Tag Archives: chicken wings

Plantation Cafe, the Angel Oak & Charleston

Hitting the road for Charleston today. It is a short drive but we are taking a 40 minute detour to see the Angel Oak. We are going to breakfast around the corner at the Plantation Cafe. Full up when we get there, we wait ten minutes and are seated inside. By 10 it is too hot to eat outside.

The cafe menu has plenty of southern classics and some creative breakfast choices. I’m brought a really good cup of coffee and some oj. The chicken fried steak is frozen. Pout. I choose Ellie’s breakfast but substitute country ham for sausage. Our waitress assures me it is the real deal, not processed crap. Rob orders the True Southern Breakfast.

Plates arrive. My breakfast comes with two prefect fried eggs, a delicate, fluffy angel biscuit, three slices of fried green tomatoes, grits and a huge slice of country ham. The grits are unseasoned. This is the second time this trip. I add a pat of butter, salt and pepper and then they are delicious. A light bulb goes off. I ask our waitress if unseasoned grits are how they are served here in the southeast. She said generally yes. People like to doctor them to their own tastes…more butter, less butter, salt no pepper, and maple syrup. The fried green tomatoes are disappointing. No seasoning and no heat. I don’t eat them.

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Country ham is a thing of beauty. Salty. A slice of meat off the haunch. Real meat not processed. We do not get ham like this in Ottawa. If ham is offered for breakfast in a restaurant home, it is processed. The tomatoes are forgotten.

The true southern breakfast came with excellent golden, crispy shredded hashbrowns, 2 eggs, another fluffy angel biscuit, well made pancakes and sausage patties that were absolutely ordinary.

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Time to head north. The short drive brings us by the Marine Corp Air training center, with several fighter jets on display, trailers, open fields, swamps, vegetables like okra, butterbeans are on offer by the roadside, boiled peanut stands, antiques, churches, fireworks and a vineyard. A billboard advertizes The Edisto Beach Shagfest(!). A fireworks store announces “Everything 25 cents and up. Mostly up.” Gas stops stock camo Redbull.

About 15 minutes out of Charleston, we follow a dirt road to the Angel Oak, a live oak tree that may be up to 1500 years old. It is magnificent. The trunk is 8.5 meters in circumference. The branches arch and dip gracefully to the ground and rise up again, growing, reaching. Many of the limbs have supports to manage the enormous weight. The angel oak is something to behold and it is almost impossible to get the entirety of this tree in a single camera frame.

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Before leaving the oak we visit the gift shop and discover an interesting treat. Benne wafers. Africans brought benne seeds with them to America and made them into sweet wafer treats. They taste nutty of sesame, honey and caramel and are nice and crunchy.

We are almost upon Charleston, our destination today and home for two nights. Bags are dropped and we are off to explore. The city is charming and colonial. The waterfront park has children splashing and wading in fountains, cruise ships anchored and boaters enjoying the final weekend of summer.

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It is baking hot. We last a scant forty minutes before finding sustenance at the Blind Tiger. Vodka Gimlets. A seriously refreshing growed-up drink. A small nosh and back to the surface of the sun.

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Dinner tonight will be at The Craftsman Kitchen and Tap House, a short stroll from our hotel.

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Craftsman has 48 taps and an impressive 200-plus bottled beer selection about which our waitress is quite knowledgeable. Rob starts with a Festina Peche, a Berliner Weissbeer from Doghead Fish Brewery in Delaware and I’m having a really excellent Long Day Bohemian Lager from Red Hare Brewing Company in Georgia.

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For dinner,  we decide to split the Crunchy Dame Sandwich, stout braised pork belly, cherry jam, raclette cheese, grainy mustard aioli and a  fried sunny on sweet Hawaiian bread egg. The sandwich is small but rich.

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It’s too hot for a large meal. We order some highly recommended squid fries, beer battered squid with pickled onion, house cured bacon and a lemon aioli.

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Next, we have some some very tasty General Tso’s wings – – 8 wings in a sticky soy garlic sauce with a mild chili bite, served with a cucumber soy pickle.

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The house made pickle plate included squash, green beans, red pepper, more cucumber soy, cauliflower and napa cabbage. The pickles were salty and vinegary. No subtlety. Not a favourite for sure.

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We have a second glass of beer, local Thai white, with Thai spices, that our able waitress has selected for us. Excellent end to satisfying meal.

 

 

 

Food Truck Day

Today is food truck day! Our goal: to have all of our meals at Austin food trucks around the city. Food truck culture is well ensconced here and there are a large number of choices available to hungry meal seekers. Every type of food is represented, across enthnicities, styles, and trends, for breakfast, lunch and dinner and from the basic to the hautest of haute.

These aren’t your father’s chip wagons. In Austin and other cities, food trucks are a lower cost alternative for a chef with vision to open a food business and to get known, gain a following and to be self-sufficient. The overhead and start-up costs are considerably lower. The nature of the competition is different as well as access and ambiance are taken out of the equation. The focus is on the food.

Our first stop of the day was one of Austin’s original and very popular food truck businesses, Torchy’s Tacos. One of the deciding factors for choosing Torchy’s was that only a small fraction of the trucks are open earlier in the day. Most open around 11:30 for the lunch crowd.

Torchy’s had a large assortment of Tacos available. I chose breakfast variants, chorizo and egg and a migas taco (egg, onion, green pepper, cheese and crisp tortilla strips). Both came with mild red sauce and a green sauce with a green chile kick.

Maureen ordered a “Dirty Sanchez” (probably just so she could say she did) and a green chile pork carnitas taco. The Dirty Sanchez had egg, poblano pepper that was battered and deep fried and dressed with guacamole, escabeche carrots and cheese. The other was stuffed with lots of pork carnitas,  green chile, cilantro , raw onion and soft queso cheese, with a mild herb creamy sauce.

Often tacos ordered this way can be quite small, and the idea is to order a few. These were not that kind. They were larger and full to the top with their fillings. All were delicious and were a great start to the day.

Torchy's Tacos on Urbanspoon

Our second stop was 400 feet down the road.

Gourdough’s specializes in big-ass doughnuts with exotic flavours. Among the 20 or so varieties that all look spectacular. After some major consternation we finally settle on one each.  Ordinarily we might order more and have a taste of each, but these doughnuts were $4.50 each, signaling that they were substantial in size.

I originally asked for the “Flying Pig”, with Bacon and a maple syrup glaze. After all that work of whittling the offerings down to a single choice, I was told that they were out of bacon. So back to the menu board. My plan B choice was  “Porkey’s”, a doughnut with cream cheese and jalapeño jelly topped with Canadian bacon.

Maureen choose a “Sarah’s Joy”, a doughnut with coconut cream filling, frosted with chocolate and covered with large, coarse coconut flakes.  Doughnuts are fried to order so when they called our names, the just-topped donuts were warm and very fresh. And large. Very large — a little wider than a CD in diameter, with no hole.

First mine: The fresh yeasty dough, the cream cheese and the jalapeño jelly were perfect together, not needing the superfluous bacon as it didn’t add or take away from the experience. Although, “Superfluous Bacon” is a very good name for a rock band. Maureen’s, however, was hands-down too sweet. The coconut cream was quite sweet and chocolate icing killed any chance the doughnut had left to be enjoyed. A word to bakers: Chocolate icing obliterates all other flavours — it’s strong and sweet and is almost always paired with more delicate ingredients that can’t stand up to it. Even chocolate cake suffers for it.

All was not lost, however. These are big doughnuts, so I happily gave up half of mine.

Gourdough's on Urbanspoon

Mid-afternoon we headed to our choice for a late lunch, called Fat Cactus, a truck that specialized in combining a couple of our favourite things: they made tacos and  sandwiches using Navaho fry bread, a crispy, fluffy, rich flat bread (similar to a Beaver Tail for our Ottawa-based readers). But alas, they were sold out by the time we got there… That’s an important lesson to learn for food truck aficionados — get it while you can.

The good news was that we were across the street from one of the largest collections of food trucks in Austin along South Congress. We looked at the many offerings, ranging from Cajun/Creole, to cupcakes, sausages, shaved ice treats, assortments of food cooked and put in cones and the one we selected, Thai. Food trucks often have great names built on puns and ours was no exception. “Coat & Thai” served the full range of Thai and near-Thai specialties.

We ordered red curry, pineapple fried rice, spicy Thai chicken wings and crab rangoon. A few minutes later our number is up and we bring it back to one of the communal picnic tables in the area. Everything is hot, home-made and delicious.

The fried rice has a subtle heat and is full of plump shrimp, pineapple, cilantro and vegetables. The red curry is medium spicy with a cilantro backbeat and goes very well on rice. Our chicken wings have that sweet, spicy Thai chili sauce on them and are addictive. Lastly, the crab rangoon (crab and cream cheese in a dumpling and deep fried — not a Thai dish, but an American invention first served at Trader Vic’s as faux Polynesian food) was creamy, and cooked so it was still tender. Lovely.


Coat and Thai on Urbanspoon

We headed out at about 8PM for our dinner spot, G’raj Mahal, and Indian food truck that has stretched the boundary of what could still be called a food truck. It started out as a trailer and some tables, but while the trailer is still the kitchen, they’ve added some semi-permanent structures to provide shelter for the tables and now have a seating capacity of about 60 people across three areas, and recently added full table service with waitstaff. You can also BYOB and many tables were making a night out of good food, company and wine. It’s still outside, the kitchen is in a trailer and it had humble beginnings, so it’s a food truck.

The theme is Indian food and their specialty is Goan cuisine, known for its use of coconut milk, seafood and chilies. We order some naan bread, sag paneer (Indian cheese with pureed spinach in curried cream), dahl, tandoori shrimp, chicken malabar (sweet coconut in caramelized onion cream sauce), and Goan Coconut Curry (Shrimp with freshly grated coconut, simmered with chilies).

The food is made with the freshest ingredients and the chef shies away from the usual artificial colours and shortcuts used by many Indian restaurants. This is without a doubt, the best Indian food I have ever had. The spice level of the food that the chef designates as “spicy” is well within our comfort zone. The coconut dishes are terrific. Sweet, nutty, spicy and creamy all at once. The creamy and rich sag paneer was also a standout. As with all really good Indian food, it’s impossible to stop eating! It takes almost superhuman strength to resist that last piece of naan soaked in the coconut curry.


G'Raj Mahal on UrbanspoonThat’s it for Food Truck Day. The variety and quality are both outstanding. Great food cities like New York, San Francisco, Portland and Austin are seeing more and more food trucks emerge as a key force in the culinary evolution of the city. One will only hope that other cities (Ottawa: hint, hint!) will change their minds about the crippling regulations that they have stacked against these businesses and will ensure they are allowed to flourish. Cities can only be better for it.

RT5: Natchez & The Trace

Pecan pie for breakfast! We are in the deep South and that is what they do, right? Our hostess at The Pig Out Inn sent us on our way last night with two of their homemade mini pecan numbers. As we opened them this morning the wrapping released the sweet BBQ smoke adhering to it. Deep breath… aaahh! The pie is sweet and nutty and the perfect breakfast size.

As we walk to the river to embark on a horse drawn carriage ride through this genteel town, we sniff their wood smoke on the light breeze once again. Could get used to that. We are heading to Jackson, MS later today but first we want to see a little more of Natchez and we think a 45 minute tour by horse and carriage with a guide will be the best way to accomplish this.

Mike introduces himself as our driver and nods to his horse Mac. He tells us that if this is confusing we can have Jack and Jake instead. We are his only customers on this fine but very hot morning. As we head out at a very slow clop, Mike tells us to hold on because Mac has ” the pedal to the metal.” As we tour through this pretty southern town which has an incredible sense of civic pride, we are introduced to the homes of cotton barons, which are the founders of this town, Natchez, the oldest city on the Great River.

We meet William Johnston, a slave freed at the age of 11, who goes on to become a plantation owner… and owner of 23 slaves. We pass by enormous live oak trees and quaint home after quaint home. When we clop by the City Hall we ask Mike for Tripod’s story. We saw his headstone on the front lawn last evening. Tripod the cat had three legs and the run of City Hall. He attended council meetings and was featured on the TV show, “PM Magazine” at which point, he became a celebrity. People sent him money and food. Tripod died with $42 in the bank which was donated to the Humane Society.

We continue along the tour route and past Hotel Eola where we spent the night. Mike tells us this is where Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift stayed in 1953 while filming in town. Further along we see the grand house actor George Hamilton once owned and Magnolia House, the finest example of the Greek Revival style in town. After a delightful tour, Mike and Mac lead us back down to the river way station where Mac is very happy to join Jake and have a long drink in the shade.

Time to hit the road for Jackson. We have decided to stop by Fat Mama’s for tamales first. Yes, tamales. In Mississippi. These are rooted in the influx of Mexican migrant workers coming to work the cotton fields after the freeing of the slaves. Today, however, African Americans are the keepers of the tamale flame in Mississippi.

Fat Mamas is a pretty little spot with a beautiful outdoor patio, artfully planted up with Agave and an ornamental pear tree. Lights are strung and there is a glass bottle tree in the courtyard. Inside Mama’s is clean, colourful, and…empty, although we are through the door the minute they open. We order up a half dozen tamales and a gringo pie to share. Tamales are corn husks stuffed with a masa mixture and ground meat and spices, then steamed to cook the masa. These tamales are simple, flavourful, and of medium heat. They are unadorned with sour cream or guacamole. Hot sauce is not necessary. They are plenty spicy.

The Gringo Pie is basically three tamales unwrapped and smothered in beef chili, cheddar, onions and jalapenos. The chili is a nice saucy accompaniment to the tamales. Here is where we run into some technical difficulties. Rob took most of the photos at this stop and they disappeared somewhere, somehow between a fancy camera and powerful software and an operator who is neither fancy nor powerful.

Fat Mama's Tamales on Urbanspoon

We get back in the car and allow Stella 3000 to take us to the Natchez Trace, a 444-mile road that will take us to Jackson, then on to Tupelo and then into Nashville, Tennessee, where it terminates by the Loveless Cafe. The Trace is an ancient trail over 1,000 years old and rife with history. It was walked by Indians, trod by horses, followed by armies, and terrorized by bandits. In modern times, it has become a lovely way to get from here to there. The National Parks Service maintains it. Never have we seen such a pristine roadway. In the 100 miles we covered today, we saw not one piece of trash. The restrooms are near spotless.

The Trace is a two lane road, paved in the reddish-peach asphalt you see through out the state. Well maintained grass butts up to the road. Pines and other forest greenery travel along side. Each mile is marked and when sites of historical importance or natural beauty are approaching, you are warned by a sign a half-mile in advance. We have a detailed book about the road and decided to stop at two places of interest, the Springfield Plantation and the Windsor Ruins.

We chose the Springfield Plantation because we had not yet visited and toured a real Southern Plantation home. Springfield boasts original interiors. After a false start due to poor signage and directions in our guide book, we find the Plantation. The gates are closed. The sign tells us the plantation is open Mondays and Wednesdays on the first Sunday of any  month with a J in it and the moon is in its crescent phase, or some such nonsense. Oh well, back on the road.

Our next stop will be the Windsor Ruins. We leave the Trace at the appointed mile marker and travel through 11 miles of Mississippi back roads, just long enough to start to get creeped out. We almost stumble upon it. Windsor Ruins are basically what’s left of a gigantic antebellum mansion destroyed by a devastating fire in 1890 – 23 columns and a balustrade remain. A house guest accidentally burned the place to the ground. A Union army soldier sketched the place at one time and it is the only visual record of this grand home. The columns, nestled among stately trees are truly magnificent and the setting eerily quiet but for the occasional bird call. Worth visiting.

The Trace is hardly traveled this day. We see seven fellow travelers, two ladies on horseback picking muscadines, three maintenance workers, one cyclist, perhaps thirty cars passing in the other direction and possibly one Sasquatch. Rob thinks it was a deer… a verrrry big deer. There are no cars in our field of view, front or rear, for the majority of our trip. At last we have to pop onto US 80 for 20 minutes to take us into Jackson. Back into big box territory. Very jarring after the peaceful solitude of the Natchez Trace.

We roll into Jackson, the capital city of Mississippi around 3 pm. We settle into our hotel and are happy to be greeted once again by Antonio, our bellman from our last trip to Jackson, and BBQ connoisseur who put us on to E & L BBQ, still our favorite reason to be in Jackson. We have planned this ahead of time. We wish to be in Jackson early in daylight so we can grab dinner at E & L which resides in a rough section of town and bring it back to the hotel. We order the exact same things as last time: Rib tips with sauce on the fries, wings, dipped, and links. Everything comes with fries so we end up with three orders of fries.

For more detail on E&L, refer to our Happy Mouth Classic review here.

We rush back to our hotel room, with our precious cargo in the back seat. We scurry up to our room and lay out the spread. Wow. I’m almost scared to dig in – sometimes the memory is better. Nope…exactly as I remember. Fabulous. The link is coarse-ground and spicy. Chunks of pepper are visible. We roll it in the soft, squishy, utilitarian white bread and chow down. The beefeater cut fries are smothered in sweet bbq sauce that has little or no smoke. The rib tips are meaty, sweet, melt-in-your-mouth succulent. The chicken wings? I do not know where they get wings this size. They are deep fried and then dipped in bbq sauce which just soaks in. Luscious. AND there are leftovers in the hotel fridge ;). Well played.

Amazing links – coarse and spicy.
These wings are huge…

 

As shown against a piece of bread for scale. These are BIG wings.

E & L Barbeque on Urbanspoon