Chris Muir's Day By Day

Monday, August 29, 2016

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Restaurant Review: Midwood Smokeshack, Matthews, NC

Midwood Smokeshack is an offshoot of the very successful Charlotte, NC barbecue restaurant Midwood Smokehouse, which now has several locations in the Charlotte area. Unlike the Smokehouse, the Smokeshack is smaller, with a more limited menu, no table service, and only beer/soft drinks instead of a full bar.

The menu for Midwood Smokeshack can be found here. Basically the Smokeshack saves prep time by only offering items that can be cooked in the wood-fired smokers; none of the burgers or steaks that can be found in the full-sized Smokehouse. The Midwood Smokeshack is, in fact, very similar to the Charlotte location of Q Shack: order at the counter as you enter, take your food to the table, bus it yourself afterwards, just as in a fast-food restaurant.

Today I ordered the brisket sandwiches, which are made with Texas Toast instead of rolls or buns, along with some red onion. You can even get them with cheese, if you prefer. As at the full-sized Midwood Smokehouse locations, you are offered a choice of lean brisket, fatty brisket, or a mix of both. I got the mix. They really load the sandwich up with a lot of meat - - I ordered two sandwiches, thinking that they would skimp on the meat, and was unable to finish both of them. With a sandwich you also get one side, I saw that they offer cornbread, so I got that (no hushpuppies here at the Smokeshack, unfortunately). The cornbread came in individual ramekin size, slightly sweet, and with small pieces of hot pepper tucked inside, so that one breaks out in a sudden sweat from eating cornbread. I quite liked this cornbread.

The restaurant only opened for business last week, so there were still a lot of management types circulating through the place, as well as having important-looking discussions at a couple of the tables. Since the lunch rush was already over when I arrived (2 o'clock hour), the staff actually outnumbered the customers.

I'd say that Midwood Smokeshack is more of a lunch/takeout place than it is a dinner date location, unless you are a really dedicated barbecue fan. It's in a space that was originally used by a Five Guys burger joint, with a Domino's Pizza next to it. There is competition right across the street in the form of Queen City Q, which is bigger, has a full menu, as well as a full bar, so the dinner crowd will gravitate there, presumably. I've eaten at Queen City Q, though, and their barbecue is much inferior to that of Midwood Smokeshack.

I'll give Midwood Smokeshack a 4 on my 5-scale of restaurants: good; tasty, well-prepared food, staff alert, restaurant clean. I'll hold off on giving it a higher score as it is a new restaurant and I need to see how it performs once the new is worn off.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Shipwreck Blog: French 16th-Century Ships, Cape Canaveral

Probably linked to the very earliest colonial efforts by the French in Florida: Fort Caroline, built by Jean Ribault and destroyed by the Spanish.

A private treasure salvage company says it’s found a shipwreck, buried in sand under the ocean off Cape Canaveral, that could be linked to the lost French colony of Fort Caroline.

Global Marine Exploration Inc. has discovered scattered evidence of a historic wreck that includes some tantalizing clues: three French bronze cannons, at least one of which has markings from the time of the colony, and a French granite monument adorned with that country’s coat of arms.

The monument is similar to the one French captain Jean Ribault put near the mouth of the St. Johns River in 1562 as he staked his nation’s claim to Florida. Its whereabouts have been a mystery for centuries.

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Day That Heat Left Summer...

...has arrived:

It's today! The annual Day the Heat Left Summer in Charlotte! Once a year about this time, you will have a single day in which the weather goes from summer-normal - - washed out skies, temperatures in the high 90's, high humidity - - to something far nicer - - clear blue skies without a single cloud, temperature down in the 80's, low humidity. It's startling how quickly the change occurs. Oh, this doesn't mean that summer is over, or that there won't be hot/humid periods again - - but the corner has been turned.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Fast & Furious Blogger Mike Vanderboegh Dead of Cancer

Mike Vanderboegh, a prepper/III percent blogger who, along with fellow gun blogger David Codrea and CBS journalist Sharyl Atkisson exposed the Obama administration's "Operation Fast & Furious" gunwalking plot, has died after a long battle with cancer.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Copperhead Feeding Behavior

In summertime, it's possible that you might encounter large numbers of Copperheads feeding on baby cicada insects as they emerge from the roots of trees.

Each summer, usually beginning around the first of June and continuing into September, cicada larvae that have spent their developmental period burrowed in the soil around the tree roots on which they feed, begin emerging for their metamorphosis into adults.

The larvae, looking like hump-backed beetles, begin digging their way to the surface around dusk. They emerge from the ground, crawl to the nearest vertical structure (usually a tree), climb a foot or two up the trunk, their "shell" splits along its back and the adult cicada works its way out.

Some of the highest-volume movements of cicada larvae are to large oak trees on lawns. These nocturnal emergences of cicada larvae are like the opening of an all-you-can-eat dinner for some wildlife. Yellow-crowned night herons are one of the species that regularly prey on emerging cicada larvae. Copperheads are another. And when the cicada dinner bell rings, it can draw a copper-colored, fanged crowd.

Amazing that this wasn't known before now. There's still plenty to learn in this old world of ours.

Thanks to Brock at Free North Carolina for linking it.

Blessed Are the Cheesemakers...

...there are so few good ones.

Thomas Merton put them on the map. Their fruitcakes are definitely not the kind to re-gift. And their fudge is just about as heavenly as fudge can get.

But the Abbey of Gethsemani, near Bardstown, Kentucky, is dropping one of the products whose sale has supported the monastery for years.

Because of the dwindling number of monks, the production of cheese recently came to an end, according to a report by WDRD.

Founded in 1848, Gethsemani is one of the oldest monasteries in the United States and attracts visitors from all over the world.

They may be attracting visitors from all over the world, but they aren't attracting vocations. People view monastic retreats as a spiritual vacation, not a life that they want to live. There are many reasons for this - - secularization of the US population, the catholic priest pedophile scandal, inability to come to grips with social media and the need to advertise their existence, strict bars to entry. Where are the 21st-century Mertons to draw the vocations?

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Restaurant Review: BarBee's Bar-B-Que, Peachland, NC

Haven't done a barbecue joint review in a while, time to get back into the habit since I have a reliable car again. BarBee's is a small country barbecue restaurant right off of US 74, the main highway from Charlotte to the Carolina coastline and Wilmington. BarBee's is in Peachland:

It's easy to miss the turn-off coming from Charlotte, and I did so, driving nearly to Wadesboro before turning around and approaching from the other direction. Here's the road sign:

No other signage is in evidence, so the place can be hard to notice; since they have a regular local crowd, that may be what the management desires. There was a portable smoker parked out by the road sign:

There was a half-dozen cars in front of the place, a pretty good-sized crowd for a small place like this. As I looked for a parking slot I noticed several cats in evidence around the restaurant; don't know if they were restaurant cats or feral. Around back was a large, fresh woodpile, a promising note:

There was also a large propane tank, which may or not mean the use of propane smokers:

Menu. In addition to barbecue, the restaurant offers hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken and fish. The menu states that the barbecue is cooked over hickory, but this doesn't mean that gas or electricity aren't the primary heat source, with wood being used only for flavor. The waitress, a teenager, professed not to know.

The interior was handsome, with a narrow dining area, booths along each wall, a couple of small tables in the center. The walls were paneled and roofed with 4" boards stained a honey color. Three windows looked onto a second dining room the same size as the primary, but with glass windows and a view of the parking lot. I didn't photograph the interior, not wanting a flash to disturb my fellow diners.

I ordered a large pork plate, with red slaw, fries and hush puppies. It came out in about 10-12 minutes, presumably the time it took to cook the fries and hush puppies.

The barbecue was chopped fine, with no outside brown in evidence, all interior meat, not much of a smoke smell or taste, and in fact the meat was served Lexington-style, with vinegar-based "dip" already poured over the meat before it's brought out. It was properly hot, temperature-wise. The red slaw had been ladled onto the plate with an unslotted spoon, and thus was sitting in a small puddle of vinegar/brine. Normally a slotted spoon is used to ladle slaw onto the plate so as to not risk spillage. The fries were straight-cut and seasoned (they can be ordered seasoned or plain), and it was a a relief from the usual BBQ joint crinkle-cuts, which I rather dislike. The hush puppies were the size of shooter marbles and tasty, just the right size to pop into the mouth. The drink I ordered was diet Pepsi, which comes in cans at BarBee's.

The tables in the restaurant weren't fully stocked with sauces and napkins. The waitress brought sauce to some of the tables while I waited for my food, but not to all of them; mine went without, so I can't comment on the sauces. One of the tables went without napkins, which were a roll of paper towels on an upright spindle.

The customers were seemingly all regulars; at one point a female, presumably the manager, came out to banter with three men at one of the tables; apparently one of the men was fortunate not to be getting his leg amputated. Another man who came in was wearing a stained white t-shirt with prominent dark armpit stains, he went to a table in the outer dining area.

I'll give BarBee's Bar-B-Que of Peachland, NC a 3 on my 5-scale for food quality (average) and a 2 on my 5-scale for service (desultory).