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Monday, August 9, 2010

Best BBQ in Nashville and Four Meals with Pork. In a Row.

Spicy Food Guy and Great Guy Colleague of Spicy Food Guy (GGCSFG) had a full rack of ribs.

As a side.

After BBQ we went out for ice cream.  Spicy Food Guy had two dips of Tennessee Fudge in a Chocolate Chip Cookie Cone.  It was that kind of trip.  But Spicy Food Guy digresses.

As usual, for reasons best left unknown to the American public, Spicy Food Guy was out and about in the world; this time in Nashville, Tennessee.

The trip didn't begin as a BBQ orgy, but decadence has a way of gathering momentum.  This is especially true when the decadence has to do with ribs, pulled pork, bacon, and Texas sausage.  But Spicy Food Guy is getting ahead of himself again.

The origin of the BBQ binge took place at the Brookwood Farms North Carolina BBQ Pit at the Charlotte airport early in the afternoon.  During his layover, SFG happily knocked off a pulled pork sandwich with slaw and vinegar based BBQ sauce, baked beans, and a bottle of Budweiser.  Pretty sane BBQ consumption at this particular point in the trip.

Then the party went to Nashville and a couple of locals recommended Jacks BarBQue as the undisputed favorite among true BBQ enthusiasts.  Jacks has won two or three zillion awards, including "Best BBQ Sauce on the Planet" in 2004.  After tasting all eight or so homemade sauces that Jacks serves on premises, SFG agrees that the sauce is heavily competitive in planetary circles, and it's even in the realm of possibility that when the aliens land, they will want to go to Jacks.  But Spicy Food Guy digresses again.

SFG and GGCSFG went to Jacks with several other Food Enthusiast Colleagues of Spicy Food Guy (FECSFG).  The food at Jack's is served cafeteria style, and the line is long.  Orders must be placed quickly.

Spicy Food Guy decided on the three meat platter.  $13.  Really.  SFG picked the pork shoulder, ribs, and Texas sausage.  SFG also stuck with slaw and baked beans as tried and true BBQ sides.  However, because only two or three ribs came with the three meat platter, Spicy Food Guy fretted that there would be a rib shortage at the table.  That's when SFG and GGCSFG decided on the full rack of ribs as a side dish strategy.  Brilliant.

So this was Spicy Food Guy's tray -- 3 meat platter with beans, slaw, and bread.   A plate with a full rack of ribs.  Eight little plastic cups of every BBQ sauce that Jacks served.  And two beers.  Now this may sound a little over the top, but keep in mind SFG shared the ribs with GGCSFG.

The BBQ was fabulous.  The Texas sausage was packed with garlic, paprika, and juicy pork fat.  The ribs were tender with a great char and smoke ring.  The pulled pork was obviously smoked for hours and hours and had that pit-master smoky signature.

After dinner, SFG and FECSFG waddled over to the Whiskey Bent Saloon (of course it was called the Whiskey Bent Saloon, complete with an up and coming country music singer, and our table was made out of a real wagon wheel.  Really).  After digesting dinner and listening to music, SFG and FECSFG decided to head off to an old fashioned corner shop called Mike's Ice Cream Fountain.  That's where the Tennessee Fudge ice cream in a chocolate chip cookie cone moment occurred.  And yes, it was as tasty as it sounds.  Creamy.  Big ol' chunks of chocolate fudge.  A cookie cone that tasted like, well, a cookie.

Spicy Food Guy knows what you are thinking; "Surely it ended there, SFG, surely you didn't eat again for many, many days".

It's called breakfast and it took place the next morning.  Spicy Food Guy selected the Waffle House. Best breakfast at the Waffle House?  The Breakfast All-Star Special.  A waffle.  Two eggs.  Three strips of bacon.  Hash browns (Spicy Food Guy had his hash browns "smothered and covered", that is, grilled with onions and topped with a slice of processed American cheese.  Generally the best hash browns on the planet).  Toast.  Coffee.  SFG added orange juice.  A stick-to-your-ribs breakfast.

Ate every bite.  The force is strong in Spicy Food Guy, and the midichlorians were hungry.

And maybe, perhaps, that would have ended the pork orgy.  But Spicy Food Guy had to fly back through the Charlotte airport.  Hit the BBQ Pit on the flip side.  Pulled pork again, slaw again, beans again.

And then, and only then, did Spicy Food Guy decide he was full.

Totally true story.  Peace out, BBQ fans.  I am one of you.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Best Spicy Breakfast Sandwich in Pittsburgh, Perhaps Anywhere

Spicy Food Guy was home for a few days when he was tipped off about Gab and Eat by some local, in-the-know diner types (LITKDT).

"Go there", urged LITKDT, they have the best burgers in the 'Burgh.  They're Balls!"

OK, they didn't really say the burgers were balls, it's just that SFG loves the expression so, and it seemed to fit in the story.  And LITKDT aren't the only Gab and Eat advocates.  Several 'Burgh bloggers have hailed Gab and Eat as the "best diner in the 'Burgh".  Where there is advocacy there is substance, at least when it comes to hole-in-the-wall-diners.  The same cannot be said about the Republican party, but Spicy Food Guy digresses.

So off Spicy Food Guy went to the Gab and Eat, though he passed by it a few times because he blinked.  Or sneezed.  It doesn't take much to miss the ol' Gab and Eat.

Anyway, SFG had every intention of ordering one of the Gab and Eat burgers.  It was a mission.

Until he spotted the John Boy on the menu.  The John Boy.  Hot homemade sausage, egg, cheese, peppers and onions, all on Italian toast.  Not just any Italian toast -- but Mancini's Italian toast.  Mancini's, the makers of fabulous bread and perhaps the best pepperoni rolls in the region (that's a whole other blog post).

Let Spicy Food Guy say this about the John Boy:  it's spicy, it's cheesy gooey, it plays the egg and sausage perfectly together, it's the best bread ever, it's one of the best breakfast sandwiches in the free world, and tops anything in North Korea, Iran, and Iraq. 

If the John Boy could talk it would say "I have been called the breakfast sandwich of my generation among those who have tasted me" in a similar sort of way Will Ferrell called himself the songbird of his generation in the movie "Stepbrothers".

You should see Stepbrothers because it is hysterical.  You should eat the John Boy at Gab and Eat because it's a one of a kind Pittsburgh breakfast sandwich.  So says Spicy Food Guy.

Peace out.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Baked Beans for Breakfast is Balls and Other UK Food Observations

Let Spicy Food Guy begin by saying the highlight of his trip to the UK had to be when Esteemed Colleague of Spicy Food Guy (ECSFG) complimented a particularly flavorful curry by stating:

"Oh that's Balls."

Spicy Food Guy delights in this succinct and apt descriptor.  In fact, SFG earnestly awaits the evening, sometime in the near future, when a snooty wine sommelier pours a sliver of some fine merlot so that SFG can perform the ritualistic taste test.

"It's Balls," Spicy Food Guy will state authoritatively to the sommelier, "we'll all take some."  And then Spicy Food Guy will whirl back to the table and re-start the dinner conversation before the sommelier can manage a stuttered response.  And in his head, Spicy Food Guy will chuckle deeply.

But Spicy Food Guy digresses.

As usual, for reasons best left unknown to the American public, Spicy Food Guy was out and about in the world; this time London, England.  Specifically, SFG was rather trapped in a hotel close to terminal 4 of Heathrow airport.

Now SFG has been to London perhaps a dozen times, and as the tourist lore goes, the food is nothing to write a blog post about.  The exceptions are curry houses and baked beans for breakfast.

The English have a thing for baked beans, and beans are officially a part of a "full English breakfast".  SFG thinks the English are on to something here.  Baked beans mixed in with some fried eggs and pieces of bacon is a great combination of flavor and texture.  It's balls.  When you think about it, beans and bacon and eggs is a better combo than grilled burgers and beans.  It's not better than pulled pork and beans, but the egg combo is right up there in terms of a natural fit.

But this whole baked bean thing is not what SFG is here to discuss.  Spicy Food Guy is here to discuss curry houses and steering wheels.

So the story begins when SFG and about six Esteemed Colleagues of Spicy Food Guy (ECSSFG, because it's plural) decided to go out for some curry one evening so as to have at least one decent dinner during our stay in London.  Some of the ECSSFG also decided that a few pints at the pub would be an excellent precursor to the Indian dinner.

Needless to say, spirits were high and the mood light when the van showed up to cart SFG and ECSSFG to the restaurant.  Much to the delight of the rest of us, one ECSSFG decided to use this van ride to vent in a typical American style:

"Look," half looped ECSSFG postured to the driver, "the automobile was invented in America, right?  The automobile was first manufactured in America, right?"  

The driver did not respond.

"So," ECSSFG continued, ignoring the driver's silence, "what on earth possessed you to move the steering wheel to the other side of the car?"  

You could tell ECSSFG was genuine in his inquiry, and the driver let a small smile escape (which is the British equivalent of a hearty laugh).

In any case, SFG and ECSSFG made it safely to "Achari, Flavour of India", the locally recommended curry house.

And the curry was fabulous, as it always is in London.  SFG and ECSSFG decided to order a half dozen or so appetizers and a half dozen entrees and just split them all up.  SFG loved the fried onion bhajees as an appetizer (as wiki says, think potato fritters).  Additionally, SFG forcefully argued that one of the entrees should be a spicy lamb vindaloo, despite the hesitant misgivings of ECSSFG.  The lamb vindaloo ultimately inspired the "that's balls" comment, so Spicy Food Guy felt extremely vindicated.

The curry sauces were packed with flavor, with tastes of tumeric, garlic, ginger, and mustard.  The meats were tender, the beer cold, the staff proud, the company fine.  All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable UK evening.

Next morning, Spicy Food Guy had baked beans for breakfast.  Sometimes everything goes right.

PS, "Baked Beans for Breakfast", by Ruth Chew, was one of SFG's favorite childhood books.  Coincidence, or a higher level of order that sustains balance in the universe?  SFG thinks its all just one big mystery. 

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