MA perfect nachos

McAlister’s – Blue Ash

Working in Blue Ash, I’ve heard about McAlister’s but I’ve never actually been there. However, as I was stalking their menu, I noticed something. The nacho description – it appeared to be a description of perfect nachos. My nacho-loving, foodie self flocked to McAlister’s, right before Christmas to scout out these intriguing nachos.

Because my college attending daughter loves free food, she met me there. Teen people are good for that. ;)

Blue Ash is crazy during lunch time – uber busy. Luckily, we got there around 2ish so…we were dining almost solo! I like the simple set up – order at the counter, get your drink and a number and the food is brought out to you.

I got nachos (surprised?) and an Iced Tea…apparently, they’re known for that, too.

MA iced tea

It was damn awesome iced tea! Fresh, perfect brew and super cold.

MA perfect nachos

Just take a look – tortilla chips, layered with melted cheese AND shredded cheese, chili, black olives, jalapenos, tomatoes, green onions, sour cream and GUACAMOLE! Boom – perfect nachos! And, I believe they were only 7.99!

My daughter got a half Reuben and a half potato. I raised her right.

MA Reuben and potato

That is a 1/2 potato – seriously! It was HUGE!

MA reuben

I was too focused on my nachos to try hers but neither the sandwich nor the potato stood a chance.

My daughter and I were both in love with McAlister’s – it’s a deli, doing things simple and right. The bonus? ALL of the above (plus, my daughter’s tea) was under $20!

So, you nacho junkies – GET to McAlister’s for your nacho fix!

McAlister's Deli Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

MD Fried Bologna

Mel’s Diner – Pigeon Forge, TN

I’m simple woman. I like simple food that’s just really tasty and unpretentious. I don’t need a bunch of ingredients that 1. I can’t pronounce or 2. I have no clue what they are.

Which is why Mel’s Diner is one of my favorite restaurants in Pigeon Forge. It’s diner food – things that we all know and love but done, awesomely perfect. The husband and I first discovered this delicious gem in 1999, when we got married. Yes, you can “aw” right there. :)

We take a short trip, post Christmas, to good ole’ Tennessee! Our first meal (lunch) was Mel’s Diner. Yah!

The decor is like an old school diner – oldies music, fun lights, booths. I love it. Plus, the service is always fantastic. And, it’s the south so you’ve got some “sweeties” and “God Bless ya’ll”s there too. I love the south.

What did we get?

The husband decided to veer away from a burger (crazy talk!!!) and got the Elvis Country Club. He talked a big game about getting a milk shake but couldn’t push the button.

MD club sand and fries

He loved it – let’s face it, the man doesn’t eat carbs so he was in heaven! Fries were coated = bonus.

My secret southern daughter got her go to…Chicken Pot Pie.

MD chicken pot pie

I don’t think I heard a peep out of her. Two words – puff pastry.

My son, who professed to not be hungry, “just” got a Jumbo Grilled Cheese

MD grilled cheese and fries

It was ALL gone – not a fry survived his non-hunger massacre.

And, let me just say here – you can take the girl out of the west side (actually, I still live here) but you can’t take the west side out of the girl. I got my usual – the Fried Bologna Sandwich. And, because calories don’t count on vacation, I added cheese and bacon to my fries. Don’t judge me.

MD Fried Bologna

So…stinkin’…good! The husband snagged quite a few bites. It’s so yum.

If you’re in the Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg area, go to Mel’s Diner – it’s delicious food, at a great price and you’ll leave with a nostalgic smile on your (full) face!

Mel's Diner Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

Pretzels

Tavern on the Bend

The husband and I were craving some fries (do you see a pattern in our lives?) on a Saturday night and wanted something different close by.

After serious deliberation, we ended up at Tavern on the Bend. Kind of reminds me of Keystone Bar and Grill – burgers and mac’n’cheeses. Hey, I like the simple, remember? I would enjoy just a few more appetizers choices. We have been there a couple of times before so we knew what we were in for.

I’ve never ordered one of the many mac’n’cheeses – I always gravitate to the burgers. That night, I veered. (show ya later)

As an appetizer, we ordered pretzel sticks. Between my best friend, my son and my husband, there will not a pretzel stick undiscovered in this city, dammit!

Pretzels

Hands down, the BEST pretzels that I’ve ever had, anywhere, at any restaurant in this city. Yes, that includes the german ones, too. I’m not sure what happened to make these pretzels so awesome but I’m pretty sure that magic had to occur. I’d go back just for these.

My hubby got a burger – it’s been a while and there’s no online menu but I believe it had jalapenos on it.

Burger

You can’t tell here – but, his burger was bloody red. Now, he doesn’t mind the pink but it was bleeding all over the bun and plate. It was sent back and when it came back out, it was on the SAME soggy, bloody bun. Nothing fixed – except that now the burger was charcoal. I was in horror and shock that it was sent out like that. The kitchen needs to be ashamed. I should have taken an after picture but I was kind of embarrassed to post it.

I got the grilled Mahi sandwich.

Mahi sandwich

It was okay. My bottom bun was soggy and the fish needed some flavor. I wouldn’t order it again.

As for the fries that we went there for – our food was set down, the husband grabbed and ate a fry and SALTED his fries. He NEVER does this. Me? I’m like a salt lick and I think everything needs salt. The fries were seriously plain if he shook that shaker. He just handed it to me and said, “Don’t even try it – just salt it.” Bad sign. The thing is, fries need to be salted when they’re hot and fresh from the fryer. Shaking it on later doesn’t do much good.

Typically, Tavern on the Bend does a good job. Hoping that their kitchen was just having an “off” night.

Tavern on the Bend Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

 

 

 

 

BW3 wings

Buffalo Wild Wings – Harrison, OH

My son has recently developed a love for chicken wings. He’s a little late to the buffalo wing game but I’m just glad that he’s eating something different.

After church, a few Sundays ago, we were solo and wanted some apps – more specifically, my son wanted wings and pretzels. Yep, he’s definitely becoming a man.

We’ve been to Buffalo Wild Wings before, of course, and it’s 1 of the 5 restaurants in Harrison but hey, I like blogging and taking food pictues so…get over it.

I like this location – it’s HUGE. Lots of tv’s for the football watching. And, the running kids aren’t as noticeable because of the restaurant’s vastness. Please note sarcasm and judgement.

My son – being predictable got the pretzels and wings (medium)

BW3 pretzels.jpg

BW3 wings.jpg

That time, the pretzels were a smidgen overcooked and crunchy. Usually, they’re good. My son just didn’t care as much as I did and since he was the one eating them, I backed off and let it go (start singing).

True to MY predictive nature, I got Nachos and Onion Rings.

BW3 onion rings.jpg

BW3 nachos

The onion rings are awesome – if you’re in search of perfect ones, these are it. Crunchy and the onion doesn’t come out in one piece. #firstworldproblems.

The nachos, while good, aren’t perfect. Not enough “stuff” – I know it looks fully topped but it’s mostly lettuce. The cheese and chili is almost non-existent. They need sour cream, black olives and PICKLED jalapenos (not real ones). And, of course, guacamole. But, these will do in a nacho pinch.

I realize that it’s not fine dining but I do enjoy Buffalo Wild Wings – probably because I enjoy fun appetizers and the smell of buffalo sauce can always make my mouth water. I’m a simple girl.

Buffalo Wild Wings Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Nachos

TGIF – Western Hills

It’s been a good 7 years since I’ve been to a Friday’s. There’s nothing really appealing about it. I hate that the menu is ungodly huge. I hate that it’s a sub-par chain. I just don’t understand it’s appeal, in general.

However, after doing a bit of Black Friday shopping, my kids wanted to go there for a fast lunch.Why? Appetizers. Dammit. That will do people in every time.

They BOTH got the Pick 3 appetizers…

My daughter got the wings, potato skins and mozzarella sticks (after much deliberation)

Pick 3 Maddie

My son got the wings, pretzels (surprise!) and mozzarella sticks.

Pick 3 Mikey

And, like I predicted, they could have shared one. Mother knows best.

I got the Tostado Nachos

Nachos

They were good but let me be VERY clear here – they were $10!!! Are you frickin’ kidding me? On what planet are 8 tortilla chips, topped with cheese and beans worth $10???!!! Apparently, planet Friday’s. And, they were probably a little more because I got a side of guacamole (sour cream or guac SHOULD have come with them, Friday’s)

Guac

And, my pet peeve – putting sauces, condiments, etc on a bed of lettuce. Just don’t do it. If I wanted guacamole lettuce, I would have ASKED for guacamole lettuce. Seriously, just put it in a damn ramekin and we’ll all be happy.

My short lunch excursion, based on apps, put me back $50, without the tip. You know what ain’t nobody got time for? That.

I can go a full 7 more years without eating there again.

TGI Fridays Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

Berger cookies

Christmas Cookies 2015

I hate baking. I CAN bake and I do it quite well. Like I told my husband…I feel like something magical happens when I bake. (He claims I’m an egomaniac) But I still hate it.

So, what did the reluctant baker make this Christmas, cookie-wise?

Chocolate Chip – yes, so not inspiring but still a family favorite. AND, a family recipe.

Chocolate Chip

Snickerdoodles – a lot of people claim not to like these but that means that they haven’t had MINE.

Snickerdoodles

Sugar cookies – again, I make the best WITH stackable delicious icing. Thanks to my daughter and her friend for their decorating abilities.

Sugar cookies

And, because the snow globes looked like mushrooms, this happened.

Mushroom

Toad

Lemon Cups – one of my favorites!

Lemon cups

Berger Cookies – it’s a Baltimore thing?

Berger cookies

Russian Teacakes with Chocolate Chips – my mom is horrified that I would add chocolate chips. My philosophy is that everything is better with a smidgen of chocolate, right?

Russian Teacakes

And powdered sugar is the herpes of the baking world. Seriously.

Full Cookie Tray

Cookie tray

I also made red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese icing that I loaded into a mason jar. Attach a spoon and voila! Instant portable treat!

Cupcake jar front

Cupcake jar back

And, so concludes cookie season 2015!

Seriously, I hate it.

Merry Christmas and happy baking!

Turkey finished

Thanksgiving 2015

Since I cook for a living, I consider Thanksgiving to be my cooking Superbowl. I know it seems like I’m a control freak (okay, I am a little) but I just really enjoy making everything…I encourage those coming to Thanksgiving dinner at my house to just bring themselves and an appetite. I LOVE doing it.

I have perfected and streamlined Thanksgiving – it’s no longer a challenge thanks to a double oven, metal disposable pans and brining the turkey (that bad boy cooks FAST).

What does someone who cooks and blogs make for Thanksgiving? Look and see…it’s not as hoity toity as you might like to believe!

Brining the turkey

Brining turkey

Grabbing those sliders a day early…

Crave case.jpg

Make that bread stale!

Staling bread

Out of the oven – brined, golden and delicious!

Turkey finished

And, here’s where opinions and traditions fly – this is what we enjoy on our table. I like the traditional mixed with the new.

Mashed Potatoes (with loads of butter – is there any other way?)

Mashed Potatoes

There was also a crapton of gravy that I didn’t take a picture of. You can never have too much gravy.

Crunchy topped Sweet Potato Casserole (Ruth Chris’ recipe)

Sweet Potato Casserole

Traditional Dressing (a family recipe) When the celery and onions hit the 20 sticks of butter, it smells like Thanksgiving has arrived!

Traditional dressing

White Castle Dressing – you know, because we can.

WC dressing

7 – layer salad (gotta have some green things…mixed with bacon and mayo)

7 layer salad

Green Beans – please note, none of that creamy casserole crap. I just can’t. My one snobby cook moment. These had a vinaigrette on them.

Green beans

And, why not another starch…or 2.

Creamy Corn Casserole

Creamy corn casserole

Macaroni and Cheese – requested by my daughter and sister. Of course, my daughter and I were battling about pasta shape. I wanted penne or corkscrew. She wanted shells. I found bigger shells so I let her have her way. This time.

Macaroni and cheese

And, what’s Thanksgiving without the ridged, sliced jellied cranberry sauce? I’ve given up the fight of making fresh cranberry sauce – I love it but no one else does.

Cranberry sauce

I’ll admit – there’s something fairly comforting about those slices.

Oh and we had rolls and more rolls. The crescent kind. It’s what everyone craves and enjoys so it saves me from making homemade bread. I’m good.

Lots of dessert. Some wine. Okay, I had a whole bottle.

I love cooking Thanksgiving. I love having a day, reflecting on our blessings throughout the year. I love spending time with loved ones. And, I love feeding people (what I hope is) delicious food!

Looking forward to Thanksgiving 2016!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pretzels

Cock & Bull – Mainstrasse

It was my best friend’s birthday a few weeks ago and she had her heart set on Brazenhead but, strangely, when she called to make a reservation, they were closed. The hunt for a new birthday restaurant began – we landed on Cock & Bull since it’s the same concept. Sort of.

Out of the 4 of us, my husband was the only one who has been to the Cock & Bull. I had not a single clue what to expect.

It’s definitely a bar first and then a restaurant – there are a million craft beers (I’m beginning to hate those 2 words…) to choose from. We were told that our wait for a table would be about 5 minutes. I’m still not sure if there IS a seating system but apparently we tracked down the right person.

Before we could even order a beer from the bar, we were parked at a table near the front door. It’s pretty clusterish in there.

I needed a beer – I ordered a Delirium Tremens

Beer

It was good. NOT $9.50 (yeah, you read that correctly) good. But, good. I would have been just as happy with a budlight or blue moon. (As all the craft beer followers gasp in pain…)

Since my best friend has a slight pretzel addiction, we got the pretzels as an appetizer.

Pretzels.jpg

Damn delicious pretzels – super salty, crunchy and soft. Yum.

Items we ordered…

Baked Cod with sweet potato fries

Baked cod.jpg

The Reuben with fries

Reuben.jpg

Fish’n’Chips (the bestie and I both got this) Lightweight version

Fish'n'chips.jpg

I will admit. I hated the atmosphere. The service was subpar (she was on top of things but then just disappeared – took forever to get our check!). But, the fish’n’chips were some of the best I’ve had.

Now – the question is…would I go back just for that reason? No. I hated the chaos. I hated people bumping into our table. Service was uber slow. The ambiance sucked.

I can get fish’n’chips somewhere else.

Cock & Bull Public House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

 

Cheesy Fries

Poynor’s Pomme Frites – Pigeon Forge, TN

Yes, lots of fancy wording for Fried Potatoes – AKA: Fries!

I’ll admit, one of my secret (or not so secret) restaurant dreams is to open up a french fry shop – nothing but delicious, homemade french fries, served with sauces upon sauces upon sauces.

That’s what Poynor’s Pomme Frites does! Except they add in sausages and ice cream too. That’s about 2 more items than I would ever do. Poynor’s is located at The Island in Pigeon Forge – it’s tucked in right alongside of the awesomely huge ferris wheel. Parking is a bit of a cluster for the Island so…go to the far right when pulling in, park by a tram stop and let the tram bring you right to the entrance of the Island. So many awesome shops back there!

I was already sucked in by the concept. We just wanted something “small” to tide us over until our big dinner at Paula Deen’s. And, we all really enjoy fries. My biggest worry would be what sauces to pick.

My daughter got the cheesy pomme frites (with jalapenos and bacon and onions and all things delicious). She chose the chipotle ranch to go with them. Solid choice – I raised her right.

Cheesy Fries.jpg

I didn’t dedicate myself to my own item because I knew my kids would over order. I definitely plucked off my share of these perfect fries. My daughter was in heaven.

My son and I split a large pomme frites – he got ketchup and I got the jalapeno ranch and coo coo sauce (horseradish sauce – think, bloomin’ onion sauce).

Pomme Frites

That is a cone filled with salty fried potato awesomeness. The fries were crispy and fresh. Hot and salty. Even though we split them, I don’t think we even made a significant dent in them. So much for our “small” meal!

My husband was a little hungrier so he did get a sausage (I have no clue what he got – sorry!) with his fries. And, his sauce choice was wasabi mayo! I loved that they have a full carrier of different mustards for the sausages.

Sausage.jpg

You do pay a little bit more for food on The Island – our total for the cheesy fries, 1 large fry, the combo (his had a large fry too) and 3 drinks was around $38. But, I will pay that all day long for homemade food that’s locally owned.

Which leads me to…my daughter and I were chatting with the owner. They were awesome and helpful and so passionate about what they’re doing. I love that they not only have opened a restaurant but they also give back to the community and to mission trips. I love their foodie hearts and souls!

If you’re in Pigeon Forge and you’d like a delicious, fast lunch or dinner – go to Poynor’s and grab some pomme frites…it’s a unique, fun and tasty experience!

Poynor's Pommes Frites Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

PD biscuits and hoe cakes

Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen – Pigeon Forge, TN

Just got back from our quick trip to the south. It’s a nice post-Christmas getaway with lots to do and awesome shopping!

One thing you can count on for the south is Jesus and Fried Food! Amen!

This past trip, I noticed that pretty many restaurants are switching to a Family style of dining – meaning, it’s a buffet right at your own table. I have mixed thoughts on this – but, I’ll explain later. Let’s get to some food.

Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen is located on The Island in Pigeon Forge. If you’ve never been there before – parking is far to the right but there are trams and trolleys that will run you from the parking lot to the shopping/dining area. Do that.

Also, our first attempt at Paula Deen’s, there was a 2 1/2 hour wait at 8PM. Yeah…not going to happen. Call ahead and you can eliminate an hour of your wait time! Do that.

We called at 4:30 (the next evening) – got to Paula Deen’s around 5:20 and we only waited another 30 minutes. There are lots of rocking chairs outside, a fabulous Paula Deen gift shop AND tons of fun specialty stores on The Island, too. The wait goes by pretty fast.

When I finally got THE text (table is ready!), I went to the hostess stand and she told me to go upstairs via the escalators. The restaurant is beautiful and the view of The Island, especially at night,  is awesome. In the land of (self-proclaimed – it’s on practically every sign!) hill billies, this restaurant is trendy and gorgeous. Definitely a bit classier than a lot of restaurants in Pigeon Forge.

PD restaurant

Family Style at Paula Deen’s means that for 21.99/person (kids 5-10 are less) you get to choose 3 meats and 4 sides – plus, everyone gets biscuits and a dessert. All items (minus the dessert) are re-fillable too.

We started off with these awesome cheesy garlic biscuits, sitting on top of hoe cakes (fried corncakes) with sweet potato butter.

PD biscuits and hoe cakes

Game over. We can stop right there. I would have been perfectly happy with foodie life with just those items. Yum. I made a trade with my son, since I was getting full – 1/2 a biscuit for the rest of his hoe cake. He accepted.

For our meats, we choose Fried Chicken (do this!), Fried catfish and lasagna. I needed something other than a fried food. ;)

Our sides – corn casserole, creamed potatoes, sweet potatoes and mac’n’cheese.

PD food

PD fried chicken

EVERYTHING was absolutely delicious. I couldn’t find fault with a single item. The fried chicken was old school – double dredged in seasoned flour, fried in peanut oil for a super crispy, light breading. My daughter was doing a happy dance while eating it. The fried chicken is the only item we got re-filled. I focused on the catfish – light and flaky and the homemade tartar was fantastic too. I blended the tartar with Paula’s hot sauce – it was fabulous (I bought a bottle downstairs at the gift shop).

My only losing item was the dessert – choices…banana pudding (puke, hate bananas), peach cobbler (puke, hate hot fruit) and the Ooey Gooey Butter Cake, which proved promising until we discovered that it was a pumpkin cake that night. Boo. My son hated all the choices too.

I think our server (who was fast and friendly – always there with smiles and refills) had a crush on my husband because he was being indecisive and she gave him two desserts.

Banana Pudding

PD banana pudding

Peach Cobbler 

PD peach cobbler

Ooey Gooey Pumpkin Cake

PD pumpkin cake

I ate a couple of bites – I was too full to really care about dessert anyway.

That Paula Deen REALLY knows what she’s doing cooking wise. But, in general, I’m not a fan of the family style (aka: buffet) dining. I get that Pigeon Forge is crazy busy (and let’s face it, pigs) and it makes sense to focus on limited items.

But, for our family, it just doesn’t make sense. We had a ton of food leftover and we definitely didn’t eat enough to justify a $130 check. You also don’t get to take any “leftover” food – which I get if it’s food that you’ve refilled. But, what if it’s your original amounts of food? (We didn’t finish a single thing and/or refill anything minus the fried chicken) Seems like a LOT of waste going on there. Keep in mind, I’m not a “cheap” person. With that said, because the food is awesome, we’d be willing to go again – we DO only go once a year. PLUS, I got key lime chap stick in the gift shop – HELLO!

Paula Deen – you make my foodie heart sing. Even though I really need a salad and some broccoli right now. ;)

Paula Deen's Family Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato