By JAY REED
The Reeds were on the road again this holiday season.
This year, our habit of alternating Christmas Day festivities between the two sets of grandparents sent us to Williamsburg, Va. No, we have no family in the Revolutionary City, it’s just the location of the time-share where The Wife’s family decided to congregate. In a culinary sense, Williamsburg was a fresh, new colony of places to try, given that my foodie sensibilities were not fully developed the first time I visited. In fact, the only thing I remember buying on that first and last visit was a pair of Birkenstock sandals. Now, I sit and wonder how many barbecue plates I could have bought with that same money.
Usually, I have researched a list of places that I try to hit between Stark-Vegas and our ultimate destination, no matter where we may be headed. Experience has taught me, however, that when 10 individuals from three generations (some of whom are famous for their pickiness) try to choose a place to eat, my list tends to remain unchecked in the name of family harmony. When we arrived, we also learned that Sis-in-Law had embarked upon a plant-based diet, which Bro-in-Law described as eating “anything that never had a mother.” This added another degree of difficulty to the dive of meal choices. So, I just decided to roll with it and see what kind of interesting bites I could find wherever we ended up, and it worked.
Here are the highlights.
Our first day was reminiscent of a song made famous by my namesake, Jerry Reed — we had a long way to go and a short time to get there. That meant we stopped first under the glow of the golden arches, which I normally only allow once per vacation, less if I can get away with it. This mention comes because of the Egg Nog milkshake. I get into limited edition holiday flavors in a big way, and this was probably the last holiday shake I would enjoy this season. Other shakes I’d found prior to the trip included the Arby’s Peppermint Stick Swirl, Chick-Fil-A’s Chocolate Chip Peppermint and Sonic’s Chocolate Mint. That’s what I call a well-rounded holiday diet, except the roundest thing to come out of it will be me.
The semi-halfway point of the drive was Younger Brother’s abode in Charlotte, N.C. For dinner on day two, we decided on Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar. An order of fried pickles got us going — nothing fancy, except they were cut longways instead of into rounds. My buffalo burger with artisanal white cheddar was pretty good on its own, but the additional topping that far outshone the others was the buttermilk-fried bacon. Not just fried bacon, this was deep-fried bacon in a buttermilk batter.
Need I say wow?
Next time I will just ask for a double order of bacon to go with the lettuce and tomato on my Texas toast — hold the buffalo. I also tried a bite of Niece One’s turkey burger with bacon, brie, and grilled apple. Bless her heart for trying something so exotic at such a young age. I’m trying to like brie, I really am.
On day three we hit the road again, and arrived in Greensboro, N.C., just in time for lunch. Truth be told, I had decided we would stop there no matter what time it was, because Greensboro is the home of Stamey’s Barbecue. Warner Stamey has passed on, but remains a legend in the world of North Carolina barbecue. In the 1920s, he trained as a teenager under other legendary pitmasters in Lexington, then went on to train others down the highway in Shelby. In 1938, he returned to Greensboro to open his own restaurant, where they still slow-cook the pork shoulders over hickory coals. He is also famous for introducing the hush puppy as an essential barbecue side dish in that part of the state. Daughter asked if they had pulled pork. They did not — it was only chopped or sliced, and no amount of explanation would satisfy her.
“I only like pulled pork, Daddy.”
So she ate beans, we ate chopped pork and all shared hot strawberry and peach cobblers with soft serve vanilla on the side. Turns out Mr. Stamey once owned the North Carolina franchise for soft ice cream dispensers, too. A true barbecue entrepreneur. We weren’t even in Williamsburg yet, and were already learning history.
Day four found us at Busch Gardens for Christmas Town. I never get too excited about theme park food, but in the Italy section they had an Italian restaurant (surprise, surprise) that wasn’t too bad. If the fine folks at Busch Gardens are to be believed, for Christmas dinner Italians eat a combination plate of lasagna, beef cannelloni, and chicken parmesan. I took the bait and got a gingerbread cheesecake to top it off. I figured I’d be lucky if Daughter ate the mozzarella sticks, but she surprised me by trying the shrimp alfredo. She donated the shrimp to her Papa, but did eat the noodles and sauce that the shrimp had touched.
Mama Mia! How about that? We’re only four days into a twelve day trip and already making caloric memories. We haven’t even made it to Christmas. You’ve probably already packed up the wrapping paper and put Rudolph in storage, but I think I’ll keep the Christmas coming for at least another week or two.
If I pretend it’s still 2012, I can put off those resolutions a little bit longer.
Jay Reed is a local foodie and pharmacist. The culinary tastes expressed here are his and do not necessarily reflect the appetites of the Starkville Daily News or individual members of its staff. He welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org .