“Dad, stop trying to pawn off your sausages on me,” said Lauren, at her Farewell dinner.
We all agreed that did not sound right, but we were having Shrimp and Grits (Lauren’s request) for dinner, with blistered cherry tomatoes, sautéed spinach and failed Sour Dough Bread. It was the third and last time I attempted Sour Dough Bread; this time it stuck to the bottom of the pan and didn’t rise. I give up on Sour Dough! Yeast is so much easier and is now readily available in the Pandemic.
As we all sat down to say grace, Lauren asked “Where’s the sausage?” With everything else going on, we’d forgotten to cook the Bradley’s smoked sausage, so I pulled it out of the fridge and cooked it quickly in a skillet. Since most of us had already eaten one helping, there was leftover sausage and Zeke was trying to get rid of it.
The Bradley’s Sausage and Grits had been a Father’s Day gift from Emma to Zeke, shipped from Tallahassee. If you’ve never been to Bradley’s Country Store in Tallahassee, you should make a stop there while visiting our Capitol City. It’s definitely a step back in time, an old-fashioned General Store on a country road, with candy and smoked sausage sandwiches. This type of smoked sausage, tends to dry out, so they steam it. I did something similar, by placing it in a skillet with some liquid, to keep it moist.
I roasted the cherry tomatoes and sautéed the baby spinach with sliced garlic, in an attempt to get rid of grocery items that would go bad before our trip. Since Shrimp and Grits is a one-color kind of dish, I also always like to add some COLOR to the plate, so it pops. After dinner, Emma and Lauren shared hugs and tearful goodbyes, with Emma saying: “Don’t leave me!” and Zeke promising to send Emma up to visit Lauren in D.C.
My Mom’s birthday was the day before; I tried to think of a way to celebrate it that was special, but COVID-free. I would have loved to have her and boyfriend Bob over for dinner, but since that wasn’t advisable, I sent her some Filet Mignons from Meat and Bone. They arrived Tuesday and I brought the rest of her dinner over to her at 5 p.m. the next day, which was her birthday. Zeke had gotten some New York Strips from Meat and Bone for his birthday and really enjoyed them, so I ordered online from there. They have a wide variety to choose from, with different price points and the meat arrives in a cute red and black pouch with a coolie thing. They email you when your order arrives.
My Mom’s from Tuscon, Arizona, and is a Western woman at heart, so she loves steak. To go with the meal, I enclosed homemade Fish Dip (with fish Zeke had smoked), with saltine crackers, steak rub for the filets, two Baked Potatoes with the fixings (sour cream and chives), a Steak Salad with sliced onion, tomatoes and cucumbers, with an Italian dressing on the side. For dessert, in lieu of cake, I brought over my homemade Black Pepper Ice Cream and Strawberry Sorbet. I packed the cold stuff in a little cooler and the rest in a box for delivery.
What a production!My Mom said as I arrived to deliver it.
I added some birthday napkins, a small vase with yellow roses and some nut brittle, one of her favorites. My Mom really enjoyed her Birthday Dinner and it made me feel happy to do something special for her. When she called the next day to thank me, she said Bob was still enjoying the fish dip.
We hit the road at 8 a.m. (an hour late) Friday morning to start our Road Trip. We stopped in Charleston on the way to D.C. Zeke was very excited to visit (he’d never been) and got reservations at a charming hotel named the French Quarter Inn. We checked in during Happy Hour and they had individual plates of charcuterie and little plastic containers of Marcona almonds set up at a big table in the lobby. As Lauren and I got ready, Zeke went to get a drink and came back to the room talking about how he heard they had “pork rinds” and “bacon all day”, so after I got ready for dinner, I ventured out to get a glass of wine and see what this Porkfest was all about.
The very nice Southern gentleman who delivered my glass of Sauvignon Blanc, told us that after dinner they served Port Wine and cookies in the same lobby area.
“Cookies?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said, “I’ve been baking all day!”
“Bacon?” I asked. Between the mask and his Southern accent, it was hard to make out his words.
No, “Baking”, he said. “I’ve been baking all day.” Port Wine (not Pork Rinds) and Baking (not Bacon) all day. Ah huh! Mystery solved.
Dinner at Husk in Charleston was excellent. We’d watched Netflix’s Chef’s Table about the Chef who started Husk (Sean Brock) and even forced Lauren to watch it, so it was really a treat to be able to dine there. Although Sean Brock is no longer with Husk, he did start the concept, which is now in other cities. The winners of the night were the Pig’s Ear Lettuce Wrap and Lauren’s Heritage Pork with pink eyed peas, peaches and arugula, so dinner was a Pig Fest after all. They even had a certificate, noting Lauren’s Graduation from Law School, waiting for us at the table when we arrived. After dinner, we went back to the hotel and enjoyed the Port Wine and Cookies in the lobby.
We arrived in D.C. just in time to change for dinner at Old Ebbit Grill, the oldest Bar and Grill (1856) in Washington D.C. Zeke had heard about it from one of the men in his “Table of Knowledge” Zoom Happy Hour Group. I’d been there with my parents on a visit to D.C., the summer after I graduated from High School in 1977. I remembered it being dark and smoky and eating a juicy hamburger.
“It used to be known for its Happy Hour scene,” Zeke said, “but I don’t know with Covid.”
He’d told us this three times already.
Old Ebbit Grill is also known as a hot spot for Politicians and celebrities to frequent and also for it’s oysters, so we ordered a half dozen local oysters to try. We were lucky to be visiting during D.C. Restaurant Week, so Zeke took advantage of that deal, with Caesar salad, Crab Cakes and Peach Cobbler at a set price. My Scallops with sautéed corn was delicious, but my favorite menu item was the Peach Cobbler, a la mode. Lauren asked the waiter to surprise her and he brought Walter’s Favorite– a sandwich with pastrami, Muenster cheese and coleslaw on pumpernickel bread. She enjoyed it.
Lauren didn’t get the key to her apartment until 12 p.m the next day, so we drove to Georgetown Law School to walk around and see the campus, located right in D.C. I took a photo of Lauren and Zeke in front of the Georgetown Law sign (proud Papa!) and we walked around campus on an early Sunday morning. As we walked towards the closed Fitness Center, a policewoman made a beeline towards us.
“Can I help you?’ she asked.
Zeke explained Lauren was just starting Law School here and we wanted to walk around and check out the campus.
Well, I have good news and bad news for you, she said. First, welcome to Georgetown. Second, you’re not allowed to be here due to COVID, so you need to leave.Campus Officer
No students are allowed on campus, even to walk around on an empty Sunday morning, so we left. Lauren had been informed all her classes were online two weeks before, so she was prepared for that, but she’d been so absorbed in studying for the Florida Bar (which got cancelled at the last minute) that she didn’t know the campus was closed.
I feel so sorry for students across the country who are attending school under these circumstances. My only knowledge of Law School is from films- The Paper Chase (I’m dating myself) and Legally Blonde. In these films, Professors lord over large classes of cutthroat, energetic students on ivy-covered campuses; there are intense study groups and fun get-togethers, off campus.
All that is gone now, replaced by Zoom online classes and virtual everything. Are students attending classes in 2020 going to remember this time as: “We’re all in this together” or just feel totally gypped? To me, while I know there’s nothing to be done about it, it’s inextricably sad. As the phrase goes: “It is what it is.” And what it is, sucks.
We got Lauren moved into her apartment with everything we’d crammed into the mini-van from Miami on Sunday. We made a trip to Target to stock her fridge and buy the basics. The next day, Zeke went with Lauren to wait for her furniture, which she was renting, to be delivered. She was worried about all the pieces fitting into her tiny, studio apartment, but they did.
As I sat outside our hotel, drinking my cappuccino and writing, I thought about how Washington D.C. always seems both familiar and different each time I visit. The same monuments are there, the beautiful dome of the Capitol beams brightly and the Washington Monument is a towering majestic beacon in The Mall. But on this visit, there was construction on a new WWI monument across the street from our hotel, the White House was equipped with lights and sharpshooters awaiting the GOP convention and there was discussion of a March happening that Friday, in front of the Lincoln Memorial.
But, as I wrote and waited for Zeke, my thoughts were already on hitting the road again and checking the first of three states off my bucket list. Because no matter what is happening in this crazy world we live in, life goes on. Next stop, Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia.
Almost Heaven, West Virginia, Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River.
Life is older, older than the trees, Younger than the mountains, growin’ like a breeze.John Denver
Up Next: Eating out On The Road