It was my anniversary. I had to go big. Well, big for me. Going big always includes a road-trip, always. So I gassed up the car and got on the road. Straight up the watermelon 500 (285), then on to N I-75, then to N I-575 we drove past Elijay when I realized I was on the wrong road. Real big.
This is about when I pulled out the map. However this was, as you will see, all part of the Master Plan. Maps should be used only for these needed moments; too much planning, while predictable, causes boredom. We were not bored at that moment.
Necessary adjustments were made plotting the course, and onward we drove. The large road turned into a not so large road, then to a normal road, then we were slap dab in the middle of the curvy mountain roads. Those straight looking red line roads on the maps are not straight. Drivers beware making plans to drive on the red line roads. I was only scolded once or twice about my mountain road driving. References to "The Mini Mine Cart" at Six Flags were made about my "jerky" driving around curves. We passed too many old empty cabins along the way, and saw too many old motels closed down. You know the kind that have individual rooms separated in a semi circle around a central odd looking office. Those motels that remind you of Monopoly in a strange kind of way. Not the big red hotels, but the little green ones. All closed and overgrown, sad and looking over at you when you pass, hoping that you are the next owner, like dogs do at the pound.
People in the mountains have friends with bulldozers. They push dirt around constantly, always looking to make another flat place. I must have seen thirty bulldozers on this little ride. I did also see one giant dump truck. I saw several hills with flat little landing pads cut out so that someone could build something. Nothing was there yet; they just like to bulldoze. I would be willing to bet there is a bulldozer's union, a bulldozers Thursday Night BBQ group, a bulldozer's prayer group, and I bet there is a bluegrass band in Young Harris with a bulldozer driver playing bass.
We passed over rivers and lakes, curving along, a very pretty drive. I was getting hungry. The granola bar snack was long gone. I was anxious to get to our destination. I had eaten there before and had thoroughly enjoyed it. We drove over one more foothill and we were in Clayton Georgia. We turned north on 441, drove over Tallulah Gorge and soon drove into Dillard. Dillard does not strike you as some grand destination when you arrive. No, not a Grand Canyon, a Niagara Falls, or a Saint Louis Arch, just a small town greets you. There is a school on a hill that reminds me of the boarding schools that my boarding school used to compete with in sports. The lawns are all manicured, the buildings are a built in a brick and granite combination with nifty arches and pointy points in the right places. The campus is laid out perfectly, and seems to have been there for eons. The school is called Ranbun Gap-Nacoochee School. click here to go to their site
Looking at their web site and driving past this school reminded me of my youth and the boarding school that I went to when I was in High School. This is a picture of my school, and the building that was called The Inn. We had a grand school on a mountain; poor but grand.
These schools have to be experienced to fully understand the pride that is instilled by attending them. As a student you arrive at the school and the first realization you must deal with at thirteen or fourteen years old is that you are alone. Once you have wrapped your mushy brain around that, you set forth to remedy that issue, or like others, you run away back home. Some kids did not have the choice to run away back home; they were the strongest personalities. Having said all of that, I will have to expound, I am sure, about that at a later date as I have many school stories, many.
We turned in past the large sign on the right and drove up to the Dillard House. I always love looking at the stonework on these buildings. They are built from what I would guess was locally quarried granite with crazy grain in the rock. The mortar is all raised up between the rock; I wish I new why it is like that besides someone thought it was stylish. I love that the builders chose to use arches for the porches and fronts of the buildings. I can only imagine how many times the buildings have been changed, added on to, and renovated over the years, all adding to the character of them all. There is a smokehouse in the back of the main kitchen, a conference room with banquet facilities, horse barns, rooms for rent and much more. There is, however, only one reason I like the Dillard house, and that is fresh vegetables. When you take time to make the trip, the fresh vegetables are going to bring you back.
We entered the double doors and to the right was the registration desk for the other facilities, dead ahead was a giant wooden menu board that was about the size of the leader boards at the Masters. There were smaller boards with engraved names of meats and vegetables that were removable inserted onto the large menu board. We walked on to the left and was greeted by a host that had that look on her face like you were an old friend. She wasn't surprised to see us, or tired, but genuinely nice and welcoming. Since I was technically one hour behind schedule due to the navigation errors on our little journey, she was a sight for sore eyes. She may have even somehow reminded me of my high school dietitian (Mrs. Hathaway) as she glided through the dining room and showed us to our table gracefully. As we sat down the sun was right in my eyes as I sampled the two salads placed on our table. I was about to be irritated about the sun, when I realized two things were happening simultaneously. First I realized that the Cole Slaw and the Cucumber Salad were crazy good, and secondly I realized that my Master Plan was falling into place quite nicely as the sun started to set behind the mountains.
The waiter stopped by and gave us our drink choices; water, lemonade, or iced tea. That is right, if you want Coke or Pepsi products you should have eaten somewhere else. I love it. Country people that really don't care about what you drink in the big city. This was to be the only communication that the waiters had with us other than "would you like more of anything?", which was also refreshing. I did not have to hear a pitch, and trust me I love a good pitch. Then out came a whirlwind of food, all at once there was eight vegetables, two starches, a basket of mixed breads, and four meats were also delivered at the same time swallowing our table.
Our menu included the following: Home cured Ham, cubed steak slathered in a mushroom gravy, barbecued smoked chicken, southern fried chicken (of course), fresh baby carrots, fresh Lima beans, cabbage casserole, acorn squash casserole with coconut topping, cauliflower in a white sauce, cream corn. cream spinach, fried okra, dressing, white rice, cucumber salad, Cole Slaw, and a pimento relish. We also had biscuits, cheese biscuits, yeast rolls and cornbread. Dessert was blackberry cobbler with ice cream. That was all.
During the meal I did contemplate saying yes to answer the waiters only question, but I felt guilty, often thinking of poor souls in worse shape in this world, and was determined to try to sample everything that had been placed in front of me before I begged for more. For the record, one of the poor souls was Oliver Twist. I did want more when I was done, but that was my greedy little mind wanting the pleasure stimulus that the food had provided. My stomach won that argument with my brain, thankfully, as it could bear to receive no more toward the end of the meal.
Every vegetable was fresh, no cans are in this kitchen. The meats were flavorful and tender, except for the home cured ham, which was firm, and had the most hearty salt cured flavor. The barbecued smoked chicken had a deep real smoke flavor and coloring in the meat. The dressing had hints of fresh herbs, and the rice was cooked perfectly. What an amazing meal, no chemicals, no preservatives, save salt. The breads were hand made, light and flaky. If country cooking can be gourmet, Dillard Georgia is it's Paris.As I mentioned the Master Plan was in full swing. There we were, eating great food, in a great old hall with wood paneling on the walls and ceilings. Looking out through the grand pane glass windows, over the fields of vegetables, past the horses and livestock, onto the blue gray mountains with the sun setting behind them. I am not real sure how I pulled that moment off, but I did, and we had a great evening dining at The Dillard House.