Tag Archives: fried chicken

Firefly and the Conch Republic Train

Firefly, a small cafe open to the air in the front, immediately comfy in what I will call rooster industrial chic, looks like a perfect spot for breakfast. We find seating with the fresh air to our backs facing the corrugated metal bar, warm and inviting with a wood board backsplash in the colours of the island rooster plumage. Very well done.

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Firefly prides itself on its scratch made menu. I am very tempted by the chicken fried steak. Very hard to come by fresh made not frozen.

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In the end we both opted for the chicken and waffles and asked if we could get a side of sawmill gravy and they were very accommodating. In fact it had never occurred to them and they thought it was a great idea. It was.

Decent coffee and excellent fresh squeezed Florida OJ on ice arrives.  The morning, already becoming hot and humid, requires drinks on ice. I am not complaining just reporting.

The chicken breast, expertly fried and boneless with a perfect crisp, chewy crust, nestled on top of four Belgian style waffle quarters,  drenched in buttery maple syrup, sprinkled with pecans, evokes some very excellent chicken and waffles we have enjoyed in previous southern USA trips.

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The side of homemade pepper gravy is THE BEST EVER. Beats out our gold standard for chicken and waffles that is Roscoe’s in LA. This gravy could be eaten with a spoon like soup …chunky with sausage, creamy with a little pepper heat. Now dip a piece of crunchy, moist, tender, maple syrup drenched fried chicken in it and go “ahhhhhh”. Life is good.

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This being our third time in Key West we decided it was time to get acquainted with the island’s history, so we booked a tour on the Conch Train. The tour lasted a little over an hour and was interesting but hot. Time for a cold beverage and a swim.

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Chicken, Biscuits & A Plantation

Another scorcher. Our day is planned around the Magnolia Plantation, about which I am very excited. Award winning gardens, open since 1870.

Breakfast is at a Triple D joint, Dixie Supply Bakery & Cafe. When we arrive, the lineup is out the door and remains that way through our stay. There is minimal seating inside so I grab the only available table outside. Rob lines up to order. It is about 30 minutes until we get food from this point.

When he comes back he brings two icy Diet Cheerwines, two plates with biscuit sandwiches of fried chicken an a fried egg, smothered in country gravy.

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He also brings a slice of heirloom tomato pie to share. The fried chicken sandwich is excellent, nice biscuit, crunchy chicken, perfect fried egg with a slightly runny yolk and delicious, peppery country gravy.

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The tomato pie is tomato heaven. Made with ripe tomato slices, cheddar cheese piled into a buttery, sourcream  crust and baked to perfection. The pie is accompanied by a gingerbread “crouton”. Curious but delicious. A fine breakfast indeed.

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Bellies full, we make our way out of town to Magnolia Plantation, land that has been in the Drayton family for 12 generations. The plantation is noted for its gardens, camellia collection, plantation home and restored slave quarters. After the civil war and the freeing of the Drayton labour force, the plantation continued to thrive by offering and charging for tours of the extensive gardens. There is also a petting zoo of rescued animals on site.

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I had very much looked forward to this tour. I have never seen a plantation before and this is one of the better ones apparently. However, this is labour day weekend and everyone and his dog decided to check out this historical treasure. This came as a huge surprise to the operators of the plantation. Like, “never before have they been busy on a holiday weekend” surprised.

After a lengthly walk from the auxiliary car parking, we encountered a lineup of Disneyesque proportions. In the scorching sun. We line up expecting to be moved through relatively quickly. Three of six ticket kiosks are open. A couple at one is there for 10 minutes. The line does not move. They averaged 3 minutes or more to accommodate each guest. After an hour in line, under a hot sun in 100 percent humidity, I am basically done by the time we reach the kiosk. We plan to just buy the all-inclusive tickets (or you pay general admission and add each and every tour you want to do) but are told this will take 5-6 hours, not doable on a day like this. We opt for the general admission and 4 of the available tours. “Lets get you signed up.”, the ticket master says! “We can’t get you started on any of the tours until 2:00.” It is currently 12:15. So we go over options. This is what is taking the line so long. They are doing this with each group. Two by two. Most disordered public attraction I have ever encountered. She kept apologizing for the long line. They did not expect this, despite having given out discount coupons for this busy holiday weekend. You’ve been doing this on some level since 1870.

Anyways, we severely curtail what we wanted to see. The heat and humidity are at unbearable levels, even for me who likes the heat. We manage to do a self guided walking tour for a little over an hour. We walked through the gardens which were actually well kept but not very interesting as little to nothing was in flower. We toured the beautiful, leafy conservatory, green with palms, ferns and an occasional potted orchid, with one or two statues. We headed over to the “Big House” where we viewed the grounds, back and front and checked out the crap…I mean, gift shop. We did not go inside the house because we could not get a tour at a reasonable time. It’s online however and quite interesting.

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We paid 2 bucks a pop for off brand bottled water, which they should have been distributing for free due to the line up we were forced to endure due to their incompetence and sat on the porch for some shade with 19-year-old Big House Cat, “Sylvester”.

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Soon after we headed back to our vehicle, which took us past the restored slave quarters. We again did not do the tour of the quarters as the schedule was ridiculous. The interiors are online and again are quite interesting.

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The Magnolia Plantation is a historical treasure and we are sure that had we visited at another time of year when they were more prepared, it was cooler and more of the gardens were in bloom, this would have been the highlight of our trip. As it was, it was a massive disappointment.

Afternoon siesta: required. I love Charleston but this was absolutely the wrong weekend to land here. The city is stinking hot, humid and crowded with tourists for the holiday weekend. I’d like to come back in April.

Tonight we will have our final meal in Charleston at The Fleet Landing. We have 7 pm reservations. When we leave there are people doing an hour and a half wait. This does not speak necessarily to the quality of the food but the fact that the city is so crowded.

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The Fleet Landing is a five minute walk from our hotel. We get there early and have a drink at the bar.

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It’s a good spot to watch food being purveyed around. A live menu. When we are seated we order another round and apps. I order the crab cake. I know, I said I was done with them but this one looked to be good. I was right. It was all lump crab meat, with a bit of mayo, fried with an ultra thin crust,  served on a salad of fresh corn and topped with fried onions that on this evening were a little limp (as is everything in this city at the moment). Good idea, though.

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Rob had the calamari “steak” which was finger sized strips of squid battered and perfectly, crisply fried. Served with two sauces, a sweet Thai and an aioli. Quite delish.

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Beautiful, hot angel biscuits and butter appear. Mmmmm…

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Mains arrive. Seafood fettuccine for me, with three plump scallops, good shrimp, mussels, and crawfish tails in a nice cream sauce. The generous coins of andouille sausage were really good and super spicy with a heat that kept on coming. They do not offer shaved parm but there are a few thin slivers melted on top. Unnecessary really.

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Rob’s main was a fried seafood plate with shrimp, scallops with some Charleston red rice and some creamy coleslaw. First off, the sides were killer. The red rice was smoky and seasoned with just a little zing. The cole slaw was creamy with a bite. The fried shrimp and scallops were a little greasy, which is a first in our experience of the South. Usually, items are fried perfectly. Not so, here. The shrimp were better, but the scallops were not winners. Even so, there was a lot of food, so a lot got left on the plate anyway, but there was not a single grain of that red rice left.

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Goodbye Charleston. Tomorrow we head to Wilmington North Carolina on our way to Washington, DC.

 

Road Trip 2014: Atlanta

Day one of an epic road trip to Washington DC, begins in Atlanta, Georgia. We have a 9 AM flight to Toronto and then on to Atlanta. Quite civilized. After many teary goodbyes to my furbabies, some kitty disdain and big brown eyes and a licorice nose in a cocked head staring plaintively as we turned the key in the door, we are off. Road trip 2014, The Chicken and Waffles and Civil War Tour, is officially under way.

We arrive in Atlanta on schedule. 90 degrees at 1:00. It takes one hour from touchdown to sitting in a rental. That’s without having to go through customs as we cleared in Toronto. Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport is massive. I normally would not notice so much but ya do with a bum knee.

NOTE to Avis: A seven seat Explorer is not in the same class as an Escape. This is the second time we have rented an Escape and been switched out for a behemoth. Gas costs will be through the roof. Oh well, c’est la vie. Won’t get caught on that again.

3:00 has us settled into the Hotel W, one of the nicer W’s we have stayed at. A little unpacking and it is time to hit the hotel bar for a cocktail. The W has a little bar on the 16th floor with a nice view of some of the city. Attached to the pool, the bar is noisy with a DJ. We have a cocktail and peruse dinner possibilities. There are endless possibilities in Atlanta.

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Tonight we chose Aunt Pittypat’s Porch based on my love for Gone With The Wind and because Pittypat’s made Thrillist’s list of best fried chicken in Atlanta. We walked the several blocks in a still hot sun, blistering and unforgiving even at 6pm. Opting out of the porch to dine due to the oppressive heat, we head inside. Greeted by friendly staff and live piano music tinkling such classics as This Diamond Ring, we head downstairs. Pittypat’s keeps the Gone with the Wind theme in check. Aside from some themed menu items and a life sized Scarlett, the dining room is all old South charm and grime. A large brick fireplace graces one end, pheasant wallpaper and china racks decorate walls, tables are dark wood, a bit of faux paneling and basement chic round out the room.

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Our server arrives with the bread course, a delicious sweet potato chocolate muffin, a decent wedge of cornbread and a passable biscuit. We order cocktails, a mint julep for me and watermelon punch for Rob. Both are somewhat disappointing, the julep watery and the punch outrageously sweet and in no way resembling watermelon.

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For starters we decide to share Pittypat’s Fried Green Tomatoes. The order is surprisingly sparse, just three well made slices and an excellent, spicy remoulade dip.

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For mains we both order the famous fried chicken. All mains come with their famous sideboard, read salad bar. The bar has cold items only, featuring a rather pathetic green salad selection but offering a really nice Hoppin’ John (rice and black eyed peas, spicy with jalepeno), pickled water melon rind, sweeter than a classic bread and butter pickle, with a nice texture, and one of the best cold macaroni salads I’ve had.

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The chicken arrives.  3 LARGE pieces, hot, steamy, moist, crisp. Perfectly fried and not greasy. Ah the south. They do know how to fry food. An ice cream scoop of mashed spuds covered in the whitest yet very tasty gravy I’ve seen completes the plate and collard greens and black eyed peas come separately. Both sides are excellent. The collards are sweet and sour, and the peas are stewed with a little onion and tomato, naturally a little sweet and lightly smoky.

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Once again we forgot about portion sizes in the United States, particularly the South. I hate to waste food. We have a huge breast, thigh, and leg boxed up. We have no fridge. I offer it to our cab driver and tell him if he doesn’t want it maybe he knows of a person who may. He is happy to take it.

 

 

Prohibition: Leaving MTL

What a blast! 5 extremely talented comics in little more than 24 hours. Each one a standout. Time to get back to real life and hit the road back to Ottawa. Rob has found a breakfast spot on the way out of the city, a few blocks in from Decarie Blvd. that looks promising: Prohibition. An eclectic, smallish basement eatery that styles itself as southern/soul. We arrive a few minutes before 11 and are lucky to get two seats at the bar. Behind us people are turned away. Rain overnight shuts the patio down, but it reopens around 11:30. Inside, the place oozes modern hipster, dark walls, light tables, one red tiled wall, and some artwork. Noisy patrons, chatting, greeting and eating make Prohibtion a party you want to join.

Once again we are greeted in English, and the crowd is speaking English. I find this comforting but odd. I almost never encounter French spoken in service in Montreal. I guess they prefer to go with English rather than listen to me butcher French. We settle at the bar and peruse the short, but intriguing menu. Every dish is appealing, from Fried Chicken with French Toast to Heuvos Rancheros to Blueberry Compote Ricotta Pancakes. Hard choices here. Sadly we are driving shortly and have to forgo the breakfast cocktail bar. And I’m not just talking Mimosas.

Rob is sticking to the theme (in his head) and orders the Fried Chicken and French  Challah Toast. I’m going a little more Quebequois and settle on the Breakfast Poutine. Rob, I will note here does not “get” poutine. He likes fries, he likes, gravy, he likes cheese. He does not see the point of them together. What is to get, seriously? I think his first 3 months on American soil have done some damage. Anyways… the poutine arrives and it is marvelous. Classic, well made fries doused liberally in salty, tasty brown gravy, topped with white cheese curds and finished with a fried egg over easy. Oh yeah….and lots and lots of candied bacon.

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Rob’s chicken and French toast, from the measly piece he gave me, was divine. The french toast was almost donut like and the chicken was crunchy and moist. Truth be told, I may not have shared even that much with him.

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If we lived in Montreal, I could see spending a good deal of brunch time here. I would certainly make an effort to try every menu item.

 

NYC: Bubby’s & The Standard Grill

Spent the morning at 59th and Lex, also known as Bloomingdale’s. After a productive spree, I headed back to the Meat Packing District to meet up with Rob and grab lunch at Bubby’s, a short walk from our hotel, The Standard.Bubbie's 003

Bubby’s, a scratch kitchen, immediately comfy with wood tables and chairs, exposed brick,  a well stocked bar and lots of natural light, also houses an old school soda fountain. This is our chance to try an honest to goodness egg cream. They serve chocolate and vanilla. We opt for chocolate to share. An egg cream consists of chocolate syrup. soda water and milk. The drink, much lighter in texture than a milk shake and less sweet, is quite nice and refreshing. You can really taste the soda water.

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For lunch we both ordered the Portland fried chicken and biscuit sandwich, two Ommegang Witte wheat beers and sides of coleslaw, mac and cheese and baked beans. The chicken, crispy and not greasy, I find a tad salty. This sandwich is served with honey mustard and chopped mustard greens. The greens are a revelation, great texture, mildly bitter, they really complement the chicken. The biscuit is decent but a little tough on the bottom. We got a choice of two sides and opted for a third. The sides are not overly large but perfect for two to share. Coleslaw is creamy and unremarkable, baked beans are sweet, smoky and have a nice heat, mac and cheese is excellent, cheesy but not gloppy.

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Tonight, our final night in New York, we are having dinner at the highly recommended Standard Grill which is attached to our hotel. The Grill exudes old world ambiance with some art deco features. The flooring is a lovely, warm copper penny tile.

We get settled into a red leather, tufted booth and peruse the updated classic menu. Radishes and chunks of Parmesan cheese are delivered to the table.  Salty and sharp, they compliment pretty much any cocktail. Bread and butter arrive, the bread in a paper sack. They take bread seriously here and the three small baguettes are salted and perfectly chewy.

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We decide on a dozen oysters from the raw bar. I order a Jackie 60 — mezcal, Grand Marnier, agave, lime and smoked sea salt rim. Rob orders a Continental Drift — reposado tequilla, lime, agave, curried mango and smoked sea salt.  Our oysters arrive, perfectly shucked and  accompanied by a well made red wine vinegar mignonette. I swallow one sweet, briney oyster and wash it down with the mezcal cocktail. What an amazing combination!  The smokey lime cocktail is the best thing I have ever paired an oyster with. Wow. Must duplicate these flavors at home.

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For starters we are splitting the iceberg wedge salad. It arrives on two plates and I explain to the waiter that we ordered only one to share. He assures me this is one order that they shared on two plates. This would be a massive serving for one. The lettuce is chilled and perfectly crisp. It is generously but not over sauced in a buttermilk dressing and topped with crispy bacon, fried shallots, mild blue cheese and dried cherries. A truly delectable salad.

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As we sip a nice Napa cab our mains arrive, medium rare strip steaks with chimmichuri sauce. Sides are separate. We chose the creamy spinach, crisp potatoes and the One Good Pickle that Rob insisted on. Our steaks are grilled a perfect medium rare. The chimmichuri sauce is excellent but spare. I would have preferred some on the side. Rob disagrees and thinks the amount is perfect and allows the steak to shine. He is wrong as usual.

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The crisp potatoes are just that. The pickle is young. crisp, tasty and not too salty. The creamy spinach is delicious. The green taste is slightly garlicky and nicely creamy.

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Dessert is offered and the menu is interesting. I am interested in the Wake and Bake, warm chocolate cookies with milk or the rhubarb crostata. They also offer a slice of birthday cake. Very nice. Unfortunately we are too full to be tempted and finish our meal with very excellent cappuccinos served with a square of very good dark chocolate.

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The Standard Grill offers superb fare with attentive table service. The washrooms are notable. The men’s and ladies’ are separated by a see through chain curtain and may as well be together. It is easy to miss the male and female silhouettes on the floor directing you to your gender side. You come out and wash up in a trough together. There is a a single male attendant who seems to spend all his time on the ladies’ side. This is disconcerting as the stalls are open below and their is a one inch gap between the door and the side of the stall. Just weird. An experiment, I guess but it’s just wrong.