Tuesday, August 31, 2010

(I still) love that chicken from Popeye's

A Popeye's chicken joint recently opened near my office. I haven't been able to visit yet. As you may or may not know, I've been out of town for a while.

For my money, I've always prefered Popeye's over Kentucky Fried Chicken. It's spicier and less greasy, and, well, Popeye's has red beans and rice.

The folks at Slashfood.com recently did a Popeye's vs. KFC taste-test. I'm sad to report that the Colonel won. This only proves one thing: the folks at Slashfood.com don't know what the you-know-what they're talking about.

I'm going to do a little Popeye's/KFC taste-testing of my own soon. Stay tuned for the results.

If'n you care to read it, here's the Slashfood.com article.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Adventures in the Nutmeg State (part one)

Remember the Seinfeld episode in which Drake's Coffee Cakes were mentioned several times? No? Perhaps this'll jog your memory ...

JERRY: Gina, do you know what a Drake’s Coffee Cake is?
GINA: Of course, the plane cake with the sweet brown crumbs on the top. ... I haven’t had one of those since I was a little girl.
JERRY: Really? You should be ashamed of yourself. I want you out of here!

My job requires that I have to fly up to Connecticut a couple o' times a year. Each time I go, I bring back boxes of Drake's Coffee Cakes for friends and co-workers who, more or less, say that I'll be sorry if'n I don't return with the things.

I can't blame my bring-back-Drake's-or-else friends for threatening me so. If you've never had one, here's why they're so good: moist cake with lots of crumbly cinnamon on top ... they're so damn tasty, you can't eat just one.

Ask nicely and I just might give you one from my stash.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Not the best of ideas

I like Pop-Tarts, but this is ridicu-rus:

It might not be the healthiest breakfast choice you can make, but for those hungering for a Pop-Tart and roaming the streets of New York City, your prayers have been answered.

The iconic toasted confection opened a flagship store and cafe in Times Square. ...

According to the New York Times, Kellogg's, the company that has made Pop-Tarts since the late 1960s, is renting a 3,200-square-foot space until January, at which point they will consider whether New York needs a permanent tart-aria.

What's on the menu at the new outpost?

According to the New York Times, the menu includes:

1. Fluffer Butter, marshmallow spread sandwiched between two Pop-Tarts frosted fudge pastries
2. Sticky Cinna Munchies, cinnamon rolls topped with cream-cheese icing and chunks of Pop-Tarts cinnamon-roll variety
3. Ants on a Log: celery, peanut butter and chunks of the Wild Grape version
4. Pop-Tarts Sushi, three kinds of Pop-Tarts minced and then wrapped in a fruit roll-up.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Tain't no ham like Benton's country ham

If you've never had country ham from Benton's in East Tennessee, you have most certainly missed out. The current Nashville City Paper has a story 'bout Benton's. A sample:

Every week [Alan] Benton will get 400 to 600 hams trucked in, and a similar amount of bacon bellies. "We want our hogs as quick as possible after slaughter," Benton said, for quality’s sake.

The meats are smoked with a blend of hickory and applewood. About 75 percent of the blend is hickory.

From there the meats are cured: bacon for five to six weeks, and hams from 14 to 23 months.

A variation of the old Benton family recipe — a mixture of salt, brown sugar, black and red pepper — is heaped on to the hams and bacon bellies to cure. After a couple of weeks in a cooler with this mix seeping into the meat, the hams are hung in a sock to form them into the familiar shape you see at your butcher. Meanwhile, the bacon hangs from a rack. A few weeks more, and the socks are removed and the ham is in its final, but long, stretch of racking until it reaches the desired age.

"It’s like making whiskey," Benton said. "Anybody can tweak it, but it takes time, perseverance and patience. There are no secrets."

Benton's was featured on Chattanooga's public television station, WTCI, a few months back. You can see the video here. Why Nashville's WNPT doesn't show this excellent program is beyond me.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Old Bay® makes it better

Old Bay is a staple spice here at Chez Allison. I gotta thank AMGE reader Michelle for forwarding the following shrimp recipe featuring, you guessed it, Old Bay seasoning:

Looking for a casual dinner cooked on the grill? Here is one of those simple recipes that never goes out of style. Old Bay is the secret ingredient here and works magic on many foods, but is particularly delicious on seafood.

Make sure to use 13- to 15-per-pound count shrimp that have been peeled and deveined with the tail left on (this makes a pretty presentation). They also fit nicely on skewers. You also can buy the shrimp with the shell on and follow the recipe; make sure to have a bowl for the shells and plenty of napkins since it is a bit messy.

Shrimp are best if cooked until just opaque. A good way to tell when they are cooked through is when the shrimp become bright orange on both sides.

Skewers have changed in the past few years. Now you can find flat ones that make all the difference when cooking. Flat skewers are best because they won't turn the food, which makes it easier to cook everything evenly. Look for 9- or 10-inch length bamboo or stainless steel skewers. You can find them at your local cookware store or online. If you're using wooden skewers, be sure to soak them for an hour before using.

Serve some vegetable rice, cooked black beans or corn on the cob as a side dish.

Let the party begin.

Grilled Shrimp With Old Bay Tequila Lime Marinade


1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup tequila
2 teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste


2 pounds large shrimp, 13- to 15-count-per-pound, shelled, deveined and tail attached
Wooden or stainless steel skewers, flat ones work best


Lime slices
1 bunch watercress

To prepare the marinade: Whisk together the marinade ingredients until combined. Taste for seasoning.

If using wood skewers, soak them in cold water for at least 1 hour. This will prevent them from burning when grilled.

Thread the shrimp on the skewers (3 to 4 to each skewer). Lay in a shallow, nonaluminum dish, large enough to hold the skewered shrimp.

Pour marinade over the shrimp and marinate for at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours.

Prepare the barbecue for medium-high heat grilling. Grill the shrimp on each side for about 3-4 minutes, until they are bright orange and desired doneness. Remove from the grill and arrange on a platter. Garnish with the lime slices and fresh watercress. Serve immediately.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Now that's good cucumber cola!

The very last "exhibit" at the World of Coca-Cola museum/celebration of all things Coke features tasting stations at which you can sample some 60 different Coke products from around the globe. Some of 'em are pretty tasty, but the majority of 'em lead you to ask yourself, "How in God's name can anyone drink this?" Just goes to show how much tastes differ from one country to the next. 'Tis not such a small world after all.

The folks at Wallet Pop tell us about some of the 'round-the-world variations of Pepsi. Can't say I'm dying to try any of 'em:

Pepsi Ice Cucumber, Japan: Kevin Corrigan spent $15 on eBay to taste-test the product. He found that it did indeed taste like cucumber, or "like you're drinking a sweetened salad." It did not, he found, taste anything like Pepsi.

Pepsi Fire, Southeast Asia: Matt on the blog X-Entertainment described this version of Pepsi, spiked with cinnamon, as "a car accident between a can of Pepsi and a bottle of ground cinnamon." In a glass, It looks like regular Pepsi.

This drink, with the tag line "Cola on fire," was released with a companion type, Pepsi Ice, described as an "Ice mint cola." Pepsi Ice is the color of a swimming pool, and the blogger compared its flavor with mouthwash.

Pepsi Azuki: Like Kit Kat, Pepsi has run some peculiar flavors up the snack flagpole in Japan. One of the most puzzling was Pepsi Azuki, which came out for sale last fall. The azuki bean is the second most popular legume in Japan, but, according to Japanese Snack Reviews, the soft drink "smells like someone threw up in their bean cake." Harsh. The writer describes the taste as "jasmine with a red bean chaser."

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Café Orient, RIP

Back in August '09, I told you about some of my favorite defunct Nashville eateries, one of which was Café Orient in Antioch. Here's what I said about the place:

Café Orient was owned by a chap from Japan who also had (and maybe still does) a pretty popular catering business. The sushi served there was first-rate, but it was the Thai-inspired dishes that I enjoyed most.

One particular dish featured juicy chunks of pork, and long strips of green peppers, jalapeños, onions, and carrots, which'd been simmered in a spicy, garlic-filled sauce. I would take a spoon and ladle the sauce over white rice, and eat the meat/vegetable mixture and rice separately. It was like getting two different dishes in one ... and I always had plenty of leftovers!

Café Orient didn't stay open for very long, a victim perhaps of the fact that it opened right across the street from the well-established - and damn popular - Your Choice Asian restaurant.

I was driving past the strip mall in which Café Orient was located today when I spied this on the big sign out front:

I drive past that sign every day on my way home from work. I'd never noticed that Café Orient was - and is - still being "advertised," four years after it closed. Now I'm not going to be able to not look at that sign every time I pass it.