, and we greatly enjoyed the savory choices that allowed us to share a light meal. There are cake, doughnut, candy, cupcake and other treat shops galore in Savannah. This was a unique option.

ONLINE: thebritishpiecompany.com
Sunday lunch

Lady and Sons

Paula Deen is revered among women in the South as one of the greatest cooks, if for no other reason that she encourages the use of butter to make foods even better. Lady and Sons receives its share of criticism through reviews online, but most restaurants with a high profile do. The restaurant offers only a buffet on Sundays, so we decided that would be an appropriate time to sample as many items from their Southern comfort menu as possible, even if the choices varied from the everyday menu.
LOCATION: Congress Street in the North Historic District
FOOD TYPE: Southern, American
WHAT’S UNIQUE: Paula Deen is the owner, of course. That and the special accents on parts of the meal. Sweet tea comes with refreshing mint garnish. You get cornbread and a cheddar biscuit with each Sunday buffet. You can eat as much of the meat and sides as you can hold, all for $16 per adult. And you get your choice of dessert (we had peach cobbler and gooey butter cake) that comes to your table straight from the kitchen.
PRICE: $$
SEATING: Make a reservation. Priority is given to those who reserve a spot in advance. You’re thankful for that pecking order when you arrive.
PARKING: Again, I’d recommend parking at a garage or a meter farther from the riverfront section of the city to avoid higher costs. We parked at the closest garage, had to get our bearings of where we were when we emerged because we parked underground, and we paid $10 to park on a Sunday when downtown was busier.
LASTING IMPRESSION: Despite the scathing comments from some diners online, we were incredibly pleased. The hostess and waiter offered Southern hospitality you’d expect from a restaurant owned by Paula Deen, and all of the food was incredibly tasty. Molly raved about the fried catfish, and I greatly enjoyed everything from the breads to the tea to the dessert. The venue in a historic city building with multiple floors of seating also offered nice views out the windows and a slightly different perspective than a normal restaurant setting.

ONLINE: ladyandsons.com
Sunday dinner

Desposito’s

We wore our swimsuits underneath our clothes to dine at Paula Deen’s restaurant, and we traveled to Tybee Island for an afternoon exploring and relaxing on the beach after a filling lunch. (By the way, we recommend the north end of the island for the ocean breeze and the view of the lighthouse and the Savannah River channel.) After the beach, I was in the mood for seafood, and Molly searched online for a place to have dinner. Her find, Desposito’s, was completely unexpected. We plan much of our stops on our travels, even to new places, but this one of those times when we ended up glad that we diverted from our course.
LOCATION: 15 minutes east of Savannah, on the way to Tybee Island, along the Intracoastal Waterway
FOOD TYPE: Seafood
WHAT’S UNIQUE: The basic menu without the frills, its low profile and its high praise make it a gem of a find. We drove down a road that looked like it couldn’t possibly lead to a restaurant. But this place has been recommended by Southern Living magazine, and its guests include actors Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
PRICE: $$
SEATING: Small but ample
PARKING: It has its own parking lot.
LASTING IMPRESSION: We ordered deviled crab and a half pound of boiled shrimp. The deviled crab was the most flavorful we’ve ever eaten, and the boiled shrimp boasted a fresh, natural flavor without unnecessary seasoning. The food tasted like a place you’d find right beside the water. When I asked where the shrimp came from, the response was “two doors down, at Nelson’s.” Now that’s local eating! Our server was friendly and attentive. This place is all about simplicity, and it was a relaxing, quiet dinner after a few hours in the sun.

ONLINE: Desposito’s on Facebook
Monday lunch

Betty Bombers
On our final morning in Savannah, we visited a bookstore and then decided to have lunch on the way out of town before returning to North Carolina. I had heard about Betty Bombers in searches for burger restaurants in Savannah, and it attracted me with both its menu and its setting.
LOCATION: Bull Street, near the massive Forsyth Park (also the first stop on our walking tour of the city’s delightfully tree-shaded squares)
FOOD TYPE: American
WHAT’S UNIQUE: This place is located within an American Legion building, and the whole restaurant is decked out in gear that pays homage to American efforts in World War II. Even the server at the counter was dressed as Betty Bomber herself. The menu also offers touches of food from other types of restaurants, such as chips and salsa as a replacement for fries.
PRICE: $
SEATING: Plenty of space
PARKING: We parked at a meter along Bull Street. We arrived early at 11 a.m., so there were plenty available. If you plan to spend the day in the city and walk to eat at Betty Bombers, you might try the Drayton Street garage.
LASTING IMPRESSION: The food was incredible, and the portions were substantial when you consider we paid $21 to both have a nice sit-down lunch and beverages. Molly enjoyed perhaps her favorite Philly Cheesesteak (with a queso cheese) outside of Philadelphia, and I had the basic Bomber burger with fries. It was a nice American dining experience to end our weekend in Savannah and send us home wanting to return and eat more.

ONLINE: bettybombers.com