Vlog: White Duck Taco Shop

I recently visited White Duck Taco in Downtown Johnson City. Here is a short vlog I made about the trip.

Among three friends and I, we sampled several of White Duck’s tacos including the shrimp, fish and jerk chicken.

We were all very pleased with our experience and plan to go back soon.

Check out the video, and tell me your favorite local restaurant in the comments.


Review: Southern Craft barbecue


Southern Craft barbecue tacos. Photo by Raina Wiseman.

Only by chance did I find out about Southern Craft. I had been searching Facebook for places to eat in the area, and the barbecue restaurant appeared as a suggested page. I followed it, but didn’t think much more about Southern Craft.

Then, on a Wednesday night when no one wanted to drive far for dinner but also said “NO FAST FOOD,” I suggested we try the downtown barbecue joint I read about.

With the help of GPS, we easily found Southern Craft, which is conveniently located at 601 Spring Street in downtown Johnson City. The restaurant has excellent parking as it is beside a public lot.

Our group of three immediately noted how the restaurant was very trendy. With low lighting and vintage-chic decoration, the building is likely to become a new favorite for Millennials whose interests are piqued by “hipster” atmospheres like that of Southern Craft.

We arrived around 5:30 p.m. and were told there would be a 10-minute wait. We stood inside the entrance of the restaurant, and were lucky to have entered when we did because several parties came in after us. Their wait times rose to 20 and 30 minutes.

We were then seated in a large booth at the center of the restaurant. Southern Craft offers several seating options including table, booth and bar.

Our waitress, Morgan, brought our drinks and took our orders. I got the pulled pork tacos without slaw (no offense to Southern Craft. I have never liked slaw). One friend also got the tacos, but she ordered them with slaw. We both ordered them with queso on the side for $1 extra. The second friend ordered a Fire Water burger with tater tots as her side.

We were very satisfied with the tacos, both of us noting that the barbecue sauce that came on them was the best part. It was a sweet, tangy sauce that went well with the pico de gallo on the tacos. The pork was very tender and had no burnt ends that so many barbecue restaurants leave in.

The friend who got the burger said she was “very particular about barbecue.” Though not as impressed as we were with our tacos, she agreed the food was good, and she would return to try another menu item.

Morgan told us at the end of our meal that it was only her second day working at Southern Craft. The restaurant must do an excellent job training its staff because she did a great job waiting on us. The tortilla chips were left off my plate when first brought out, and she ensured I had them as quickly as possible.

Since dining at Southern Craft, I have been dreaming about the next time I could have barbecue tacos. I can’t wait to go back and try other dishes from this trendy restaurant.

ETSU students stir-fry with Kitchen Possible

Students making stir-fry through Kitchen Possible. Photo by Raina Wiseman. 

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. — Ramen noodles and frozen dinners may be a thing of the past for East Tennessee State University students thanks to Kitchen Possible.

Four students made a stir-fry meal on Feb. 17 as part of the Kitchen Possible initiative by the ETSU Department of Housing and Residence Life. It is co-sponsored by the department and Sodexo campus dining services to teach students how to cook.

Students who had little expertise in the kitchen said the program helped them feel more comfortable cooking.

“It was really eye-opening for me because I realized how easy it is, and it’s fun,” said Isaac Fox, a freshman who participated. “They guide us through … and make it look so effortless.”

Mary Dave Blackman founded Kitchen Possible to teach ETSU residents basic cooking skills and meal preparation. Many residence halls on campus offer at least one kitchen area for students, so they can take Kitchen Possible classes to learn how to use the facilities.

Participating students were given an apron, utensils, cutting board, hot plate and pan. Ingredients were laid out in advance for the students to choose for their stir-fry dish, and a recipe was given as a class guide.

Students began by cutting the vegetables they wanted for their dish. Blackman and two student assistants helped the Kitchen Possible participants use knives properly.

“We teach them how to cut their vegetables [and] how not to cut themselves,” said Ellis Waddell, student assistant to Blackman.

Blackman said multiple times her primary goal was to teach students to cook in a safe way.

Once the vegetables were cut, student assistants prepped the pan and hot plates with cooking oil for participants.

Blackman explained to students the best way to know oil is heated to the right temperature for cooking is when it shimmers — a tip, she noted, most people don’t know.

The students stir-fried their vegetables in garlic and one of two sauces they could make: orange-soy or ginger-soy.

Many students having lunch in the Marketplace stopped to ask about Kitchen Possible and what was being made. Some suggested they would be interested in getting involved in the program after seeing the class in action. The strong smell from the stir-fry drew a lot of the curiosity.

Once the meals were cooked, the students sat down to eat them together. Some students had enough to take with them for another meal.

Blackman is a professor and coordinator of instrumental music education. Band students told her they lacked cooking skills, and she came up with the idea of teaching students to cook on campus.

“One of them said, ‘Gosh, I wish I knew how to cook,’” said Blackman about her students. “I thought, ‘I wonder if there’s a way we could make it so we could have some cooking classes on campus?’”

Blackman approached the housing department in 2011 with her idea and offered to teach the classes herself for free. The department agreed to sponsor and facilitate the classes for students who live on campus.

Kitchen Possible is a series of five classes each semester. Students learn to make a new dish each class that they can recreate on their own.

Two classes are held on Fridays in the Marketplace on the third floor of the Culp Center. The first class is at 1:30 p.m. followed by another at 3 p.m. Each class hosts four students.

Campus residents receive registration information through email at the beginning of each semester. Students must commit to all classes for the semester, and seats are available to those who sign up first. Students are put on a waiting list for the class if they do not get a seat. If someone drops the course after the first session, they can be added.

Adrianna Guram, Kitchen Possible coordinator from the housing department, estimated the cost of the program is $60-70 per class, but it is covered by the collaboration with Sodexo.

“Sodexo is supplying all the food,” Guram said.

The collaboration has allowed Kitchen Possible to save money on the program by using campus dining service ingredients rather than paying with funds from the housing department.

Participants said their specialties before the class were foods like cereal and Chef Boyardee. Since the program’s start, they collectively agreed Kitchen Possible has enhanced their cooking abilities and confidence.

“I can make [a meal] now … with a recipe,” said Amelia Lambert, a participating sophomore.





It’s Pi Day, so let’s talk pie!

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Happy Pi Day! Today is 3/14 or 3.14 for the Mathematicians.

Johnson City is about to welcome a new pie shop this spring with the opening of Buttermilk Sky Pie Shop. 

Buttermilk Sky is a bakery that specializes in all things pie. From classics like buttermilk and pecan to mini pies, this pie shop offers it all.

The shop promoted itself for Pie Day by having a contest to win free pie for life. The winner, Doris Hendrix, was announced today at 3:14 p.m. (more Pi Day fun!)

Contestants had to sign up for “Pie News” email from Buttermilk Sky.

This was one of several giveaways the shop has done to promote itself. All winners have been promised to receive their prizes when Buttermilk Sky opens. Other prizes awarded include single pies and mini pies.

The Johnson City location hasn’t announced its official opening yet, but it has begun accepting employee applications and working on the shop location.

Buttermilk Sky was originally opened in Knoxville, Tennessee, in 2012 by Scott and Meredith Layton.

Now, the pie shop is in five locations including three Tennessee shops, one in Georgia and another in Texas. The Johnson City shop will be the sixth location.

Buttermilk Sky Pie Shop will bring a new sweet variety to the Tri-Cities area. Check out its Facebook.


Food for thought: Erma Bombeck

“Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart.” -Erma Bombeck

Bone Fire Smokehouse BBQ sandwich. Abingdon, Virginia. Photo by Raina Wiseman.

Apparently, posting photos of your food on social media annoys some people. I never think this is annoying myself, but I do think people judge you for what you eat.

In a world of social media, it’s easy to think more selectively about our posts and how you can present yourself in the best way. People will probably think you’re more health-conscious if you post your salmon and asparagus instead of your Sweet Frog bowl.

A Sweet Frog bowl from my Instagram. Photo by Raina Wiseman.

But aren’t we all enjoy those unhealthy foods? Don’t we revel in the carbs? Don’t we get a kick out of them?

I think that’s what Bombeck means here. Why would we refuse the dessert cart if we really want it? Life is short. Why would we put off posting our beautiful pictures of fancy French toast at hole-in-the-wall restaurants we find just because our followers might think our eating habits are bad.

Some thigh-thickening french toast. Photo by Raina Wiseman.

I recently posted a picture of such a brunch on my Instagram profile, and someone commented that it looked “like the most satisfyingly thigh-thickening” French toast.

While I thought the comment was hilarious (because it’s true), I also found myself feeling like I needed to post about kale or something else super healthy to make up for it.

But let’s all agree to show what makes us happy or what we eat when we want something special.

Tiramisu cake. Photo by Raina Wiseman.

And as for food posts, I say keep ’em coming. Some people like to know what foods other people are trying.

Farmers Market at ETSU returns for spring semester

Farmers Market at ETSU (Fall 2016). Photo by Raina Wiseman

Students will be happy to hear the Farmers Market at ETSU is returning to campus!

March 16 will be the first farmers market of the spring semester. Local vendors will have food, drinks and locally-made products available for students to purchase.

This semester, vendors include: Stop, Drop N Pop Shop; Mason Joe Coffee Roaster; Happy Skin Naturals and Auntie Ruth’s Doughnuts. Other vendors will be announced as they are confirmed.

Students can look forward to coffee, kettle corn, doughnuts, hotdogs, pretzels and much more this semester. Students can also purchase farmers market t-shirts for $15.

Street Eats hot dog from farmers market 2016. Photo by Raina Wiseman.


The farmers market is held on Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the Pride Walk. It is organized by students.

This will be the first farmers market since November 2016, so stop by and see what is new this semester.

Students wait for Auntie Ruth’s Doughnuts (fall 2016). Photo by Raina Wiseman.

Anyone who would like to volunteer with the farmers market to set up or take down booths can email the team at farmersmarketetsu@gmail.com.

Food trucks are a thing

Food Trucks and Fire Pits at the Well house, ETSU. Photo by Raina Wiseman.

A lot of things were surprising to me when I moved to Johnson City, but the number of food trucks was the strangest.

Growing up in a tiny county, I had never thought about food trucks as being actual, operating businesses. I knew they existed, of course, but not in a common way. I didn’t think I would ever live in a city where numerous trucks with interesting foods were scattered around.

Now that I know their popularity, I’m almost obsessed with them. I admittedly haven’t visited many food trucks, but the ones I have been to have kept my interest in them.

ETSU’s campus farmers market brings several food trucks and street food vendors. The Well, a ministry organization at ETSU, hosted a “Food Trucks and Fire Pits” event this past fall. There are even “Food Truck Junctions” set up. https://www.facebook.com/foodtruckjunction/?fref=ts Food trucks are like a sub-culture of food around here.

The Tri-Cities area is home to all kinds of food trucks that serve everything from waffles and Caribbean food  to doughnuts  and ice cream sandwiches.

Maybe food trucks seem like no big deal to some, but I think they’re neat. They offer unique, mobile food by people who are passionate about their work.

Next time you see a food truck, stop by, try the food and support local businesses.

Around the world with food

Are you a foodie? Have your tastebuds been cultured? Do you want to travel the world at a fraction of the cost?

On Feb. 28, Chef James Allen will host a gourmet food session at Olive Oil Divine. The class will teach attendees how to make dishes from around the world.

Plates include South American steak tacos, Asian short rib, European wild mushrooms and goat cheese strudel, and cherry chess pie from America. All plates feature products from Olive Oil Divine.

All ingredients will be supplied, and attendees are allowed to take home leftovers from the meal.

Chef Allen is the Executive Chef at Blackthorn Club. He graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in Minnesota and has been a sous chef in Alabama and a executive chef for a Mississippi country club.

The class will be held at Olive Oil Divine (2517 N Roan Street, Johnson City,) and it begins at 6:30 p.m. and ends around 8:30 p.m.

Tickets for the class are $35 per person and may be purchased online or at Olive Oil Divine. Space in the class is limited.

ETSU food focus groups


East Tennessee State University students, do you have opinions about the food your campus serves? Do you want to voice those opinions?

Sodexo campus dining services want to hear your thoughts.

On Feb. 27 and 28, four focus group meetings will be held for ETSU students to let Sodexo know what changes and additions should be made to the newly renovated Marketplace.

The focus groups are open to everyone. Just show up for the meeting without a registration or RSVP.

Food will be available for participants, and there is a chance to win door prizes.

Meeting times on Monday, Feb. 27 are 11:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. in Dining Room 3 of the Culp Center. Meeting times on Tuesday, Feb. 28, are 3 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. in Meeting Room 1 of the Culp Center.

Attend one of these meetings to let ETSU and Sodexo know what students want from the cafeteria.