My little brother lives in Washington DC and thankfully comes back to Utah for Christmas each year. Usually a few days before Christmas, he and I go out to wrap up our shopping, get a bite to eat and catch a movie. Each year, the time we spend on the movie and lunch increases and the time for shopping decreases. We are hyper-efficient at shopping; meaning we don’t enjoy it much so we get it over with quickly.

This year, our main desire was to see the movie “Moneyball.” I couldn’t find it in the regular theaters or dollar shows. Ultimately I found it playing at Brewvies. Having seen “Dan in Real Life” here with Rachel back in 2008, I thought that it would be worth trying again.

It’s quite the arrangement. You walk in and order your food at the same time as your movie ticket. They have a decent selection of appetizers, sandwiches, burgers, pizzas, salads, and desserts. You’re handed your order number, and go into the theater. When your food is ready, a light in the theater illuminates and you pick up your platter.

I ordered the Creole Burger. Makes your mouth water just reading it. It’s topped with jalapenos, cheddar cheese, red onions, lettuce, Cajun spice and their own chili mayo. I took a class on Cajun food and love making gumbo and jambalaya. It’s great food with a kick. I had sweet potato fries on the side. They were cooked to perfection and dipped in the Cajun spice.

Creole Burger

My Brother ordered the Black N Bleu Burger. He said it was good but a little dry. I had no such complaint. Mine was delicious and plentiful. The meat was tender and the Cajun craver in me has me wanting more.

You can get a movie ticket, soda, burger and fries before 4:30pm for $11.00. What a deal. The movie was also great. If your downtown, there is no better way to spend an afternoon.

Happy Eating and Merry Christmas.

Brewvies Cinema Pub on Urbanspoon

Left Fork Grill

In 2003, after graduation from college, I took a job at a mortgage loan servicing company. If you have seen the movie “Office Space,” my job was very similar. It consisted of pulling loan numbers from a spreadsheet, entering that loan number into a company program, and then checking if the borrowers were current on their taxes and insurance. It was as exciting as it sounds. Early on, in an effort to brown-nose the boss, I hurried through a spreadsheet and told her I was done. She promptly e-mailed me another spreadsheet. My ambition was killed. I passed the time at the cubicle by working occasionally, drinking lots of Dr. Pepper, eating lots of snacks, and getting fat. One of my co-workers would even interview for jobs over the phone, in the cubicle right next to our boss. It became apparent why some of my classmates went on for MBA’s-to avoid getting a job like this for two more years.

One of the best aspects of the job was the restaurant Kramer’s at the other end of the parking lot. Once in a while, probably twice a week, we would take a long lunch there. It was a typical “diner” type atmosphere and menu: soups, salads, sandwiches and meaty entrees.

Having resigned from that job not long after accepting it, I no longer was a regular at Kramer’s. That was okay since I then become a regular at a number of other restaurants. I haven’t thought about the place much until last week. A good friend wanted to go to lunch and having heard good reviews of the Left Fork Grill, I thought we should try it. Looking up the address, I realized that this was the same address as Kramer’s. Left Fork Grill had taken over the place. Driving through the parking lot, I had the same eery feeling that I had every time I had pulled up there and walked into my cubicle; even though it had been 8 years.

I was shocked when we walked in to the restaurant. The place was packed; unlike when it was Kramer’s and a lunch rush was about 4 tables. Thankfully we got a table and were greeted warmly by our waitress (this was also a big change). There were a number of daily specials, over 15 sandwiches, and many entrees. It was hard to decide. The Chef Owner is Jeff Masten. He use to be the Executive Chef at Market Street Grill. Wanting to venture on his own, he bought the old Kramer’s diner in August 2006; opening Left Fork one month later. His concept is “Where Cafe meets Gourmet.” He definitely has made it into a great diner.

Ultimately I decided on the Left Fork Burger: 1/2 pound of ground chuck; your choice of cheddar, Swiss, or Havarti cheese, garlic mayonaise, red onions, lettuce and tomatoes on a grilled bun. The the side you have your choice of fries, carrots or cole slaw. I chose Swiss cheese on the patty and fries for my side. Not long after they set it down, the aroma of garlic captivates you. The meat is heavy and juicy, the bun is thick and the fries are delicious. The waitress even convinced us to get a piece of pie. I chose chocolate cream and my friend chose raspberry cream. The dessert was a little small and expensive but to sum it up: the meal was wonderful!

I will return soon to try many sandwiches on the menu including: Corned Beef on Rye, Pulled Pork, Chicken Club, Grilled Pastrami, Turkey Reuben, NY Steak. From there I will try the entrees. If you are in the Salt Lake area, go to 68 W. 3900 S. and enjoy a great meal. I hear that they even have great breakfasts. Next week anyone?

Happy Eating.

Left Fork Grill on Urbanspoon

Heavenly Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

Last year I enrolled in the Fine Art of Cooking series at Orson Gygi. Here I learned about the five mother sauces: Bechamel, Espagnole, Veloute, Hollandaise, and Tomato. Sounds complicated doesn’t it? Every one except tomato sauce. As Chef Shawn Bucher said “You can open a can of tomato sauce and say ‘Look, I just created a mother sauce.'”

You can get even more fancy with a tomato sauce and add meat. Now you just created a Bolognaise sauce. Ah, that fancy name on the restaurant menu is no longer so enticing, is it?

As a lover of soups and sauces, I began my creations by experimenting with spaghetti sauce; oops, I mean bolognaise sauce. After adding this & that, removing this & adjusting that, I came up with the following. It’s very popular in some circles. The freshness of the vegetables & herbs leaves you with a full, healthy feeling.

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce:

1 package (5) mild Italian sausage
1 medium onion (vidalia/sweet); diced
1 carrot; chopped
1 rib celery; chopped
2 Tbsp. garlic
2 tomatoes; quartered
1/2 cup fresh basil
1/2 cup fresh oregano
12 oz. tomato sauce
salt and pepper to taste

Grill Italian sausages until cooked through; slice. In a processor or blender, puree carrots, celery and 2 tomatoes. Add a small amount of vegetable oil to large skillet, sweat onions, add garlic, add carrot & celery puree, simmer for about 2 minutes; add tomato sauce, simmer again, this time for about 5 minutes allowing flavors to incorporate; add sliced Italian sausages. Mince oregano & basil, add to sauce & stir. Salt & pepper to taste. Serve over noodles with love; enjoy adulation.

In the past, I have added sugar for the sweetness. The carrot & celery puree will provide the sweetness, while also giving those enjoying the meal a good helping of vegetables. If you would like a little spicier dish, add some chili flakes. For a stronger flavor, add a little red wine vinegar. It’s fun to play around with ingredients.

Happy Eating.

Tupelo, Mississippi – Birthplace of Elvis Presley

You have read how much I love Oxford, Mississippi. This is a quintessential southern town with stately homes, tree lined streets and a beautiful town square. Our hopes were high as we left Oxford and headed east on highway 6 towards Tupelo.

The birthplace of Elvis Presley should be a wonderful place right? After being there for a short amount of time, it was easy to see why the Presley family packed up and moved to Memphis when Elvis was 13 years old. Actually, most of what we saw likely wasn’t there in 1948; except for his childhood home.

Replica of Elvis’ Family Car

As you enter Tupelo, highway 6 becomes Main St. and you experience mid-afternoon traffic that you would expect in big city rush hour. There were many traffic lights, some of which took 2 light changes to get through. It was chain fast-food restaurants, gas stations, strip malls, and a Wal-Mart. I have nothing against Wal-Mart; I went there to get an iPhone charger for the car. It’s the endless commercial sprawl and traffic that make a weather-dreary afternoon even longer. There was no historic town center or any real town center at all; just one busy commercial area after another.

Capturing the spirit of Elvis

Tupelo was not entirely a bad experience. That afternoon at 5:15pm, my brother looked up the hours for Elvis’ birthplace. It closed at 5:00pm. We were disappointed, especially my Dad since he really wanted to see either Graceland or his birthplace. He says it was for my Mom but we know the truth. Since our hotel was less than a mile away, we decided to drive by. To our delight, the grounds were open. The museum and home were closed, but you could walk right up, read the plaques, and take pictures. It really was magical.

Elvis’ Home. What a magical place.

With our spirits brightened with the ghost of Elvis, we went on the hunt for dinner. Gloster St. was just as busy as Main yet seemed to have more food options which were not fast food. From the outside, Vanelli’s looked like a good Italian restaurant. It also appeared that this is where anyone who is anyone in Tupelo goes for dinner (maybe that should have been a sign).

The Church Elvis and his family attended in his youth.  

Outhouse from the Church. Unfortunately no longer in service.

The food was typical, bland and served in large quantities. I finished less than half of mine. Mike and I decided on the way home to get some wings to munch on during the world series. Hammond’s Wings looked rough on the outside and was rougher on the inside. Everyone looked at us awkwardly when we entered. It was pretty evident that we were the outsiders and this was an insiders joint. We still ordered our wings, waited, and left.

The rest of the evening was spent rooting for the Texas Rangers and eating overcooked wings. In the morning the motel provided a continental breakfast. It was nothing like the breakfast at the hotel in Memphis. At the beautiful Ameritel Inn & Suites, we could have coffee and a pre-packaged danish. We opted for neither and found a Hardees.

At a supermarket, we bought some snacks. In the parking lot there was a BBQ/smoker/grill unit on a trailer pulled behind a truck. It was a work of art. They take their college football serious down here and their tailgating even more serious. This was one serious Ole Miss fan. The owner had no problem with us admiring his truck when he came out of the store. He even gave us a quick tour of the unit. It was from him that I first heard “We might not win the game, but we will always win the party.”

Tailgater Heaven

The best part about Tupelo is that this is where we picked up the Natchez Trace Parkway; one of the most beautiful scenic byways in the country.

Happy Travels.

Sugarhouse BBQ

Who among you Wasatch Front residents hasn’t driven along 700 East just North of I-80? If you have driven this route, you have passed a delicious place to eat. Sugarhouse BBQ is on the east side of the road around 2200 S. I live in Sugarhouse and drive by here almost daily. Having eaten here twice before, once in late 2007 and once in 2008, I wasn’t impressed. The portions were small, the prices were high, and the food wasn’t good. It seemed liked they were trying to recreate a southern BBQ establishment but corners were cut and quality missed along the way.

Lately, a good friend on mine has been recommending that we go there for lunch. As a stubborn person, I was not willing to let go of my previous disappointment. That was until yesterday when I drove by and saw two workers, pulling meat from the smoker. It was a quick look over (I am a safe driver) and I saw what looked like chicken & ribs; large portions. The sight alone was delicious. It helped that it was late afternoon and I was hungry.

Today I was meeting my friend for lunch. He left it up to me where we should eat. I said with little hesitation, “Let’s go to Sugarhouse BBQ.” I arrived at 11:40am and large groups of people were already in line. That’s the first sign of a good restaurant. The menu looked great. My friend mentioned that the menu was new and they had changed some items. The Dixie Chicken looked like quite a meal. The menu described it as “Marinated with our special spices, fruitwood smoked, served golden brown, sweet and juicy.” You could get either a 1/4 or 1/2 bird. It was delicious, very moist with a crispy exterior. Now only if they had a whole chicken option.

One of the best parts of the meal was the sauce. After we ordered, they asked if we knew about their different sauces. There are four: a traditional style BBQ sauce; two vinegar based sauces; one spicy and one mild; and a mustard based sauce. Immediately I reached for the mustard based sauce. It is just like they have in South Carolina: delicious with the right about of tang.

For my two sides I ordered the potato salad and BBQ beans. The potato salad was chunky and filling, but dry. I love food that is swimming in sauce. The beans on the other hand were HEAVEN. I loved them and wished I could have taken a bucket home with me. They were sweet, savory, and spiced like gumbo or jambalaya; very southern. In an attempt to reverse engineer the beans, I asked the gentleman taking our food trays (after telling him how much I loved the beans), how they made them. He said that they saute onions, celery and garlic, add white and pinto beans, add pulled pork and some of the meat juices. Then they add some “other ingredients” and simmer for a while. I got the hint. The “other ingredients” were letting me know that this was their secret. I would hold it close also to keep the customers coming back. This is exactly what I will do, come back soon. You do the same. You will not be disappointed.

Happy Eating

Sugarhouse Barbeque Company on Urbanspoon

Roquefort Pear Salad

Oh not to worry, the Southern States road trip blog posts will continue soon. In the meantime I wanted to share a recipe for a salad which has received rave reviews.

Roquefort Pear Salad:

1 head green leaf lettuce, cut bite size
3 pears, peeled, cored, and sliced thin
5 oz roquefort cheese
1 avacado, peeled, pitted, and sliced thin
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup pecans


1 1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/3 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoon prepared mustard
1 clove garlic; minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
Ground pepper to taste

Carmelize pecans; blend dressing ingredients; toss salad; layer pears, roquefort, avacado, green onions.

I wish that I had a picture to share. The demand for the salad was too fast. This isn’t your simple side salad with ranch dressing. This has a bite to it which leaves you craving for more. I had 3 servings; you should also.

Everyone assumed that I made the salad. I did not. It was made by the fabulous Rachel. She received the recipe from a great friend. I simply enjoyed.

Happy Eating.

Memphis, TN to Oxford, MS.

Friday morning my Dad and I walked around downtown Memphis and let my brothers sleep in. They were always less ambitous than I, (J/K). We saw the mighty Mississippi River, Mud Island, and the beautiful historical buildings of downtown.

A bad picture of myself on a very chilly morning by the Mighty Mississippi River

Back at the hotel, we had a great breakfast. Complimentary breakfast at the Marriot Springhill Suites is not just juice and a donut. There are eggs, bacon, sausage, biscuts, cereal, oatmeal, yogurt and juice. It was delicious. They really want you to return; and return I will. After breakfast, we hit the road.

Another benefit of this trip is that I would get to go to three new states. I have a goal of visiting all 50 states and I don’t count airport layovers. We drove west on 1-40 across the Hernando De Soto bridge into Arkansas. A few minutes later we headed south on State Highway 131/Mound City Rd. to I-55. We then headed southeast on 1-55 back into Tennessee. During our 15 minute tour of Arkansas, I told my brothers and dad about my goal to go to all 50 states, not counting airports. My brother Mike criticized me for not counting airport layovers but counting Arkansas as “visited” after spending only 15 minutes there. He always was a critic. Despite Mike’s protests, I checked it off my list as state #39.

While I am speaking about Mike, let me say that as we re-entered Tennessee, he cut in front of a semi truck attempting to make an interchange. We were only about 15 feet in front of the semi and this is where our obituaries could have been written. Or they could have been written a few minutes later on the route we took into Mississippi.

Our plan was to exit at Highway 78 and head south into Mississippi. In Holly Springs, Ms, we took Highway 7 south to Oxford. While still in Memphis proper, we were grateful we didn’t have to get out of the car. Have you seen the move “Blindside?” The rough neigborhood that he grew up in seemed to be our route. Every gas station, office building, apartment house and store looked like a place that you wouldn’t dare enter. Thankfully we arrived in Mississippi, state #40 for me, and it morphed into verdant countryside.

The scenic byways that I was hoping for on this trip began to take shape. It was truly spectacular. We arrived in Oxford Mississippi and made our way to Ole Miss University. There is something unique about a college campus. For the most part they are beautiful with stately buildings; especially in this part of the country. We parked right by “The Grove” where some of the best tailgating in the country happens. “Ole Miss might not win the game but we will always win the party” is what one fan shared with us. We happened to be there at noon on a Friday; no tailgating for us. We then made our way to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium to see where the Rebels play. They aren’t much of a team this year but the stadium is quite a sight. Something about being in SEC country. College Football is almost religion down here.

Stately Building on Beautiful Ole Miss Campus

Ole Miss Campus

After making our way back to the car by way of the Rebel Gift Shop and the main campus courtyard, we drove to the Historic Oxford Town Square. If you have ever seen a movie about the South or pictured a quaint southern town, this was it. You feel like you are in a novel. The Square surrounds the courthouse and has the likes of cafes, bookstores, antique shops, law offices, and a Rebel fan shop. While strolling arond the square, my Brother Mike decided to get under my Dad’s skin when we happened upon a statue of William Faulkner. My Dad was elated and exclaimed “Oh, William Faulkner.” To which Mike replied, “Wasn’t he the first in flight?”

Walking around Historic Oxford Town Square

Oxford Town Square

For lunch we came upon the Soulshine Pizza Factory. This place looked like it’s quite the weekend hangout. Since it was noon, the restaurant performance stage was empty, but the food was great. I ordered the caesar salad for an appetizer and it was delicious. Not sure if it had real anchovies, but it tasted so. Their draft root beer was wonderful and sweet. For an entree I had the carnivore pizza. It’s definitely for the meat lover: Marinara sauce, mozzarella, Canadian bacon, ground beef, Italian sausage, pepperoni. It was a medium thick crust with a crispy finish. The array of meats added a spicy bite. With the caesar salad and late breakfast in Memphis, I could barely get through half the pizza. No problem, cold pizza on the road is a delicious treat.

Soulshine Pizza Factory

Soulshine Root Beer
“The Carnivore” Pizza

Although only an hour from Memphis, Oxford is a quiet, quaint, laid-back town in the Mississippi hill country. I would have loved to spend more time there; especially after we made it to the town 50 miles further east on Highway 6: Tupelo. Something about Elvis’s birth town really didn’t call to me; but that is for another post.

Vaught-Hemingway Stadium

The gate was open & we walked right onto the field.
Ole Miss Rebel Shop

Happy Eating.

P.S. I have heard from many of you that you have tried to leave comments but were unable to. I apologize for the inconvenience and have since changed the settings. Please do comment; I would love to hear from you.

Memphis, Tennessee; Modern Day Deliverance continues.

Who hasn’t heard of Graceland, the Peabody Hotel or Beale St? You may not have known that they were in Memphis, but you have heard of them. We had hoped to see a lot of sights in Memphis, however our delay in arriving prohibited that.

After leaving the Nashville airport, we headed west on I-40 toward Memphis. It was a 210 mile drive and we were anxious to get there. The first thing that strikes you is the beauty in the rolling hills of Tennessee. The leaves had began to change and it was picturesque. The hills would flow in valleys of cotton fields. Being from Utah, I take the mountains for granted. People we met on this trip would ask us about the mountains back home. I would say that I could be in the mountains in less than ten minutes from leaving my home. The cotton fields and rolling hills were what they took for granted. So maybe the grass, mountains or hills are really greener on the other side.

We arrived at our hotel in Memphis and checked in about 6:30pm. Hungry, and eager to see the town, we got on the trolley to Beale St.

Downtown Memphis at Night

Historic Memphis Trolley

Being the Foodie that I am, I had previously researched some restaurants. The Blues City Cafe has been around so long it’s practically an institution. Their slogan is “Put Some South in Your Mouth.” It’s a run-down looking dive serving BBQ with live music on the weekend. I loved the look of the place and just walking in, you knew the food would be great.  We were tired and hungry, but sitting there at the bar waiting for our food and enjoying each other’s company, we were happy.

The Boys waiting for food at Blues City Cafe. Happy to be here.

Blues City Cafe, Beale St. Memphis, Tennessee

For an appetizer I ordered the seafood gumbo. I love making gumbo at home and was very excited about this dish. This sure had some fire to it and definitely “Put the South in my Mouth.” It is a very spicy, roux based gumbo with shrimp, crawfish and a scoop of rice. It had a thick, gritty texture and was delicious. Thankfully my cup of both water and Dr. pepper were full when I started eating. It became a two chugs of water for every spoonful of gumbo.

Seafood Gumbo; Spicy & Delicious.

For an entree I ordered a rack of ribs served with cole slaw, baked beans, texas toast and steak fries. It was a lot of food. The ribs are hickory smoked and basted in maple barbecue sauce. They are slow cooked to perfection and the meat falls right off the bone. In other words: very delicious! After devouring the gumbo, munching on the fries, beans, and cole slaw, I couldn’t make it through half of my ribs. They were heaven but I was done.

James showing off the Best Meal on Beale at Blues City Cafe
Rib Plate Meal. A lot of food.

We walked around Beale St. for a while but unless you are an Alcoholic or looking to become one, there wasn’t much for us to do. In addition to that, it was 40 degrees with full humidity and the wind blowing off the mighty Mississippi. We were chilled to the bone and therefore surrendered. The trolley took us back to the hotel and we enjoyed game 6 of the World Series.

Fun with Family: A chilly night on Beale St.

Be sure not to leave Memphis off your bucket list. Especially if you are a Foodie.

Happy Eating.

Modern Day Deliverance

For the record, I have never seen the move Deliverance. It is about 4 friends who travel to the south for a river rafting trip. They run afoul of the locals who consider them “city folk” and the trip turns into a nightmare.

In September, I was looking into BBQ classes to become a licensed Judge for the KC BBQ Association. There was a class in Lynchburg, Tennessee on October 21. I began looking into travel plans and got really excited about traveling to that part of the country. Ultimately I was unable to make the BBQ class but decided that the last week in October would be a great time to take a trip. I spoke to my dad & brothers and we were all able to make it. I had not seen my brother Mike for a while (he lives in Washington DC) so it would be a great reunion.

We got to the airport about 3:30pm on Wednesday, October 26, for a 5:10pm flight. We had a layover in Denver and due to a snow storm there, we left Salt Lake late and arrived in Denver two minutes after our flight to Nashville had departed. Argh! The trip was already going to be a short trip and now it was getting shorter.

Frontier Airlines put us on a flight to Nashville at 11:22 the next morning. We found a hotel and enjoyed the snowy, cold night in Denver. My brother’s flight from DC got to Nashville on time and he spend the night in the hotel we had arranged.

We had a breakfast buffet at the hotel, got to the airport and our flight departed on time-yeah! Thankfully, Mike already had the rental car and was able to pick us up at the airport at 3:00pm. Initially we had planned to drive from Nashville to Memphis early on Thursday to take in the sights and most importantly, the food. Not wanting to waste any time and also motivated by a $150 non-refundable hotel reservation in Memphis, we hit the road.

Now this is a blog about food right? Yes it is! In my introductory blog a few months ago, I wrote about my love for food and travel. This trip incorporates them both. When is the best time to experience good food? On vacation of course. Over the next couple of weeks, please enjoy the posts about food, travel and family.

Happy Eating (& Traveling).

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving this week! This is the time when we are supposed to eat too much food and not feel bad about it. Everyone is doing it so there is no one to judge you.

I hope that the time spent with family is richly rewarding. Enjoy your meals wherever you are. Enjoy the buttery soft rolls, the creamy rich mashed potatoes, the country gravy, the heavenly sweet potatoes bathed in butter (my recipe), the fluffy stuffing, moist tender turkey, and sweet cranberries. Savor the pumkin pie with whipped cream, the chocolate silk pie, pecan pie, strawberry pie, rhubard pie. One piece each for everyone.

I want to hear about your meal. I want to hear about how you ate so much that the only thing you can manage to do is to watch 8 hours of college football on both Friday & Saturday. Then I want you to call me and I will come over, watch football and eat leftovers with you.

I also want to hear if you went out to eat. Where you went and what you liked. Be careful however, if you went to Chuck A Rama, you may not want to tell me. I might think less of you.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Thanks to all of you for all you mean to me.

Happy Eating

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