I Went Viking

A couple of weekends ago I decided to check out the Lavonia, GA Renaissance Festival. It is a 1 day affair in a local park. The theme was Vikings so it was technically outside the Renaissance period but why quibble with a nice day out.

I was hoping to grab some festival food while I was out but the pickings were slim and nothing grabbed me. However I did check out the sites.

I bought some blueberry blossom honey that was very thick and rich and may wind up in a mead. I also checked out the reenactors giving demos and talking about the period, around 1066, that was the focus. Plus the wolf was cool.

If you’re wondering why this is in the blog and not just on FB, I’m getting there. After I left, unfed, I was inspired to go viking (the verb not the noun) but with less looting and pillaging. Mainly it was exploring. I jumped off on an unfamiliar exit heading down a road I knew would eventually get to familiar territory. Like this post. Well I spotted the Spotted Pig BBQ restaurant and decided to delve into the discovery.

It’s kind of in the middle of nowhere and there was only one other car there so I wasn’t sure what I was going to wind up with but in I went. They have a nice large dining area and a decent sized outside seating area from what I could see. I was seated quickly by one of the several staff members huddled at one end of the bar. The menu had reasonably standard fair along with some flair like the BBQ egg roll. I kept it traditional and got the rib plate with mac & cheese and coleslaw.

As you can see the ribs come pre-sliced with 4 ribs as a serving nicely presented. There was also a mini cornbread muffin on the side that I saved for dessert. I have to say these were the best ribs I’ve had locally. The smokey flavor along with the dry rub and tender meat that resisted just a bit made for a delicious satisfying bite every time. I did try the sauces that were at the table just to see what they might add.

They weren’t bad, the spicy was moderately hot, the sweet was just that. I’m not a big fan of mustard based sauces but this was a good example of what one should be. The mustard was definitely the star with a hint of sweet and a touch of heat. In the end I ate the last two ribs sauceless because I thought they were fine as is.

The coleslaw I really enjoyed. All the ingredients tasted fresh and had a crispness that gave a nice crunch as it was eaten. The mac and cheese was also nice in that it felt more like homemade than a lot you find. The cheese wasn’t a cheese sauce and you got a little more in one bite than you might in another. I like that personally. The mini muffin was pretty sweet and had some kind of additional ingredient that made me save it for dessert.

I was happy with the meal and service overall and will go back however, I won’t be getting another $7 draft beer. That was a bit of a shocker since I didn’t check out the pricing first. It was a nice coffee lager but that just felt too steep to me.

After lunch I continued my exploration and found a farmer’s market / yard sale that was closing down. I did acquire some well priced tomato plants to add to my garden after some fierce haggling (ok they thrust them at me and named a price I couldn’t walk away from).

I think I did that Swedish / Danish part of my DNA proud out there exploring new areas, destroying that rib plate and coming back with fresh acquisitions.

All the B’s

Saturday wasn’t a day for international food specifically but the base of both experiences is global in scope. I mean grilled meat and fermented beverages, what culture doesn’t have that? BTW this is going to be a longer than usual entry.

BBQ Barn

My first decision was to visit a meadery, Southern Origin Meadery, located in Canon, Georgia. Well that presented the opportunity to find a restaurant between here and there. After some searching I decided on BBQ Barn in Lavonia. It looked interesting and rustic sitting in the middle of town.

It was kind of weird, there was one window that served drive through and walk up. I’d thought about eating at one of the picnic tables but there was a line of cars and I didn’t want to go stand behind the last car and breath exhaust as the line moved. There was a walk up couple at the head of the line and whatever they ordered took forever. Once they were gone the line moved nicely. The young lady working the window was all smiley and moved with rapidity and determination. I admire that in a person getting my food. Since I was going to be car dining I selected the BBQ sandwich platter. This came with stew, coleslaw and chips.

Their sandwich is chopped pork, with lots of sauce well distributed. I got the “hot” sauce and to be fair it did have a noticeable pepper heat but it was not what I’d call hot. It was fine. The sauce was a little sweeter than I prefer, on the up side though the meat had a decent smokiness to it. The stew was tastier dish in spite of the consistency being not appealing. It too was sweet but the acid from the tomatoes helped cut that. The consistency issue was that it looked like they took the solids and threw them in a food processor until they were kind of mealy and then chunked it into the liquid. The end result was a bit mushy with particles of corn scattered throughout. I’m not going to be explicit about what it reminded me of but feel free to use your imagination. In my opinion it would have been better served over rice. The coleslaw was nondescript, so I won’t bother descripting it. From here I barreled on towards the Blue Haven Bee Company.

Blue Haven Bee Company / Southern Origin Meadery

But James, we thought you were going to the meadery. I did. The two share space in what I found out used to be a sewing factory. Jeans being a big part of the output. Apparently the Bee Company came first selling personal care products and honey from bees the owners kept. Well if you add some yeast and water to honey you can get alcohol. I guess with a supply of honey, plenty of room and some imagination the meadery was born.

Let me tell you, you are not finding this place just passing by because unless you’re going there you won’t be on the road it’s on. They have a large parking area and a covered outdoor seating area that looked nice. Inside there is a bar/counter area where a nice lady was doing the pouring. There is also a sitting area / show room for the products they sell and an alcove with the bottled meads and some cheeses and snacks.

I’d already scoped them out online and knew I was going to try a flight, which was 6 small pours selected from their menu of meads. A quick aside for those that know I make my own and wonder why I’m travelling 30 minutes and paying someone to try stuff I have probably 50 bottles of at home. I wanted to expand my sample size of other peoples product so I don’t get cellar palate. Besides it’s fun too. OK back to the meadery.

They have the meads categorized as Dry, Semi-Sweet, and Sweet. I’d already figured out I was going to try 2 of each and take home a bottle of whatever I enjoyed the most. The mead-tender suggested starting dry and moving to sweet which matched what I was thinking so we were already on the same page. I figured I start at the most basic level and go for the Culler, a traditional made with cotton blossom honey.

Side trip number 2. A group of 5 ladies were at the place when I got there. They were apparently having a day out with plans to enjoy themselves and they were. Turns out they were from the Anderson, SC area and drilling down a little more one was practically a neighbor (Hi Beth). They were going to hit another winery and more fun stuff. I was invited to join them and if I hadn’t had my day pretty well planned out I am quite sure it would have been a hoot judging by the short time I did share space with them.

Back to the bee juice. My next selection was a blend of a muscadine wine with the traditional mead. I don’t have a refined palate and subtle notes are lost on me so I prefer flavor and scent punches as a rule. This didn’t punch but the muscadine aroma and taste tapped hard enough to make me say “I see you”. Very enjoyable. Next I jumped to the semi-sweet and tried a cyser, which is a mead made with apples and a hibiscus mead. Both very enjoyable and the color on the hibiscus was a vibrant pink/red shade.

The sweets tend to be my, well, sweet spot. Here I was torn between the Cherry Berry and Black Currant because I knew I was going to finish with the Peach. I mean I was in Georgia so what else could I do. The ladies unanimously voted for the Cherry Berry and that was where I was leaning but the mead mistress said the Black Currant was their best seller and she thought I really should try it if I was having to choose between the two. I went with the pro suggestion, no offense ladies.

Look at that beautiful color. The smell was nice too, berryish with a whiff of honey. It was a delight to drink as well. The black currant flavor was bold and the tupelo honey it’s backsweetened with is literally a sweet addition. I did finish with the peach, after a palate cleansing glass of water and a change of glasses.

Aside number 3. The flight here isn’t like most places I’ve been where they bring you x number of small glasses with whatever your choices were on a tray or paddle. Nope, here it was a full sized wine glass with an eyeball pour of a good tasting of the mead of choice. Moving from dry to sweet it didn’t seem to matter and I drained the glasses pretty well so the only time the glass was switched was between the black currant and the peach because of the intensity of the black currant.

The peach was really nice too. The fragrance of the peaches was very much in evidence and the taste was prominent but the sweet honey flavor road along in the aftertaste. They also use some local peaches in the making so that’s kind of cool.

I’m really glad I took the time to drive out and try some new meads and will go back to try the others I didn’t hit this time. Maybe they’ll have the watermelon I heard they’re working on.

Oh yeah I did bring a bottle of the winner.