Friday, February 27, 2015

AirBnB and Knoxville Coffee Pilgrimage

Have you heard of AirBnB? Of course you have. If not, sign up here and you'll get a $25.00 credit just signing up. We signed up months ago and just tried it out last weekend. Our first AirBnB night stay was in Knoxville to break up the long drive to Nashville for Ali and Matt's wedding. Yong and Landon were our AirBnB hosts at the Creekside Queen Room. We had first booked two nights in Nashville and when we asked for an extra night they were already sold. I logged in on my mobile AirBnB app to check on places close to the highway in Knox. I got friendly notes from Yong, and when we told him we were delayed, he offered to leave the key for us in a secret location. It was a Friday night after-all.

I told him we were AirBnB virgins and didn't like the idea of wandering through their home without meeting them for the first time. He understood and waited for us. But I can understand the trust level after being in their home. It really is like being at a Bed and Breakfast and having free reign to the living spaces. The bedroom doors all had locks on them and it felt super safe. It was Chinese New Year so the path leading up to the front door was festively decorated.

The room was exactly as advertised, with complimentary bottled water, chocolates and an offer from Yong to help ourselves to the fruit in the fridge! How nice is that?

We checked in, dropped our stuff and headed out to dinner per Spice and Sass' recommendation. And our host joined his husband and left us on our own. Again, it felt totally normal in a "I'm-in-a-strangers-home-but-this-doesn't-seem-weird-at-all" kind of way. Maybe a little weird.

I sent Samma a note asking for vegetarian restaurants and coffee shops in Knoxville. We took her advice on both and headed to Tomato Head that was very close to the house we were staying. We pulled up and E thought it was the Chilis and didn't get it. I told him to look further into the strip mall to find our destination. Our bartender was a darling and welcomed us fully with beer samples and an understanding of the menu. Her Scrabble ring got my attention and was a great conversation starter. Isn't this why we wear certain items? To start conversations with strangers? 

We had big salads and a smoked tofu pizza. It was perfect after a long, long day in the car. We got home quickly after speed walking around the strip mall. I don't think I've ever slept so hard. We love road trips but little did we know what we had in store for this one. Getting to TN was easy. Getting home is a whole other story. Lordt!

The next morning was Valentine's Day and the guys were making frittata's and offered us breakfast. Yong was also making dipped strawberries so the house smelled amazing when we woke up.

We had a nice visit with them and realized they got married in Dupont Circle close to where we used to live. They were really nice and made hosting seem genuinely easy. We were off to coffee adventures and graciously declined the breakfast.

Knoxville is adorable by the way. The sound of the train reminded me of Memphis and the south in general.

Our fist stop was at Remedy Coffee. #ewalking

They have the greatest event space in the back and their goal is not to make a profit. Pretty cool.
More Than Great Coffee - What really makes Remedy Coffee unique is what we don’t do. We don’t have a goal of earning a profit. At least not for our own pockets. Every single penny of our profit will be given to ideas, people, and organizations in Downtown Knoxville. We will use our proceeds to make a difference and help the people in our neighborhoods.

We were a little bummed they only had pastries. We were hoping for something warm and a little healthier before getting back on the road to Nashvegas. But the cinnamon rolls were spot on.

It was Valentine's Day and I do love a lot of lattes.


My favorite part in a coffee shop is sitting next to the bar watching the barista's pull shots and talk all things coffee. I'm very shy. I still thank Ali for schooling me back at Woodberry oh so many years ago. But I still know there is so much to learn about coffee.

I do know whenever we go to funky little coffee shops we meet neat people. We met the loveliest young students who let us share their community table at Remedy. When we walked back to the car E said, "They were cool." 

The space had lots of tables, all occupied with students with laptops, backs to the brick wall, on a Saturday. Perhaps they were studying or checking Dot & Bo

We went in search of a little something for the road and headed to Samma's suggestion of Old City Java. It was cold, cold in the south. I knew it was going to be cold but I really wasn't expecting the level of chill in my bones I had all weekend.

The old city was decorated for Mardi Gras. Can you see the purple, gold and green balloons on the light posts? #ewalking

This man still holds the door for me. Not just on Valentine's Day.

Mast Bros. chocolate sighting. I picked up the Olive and Sinclair chili spiced chocolate for the road trip. Long are the road trip days of Butterfingers and butterscotch candies in the "moonship".

Love was everywhere. E had a quinoa parfait and was in heaven.

I wish we had more time in Knoxville. I could play Scrabble ALL DAY in this spot. 

And off we headed to Nashville along a gorgeous stretch of road. No snow. No ice. Just beautiful, easy driving.

Train tracks and Dixie flags. The Dixie flag used to make me tear up at Ole Miss games. Now it just freaks me out. This sucker was gigantic on the side of the highway. I would not want to break down anywhere near one of these puppies.

Crash boom rocks.

The trip was so easy I should have know our trip home wasn't going to be as easy. We texted our host in Nashville and were so thrilled to arrive at our second AirBnB the Spacious New East Nashville Loft. The structure itself was brand new and couldn't have been more perfect for this wedding weekend. We had all the privacy we needed and everything we could have asked for. I feel a little guilty working for a hotel company being so excited about AirBnB. But the room sharing idea makes sense to me. We want to start hosting as soon as we figure out if we can add a second full bathroom to our breezeway area. I've always said that if I could get paid to be a concierge I would do it. Well, this doesn't seem that far off for us. If we could build the exact garage with loft space at Stone Hill Farm, we would. It was the perfect size.

Oddly enough one of my favorite features was the large kitchen sink in the bathroom. I would even add a disposal. Double duty. Easy clean up. Boom.

There was a tiny area to hang coats, clothes that was all you needed.

Free wireless, TV which we never turned on and the remote control heating and cooling system.

We were thrilled to stay here two nights.

The only thing I missed from not staying at a hotel were buckets of ice for our bourbon. Everything else was set up for all of our needs. Have you tried AirBnb? 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Cheese Dip

I'm not sure who came up with this recipe. I have a feeling it was someone from Mom and David's tennis group. Needless to say, it is a staple at Floral Drive and most Collins Clan family gatherings. So a few days before we headed down to Nashville for my niece Ali's wedding, I texted my sister Busy (we don't say "step") to see if I could help with anything. She responded, "Do you know the recipe for the cheese dip?" I didn't, called Mom,  and offered to bring the dip to Nashvegas. So my darling family, I hope you reference this recipe often, bookmark it and know how much it reminds me of our beloved David Collins, fun at the lake, and many happy memories with all y'all.

Three simple ingredients.
1 lb Velveeta
1/2 cup Horseradish
1/2 cup Mayo
Blend in the Cusinart until smooth and fully incorporated. Dish into small bowls, and chill. The spice is awesome. I think adding pimentos and spreading it on brioche grilled cheese would be a game changer too. Maybe with a little Tomato Jam? That just sounds way too fancy. But there are a million ways to go with this staple.

Follow the recipe to the T. It is foolproof. We serve with small pretzels or Fritos. This delicacy, yes, is worth the extra laps at the gym.

Thankful for the Collins Clan and Velveeta!