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Archive for the ‘Excursion’ Category

Tuesday, January 17, 2012 @ 08:01 AM

Well another year has come and gone and Pop Culture Cuisine is officially a two years old!  This year our lives have changed dramatically in many ways, including the addition of a new family member.  We also may not have traveled as far as in the past, but Adam and I still love finding new ways to seek out culinary hot spots wherever our travels take us.  We have compiled a list of some of our favorite and not so favorite spots to share with you with links so you can read our reviews for yourself.  We STILL love food and hope to continue to share lots of great finds with you all along the way.

Signature Dish:


1. Al’s Beef’s “Italian Beef Sandwich” – Chicago, IL

2. Kim & Scott’s Café Twist’s “Twist Your Own” – Chicago, IL

3. The Varsity’s “Chili Dog” – Atlanta, GA




1. Hot Doug’s – Chicago, IL

2. Al’s Beef – Chicago, IL

3. The Depot American Diner – Chicago, IL




1. The Walnut Room – Chicago, IL

2. Slow’s Bar-BQ – Detroit, MI

3. Lynn’s Paradise Café – Louisville, KY



1. Tufano’s Vernon Park TapJoe and his staff – Chicago, IL

2. KouzzinaJohn – Orlando, FL

3. Emeril’sSpencer – Orlando, FL




1. The Varsity – Atlanta, GA

2. Al’s Beef – Chicago, IL

3. South Side Soda Shop – Goshen, IN


Overall Top 5:


1. Al’s Beef – Chicago, IL

2. Hot Doug’s – Chicago, IL (A VERY close 2nd place)

3. The Walnut Room – Chicago, IL

4. Kouzzina – Orlando, FL

5. Emeril’s – Orlando, FL

Top 5 Biggest Letdowns…Not worth the Hype:


1. The Whale’s Rib – Deerfield Beach, FL

2. Brennan’s – New Orleans, LA

3. Camp Washington – Cincinnati, OH

4. Graeter’s – Cincinnati, OH

5. The Loveless Café – Nashville, TN

Best of the Rest…Honorable Mention:


Most Fun Kim & Scott’s Café Twist – Chicago, IL


Most Memorable Kouzzina – Orlando, FL


Most Worth the Wait Hot Doug’s – Chicago, IL


Most Outrageous Dish Bub’s Burgers – Carmel, IN


Best Excursion Epcot International Food and Wine Festival – Orlando. FL


Best Sandwich (Burgers Included) The Depot American Diner – Chicago, IL


Best Sweet Treat Emeril’s – Orlando, FL

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Monday, January 9, 2012 @ 06:01 AM

030Entering our 3rd year of Pop Culture Cuisine, I think it’s time we finally heard from the other member of the PCC team…my husband Adam. He’s always been a big contributor to blog, but this time we hear from him personally. This past summer, he and my father took a trip to the Labrot & Graham-Woodford Reserve Distillery and took a tour; and since I wasn’t along for the trip but think it’s definitely PCC worthy, Adam’s agreed to fly this one solo….Enjoy!

Hello loyal PCC readers! I know…that is a very corny way to start, but I’m not exactly the blogger of the family. Still, I’m very happy to be talking to all of you and share something that is a passion of mine…bourbon! Any of you that know me know I’m not exaggerating on the ‘passion’ part; and what better way to kick off the New Year then how we typically celebrate…liquor. Winking smile

This past summer, my father-in-law and I got the pleasure of an afternoon at the Woodford Reserve Distillery in Versailles, KY. Originally known as the Oscar Pepper Distillery, it was founded by Elijah Pepper in 1797, making it the oldest distillery in Kentucky, something special in and of itself. However, throughout the years it has come to be known for much more like its origination of the ‘Sour Mash’ and pot still distillation processes so imperative to bourbon making, and more recently as the “Official Bourbon” of the world famous Kentucky Derby. In essence…Woodford is a pretty big deal in the world of distilled spirits; so when Art (my father in law) suggested we go and do the tour…I was in.


Located in the heart of Kentucky’s Bluegrass Region, the area where the distillery (actually known as the Labrot & Graham-Woodford Reserve Distillery because of the company which ran the distillery for the majority of its history) is located is absolutely breathtaking, and the old limestone buildings that make up the distillery fit right in. Walking up to the main visitor’s center surrounded by the scenery of the old limestone structures set into wooded hills, I was very impressed and already in the “spirit.” What’s more impressive….the tour we were about to take is only $5.00!



The tour starts off at the old still house where you get a little tutorial about bourbon & the history of Woodford Reserve (bourbon is a heavily regulated spirit that must meet certain criteria to be called such).



Once inside the still house, they have a display of many of the old distilling equipment from the 1800’s which is pretty neat to see. The tour takes you through the still house and the steps it takes for grain & water to become bourbon.


You go from the mash bins, which that day were actually fermenting the mash (don’t get to close or you’ll pass out from the carbon dioxide!)…


…to the pot stills where the actual distilling process occurs…



…the area where they fill the bourbon into charred American white oak barrels for aging…


……the aging house, where the bourbon receives its character and flavor (all bourbon is originally clear before it is aged)…


And finally…the bottling area, where the final product is tested and finishing touches are put on to sell to you and me.



At the end of the day, this tour takes a good 45 minutes…worth every second! Seeing the process up close is kind of amazing and actually gave me a bigger respect for the industry. To stop and think…the process of taking a grain and turning it into a smooth flavorful liquid and something so many enjoy (responsibly) Winking smile is pretty remarkable. I’m just glad I got to see it for myself.


SIGNATURE DISH: Bourbon. Woodford Reserve sells standard (and most common) Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky (aged at least 6 years), their Master’s Collection (released once a year), and the Master Distiller’s ‘Personal Selection’ (must be ordered special each year).

TASTE: Although Woodford is not my favorite bourbon, many people swear by it…including my business partner and good friend, Neil Graves. It has a somewhat spicy finish, which is attributed to its above average Rye content. This is mostly what I don’t like about it, although for those that are Woodford drinkers, this is what sets it above the rest and makes it their “go to” drink….wouldn’t you agree Neil?

AMBIANCE: Of all the cuisine/distillery tours we’ve been on, this was easily the best…even better than the Anheuser –Busch tour. Perhaps it is because I’ve grown into such a bourbon enthusiast or the scenery where the distillery is. Regardless, it is a beautiful place and great tour!

PRICE: $5.00…How can you beat that!!! Definitely a bonus in my book…if only Woodford Reserve was that much in the store? Open-mouthed smile

SERVICE: Our tour guide was very informative and gave a great tour of the facility. Also, for those who are new to bourbon, she did a great job of explaining the basics. Finally, the best “service” was at the end, when we each got a free serving of their Straight Bourbon Whisky…and we even got to keep the shot glass!

In short…I really enjoyed the tour, plus it was good time with my father in law geeking out about bourbon & history, something we both really enjoy. So I’ll say it again, this process which allows us to “sip our corn” is kind of amazing…I’m just glad I got to see up close.

As an experience that I highly recommend…I give the Labrot & Graham-Woodford Reserve Distillery & Tour 5 ‘Little Piggies’


Monday, June 6, 2011 @ 07:06 AM

2We finally have some warmer weather on our hands, and considering we are now into June, I would say it’s about time.  And it’s nice weather like this that takes me back to last summer, when there was lots of fun to be had.  One such fun was an excursion that is fitting with the weather…HOT!

This next stop is not exactly for a specific dish in particular, but rather a condiment that in the culinary world is well known and loved by many…Tabasco!  There are many knock-offs and even competitors nowadays to this little bottle of heat, but what we learned was that the original and still most famous continues to outshine them all; and while I’ll admit I am not a fan of the hot sfuff, I am always up for a little history and knowledge of a food related product.  So when we realized while in New Orleans we happened to be near the famed home and production line of Tabasco, we knew we should make a stop in on our jaunt back to Dallas.









The tour itself isn’t really that great (just a short 5 minute history lesson from a guide, that same lesson on a marketing video, then a quick walk past the production lines through a hallway with windows into the factory).  However, the information you receive is pretty cool.  What I found baffling is how popular this sauce really is!  I’m talkin’ worldwide, if all 4 of their production lines are running, they will bottle 700,000 2 oz. bottles each day!  Yes…I said it…., in a day!  I mean, I knew this stuff was popular, but Adam and I were both shocked when we heard just how popular.




So while this tour is far from extensive and there really isn’t much to see, I still found it interesting to hear more history behind the product, and found it so very fascinating that this special pepper and its sauce was created right here in the United States.  Also, while this operation hardly seems large in comparison to many other factories in the world, they are churning out a heck of a lot of hot sauce each day.

Finally, the grounds of the island are really neat too.  On the property where the bottling building is located is also their county store, which is a fun experience to be able to see just how many other Tabasco products have since been created, including other flavors of their sauce.  I had a good time going down the line from mild to Tabasco and even beyond…trying all of the variations.  They even have other dishes (LIKE ICE CREAM!!!), that has been infused with Tabasco flavor.  So what I’m getting at is for the Tabasco love, and believe me there are tons, this is the one stop shop!


SIGNATURE DISH: Well although they aren’t known for a dish per se, they are known for a pretty famous item…, Tabasco.  And the McIlhenny family has been doing that name proud for generations.  With fans around the world and the introduction of new varieties each year, they continue to grow this brand beyond belief.

TASTE: While I am not particularly a fan, I knew I had to visit simply for posterities sake.  I am simply what you might dub a “wuss” when it comes to anything hot or spicy, and while the flavor intrigues me, it never intrigues me enough to want to dump it all over my food, like many Tabasco loves do…., I mean on anything!  But, I will say it does come in quite handy around our house for a famed family bbq sauce recipe/marinade, so I still put it to good use…, just sparingly!

AMBIANCE: This was the gem of the experience.  This property is very scenic and beautiful; and while I would have loved the chance to go and actually see all of the pepper plants themselves, the two main buildings where the Tabasco is bottled are quite historic looking and charming.  The country store is equally as appealing; and as I said, while there isn’t a TON to do on your visit, if you have a free afternoon, this is a fun free activity to do.

PRICE: Free is always good in my book, especially where a tour is involved.  While this tour wasn’t near as exciting as a brewery tour with free beer at the end, it was still a good deal.  Also, if you are an avid fan (or even just a small fan) of this original hot sauce, the country store may be where you end up spending those bucks, because they can certainly wheel you in with every possible item with the Tabasco logo you could possibly want.  In the end, however, if you have some self control you will come out unscathed.

SERVICE: Every employee we encountered on our visit was very helpful and informative…cheerful even.  Those that led our tour were able to answer any question we may have had and those that worked in the store were happy to let you try just about anything you wanted.

Overall, we had a nice little detour to Avery Island, the home of Tabasco.  And like I mentioned before, it is worth just a quick stop in if you have a minute or two while traveling…just something neat to say you’ve seen.  3 1/2 ‘Little Piggies’


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