Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Dining in Luray - Uncle Bucks Baby Back Ribs!!!

It is amazing the number of people who visit Luray Caverns each year and miss the Town of Luray entirely.  The Caverns does a great job of telling the world what they will discover at the Caverns, but there is a whole town here just waiting for you to discover it as well.  You need to know that the Town hosts the local Visitor's Information Center,  restaurants, movie and live theater, two fine galleries, gift, antique and what-have-you shops all just waiting to be discovered by those who do not know the Town exists.  So, when you visit Luray Caverns, do keep an eye out for signs pointing toward the Town of Luray and take a turn down the road into beautiful small town America, a Town that will remind you of Norman Rockwell, visits to Grand Ma's and a time when folks waved at every car passing because they were sure they must know the folks driving past and did not want to hurt their feelings. 
I'm always given pause when a guest asks for recommendations on where to eat while in Luray.  We have one upscale restaurant...Artisan's Grill...and several much less formal choices.  But when someone asks about baby back ribs, I always have a ready answer: "You'll get the best ribs in town at Uncle Buck's and the slab is huge!"
Uncle Buck's is one of the Norman Rockwell eateries in Town that offers breakfast, lunch and dinner...including prime rib on Friday and Saturday nights...and, amazingly for this far into the 21st Century, sports one bar for smokers and another for those who don't. Stop by Uncle Buck's for a quick snack or a full meal.  But if you are looking for good ribs, make a beeline for Uncle Buck's.  The slab is longer and has more meat than any slab I've encountered anywhere else in several years now.  It usually comes slathered with BBQ sauce, so make sure you ask for it on the side if you want less sauce.  No matter, you'll soon be enjoying the moist, fall-off-the-bone meat with your choice of sides...and busy depleting the extra napkins to keep the sauce out of your ears.  As you can tell, I like their ribs.  Before I went on the newest version of Atkins, I could put a pretty heavy dent in a slab of Uncle Buck's ribs!  Now that I've been on Atkins for a while, I've found I can get two meals out of one slab and control the carb-reinforced sauce by getting it on the side. 
So, the bottom line is, if you head to Luray Caverns, make sure you save time to discover the Town of Luray!  It is only a mile from the Caverns parking lot, but easy enough to miss because the 4-lane bypass eases you right on past the Town.  Come make a great discovery...the beautiful Town of Luray and Uncle Buck's baby back ribs!  And of course, if you are headed in this direction, get a reservation with us here at South Court Inn and enjoy a great night's sleep on memory foam mattresses and soft-as-silk bedding, topped only by our great breakfast at 9AM each morning.  See you soon, Tom

Sunday, April 10, 2011

South Court Inn Berry Cobbler Compote for French Toast

I answered the doorbell early one Saturday evening last summer and found myself greeting a smiling, free-spirit kind of fellow holding a gallon bucket of black raspberries.  Turns out, he and his best girlfriend were enjoying a nature walk and discovered a field full of wild raspberry plants just hanging full of juicy ripe fruit.  They picked until the sun headed down and ended up at our door with 5 gallons of raspberries.  Someone in town had told them to come see us as we were probably the only place that would be willing to buy fresh fruit in any quantity.  So, he wanted to know if I were interested in buying them.  I sure was!  We settled on a price and they left to fill the VW van with gas, while I headed to the kitchen to figure out what to do with the berries.
One taste and I realized that they were at peak ripeness and were already beginning to weep juice under their own weight.  These were too ripe to leave set in the fridge overnight and wait until Sunday when I'd have more time to work with them.  So it was quick, draw enough water in the sink to float a gallon of berries, set sheet pans next to the sink, pick out the stems, leaves, etc., and transfer the freshly cleaned fruit to the pans.  Next it was off to the freezer with each pan to quick freeze and then transfer the hard, frozen berries into gallon zip-lock bags.
Well, since then, we've enjoyed black raspberry pies and cobblers at breakfast, but the biggest hit has been using just the thickened berry cobbler base as a topping for our Croissant French Toast. Just ladle a little over each piece of French Toast before you take it to the table and pass the rest in a gravy boat for folks to help themselves.  The best part is that since our French Toast has no sugar, you get to enjoy the full eggy flavor of the toast and offset it with the sweet-tart flavor of the cobbler compote.  So, now that you have the recipe for the French Toast, here is the recipe for a mouth-watering cobbler topping for your toast when you make it:

1 quart fresh or frozen berries of choice
1.5 cups sugar
2 cup water (reserve 1/2 cup for later use)
2 cup fruity white wine or champagne
4 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
juice of 1/2 lemon

Put water, wine, sugar and salt in a 3 or 4 quart sauce-pan and bring to a boil for 10 minutes.  Separately, in a cup, mix 1/2 cup water with the flour, beat until there are no lumps and set aside.  Add the berries to the boiling liquid and bring to a boil again.  As soon as the berry mixture begins to roll at the edge, turn the heat to lowest possible setting and simmer 10 minutes without stirring.  Next, add the lemon juice and stir the berry mixture without pressing or mushing the berries.  Then, take the pot off the fire, mix the flour/water mix to get the flour fully dissolved from the bottom of the cup and dump the flour mixture into the berry mixture.  Carefully stir the flour mixture into the berry mixture and return to heat.  Turn the heat up and continue carefully stirring until the mixture comes to a full boil.  As it boils, it will thicken to a runny, juicy consistency.  Take the pot off the heat, cover and allow to set for 10 minutes.  At this point you can use the topping for breakfast or you can transfer it to your containers of choice and refrigerate it until ready to use.  Reheat on high for a minute or so in a microwave to reheat when ready.

You may find that you need to adjust the amount of sugar and flour depending on the fruits you use.  I've tried using strawberries, but have not liked it as well as with blackberries and raspberries.  For a different take, try mixing 1/2 cup of whipping cream into some of the compote just before going to table and you'll have a topping close to cobbler ice cream in flavor, but hot too.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Croissant French Toast Recipe

Welcome back to the South Court Inn B&B Blog.  It has been a while since I last posted, but hope springs eternal and I'm hoping I'll be able to stick to it a bit better this Spring.  As you can well imagine, cooking for the public is a real challenge.   When we opened Memorial Day Weekend, 2000, (and yes, please note that we are coming up on starting our 12th year in business!) I quickly discovered that our guests had some very strong ideas on what a B&B breakfast was supposed to be, and, at least here in Luray, heuvos rancheros was not on their list of things they wanted to try!  Recent discussion at the breakfast table seems to tell me that tastes have changed over the past 12 years, so I promise to give heuvos rancheros another try sometime in the near future.  So don't be surprised if you are here during the week if you come down to a great plate of eggs over a mound of refried beans splashed with green chili sauce and chili con queso with  Spanish rice on the side.

In the meantime, Saturday breakfast here at South Court Inn almost always features my version of French Toast and I want to share the recipe with you.  This recipe is different from those you might be accustomed to in that I bake it in sheet pans, use croissants instead of French or other breads, put no sugar in the custard and give it a haunting flavor by adding ground cardamom to the seasoning.  Note too that I do not salt to the custard because the croissants have enough salt to carry the whole dish.  With that said, sound the trumpets...here is the much requested recipe for croissant French Toast as we serve it here at South Court Inn!

1 large or 2 small plain croissants per person
2 eggs per person to be served
1 cup half and half
1 tblspn vanilla
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 can non-stick spray

Mixing and Cooking:
Put the eggs, spices and half and half into a blender and blend on medium speed for about 1 minute.  Turn the blender off, remove the blender jar and set in the fridge until ready to dip the croissants.  Slice each croissant lengthwise into two pieces and set aside until ready to pan for baking.  When ready to prepare for baking, preheat your oven to 325F.  Thoroughly coat your baking pan with non-stick spray and set it for convenience on your prep table.  Remove the blender jar from the fridge and pour the contents into a bowl which is as wide as the croissants.  Starting with the croissant bottom, dip them in the custard mix just long enough for them to become moist but not sopping wet.  In fact, allow excess custard to drain from each bottom for a few seconds after dipping. Arrange the bottoms across the pan and repeat with the tops, placing each top over a corresponding bottom.  Once completed, spray the top of all the croissants with non-stick spray.  Transfer the filled pan to the preheated oven and cook for 45 minutes or done, according to your oven's cooking idiosyncrasies.  When done, the croissants should be nicely puffed and browned across the top.  Serve immediately with your favorite syrup or topping alternative.

Alternative Preparations:
During the fall color season, our guests really like the pumpkin version of this recipe I prepare.  Add a cup of pumpkin puree to the custard while it is is in the blender and blend for another minute.  Then (here's the hard part) put the custard through a fine strainer before dipping the croissant in it.  The final product looks better without random strands of pumpkin fiber sticking up into the air.  Serve the pumpkin croissant French toast with a sauceboat of caramel pecan syrup so folks can help themselves and stand back for the onset of a good case of MMMMMMMMMMMMssssssssssss to fill the room!    

Friday, April 16, 2010

Free Wine Tasting on South Court Inn's Wine Trail

Free Wine Tasting! Our wine trail offers free tasting cards that can save you up to $100 in tasting fees, depending on which wineries you visit! Book a stay at South Court Inn and we'll provide you with maps and free tasting cards for wineries you will pass on your way here, might want to visit while here or will pass on your way home. Book with enough time for us to mail the coupons to you and we'll get it out to you so you can do tastings on you why here. This offer available only to those who have reservations to stay at South Court Inn. Call us  today...toll free even...at 888-748-8055!!!.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Spring Wedding Photos

Bright sunshine and warm days have the garden popping with color here at South Court Inn.  The azalea buds are beginning to swell and the peonies up almost a foot tall.  It won't be long before we are in full bloom.  Get a look at out elopement packages to see the great values we offer to everyone.  Call now to make reservations for your private outdoor wedding or elopement ceremony during the peak garden season.  We look forward to hearing from you...you'll be glad you did!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Dining In Luray: The Artisans Grill

When last I spoke with you, it was about enjoying a picnic at one of the tables set up in the Luray Greenway Park, which borders the banks of the Hawksbill Creek here in Luray, VA. Remember??? Downtown Luray, VA, is only a mile from the world famous Luray Caverns. You see the Caverns on TV, hear about them on the radio and visit the area to enjoy nature all year long. Well, it is now time for you to plan a getaway to Luray so you can de-stress from all pressure at work, the white-knuckle commute on the Beltway and the planned-down-to the-minute schedule that so often takes over our lives.

Of course, the first thing we want you to do is to pick up the phone and make a reservation for your favorite room or the Susie Hodges Cottage at South Court Inn. We'll be happy to schedule a masseuse to come in and massage all those knots in your calf or across your shoulders. Or, we'll steam up a pot of tea for you to enjoy on the front porch or a wing-back in the living room. Or, we'll leave you to your own devices to retreat, relax and enjoy doing absolutely nothing. No matter what you do, you will, sooner or later, want to know about dining in Luray, VA. So, this first of many blog posts will talk about the varied landscape of dining available to you here in Luray.

So this time I want you to know about the Artisans Grill, 2 East Main Street, Luray, VA, 22835. Artisans Grill is not just a good place to eat, but a great re-purposing of an old Art Deco building. Enjoy a sandwich for lunch or later and dinner from 5PM Wednesday through Monday. Note that comment about them being open on Mondays and look forward to a hearty welcome and service on what can sometimes be a hard day to find dinner in Town. They pride themselves on using local produce as much as possible and the natural, grass-fed beef that stars in their burgers and steaks. Artisans Grill offers a great selection of sandwiches and sides, any of which they will happily pack as a picnic meal you can enjoy at one of the tables in the Hawkbill Greenway Park, only about 50 yards from the Grill. The dinner menu features a good selection of American fare...crab cakes, grilled salmon, grilled steaks, even game every once in a while...all with something to match from the wine or beer list...or, OK...OK...iced tea, water and soft drinks.

Whether for lunch or dinner, here is a vegan alert! If you like grilled portobello mushrooms, then you will love the grilled protobello sandwich served from lunch 'til closing. It is one of my favorites and I have a hard time getting past ordering it whenever I stop there. Come dinner time, however, the grilled protobello is also offered as a dinner entree. If you'll allow me to stretch you imagination just a bit, I'll say that it is a large portobello Napoleon centered on a base of salad. The portobello is grilled to perfection, then filled with layer upon layer of grilled onions, soft, fresh mozzarella and roasted sweet red pepper. The dressing adds the touch of tartness so important to obtaining good depth and complexity of flavors. Anyway, whether you are a vegetarian or steak lover, you'll love the deep flavors and hunger-quenching texture this plate offers at the end of the day...and it is right here in Downtown Luray, only 90 minutes from the Beltway and a mile from world famous Luray Caverns!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Dining In Luray: German Cuisine at A Moment to Remember

Here's another great Luray restaurant we hope you will seek out and enjoy when visiting beautiful down-town Luray, VA.  Remember we are only 90 miles from the DC metro area, but a whole world away from the stress and demands of Beltway living!

There was a time not too long ago...when the wall was up...and our guards were up...and when Check Point Charlie was recognizable round the world...a time when rounding just about any corner in West Berlin meant encountering a wurst vendor's cart where the offering included, among other things, curry wurst:  a done-just-right sausage steeped in a curry sauce and then slathered with the sauce and add- your-own mustard to make a memorable sausage sandwich right there on the sidewalk.

Well, the wall is gone, our guards eye a different horizon and Charlie is hardly more memorable than the faint perfume of bygone years and us youngsters shagging into the wee hours to Beach and Motown music.  But for those who long for a-moment-in-time-rememberance of that strange concoction, melded together in an isolated-multicultural-city-caldron, there is curry wurst...and a lot more German fare to enjoy...only 90 minutes from the Beltway and one mile from world famous Luray Caverns...right here at A Moment to Remember, 55 Mains Street, Luray, VA.  22835.!!!

How strange as I sit down to write today that I feel the urge to stream my thoughts and talk about food through a looking glass of nostalgia, sensing the slow infusion of memories of Germany and the plates loaded with home-fries, with tight-bound  pork shoulder and hot, steaming wursts weeping hints of the taste delights to come.  Perhaps it is the thought of the connection between the buildings that are now home to A Moment to Remember and South Court Inn:  both built by the same man, both now re-purposed to other lives and views of different horizons.  Whatever it be, do plan on enjoying the years' ago decoration of this old building...the the pressed tin ceilings, the dark, oak, service counter of the 1880s, a counter which saw many a bag of nails and screws cross on their way to other habitats in Town...the large bank of drawers and cubbies that were the transient homes where nails and screws and hinges and clips and hardware rested until called to duty, waiting to be wrapped in newspaper or placed in bags to ease the transition.  Do plan a visit because you'll enjoy John and Elka Thomas' third-career adventure and good German fare to boot.  Do plan on having dinner at A Moment to Remember because the food is good!  Do plan on having dinner at A Moment to Remember because we need to reward folks who will come to Luray and offer good ethnic food to a meat and potatoes palate.  Do plan on dinner at A Moment to Remember! 

As usual, Anita and I have to head it two different directions.  She seems to always take the road opposite mine and enjoys one of the schnitzels...smokey mushrooms, tender pork, browned here and there...a slice of ham, perhaps...or a fried egg...all topped with brown gravy...and sidled up to by just cooked, blond spatzle and sweet-tart red cabbage.  I, on the other hand, have to ride hard on the right and chase memories of those bygone wursts from grill to platter to table.  Hard by I want strong mustard, dill-infused potato salad, red cabbage and reisling or Spaten, or Haker Pschoor or Grolsch even.  On other evenings, Elke makes it harder to choose our favorite, whether the schnitzel or wursts, by offerings of sauerbraten or rouladen.  Both are good; do plan on having dinner at A Moment to Remember.

And, then too, do plan on stopping with us here in Luray, VA, at South Court Inn.  We'll offer a quiet location for the two of you to burrow and enjoy memories of things past, of the sights and sounds that tip your automatic response recall into overdrive and release the mental flow of ease and joy.  Do plan to stay at South Court Inn and when you do and when you ask, we'll tell you that you do need to plan on having dinner at A Moment to Remember.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Dining in Luray: Picnic Along the Luray Hawksbill Greenway Park

Today's discussion highlights one of Luray restaurants, or in this case a great full-service deli.

It is interesting answering the phone here at South Court Inn. I never know what to expect. I'm constantly amazed at how many callers are not aware that the Town of Luray even exists! Many years ago, the State built a 4-lane highway that by-passes downtown Luray and hundreds of thousands of people visit Luray Caverns each year without realizing that the Town is only a mile away. That's a real shame because they are missing the opportunity to enjoy a beautiful Main Street...one that is becoming more attractive all the time. In particular, they are missing one of the prize-winning attributes of the Town...the Hawksbill Greenway.

The Greenway is a 3-mile walking path/park that meanders along the sides of the Hawksbill Creek, which bisects the Town. If you plan ahead a bit and pack a picnic and fishing equipment/license, you can spend part of your afternoon picnicing on the Hawksbill Greenway and fishing for trout in the Creek itself. You'll be surprised just how many citizens you encounter in the Park...it is a strong point of civic pride here in Luray and a fantastic place for the morning and evening constitutionals so many residents take.

Now, just suppose you don't pack a picnic...you are in luck. Luray is adding more eateries all the time and has several that will be happy to pack sandwiches, salads, snacks...whatever...for you to take to the Greenway and enjoy while whiling away in the sun.

If you like a great Ruben sandwich, make sure you visit Bill at the West Main Market, 123 West Main Street, Luray, VA 22835. Add a pint of mustard potato salad and a bag of kettle potato chips and you'll be in for a real treat. Bill piles the corned beef high and heats the sandwich almost to boiling. The cheese oozes, the kraut sizzles and the aroma wafts! As I said, you are in for a treat...all because your decided to visit Downtown, Luray, VA!!!

And while you are at it, think about making your visit a getaway at South Court Inn B&B. You're stressed at work; you're maxed out with rush hour traffic; you're tired of having every minute scheduled or eaten up by something in the way. One of South Court Inn's claim to fame is that is provides elegant accommodations, a laid-back atmosphere and some knock-your-socks-off breakfasts.

You don't have to do anything...just make a reservation and plan on relaxing when you get here! Hope to hear from you soon!!!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Things to Do in Luray: Attend Luray's Festival of Spring 9 May 2010

Mark your calendars for 9 May 2010 and plan on giving Mom a day out of the house Saturday before Mother's Day.

Bring the whole family and enjoy a day of family fun, craft and food vendors, games for the kids, canine frisbee, a wine garden and a beer garden, plus outstanding live music all day long.

And, since yours truly heads up ticket sales for the Big Quack Duck Race, make sure to look for the air-blown duck balloon and buy your ticket for the winning duck. We'll also have a list of the prizes and race times, so stop by and say hello.

The 2010 Festival is the latest edition of what has become the first of our annual street fairs. We'll do it again on July 4th, when the bridge on Main Street and the Greenway walking path will sport large crowds from afternoon until the fireworks exhibition just after dark.

For the Festival of Spring and the Family Fun Day on July 4th, we seal off several blocks of Main Street and set up vendors, entertainers and educational activities on the street an along the Hawksbill Greenway, our creekside walking trail and park that bisects the Town. So, make plans now to attend the Festival of Spring and watch us grow!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Luray and Shenandoah Valley Triathlon Scheduled 5 June 2010

Two Triathlons this Year! OK, for all those folks who always wanted to compete/complete a triathlon, here's your chance...and it is only 90 miles but a whole world away from the metro buzz of life.

The Luray/Shenandoah Valley Triathlon scheduled for June 5, 2010 will cover the same route as the previous Fall races, but give participants a chance to see the Valley as it peaks from Spring growth. Get your application and information at the posted link and consider signing up for the Fall race...the Luray International Triathlon...scheduled for August 14, 2010. Keep in mind that the 2009 Fall race was oversubscribed and folks had to join the spectators along the route rather than run the race.

And, of course, if you plan on staying 2 nights the weekends of any of the Luray Triathlon events, we sure hope you will call us here at South Court Inn (888-749-8055) and reserve one or more of our rooms and cottage which have whirlpool tubs. We'll be happy to schedule massages for you as well.