"To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield"
- Alfred Lord Tennyson, 1833
"live deep and suck out all the marrow of life"
- Henry David Thoreau, 1845
"Some guys, they just give up living
And start dying little by little, piece by piece
Some guys come home from work and wash up,
And go racin' in the streets."
- Bruce Springsteen, 1977
"...to the heart, there's no time for you to waste.
You won't find your precious answers now
by staying in one place."
- Frank Turner, 2009
All written content and photos by Rob Fulfer unless otherwise indicated.
All written content and photos by Rob Fulfer unless otherwise indicated.
Friday, May 30, 2008
It's rare for us to spend two "school" nights in one week staying out late, but this week was worth the effort for two excellent concerts in Nashville. Tuesday night, the 27th, we saw Augustana at City Hall, a great little venue in "The Gulch" of downtown Nashville. We were sorry to hear that it looks to be closing in the near future. That too bad since we were able to stand only a few feet from the band(s) and the acoustics are great. Augustana looks and sounds very polished for a fairly "new" band with only their second full-length album coming out earlier this month. Every song on it is great, by the way. Lead singer, Dan Layus, has an incredible voice, but one of the highlights of the concert was a cool 5-part harmony with all the bandmembers reminiscent of The Eagles' "Seven Bridges Road." Their current single, "Sweet and Low" and their break-out single 'Boston' were strong finishing numbers and was followed by an encore version of Big Joe Williams' "Baby, Please Don't Go"...you know the one...."baby, please don't go...baby please don't go, back to New Orelans, baby please don't go..." Another added bonus of the evening was a strong opening set by Wild Sweet Orange from Birmingham. These guys are a little... different... reminded us a little of The Cure...but their original songs are lyrical, clever and smooth. We might be able to say "we saw them when" someday soon when they hit it big. Thursday night, the 29th, felt like we were doing a Rachel Ray-type show that should have been called "An Evening of Entertainment in Nashville for under $20." After dinner at Mafioso's (great pizza!) with our friend, Lisa, we headed over to the new Ovvio Arte - a 1937 garage converted into space for art exhibits, live music and theatre productions. What a neat concept! We were there for opening night of Rubber Ducks and Religion which is their first theatre production and was penned by our friend, Joe Giordano - way to go, Joe!! The production was an intermingling of three one-act plays that were clever, laugh-out loud funny and quite thought-provoking. All this fun for just $10. After congratulating Joe on his success, we headed over to 12th & Porter to catch The Gougers - an excellent alt-country/folk band from Austin that we discovered last year at the Americana Music Festival in Nashville. This was our first visit to the 12th & Porter musical venue (we used to eat in the restaurant portion of the establishment quite a lot until they changed the menu....we miss you Pasta YaYa and Black & Blue Pasta!!) and despite being rather small it works well with more seating than expected and great acoustics. It was front-row for us this time thanks to a small crowd which didn't seem to discourage The Gougers who rolled out great song after great song including "The Devil's Words" and "Mannheim Station." The small crowd and front row access gave us a nice opportunity after the show to chat with the band's main vocalists, Jamie and Shane - both very nice folks although we are mad at Shane because he wouldn't sing "John Henry" for us because he says he's "sick of it." Jamie just rolled her eyes and said not to worry that it would make it back in the show sometime because Shane is very "cyclical" in nature when it comes to his favorite/least-favorite songs to perform. They said they figured they would be back to Nashville this fall for the 2008 Americana Music Festival and we sure hope to see them again. All this fun for only $8. A special thanks to our friend, Lisa, for being such a trooper and going to Joe's play and to see The Gougers with us despite knowing nothing about either. She wound up enjoying both immensely and looked like she would have liked to enjoy that Gouger, Shane, a bit more, but alas...damn musicians and their wandering ways!
Sunday, May 18, 2008
The Tennessee Wine Festival, The Yazoo Brewery Tour and Music in the Vines at Arrington Vineyards all in one day. Saturday, May 17th. Isn't it funny how things just sometimes fall into place in terms of weather, timing and just plain old luck. The weather has been very iffy this spring here around Nashville, but yesterday was beautiful with mild temperatures, slight breezes and beautiful blue skies dotted with those big puffy white clouds. It made a perfect day to visit the The Tennessee Wine Festival held at Nashville Shores on Percy Priest Lake. We attended with our friend, Joy, and we had all been to this little festival before when it was held at the Nashville Super Speedway, but this was our first visit to it since it moved to Nashville Shores a couple of years ago. The move looks to be a good one because the little festival that was back then is now the bigger one that is in need of room to spread out. We arrived around 3 pm and found large crowds in all of the tents which each held 3 or 4 different tasting stations for wineries from all around Tennessee. Many old favorites were there such as Beech Haven from Clarksville and Stonehaus from Crossville, plus some pretty good new ones like Amber Falls from out near Hohenwald and Arrington near Franklin. There were also gourmet food stations, wine seminars and crafts for sale, and being situated right on the lake at Nashville Shores there were lots of places to have a picnic lunch. We have made a note to get there earlier next year and hopefully make a day of it. But not this year because we were on a tight schedule with The Home-made Hooch Tour '08 and it was time to move on to our next stop, The Yazoo Brewery in downtown Nashville. The three of us arrived at the site of the brewery off of 12th Avenue around 5 PM and had arranged to meet our friends, Woody and Linda, for the 5:30 tour of the brewery. Woody introduced Rob to Yazoo beer a couple of years ago and Rob in turn introduced it to Joy last year - nothing like a mutual co-dependence society. The brewery is housed in an interesting old car manufacturing plant and the folks running it couldn't be nicer (in fact, they allowed us 5 and two others to join the already technically "full" tour since it was the last one of the day). Our tour guide was funny and a great sport to have to handle so many people on the last tour of the day. The tour was informative and casual and included a free glass in which a lot of samples were given out. It's hard to decide a favorite beer since among the five of us we all had a different choice as to which was the best, so in no particular order and all tied for 1st place here goes: Dos Perros, Onward Stout, Sly Rye Porter, Pale Ale and the IPA. Yazoo is only distributed in Southeast and they have no plans for nationwide distrubution so support your local brewery and give Yazoo a try if you haven't already. After the tour was over and growlers had been purchased (a growler is a half-gallon of beer in a take-home bottle and the one question our tour guide couldn't answer was where the name "growler" comes from...and neither does Wikipedia so don't bother looking) it was time to move the tour to our final destination, The Arrington Vineyards near Franklin. This was our second visit to Arrington but our first time to experience their "Music in the Vines." As mentioned earlier, this vineyard is fairly new. It is also co-owned by Kix Brooks of Brook & Dunn fame. It sits on top of hill with beautiful views and lots of area to spread out blankets and chairs, buy a bottle or two of their pretty darn good wine and listen to some music. They do this every Saturday and Sunday night in late spring and summer and we will defintely be back and hope for weather as perfect as it was yesterday and last night for Home-made Hooch Tour '08.
Saturday, May 17, 2008
2nd Annual Nashville Crawfish Boil - Friday night, May 16th It took a couple dozen crawfish for Rob to get his method down, but once he did those little freshwater lobsters didn't stand a chance. WARNING: The next sentence is gonna sound somewhat dirty, so get your snickering out of the way now. The Rob-method for eating boiled crawfish is to twist them apart, pinch the tail to expose the meat, suck out the meat, chase the meat with a suck of the head (that's where all the spices are) and then chuck the carcass on to the banks of the Cumberland River (good thing those waterbugs are biodegradeable). Speaking of dirty, Ashlee thought they tasted like sand and was not a big fan, but she gave them a solid try along with our friend, Lisa, who we ran into when we arrived at the festival. 3 Doors Down put on a pretty good show in terms of outdoor festival concerts. The sound wasn't spectacular and their set wasn't very long, but that's to be expected at this type of event. We upgraded to the "VIP" section of the festival thanks to a Ticketmaster gift card we got for Christmas from our friends, Craig and Alison. It was all the crawfish you could eat, private viewing area (not as close to the stage as we figured, but roomy at least) and private bathrooms (if you call 5oo people private - but it did beat using the port-o-potties). Probably the neatest thing was how we got to and from the festival in Nashville from our home in Lebanon which is a half-hour away. We took Nashville's first commuter railway, The Nashville Star, downtown and then hired a car service to bring us back (unfortunately the train returns much too early to use it as a way home after a real night on the town). A little pricey perhaps and we couldn't do it all the time, but when you consider paying for and finding parking in downtown Nashville, current gas prices to burn your own fuel and eliminating the risk of a DUI - it was worth every penny....and our driver, Graham, was a hoot.
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
Another great trip to the Conch Republic (i.e. Key West) is in the books for us. This was our 8th visit to Margaritaville by our count and it was a dandy. Great food, perfect weather and good times had by all. MAY 4 - After arriving a day early and spending the night in Ft. Lauderdale (see previous post) we met Ashlee's sister, Paige, and her husband, Andy, the next morning as they flew in from Chattanooga and we headed south in a nice Chrysler Pacifica (pretty good gas mileage for a big vehicle). The 3-hour-plus drive thru the Keys was as good as promised in terms of scenery to Andy who had not made the drive before. Andy has been to Key West three times, but always arriving either by plane or cruise ship. With only a quick stop in Islamorada at the wonderful Worldwide Sportsman Store, we arrived in Key West and our usual place of tropical domicile, The Eden House, just in time for a few cocktails and a stroll to the north end of Duval Street for dinner at "Alice's." The food was superb as usual and Paige claimed the "Best in Show" prize for the dessert she ordered, The Tropical Fruit Short Cake With Passion Fruit and Chantilly Cream. MAY 5 - "Cinqo de Tortuga" - We were up at the crack of dawn today to take the Sunny Days "Fast Cat" Catamaran Ferry to the Dry Tortugas and Fort Jefferson. What a cool place. (photo above)
This day-trip was also for the benefit of Andy who had not been before, but everyone enjoyed a great day of sun, history, beach and snorkeling. We got some good advice for our dinner destination, a small Italian restaurant a few blocks from our hotel called "Mangia, Mangia." Yes, we looked it up and it means what else..."Eat, Eat!" and boy, did we ever. Excellent fresh pasta, Cuban garlic bread and an interesting Slovenian pino grigio called Movia. We followed that up with a late-evening cab ride to Louie's Backyard on the south end of the island for champagne and dessert. We never knew butterscotch pudding could be so good! MAY 6 - Lay around the pool day - relaxing and fun - what Key West is all about. Dinner was at our favorite place, Blue Heaven, and it was incredible as always. Ask for the secret grouper dish...it's not on the menu. MAY 7 - Almost back to reality - after lunch at Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville - yeah, it's a little corny but the cheeseburgers in paradise are pretty good and it's become kind of a tradition for us on our last day of a Key West trip - we turned the big Chrysler beast north and headed back to Ft. Lauderdale for an evening flight home...."changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes"....you got that right, Jimmy.
Sunday, May 4, 2008
Would you drive 50 miles one-way up the coast of Florida for a seafood dinner? What if that seafood restaurant was located at the end of an old strip mall with zero view of the ocean? Would it be worth it? Well, it was to us and we did it last night driving from Ft. Lauderdale up the coast to Juno Beach to eat at Captain Charlie's Reef Grill...and it was worth every mile, minute and dollar. Best seafood in the world - bar none. Rob had the peppered wahoo and Ashlee had the sesame tuna. This is our third time eating at the Reef Grill - we ate there two nights in a row on a trip to W. Palm Beach a few years ago. It was much easier to find this time with the aid of Ashlee's GPS device. The first time we tried to find it without such a device was quite an adventure since as was stated above The Reef Grill is a local secret located on the end of a dated strip mall and kind of hard to find. You will know when you find it, however, because the parking lot will be packed. If you are ever in the W. Palm - Ft. Lauderdale area and want some real seafood at it's best, then seek out The Reef Grill. Amazing menu, great wine list, wide selection of bottled beer and on tap. Can you imagine how many seafood restaurants we passed in 50 miles of Florida coastline? Off to Key West today. Take care, all.