Saturday, August 31, 2013

Parramore Too, the way restaurants should be!!!

Parramore Too, the way restaurants should be!!! Ordinarily, I wait till a third trip to a dining establishment before I make up my mind as to it’s merits or demerits whatever the case may be but this “mom and pop” tucked away on a little side road in he small town of Blountstown, Fl (35 miles NW of Mexico Beach or 25 miles SW of Marianna, Fl…if this helps) doesn’t need this admirers “third trip” to realize what a GREAT little spot to rest and dine and take some leftovers AND money home with you. Parramore Too was recommended to me by the great folks at another treasure in this small town…Panhandle Settlement…”your hungry Fatman and want good food for a good price try Paramore Too”, I did and the rest is as we might say is histoire! First you must understand this is a WELL KNOWN spot in the REGION, thusly, this establishment that seats probably close to 100 with both sides, kind of off the beaten path is busy…all of the time, my first encounter was on a Tuesday fresh catfish and shrimp special day I drove around the building twice and waited 5 minutes to get a parking spot…it’s one of the locals favorite days. Let’s see I had the special which was 4 nice sized (fresh farm raised catfish fingers, that were more like small fillets, lightly breaded and fried to perfection, two sides, from a list too numerous to mention but mostly homemade(they do as much “homemade” as possible and practicle), dessert, tea (sweet and unsweet with pitchers at the table and the tea was not acidy or skunky like “used” tea can be) oh and hush puppies, and if you choose you may have bread and butter pickles and fresh slices of onion at the table to snack on…and snack on I did. I might mention the price of this midday feast….$5.95, now if you have a bigger appetite you may add half a dozen fresh gulf shrimp or more catfish fillets…I mean fingers for …$2.00…really…I am not kidding and everything was tasty and cooked well. From the time I walked in to this very busy gem I was impressed, the service VERY GOOD, locals that really seem to like to work there the prices way beyond fair with the portions outstanding. The servers were quick, efficient and PROUD of their restaurant and the way they bragged about the restaurant and their food you would of thought they all owned it. My last trip we had Lori as our server and she was just perfect, even though we came in late and they were fairly close to closing, she did not rush us, and all the staff did their closing procedures quietly, efficiently and without making me feel like we were a bother…things just hummed. The second trip was the evening I just mentioned above and we had the special…8 catfish fingers/fillets, two sides, tea or coffee, bread and butter pickles, onions and hushpuppies $10. Yep, that’s it. It was everything the first was but this time I was with the “beast” and she had different sides (cheesy grits, and fried okra) and she was very pleased and really liked Parramore Too (they used to have two locations but they decided to have a bigger one and focus on it and they have and they do!) A simple menu built around the two star items fresh farm raised catfish and fresh gulf shrimp and local seafood when available and for those that don’t like seafood ( which is three quarters of the menu) Parramore Too has steaks, and ham and other country delights with their daily “specials” that really are specials. Open M-Sat for lunch and dinner this is a great restaurant to “drive a little out of the way to try”, but, I warn you this is NOT a restaurant for the “light” eater or nibbler (unless you want to take a whole lot of food home)…this is a restaurant that has the local charm, excellent food, very good service and a ticket that will leave you smiling and telling everyone you know about Paramore Too…but hey, just remember where you heard it first…OK. Just a final note bring CASH as they like Panhandle Settlement are NOT able to process cards…but hey they are local and trusting so they WILL take a check! Parramore Too is truly the way this writer believes a restaurant SHOULD be! Can’t wait to get back…I wonder what the special will be…hmmmmm…..

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Panhandle Settlement a true historical treasure!

“One can never truly appreciate what one has until one understands what got them there” (one of my own undeniable truths of life). I have always appreciated the importance of history to our future and I recently discovered this wonderful little jewel known as Panhandle Pioneer Settlement located in the beautiful Sam Atkins state park in Blountstown, Fl. (approximately 50 miles slightly southeast of Dothan, Al and approximately 25 miles south of Marianne, Fl.) and this place truly appreciates history in a way seldom found today. Panhandle Pioneer Settlement is a wonderful and loving tribute to a bygone era that has been painstakingly rebuilt on the inside and out with an amazing attention to detail. This 18 building living tribute to times long gone is the dream of co-founder Willard Smith. Willard was concerned at an early age that the wonderful time in which he was raised might be forgotten and that the rich cultural history of his area would be nothing but a passing memory. So in July of 1989 with the help and support of fellow co-founder his charming and actively involved wife Linda, the two set out to make Willard’s early childhood dream become a reality and they did so with uncanny accuracy and respect to the young Willard’s earliest vision. A tour of this immaculately trimmed and lusciously green quiet and peaceful homage to an era from early 19th to mid 20th century begins (where else other than the center of social life for all local citizenry at the time) the general store, as you tour the settlement, you can’t help but be impressed with the creativity and the cleverness of local pioneers/citizens of the area from the mud and stick chimney’s, to the graves (not real gravesites) covered with shells and broken crockery to prevent erosion and animal intrusions. Panhandle has three different type of log cabin joints showcased amongst their buildings that most would never have known about, however, at Panhandle Settlement they are showcased and described in detail with the wonderful volunteer tour guides like Darryl Taylor (the retired Supt. of schools for the Blountstown area who actually attended a one room school house exactly like the one in the settlement). From a local 1942 gymnasium to an 1820 log cabin, the blacksmith shop and the old Methodist church with everything in between you are whisked away to a time that should NEVER be forgotten and don’t miss a stop by Doc Dowling’s office a revered Dr. from the early to mid 20th century who’s career included the assisting of the births of over 4,600+ children during his 51 year tenure as the “local doc” his hat still sits on his desk in his office and you would swear that he would show up any minute to grab it an go. Panhandle Settlement is almost entirely funded by visitors and the thousands of hours of amazing volunteers that give so much of their time and hard effort to the loving preservation of this historical gem. This is NOT a money maker…YOU are critical to the growth and continuation of this wonderful spot and if you check the schedule of events ( the Settlement also offers re-enactment days, a variety of classes ( period arts and homemade syrup in the General Store. So I implore all that have ANY kind of appreciation of our history and our culture, Panhandle Settlement is lovingly recreated in a beautiful and serene part of a beautiful state park and waiting for you…if but for a moment of your fast paced lives, you journey back to a time long gone but thanks to Willard and Linda NOT forgotten, you, your friends, your children will make a memory here and who knows, you may even get a fresh cracklin or possibly even taste some FRESH just made homemade syrup and who can’t appreciate a good “hoe cake”…Bring cash as it the only tender they except, NO CREDIT cards at Panhandle, it would be downright “desecration”!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Cedric’s Tavern, what a compliment to Biltmore !

Over the 11 + years and 350 + restaurant reviews I have done I can’t count on two hands the times I had the pleasure to dine at a spot that TRULY gets it and does it well in ALL aspects of the dining experience. I had the pleasure this last weekend to eat at Cedric’s Tavern an Irish/English themed pub in Antler Hill Village on the historic grounds of the majestic estate and the pleasure was all mine. For years I had heard that Biltmore itself was amazing but the food was…well kinda like Disney used to be…great and amazing scenery but seriously lacking culinarily. Oh, how the times have changed. In a joint collaboration of Executive Chef Damien Cavicchi, the Executive Chef of Biltmore and Executive Chef Mark DeMarco, Cedric’s Tavern has become a true destination location. From the moment Chef DeMarco met us and gave us the tour of the kitchen and facilities it was clear, that the organization, cleanliness, efficiency and courteousness of the staff that we we’re about to embark on a a wonderful culinary adventure and we did. The adventure began with our superb server, Russell. While Chef DeMarco was giving us his recommendations Russell was setting silverware presenting menus and taking our drink order in such a manner as to not break in on our conversation with the Chef a real art form. Servers should be seen and only heard just as much as WE the diners require and he NAILED it and made the dining experience that much better. His customer “instincts” were impeccable no order pad, no mistakes Russell is a true pro server and we were appreciative. To start we were presented with an incredible jar of homemade sweet sour pickles (the pickles are so good they have the recipe on the table for you to take…and I did) that were incredible and quickly devoured. The pickles were quarter spears, crisp, tangy , sweet and oh so delicious a GREAT way to start (they sell them at the reception area) pickles instead of bread….nice! We then had three apps, pretzel rolls round squash ball sized pretzel looking but soft and dense warm center with a local ground mustard and butter whip and you wipe it on and poof…there gone. All the breads are made in house and the breads are excellent. Next, cheddar curds fried in a crisp, light but fluffy batter that were tasty and a spicy mayonnaise based dip that just enhanced the flavor but did not take anything away from the subtle but delicious taste of the wonderful local cheese curds. Finally we finished with Chefs take on a “ham and cheese”. A wonderful tangy white melted cheese with green onions chopped and mixed in the cheese which covers very thinly sliced ham that you dig out and place on thin slices of slightly grilled/toasted homemade sourdough bread…it could not be any better. An incident occurred at a table near us that could have been quite an issue but the great communication of the staff and the quick and polite handling by the front of the house manager made the issue disappear with little notice. Well done and an example of great communication the key to success in any business. Now, on to the entrees. Since we were there for lunch we wanted to try the Brasstown Beef hamburger on Cedric’s in house buns the fully topped burger came with a cone of house fries that were in house cut…and are you ready for this…CRISPY and golden with a soft dry center served hot. The fries were as good as you could ever want and the burger, juicy, delicious (no wonder Biltmore chefs demand Brasstown Beef) and cooked just right with a nice slice of local cheddar that was perfect for the burger. The attention to detail, two ramekins of ketchup one for the burger one for the fries…how refreshing. To finish we had small squares of homemade ice cream atop small squares of thin brownies and coated in chocolate…the perfect end to an outstanding dining experience. Cedric’s Tavern is a true destination location and a lot of people already know so you better make reservations ( so that YOU may enjoy the salute to Irish/English cuisine. The prices are very good, the portions are very good and there is a HUGE emphasis on local everything. Executive Chef Mark DeMarco really gets “it” (“it” is something I can’t really describe, but once you experience “it”…you know what I’m speaking about) and his menu reflects his thoughts. The menu is just the right size with the proper number of selections in all genres on two sides of one sheet. The menu is also well written and laid out with excellent descriptions of each item that will make you drool just reading them. An excellent Chef, staff, front of the house management, a superb menu in all ways attention to every detail, great in house breads and pickles surrounded by the beautiful scenery of Biltmore. It can’t get much better. Thank you Steve Whitmire of Brasstown Beef for introducing me to this wonderful young and energetic Chef.