Monday, March 28, 2011

Loveless Café and Vingenzo

Coming back from Nashville, Tennessee, I brought home many lovely images of spring. I placed some in my last post. I also brought back something, not as lovely – a bad cold. Since this cold makes my head heavy and hazy I am not attempting to write something too imaginative or smart. I am staying with “comfort.” Food is usually associated with comfort – hence this post. This will just be a report about the two restaurants where I was invited to eat my birthday lunches – at the Loveless Café, one week early in Nashville and at Vingenzo’s on my birthday last Saturday in Woodstock, Georgia.

In a way I would have rather been back in Hawai'i where my birthday, 26 March, is a national holiday. It turns out that Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalaniana’ole was born on this day, in 1871. In Hawai’i it is a state holiday so government offices, schools and some businesses are closed. There are parades, festivals and other events celebrating the birth of Prince Kuhio.

Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole born on March 26, 1871. Courtesy Hawaii State Archives

I found other more worthy individuals than me who were born on 26 March, such as Robert Frost in 1874, Tennessee Williams in 1911, Pierre Boulez in 1925, and Richard Dawkins in 1941. But for the celebration on my day, food was in honor. After we left the Cheekwood Botanical Gardens in Nashville (see my post here ) my daughter and son-in-law took us to a well-known Nashville eatery to celebrate my day, one week early –at the Loveless Café.

Postcard copyright Anderson Design Group

In 1951 Lon and Annie Loveless purchased the property. They served chicken on picnic tables by the side of US Highway 100. As more and more travelers stopped by they remodeled the early 1900’s home into a dining room and kitchen and added country cured ham on the menu. Lon managed the motel and Annie the cooking – everything was home-made, the hams curved, smoked and carved on the premises, the home-baked biscuits and slow cooked preserves.

The Loveless Café was sold but the secret recipe for the biscuits was given to the new owners. Carol Fay Ellison, who began to work for the café as a dishwasher while in high school, made her career there – she was known as “the Biscuit Lady.” She safeguarded the restaurant’s biscuit recipe and went even on TV shows demonstrating Southern cooking. I took a picture outside of a sign advertising her biscuits (she passed away in April 2010.)

The Loveless Café became a Nashville landmark drawing locals, tourists, country stars, actors and many others. The motel closed in 1985 and was remodeled into a country store and little shops. We arrived at the café with an appetite after our walks in the Cheekwood gardens. We had to wait for a table so we checked the shops.

Click on collage to enlarge then click on each photo to biggify

A couple of gift shops had colorful wall paintings and interesting pottery.

Then we went back into the restaurant and waited a few more minutes for our table. The walls of the front room are covered with pictures of country music stars and other celebrities.

We sat at our table and a waitress took our orders then came back quickly with a tray of hot biscuits and home-made preserves. We ate them as we read the story of the café printed on the place-mats. I ordered the country ham dinner with sides of greens, fried okra and fried green tomatoes – it came with eggs and red eye gravy. My husband ordered the barbecue plate with coleslaw and the potato casserole – with iced tea of course. We finished with blackberry cobbler but could only eat half of the food, which was excellent. We liked the preserves so much that after dinner we went back to the shop and bought some to take back to Georgia.

The Loveless Café is located near the northern terminus of the Natchez Trace Parkway. This parkway is a 444-miles picturesque road which commemorates an ancient trail going from Natchez, Mississippi, through Alabama and ending in central Tennessee. The Choctaw, Chickasaw and other American Indians used this Trace. It was also heavily used from 1785 to 1820 by the “kaintuck” boatmen when they returned on foot to Nashville after having floated their wares on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to Natchez and New Orleans. We drove to the double-arched bridge that spans Birdsong Hollow. It received the Presidential Award for Design Excellence in 1995. It rises 155 feet above the valley. We stopped to admire it (and for me to take some pictures.)

We returned to Georgia the next day, admiring the lovely spring blossoms as we drove away.

Last Saturday, March 26, it was raining here. We drove to an Italian restaurant in Woodstock, Georgia, a little town north of us. We had never eaten there but I had read glowing reports on Vingenzo’s “real” style Italian pizzas and pastas. The restaurant is located near the railroad tracks of Woodstock’s historic district on one side and a little park with a gazebo on the other side.

As an appetizer we ordered the “Grandioso Tasting” which is a platter of three homemade mozzarellas: Latte, Burrata and Bufala. It came with roasted tomatoes and peppers, Cerignola olives, Pantelleria capers and oven roasted Taggiasche black olive. On the side we had a glass of Zonin Montepulciano wine and warm pizza dough bread drizzled with olive oil and fresh grated parmesan cheese. The Latte mozzarella was firm, the Burrata was a mozzarella cylinder around a buttery semisolid core and the buffalo mozzarella was juicy and just right. Tasty!

We studied the menu and placed our orders. I then went close to the “forno” the wood-burning oven in the open kitchen area and talked with Enrico who mans the oven. We spoke in Italian – he is from Napoli. He turned the pizza in the oven so fast that my photo was blurry.

I like my pizzas Italian style, that is thin and crusty. I ordered the Regina pizza which comes with San Marzano tomato sauce, fresh ricotta, Fior di Latte Mozzarella, house made sausage, wild mushrooms and basil. It was perfect – a thin crust, pliant but crisp with circles of cheese melted across the surface. The sausage was flavorful and the mushrooms and fresh basil gave it that extra special touch. Genuine Italian and fantastic! My husband had the Pasta Al Forno which is baked with house-made fennel sausage, latte fresco mozzarella, cherry tomato sauce and fresh ricotta. He decided on the rigatoni for the pasta and was pleased with the robust but light flavor of his dish.

When “dolce” time came, my husband decided on the Torta Caprese which is a flourless chocolate almond cake and I had the Torta di Ricotta which is ricotta cheesecake with Marsala soaked raisins and chocolate chips. Heavenly!

This certainly was a lovely birthday lunch. We left the little town knowing that we would be back. I noticed the tavern’s name, close to the railroad which is called “Right Wing” and further down the street another house had a sign saying “Bug off” – hum……

Click on collage to see better

Back at home I had time to look at the three pretty birthday cards I received

and the two books my husband gave me – “Unfamiliar Fishes” by Sarah Vowell – it is an history of Hawai’i told with a wicked sense of humour and “Waikiki – a History of Forgetting and Remembering” by Gay Chan and Andrea Feeser – filled with beautiful images of days past.

But this was 26 March and today is my nephew’s birthday. With all this going on I did not send him a card yet. Still thinking of comfort food I shall mail him the card below. Unfortunately I can only show virtual comfort food here, Greg, but Aunt Ruth, your mother the baker extraordinaire will surely have a scrumptious cake for you. Happy Birthday!

This was supposed to be a very short post… much for that. I still cannot finish without saying that this is my blog anniversary. I started this blog in Long Beach, with my daughter’s help, on my birthday in 2009 - two years already. The time has gone so quickly - I have learned a lot from reading my friends’ blogs and also made so many dear friends.


Ashley Ashbee said...

I always sense from your posts that you're traveling back in time. Knowing the history of the places one visits somehow seems to enhance the experience. It's definitely worth sharing. So many people write about meals and vacations. These types of posts often feel banal and boring, but yours never do. You're a great writer and your appreciation and understanding of the world is always showing.

Pondside said...

A belated Happy Birthday to you. I'm sorry to read that you're under the weather, but it sounds as though you were able to celebrate before illness could slow you down. It's lovely to have come to know your blog, and I look forward to reading more about your travels.

marciamayo said...

As usual, you posting was a feast to the eye and the brain. Happy Birthday a couple of days late.

Ginnie said...

Your have become a blogger extraordinaire after only 2 years, dear Vagabonde. I delclare.

But first, I hope you're feeling better...and second, HAPPY BIRTHDAY. I have now added your special day to my online calendar so I won't forget it next year!

Till then, happy eating. :)

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday, Happy Blog Anniversary, and Get Well! I don't think that there are cards that combine all of those wishes!!
I am reading your post first thing in the morning, and now I am so hungry. I could almost smell the food cooking.
Thanks for another great trip.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I'm hungry now! Are biscuit a little bit like pain perdu? I've never had them.

Spring is a long way from now... In fact, it snowed on my birthday last week! Hopefully trees will bloom soon here too. We are all sick of winter.

Vicki Lane said...

Oh, what fabulous food you've had! The Italian restaurant sounds marvelous.

I love Sarah Vowell's books -- haven't read this newest one yet.

Congratulations on the birthday and the blog anniversary!

Unknown said...

Beautiful blossoms! And your post made me hungry. :)

Vicki Lane said...

About that biscuit, Zhu. The only similar thing I can think of is a scone -- but they are usually sweet and a bit denser and larger. Is there a Kentucky Fried Chicken near where you live? They seem to be world wide and they serve biscuits.

Kay said...

Happy belated birthday! You should have been in Hawaii because you'd have the day off to celebrate your birthday all day long.

Happy Blogaversary also! The time does fly, doesn't it? I'm so glad I got to meet you in cyberspace.

Ann said...

Wishing you a Happy belated Natal Anniversary!! Congratulations on your blogaversary also!! Your blog is always a delightful and spcial place to visit and I treasure the time I spend here! Thank you for the time and effort you take in sharing your photos,memories and knowledge! Sending get-well wishes your way.I just spent 3 weeks getting over a nasy cold virus and I hope yours doesn't last anywhere near that long!!
Todays post has made me long for the wonderful southern cooking of my mother and aunt and Grandmother!! xo

Rosaria Williams said...

So much to celebrate, Vagabonde! Happy Birthday and Blog-anniversary too. Loved all the wonderful pictures and memories you shared with this post. I'm loving them all, especially the last food pictures of pizza and dessert. Oh yes.

Elaine said...

Happy belated birthday and congrats on two years of blogging! It looks like you had two very wonderful meals to celebrate your birthday. Both look yummy. I look forward to sharing another year with you in blogland.

Wanda..... said...

Wishing a Happy Belated Birthday to You and a Happy Two Year Blog Anniversary too! You celebrated well!

✿France✿ said...

COUCOU dsl mais je n'arrive pas a faire marcher latraduction.
Par contre j'adore tes photos.
Et ve veux bien un petit café s'il te plait

Ruth said...

So this is you sick? Wow.

You have a beautiful way of bringing in angles I am so interested in.

The last food photos, of the Pasta Al Forno and your pizza are making me crazy! It's a good thing I was eating my oatmeal, or I might have fainted. Fabulous looking. And then the desserts! We will be going to one of our favorite restaurants in Ann Arbor to celebrate our wedding anniversary and Don's birthday this weekend. The restaurant is Italian, and there is a dessert bar next door, with delights like this. So your post is an appetizer (thank goodness we have these plans).

Happy Birthday to you a few days late. And a very happy blogoversary to you! I always learn so very much from your posts and appreciate your friendship in this community a lot.

Dutchbaby said...

Joyeux anniversaire et anniversaire blog heureux! I have no idea if this is proper French, but it's what Google translate provided. I also hope that you are all healed now.

I loved your vintage post of comfort foods of mouthwatering biscuits, pizza, and tortas.

Happy spring to you!

John's Island said...

Hello Vagabonde, I just found your blog thanks to a comment you left on Abe Lincoln's blog, Pick a Peck of Pixels. Your blog is impressive and well done. I really like the way you give the historical perspective on things. We share at least two interests: ocean travel and vintage postcards. I noticed that you've been aboard the Golden Princess and in February we boarded her for a wonderful two week voyage to Hawaii. I've been posting some pictures on my blog and hope you will take a look. Congratulations on two years of blogging. I look forward to going back and enjoying some of your older posts as well as following you in the future. Best regards from Seattle, John

Wild_Bill said...

Quite a post for someone with a bad cold! Happy belated birthday, by the way.

I'd love to have experienced the original Loveless Cafe (love that name), especially the biscuits!

Thank you for another wonderful ride.

claude said...

Ben dis moi, quel festin ! On mange super bien aux States aussi !
J'ai zapé ton anniversaire mais j'ai bien noté pour l'année prochaine.
J'aime ce genre de cafés. Nous nous sommes arrêtés une fois à Bicknell dans le centre de l'Utah pour dormir dans un Motel dont le O était éteint. Mon amie Julia nous fit remarque que nous allions coucher dans un otel et non un motel. Pendant le dîner, nous avions entendu une chanson de Soeur Sourire.
Chaque fois que nous allons à Park City, nous allons boire une bière au "No Name" Saloon". C'est un endroit que nous aimons bien de part sa déco intérieure. La dernière fois nous y avions cassé une petite crôute.

Jolie la promenade dans le jardin botanique de Cheekwood.
A plussss !

Robert the Skeptic said...

We totally love Hawaii, and being on the west coast, it is not that difficult a trip to get to. We are "scheduled" to go again in the second week of May - but having just recovered from heart surgery, the trip is in question. We will have to wait and see. We usually go to the Big island.

Friko said...

Good, a nice short post for somebody who is not feeling very well.

Ha, was that a joke?

Those portions of food look huge, did you manage to eat the lot?

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

Happy belated birthday! My second grandson was born this month so the month of March will always have a happy day in it for all of us!

It was interesting to see the Loveless Cafe as for soem reason I get a mail order catalog from their store every year. The Italian restaurnat looks top notch and the food looked delicious!

Happy second year blog anniversary! You have shared such wonderful blog posts with us all and I look forward to reading many more.

PeterParis said...

You are a little bit like me; even with a heavy and hazy head, you mad it quite long! I'm happy you were well celbrated! Also two years of blogging is worth som champagne!

Nance said...

Happy Birthday/Blogoversary, Dearie! Thank you for enriching the blogosphere and our lives with your wonderful photo journals!

OldLady Of The Hills said...

A Belated Happy Birthday, my dear. Your two wonderful lunches sounded and looked Scrumptious! Your pictures are always so very wonderful---I feel as if I have been there with you! So mmany wonderful places to visit and to enjoy---And you do it ALL!!!
BRAVA, My Dear Vagabond.

Cloudia said...

Happy Kuhio Day Birthday, Sistah

Aloha to you
from Honolulu!

Comfort Spiral



Olga said...

Happy second year blog anniversary! You created beautiful and very informative blog.

Reader Wil said...

Happy belated birthday! I hope you are feeling better now.
Thanks for the lovely account of your trip. It's a pity the eatery was called Loveless for I think everything was cooked with a lot of love!

BJM said...

Two years! It is amazing how time passes. Best wishes on your birthday!

Anonymous said...

Magnifique reportage, Vagabonde!

Jeanie said...

Sometimes Blogger make me very angry! I just wrote you a long comment with congratulations and wishes for your (belated) happy birthday and for your blog anniversary. I am so very glad you decided to blog two years ago and that you have continued. Your words and images consistently enrich my life.

I also loved your reviews, which have me absolutely envious and hungry!

And finally, I mentioned it was Saturday and on PBS Create channel it's Paris all day! Thinking of you!

Vagabonde said...

loveable_homebody, Pondside, marciamayo, Ginnie, alwaysinthebackrow, Tim, Kay, Ann, Rosaria, Elaine, Wanda, Ruth, Dutch Baby, Wild Bill, Robert the Skeptic, Friko, Pat@mille Fiori Favoriti, Peter, Nance, Lady of the Hills, Cloudia, Olga, Reader Wil, BJM and Jeanie – Thanks for your good wishes – my cold is about gone and I feel great. All your comments were a joy to read. Thanks my friends for stopping by.

Vagabonde said...

Zhu and Vicki Lane – as Vicki explained a biscuit is a small bread, without a crust, and not sweet, which is a standard in southern cuisine. Thanks to both of you for commenting.

Vagabonde said...

France, Claude – Je vous remercie de stopper sur mon blog. J’aime toujours voir ce que vous avez à me dire. Bisous VB

Richard Moisan – Bienvenu sur mon blog. J’espère bien vous revoir, merci encore pour le commentaire.

John’s Island - Welcome to my blog. I hope you will come back. Thanks for the nice comment.

LivingOceania said...

Nice story to meet up with someone you've followed for so long. Wonderfully interesting interview and great photo's - what a woman; love her library!

livininlb said...

Two years has flown by and now you are a blogger superstar.

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