Posts Tagged With: Dollywood

Daddy-Daughter-Dolly Road Trip

I had a plan. It was a loosely formed plan, but a plan nonetheless. Once Daughter and I had consumed all that the International Biscuit Festival had to offer, I figured we could find something else fun to do between here and there. We had driven all that way (meaning, I had driven all that way) after all, so why not? It didn’t take long for a plan to firm up in Daughter’s mind. She’d been bugging me to go to Six Flags Over Georgia since spring break (it opened a week after our trip to Atlanta), and thought that would be a good place to stop by on the way home. (In her defense, she is generally a map-less passenger, content for us to tell her “how much farther”.)

I am most definitely an amusement park kind of guy. I like the opportunity to eat unique theme park foods, and I like wild and wooly roller coasters. I don’t necessarily recommend them in that order, but that’s just me. So when Daughter laid out her plan, I was game in principle; I just knew Six Flags wouldn’t work. But since I had a little better handle on the geography and timetable, I suggested Dollywood. Despite numerous Spring Break trips to Pigeon Forge, we always seemed to get there a week before it opened. (Are you noticing a pattern here? Could we work on that, Starkville Public Schools?) After a little Googling to determine coaster quality we decided it was worth a shot.

We pulled onto Dollywood Boulevard just after three o’clock on Saturday afternoon – perfect timing because an entrance after that time allowed us to get in free the next day. For the better part of five hours, we rode the coasters without eating a thing. Not normal. Then again, it wasn’t exactly normal that we spent most of the morning inhaling biscuits. But by the time we got back to Pigeon Forge that night, we had both worked up a pretty good appetite. I thought it would be fun to find a pancake place; a good carb-loading seemed to be in order for the next day’s dashes from queue to queue. None on our end of the parkway were open. (Whoever is working on spring break scheduling, could you look into that, too?) With breakfast for dinner now on the brain, I sought refuge elsewhere. Krispy Kreme was already on our radar, but I was saving that for dessert. Cracker Barrel was next door and a sure bet for Daughter, so we headed for the porch.

I could not believe the breakfast special I found on the Barrel menu. I forget what they named it, but when I was growing up we called it an Egg-in-a-Hole. As a kid this was a breakfast standard and as a parent I cook it for my own. There’s a recipe for it in my NASCAR cookbook, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen it in a restaurant. I ordered it and the waiter asked me how I’d like my eggs. I think I said, “Really?” out loud. As an expert egg-in-a-hole maker, I only knew one method. You take a piece of loaf bread, tear out a hole in the center, butter it up on both sides, throw it in a skillet, and crack an egg in the hole. Cook till the egg is done on both sides and you’re done. He said I could get my egg any old way, including scrambled. I was flabbergasted. Scrambled eggs-in-the-hole? I don’t think so. (Figure out an omelet-in-a-hole and we can talk.) We agreed on over medium and he left me alone to shake my head. By the way, it was terrific, and I don’t say that often about the Barrel. Daughter ordered the Old Timer’s breakfast plate, which I thought was a bit bold for someone who usually eats like a bird, but she did some pretty heavy damage – I was impressed. And as for Krispy Kreme, the line was out the door and it was after ten – we decided to wait till morning.

With hot donuts to maintain our energy for another morning of intense coaster chasing, and only a few hours to chase, we waited until the absolute last minute and grabbed some food to go. Our first stop was for a loaf of cinnamon bread. I watched – practically drooling – as the baker cut slits in the top of the dough, submerged it in a pool of melted butter, and rolled it in a bowl of cinnamon and sugar. Do I really need to say how good that was? Perhaps there should have been a warning: “This bread not for everyday use.” But we don’t go to Dollywood every day, do we. To balance my sugared-butter levels, I stopped at Granny Ogle’s Ham n’Beans for a pulled ham sandwich to go. The waitress asked if I wanted an extra pack of chips or the usual beans and cornbread that came with it. Duh. Tiny bag of Lay’s? Or beans and a small pone of cornbread? You know what I got. Yes, I got a mess in the car. Not far down the highway we discovered that the beans had tipped over and all that bean juice I was hoping would soak into my cornbread was instead running around the bottom of the (thankfully) plastic bag. You live. You learn.

Dinner wasn’t really necessary, but I needed a Frappuccino around Birmingham since Daughter refused to take a turn driving. (She’s twelve – in hindsight, she made the right choice.) And since I could smell smoke across the street from Starbucks, I introduced her to the glories of a Golden Rule barbecue sandwich (chopped) and a cup of the sweetest tea on the planet. By that time, messy foods were no big deal.

Burgers to start the weekend, biscuits in the middle, and barbecue at the end. Daddy-Daughter-Dolly weekend was – yes, I’m going to say it – a Barrel of fun.

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Blackberry Farm Biscuit Brunch

After spending the better part of a decade in a culture vastly different than our own, the Reed family returned to the USA. We had just over a week before school was to begin, a few days to re-immerse ourselves in the American lifestyle. What better way to do that than to head for a cabin in Pigeon Forge?
Truth be told, that is not the main reason we went, but Pigeon Forge is what it is. Aside from seeing family and re-adjusting sleep schedules to a once-familiar time zone, I had one primary goal. After subsisting on restaurant fare and airplane trays in the previous week of travel, I was ready for some good old American grub. But despite the volume of places to eat in Pigeon Forge, finding something that isn’t a pancake or can’t be found on any fast food row anywhere else in America is a bigger challenge. I did my usual digging around and found what seemed to be a highly-rated and unique place called Blackberry Farm. It was a little ways down the road but it had promise. Unfortunately, I also discovered that the restaurant was a part of a resort, and a stay at the resort was required for dinner. Man.
So it didn’t work out that time, and I still haven’t found an opportunity to spend a night there, but I’ve kept the idea on the back burner since then, just waiting for my chance. Then at the International Biscuit Festival, my ship came in. Since the beginning of the Festival, Blackberry Farm has been involved in the form of a Biscuit Brunch. The only concern I had was that I knew I would be cruising Biscuit Boulevard for a round of power eating before the brunch began. It was a dilemma, but I knew what I would do. This was my best shot to enjoy a Blackberry Farm meal “off the farm”, and I wasn’t going to miss it.
The meal began with biscuits. Surprise! The menu showed two varieties, but the one I found in front of me was a Benne, Sorghum and Onion Biscuit. It had elements of the same flavors you would get from pouring sorghum molasses on a biscuit – rich, dark sweetness, but in a much more subtle way. The onion wasn’t strong, just enough to send the taste buds over to a savory corner. The benne added a nutty note. But for those who wanted to add a little sweetness, there was farm-made blackberry and blueberry preserves.
The first course had a lot of promise: Citrus Cured Sunburst Trout with pickled vegetables and Georgia olive oil. I love grilled fish with fruit salsa, and I had downed a shot of Georgia olive oil once before, so I was looking forward to the flavors. What I discovered was that the trout had truly been cured – not grilled – in the citrus juice, something like a ceviche’ I suppose. I tried it and it just wasn’t my thing. But there were at least a couple of positives. One, everybody else at the table ate it up like they hadn’t been on Biscuit Boulevard all morning. Plus, it had just a dab of what I have to assume was Sunburst Trout Caviar on top, which I later discovered was on my list of 100 Southern Things to Eat Before You Die. Check.

Citrus Cured Sunburst Farms Trout

Citrus Cured Sunburst Farms Trout

As one might imagine, Daughter left the trout untried. But the main course was more up her alley – mine, too. Chef Josh Feathers described it as Seared Braised and Pressed Ancient White Park Beef with Potato Foie Gras Puree and Watercress with Dried Cherries. When it arrived, the beef looked like a rectangular cut of steak or roast. When my fork hit it, it slowly fell apart into a pile of tender and tasty bites. A little dip into the rich puree and a stab of watercress and cherry, all on the same fork, was a very special mouthful.

Here's the Beef

Here’s the Beef

Dessert was a cheese cake made from Blackberry Farm Brebis cheese. Brebis is a sheep’s milk cheese, possibly the first time I have had anything (knowingly) made from sheep’s milk. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I ended up being quite happy to eat mine and most of Daughter’s as well. It was anchored by a cornbread crust (also unique) and topped with fresh South Carolina strawberries. Not too sweet, but plenty sweet enough – an excellent ending to our morning in Knoxville, and another check off the bucket list in a roundabout way.

Brebis Cheesecake

Brebis Cheesecake

Before we left the Biscuit Festival we stopped for an ice cream cone. Don’t look at me that way. I know we just had an amazing piece of cheesecake at Brunch. This was an opportunity stop, and besides, ice cream fits no matter how full you are – it just melts and fills in the empty places in your belly. This ice cream was from the Cruze Farm Milk Bar, the same outfit that had provided the buttermilk the night before. I went to the crazy side – buttermilk lime ice cream with cardamom. The cardamom was a bit more edgy than I expected, but the lime had a sweet-tart-creamy combination that was refreshing on this muggy morn.
That was not the end of our day, but it was the end of our time in Knoxville at the Biscuit Festival. I hated to leave, but the biscuits were about gone, I had eaten enough to hold me through Monday, and we had a date with Dolly. Our day would end in Pigeon Forge, the same place my quest for a bite from Blackberry Farm had begun. Daughter had worked out a deal: I could drag her to Knoxville if she could drag me to Dollywood. My arm did not require a very firm twist. Off we went.

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