Thursday night a group of ten of us went out to dinner at The Apple Barn in Pigeon Forge, a local restaurant, cider mill, and winery. I’ve heard good things about it ever since I moved here, and never got around to going, so I was very excited.
Pigeon Forge is Tennessee’s Branson. The main road is a continuous strip of hotels, pancake houses (dozens of them; there has to be something I’m not getting about it, but there are Oldtime Pancake Houses, Grizzly Pancake Houses, Hillbilly Pancake Houses, but bizarrely enough no International House of Pancakes), mini-golf places, outlet malls, theaters, and restaurants. It’s the home of the theater that took out the advertisement in USA Today to protest Kathy Griffin, although I can’t get anyone to go there with me, and also the place where we went to that retreat in August. In short, it’s like a tiny Vegas, but without sin.
Ginger, TW, and I drove down early because they wanted to hit the outlets. Ginger was looking for a specific ornament for her boyfriend’s mom at the Waterford Crystal outfit, TW was looking for assorted Christmas gifts, and I was along for the ride. TW didn’t find what he wanted, Ginger found her ornament, and I saw this disturbing Santa ornament at the Waterford store:
If you don’t want to click and can’t tell at that size, that’s a Santa Claus holding Halloween jack o’ lanterns. What the hell? Is he coming a wassailing or is he going trick or treating? I realize Hallowthankmas is just one big season now, as far as the stores are concerned, but couldn’t we at least pretend they’re separate? And why isn’t there a Thanksgiving Santa? My calendar has a whole other month between October and December, and there’s a holiday in there. Two, if you count my birthday.
While outlet shopping I also accidentally gave a lady at one of the Christmas stores a mini-breakdown. Ginger was buying two large angels that the cashier had to carefully wrap up and bag, and I got curious about what it must be like to spend every minute of every day immersed in Christmas.
“Do you get tired of Christmas, working here?” I asked, smiling. She smiled back, and I thought we might be ok.
“This is just my part time job. I work forty hours somewhere else and then come here for a little extra.”
“Cool. So you’re not really here enough to get tired of it,” I concluded, but this apparently opened some sort of floodgate for her.
She leaned across the register, still bagging Ginger’s angels, and burst.
“It all looks like junk! There’s just, there’s so much of it! Every day another truck comes in, and there’s just more stuff!”
Ginger grabbed her bag of holiday junk and we fled before the lady could snap and kill everyone in the store. All the way to the Old Navy outlet (where everything was at regular prices; does “outlet store” not mean what I think it means?) TW and Ginger were like, “What did you do to her?” and I was protesting, “All I did was ask a question!”
When we finally got to dinner, it was everything I’d heard. The best part, better than my turkey even, was the apple fritters.
They keep the basket filled, and you dip them in the apple butter, and they’re just to die for. It was like having dessert all the way through dinner, and everyone enjoyed it.
See? We’re all smiling, and we hadn’t even started drinking yet. We saved that for after dinner, when we walked around the barn and over to the winery.
They give out free tastings (you have to tip), and unlike professional wine tasters we swallowed, rather than spit. Most of the wines were blends, traditional wines with apple wine mixed in, so they tended to be on the sweet side. I’ve had hard cider, but never apple wine, and it was good, so I bought the three bottle bargain pack, as did a couple of the others. I picked up a merlot, an applewood white (very sweet), and a cranberry wine, which was very tart but very good.
All in all, it was a pretty good night.