Memphis is known for barbecue and blues but bicycling and buffaloes — not so much. In fact, the city is repeatedly on “least bike-friendly” lists.
Memphis is doing something about it starting with its Shelby Farms Greenline, a 6.5-mile trail that goes from the massive Shelby Farms park on the east side to Midtown. More bike trails are in the works (including one that will cross the Mississippi River) as the city tries to encourage healthy lifestyles (which I’m sure have been long thwarted by the aforementioned barbecue).
Shelby Farms is one of the Top 20 urban parks in the United States in size — 4,500 acres or more than five times the size of Central Park. That brings me to the buffalo–the Shelby County superintendent brought a herd of them over from the Tennessee Safari Park in 1989, and they have been a major attraction at Shelby Farms ever since. There are hiking/biking trails throughout the park as well. When we were there last week, it was blustery (wind gusts upwards of 25 mph). So we only got to ride for a few miles.
That just gave us an excuse to enjoy a couple of meals in Memphis. We had brunch at a place called Hog & Hominy. (Where else but Memphis would you name a place Hog & Hominy when it specializes in Italian pizzas?). Our brunch was really good, and we later discovered that it had been on many national Top New Restaurants lists. Then, dinner with our Memphis friends, who self identify as barbecue snobs, at Memphis Barbecue Co. — located, not in Memphis, but across the state line in Horn Lake, Miss!
I’m not a whisky drinker, but I do like a good factory tour.
I’ve watched ice cream being made at Ben & Jerry’s in Vermont and Blue Bell deep in the heart of Texas and Tabasco in my home state of Louisiana. Then, I sampled some ice cream with Tabasco at Tabasco’s headquarters in Avery Island.
So I was game when traveling with family earlier this month to the George Dickel Distillery in Cascade Hollow outside Tullahoma, TN.
It’s a homier feeling than the much larger Jack Daniels Distilery, just 17 miles away in Lynchburg.
One of the many interesting tidbits that I learned on the tour was the fact that the ethanol in the whisky causes a black fungus to grow on the bark of the trees near distilleries and their warehouses. It was this blackening that led authorities to the moonshiners back in the day of Prohibition
Regular tours at Dickel are free but we opted for the extended tour that includes complimentary sampling. (Jack Daniels has a similar setup). Our $10 tour price at Dickel bought us samples of four different aged blends. I guess it was a good thing that I didn’t care for any of them.
But I do recommend the tour for the fascinating history of whiskey/bourbon distilling in the United States and the beautiful Cascade Hollow setting — a thin valley with a quaint stream, created from the spring that is the water source for Dickel’s operations , right in the middle of Tennessee walking horse country.
I try to make a trip to the local farmers market when traveling and such was the case on this month’s trip to Nashville. It was too early for local vegetables but prime planting time. The hopping spot was a place called Gardens of Babylon, a permanent garden and landscape center that anchors the south end of the market.
Still, I didn’t come away empty handed. Here are a few random highlights.
Chess Pies: This is a Tennessee thing. Since it was my birthday, my sister-in-law and travel mate let me pick out any pie or cake from the Schrock’s Family Farm & Bakery booth. The array ranged from caramel cakes to Hungarian coffee cake, but I picked the simple buttermilk chess pie, which didn’t disappoint.
Another Amish booth had an array of cheeses . And there were cobblers everywhere. You could almost call this market the Nashville Cobblers Market. There was so much of it available.
The Market House Restaurants & Shops had a great store specializing in hard-to-find Asian, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean groceries and even booths specializing in Mississippi-style tamales and another touting “a little bit of Louisiana (jambalaya, étouffée, etc.).
Cutest Vendor Name: not really a vendor but a sign I noticed promoting an upcoming musical event: Turnip the Beet.
Batch Nashville: It was fun browsing this booth, which started as a monthly subscription service featuring a sampling of locally produced products. I couldn’t resist the story behind Thistle Farms, a social enterprise of women who have survived prostitution, trafficking and addiction and are now making natural bath and body products. I came away with a couple of lavender bath gels.