Monday, July 02, 2007

WORK-RELATED TRAVEL NOTES (A.K.A., SOUTHERN COOKING SEEKING STRUGGLES)

I got a little closer to the authenticity I sought, but not close enough. Some of the folks we work with down in Birmingham took us to Dreamlands for barbeque. The sauce was very tasty, but overall I've had better ribs. These were a bit too fatty, not fall-off-the-bone-tender, and just a bit too chewy.

Very good potato salad though.

I managed to ask some of the local gang for their personal recommendations for local grub, and I hope to find the gustatory satisfaction I need on the next journey. I think I need to skip the ribs and go further still into the heart of Southern cooking. Perhaps after the third request they'll understand me when I say I don't want fancy, and I don't want funky. I want greasy and unhealthy and very possibly unsanitary. I need the real deal.

I think I'm back in less than three weeks. To be continued . . .

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13 Comments:

Blogger Dwilkers said...

I don't much care for ribs because of exactly what you encountered. It is hard to get ribs right and few do.

It'll sound weird, but IMO the true measure of a good BBQ joint is their coleslaw. A good coleslaw is fresh cabbage hand-chopped with a vinegar based sauce and celery salt, NOT a watery mayo sauce and machine pureed cabbage.

If you won't put the effort into making a decent coleslaw chances are you won't take the time to do ribs right either. Same with beans and potato salad. If you put canned beans on my plate at a BBQ joint I'll never darken your doorway again.

9:00 AM  
Anonymous John Royal said...

Tell them you want chicken fried steak. Or fried chicken. Or anything fried. And gravy, lots of gravy. With biscuits, not rolls.

10:34 AM  
Anonymous Kelly said...

I admire your adventurous search for authentic grub.

If you ever came to the upper Midwest, you'd be using your beer to wash down frozen custard, fried fish (on Friday), and squeaky cheese curds in no time.

A+ for effort, even though your travel mates are less enlightened...

10:58 AM  
Anonymous wfta said...

So what the hell did you eat besides ribs and potato salad? It is only an urban legend that ribs are barbeque anyway. Real barbeque is whole hog and available almost nowhere except from rural southeastern protestant church fund raisers. It is likely to be accompanied by coleslaw, dirty rice and two slices of white bread. You will probably have to recruit some good Alabama Christians to buy and freeze some for you.

Have you gotten use to them asking if you want your iced tea sweet or un-sweet?

BTW, Mrs. wfta and I had some of the sweetest corn on the cob I've ever tasted with grilled pork chops last night . I'm sure your faith in me will be destroyed because the potato salad came from the Kroger deli.

1:13 PM  
Blogger Edwardo said...

Sorry. to interject the dreadful Joe Lieberman into a discussion on food, since he is so unappetizing, but I know how much you loathe him, and I just wanted to give you another reason, as if you needed anymore, to despise the little prune faced prick. Here's JL on why we need to hurry up and ramp up the police state here in Freedom's Land."

He said,

“I hope this week, based on what happened in the United Kingdom, President Bush [and] the bipartisan leadership of Congress will sit down and say, ‘Hey, let’s cut out the nonsense,’” Lieberman (I-Conn.) said on ABC’s “This Week.”
“We’re fiddling while our enemies are getting ready to attack us,” he said. “Let’s figure out how to pass a law to modernize this electronic surveillance capacity, which is critical.”

4:18 PM  
Blogger DCup said...

Think hole in the wall. Local. Small. Like our place Doug's in Emerson, Georgia.

John Royal is right. Something breaded and fried. Macaroni and cheese or potatos and gravy as a side. And green beans simmered with ham or bacon. Squash casserole. Collard greens, if you're game.

Definitely biscuits or a corn bread muffin (fried, not baked).

Sweet tea - brewed.

And peach cobbler for dessert. Vanilla ice cream, optional, but recommended.

Now I have to go get on the elliptical after all that.

7:52 PM  
Blogger Coop said...

Hey mike, stop by MSG when you are feeling better :)...pics of Oh pea up!

8:25 PM  
Blogger Otto Man said...

I'm late with this advice, but you probably picked the worst items off a Southern BBQ menu. Most places don't have the right prep work for good ribs, and potato salad is, in southern hands, bland as hell.

Your meat of choice in the south should be pulled pork. The only way you should be ordering another meat is if it's in addition to the pulled pork. Good places will slow roast the whole hog for a day, and the meat will be juicy as hell. (If you're ever in Texas, change the pulled pork to brisket.)

For sides, in descending order, baked beans, hush puppies, onion rings, mac and cheese, cole slaw, collard greens, and fries. Beans and slaw are a good combo, especially if they use a vinegar base.

Also, if you want authentic southern BBQ, remember one easy rule of thumb -- the quality of the food will go up as the quality of the decor and building go down. The best BBQ I ever had was in a cinder block place with no toilets.

9:30 PM  
Blogger Otto Man said...

Oh, Mike, if you want to train for the next trip, try R.U.B. on 23rd between 6th and 7th. It's probably the best BBQ I've found in five years in NYC.

I was there last week and had exactly what you should order -- the pulled pork, baked beans, cole slaw, hushpuppies, and an Abita Turbodog on draft. Try the vinegar-based sauce over the more familiar ketchup-based sauce. It's how BBQ is served in the Carolinas, and there's no better way.

Go. Trust me on this one.

9:34 PM  
Blogger George said...

Hey, the good news is if you eat stuff that's bad for you, President Bush can commute the sentence on your arteries!

You do know Dick Cheney, don't you?

1:56 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

When I was in North Carolina last year -- and able to choose for myself where to dine -- I had Carolina-style pulled pork bbq, with collard greens, baked beans, biscuits, and some other side. Corn maybe?

But on these work trips, I've yet to choose what I want. This last trip had about 5 items on the menu, including ribs, cole slaw, potato salad, and white bread. Oh, and corn.

If I get to pick the place next time, it'll have chicken fried steak, grits, corn bread, mac & cheese, and that sort of thing.

6:17 AM  
Anonymous wfta said...

You know it's the South when everything on the menu is WIC assistance approved.

2:24 PM  
Anonymous the frogster said...

Boiled peanuts! Boiled peanuts! Boiled peanuts! (Dizzy Gillespie, anyone?) Really. If you see a roadside stand with a big ol' pot of peanuts boiling, grab some. You'll often have the opportunity to get the spicy variety, which was my favorite during my southern travels. Gooooood stuff.

9:18 AM  

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