Friday, April 6, 2012

Eating in Memphis

  Our tour just recently went through Memphis.  We loved the city!  Live music everywhere you go, a beautiful theatre (we played The Orpheum) and, of course, the FOOD!  There are so many entries I could make for Memphis, that I decided to combine them all into one love letter entry to the great city of Memphis and their incredible food.  

1. Gus's Fried Chicken

    The only thing on their menu is fried chicken, cole slaw and beans.  And let me tell you, this place needs nothing more.  Hands down, the best fried chicken I have ever had.  I don't know what magical ingredients they put into their breading, but it has an amazing taste with a slight kick to it.  The chicken is so tender and juicy it could bring a tear to your eye.  Not to mention their cole slaw and beans are great too.

2. Peanut Butter Cookie Skillet from Kooky Canucks

  It's a warm, gooey peanut butter cookie in a skillet with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.  Need I say more?  So peanut buttery and, while soft in the middle, slightly crispy on the outside edges so you get the best of both worlds.  So, so delicious.

3. Fried Catfish at Blues City Cafe

   Huge pieces of catfish fried perfectly served with horseradish sauce, cole slaw, green beans and texas toast.  I love fried catfish and this certainly did not disappoint. The catfish was nice and flaky and moist, not over cooked at all.  Some bites were super crunchy while others had just a hint of that great fried taste.  We ate quite a few meals at Blues City Cafe and this was hands down my favorite meal there.  Just awesome. 

4. Smoked Crab Deviled Eggs at Local

  After many days of fried goodness, our stomachs needed a little break.  So we headed over to Local on Main Street to have some salads, which are very good there by the way.  But one thing we couldn't resist on their menu were the smoked crab deviled eggs.  They were fantastic!  The smoked crab is a genius addition to this southern favorite.  It tasted wonderfully and was not over powering in the slightest.  The caviar on top was a lovely finish for the taste buds, too. 

5. Fried Strawberries on Beale Street

   Served with the entire bucket of cool whip (well... pretty close too it) and chocolate sauce drizzled on top, these bad boys are pretty freakin delicious.  The strawberries get fairly soft on the inside and the outside tastes similar to funnel cakes at county fairs.  They are served warm, and with a little cool whip and chocolate sauce, they taste like little bites of Heaven.

6. Pulled Pork and Dry Rub Ribs at Corky's BBQ

   You didn't think I would leave Memphis without trying the BBQ, did I?!  Of course not!  I asked as many Memphis locals as I could where the best BBQ was, and their overwhelming answer was Corky's BBQ.  It's a little bit of a drive from down town, but oh so worth it.  Their dry rub ribs are out of this world.  When I say they fall of the bone, I mean you pick up the end of one of the ribs and the meat just slips right off onto your plate.  It was unbelievably tender and smoky and the seasonings for their dry rub are ridiculously good.  This was my first dry rub experience and I am officially a fan.  Their pulled pork was also delicious.  I put a little of their apple BBQ sauce on it and couldn't have asked for more.  Corky's is definitely the place to go for BBQ in Memphis.  I was blown away and left very, very full and happy.

    Memphis, you have forever left your mark on my heart and stomach.  You are a great city filled with amazing music, people and food.  I can't wait to come back for more some day. 

Monday, April 2, 2012

Almost Famous in Pittsburgh

    Pittsburgh is home to a crazy sandwich shop called Primanti Brothers.  It claims to be "almost famous" in it's slogan, but I have seen this place on Food Network more times than I can count and have heard about it from every person who has been through Pittsburgh.  I think they have officially crossed into famous territory and for good reason.  They have just about every type of meat you could ever ask for on a sandwich for you to choose from, ranging from fish to pastrami to kielbasa.  Their catch is that every sandwich, no matter what meat you choose, is served on their signature white bread and topped with french fries, coleslaw and tomato.  I decided to stick with simplicity and ordered mine with a fried egg, cheese and bacon.

   As you can see, these sandwiches are not for the faint of heart.  They come out on a piece of wax paper and kind of explode once placed on the table in front of you.  The challenge once there is to figure out how to tackle this giant pile of delicious food...

    Once you get the whole thing in your hands and good bite full, your hard work is greatly rewarded.  These sandwiches are awesome!  The coleslaw is crunchy, not overly creamy and peppery.  The french fries are salty, greasy and taste like real potatoes freshly cut and fried, and the bread soaks up all the grease and cream from the fries and coleslaw and really just becomes a way to hold it all together.  My fried eggs were great and the bacon was fried nice and crispy and there was plenty of it.  I loved every bite of it, despite my spot looking like a war zone afterwards.

   Primanti Brothers is an experience not to be missed if you are ever in the Pittsburgh area.  Go hungry and ready to get messy.

Monday, March 19, 2012

An Oldie and So Goodie

  Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City, Florida (right outside of Tampa) is the oldest, continuously run restaurant in Florida.  It was established in 1905 and has been serving up delicious cuban and spanish food ever since.  The restaurant itself is beautiful and offers live flamenco shows nightly.  Columbia is huge (the world's largest Spanish restaurant as a matter of fact) and still has a packed house with a waiting line out the door every night. 
   They have a very extensive menu so I followed my tried and true tradition of asking our server what their favorites are.  Ours replied with the "Boliche Criollo".  It is a slowly roasted eye round of beef, stuffed with chorizo, in gravy.  It is served with black beans, rice, and platanos.  I was sold.

    It was wonderful!  The beef was super tender and soaked up the flavorful gravy beautifully.  You can never go wrong with adding chorizo and, while there wasn't a huge amount of it, it was a great added flavor and kick in the beef.  I think the gravy is the super ingredient in this meal.  It added so much flavor and juice and was unlike any gravy I've ever had.  The platanos were sweet and ripe and the rice and beans were fantastic.  All in all, this was a fantastic meal in a very memorable place.    

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Give me food in a bucket anyday

  Our next stop in the Sunshine State was Tampa, Florida.  My parents got to come down for a visit (yay!) and I knew exactly where I wanted to take them their first night there.   I had heard rave reviews of a local favorite called "Crabby Bill's".  They have a few locations in the Tampa area, so I chose one for us right on the bay at Rocky Point.
   We started with an order of "Alligator Bites".  I had never tried alligator and I figured when in Rome... These were bites of gator tail, dusted in seasoned flour and then flash fried:

   I hate to sound completely stereotypical and generic, but alligator really does taste a lot like chicken!  These were delicious.  Slightly chewy, which apparently alligator always is, but still pretty tender.  They had a nice, fresh, and light taste to them.  And call me a redneck, but just about anything is going to be tasty if you fry it.  I loved these, but am interested in trying alligator that hasn't been covered in flour and fried. 

   For dinner, I ordered "The Steamer Bucket".  It's exactly like it sounds, a bucket filled to the brim with Crab legs, shrimp, mussels, and clams with a side of drawn butter.  (Cue choir of angels singing "Ahhh!")

     If this does not look like a heavenly bucket of deliciousness, then you are a fool on a fools journey.  This was amazing.  Some of the best, freshest tasting seafood I've ever had.  Crabby Bill's is doing something very right.  The crab legs were so tender and succulent, the shrimp were big and seasoned perfectly, the mussels and clams were soft and not overcooked at all.  My Mom and I split this bucket and, while we were very full by the time we reached the bottom, wanted 5 more.  This is a meal you work for but worth every crack, peel and pull.  There is something very communal and fun about eating this food with friends and family; everyone sitting around cracking crab legs and peeling shrimp, laughing and talking, and then enjoying their delicious end result together with messy hands and butter all over your face.  We had a blast. 


Sunday, February 26, 2012

My Big Fat Greek Dinner

    While in West Palm Beach, FL, we headed to City Place (the heart of downtown) to the beautiful Taverna Opa.  It's a fun Greek restaurant with a huge outdoor seating area that overlooks all of City Place.  At night, there is live belly dancing and the waiters all dance on the bar.  Sadly, we couldn't go at night to catch the "entertainment", but I'm sure it's a blast.
      My favorite part of Taverna Opa was the pre-meal hummus and pita.  They bring it out in a mortar and pestle and you can mash it into whatever consistency you like.  You can see the olive oil, garlic, tahini, lemon juice and chickpeas completely intact, so you know it's nice and fresh.  And it's fun to make your own hummus right at your table.  It was very, very good.

    The pita and delicious hummus was consumed very quickly :), but no worries because our entrees were out in no time.  I ordered the  Artichoke Chicken: chicken breasts and artichoke hearts sauteed in a lemon, white wine caper sauce and served with roasted lemon potatoes and sauteed spinach.

    It was delicious!  The chicken was super tender and the flavor from the sauce and capers was spectacular.  Zesty and fresh with little bursts of saltiness from the capers.  The artichoke hearts were tender but tasted like they were cooked fresh and not from a can.  The potatoes tasted great in their lemon juice and the spinach was wonderful.  I would definitely order this meal again.  Just thinking about it, my mouth is watering.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Das Real Good

   Our last night in DC, a few of us wondered over to Georgetown for Ethiopian food at "Das".  We were having a small goodbye dinner for Bruce, who was sadly leaving our tour, and Bruce requested Ethiopian.  I am certainly no connoisseur on Ethiopian cuisine, but I do know that the few times I've had it, I have loved it.  So I was looking forward to dinner at Das.
    If you've never had Ethiopian food, it is similar to Indian Food.  The spices are simple and strong and the food is delicious.  It is served without silverware, but with a sponge-like bread called injera that you tear apart and use to scoop up your food.  It is made out of fermented teff flour, is very light and folds like a tortilla.  The actual dish itself is served on top of a large peace of injera, which soaks up the sauce and juice from the vegetables and meat and becomes flavorful bites of soaked flatbread that finish your meal perfectly.
   We decided to order a few vegetarian entree samplers and Chicken & Beef entree samplers for the table.  The vegetarian entrees include a Harvest Stew of cauliflower, string beans and carrots simmered in stewed tomatoes, Split Pea Kik Alicha (a puree of yellow split peas mixed with onions, garlic, and green peppers), Red Lentil Miser Wot (lentils cooked in a red pepper sauce), Collard Greens Gomen, and Cabbage with Carrots in Sauce Tikile Gome (ginger and garlic). 
The vegetable entrees are closest to you, while the meat entrees are in the middle and back of the plate.
    The meat sampler included Chicken Doro Watt (chicken in red pepper sauce and served with a hardboiled egg), Beef Kaey Watt (in a spicy red pepper sauce), Beef Alicha (prepared in an herbed butter) and Beef Segana Gomen (mixed with collard greens). 
    It all tasted amazing.  I loved every entree, but I think my favorites were the collard greens and the Chicken Doro Watt.  But truly, you can't really go wrong with any of them.  It was all absolutely delicious and incredibly filling.  The use of spices in each dish creates a unique diminsion of taste specific to each entree.  They range from mild to spicy, but the spices never overpower the taste of the food they are a part of. 
    Another reason I love Ethiopian food is because it is such a community food.  You share large platters of food, break bread together, and eat off the same dish and small pile of food together.  Ethiopians believe sharing food from a common plate signifies the bonds of loyalty and friendship.  It was the perfect meal for us to have before sending Bruce off with our well wishes.


Friday, February 17, 2012

George Washington, Step Aside

    Our great country was established by our founding fathers, but our great food in DC has been established by "Founding Farmers" in Foggy Bottom.  This place is amazing.  It is owned by a collective group of farmers, using their locally grown food as much as possible to create all the delectable choices on their menu.  Every sauce, dressing, juice or gravy is made in house and their bread is all from scratch.  Founding Farmer's is all about sustainable, good quality, "All American" food while also keeping their restaurant very "green".  Everything from their electricity to how to their concrete poured bar top is eco-friendly.  They even take is as far as becoming the first restaurant in DC to be LEED Gold Certified and they offset their annual greenhouse gas emissions through!  This was definitely the kind of place I love to support with my business. 
     We went for breakfast one morning.  They offer a lot of unique twists on breakfast classics, like hash made with beets or carrot cake pancakes.  But when I saw "Chicken and Waffles" my decision was made for me.  Crispy-Fried Chicken Tenders, Gravy, Two Eggs, Waffle, Whipped Farm Butter, and Syrup.  That's right, syrup AND gravy.  I knew I couldn't go wrong there.  (I ordered mine with eggs over medium.)

   It was great!  The waffle was soft, fluffy and sweet, the gravy was thick, white gravy (of course) and tasted fabulous.  The syrup tasted the way that only REAL syrup can taste, which is incredible.  My eggs were cooked perfectly, with the yolk still runny in the middle, which tasted heavenly with the gravy and chicken.  And last but not least, the chicken was incredible.  Not overly fried, very juicy and tender, and seasoned so well.  The chicken was some of the best chicken I've ever had.  Not like the fried chicken I am used to in Georgia, with the thick, crunchy bits all over it, but fried just enough to give it a slight crunch and enough crevices for the syrup and gravy to soak into. 

     I wish I could have gone back for every meal, but Founding Farmer's is a VERY popular place.  I would strongly recommend reservations if you planning to go.  I loved my experience here and would definitely put this on my top 10 favorite restaurants ever.  Such a cool place trying to feed us real, whole food made by real, hardworking farmers.