Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Food Road Trip

Two days after graduation, I set my sights on a few famous eateries between me and Venice, Florida. Sure I was going for vacation, to sit in a beach chair and drink beer at noon if I wanted, but I knew of a few places I should stop and eat too.

On the way down, all of us - me, my girlfriend, and my mom - stopped at the now famous Taco Bus. I first saw the Taco Bus on Guy Fieri of Food Network's "Dinners, Drive-ins, and Dives," and I thought "Hey, maybe I'll actually go there like he says everyone should!" Sure, Guy says every place he goes is awesome and every dish he tries is "out of bounds" and so on, but the Taco Bus really caught my eye (and my appetite) the first time I saw it on TV. Not everyone's a Guy Fieri fan, but after visiting the Taco Bus, maybe they should be.

First of all, I was absolutely insistent that we eat at the Taco Bus. It was a good 45 minutes out of the way. Other suggestions were made as to where or when we could make it, but I was determined to go then and there immediately. Second of all, this place is a semi-permanent food truck with beer! Yes, food truck with beer! As I approached the gravel parking lot and saw a tap and buckets, I knew I picked the right place.

The menu is large at the Taco Bus, especially for a place that is almost entirely on wheels. The torta (Mexican sandwich) is one of their most popular, and it's the dish I saw on "Triple D" that made my mouth water. This sandwich is made with the "cochinita pibil," (shredded pork) they say comes from a 5,000 year old Mayan recipe. I wish I found this place first, but at least I can confirm that one place Guy swears is good truly lives up to it. A few Dos Equis and satisfying a hunger I experienced nearly a year before: check!

A few days later, it was on to a new place and a new adventure. I knew Adam Richmond of Travel Channel's Man V. Food had an episode dedicated to Sarasota so I did a little research - also known as a youtube search. I'm not into the whole competitive eating thing but Adam always visits a few awesome places before stuffing his face. One of those places is the Old Salty Dog.

After being burned to a crisp on the beach the day before, it was time for some shade, more beer, and lunch. After much deliberation - choosing whether or not we should go to a famous Cuban place - we decided on the Old Salty Dog. This drive was a bit of a road trip in itself. We pulled up to the restaurant, got out, and gazed at the sign like we found the holy grail (that's supposed to be in Florida right?).

Insofar as hot dogs are concerned, I might have found it:

Yes, that's cheddar cheese, bacon, and sauteed onions on top of a beer battered hot dog. Sure, it's not some breakthrough in the culinary world, but just look at it! That is heaven on a bun. Bacon, yet again, makes an already awesome food item even better. Beer batter on a hot dog. Need I say more? 

The trip would've been worth it to visit these places alone, but we made some pretty tasty dishes at home too: homemade BBQ sauce and salsa from scratch, both of which I was advised to jar and sell. More on that soon! 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Heirloom Market BBQ does it again!

I just ate probably the best sandwich I have ever eaten in my life. Truly, hyperbole aside, Heirloom's smoked pork belly sandwich was the tastiest thing I might have ever had.

It was literally slabs of smoked pork belly topped with a kimchi apple salad. It might sound kind of different but that's because it is and it's delicious! Oh and the onion rings were amazing per usual.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

False Alarm: Donate to California Plane Ticket Fund

It seems there is no other way to characterize my lunchtime adventure today other than a false alarm. No real talk of the coming revolution in the gastronomic art known as burger making, not in Georgia anyway.

Since checking the official In-N-Out Burger website, it appears that the closest location is in central Texas. Perhaps misadventure is a better word to use? It seems the only "mythology" today was the place I went to eat for lunch. I'm all about supporting local businesses, especially eateries. At the same time, it seems they might be setting themselves up for failure here.

Secondly, I have to apologize if you ran to the location after reading, on Facebook, that there existed a place sharing the real restaurant's namesake......or if you incurred any psychological whiplash, much like I did, today.

My roommate even told me he didn't think it was the same thing. Convinced to prove him wrong and that he was just giving me a hard time like he tends to do, he's had a good laugh. At least I got to poke fun at Anthony Bourdain today and hear a friend say he laughed out loud about it.

When, in fact, beyond a reasonable doubt, no other truth can exist insofar as the REAL In-N-Out Burger making it's way to Atlanta is concerned, I will certainly let you know.

Maybe I should contact the In-N-Out corporate office and they can fly me to Cali for free?

Happy lunch hour tomorrow. More new places and dishes, at home and away, to come.



In-N-Out Burger in Marietta, Ga.

I was sitting a Waffle House booth when I glanced across the street and saw the unmistakable logo of In-N-Out Burger. Being a native to Georgia, I have only heard the great legend of In-N-Out. I've never made it to California to have one of their famous burgers, but I knew the sign when I saw it.

Sighting the mythologized restaurant nearly two weeks ago, its has since called my name every time I drive by. Finally, today, I decided I had to try it out. I had to see if the reality met up with the mythology - if it matched up to to what folks from the West Coast and friends who traveled there told me.

I'm afraid it did not. As much as I wanted it to, as much as I tried to wish it into being, that isn't the case here. Now, let me say to all the die hards out there (which is apparently everyone who has ever eaten at In-N-Out), I am not trying to dispel all that is holy. What I experienced  today wasn't bad, and I also have a feeling that what I experienced today was not the In-N-Out Burger I've been promised most of my eating life.

I had my doubts going into it. I hoped that they could transport the greatness of the California establishment here on the opposite side of the country. I wonder if such a thing is even possible. To be completely fair, the name of the place here is In-N-Out Burger - Wings-N-Burger, which seems a little different. It's not the conventional In-N-Out; it is not free-standing and doesn't have a drive through. From what I know, this place is a little out of the norm.

I've seen Anthony Bourdain stop at one when he went to L.A., and Anthony doesn't do, breathe, or eat anything conventional, anything resembling the overdone. He probably doesn't eat peanut butter and jelly because "everybody's eating peanut butter and jelly now," or because he once saw an entire crowd of awful tourists eating them. But he stopped at In-N-Out. Come to think of it, he might have stopped there twice on the show. Once on the way in and once before flying out.

There was nothing bad about my burger and fries, but it was also nothing near my expectations. Perhaps I need to go to CA for the real experience. Once, the awesomeness known as In-N-Out Burger could only be found in my dreams, and now I wish that's were it could've stayed.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Heirloom Market BBQ, Richie Eats Too

This blog is titled "Richie Cooks," but it should be acknowledged that what I cook, I also eat. From time to time, I tend to eat things I do not cook as well. I feel that I must share with the world my discovery of Heirloom Market BBQ.

This local business is a short distance from where I live, and thank goodness. I first discovered this establishment about two weeks ago. I was intent on finding a place close to me that served good food outside of the norm. I found Heirloom on my phone, and minutes later my roommate said to me, "Have you ever heard of Heirloom barbecue?"

Turns out, I had only 5 minutes earlier. Taking this occurrence as a sign from the gods of local food, I decided I had to go. My girlfriend and I went a few hours later, and I proclaimed at the one communal table there that I had eaten the best mac n' cheese of my life. And I certainly had. I would have missed the place if I hadn't been paying attention.

This wonderful local business is nondescript, and that is part of its charm. It is connected to a convenience store off Aker's Mill, and you would probably expect it to be more visible, knowing its reputation in the area.

 All that said, I must express my new found love of Heirloom Market barbecue. I am a big barbecue lover, and I've tried a few places around my area. So far, nothing compares to Heirloom. They have all kinds of different BBQ and sauces. In the great debate of the "best" kind of regional BBQ, you can pick your poison at Heirloom. They have an array of different sauces and cuts, and you are welcome to make your own best combination.

When I tried their pulled pork sandwich for the first time, I ended up combining their Carolina and Memphis sauces together. Another acclaimed BBQ place off of Lower Roswell and Johnson Ferry Road (BBQ One) simply did not impress me. I heard of this particular place for years, used to work at a restaurant down the street from it, and when I finally tried it about a month ago, I found nothing to write home about. Moreover, their popular mac n' cheese was nearly tasteless and bland. On the other hand, at Heirloom, upon my first and second visit, I was throughly impressed.

The first time, I had their pulled pork sandwich and mac n' cheese. Today, I had the Wednesday special of Korean Fried Chicken with the same mac n' cheese side. I've heard so much about the greatness of Korean fried chicken, and I decided today that I had to try it. It was great. The skin was crispy and the chicken moist. The sauce was great as well and seemed to get spicier as I went. Their mac n' cheese is so incredibly good that I went home with a pint of it and had some more with dinner. An employee at Heirloom told me that they do not bake their mac n' cheese, digressing from many conventional recipes for such a dish.

Even with their departure from the most traditional recipes for this side, I could eat the stuff with just about anything or just by itself. Overall, whether its their sides or their main BBQ dishes, Heirloom has it down to an art and science. There's something great about sharing a meal with someone else across a large table and talking about how great the food is. Regulars and newcomers alike, Heirloom satisfies them all.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Chuck's wings make for a good night in

I cooked up another one of Chuck's recipes the other night, and it was delicious. I admit, I've been on a bit of a Chuck Hughes binge - whether tying out his dishes, watching "Chuck's Day Off", or his 8-week trip to Mexico "Chuck's Week Off". His recipes most certainly will take up much space here. As far as making some of his recipes come to life at home, I think I love them so much because they are challenging yet simple, and they always taste so good. My girlfriend has also become a fan of Chuck and of the many nights I try my hand at his food. I'm a big fan of comfort food, and many of Chuck's dishes fall in to this category - but with a bit of a kick. It's never chicken wings, but "stick balsamic chicken wings" with lemon zest. These wings are so good they "stick to your rib" and your face. Nothing says you've had a good meal like going through an absurd amount of napkins. Here's how they turned out:
These wings live up to there name. They're both sweet and savory, and you can taste the clean fresh ginger too. There are so many levels of flavor, and my only regret is that I didn't buy more wings! p.s. I've found that lemons don't zest too well if you refrigerate them. The skin gets soft and it makes it pretty much impossible to get any of that tasty rind.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

First time

I've been pondering whether or not I should start a blog about food and about food I make. There must be thousands of blogs that do something similar already, but I've kept coming back to the idea for months now. I've posted a few pictures and descriptions of some dishes on Facebook, and I got such a good response that I think it's about time Maybe people are surprised that I cook or that I like to cook. Their probably not surprised, if they've known me for anytime at all, that I also like to eat. I started cooking with my mom years ago, and she showed me the basics, taught me to love being in the kitchen and how "sling" things together for dinner. But I feel like I'm just now getting into trying out some new things in the kitchen. It's a big world of food out there, and I think it's a good idea to take it beyond meat and potatoes (or as my roommate would have it - meat, cheese, and potatoes). One of biggest inspirations (other than my mom) is Chef Chuck Hughes. I've been trying out some of his dishes recently and enjoying many of them. Here is one of the first recipes of his I tried and loved. Chorizo Bites with Arugula Pesto (courtesy Chuck Hughes):