Monday 31 October 2011

Sugar's Ribs, Chattanooga, Tennessee

On route to Nashville, we took a pit-stop in Chattanooga. My father wanted to visit the Chattanooga Choo Choo and I simply wanted somewhere to stretch my legs and eat. So we headed to Sugar’s Ribs, an award-winning BBQ joint just off the highway.

According to the numerous signs along the highway, Sugar's is just off the exit however we seemed to keep missing it or being on the wrong side of the road with a double-line separating us from the restaurant, but eventually we made it. We sat outside on the balcony with a view over Chattanooga, the freeway and the local goats.

Having learnt from our previous meals, we ordered significantly less food and managed to sample various menu items without stuffing ourselves.

I order a rib-burger mini-q (baby sandwich) and a chicken mini-q whilst Dad go the ribs with coleslaw and mac & cheese to share.

Rib-burger: smokey flavour and moist juicy meat

Chicken mini-q: well seasoned but a little dry for my taste

Ribs - meat was "fall off the bone" tender

Mac & cheese - creamy but not too rich, just the right portion size

Coleslaw: Dad loved it, I didn't (a little too bitter for my taste)

Sugar's also provide a variety of bbq sauces (i.e. Carolina style, Tennessee style etc) so you can season to taste as desired. My favourite was the Tenessee Sweet & Goopey although all were great.

We were both very pleased with our pit-stop and we both knew that it was to be the first of many BBQ meals on our road-trip.

Saturday 29 October 2011

Savannah, Georgia

After a thrilling day at Six Flags Over Georgia, we headed into Atlanta. The key attraction we chose to visit was the World of Coca Cola. The exhibits were quite informative with areas dedicated to production and bottling; the history of Coke, Coke's impact on pop culture and numerous video exhibits. At the end of the tour, there is a tasting room offering unlimited samples of approximately 80 Coca Cola products from around the world. Some of the offerings were delicious but others….not so much.

After the obligatory visit to the gift shop, we headed outside to find some food. When we had arrived in the morning I noticed a couple of food trucks setting up outside so I made a beeline for them. It turns out that the Breast Cancer charity run was being held that day and the park seemed to be a meeting point for the finishers. Luckily for us, Dad and I got our order in just before the masses arrived.

There was a pizza truck and salad truck but I made a beeline straight for the Korean taco truck (www. as I knew exactly what I wanted. I ordered one rib-eye beef and one chicken taco and Dad had the beef and pork. Although they were quite messy to eat, and certainly not pretty, they were very tasty. The tortillas were light and soft, the salad fresh and the marinades on the meat were the perfect combination of sweet and spicy.

For dessert, we headed to the dessert pop (ice-block) stand and had a raspberry and a coconut one. They were refreshing but I prefer a Frosty-Fruit.

After lunch, it was time to pile back into the car and head towards Nashville.

Tuesday 25 October 2011

Lane Southern Orchards, Fort Valley, Georgia

Using my ever-trusty guide book, we decided to break up our drive from Savannah to Atlanta by stopping in Fort Valley Georgia, all in all a 60mile detour. Georgia is famous for its peaches and Fort Valley is home of the Lane Packing Company: peach and pecan farm, cafĂ©, restaurant, and according to my book, home of the country’s best peach cobbler. There are plenty of other food choices available on site but we were there for one thing only.

I’ve never really been a fan of cooked fruit, but given we were in the heart of peach country, I had to give it a go. The detour was definitely worth it! The cobbler was absolutely delicious and I’ve been converted. Of course, a small serving was more than enough for Dad and I to share. The cobbler was crunchy and firm on top and sweet and gooey in the middle. The peaches were so flavoursome and not too mushy. Combining the cobbler with their peach soft-serve ice-cream that perfectly melted into cracks of the hot gooey cobbler, gave the dessert a great hot/cold contrast; it was perfect.

Savannah, Georgia

Arriving in Savannah in the late afternoon, we decided to take an evening stroll around the city before grabbing some dinner.

I had been to Savannah once previously in 2005 but it was father’s first visit. I consider Savannah to be one of the prettiest cities in the world. The architecture combined with the Spanish moss and that good ‘ole southern charm result in a truly gorgeous city.

The Savannah River Queen at dusk

For dinner we headed to Rocks on the River located on the Riverwalk. Having learned a lesson from lunch, we decided to only order an appetizer each and to share a main course.

Dad ordered the butchers plate: sopressata, pepper crusted salami, soft and aged cheeses, grain mustard, olives and rustic bread.

I ordered the chicken and waffles: marinated chicken served with arugula, sun-dried tomatoes, boursin cheese, mustard dressing between two waffles. To be honest, I basically ordered it because of the fillings and the waffles mostly went uneaten.

When ordering, I started to doubt whether we needed a main course as I thought perhaps we had enough food. Our server, however, insisted that a main would definitely be OK to share so we ordered the white pizza: mozzarella, asiago, ricotta, sun dried tomato pesto, garlic.

We had asked for all the food to be served at once and I had a fit of the giggles when it arrived as, as usual, by my standards, it was enough food for four. Accordingly, the pizza went largely uneaten.

The next morning, we decided to do the “tourist thing” and took a trolley tour of historic Savannah. I had been on the road for over five months and during that time had promised myself (and succeeded) that I would never get on one of those awful big red double-decker tourist buses, anywhere. I prefer to walk to see a city and people always look so bored and spaced out on those buses. However, given we only had a few hours to spend in Savannah, a guided tour is the best way to see the main sights and learn the most. I continue to maintain, however, that my record is still intact as a trolley can in no way be considered a red bus. Our driver/guide was very knowledgeable it was a lovely way to see this picturesque town in the limited time that we had.

One of the thousands of pretty buildings in Savannah

After the tour, and an uneventful lunch (a Cuban sandwich split between us, we departed Savannah and headed towards Atlanta.

Monday 24 October 2011

St Augustine, Florida

At this point in my trip it had become abundantly apparent that I was going to significantly blow my budget in the US. OK, perhaps it had already become apparent as my New York leg and Caribbean Cruise started the money landslide. However, my initial plan of backpacking “through the middle” of the US was tossed aside when it become very clear that the US is not a solo backpacker-friendly destination (unless you stick to the coasts).

So, I had a hole in my itinerary. I needed to be in Chicago in eight days for a reservation at Alinea that I was not going to miss for any reason. The solution: a road trip from Orlando to Chicago. But a solo road trip is no fun, so my father flew in from Australia to keep me company. Actually, I bribed him with the dinner at Alinea (I told him if he came, I’d pay for the dinner!!).

After a few days together in Orlando spent at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party at the Magic Kingdom, Universal Studios and a lot of shopping, we hit the road and headed north.

On route to Savannah, Georgia, we decided to take a pit stop in St Augustine, Florida “America’s First City”.

Our first stop was at the San Sebastian Winery. They offer a complimentary winery tour and tasting. We arrived just as the tasting was beginning so jumped on the end (and skipped the tour). The tasting was very well run and the guide was incredibly well informed. He provided numerous helpful anecdotes about serving wine and also some recipe ideas. Unfortunately, however, we didn’t care for any of the wines.

My father: the “tasting connoisseur”

The next stop was Whetstone Chocolates. They offer a factory tour but we decided just to buy a few chocolates to sample. They were OK but I didn’t really care for them either (but still ate them!)

Our final stop was for lunch at Barnacle Bill’s. It’s the type of restaurant that is listed in every tourist magazine and free map; the type of restaurant that I usually run from. It was, however, listed in my Road trip Food book which was yet to lead me wrong so we decided to give it a go.

The restaurant exterior

Being our first day on the road, Dad and I had forgotten our rules for dining in America; rules that have been refined over multiple visits. Put simply: order enough food for one person and you’ll have plenty for two. Alas, we ordered too much and a lot went uneaten:

Blue crab bites: Bite size crab cakes loaded with crab meat accompanied by a creamy dip with a slight hint of curry.

Barnacle Fried Shrimp Sampler: 2 original style, 2 coconut and 2 datil pepper (the local specialty)

Fish (snapper) sandwich: The fish and sauce were wonderful but I’d call it a burger rather than a sandwich

Daily Salmon Special: salmon fillet stuffed with crab and served with hollandaise – absolutely delicious

Stomachs satisfied, it was time to hit the road again and we arrived in Savannah, Georgia in the late afternoon.

Saturday 22 October 2011

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Ever loved a book or movie so much that you wanted to jump into that imaginary world? I’ve had one prior experience where I go to do so at the Las Vegas Hilton's Star Trek Experience. The sets and scenes were so lifelike and combined with live actors, the experience was unbelievably realistic.

That experience, however, pales in comparison to a visit to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Orlando. There, in Central Florida, is a small area of land right out of the pages of the book (or the movie interpretation thereof).

As you enter Hogsmeade, the Hogwarts Express has just pulled into the station, steam billowing from the engine.

Strolling through town you can have a meal at the Three Broomsticks or Hogs Head and perhaps sample some butterbeer. If shopping is more your goal, you can stop at Ollivanders to buy a wand, check out the latest quidditch equipment, buy some gags at Weasleys Wizarding Wheezes or perhaps a chocolate frog from Honeydukes.

Anything that you could imagine to buy is there from the Monster Book of Monsters, a snitch, quidditch balls, or perhaps a new set of Hogwarts robes. And, if nature calls and you visit the bathroom, you’ll find Moaning Mrytle whining in there as well. No detail has been overlooked.

There are three rides in the world. A tame rollercoaster (Flight of the Hippogriff), an intense pair of rollercoasters whose tracks intertwine (Dragon Challenge), and the centerpiece: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.

I’m going to start this off by saying that no words will do this ride justice; it needs to be experienced. Suffice it to say, it is the most technologically advanced, realistic, thrilling ride I’ve ever seen.

The ride is set inside Hogwarts Castle. You enter through the front gates and work your way through the grounds, past the arboretum, Gryffindor's common room (with the Fat Lady having a few words to say), through the corridors where the portraits talk and argue, to Dumbledore’s office where he greets you and advises that you’ve been invited to a long lecture by Professor Binns on the history of magic.

On route however, you run into Harry, Ron and Hermione in the Defense of the Dark Arts classroom and are advised that it’s best to skip the lecture and join Ron & Harry on the quidditch pitch. Hermione instructs you to meet her in the Room of Requirement where she will perform a spell to enchant a classroom bench to fly.

Once there, the “ride portion” begins. Assisted by encompassing video screens, live sets and the choreographed simulator, you fly through Hogwarts, getting chased by Hagrid’s missing dragon, then spiders in the Forbidden Forest, dementors and a basilisk before surfacing for a portion of the quidditch match and finally flying into the Great Hall for the big finish. As I said, no words will do I justice, but take my advice, you must try it for yourself.

Friday 7 October 2011

Apologies for the delay in new posts. To be blunt, I have simply been having too much fun and been too busy.

I am about to leave for a visit to North Africa but will be back to posting in a couple of weeks when I hit Asia.

Best wishes,


Sunday 2 October 2011

Earl of Sandwich, Downtown Disney

I'm going to call it. The Earl of Sandwich Tuna Melt is one of the great sandwiches of the world. Its only company in that top tier is the bahn mi and rou jia mo, although I'll give the reuben a very close 4th place.

This visit to Orlando was my 4th in ten years. Accordingly, instead of the usual one to two week stays focusing mainly on Disneyworld, it was a instead a quick stopover for shopping, visiting Universal's Wizarding World of Harry Potter and of course, a visit to Earl of Sandwich.

The Downtown Disney location

In my three days in Orlando, I managed to eat there on four separate occasions and never ever got sick of their world's best sandwiches.

So what makes them so good? It's the bread. At Earl of Sandwich, the sandwiches are made with semi-cooked bread rolls that are then finished in the over when you order. As a result, the bread is crusty, golden brown and very hot, which in turn, perfectly melts the cheese.

My "second favourite" is The Original 1762 made with roast beef, cheddar and creamy horseradish sauce. My favourite is the tuna melt: albacore tuna salad with swiss cheese. Delicious!

Oozy, swiss cheese melted goodness

The sandwiches are so good that we actually cancelled our dinner reservations to instead eat at Earl again. Why oh why can't there be an Earl of Sandwich back home?