Foodie Travels: The Wood Shed, Stanley, N.C.

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The round chopped steak, baked sweet potato and grilled bread at The Wood Shed

Walking into The Wood Shed in Stanley, N.C., is like entering a fine steakhouse in the American West.

You’ll hear country music. You’ll see the wood accents all around you. There’s even a model train that tracks an oval above the dining area. But the smell, that’s what you’ll experience first, and that’s what you’ll enjoy the most – at least until you taste your dinner.

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Growing up in the Stanley area, I remember many nights driving through town and breathing in the delicious aroma from the grill at The Wood Shed. It’s a steakhouse-style restaurant that serves up some of the tastiest beef, chicken and salmon off the grill that you’ll find anywhere. And whatever your entrée choice, you’ll enjoy it with one of the best salad bars around and delicious grilled bread.

Many people frequent The Wood Shed for the succulent prime rib the eatery’s known for. But I’m not a prime rib kind of guy, so I’m more likely to enjoy a NY strip, the chopped steak or the beef tips. You really can’t go wrong with anything you choose. There’s even a service plate option for diners who want to share a main course with someone else.

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The tender and smoky rib tips at The Wood Shed

The Wood Shed’s been owned by local businessman Bill Withers for decades, and it hasn’t changed all that much, other than the tomato-and-onion sandwiches that used to be complimentary on the salad bar and now come as an appetizer option.

Next time you’re looking for a place to have a nice meal – maybe to celebrate a special birthday or anniversary – check out The Wood Shed on Main Street in Stanley. The intoxicating scent will lead you there, and a happy stomach will lead you home.

Fancy Pecan French Toast for Two

French Toast

We’re big fans of the $1 specialty bakery-quality bread loaves you can buy at Walmart. The bread has a short shelf life, but that just encourages you to get creative in how you use the bread to ensure you make the most out of that $1.

On a recent Sunday morning, Matthew used slices of a French bread loaf and just a few ingredients to whip up a quick and fancy breakfast. Here’s how he made his own variation of French toast for two, using the ingredients from a simple Food Network recipe.

Ingredients

four slices of $1 loaf of bread (we used the specialty Walmart bread, but many French toast recipes call for your plain, stale white bread loaf)

two eggs

1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon sugar

1/3 cup of milk

butter

syrup

powdered sugar

brown sugar

pecans halves

Step one: Preheat your stovetop burner on medium heat.

Step two: Thoroughly mix your eggs, vanilla, cinnamon sugar and milk in a bowl.

Step three: Coat your bread slices in the sweet egg mixture.

Step four: Lightly butter (or oil) your pan and place your first two slices of coated bread into the pan.

Step five: Turn your French toast slices once, then repeat the process for the remainder of your bread.

Step six: Cut each French toast slice of bread in half and arrange as you like on a plate. With the ingredients in this recipe, you will have four half-slices each for two plates.

Step seven: Crush a few pecan halves with your hands and sprinkle on the French toast slices.

Step eight: Sprinkle your desired amount of brown and powdered sugars onto your French toast.

Step nine: Serve with the desired amount of syrup.

Matthew’s Take: When I’m cooking for people, I like to deliver a beautiful presentation when possible. There’s so much you can do to make French toast look beautiful. Powdered sugar and pecans (or any kind of nuts or fruit) can make your dish look like something you would get in a restaurant. This recipe is my take on a Food Network basic French toast formula. I added the pecans and sugar topping, but the original recipe suggests the perfect ratio of eggs, milk, cinnamon sugar and vanilla extract. You can take that basic provision and then top the toast with your favorite ingredients. I give this French toast an A+ for presentation, an A for taste and a B for cost-effectiveness. You can make French toast very cheap, with only bread, milk, eggs and a cinnamon and/or sugar ingredient. The pecans, multiple sugars and vanilla are extras that add taste, while also adding a few more ingredients and dollars to that grocery bill. The only reason I didn’t give this recipe an A+ on taste is that I used a French bread loaf that had “everything” seasoning topping on it and, although I brushed the topping off, a slight hint of flavor remained on a few slices of the bread. I would suggest using plain French bread, but I used the loaf we had in our pantry.

Molly’s Take: How do I love this French toast – let me count the ways! Not only is it fluffy, soft and deliciously moist, this French toast is covered in tasty toppings that enhance its hearty, pancake-y exterior. Now, you have to know me to know how absolutely crazy it is that I like this dish. I have a bad history with French toast (a church camp experience in which I was forced to play dizzy dodgeball in the summer heat after eating a ton of it along with chocolate milk=bad idea), and I generally dislike pancakes. Yes, I dislike – and have even used the term hate – pancakes. But since Matthew and I have been together, I’ve developed a more open mind toward them. On a recent trip, I even ate them twice! This breakfast dish reminded me of pancakes, but was so much more hearty and nowhere near as mushy as pancakes can be. It was like perfectly fluffy pancakes with a soft, yet firm, sugar-dusted exterior. Altogether, if I gave this dish a grade, it would definitely be A+.

Italian Savory Monkey Bread (aka Pizza Puffs)

Pizza Puffs

Home economics classes seem like a stereotypical female rite of passage in the 1950s. But in 1998, Matthew’s middle school home economics class was where he learned this recipe for “Pizza Puffs,” which he now affectionately refers to as Italian Savory Monkey Bread. It’s a delicious, incredibly simple and delightfully cheap way to make a homemade pizza of sorts without doing the work to mix even the simplest of crusts. Kudos to Matthew’s home-ec teacher Ginger Patterson for sharing this recipe, which is easy enough for a young teenager to make with minimal adult supervision.

Ingredients

1 can of eight biscuits

your favorite pizza sauce

shredded cheese

desired additional toppings (pepperoni, cooked hamburger meat, vegetables, etc.)

Step one:

Cut the biscuits into 4 pieces each and spread across the bottom of a thin casserole dish.

Step two:

Cover the biscuits with the desired amount of sauce, add additional toppings of your choice and cover generously with cheese.

Step three:

Bake in a 375-degree oven for about 15-20 minutes. (Your cooking time will vary based on your oven, the depth of toppings and how brown you want the biscuits and cheese.)

Step four:

Let cool and break apart pieces to serve. The recipe will serve 2-4 people, depending on how hungry you are.

Matthew’s take: This is one of the first recipes I learned to make on my own (other than stir-fry, which I started making about the same time by experimenting with grilled chicken, cheese and green peppers in a pan on the stovetop). It’s a delicious recipe that is mostly homemade, without any real cooking going into it. That should appeal to people who don’t like spending a lot of time and effort making dinner, while also appealing to people who don’t want to spend a lot of money buying ingredients for a meal. Quite possibly the best part is that, like a full traditional pizza, you can eat the leftovers cold or warm. These get an A+ for ease and cost, an A for taste and a B for presentation. Other than the browned cheese, there’s nothing fancy about how they look, but taste is what matters most of all to me.

Molly’s take: Despite my well-known dislike for pasta/pizza sauce, I’m glad Matthew took a chance on making these for us. They’re very easy to make, inexpensive and quite tasty! I personally loved having sausage and pepperoni on them. The more meats the better! But that’s how I usually feel about pizza anyway. This had a deep-dish pizza taste to me, which I liked, and a good combination of meat, cheese, sauce and bread. Overall, a delicious and easy meal for a family to make, since it can feed up to four people, or a couple like us, who can have it for leftovers on another day. Overall grade: A. 🙂