We had a packed few days this past weekend. We gave E’s Sister and Brother-In-Law a weekend trip for their christmas gift and it was time to cash it in, so we had settled on a brief outing to Jonesboro, Tennessee’s oldest city…but it wasn’t about history, it was about booze! A favorite Tennessee brewery is Depot Street and we wanted to check out the scene so that was our main destination.
Friday – The Public House
Before the trip, we needed to drop off our recipe for the Tennessee Valley Homebrewers Association Beer Cocktail Competition (More on that in a future post). This week being the Southern Food Writers Conference and the International Biscuit Festival in Knoxville, we were lucky enough to run into Chef Edward Lee and his lovely wife and daughter along with John T. Edge who heads up the Southern Foodways Alliance. We had a nice chat with all of them, letting John T know that we were definitely joining the SFA this year and were excited about what they are doing to spread the gospel of Southern culture. He was extremely courteous and asked for some breakfast recommendations.
Afterwards, we joined our friends Frank and Karen along with Rockstar Chef Brandon Frohne (of Mason’s Nashville fame) and his very sweet wife Lessie at Shuck. We didn’t snap any food picts, but both the food and drinks were, as usual, very good, but not nearly as good as the company. We got an off-menu lobster taco that was quite tasty though a better quality tortilla would have helped. We then went to a favorite spot of ours, Sapphire for a couple drinks before calling it a night.
Saturday we picked up our traveling companions and gassed up on food at the Plaid Apron (they will get a post of their own soon because they are terrific!).
We then his the road. First Stop was in Kingsport at Reedy Creek Winery’s Tasting Room (again, no pics!). But we were treated to some very tasty selections and brought along a few bottles when we left. Anyone familiar with typical Tennessee wines knows that it is generally very sweet and often made of blackberries or muscadines. Not Reedy Creek.
Their wines could (and do) compete and win along with the best of West Coast wines. They do have a couple sweeter wines, but all are made from grapes grown on the owner’s 250 acre farm that is composed of shale soil. Do yourself a favor and pick up a bottle of Meritage! The lady that conducted our tasting was extremely friendly and happy to see some visitors. The room is a little hard to find as it’s tucked away not he back of the Marriott property and has no signage. But the hotel staff are happy to show you where it’s at.
After a quick bite to eat at, Dixie BBQ, a questionable BBQ spot (shouldn’t all BBQ spots be questionable though?) with abundant Confederate paraphernalia, we took out to-go teas (about a gallon per cup!) and headed to Mellow Moonshine. We opened the door to the sly grin of our host Gary saying “I’m just the accountant so I don’t count.”. Unfortunately, Tiny, the brand inspiration, wasn’t in. He was actually in Knoxville promoting a new moonshine flavor. So we missed the 6’8″ moonshiner. “Reality” TV fans may remember Tiny and crew on Appalachian Outlaws last season. Gary was full of jokes and more than happy to let us try as many flavors of this potent concoction as we wanted. He let us tour the facilities and see where the mostly sugar (rather than the traditional mostly-corn) mix is transformed into near gasoline spirits before being cut to legal ABV.
Next up was our main destination, Depot Street Brewing. It’s not much from the outside and I thought we’d been led astray. But after the first sip, I knew everything would be OK. Depot Street, as owner Mark Foster told us, was born of his combined passion for brewing and his frustrated-engineer-mindset. Much of the automation equipment in the brewery was designed and built by this former head of an ER. A guy following his passions! Love this story. There’s plenty of seating inside the brewery and just outside there’s a seating area with wood stoves to knock away the chill on the Spring day. Just to the back is a 40′ Bocce court where Mark and some of the regulars taught us the rules of the game. They are extremely welcoming at Depot Street and we couldn’t leave without a growler of Eurail. Many thanks to Mark for also spending some time showing us the brewing process.
Dinner was in Johnson City at one of the only finer dining spots we could locate called Cafe Lola. M and I had eaten here before and there were no complaints. Everything was perfectly prepared and our server was friendly and kept our drinks flowing.
The next morning, M located The Ole Barn… literally an old barn that was refurbished and turned into a country restaurant. We arrived at just the moment they called and end to breakfast and the kitchen couldn’t be ready for 30 minutes for lunch. So we were willing to wait and sip on some icy tea. Lunch was typical country fair and very good for the most part. I think they rushed it out to use and a couple of them were not hot, but everything was extremely flavorful and the fried chicken was perfectly cooked. After petting some of the onsite animals, we tried to rouse ourselves from the coma that all the food had put us in for our return trip. Jonesborough has a a very quaint downtown that we didn’t have a chance to explore, but it would be a great little spot to visit for a lazy weekend. It’s also the host of the National Storytelling Convention which draws many people every year.
Since we were out of town for the main International Biscuit Festival events, we decided to take int he final event which was a gathering of some of the local food trucks just outside the Tennessee Theatre. “Celebri-chef” Tyler Florence was having an event inside the theatre. We dined from one of our favorite trucks, Savory and Sweet and had a delicious item that shows up only occasionally from them, the Go Big Orange Biscuit, “GBO” to us regulars. It’s a delicious buttery biscuit with homemade pimento cheese and Benton’s Bacon. We also had a meatball sub that was HUGE and fantastic. To finish things off, M had a strawberry-rhubarb cobbler that was outta sight. It was a great way to end a perfect weekend!