Sunday, August 16, 2009

Vinegar Pie??? We're Game!

The weather has been mild this summer, until a few weeks ago when we finally started having the typical 90+ degree heat and humidity. It's well known here in East Tennessee that August brings beautiful days but scorching heat. It's for this reason that we found ourselves on a Saturday drive this past weekend instead of on our usual outdoor walkabouts.

Saturday brought blue skies, and the clouds that were overhead were the large fluffy type that you want to curl up and nap on. We absolutely had to get out and do something. It didn't take long before we decided what the best choice was.

After a long day mowing two yards and cleaning out some hip-high weeds, we were hungry and hot. The air conditioner of the car and a nice country meal was calling our names. We packed ourselves in our maroon Chevy Malibu like sardines (mom & dad came along too) and headed towards Clinch Mountain and the nice restaurant we had heard was at the crest.

From the homestead, we took Hwy 33 North to Hwy 61 East to TN 131. We followed TN 131 for quite a ways. It's definitely a great drive, but the road is narrow and curvy. Makes for great scenery though as you follow the Clinch Mountains through the valley in Grainger County out towards Thorn Hill. The farmland is breathtaking, and there are plenty of beautiful, "Kodak moments" if you happen to like that sort of thing. And don't forget to look for quilts on the barns along the way. There are plenty to be seen in Grainger County, one of the largest participating Appalachain Quilt Trail counties.

At the end of TN 131, turn onto 25E to go up the mountain. There are two ways up to cross over the Clinch Mountains (that are passable by cars) and this is one of them. The other is on Joppa Mountain, but we'll save that for another day.

As Clinch Mountain crests, there is a very accessible lookout parking area. Veteran's Lookout to be exact. The view is astounding. Make sure you stop in to look down on Cherokee Lake, Morristown and Bean Station.

Also, while you are there, and if you can take your eyes off the view long enough, make sure you look at all the fossils in the rock that make up the stone wall guard rail. Long ago, when they were blasting the area to make way for the road, they found all those fossils in the rock. They used this to build the wall. Although it has been extremely vandalized over the years, we did find a few fossils without marks on them, which you can gander at in the photos below.

After taking a few moments at the lookout, we turned our backs on the view in favor of filling our bellies. The Clinch Mountain Lookout Restaurant, "Home of the Vinegar Pie" sits right at the side of the lookout.

Now don't let the sight of this place fool you. We know there are some folks that won't eat at a place that's not as fancy-smancy on the outside as the inside. But if you're reading this blog, you probably don't mind if the paint's not fresh and the wood boards are chipped.

Upon arriving, we were greeted with smiling, friendly faces. We arrived around 5:30pm and didn't leave till nearly 7:00pm. Please note that they are open 7 days a week, open at 7:00am and must close by 7:00pm since we found the closed sign had been turned upon on leaving.

We were not the only people there, but there wasn't many. We chose a table at the back and found that they have a music venue set up back there. From what we've gathered on the Internets, they have live Bluegrass music each and ev'ry Friday night.

We were promptly attended to by a wonderful, jolly lady who probably thought we were food critics of some kind since we were taking pictures of everything and asking many questions about the menu.

She requested our drink order. They serve Pepsi products, tea, & coffee. We had a chance then to look over the menu while she got our beverages. They serve a variety of items, but the menu's not huge. Prices are very reasonable, taste is country-to-the-bone, and breakfast is served all day. Friday is all-you-can-eat fish fry, and Saturday is all-you-can-eat chicken fingers. Four of us opted for the country fried steak with brown gravy. You get two sides with a dinner platter, and between the four of us we chose mashed potatoes, fried okra, soup beans, and coleslaw. You also get a biscuit or corn-muffin with your supper. It's an enormous amount of food for the price you pay, and we even brought some food home! Ashby opted for the BLT and some mozzarella sticks, both of which she thought was the best she'd ever had.

After stuffing ourselves with some of the best home-cooked food we'd had in quite some time, we took our chances at blowing up and ordered dessert. Two pieces of vinegar pie, two pieces of strawberry-rhubarb pie, and one strawberry ice cream cone were delivered to our table promptly.

Now if you've never had vinegar pie, and if you're scratching your head right about now like we did, you need a little history lesson. Back in the time of the Depression, lemons were scarce. So people started using vinegar instead of lemon juice. Thus, vinegar pie. It looks just like lemon pie, but it definitely has a distinct flavor. Too distinctive for me (Robin). It was definitely different. Not really bad, but unappealing to my palette. Tim and dad liked it though. Ashby thought it was okay. Mom wouldn't even try it and stuffed her mouth full of the strawberry-rhubarb, which I thought was most excellent. As for Ashby's ice-cream - well it was no little Baskin & Robbins scoop. It was quite large, just like all the other portions we had encountered.

At the end of our meal, our waitress (whom I regretfully did not request her name) brought us a box for our leftovers and a tab for $51.00. Can't beat that with a stick. After the tip (and we typically tip way more than 15% in places like this) the meal was roughly $12.40 per person. Not bad - not bad at all.

With our bellies stuffed, and a nap ensuing, we headed for home. This time we took 25E towards Tazewell and took 33 South home. It was an excellent summertime journey with many things learned, lots of memories formed, and a flavor our tastebuds will never forget.

The Lookout

Mom and Dad

The View

Aww... Kissing the rugrat

Peepaw and Ashby


YAY! More Fossils

Nuff Said

The gang minus one.
(Someone had to take the photo)

You don't see this at some fancy-smancy restaurant.

The Menu Pg.1

The Menu Pg. 2

Mmmm.. Food!!!

Mmmm... More Food!!!

Mmmm...Vinegar Pie!!!

Mmmm...Strawberry Rhubarb Pie!!!

Mmmm...Strawberry Ice Cream!!!

Look! They even have cabins.