Foodie Travels: The Dillard House, Dillard, Ga.

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“If you tell me I can only have salt once from now until the end of time, I would drive up to Dillard, Georgia, and go to The Dillard House, and I would have the country ham.”

That endorsement by popular television food show personality Alton Brown was what initially alerted us, like so many other foodies, to the culinary wonder that is The Dillard House, a now 100-year-old restaurant in the north Georgia mountains, just across the North Carolina state line.

When we investigated the place further, we learned The Dillard House offers overnight accommodations, as well as horseback riding and other activities. Seeking the perfect anniversary getaway, we decided to take advantage of both the opportunity to stay a few nights and to enjoy a farm ride from the stables. But just like our initial discovery, our visit to The Dillard House started with the food. (Big surprise, right?)

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The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner every day of the year. A switchover from lunch to dinner happens about 5 p.m., and we arrived shortly before, still able to take advantage of the slightly less expensive lunch prices and the menu posted on the wall at the entrance.

After drinks were delivered, a cold tray of slaw, marmalade and apple butter arrived at our table. Then came the feast. We found our table suddenly and beautifully covered by fried chicken, pork chops, turkey pot pie, cream corn, lima beans, cabbage casserole, fried potatoes, squash casserole, fried zucchini, yeast rolls and corn mini muffins. Room barely remained for our plates and our elbows.

At this point, if you didn’t get lost in the list of delicious dishes, you may be wondering: Where’s the country ham? Well, it’s available by request, and servers will gladly deliver a plate to your table. It turns out, the ham is delightfully salty, just as Alton Brown advertised, and also has a slightly sweet quality to it.

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As for the rest of the plates and bowls on the table? Everything was scrumptious. The fork-tender fried chicken had a soft and crispy breading to it, which surrounded a meaty and juicy interior. The bone-in pork chops were massive and tender. Every vegetable was fresh, well-seasoned, and the buttery lima beans may have been Molly’s favorite item of everything on the menu. We enjoyed it all from our little two-person table in the corner, which was a nice surprise.

Most seating at The Dillard House is family-style, which means you may dine with strangers around a big table where everything on the menu is delivered. Since we were on an anniversary getaway, it was nice to have our own space. We even enjoyed an apple betty—slightly crisp and tart apples paired with a crunchy topping—a la mode.

There was only one problem at the end of our meal. We couldn’t finish even half of our food.

Luckily, like the table, The Dillard House has that covered, too. You can request a few takeout boxes and carry the remaining part of your meal home with you. The leftovers provided a great dinner the next night, easy to reheat in our microwave in the chateau in which we stayed in Dillard. Being able to take food with us was nice because it makes The Dillard House an even better value for your money, and we never like seeing food go to waste!

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So, if you’re looking for a good, filling meal to enjoy with your spouse, a few friends or your whole family, do as Alton Brown does. Drive to Dillard, Georgia, and enjoy a meal at The Dillard House. Don’t forget to ask for the country ham!

The Dillard House, 768 Franklin St., Dillard, Georgia

Simple Dark Chocolate Hummus Dip

Dark Chocolate Hummus

Who doesn’t like to snack? Even if you eat filling meals, there are times when you crave a little something to keep you from fighting intense hunger until the next one. Growing up in our Southern home we called snacks or small meals something to “tide us over.”

Sometimes we desire something salty like a chip or cracker. Other times we want something sweet like a cookie. Well, I have good news. This recipe can offer a little bit of both.

There are many ways to make hummus, but you typically need a few basic ingredients to start, regardless of your intended final product of savory or sweet. Most folks begin with chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans) and tahini, a nutty, buttery, pasty substance that helps provide a lot of the smoothness we enjoy in hummus.

Tahini isn’t the easiest ingredient to find in all our local grocery stores. The one place I did find it, a small jar was $7, not friendly to my constant-cooking budget. I couldn’t justify it. So, I did a little research on some favorite fellow food blogs and discovered peanut butter is an acceptable substitute for tahini in a hummus recipe. It also fits perfectly in this particular version because the point is to create a slightly sweet and very cocoa-chocolatey treat. Otherwise, I kept the recipe on course with others I found, with just a few slight modifications.

NOTE: Many cooks even argue you should call such a mixture a “spread” because hummus, they say, actually translates quite literally to ground chickpeas. I disagree, opting for the western world definition of hummus that includes all the mixture’s ingredients.

You can serve this hummus with most plain crackers (i.e. butter or saltine), pretzels, a plain cookie (such as a vanilla wafer) or with fruit (most common, strawberries or apple slices). And other than adding the calories for those accompaniments, it’s pretty healthy at just 55 calories and 2 grams of sugar per 1/4 cup.

Dark Chocolate Hummus

Ingredients

1 15-ounce can chickpeas

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1/4 cup peanut butter

1/4 cup maple syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons water

 

Directions

1. Drain the chickpeas.

2. Puree the chickpeas, peanut butter, syrup, cocoa, vanilla, salt and 2 tablespoons of the water in a food processor for about 30 seconds. Scrape down the bowl.

3. Add more syrup if you want a sweeter mixture, but be advised that the bitterness will subside just a bit once you chill the hummus in the fridge. It will still be a bit bitter like dark chocolate, however.

4. Add another 2 tablespoons of water and puree again, about a minute or two, until you get a creamy consistency.

5. Store in the fridge in an air-tight container for up to 10 days. You’ll have about 5 cups of hummus total, enough for 10 half-cup servings or 20 quarter-cup servings.

Gluten-Free Roasted Chickpeas

Roasted Chick Peas

Most all of us like to snack from time to time (or all the time). Problem is, much of what we eat between meals tends to have no nutritional value at all, but it has tons of fat, salt or sugar.

If you’re prone to reaching for chips, crackers or other high-calorie, low-benefit salty snacks, try these Roasted Chickpeas. They’ve got the crunch and nuttiness of a peanut, while also having the texture and similar flavor to a sunflower seed. You can season them in various ways, or you can keep them plain for a more natural flavor and no-salt version.

The best part is, you get the perception of a crunchy, fried snack food without much of the negative result of something like a bag of chips. And they’re gluten free!

Roasted Chickpeas

Ingredients

1 can chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans)

2 Tablespoons olive oil

garlic salt, optional, to taste

cayenne pepper, optional, to taste

Directions

1. The most important step is to drain your chickpeas. Start by removing the water with a colander. Then take a kitchen towel or paper towel(s) and pat the peas dry. You want to remove all the moisture possible to help them develop a crunch in the oven.

2. Toss the chickpeas with the olive oil in a medium bowl. Add garlic salt or just regular salt, if desired.

3. Bake the chickpeas in a pan in a 350-degree oven for about 50 minutes. Your baking time will vary depending on the oven.  Be sure to watch the peas after they’ve been cooking for a while to ensure they don’t brown too much or burn.

4. Remove the peas and return them to a medium bowl, but not the olive oil bowl if you haven’t washed and dried it. Season with cayenne pepper or another spice and toss before serving.

5. Store in a cool, dry place (but not the fridge) in an enclosed container to maintain freshness and crunch for several days.

Our Search for the Best Chicken-Cheese Biscuit

Time-Out Biscuit

In a happening university town in central North Carolina, we discovered a dynamite chicken-cheese biscuit we just can’t stop thinking about. Each bite of this biscuit delivers a combination of soft and buttery bread, plump and seasoned chicken, and melty cheese. It’s a huge sandwich for one equally huge appetite, or for several friends to share.

You can get your hands on the “Chicken n’ Cheddar” for $5.49 on the “Oversized Biscuit Sandwiches” menu at Time-Out, a 24/7 diner on East Franklin Street in Chapel Hill. But that’s just our trouble: We can’t make a regular three-hour, one-way drive from our home in western North Carolina to get our mitts and mouths on this Southern specialty. So we decided to do the next best thing and explore the available chicken biscuits at fast food restaurants in our town, asking each to add cheese to the order.

We developed a grading scale of 1 (lowest possible) to 5 (highest possible) in the categories of Chicken, Cheese, Biscuit, Overall Freshness and Price, for a total of 25 possible points. Based on the delicious Time-Out biscuit, we laid out desirable criteria for each category. To get a perfect score in each category, a chicken-cheese biscuit needed to meet every demand with the same zeal as Time-Out’s Chicken n’ Cheddar.

With the chicken, we wanted seasoning, size and cooking perfection. The cheese needed to be melty, plentiful and flavorful. In each biscuit, we sought a crunchy outside and soft inside. Ultimate freshness meant a hot biscuit sandwich that wasn’t too hard or crumbly. And price, well that’s obvious. We’re a couple of foodies always on the search for a great meal and a great deal. So we didn’t want to pay too much for any one sandwich, and we ordered the cheapest possible chicken-cheese biscuit available on each menu.

It’s important to note that we surveyed Bojangles, Chick-fil-A, Hardees and McDonalds in this search because those are the common fast food establishments in our town that serve a chicken biscuit we could buy. This search did not include local, one-of-a-kind restaurants, which are our normal preference for any kind of meal.

Without further ado, here are our findings. We hope you enjoy, and we encourage you to share your thoughts and experiences with chicken-cheese biscuits in the comments or via social media @FoodieScore on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

Chicken-Cheese Biscuit

Flavorful Oven-Slow-Cooked BBQ Ribs

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I love a rack of barbecue ribs, but it’s one of the few dishes I’m particular about if ordering it at a restaurant. Are they meaty enough? Will I like the rub or sauce? Are they expensive?

It’s been on my mind for months that I could take the guesswork out of enjoying ribs by just making my own at home. And while I could transform my simple charcoal grill into a smoker, I’ve really wanted to come up with a delicious, simple recipe to cook the ribs slowly in the oven. I’ll grill in any season or weather possible, but sometimes it’s actually much easier to use the oven.

After doing some research online and doing a bit of experimenting with our spice rack and fridge compartments, I’ve created a recipe that I’m very happy with. Now, I want to make it several times to perfect it.

I used St. Louis-style pork spare ribs. You can use baby back ribs, but the St. Louis spares have a bit more meat on them typically, and I’ve often found in eating them from different places that they hold more of the smoke and rub flavors.

Without further delay, here’s my recipe.

Homemade Barbecue Rub

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/8 cup paprika

1/2 T salt

1/2 T pepper

1/2 T chili powder

1/2 T garlic powder

1/2 T onion powder

1/2 t cayenne

Barbecue Sauce

1/2 cup ketchup

1/3 cup honey

1 T Worcestershire sauce

1/4 t garlic salt

1/4 t pepper

Cooking Directions

  1. Prepare your ribs by removing the membrane on the bone side and the extra flap of meat hanging off. You can use a knife to get under the membrane and then a paper towel to help grip it and pull it off. Removing this piece will help your rub soak into both sides more thoroughly.
  2. Mix your barbecue dry rub together and then use your fingers to coat both sides of your rack of ribs in the rub. The general rule is that what sticks to the ribs is enough rub to use. Wrap your ribs in aluminum foil and let them sit for six hours or overnight.
  3. Cover an oven-safe pan (big enough for your ribs) with foil for easy cleanup. Unwrap your ribs and sit them on top of a cooking or cooling rack on top of the pan.
  4. Put your ribs uncovered in the oven on broil for a few minutes to help caramelize your dry rub coating.
  5. Reduce the temperature to 250 degrees and cook for two hours.
  6. Remove from oven and tent a piece of foil over the ribs, then put them back in the oven on the same temperature for two more hours.
  7. Mix your barbecue sauce, remove your ribs from the oven and use a basting brush to generously cover the ribs on the meat side.
  8. Reduce your oven temperature to 200 degrees and put your ribs back in the oven for 10 minutes.
  9. Repeat the saucing and cooking process as many times as desired to cook the sauce into the ribs.
  10. Use a sharp knife to cut your ribs into smaller racks or into individual ribs. Be sure to cut between the bones, not next to the bones. After the cooking time allotted, your ribs should be done, tender and pulling slightly away from the bones on the ends.

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Matthew’s take: I had never made ribs, so I was a bit intimidated. No more fear after this first-time process. These ribs turned out delicious! The rub and sauce were both adaptations of recipes I found online, and I won’t change either of them moving forward. The rub would work great for chicken or other barbecued meats as well, and the sauce would go well with chicken, burgers and more! The ribs turned out meaty and tender, spiced to perfection by the rub and then sweetly sauced by the barbecue coating added at the end. If you don’t own a grill, prefer not to grill in the cooler months or just would rather cook in your oven, this is the recipe for you if you want to try ribs at home. They’ll be cheaper that way. My rack only cost me $7, while the rub and sauce were from ingredients already in our pantry and fridge, and we got four servings from the ribs. I give this recipe an A+ for taste, cost and presentation.

Molly’s take: Having never had homemade ribs before, I was blown away by this creation Matthew put together. I’m pretty sure once I started in on them, I didn’t stop until every last bite was picked clean off the bones. The ribs alone – with the seasoned rub – were smoky and flavorful, but the sauce really made the flavors pop. The honey in the sauce gives it a great sweet flavor which fits well with the smoky ribs. If you’re looking to try something new, this recipe is worth your time. I’ve never had homemade ribs, but I’ve had ribs at restaurants, and trust me, these are some of the best I’ve ever tasted.