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Saturday, July 2, 2011

rewind, review

Today, my mom came up to celebrate my birthday with me by visiting the Humbolt Winery and eating at Dixie Cafe downtown.

Humbolt Winery (pictures above) is beautiful. It reminded me of something out of Spain. It was large so I was hoping for quite the winery experience. As seems customary for wineries, there was a dog. A black retriever, perhaps? The dog was kind. It stayed away from you unless you asked for something else. Even then, it was gentle. Old? Tired? Kind. The store in the lobby or whatnot of the winery was nice. The items were cute, the prices okay. I bought a magnet for me and another for a friend. I bought napkins that say, "I cook with wine. Sometimes, I put it in the food." Brilliant! That describes me (almost) to a tee. I like the wine while cooking more than I do with the food. lol. I cook and drink the better of my choices for dining given the night's menu. I bought one package of napkins thinking I'll like to use them if I manage to have that wine tasting pot luck for my 30th bday. The wine and staff of this Crown Winery in Humbolt are all a different story than the rest of my experience there.

Crown Winery features something like 13 wines for tasting. In the beginning, they were BAD. A white, male/female couple began tasting wines just before we arrived. They were on wine 3. The lady pouring put them on pause so mom and I could catch up. We 4 went through 3 red wines liking none of them. Vino Buono was a "maybe" for me, then came another no. In the end, there were 3 wines I considered for purchase and two that got mom's attention (1 overlap). We both agreed that the Solo Mio was okay. We wouldn't buy it for our collections but agreed that it was a good, safe choice when taking a wine to someone's house for dinner. It was safe, not great. The lady that poured took away glasses with haste, something I have not seen at any of the other 3 or 4 wineries I've visited. I realize that's not a lot for comparison's sake but they all had something in common: the employees went with the flow of the customer to try to make a sell. Not the lady at Crown. She took away the glasses then told the couple to meet her at the register once they decided what they wanted to buy. Mom and I compared notes, then decided to browse their delightful store before making our decision. I suggested retesting the 4 I liked and 2 she liked before making our final decision. I asked the lady that poured about a tour-- she gave a half answer and turned to walk away. I asked for clarity. She turned back, turn, run. Once more! Blah. We'll get no tour, mom and I decided. Then I whispered, do you want to go the winery that has good wine? A few of these were okay but the other one's BETTER. "Okay" was her shocking response.

In the car, mom said something that I should have instantly noted: the lady doesn't like blacks. Racist. (Go work somewhere in a hole where we don't come, ma'am). A young, black couple came in after us but a jolly man helped them with their wine tasting. The woman said nothing to them. She interacted with the couple some during our tasting. She spoke to mom and I only when requested. She was rude. I noticed her rudeness and wrote it off to her being one of those people. With mom's statement, I saw the truth. She really wasn't rude or short to the white couple, only us.

Using our (horrible!) "good" directional intuition, mom and I hopped on the road and headed to Jackson's own Century Farms Winery. I love that place. I enjoy it more with each subsequent visit. Today's trip made visit #3. Mom enjoyed their wines as well as the staff. Their strawberry, cayuga, and traminette blow Crown Winery's version of them out of the water. The guy that facilitated our tasting offered us a tour (without us asking!) and showed up the machines they use to make and store wine, the filters to keep out stuff Americans don't like too much, and the vineyards. Mom and I are both inquisitive and I watched him get cut off by her more than once as she asked a new question while he was answering the last. I wouldn't at all be surprised if I did the same thing as I saw how similar she and I are from that interaction. Poor guy. Why not be kind though? He made $125+ from us and making sells is part of why he's there. But, he was kind before he knew we would buy. I mentioned having been there before so yeah, we'd buy something but 4 bottles and things from their store (how much wine stuff can we buy in one day, huh?)?! Sadly, they had some of the same things the other place had and mom and I both agreed we would have preferred to give our money to Century Farms. Apparently, 5 people keep the operation going at Century Farms. We also learned nuggets of information about TN's wine laws. It was a delightful day. I'm glad mom agreed to try that second winery, mostly because it allowed her to leave and say she got a good experience out of our winery trips.

Later that day, we tried Dixie Castle in downtown Jackson. One of my co-workers recommended it for good steak at a good price. First impression? Well, let me forgive their name choice and go to this hole in the wall my work friend recommended. She's white. We're not. Walking towards the dinner, seeing greasy bikers and old white men, I didn't know that this would go well. We entered and waited for part 1. The hostess was taking payments from people done with their meal. Would she address us as soon as she was done or make us wait uncomfortably for a few minutes to ponder if we wanted to stay. We were the only blacks there.

Check point one was good: immediate friendly recognition. We were seated a little short of half-way down this store front restaurant. The ambiance was very casual. It was brightly lit, steak sauce, butter, crackers, ketchup, and silver wear rolled in napkins stuck in a large, plastic cup were all on the table. It looked more like a diner for waffles or sandwiches than a place to find good steak. And, it was a little disconcerting that they kept three types of steak houses on their tables. Most steak houses wait for the customer to request steak sauce, with the goal being to cook a steak so delicious they will not want steak sauce. On we went. The menu was simple, one page long. Five different types of steak, chicken breast, pork chop, or hamburger steak. All meals come with salad and Texas toast. Okay. $11-$16 for steak with a side and salad is not a bad price. It's not especially great in my opinion but it is a little lower than most steak houses would charge.

Course 1: salad. Droopy, iceberg lettece, two onion rings, 2 small cucumbers, 2 tomatoes. Most of you know I don't like vegetables. In the end, I had lettuce with one cucumber and one onion ring. Add cheese. Okay. Not an impressive salad but it is what it is. After all, I was there for the main course.

Course 2: T-Bone steak and baked potato. Loaded is not really extra because a loaded baked potato is not an option. Did you notice how there was no bacon in my salad? Well, they don't have bacon. No bacon, no bacos, keeping it simple. Because I requested cheese, they melted a slice in my potato. Man, I should have photographed that with my camera phone. The sour cream came in a packet like you would get if you ordered a baked potato to go at Back Yard Burger. The butter was in a bowl on the table, nevermind the keep refrigerated label or nasty look it has after sitting out that long. Still moving forward to the steak-- my mom's first reaction was good. She said she didn't need steak sauce for it. I, on the other hand, couldn't have made it through my steak without steak sauce. The meat was oh so tough. It came fast, which we appreciated, but it's possible to get out a fast steak without it being tough as rubber. The steak at Old Hickory Steak House was so much better. On the way to the car, mom said she was glad she wasn't hungry when we got there. I don't think she liked it either. Sometimes, first bites can be deceiving. lol.

The service at Dixie Castle was good. They were friendly and attentive. The menu selection and food itself left more to be desired, however. I give it 2.5 out of 5 stars. In summation, I'd tell you not to bother stopping by. But for me, it was a new experience. Thank God for my mom's willing to put up with me and my new adventures. Neither went so well today but we had a good time nonetheless.

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