Foodie Travels: Allen & Son Barbeque, Chapel Hill, N.C.

Allen & Son barbeque

Allen & Son Barbeque serves one of the best Southern meals you’ll find anywhere. We won’t back down from that statement at any cost. In a state divided by preferences over barbecue styles, Allen & Son cooks up some of the best pig we’ve eaten anywhere. The sides are also fresh. The tea is sweet and plentiful. And you can’t beat the homemade desserts, especially the pies. Oh, my, how we love the pies. As our waitress told us, “if a pie looks perfect it’s not homemade.” Well, it may not have looked perfectly symmetrical on every side, but it sure tasted perfect!

Allen & Son Blueberry Pie

This legendary eatery on the north side of Chapel Hill, on the left if you’re headed from Interstate 40 toward Hillsborough, greets you with checkered tablecloths and a simple dining room. When we see checkered tablecloths, we know we’re usually in an old-fashioned joint that focuses most of all on its food and service. And that’s just what we got at Allen & Son. We’d heard great things, and the place downright delivered at every turn. That started with sweet tea that was so dark we knew it had been steeped a long time, just how we like it, with plenty of sweetness, and a jug for refills just for our table.

Allen & Son tea

Of course we sampled the pork barbeque, as Allen & Son spells it, and it was chopped up in nice big chunks, meaty, seasoned to a perfect vinegary flavor and containing wonderful little pieces of crispy brown skin throughout. Our plate came with coleslaw, delicious hushpuppies and a soft, yeast roll perfect for cradling a few bites of pork.

We also sampled a cheeseburger, and we were blown away by it, so much that we dare say the Allen & Son burger is one of the top five we’ve had anywhere in the South! And we eat a lot of cheeseburgers. The meat was plentiful and clearly hand-pattied, something we expect of an all-time great burger. The cheese was melty. The bun was soft and big enough for the sandwich. And the toppings of chili, mustard and onions blew our tastebud doors right off! Pretty darn near close to burger perfection, that Allen & Son cheeseburger.

Allen & Son Cheeseburger

After our main course, we knew we were going to enjoy some pie. We just didn’t know how much. We ordered one piece of chocolate and one piece of blueberry, both with a scoop of homemade ice cream. There’s no doubt the ice cream was homemade, as it contained the little icy shavings characteristic of home-churned ice cream. The berries were fresh and flavorful. And the chocolate was rich and decadent. We savored every bite until it was all gone.

Allen & Son Chocolate Pie

Our service was fast at Allen & Son, and our waitress was quick to make suggestions to better our meal and our experience. We’ll be back here every time we visit Chapel Hill or pass by on the way east or west on I-40. Chapel Hill is a food town, full of amazing places to get a great meal, but Allen & Son just might be our favorite foodie stop of all. Don’t dare miss it if you’re anywhere nearby! It’s the definition of a #FoodieScore.

Allen & Son BBQ

Allen & Son Barbeque, 6203 Millhouse Road, Chapel Hill, N.C.

Foodie Travels: Sunni Sky’s Homemade Ice Cream, Angier, N.C.

f4daf9ed20558c50ec3c10eeb341907eIf you haven’t yet discovered Sunni Sky’s Homemade Ice Cream in the North Carolina community of Angier (between Raleigh and Fayetteville), you’re missing out. Dozens of flavors await you, including some very creative options that you likely wouldn’t expect.

My first experience with Sunni Sky’s came about a dozen years ago while visiting a friend at nearby Campbell University. A group of us drove along the country roads of central North Carolina and over to the ice cream shop, where I had my first taste of pumpkin pie ice cream. And, boy, was it good!

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Photo: Sunni Sky’s Facebook page

That’s a pretty tame flavor compared to one of the shop’s most adventurous selections. How about ice cream with hot peppers and other sizzling ingredients? That’s the aptly named cold sweat, and it’s so fire-like that you can expect to sign a waiver if you want to consume a serving. The flavor is so “hot” that it’s garnered attention near and far for Sunni Sky’s.

Sunni Sky’s draws customers by the droves in the spring and summer months, so don’t expect to have this place all to yourself, especially on the busiest days. But while there’s not much standing room inside when the counter’s full, there are options to sit outside, or you can roll down the windows and take a seat in your car in the parking lot.

v67DMubcwVWAnzJMtqWmg_UQtkYpRC7VSx47f-gWCTcWhat makes an ice cream shop a winner for you? Maybe it’s the reasonable prices, the flavor selection, the consistency of the treat, or the small-town, family-friendly atmosphere. Or perhaps you like the opportunity to try as many flavors as you like to decide what you want to purchase. You’ll find all of those at Sunni Sky’s, which the owner named after his two children, Sunni and Skylar.

Take cash with you to Sunni Sky’s, and prepare your tastebuds. You’re in for quite an ice cream ride!

 

Sunni Sky’s Homemade Ice Cream

8617 State Highway 55, Angier, N.C.

Homemade Snow Cream

My mom always made us snow cream. Living in the South, we didn’t get the right kind of snow often, so when we did, it was imperative that we break out the sweetened condensed milk (brand didn’t matter), regular milk, sugar and vanilla. I would help, and eventually, be the one to make it in our family. Really, all you needed to know was the ingredients. And of course, what exactly is the right type of snow.

You’ll need the soft, fluffy, clean kind. (No yellow or orange.) The kind that crunches softly beneath your feet as you pack it down when you walk. The best way to gather it is by taking a large bowl or two outside, along with a large spoon, and scooping it from a flat surface high off the ground. If it looks clean, the ground will do in a pinch. But you’ve probably got a car around, and the hood or top of a car is usually a clean enough place. You don’t want to scoop the bottom layer of the snow anyway. Scoop off the clean top layer. Bring it in the house, after you’re finished playing outside, and get out your ingredients. I’ll tell you how to make it, below. It’s very simple, but I never measure. Today, I did, just for our readers. It helps to measure when you’re starting out with something new. You can tweak from there. 😉

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Snow Cream Ingredients

Ingredients

1 can sweetened condensed milk (14 oz.)

1 1/2 cups regular milk

1/2 tsp. vanilla

1-2 large bowls full of snow

Directions

  1. Fill a large bowl about 3/4 full with snow.
  2. Add the can of sweetened condensed milk and the regular milk. Stir.
  3. When the mixture becomes more runny, add more snow until the bowl is about 3/4 full again.
  4. Add sugar and vanilla.
  5. Add more snow as desired, if you want it less sweet, but you don’t have to.

Enjoy!!

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Fresh snow on Jan. 7, 2017

Foodie Travels: Pike’s Soda Shop, Charlotte, N.C.

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When we occasionally visit Uptown Charlotte, we like to eliminate the stress of navigating parking and one-way streets by using the high-speed rail service to travel into the city. And sitting right off one of the rail line’s stops, in the South End district of Charlotte, is Pike’s Soda Shop.

Pike’s is the fusion of an old-school soda shop and a new-age American diner, offering everything from burgers and fries to delicious home poked meat-and-side plates. You can also get a variety of milk shakes and delicious desserts. This place is actually responsible for Molly and I developing an affinity for Toll House Pie.

Nostalgia covers the walls, and the first thing you see when you walk inside is an old-fashioned soda counter. It’s the kind of atmosphere that immediately tells you that you’re in for a treat.

For us, that treat usually involves a good cheeseburger. I know what you’re thinking: “Matthew, you always try the burger.” Yes I do, but this is one of those places where you can build your own juicy, unique burger with a variety of toppings.

If the burger’s not your item of choice, try one of the home style plates. Whatever you get will fill you up. But if you have room for dessert afterward, opt for a milkshake or the pie. Your meal will be made.

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Molly and I enjoy a mint chocolate chip ice cream milk shake at Pike’s.

Pike’s gets a $ on my $ (very affordable), $$ (middle of the road), $$$ expensive dining cost scale. That’s especially true if you plan to eat a simple sandwich and side. It’s up to you, of course, whether you want to add more to your meal. Two people can easily have a simple meal here for $20 with just the basics, and that’s often my benchmark for a reasonable place to get a good meal.

A #FoodieScore tip: The light rail method is a great way to eliminate the hassle out of driving around and parking in Charlotte altogether. We like to park at the Woodlawn station and then ride the train to South End to eat, then get back on the train to go into uptown for a Hornets game, a cultural event or to just explore. HOWEVER, a friendly stranger tipped us off once that parking around Pike’s is free during a certain time period on weekdays and on weekends. If you drive, be sure you have to pay before you drop coins in those parking meters.

Pike’s Soda Shop

1930 Camden Road, Charlotte

Pikessodashop.net

Gooey Chocolate Cobbler

As our family prepared to gather for a July Fourth cookout, my mom searched for a fruitless cobbler recipe that could accompany homemade vanilla ice cream. She discovered this recipe for Chocolate Cobbler on Pinterest, a haven for a never-ending supply of foodie ideas both sweet and savory. There were several versions, but this one was the simplest, she said. It also has a very unique preparation method.

Ingredients

1 cup self-rising flour

3/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons cocoa

1/2 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 tablespoons melted butter or margarine

 

Steps

1. Mix your ingredients and pour into a greased 9×9 or 8×8 glass baking dish.

2. Mix 3/4 cup of brown sugar and 1/4 cup of cocoa and sprinkle over the batter in your dish.

3. Pour 1 3/4 cup of hot tap water over everything in your dish and DO NOT STIR.

4. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes.

5. Serve immediately if you want a dish with more of a saucy consistency, or let the dish cool for a while to serve a dish more like a pudding with a cake-like top.

 

This paired perfectly with our homemade vanilla ice cream. It’s also a dish that you can add nuts, fruit, or chocolate or other sweet baking chips to for embellishment.

Molly’s Take: This dessert is a perfect accompaniment to ice cream and it can also stand alone. It has a great soft pudding consistency and is sweet without being too sweet. The use of cocoa rather than any type of melted chocolate is the secret behind that just-right sweetness, and it also gives it a great homemade taste. Give it a try! It’s super easy to make and would be a delicious warm treat in winter, as well as a delectable summer treat, like we had, with ice cream or whipped cream.

Matthew’s Take: I thought it was interesting to pour hot water over what was essentially a brownie-type batter to make this cobbler. My mom and I thought it would be more of a liquid consistency because of that, and it was when it first came out of the oven. But we let it cool for a while as we ate dinner, and by the time we were ready for dessert it was a tasty pudding-like cobbler accompaniment to our ice cream. If you want a cobbler with more of a crispy crust, this would not be the recipe for you. But it was a delicious dish with great flavor and a nice smooth texture, and I would absolutely recommend it. I give the Gooey Chocolate Cobbler an A for taste and an A for ease of baking.