Tag Archives: potato salad

Good-bye Austin!

It’s 28 degrees and sunny on our last day in Austin and we head to Walton’s Fancy and Staple for breakfast. Sandra Bullock, who lives in Austin, owns this establishment among other spots. Arriving and lucking into a parking spot right out front (there is a curious lack of traffic and an abundance of parking in downtown Austin), we are greeted by a very old-timey building with gold leaf signage.

Inside this elegantly restored historic building is a quaint granary, with rustic floors and tables, exposed brick walls and beamed ceilings. Small items like vintage style candies, baking cook books and coffee are for sale. The store boasts an in-house florist and a bakery with both unusual bakery items items like golden eggs (small nutmeg cake rolled in cinnamon and sugar) and traditional items like cream filled cupcakes, squares and whoopie pies.

The main part of the business is  a soup-salad-sandwich and breakfast bar. The hand scrawled chalk board has enticing items under the breakfast section such as grilled shrimp and grits.

Tempting, but oooh…it’s 10:30 and the lunch menu also looks very good. In the end I choose ham and cheese on a pretzel bun with a cup of onion soup, and Rob orders the pastrami with spicy potato salad. Walton’s uses organic local meat without injected preservatives and hormones.

I expected the usual run-of-the-mill deli ham but, no: the ham was thick sliced and oven roasted. Truly delicious paired with emmental Swiss cheese, crunchy leaf lettuce, dijon aioli on a soft, chewy, salted pretzel bun. The onion soup had great beefy depth and was very rich with cheese. A cup was enough. The sandwiches at Walton are substantial. Think about sharing if you want to order a side.

Rob’s Pastrami was very good: mild, well-made brisket pastrami with grainy mustard and Swiss on large pieces of grilled light rye bread. He did remove a bit of the mustard as it was over powering the meat, but once adjusted it was excellent. The potato salad was exceptional. Made creamy with a mustard-tinged mayo and kicked up with sliced jalapenos.

We also shared a golden egg out of curiosity. It was a light and delicious nutmeg cake concoction that, although baked not fried,  rolled in butter and sugar, still manages to taste like a very cakey, yet refined doughnut.

Walton’s was the kind of shop you wish they had back home — great sandwiches and other preparations, perfect for breakfast and lunch, a lovely bakery and a keen eye on quality.

Walton's Fancy and Staple on UrbanspoonOur early afternoon was spent walking Austin’s historic 6th Street and taking pictures in the lovely February sun. Soon we were hankering for a margarita and headed back to our favorite watering hole, Guero’s. Seems like everyone else had the same idea and we could not get a seat outside. Not wanting to waste the precious sunshine, we drove around looking for a patio. Seems there is not a lot of patio action in Austin in February, despite it being 28 degrees. Eventually we settled on a craft brewery, Uncle Billy’s Brew and ‘Cue, only because it had a patio. It’s not worth mentioning other than the beer was just okay, the margs below average and the queso…well, lets stop there. Better things await.

After spending an hour or two blogging and posting photos, we headed to Driftwood, Texas, about a 30 minute drive. In about an hour the sun will set on our last day in Texas. We are headed to The Salt Lick BBQ, another iconic Texas joint noted for open pit BBQ. After a leisurely drive through hills and valleys, we come upon the massive parking lot of the Salt Lick and its many out buildings. This is an impressive organization. We park and head over the the Salt Lick cellar, a pretty little building residing beside a still napping vineyard, and surrounded by rail fencing entwined with thorny rose canes. The Salt Lick is BYOB but sells wine and beer in this separate business on site. We saw the more prepared among our species lugging coolers.

After purchasing the minimum 6 pack on ice (Shiner Light Blonde), we headed inside the main building which houses the open pit, some seating, the cash and the requisite sauce and T-shirt “store”.

The Salt Lick is one of the only BBQ places that uses this open-pit style of smoking the meat, cooking it on a grill above a hot fire, constantly repositioning it to keep the temperature regulated. All of the meats they serve are cooked her at the same time. It’s quite a feast for the eyes to see this open pit in action.

We are quickly lead to the pleasant covered patio, with it’s warm, yellow Texas flagstone floor and lacquered wood tables and benches. The lighting is cheery and there are two trees growing through the canopy.

The staff is friendly and helpful. Our young waiter arrives and takes our order. We decide to eat family style which is all you can eat but brought to you by your server. Self serve is so wasteful. We were actually brought a perfect amount for us but our waiter was attentive if anything looked like it needed refilling.

We ordered moist brisket (choice of lean or moist), pork ribs, Texas link, beans, potato salad and coleslaw. Pickles, onion and white bread accompany the meal. Two creamy, tangy, mustard based sauces are provided, one sweet one with heat. They were unlike any other sauces we had tasted across the country The sauce is perfect for the meat, sweet how I like it but it allows the smokey flavours of the meat to come through.

The brisket is merely good. We were totally spoiled by the brisket at Kreuz. This mild brisket needed, and was rescued by the excellent Salt Lick BBQ Sauce sauce.

The pork ribs are meaty and well smoked to the bone with a good, thick bark. The Texas link is juicy and delicious especially eaten with the wonderful, soft white bread provided and the pickle which is much like a half sour deli pickle. Sides are also pleasing here at Salt Lick. The tangy coleslaw is crunchy and well dressed. Beans are of the unsweet cowboy variety of which I’m not fond, but the potato salad was excellent, creamy with a mustard-vinegar dressing which must have been poured in when the taters were still steaming hot. The dressing permeates right through the spuds instead of being a gloppy mess of mayo sitting on top. Addictive.

We had to push it away as the promise of a blackberry cobbler demanded it. Salt Lick offers peach and blackberry cobblers for dessert. We chose blackberry. Ice cream? Of course. The warm cobbler, dark with rich berry flavour and sweet with excellent vanilla ice cream was a perfect end to a great Texas day, and our final day in Texas.

The Salt Lick Bar-B-Que on Urbanspoon

 

 

Fatboy’s Roars into O-town

When it rains it pours. Ottawa, after having existed in a BBQ vacuum for so long, now has a third joint gracing the real BBQ landscape and we have heard unconfirmed rumours of yet another joint to open on Bank. Fatboy’s Southern Smokehouse opened this week on the Byward Market. Rob and I headed down there last Satuday to check it out.


Fatboys Southern Smokehouse on Urbanspoon

The entrance is warm and beckoning and we were immediately greeted by friendly staff. The interior is brightly lit, bustling, charming and traditional with a warm faux wood floor, accented with a  brick wall painted nostalgia-style with the Fatboy’s logo, featuring pine planking and steel accents, red checkered tablecloths, comfy padded armless chairs, and a bright open kitchen showcasing a monster Southern Pride smoker that holds 750 pounds of meat. They have a smaller one elsewhere as well. The large bar area with stools and tables propped up on real Jack Daniels casks is cheery.

Flatties featuring sports abound. The opposite wall features a replica 1914 Harley Davidson. More Harley and Jack Daniels paraphernalia complete the decor. The bathrooms at the rear of the restaurant are marked by huge cans of Bud light and Budweiser. Fun, but the server has to explain to each customer which is which. Still, fun.

We are seated and I order Waupoos, which they don’t carry. They make up for this by having a small but decent beer menu including Rolling Rock and Shock Top. Fatboy’s also offers small pictures that hold two beers worth and saves you half a loonie. Rob and I both order a 1/2 rack each of St. Louis cut pork side ribs. We decide to share the Campfire Baked Beans, Kansas City Cornbites with Maple Butter, Tangy Coleslaw and Picnic Potato Salad. The menu features some other genuinely southern items like Fried Green Tomatoes  Warm Cinnamon Apples, Catfish and Memphis BBQ Spaghetti. These are all items I will definitely be back to try.

Fatboy’s serves the sauce on the side. Memphis Traditional. They offer 3: Memphis BBQ (Sweet, brown sugar, molasses) Hillbilly Heat (Memphis BBQ with a nice mild kick) and Memphis mustard (yellow mustard and brown sugar, non traditional). Hillbilly Heat was the clear winner at our table where we tend to like a sweet heat style of BBQ.

Our food arrives shortly. The ribs look amazing. We dig into those first. They have great hickory smoke flavour, a nice rosy smoke ring and a most excellent bark. The real deal. With the exception of the potato salad, the sides are good but not outstanding. The beans are sweet with chunks and bits of brisket with little or no heat. Very traditional. They just were not as sweet as I like them and seemed a bit bland. As per my rule regarding BBQ beans, if they are not excellent I don’t eat more than a spoonful or two. I did not eat them. The Tangy Coleslaw was simply not. It appeared to be completely undressed. I loved the cornbread but it was not Rob’s favorite. Fatboy’s cornbread is of the cakey sweet variety. I also love the coarser, lightly sweet cornbread. I’m happy either way. I was however hard pressed to find any maple flavour in the maple butter.

The Picnic Potato Salad was by far the best side we tried. And one of the better potato salads I’ve had anywhere. The potatoes are just slightly undercooked and the salad is lightly dressed with chunks of bell peppers. The highlight of the meal was the meat and I would go back in a heartbeat for the ribs and some hillbilly heat. The sides are fine but we would probably opt for different ones next time. A notable missing component of all the BBQ joints in Ottawa is crunch. There is no crunch on any of the plates. In the south you are often served a few slices of pickle and sometimes a slice of red onion on the side.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our server let us know that the restaurant was still experimenting with the dessert menu. Today they offered a Southern apple dumpling. Rob and I shared the small portion which was good but it was only marginally better than a PC frozen apple blossom. To finish we had a shot of Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey. Awesome. Fatboy’s is one of the only places in town that carries it.

Ok. What you have all been asking. Which is better? Fatboy’s or SmoQue Shack? There is no better. They are both very different and both are welcome to fill us up with awesome BBQ. SmoQue Shack is a little more on the “boutique” side, offering a taste of world BBQ including Texas beef ribs and Jamaican jerk, with slightly more exotic ingredients gracing its sauces. Fatboy’s is down-home Southern: fried green tomatoes, catfish, and sweet heat on the side. Can’t wait for their patio to open! We look forward to visiting both for a long time to come.

Fatboy’s takes reservations. Buh-bye Baton Rouge. Ottawa knows better now.

 

 

 

RT11: Corn, Camels & Snoots

We pulled out of blustery, chilly Evansville, Indiana just after 10 am on our way to St. Louis, Missouri. The drive was an uneventful pleasant trip along a two-laner through small towns. We crossed the state line into Illinois, the Land of Lincoln where the skies turned azure blue and highlighted the golden green late cornfields. Incredible colour.

We journeyed on through Amish country past horse and buggies and eventually past some vineyards and a camel or two. Yes camels.

This guy and another camel were chilling with a small group of horses and ponies in a field off the highway. There were llamas in the distance. It was a little surreal in corn country.

After a 3 and a 1/2 hour road trip we could see the famous St. Louis arch in the distance. We enter through East St. Louis which is a very sketchy neighbourhood that I would not want to blow a tire in after dark. We cross over the Big Muddy for a third time this trip and enter Missouri and downtown St. Louis. It is immediately big-city impressive. Our hotel, The Moonrise is in the trendy west end so we travel through the core, past a beautiful park and inadvertently a Labour Day Weekend Greek Festival. Wow, does the grilled meat smell fantastic!

St. Louis is famous for BBQ so of course it is on the list for dinner as we regret that we only have one night in St. Louis. Rob chose C & K BBQ because a) it is iconic and b) it is open on the holiday. C & K is takeout only so we intend to bring it back to the hotel. The tiny store was established in the 1960’s just off the road. There is a lineup.

We arrive at C&K just as they are running out of food. Rib tips, “snoots” and potato salad are all that remain, which is fine because that’s what we were there for. Snouts are new for us and so we want to try them.

The rib tips are tender and juicy but very fatty. C&K’s sauce is tomato based, sweet and has a nice black pepper finish. Each order comes with white, squishy bread on top and on the bottom, which becomes completely absorbed by the sauce, not the other way around, leaving a yummy treat at the end. The potato salad doesn’t look like much but it is really good. The salad is whipped with a few chunks remaining and has a mild vinegar taste. Quite addictive especially with the sauce. OK I know you are waiting on the “snoots” as the locals call them. They are deep fried pig snout (the locals pronounce them “SNOOTS” but spell it correctly. They are crispy and a lot like pork rinds soaked in C&K’s awesome BBQ sauce. Crunchy, porky deliciousness. We can now say we are snoot-initiated.

SNOOTS!
Snooty cross-section!

C & K Barbecue on Urbanspoon

Katz’s Deli NYC

We left sunny, warm spring-like Ottawa at the very civilized hour of 11 am. After a quick and bumpy ride, we arrived in the Big Apple just after noon to a cloudy day. Our flight landed at Newark NJ, so we taxied to Manhattan. The ride gave us a bit of a view of the Lower East Side where we are staying for the weekend. Neither of us is familiar with this part of the island.

 

Lower East Side NYC

We reached our destination, the Hotel on Rivington, unpacked, grabbed cameras and set out on foot to Katz’s Deli two blocks away. Katz’s is famous to New Yorkers for it’s fabulous deli offerings and famous to the rest of us because this is where Meg Ryan had her famous public orgasm scene in “When Harry Met Sally”. We recently watched Anthony Bourdain chow down here on “No Reservations” and decided that Katz’s was a must this trip.

 

...in all its glory.

Katz’s Deli NYC 2:10 pm Friday. The place is chaos. We enter through a single door over an inlaid  stone  surface, all but worn away with time and foot traffic. Two uniformed but casual security people hand us a green ticket each. “Don’t lose it, it’s your only way out.” they say as we are being hustled further inside by the swell of people coming into the joint behind us. Directly in front of us is a deli counter four rows deep with people. Menus are overhead and small.

 

"I'll have what she's having."

There seems to be no rhyme or reason to the ordering process that we can suss out immediately. Rob overheard somebody say there was waiter service at some tables. After circling the area like sharks for 20 some minutes and glaring at a well dressed ignoramus hogging a table for four with one empty glass on it and his nose in a book, to no avail (guess they are used to that in the big city), we pounced on a table with two gentlemen in mid-rise from their seats, with two other couples breathing down our necks.

 

Busy, busy!

We waited nearly ten minutes for a waitress, when the manager came over and explained that we were not actually in the table service area, but he kindly sent a waitress over anyways. Phew! We are hungry hungry hippos at this point.

We order several deli classics to try but we have no intention of finishing the generous deli portions. Sandwiches are served on rye and club bread. They come naked (ask for mayo at your peril warns the paper placemat menu). No sides, no accompaniments. Pricey at $15.75. Rob opts for the corned beef and I chose the pastrami, both on club bread, so we could compare. As well we ordered potato salad, pickles, fries and noodle kugel.

The pickles arrive first, a large plate of bright, crisp half sour pickles, tasting of cucumber, pickled green tomatoes, and classic, excellent, slightly crisp garlic dills. Inexplicably, the noodle kugel arrives next, hot and steaming. Noodle kugel is much like bread budding except wide, flat egg noodles are used instead of stale bread to soak up a sweet custard. Like good bread pudding the ingredients condense into a uniform sweet chewy layer at the bottom. The kugel is crusted with toasted slivered almonds dusted generously with cinnamon. The dense interior, light on the fork, is studded with peaches and plump golden raisins. Delectable.

 

Sour, half-sour and green tomatoes
Noodle kugel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With dessert out of the way, we prepare for lunch. Arriving next at our table is an unappetizing plate of potato salad. Never in our experience has there been such a large discrepancy between the looks and the flavour of a single menu item. Rob took one for the team and ventured a hesitant bite. I was not going to waste the calories and as I waited for his verdict of which I was already quite sure, I was surprised to hear him exclaim “This is really good” What!? Katz’s potato salad is not made in house. Sally Sherman supplies the salad to many area kosher delis. The potatoes are steamed, sliced and  seasoned with salt and vinegar, then amply dressed in a mayonnaise vinegar sauce. This potato salad is white. There is no paprika. There is no parsley. There is no pepper. White and gloppy. And wow! So this is what classic New York kosher deli potato salad must be. The internet is rife with foodies trying to decipher the secrets of this salad.

 

Umm... yum?

Hot and fresh from the fryer, the steak-cut fries arrive crispy on the outside, soft and steamy on the inside. These are surely what ketchup was invented for.  Our waitress is back in seconds and places our sandwich orders on the table. We both apply a generous squirt of spicy brown deli mustard and go into the hunch. My pastrami is smoked in-house and is lean with just enough fat to moisten the excellent club bun. The meat is succulent and thickly hand sliced directly from the steamer upon order. This is the best pastrami sandwich I’ve ever had. It certainly out does the pastrami sandwich at the Carnegie Deli, which while excellent, relies on quantity for impact.

 

Pastrami... meat on a bun.

The corned beef (a version of the same pastrami that has been pickled in a secret dry cure for over a month) had a mellower flavour, was beefier and less juicy in texture, and while excellent in its own right, the pastrami ruled the day.

 

Corned beef, bun removed for your viewing pleasure

$15.75 for meat on a bun? Absolutely. This is the definitive standard by which all others are to be measured. This isn’t steamed over Shopsy’s or the thin sliced, rainbow streaked, over processed meat from your local grocer. This is craft and calling, made perfect by repetition and tradition.

 

...the aftermath