Tag Archives: pork belly

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.

 

 

 

Red Wagon Cafe

Today, our last day in Vancouver, also happens to be our 29th wedding anniversary. The sun is glorious and we plan on spending the day sightseeing and checking out a few more neighborhoods, notably Davie Village.

Gotta fuel up first. Rob decided on another Triple D joint…on East Hastings! We visited this “quaint” neighborhood last night because we had tickets to see a comedian at the Rickshaw Theatre. Yikes! We made a hasty exit after the show, hoped to find a cab and swore never to return. But alas that all went out the window as we decided to check out Red Wagon Cafe in the light of day. A Streetview Google confirmed it was many blocks from the war zone we walked into last night.

We have been really lucky with parking in the city and scored a spot right in front of the restaurant where we could see the car. I do think our hubcaps were safe here but one never knows. A small crowd was gathered around outside waiting for tables. A young staffer came out and offered around fresh, warm, sugared doughnut holes. This may have kept the crowd from defecting to the absolutely empty Asian restaurant next door (also could have been the no public restrooms, no phones, cash only welcoming sign in the window) but I expect it was more likely the expectation of great food that lay within.

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Red Wagon Cafe is one of only 6 Triple D joints in the entire city. We have been fortunate to get to two on this whirlwind tour. After a ten minute wait we are seated. It appears that Red Wagon does not seat two at a four top so a wait can be unpredictable. When we left there were people who had arrived before us still waiting.

Decorated mostly in vintage coca cola chic, the ambiance is punctuated by a few quirky objects d’art such as an industrial sized whisk with a plastic shark caught up in it for added interest. A tiny red Radio Flyer wagon has a home in a corner near the kitchen. Overall the cafe feels homey, well worn and welcoming.

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Coffee and water arrive quickly with menus. There are four things at least that attract me immediately, but I settle for the Super Trucker with pulled pork pancakes, pork belly, sourdough toast (rye toast for Rob), home fries and 2 eggs. For an additional charge you can have your maple syrup spiked with JD. Well worth it. Two notes here: I am not a huge fan of pulled pork. Quite often I find it bland, pasty in texture and over sauced. Secondly I rarely order sweet stuff such as pancakes for breakfast. It was more the eggs and pork belly I was after here. Yes I could have had them separately. Not sure what I was thinking. I was, perhaps, blindsided by the prospect of spiked maple syrup.

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Food arrives in about ten to twelve minutes. Wow! Looks amazing. The pork belly, thick, not all fat, is crisped up perfectly. My eggs are a perfect over medium as requested.

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The home fries are excellent, perfectly tender new potatoes dressed with a little bacon and green onion. A hallmark for a breakfast place for Rob and I are the potatoes. Deep frying cubes of potatoes casts suspicion on everything else the kitchen does — an unacceptable shortcut. Red Wagon’s potatoes are among the best we have had. It’s the little things that show a kitchen’s passion for what they serve.

I taste the pulled pork which is piled on top of the buttermilk inch-thick pancakes before dousing them in spiked syrup. This is the best pulled pork I have ever had, knocking Rob’s into second place. The texture is perfect. Not pasty. A little crisped up on the flat top maybe. Tender, sweet, salty and garlicky with some definite chili heat. This pulled pork needs no sauce. It stands alone. The pancakes are a perfect bed for the pork. Light and fluffy, quite amazing on their own, but raised to another dimension when soaked with JD spiked maple syrup.

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This was one of the best breakfast/brunch experiences we have had on the road since Jam in Portland, Oregon.

Off we go into the famous Vancouver sunshine for our final day of exploring. Next up: The Rocky Mountaineer through the Rockies to Calgary!

 

 

 

RT6 – To Boston

Woke up to, sigh, yet another sunny, warm day. We walk to breakfast at The Porthole on the wharf, taking in the sea air, which truth be told, is a little fishy scented. The wharf of which I speak is the same one where we ate last night. There are nice stores and tourist boutiques in the area but the wharf itself is beautiful in it’s fight to survive nature and all she throws at the structures that dare. Thankfully the wharf has not been Disneyfied.  It is dilapidated and could use a coat of paint but that would raise prices and take away the charm. This morning there are a few puddles in the uneven cobbles and merchants going about early business.

The Porthole is distressed to say the least on the outside, but inside it is warm and inviting though not busy this Tuesday morning. A long copper topped bar runs the length of a large kitchen, fronted with empty stools. A few patrons are enjoying breakfast on the large patio. We decide to sit inside by the open window and enjoy the ambiance inside. Featured on the walls are folk art paintings and some antique signage, a piano and very old jukebox fill corners.

OJ is not fresh squeezed but it is amazing what a lot of ice does to improve it. No coffee today. Trying to forget yesterday’s coffee. Menus arrive and the choice is easy. I often get bored with the classic breakfast offerings, but when I see an egg and braised pork belly sandwich with kimchi, I am having it. Read no further. Rob orders the same and we split a side of cheese grits.

Our sandwiches come with potatoes that at first look disappointing, as we use potatoes as a measure by which to judge a breakfast joint. Don’t be deceived by looks though. The potatoes looked like those distressing deep fried cubes of ruined spuds but they are just fresh and hard pan fried in a lot of fat. They are excellent. Our Porthole Special Breakfast, a well made omlette of egg with scallions folded onto buttered toasty bread with American cheese all melty and gooey, with braised porkbelly, the fat cut with spicy kimchi, topped with more buttered toast is divine.

The grits are well made and peppery and have enough cheese to make them creamy but not taste of cheese, but they don’t rate belly space when faced with a sandwich of that magnificence.

Back on the road again we have to backtrack a bit and find ourselves back in New Hampshire. What a difference between Maine and the Live Free or Die State. When you have low taxes and no sales tax there is not a lot of civic pride in evidence. Sorry, New Hampshire but your charms are lost on me to date.

Today we are traveling to Boston via Essex and Salem. We sail into Essex, MA along Route 1. We are stopping at the renown Woodman’s for lunch. It is unassuming, well… for a large seafood shack in Massachusetts bedecked in flags.

You line up and order from a chalkboard menu, go to a separate line and get drinks, in this case, a Sam Adams Cherry Wheat Beer, and find a seat to wait for your number to come up.

Our meal arrives in a box top and take out containers. Absolutely decadent, over stuffed lobster rolls on eggy, griddled buns served with potato chips, and the most perfect, sweet, lightly battered and fried sea scallops and clam cake. One look at the picture of the lobster roll and you will die just a bit because you are not here. I have never had scallops that fresh and perfectly made.

The clam cake well…it is what it is. A savory “donut” with chopped clam in the batter with barely discernible clam flavour. This is a regional specialty that I would pass on when you could have THIS lobster roll. Just sayin’.

Oh yeah…the Sam Adams was a great wheat beer with only a nice hint of cherry. Rob and I came up with some weird flavour profiles to describe it but while accurate, they didn’t sound that appetizing and we both enjoyed the beer, so we gave up. And so, after an epic seafood orgy of Caligulan proportions, we decide to visit a little 17th-century graveyard which features the graves of several Revolutionary War veterans.

Onward to Salem, Ma where we visited the water front which is in preparations for a large Maritime Festival beginning tomorrow. We explore the tourist traps a bit. Salem is very halloweeny this time of year and has extended its brand to include magic, wizards, faeries and pirates. Tsk, tsk.

We continue on to Boston where we will spend three days. The entire drive today has been a pretty saunter through quaint New England, past clapboard and shingled homes, saltboxes and Victorians, past deep blue hydrangeas, flamingo- pink summer phlox, black-eyed Susans, cleome, Rose of Sharon and gaily-coloured window boxes, past neat pickets, rustic rail and solid stone fences. And flags.

 

Austin Day 2: Kreuz Market

It’s raining in Austin again today so we plan to do a little driving and exploring. Sun is promised for tomorrow and so is the Texas Marathon. But today, brunch will be at 24 Diner. This hip eatery is busy on Saturday and parking is hard to obtain. Once inside the wait is 15 minutes. We are seated and order drinks and peruse the menu. The interior is not diner-like at all but more hipster/industrial.

24 Diner on UrbanspoonThe menu has all the diner classics but refined and many healthy non-dinerish options. I order the Pork Belly sandwich that is reminiscent of a bahn mi with cucumber, mint, serrano and pickled red onion. Sides are ordered separately and I was intrigued by the menu option: vegetable of the day. I expected the usual bland selection of broccoli, carrots, or cauliflower. Today’s veg was brussel sprouts sauteed in a skillet. Sign me up! I love sprouts. The sandwich was good, the baguette perfectly chewy and the pork belly surprisingly meaty. The mint, serrano and cucumber were not evident and that was a little disappointing. The sprouts were awesome! Charred and sweet.

Rob ordered a patty melt with fries. The melt came nontraditionally on sourdough, but it was perfectly toasted on the flat-top with the pre-requisite fried onions and swiss cheese, combining for a creamy, sweet, sharp foil for the burger. Rob’s a sucker for a patty melt.

After lunch we headed over to the nearby Whole Foods store, perchance to dream. This Austin location is the flagship store and well… as a someone who shops for food in Ottawa…completely depressing. The selection is amazing.

A little tired walking the aisles? Stop here and have a craft beer. *sigh*
Our daughter Hannah always requests meatloaf when asked for dinner suggestions.
Raising the candy apple to an art form. The choice of prepared foods is staggering.

Kreuz Market (pronounced “KRITES”) in Lockhart has been on Rob’s radar for some time. It is one of the oldest and most traditional examples of Texas BBQ. We spent the afternoon cruising around in the inclement weather stopping here and there for a picture. Lockhart is about 40 minutes south of Austin and is considered a bit of a Mecca for BBQ enthusiasts. On the way to Lockhart, Rob informs me that he is not certain I’m going to like Kreuz. Why? Well…its hunks of meat and no sauce, and no forks. But there are sides right? Hmmm…crackers and pickles…maybe potato salad. Okay, I’m pretty sure I already hate this place. I don’t care about its iconic status. Oh well, I’ll grit my teeth and take one for the team.

Kreuz is huge. The woodlot out back is the size of your average supermarket garden center. When entering you are oddly accosted by several of those rip-off “claw and capture a stuffed animal” vending machines. Advance warning, parents. Further in the line up to order begins. Selection is small – two varieties of sausage, brisket, beef and pork ribs, smoked ham special today. Ordering is done at a central counter where you pay as well.

The ordering room contains several large smokers and open fires with hot burning logs. The clerk takes your meat orders only. She calls it out directly to the aproned, blackened cutter immediately behind her who slices your brisket and ribs. She weighs it and the cashier rings it up. It is bundled haphazardly with several slices of white bread in several layers of butcher paper and handed still open to you.

At this point you continue to the next ordering phase in the main dining hall. Here you have a few limited choices for sides including sauerkraut, German potatoes (roasted and steamed), mac and cheese, coleslaw and several pickle selections.

From here you find space at a table and spread out your meal. Kreuz also does not provide forks. Plastic spoons and knives and fingers. That’s it. We ordered the brisket (fat), pork ribs, a sausage, mac and cheese, sauerkraut and bread and butter pickles.

Normally we don’t order the brisket because it is too dry and strong tasting. This brisket however was amazing, moist, tender, flavourful, pull apart delicious with a delicate smoke. It was truly fantastic and I would never hesitate to order it. Like no brisket I’ve ever had. The pork ribs were good, very peppery, tender. and had a nice rosy deep smoke ring. They however could have benefited from a sweet Memphis BBQ sauce. Blasphemy, I know. Texas is about the meat but I am about the sauce. The sausage was very unseasoned and dull – perhaps because we were expecting a spiced Texas hot link and it turned out to be German-style sausage. Again, sauce would have rescued it. We ate most of the meal wrapping the juicy brisket in white bread with the crunchy sweet pickles. Heaven.

The sides are fine. Coleslaw is crunchy, creamy and tasty. The mac and cheese is overcooked pasta in day-glo orange cheese sauce and is awful in that perfect, excellent way. The thick ridge cut bread and butter pickles are the perfect foil to the fatty meat. On the whole Kreuz was an awesome Texas BBQ experience and well worth going out of your way to try.

Kreuz Market on Urbanspoon