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Robert St. John

Restaurateur, author, enthusiastic traveler, & world-class eater.

Culinary Field Trip- Day One

August 10, 2009

Tuesday, July 28, 2009 at 8:42am

We hit Birmingham around lunchtime. I had a quick business meeting and then we went to Bottega for lunch.

I am a fan of Frank Stitt and have eaten at Highlands Bar and Grill, often. The meals have always been great.

Bottega was an overall disappointment– slow, unconcerned service, long waits from the kitchen, and only one entree that was memorable.

Strike One.

We made it to Nashville late in the afternoon and I wanted to take my kids to Las Paletas to have Mexican popsicles– closed on Mondays.

Strike two.

We went to Gi Gi’s cupcakes instead.

To cover the Vietnamese leg our our international culinary tour, I had planned on dining at Kien Giang. This was high on my list. They, too, were closed on Mondays.

Strike three. We’re out!

We ate at a sushi restaurant in our hotel– Hotel Indigo on West End Blvd. They had a band in the lobby and an art gallery opening, too. Good rates, large rooms, wireless internet. Highly recommended.

My iPhone is acting quirky when I try to upload photos. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Here’s hoping that day two will be more productive. We’re on our way to the Pancake Pantry for Sweet Potato Pancakes before heading to Asheville.

Culinary Field Trip– Day Two

Tuesday, July 28, 2009 at 10:09pm

Breakfast at The Pancake Pantry– it was the kids first trip there, they loved it. Sweet Potato Pancakes with Cinnamon Cream Syrup rock!

Lunch at a Mexican chain– kid’s choice, tableside guacamole, though– excellent! Good salsa, too.

Mexican Posicles at Las Paletas– I had a plum popsicle, son had mango, daughter had lime, wife = strawberry and cream. All are homemade and made fresh every day. I am glad there’s not one of these at home, I’d be 100 pounds heavier and singlehandedly change Mississippi’s obese statistics.

Long drive across TN and western NC in the rain

Staying in a new hotel in Asheville– The Grand Bohemian, just across from the Biltmore’s front gate… a little garish, though cool in areas… best in-room a/v system I’ve ever seen… ever… worth the tackiness.

Dinner at Mela– Indian cuisine– killer naan, daughter loved the Tandori Lamb, son was not a fan of Tandori Chicken, but he ate it anyway. I have given him one “free no” to use on this trip. He decided not to use it here. He did, however, have a fake stomachache. Good shrimp.

Hitting the road early in the a.m., so hitting the sack right now.


Culinary Field Trip– Day Three

Wednesday, July 29, 2009 at 9:53pm

Breakfast in Asheville– Bavarian, potato pancake, Black Forest ham, Swiss cheese, and a poached egg… Austrian chef, Austrian-owned hotel. Typically, I’m not a fan of German/Austrian food, this was good, though.

Lunch in Winston-Salem– Downtown Thai– killer Thai cuisine, nice visit with the owner, great downtown, heavy on the arts… good stuff, that.

Afternoon snack at Five Guys– great homemade french fries. My Buddy, Bill Latham, has purchased the franchise rights to Mississippi… can’t wait (my waistline can, though).

Dinner with friends in downtown W-S.– Meridian–The plan is to visit as many international restaurants as possible — 10 days, nine states, two children. Tonight’s meal was continental (I didn’t choose). Though we went to a place for dessert– Sweet Potatoes– that was Southern (sometimes considered a foreign country).

Tomorrow– Breakfast in Winston-Salem, lunch in Durham, dinner in Washington D.C. (hoping for Spanish tapas).

It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to eat it.

I’m going to need a colonic!

Culinary Field Trip– Day Four

Thursday, July 30, 2009 at 9:58pm

Breakfast in Winston-Salem– met my friend for coffee at Chelsee’s while the family was sleeping… joined by several locals, one of whom had read my column about how my grandmother used to give my family a batch of brownies for childhood vacations. Before I left the coffee shop, she handed me a Tupperware container filled with brownies she had prepared the night before– I was very moved, and extremely grateful. Thanks, Gena, they were great– as good as my grandmothers (by the way, I just realized I spelled your named incorrectly when signing your cookbooks… sorry)

Across the street to my friend’s loft for breakfast– eggs, bacon, fresh fruit, and sourdough toast– good food, great company.

Headed to Durham for a business meeting, toured the Duke campus at the request of my son. He says that’s where he’s going to college, said a quick prayer for future college scholarship opportunities

Ate a few brownies.

Hoped to do Brazilian for lunch, but my daughter got sick to her stomach in the van, and again, and again. Said a quick prayer hoping it wasn’t a stomach virus, grabbed some fast food (three of us, at least), and headed north.

Ate some more brownies.

At the recommendation of friends, we ate dinner at Four Sisters in the D.C. area, to make up for the Vietnamese dinner we missed in Nashville on Monday night. Joined by the friends, the day ended up being a success, despite the noon setback.

Brownies for dessert.

Sharing a meal with friends is one of life’s greatest pleasures.

Culinary Daily Field Trip Day Five

Saturday, August 1, 2009 at 7:29am

At the midway point, we were forced by our schedule to take a break from the International food mission.

Breakfast at the hotel.

A driving tour with my son highlighting all of the D.C. landmarks. I gave him a lecture on representative democracy (he actually payed attention… was interested, even)

Lunch at a friend’s house high above the Potomac. Beautiful.

A quick visit to Good Stuff Eatery for a mid-afternoon snack

Dinner with family in Maryland. Fun.


Family, friends, food, and fun… all day long. Great day.

Culinary Field Trip Day Six

Sunday, August 2, 2009 at 10:32pm

Smithsonian air & Space, and the National Gallery

Lunch in Chinatown– Eat First… great food… the real deal

Had to skip dinner to drive to Maryland for the McCartney concert. He was 1 1/2 hours late! We could have eaten dinner after all.

Got home at 1am

Not much time to squeeze in food

Paul McCartney Set List

Sunday, August 2, 2009 at 12:14am |

01. Drive my Car

02. Jet

03. Only Mama Knows

04. Flaming Pie

05. Got to Get You into My Life

06. Let me Roll It/Foxy Lady

07. Highway

08. The Long and Winding Road

09. My Love

10. Blackbird

11. Here Today

12. Dance Tonight

13. Michelle

14. Mrs Vanderbilt

15. Eleanor Rigby

16. Sing the Changes

17. Band on the run

18. Back in the USSR

19. I’m Down

20. Something

21. I’ve got a Feeling

22. Paperback Writer

23. A day in the Life/Give Peace a Chance

24. Let It Be

25. Live and Let Die

26. Hey Jude

1st encore

27. Day Tripper

28. Lady Madonna

29. I Saw Her Standing There

2nd encore

30. Yesterday

31. Helter Skelter

32. Get Back

33. Sgt Pepper’s reprise/ The End

Culinary Field Trip Day Seven

Sunday, August 2, 2009 at 10:38pm

Trying to squeeze in as much International/exotic cuisine as possible, we ate at a great Cuban restaurant in Richmond on our way to Charleston– Kuba Kuba. Great food. Great atmosphere. A small, corner joint in a nice neighborhood. Unconcerned service, but it works in this atmosphere. Grumpy chef in an exposed kitchen- looked like Jerry Garcia. Friendly waiter working the floor looked like a young Castro. Interesting. One of the best meals of the last seven days.

Dinner at a Mediterranean place in Charleston– Muse. Ate late. Great Hummus. The sauce with the Pork Belly appetizer was one of the best I’ve ever tasted. Made with a Spanish port.

Drove all day– 12 hours due to traffic outside of DC. Worn out (yet full and happy).


Culinary Field Trip Day Eight

Monday, August 3, 2009 at 10:37pm

Breakfast at the hotel on King Street

Lunch at Fast & French– hot ham and brie on a croissant. Great Cream of Broccoli Soup.

Dinner at Cypress with Charleston and Carolina cousins. The candied bacon and the milk chocolate lollipop were as good as any dish I ate at The French Laundry two weeks ago

Sashimi Tuna & Oysters

cilantro-lime glaze, pineapple wasabi

House Cured Salami

Barolo, Tuscan, Coppa, pork puffs, arugula

Candied Bacon

bbq Sea Island red peas, melted leeks

Beef Spring Rolls

spiced cucumber, soy caramel

Scallops & Bacon

hominy fricassee, pork reduction

Almond-Fried Brie

cranberry-walnut chutney, baby greens, champagne vinaigrette

Lobster Bisque

Carolina shrimp, fresh chervil

Dry Aged Ribeye

roasted cauliflower, mustard butter, steak sauce

Filet of Beef

Boursin cheese, fingerling potatoes, asparagus, Madeira sauce

Steak Diane

New York strip, wild mushrooms, Gruyère potato fondue, truffle peppercorn cream

Keegan-Filion Farm Chicken

andouille gumbo, okra & tomatoes

Bread & “Butter”

grilled Tuscan points, pork butter

Crisp Wasabi Tuna

edamame, shiitake mushrooms, ginger-garlic glaze

Beef Oscar

jumbo lump crab, asparagus, crispy potatoes, béarnaise sauce

John’s Island Canteloupe Sorbet

compressed local canteloupe, basil-mint syrup

Coconut Tapioca Crème Brûlée

local peaches, blackberries, white peach sorbet

Milk Chocolate Mousse Lollipop

house made dulce de leche, chocolate chip cookie crumbs

Thanks to Donald and:

Craig Deihl ~ Executive Chef

M. Kelly Wilson ~ Pastry Chef

Onward to Atlanta

Culinary Field Trip– The Last Entry

Wednesday, August 5, 2009 at 7:42pm

Great lunch in Atlanta at Papi’s– Cuban

Dinner last night at Nava– Southwestern, killer lobster tacos, a great banana dessert

Lunch at Taqueria Del Sol– Fish Tacos, yumm

Highlights of the 10-day journey:

Indian food in Asheville

Thai in Winston-Salem

Breakfast with my friend in W-S (a lady made my grandmother’s brownies for the road)

Lunch in D.C. at a friend’s overlooking the Potomac

Watching my son sing “Hey Jude” while he thought no one was watching during the Paul McCartney concert

Dinner in Charleston with cousins I haven’t seen in a long time, but look forward to reconnecting with in the future,

The food item of the trip was a candied bacon (pork belly) appetizer at Cypress in Charleston

I’m going to eat nothing but oatmeal for the next few days… nah

2,500 miles and no major arguments from the back seat.

I will find out how much damage was done when I step on the scales in the morning. I’m guessing six pounds.

RSJ signing off

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