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.