Saturday, January 10, 2015

All Roads Lead to Rome

Do you remember our visit to Saw's Soul Kitchen when we kept running into road blocks in our effort to get to the restaurant? And, do you remember the time we could not find the directions to the restaurant 1892 East in Huntsville, because all Luanne knew was that the name of the restaurant had some numbers in it and she thought it was close to GiGi's Cupcakes? It wasn't, by the way. And do you remember the very first trip when Sherri, Lu and I tried to find the restaurant in Meridianville that Restaurant Impossible had renovated and we drove by it about 4 times before we realized it? Well, combine those three trips and you will have what happened to us this past Thursday.

It all started with a text from our friend and fellow foodie, Dawn. She wanted to know if we had heard anything about a restaurant called Vintage 1889 in Fort Payne. Bells should have gone off right then when we heard numbers (and when Dawn could not remember what the numbers were) as the name of the restaurant, but no. We had never heard of it, but being the adventurous (and clueless) friends that we are we made plans to meet Dawn and head to Fort Payne. I had a hair appointment that morning and while I was chatting with my favorite hair dresser, Betty, I mentioned our trip to Fort Payne. Apparently Betty knows the owners of Vintage 1889, because she said she was going to text them and tell (warn) them that Three Friends and a Fork were heading their way. Now I don't know what Betty said to the owners of the restaurant, but Luanne, Dawn and I had just pulled up to the front of the old mill that houses Vintage 1899 when we noticed a lady standing on the front stoop of the building. As soon as we parked, she walked across the street to where we were scrambling out of our car and asked if we were from out of town. Lu was caught off guard a bit, but managed to nod yes, to which the lady announced that the restaurant was closed. Keep in mind that we had checked the hours and the website said the restaurant was open until 11 pm on Thursdays. I missed the conversation because I was on the opposite side of the car. All I know is, suddenly, I was getting right back in the car. I did immediately call Betty and ask her what in the heck she had said to the Vintage folks! She assured me she had not told them to run for the hills because Three Friends and a Fork were on their way!

What to do now? Lu had mentioned, as we drove through downtown Fort Payne, that The Strand had really good hamburgers, so we turned around and backtracked to The Strand, happy to see lights on and people inside eating.  We parked, hopped out of the car, dashed across the street, opened the door to The Strand only to be greeted by, "We're closed!" 5 p.m. and one minute too late, this was starting to get ridiculous.

Back in the car, we debated. Finally, Lu said there was a restaurant near Little River Canyon that she remembered from years before. It was in an old cabin and she remembered it being pretty good, so with Luanne giving directions, Dawn googling Little River Canyon restaurants and me driving, we turned around and headed back in the opposite direction once again (starting to see a pattern?). Just outside of Fort Payne (it was getting dark now and we were getting hungry), Lu had us hang a left on a fairly deserted country road. We drove for what seemed like forever when Lu announced she had no idea where the restaurant was and we must have passed it, because she did not remember driving this long (on her last visit 10 years before). So we decided to turn around at the next opportunity (there weren't many on the twisty, narrow, pretty much deserted road). But I managed to find a parking lot to flip around in when Lu yells, "This is it!" Yay! Except for the fact that the place was as dark as a tomb and closed up just as tight. From the looks of it, it may have been closed up for years, or everyone was abducted by aliens. I am basing that last observation on the fact that there was an enormous metal alien standing guard in the parking lot. In the interest of full disclosure, we are not completely sure if this place was a restaurant, a junk store or a bar for Star Wars refugees.

At this point there was some discussion of going to The Wildflower in Mentone, but we brilliantly opted to call before we made the trip. Thank heavens, The Wildflower was also closed. Finally, in desperation, Lu said, "Let's just go to Rome!" For those of you who are not from this part of the country, Luanne was not suggesting we hop a plane to Italy, although that would not have been such a bad idea. We love Italian food! No, she meant Rome, Georgia, so while she was not encouraging us to leave the country, she was, at least, prompting us to leave the state. Even though Georgia is an hour ahead of us, we decided that Rome was big enough if one place was closed, surely we could find another. So off we headed to Rome, to a place called, The Harvest Moon Cafe. After about an hour of dark, winding, deserted roads and lots of googling (every single thing we mentioned on any topic had to be googled!) and laughing, we found ourselves in Rome and in front of an OPEN Harvest Moon Cafe. But first, we had to check out the Honeymoon Bakery next door!

Luanne and Dawn could not get out of the car and into the Honeymoon Bakery fast enough!

We checked out all the wonderful looking sweet things in the cases and after some discussion as to whether we should begin with dessert, we told the girls behind the counter we would be back after our meal at The Harvest Moon next door. 

Harvest Moon Cafe has a casual, laid back, old brick and exposed beams, urban loft kind of feel. There was live music, low light and a packed house. When we walked in the hostess told us it would be 15-20 minutes before we could be seated, we could have a seat in the bar area and she would come to get us when our table was ready. With potentially 15-20 minutes to kill, her stomach growling and the Honeymoon Bakery calling her name, Luanne announced she was going next door to get dessert. Delayed gratification is not her long suit...especially on an empty stomach. After a quick pow wow, we decided Dawn would go with her and I would stay in the cafe in case our names were called for dinner. I asked them to get me one of the beautiful custard filled tarts topped with juicy fruits and they took off. I seated myself at a table in the bar and had no sooner gotten comfortable than the hostess came to tell me she had a table for us. I tried to call the bakery girls, but nobody was answering, so I spent a few minutes checking out the menu and the restaurant while I waited for them to get back. It wasn't too long before they came back with a praline, a rather large sand tart, a lemon bar and my fruit tart. While we made our dinner choices, Luanne polished off her sand tart and praline. She let us have a tiny taste and they were both absolutely delicious. 

Our server recommended we try sweet potato chips with gorgonzola cheese dip for our appetizer, saying that Harvest Moon is known for this starter. We polished off every single chip on the platter, but I was the only one diving in to the cheese. Dawn doesn't eat anything in the blue cheese family because she is allergic to penicillin and Lu? I'm not sure. Maybe it looked too much like mayonnaise. Whatever! That just meant more for me and let me tell you, it was divine! I think it was the best thing I ate all night. As we crunched on chips, we discussed dinner choices. The three of us, sitting at our table for four, reserved the last chair for Parker. Everything we ate, every topic of conversation, brought back some memory of our friend and what she would do or say. We had to laugh while we were each going to great pains to choose different entrees, because we knew Parker would not play that game. She would get what she wanted no matter what the rest of us were ordering. 

So, what did we order? Well, you should have heard how the choices were made! Lu must have changed her mind 5 times, but finally settled on the semi-boneless Freebird half chicken. Why? Well because our server told us it was the manager's favorite, because it had the word carmelized in the description, but most importantly, because it came with Brussels sprouts. It also did not hurt that it was accompanied by local mushrooms, cheddar cornbread dressing and peach habañero jam. 

Dawn's decision making process was a bit different than Luanne's. She was intrigued by a dish called The Three Little Pigs, which, as you might guess, involved pork three ways. It sounded good to me, too! Her problem was that she does not like collards and jalapeño cornbread, which came with the pigs. Now, to me, those sounded like the best things on the plate. Anyway, The Three Little Pigs won out, and Dawn ended up with a bone-in pork chop crusted with Blue Smoke coffee and topped with bacon jam and fresh pork cracklins. It also came with roasted sweet potatoes. 

By now you can probably guess if there is any kind of seafood on the menu, I am heading in that direction, so I ended up with the dish Luanne originally said she wanted. It was blackened redfish with a grit cake, wilted greens and house-cured tasso cream sauce. But this is what I redfish with Dawn's collards and jalapeño cornbread. Too bad she didn't give me her sweet potatoes and bacon jam. That jam was off the charts good!I gave her my grit cake. It was less spicy and more to her liking than mine. By the way, Luanne's Brussels sprouts were the best I have ever had, not one bit bitter. Her peach habañero jam and cheddar cornbread dressing were also delicious. 

So, what was the final verdict? Harvest Moon was wonderful. I, however, liked Dawn's pork chop the best of the three entrees. It was to die for topped with that bacon jam and her sides were outstanding, too. I was really glad she did not like a couple of them! Dawn liked my redfish the best. She also liked my grit cake, so it worked out really well for us to trade sides. Luanne was sticking with the choice she made. She loved that caramelized chicken and those delicious Brussels sprouts. 

We were too stuffed to order dessert, but not too stuffed to sample Dawn's lemon square and my fruit tart. They were the perfect almost ending to a perfect meal. 

I say almost ending because our server told us no trip to Harvest Moon is complete without sampling the offerings at The Dark Side of the Moon, the bar next door. So, we paid our bills and scurried to the dark side! There were tons of choices, but since our server had also recommended the espresso martini, we, stuffed as we were by this time, decided to get one to share. No, we are not worried about germs! I don't even like coffee, but that martini was so good! Lu and I drank it up quickly because the glass was covered in chocolate and we wanted to get to the bottom! Dawn doesn't like martinis, so she let us lick the glass without her. 

Three Friends and a Fork and our foodie friend, Dawn, are more than happy to give Harvest Moon Cafe, Honeymoon Bakery and The Dark Side of the Moon Bar three over the moon Yums UP! Do not ask me to tell you about missing our turn on the way home or the fact that we almost ran out of gas. I am not telling! See you next time!

Harvest Moon Cafe on Urbanspoon
Three Friends and a Fork
Three Friends and a Fork

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