Saturday, July 5, 2008

Concert on the Parkway . . .

. . . almost. A concert at the amphitheater with seating on the hillside at the Music Center at mile marker 213 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Bring a picnic lunch and your chairs for an evening open-air concert. It sounded like a perfect setting to hear two popular bluegrass bands. But an outdoor concert in the rain loses much of its glamour. So when the rains came earlier today, the concert was moved into the Rex Theater in Galax. Now the Music Center on the Parkway is about 35 miles from the campground, but it is only about a 7-mile drive from there (where we learned the concert was cancelled) to Galax. That switch was annoying, the picnic lunch in the truck after purchasing our tickets for the theater was humorous.

We heard two highly-regarded bands (1) Carrie Lester and Hard Rain and (2) Amber Collins and No Speed Limit. Individuals in these bands were extremely skilled musicians, but the groups featured lead singers. We would have liked more pickin' and less singin'.

The Adler Report
Have you been wondering about Addie’s silence the past two weeks? I know you have, so let me explain. Virtually all of our out of the “house” meals have been eaten at fairs and festivals, and this means a constant diet of hot dogs, hamburgers, and fries. If I ate corn dogs, my diet would have had more variation – but I don’t do corn dogs!!! Instead of talking about restaurants, I want to spend a few minutes talking about the art of doing simple things well.

Let’s start with iced tea. I don’t know what is different about southern iced tea, but we have found it uniformly great everywhere we have traveled over the years. Whether it be Savannah, Charleston, New Orleans, or the Louisiana bayous, they brew great iced tea in the South. It is clear, strong, and made from real tea leaves and not a powdered mix. Be it at a restaurant, festival, or fair – we haven’t been disappointed. And, if our accents haven’t given us away, our request for unsweetened tea is the give-away that we are not from these parts.

Earlier, Chuck talked about Phil Wood and his Blooming Potatoes. This is the kind of food that you’ll only find at a festival concessions arcade. If you are familiar with the Pennsylvania Dutch style of dark brown potato chips, this creation tastes similar. A whole potato was spiral sliced, tossed into a vat of very hot oil, and, as soon as the resultant cloud of steam abated, whipped from the oil and topped with a sprinkle of seasoned salt. When cooked at such a high temperature, these were grease free – no grease on our hands and none left on the plate when we finished. At Phil’s urging, we tried a light mist of the malt vinegar that he had put in spray bottles. You didn’t taste the vinegar, but the potato flavor became more pronounced.

Beans – another great Southern staple. By beans, I mean of the baked/barbeque variety, and we had great beans at both the Wytheville festival and at the Galax Smokehouse last night. In both cases, these were made from small pea beans and were somehow cooked until tender without breaking any of the bean skins thus avoiding the usual bean mush.
Vegetarian, the only seasonings were molasses or other dark sweetening, a tomato product of some sort, and black pepper. The photo here is of our two by two (two meats/two sides) appetizer. We had already consumed a three by three and had ordered smoked mashed potatoes, cole slaw, and beans for the sides. When we decided on a repeat, only a double order of beans would do. (The walls of the Smokehouse were lined with photographs of old radio shows airing on WBOB, 1400kc; local personalities; and parades.) When Chuck paid the bill, he was "confronted" by the chief of police--sort of. It seems the chief is one of the owners of the Smokehouse, and he was running the cash register while still in full uniform. Only in a small town.

Before attending a jam in Independence Wednesday night, we wandered into Ogle’s for dinner. This small pool hall/diner is known for the best hamburgers in the area. Mine was interesting; the patty was topped with pork barbeque, mushrooms, and Swiss cheese. Not the way I’d want a burger all the time, but tasty and interesting nonetheless. What set Ogle’s apart is the cook, Crystal Wright, and her homemade ice cream. Wednesday’s flavor was banana pudding, a vanilla base infused with banana flavor and chunks of frozen banana. Chuck and I shared a bowl – three big scoops for $2.50 - and it became a battle of dueling spoons. Ogle’s owner told us that she frequently comes up with homemade flavors – like blueberry cobbler. Crystal makes a homemade cobbler and mixes this into the ice cream base. Yummo!!! If we go back to Independence for another jam, Ogle’s will be a repeat stop--at least for ice cream.

One last note. At lunch yesterday we encountered for the fourth of fifth time an interesting local tradition/habit/way of doing business. No sales checks!!!! When it is time to pay, you go to the register and tell the cashier what you ordered and they ring up your bill. Not a practice you would find anywhere around Philadelphia. Now the owner, wait staff (being politically and genderly correct), and cashier probably know every customer and can do this without fear of being cheated. Still, it took us some time to adjust our big city thinking. (While they don’t give you a bill, the place we had lunch yesterday didn’t hesitate to post--written in large letters and prominently located--a list of everyone who had given them a bad check, including names, amounts, and check numbers. I wonder if shame will work.)

Extra: a couple of pictures from the parade in Independence, VA because I like marching bands and antique cars,

and I really was impressed with the precision of the honor guard (Note the position of the three right feet that you can see.)

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