Saturday, May 26, 2012

“Eureka! I’ve Found It”

Which is a redundancy, since eureka roughly translates from Greek to “I’ve found it.” But that was my reaction when we pulled into the parking lot of Country Cupboard in Ennice, NC.

Four years ago, we set out to find this café and at that time I wrote: ‘We were off to find a highly recommended, but hard to find, restaurant for breakfast. The directions I had copied seemed simple enough: Take route 89 south from Galax to route 18 in North Carolina. Turn right, go two miles. Country Cupboard is behind Mountain _ur_. That last word, written on a napkin, had only what appeared to be the middle two letters. I thought I had abbreviated furniture, hence Mountain ‘Furn’ when I wrote the directions.”

Well, we never found Country Cupboard that day, but since that time I have become more adept at Internet searches and this time we were armed with an actual address. There it was, downstairs from and behind Mountain Surf Seafood--so that’s the “ur.” We parked. We walked down the fairly steep driveway. I approached the doors.

NO! There was a sign taped to doors reading “WE HAVE MOVED.” To my relief, I then saw written, in much smaller letters, “upstairs.”

Country Cupboard is no longer located behind but in the building called Mountain Surf Seafood.

As befitting a space with a nautical name, the décor was maritime in nature. The walls were grey paneling that was meant to
resemble wood weathered by salt and sea. The wall adornments included a giant ship’s wheel and numerous fish nets.

I was just ready to conjecture that the owners hadn’t had the time (or money) to redecorate and had decided to make do.

Then I saw the bottle of malt vinegar on the table. What’s with this?

It seems that the space is the Country Cupboard for breakfast and lunch and then reopens at night as a seafood restaurant.

The place was empty when we walked in at around 10.30 a.m., but soon other customers began to filter in—for lunch. (The specials that day were meat loaf or stew beef—both for $5.95 with two “veg.”) I guess that breakfast diners are an early crowd.

Today, we broke our pattern and each ordered—almost—the same breakfast of two biscuits with sausage gravy and a side of country ham ($5.25). After the server took our order, I remarked that I was surprised that Chuck hadn’t ordered the home fries ($1.25).

“Were they on the menu?” he asked.

“Right here.” I said pointing to the menu. He immediately jumped from his chair to intercept the server. You didn’t think he’d have a breakfast without potatoes, did you?

The biscuits and gravy were certainly above average, but just missed being called very good. I couldn’t fault the biscuits themselves. While they were thin they were ultra-light and had none of that objectionable (to us) baking powder flavor. But the gravy—while better than the one I had at Country Life Café (in Galax, VA)—was still somewhat lacking in sausage and therefore sausage flavor.

Now we come to the ham. We love country ham, and this ham was excellent.

“Country ham is a variety of cured ham, typically very salty, associated with the Southern United States…. Country hams are salt-cured (and occasionally nitrite- and nitrate-cured) for one to three months. They may be hardwood (usually hickory and red oak) smoked, then aged for several months to 2–3 years, depending on the fat content of the meat. Country hams are not fully cooked, but preserved by the cure” ( It has probably been three and a half years since we have indulged in this Southern delicacy and we savored every mouthful.

Chuck’s home fries were cubes of potatoes that had a unique flavor. Later I wondered if they had been tossed in red eye gravy (ham pan drippings mixed with black coffee), but I am not sure.

I still have not found the ultimate biscuits and gravy but given the prices and portion sizes, Country Cupboard is a real bargain and earns 4.0 Addies.

To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.

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