Friday, November 23, 2012

Our Southern Winter Wonderlands Adventure Begins

 November 23, 2012
Anniston, Alabama
We are on a pilgrimage to Bosque del Apache in New Mexico--a wildlife refuge where tens of thousands of cold-loving birds winter over, creating a nature photographers’ mecca.  We are taking eleven days to get there, building time to find joy in the journey.

Our first stop is in Anniston, Alabama, where we stay at the Victoria Inn, a grand discovery from our Search for Elvis Tour this past summer.  

We are the only guests in the dining room, so the restaurant owner/chef Alan Martin has time to step out from the kitchen to chat and provide cooking tips between courses. He grew up here, and first worked as a bus boy at this restaurant when he was in high school.  He studied engineering in college, but switched to culinary arts, worked as a chef in some fancy Birmingham restaurants, then got the opportunity to buy the Victoria Restaurant and be back home in Anniston. He jumped at the chance, and now he has the only upscale restaurant in town.

Apparently, the town folk only come here for special occasions.  We are the only ones dining here tonight, and there was only one other couple in the dining room the last time we were here.  We were kind of worried about the place surviving, but after Alan told us about some of his recent catering work, including a wedding dinner with a $3,600 caviar bar, we think he is probably doing okay.

His pan sautéed foie gras served with a roasted pear is the best we have had anywhere, except for maybe one restaurant in Paris, then he brings us out a steamy bowl of earthy rich golden chanterelle mushroom risotto to try just because he knows we will appreciate it after we rave over his foie gras.  Mushroom risotto is one of my specialties, but I readily admit his is better.  Now that he has told me his secrets (really good mushroom stock and a truffle oil finish, in addition to those golden chanterelles), I am game to imitate and innovate, based on his divine model.

Wonderful as our dinner is, we skip dessert, but only because we have a couple pieces of the apple pie Dick made for Thanksgiving waiting for us back in the room.  It is the perfect ending to a perfect meal.

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