Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017 New-To-Me Food...

As much as I love food, I really only focused on my regular favorites up until recently.  That pretty much meant pasta & pizza almost all the time.

Not even chicken wings - that's also relatively new to me.  And that's how this all started.  Me, Shawn, Frankie & Alicia were out having wings and the idea was born that I should try a new-to-me food every month.  So Shawn put together a list on his phone of all the foods we brought up that night that I never tried.  That's where my input ended.  From that point on, we'd go out to eat somewhere and I'd be surprised by what food I'd have to eat.  And no matter what, I wouldn't say no.

Overall, I ended up finding 5 new foods I loved - I count that a giant success.  Here's the foods of 2017 rated on a scale of 1 - 10...

JANUARY:  Pho (3) - We ate this at some Vietnamese restaurant.  The place smelled awesome, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't the pho.  I'm not the biggest fan of soup for a meal and that's basically what this was.....but bland.

FEBRUARY:  Hummus (4) - I don't understand hummus.  Why eat this when you could have nacho cheese, salsa, or queso? 

MARCH:  Lobster (7) - Me & Shawn had this in Lobsicle form (lobster on a stick) in Vegas.  This was awesome!  But I'm sad about that.  The reason I'd never tried lobster (and didn't want to like it) is because it's an expensive meal and I tend to stay away from meals that cost too much.  But I'll make an exception for this every now and then.

APRIL:  Stuffed Hot Peppers (10) - Growing up, my Grandma would make stuffed hot peppers for almost every family meal.  Yet I never tried them because she'd also make ravioli for me & her, so I'd fill up on that and the meatballs.  I regret not trying her stuffed hot peppers as they were probably the best ever.  I loved the ones I had at Jim's SteakOut though & now order them as a side when I go.

MAY:  Calamari (7) - If it's deep fried, I'm happy.  So this was a win.  Pretty much tasted like an onion ring and I like those, so obvious like.

JUNE:  Sushi (2) - This one made me the most nervous to try.  And it was on my birthday no less!  We did this as a sushi buffet so I got to try a bunch of varieties.  I wasn't a fan of the standard ones, but the weird Buffalo wing or other specialty ones weren't awful.  That's the best I can say about sushi.  A really fun birthday though with awesome friends.

JULY:  Clams (3) - This one should have made me the most nervous to try.  Some of my family is allergic to clams, so I've never bothered with them.  But there we were at MT Pockets specifically to try clams so was prepped for anything to happen.  Tried steamed clams and clams casino.  Both were good, but couldn't compare to the awesome Italian Sausage Sandwich there.  As for raw clams, it wasn't until October that I tried those (when doing my new-to-me October food).  I hated them raw.  In fact, I ended up sick and I'm pretty sure the clams were the culprit. 

AUGUST:  Beer Cheese Soup (Gouda Soup) (4) - It was was very cheesy & good, but it's soup.  Takes a lot to get me to rave about a soup.

SEPTEMBER:  Beef On Weck (2) - Aside from french fries & peanuts, I'm not a fan of salty things.  Especially on sandwiches.  Halfway through, I wiped all the salt off the bread & went crazy with the horseradish.  That made it better.  But this is a Buffalo tradition I'll never understand.

OCTOBER:  Lo Mein (5) - Went to a Chinese buffet for this.  Note this is only the second time in my life I've eaten at a Chinese buffet (the first was a couple years ago in Virginia where I really only ate a bunch of varieties of chicken).  The lo mein was good, kinda like seasoned pasta & butter.  Also tried an eggroll here - liked that too.  But this was also the place with the raw clams - that made the following night and day incredibly unpleasant.

NOVEMBER:  Jalepeno poppers (8) - My favorite TV show now is NBC's The Good Place.  Jalepeno poppers have been mentioned a few times and play an important part in the show, so I had to try them.  Dave at Manor Lanes bowling alley is a culinary genius (yes, the food at this bowling alley never fails to amaze me).  It was no surprise then that I loved this.  Plus again, you usually can't go wrong with something deep fried (unless it's deep fried bubble gum at the fair which was awful - and not even technically bubble gum).

DECEMBER:  Pasta carbonara (10) - The new-to-me food year ended on a huge highlight - this (along with stuffed hot peppers) won the year.  I question this being a new food though as I've had all the things it's made with before.  But I guess the same can be said with stuffed hot peppers thanks to the Carolina Reaper & Ghost Peppers I had tried, so this'll count.  And the combination of these ingredients blew me away.  Spaghetti is actually one of my least favorite pastas (so messy & a pain to eat) but the sauce in this was so thick, it made the spaghetti stick together and was just a perfect meal.  Also loved that the bacon taste was there, but didn't overpower the meal.  Shawn made this one and whoa does he know how to cook!  I'm sure I'll eventually try this at a restaurant too but there's no way it could ever top homemade.

I know there's more left on the list, so hoping to continue on through 2018.  Follow me on Twitter @JohnAnthony1025 or on Instagram at johnanthonyspinridefan and go ahead and suggest things.  After sushi & clams, I'm up for anything now!

Sunday, November 12, 2017

TN food!

This is a fast foodie lover's post.  All the TN food highlights (and lowlights).

Things started off shaky with a stop in Ohio at White Castle.  I've been to one in Missouri 15 years ago and hated the sliders.  They tasted worse than cardboard - I ordered 4 and threw 2 away (and I never waste food, so that says something).  All these years later, they still taste awful.  The cheddar and apple butter slider wasn't too bad though.

The next TN food stop was for the food Nashville's known for - Hot Chicken.  My buddy Shawn highly recommended this, so even timed my drive to make sure I was hungry for it.  Hot Chicken is basically a chicken breast with a really hot dry rub.  I of course had to get "hot" because it's in the name.  But it was way too hot for me and overpowered the whole meal.  Not a win for that reason only, but their mac-n-cheese was awesome!  And next time (there will be a next time) I'm doing medium chicken lol.

Things had to turn around in the morning, so hit up Biscuit Love.  This was an hour-plus line!  No way was I waiting that long for breakfast.

But then I randomly ran across the #1 fast food restaurant on the planet.  I had no idea Cookout was in Nashville!  Yes, corndogs are a side there and the hushpuppies are a thing of food beauty.  While in line a guy started talking to me about how bad they need a Cookout in New York (too funny running into another New Yorker there).

The bad food vortex I was stuck in was finally over!  Saw this random place in the Opry Mills Mall but was still too full from Cookout, so it's on the list for my next Nashville trip.


The next food highlight was Bennett's Pit Bar-B-Que in Pigeon Forge.  I mean really you can not go wrong with pulled pork on a breakfast buffet.  I was in food heaven.

If you ever visit the Pigeon Forge / Gatlinburg area, an Ogle Dog is a must!  It's a corndog made with TWO hot dogs and it's by far the best corndog I've ever had.  This is always a mandatory stop when I'm there.

The trip ended with another fast food favorite of mine - Bojangles.  I love the Bo-Berry Biscuits and pretty much everything else on the menu (as you can see by the massive meal I ordered).  I couldn't decide what I wanted so ended up going with two breakfasts lol.

Nashville & Pigeon Forge, TN

I go to Dollywood in Pigeon Forge every November, but I've never ventured further into Tennessee before so decided to stop in Nashville on the way.

The drive was brutally long and because it gets dark early this time of year I wasn't able to stop and see too much.  But KY Stonehenge was a must.

The pic is awful but it was night, there was no moon, and most important it's private property (the yard of the town's mayor no less), so there was no way I was going to get arrested to get a cool pic.   It's about 15 minutes north of Mammoth Cave in a town called Munfordville, KY.  I've now seen Foamhenge (a Stonehenge made of foam in VA that I was super impressed with), the real Stonehenge in England (which I wasn't impressed with because it was so touristy), and then this which was just awesome.

A few exits down the highway, saw this marker.  Check out the middle part - yup, a UFO partially blamed for this mess lol.  The marker was in a strange spot surrounded by fast food restaurants (a McDonald's was literally right across the street).

Then it was time for Nashville!  My first big stop was the Parthenon the next day.  It's an exact replica of the one in Greece.  I ended up staying there almost three hours.  Just walking around it was amazing, but then inside was an excellent art museum - they even had an exhibit on the 1897 Nashville exhibition the Parthenon was built for.  If you go to Nashville, do not skip this - it's totally worth a visit.

Of course everybody told me I had to see the Grand Ole Opry.  This was the extent of my visit.  I was more in the mood to see Jigsaw which was playing in an Opry Mills Mall theater next door.  Great movie btw, as good as the Saw 1 - 3 movies.

That night I hit up Broadway in Nashville.  That's like the Chippewa of Buffalo.  But they've got something there that tops anything in Buffalo - the HQ Beercade.  It's a bar but with tons of classic arcade games and pinball (good ones).  Here's the thing that makes it so different - no cover charge to get in and all the games were FREE!  Obviously they want you to buy food and drinks there and believe me I did.  Ended up staying there almost four hours.  But I left for a bit to see the entire area too - definitely the cool night spot in Nashville.

After that it was off to Pigeon Forge to meet up with my friends.  I absolutely love Dollywood and the entire area it's in.  Dollywood is the home to the fastest wooden roller coaster in the world.  It's kinda debateable whether it's really a wood coaster, but I love it (especially night rides) so don't care.

Lots of other random stuff happened too - Rowdy Bear Mountain alpine coaster, Jungle Boat ride, Big Top arcade, dancing fountains.  There's so much to do, it's impossible to hit it all in one trip (a year lol).

And finally, there was this...