Friday, August 31, 2007

A man's gotta hunt 'n' fish

I'm going to Big Sandy, TN, to do some huntin' and fishin' (and maybe a little drinkin').

AMGE will return Sunday, September 2.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Duke's Mayo Rules!

Sometime during Summer 2001, I spied Duke's-brand mayonnaise in a Nashville-area Albertson's grocery store (Albertson's is no longer doing business in Tennessee).  I remember thinking, "I've never seen that before," and I moved on to look for whatever I was looking for on the mayo 'n' sich aisle.
Not two weeks later, a co-worker and I were having a conversation about homegrown tomatoes.  Said co-worker told me that he loved tomato sandwiches with black pepper and  -- Duke's mayo!  "What's so great about Duke's?" I asked.  My Duke's-loving ami said, and I'm paraphrasing, "It's the best *@#&$! mayonnaise on the !$&#@* planet!" 
Having great confidence in my co-worker's tastes, I purchased a small jar of Duke's when next I found myself in Albertson's.  It took me a good two weeks to do so, but I finally placed a dollop of Duke's on a sandwich I'd toted to work.  As soon as my tongue was introduced to Duke's mayo, I said to myself,  "Duke's IS the best *@#&$! mayonnaise on the !$&#@* planet!"  Hell, I may've even said such out loud.
At this point, I'm sure men who've gotta eat wanna know what's so all-fired great about Duke's Mayonnaise. Well, I'll tell you:
Most store-bought mayos have a common problem: a tangy, vinegary taste that overwhelms foodstuffs on which or in which they've been placed.  Duke's mayo ain't like that. Indeed, Duke's has a rich, creamy flavor with not a hint of "tang"; and Duke's enhances flavors in much the same way as heavy cream enhances sauces.  That is, Duke's incorporates into foods, instead of being something that garnishes food.

I have six years of Duke's-eatin' experience under, er, over my belt; and I reckon that I've placed Duke's on many dozens of sandwiches and in dozens of bowls of tater salad. Thus, I consider myself a Duke's expert -- and then some. Believe me when I say (and I say it a lot):

Duke's ... is ... the ... best ... mayo ... ever! And it's Southern-made, to boot!

(In Nashville, look for Duke's mayo at your local Publix or Food Lion.)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

When a man's gotta cook

Any feller who likes to cook should heed these suggestions ...

To learn basic culinary skills, one should procure a copy of Jacques Pépin's Complete Techniques:

To learn the basics of French bistro cooking, one should procure a copy of Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook:

Once you've read - and re-read - these cookbooks, display 'em prominently in your kitchen. That way, people will suspect you know how to cook when they see 'em ... and they'll know you know how to cook when they eat your grub!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Me rikey rye!

I got together with some buds last night for some bluegrass pickin' and whiskey drinkin'. Someone broke out a bottle of Jim Beam Rye Whiskey, which I just had to try since I'd never had rye whiskey before. I'm now a certified rye whiskey fan.

Jim Beam Rye has an earthier and slightly more muted flavor than its made-from-corn cousin, Jim Beam Kentucky Straight Bourbon. And the burn one feels on the back of one's tongue when sipping bourbon or Tennessee whiskey is more muted as well.

Dennis' Whiskey Corner has the skinny on rye whiskey in general. A sample:

"George Washington made rye whiskey at his home, Mount Vernon, Virginia. Indeed, the domestic rye whiskey industry had a proud tradition in the United States, particularly in the north-south neighboring states of Pennsylvania and Maryland. Unfortunately it never quite recovered from Prohibition. During and after Prohibition Americans turned to blended Canadian whisky to fill a demand that would take several years to mature in casks at home. Also American tastes had dulled quite a bit during Prohibition, and the market share never reäppeared. To this day the straight rye industry is far under appreciated. With the introduction of some new labels, though, a renaissance of rye seems to be on the way!"

Saturday, August 25, 2007

One fine shramp recipe

The following recipe, which is on Joltin' Django's menu for tomorrow night, comes from former U.S. Rep. Billy Tauzin's cookbook, Cook and Tell (now out of print). Any feller who loves shrimp will love this recipe:

Barbequed Shrimp


1 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp garlic -- finely minced
4 whole bay leaves -- finely crushed
2 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp coarse salt
cayenne pepper -- to taste
1 tbsp paprika
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp lemon juice -- freshly squeezed
2 lb large shrimp -- in the shell w/head


Pre-heat oven to 450°F.

In a heavy bottomed, ovenproof saucepan, melt butter and add oil, stirring to combine. Add garlic, bay leaves, rosemary, basil, oregano, salt, cayenne, paprika, pepper and lemon juice. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the sauce begins to boil. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer, stirring frequently, 7-8 minutes.

Remove from heat, and let stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.

Add shrimp, and stir to combine. Return to heat, and cook shrimp over medium heat until the shrimp turn pink, 6-8 minutes.

Transfer saucepan to oven, and bake for 8 minutes. Remove from oven, and serve immediately with crusty baguette.

Tauzin's recipe says this'll serve 10 "as an appetizer." This dish is so very rich, however, it can hold its own as a main dish.

Invite a couple of your very best friends over and serve up some barbequed shrimp with corn on the cob, fresh green beans, and a crusty baguette. Be sure plenty of Abita Beer is on hand to wash it all down.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Supersize THIS, food nazis!

Happy Birthday, Big Mac:

"Normally, a 40-year-old sandwich would be something to be avoided. Unless you're one of millions who flock to McDonald's each year to chow down on a Big Mac. The triple-decker burger, which helped breed America's super-size culture and restaurants' ever-expanding jumbo meals, is turning 40. For some fast-food junkies, that's cause for celebration.

"'The flavors that come together — it's like heaven in your mouth,' said April Kohlhaas, a 31-year-old Chicago resident. 'It's just tradition, like American comfort food.'

"The Big Mac was first introduced in 1967 by Jim Delligatti, a McDonald's franchise owner in Uniontown, Pa. A year later, it became a staple of McDonald's menus nationwide."

I very rarely eat at McDonald's. Today, however, I'm gonna get a Bic Mac as my way of stickin' it to all the food nazis who think McDonald's is evil incarnate.

Update: Joltin' Django visited his local McDonald's ce soir. He ate two(!) Big Macs, and he drank a Coke. Each time he bit into one of his Bic Macs, Joltin' Django imagined that he was kicking Morgan Spurlock soundly 'tween his legs.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Hang on to your wallet!

Regular readers will recall that I'd hoped to hit H & T's Homecooking sometime during this past weekend. A power outage at Chez Joltin' Django put the kibosh on my plans to eat two "soul food" meals in three days. (As much as I'd like to do so, I simply cannot eat rib-stickin' meals whilst profusely sweating. I'm funny that way.)

Having no plans for dinner ce soir, I decided to stop at H & T's on my way home from work for some take-out. As soon as I looked at the menu, I remembered why I'd made only one trip to H & T's since it opened in 2005.

Don't get me wrong, H & T's has some pretty tasty grub. Tonight I had fried chicken, pinto beans, turnip greens and corn bread. The fried chicken had a peppery crust and was very juicy; the pinto beans rested in just enough soup, and had big chunks of ham in 'em; the turnip greens were expertly seasoned (ham hock, salt and pepper) and tender; and the cornbread, while a tad dry, had a rich buttermilk 'n' cornmeal flavor.

That said, H & T's features the highest prices, and smallest portions, of any meat-and three I've yet encountered in and 'round Nashville. When it comes to meat-and three restaurants, that's strikes one, two, AND three as far as I'm concerned. $8 for a meat and two vegetables, and no drink, is way too pricey ... especially when you're still hungry after you've eaten your eight-dollar meal!

Why didn't I just go back to Ron's?!

H & T's Homecooking
2371 Murfreesboro Pike
Nashville, TN 37217

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Sweet 'N' Spicy

TABASCO® has a new Asian-influenced sauce: Tabasco Sweet & Spicy. For months I've been looking for this sauce in local grocery stores, and I finally found it today at my neighborhood Publix Super Market. (Somehow I knew Publix would be the first store to stock the new Tabasco sauce. They're good that way.)

While plain ol' Tabasco will always be my favorite "condiment" from the Tabasco family of sauces, Sweet & Spicy is a darn good thang to pour over one's food.

Sweet & Spicy is not as hot as other Tabasco sauces. It has a slightly sweet taste with just enough heat to tickle the back of a person's tongue. The only drawback with Sweet & Spicy is this: It is very thick. Folks who like to carpet bomb their food with hot sauce, like moi, will find it very difficult to do so with Sweet & Spicy Tabasco.

Tabasco's Web site says Sweet & Spicy "is perfect for dipping ... everything from egg rolls to chicken tenders to French fries!" True enough, but I would add white rice, stir-fried vegetables, and grilled chicken to the mix.

If you're a hot sauce fan, you'll be doing yourself a big favor when you add a bottle of Tabasco Hot & Spicy to your hot sauce repertoire.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Meet Priest Lake's finest meat-and-three

For years I'd tell anyone who'd listen that the Priest Lake/Antioch area of Nashville needed a good meat-and-three/soul food restaurant. Imagine my surprise two years ago when a couple of meat-and-threes opened within a few months of each other. First came Ron's Barbeque and Home Cooked Meals (now Ron's BBQ & Fish), followed by H & T's Home Cooking.

Since it's too hot to cook, I decided that I'd hit both Ron's and H & T's over the weekend. I've always been partial to Ron's, so I figured I'd go there first.

Ron's features some of the best fried fish that I've ever eaten -- whiting fish, mostly, but ol' Ron does fry catfish from time to time. I set out for Ron's this evening fully expecting to arrive home with a big plate of fish. When I saw the massive meatloaf steaming gently under glass, however, my hankering for fish suddenly disappeared.

While it's not as good as my late Granny Ruby's meatloaf, Ron's meatloaf gets real close. It is expertly seasoned and filled with chopped onions. Some restaurants go overboard slathering their meatloaf in tomato sauce or ketchup, but not Ron's. Ron puts just enough tomato sauce atop his meatloaf to serve as a slightly spicy garnishment; and for that he is to be commended.

Alongside my meatloaf I had green beans, macaroni and cheese, and a thick hunk of cornbread. The green beans were seasoned with just enough salty ham; the macaroni was rich and creamy, with bits of oven-singed cheese on top; and the cornbread - which was light, fluffy, and full of cornmeal goodness - was a perfect sop for the spicy meatloaf juices left on my plate.

I waited a long time for a good meat-and-three to come to the southeast corner of Davidson County. Ron's was indeed worth the wait!

Rons BBQ & Fish
2689 Murfreesboro Pike
Nashville, TN 37217

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Rachel Ray? Give me Anthony Bourdain!

These days, to be a "celebrity chef" one needn't spend years honing one's craft in busy kitchens; indeed, all one needs are dimples, a big round butt, or low-cut blouses.

Today's Wall Street Journal tells us all about them cute celebrity chefs:

"Celebrity cooks on television are undermining one of the oldest rites of the culinary world, the long and lowly apprenticeship in a restaurant, writes Victorino Matus in the Weekly Standard (subscription required). The famous faces of cooking that emerged in the 1990s such as Emeril Lagasse, Anthony Bourdain, Mario Batali and Jamie Oliver all learned to cook in restaurants. Drawing on that experience, those chefs emphasize to viewers that craft and fresh ingredients are the key to culinary success.

"But a new generation of star television cooks have gained their fame without passing through the restaurant business. Rachael Ray, the Food Network’s biggest star, distances herself from the restaurant business, emphasizing time-saving tricks that people can use at home. (Her willingness to put her name on a wide range of products, on the other hand, continues a long celebrity-chef tradition that dates back at least to Auguste Escoffier, the famous French chef of Victorian times).

"What’s more, shows like Ms. Ray’s have persuaded some young chefs that they don’t need to apprentice themselves to master cooks to achieve fame, Mr. Matus writes in the conservative newsweekly. Bobby Flay, a master instructor at the French Culinary Institute in New York, told author Michael Ruhlman the question most asked by his students is, 'How do I get my own television show?' To Mr. Flay, the questions students should be asking are, 'How should I approach a chef? How do I get my foot in the door?'"

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

l'Olio d'Oliva

The August 13, 2007, New Yorker has a very interesting essay concerning "adulterated" olive oils in Europe:

"In 1997 and 1998, olive oil was the most adulterated agricultural product in the European Union, prompting the E.U.’s anti-fraud office to establish an olive-oil task force. ... The E.U. also began phasing out subsidies for olive-oil producers and bottlers, in an effort to reduce crime, and after a few years it disbanded the task force. Yet fraud remains a major international problem: olive oil is far more valuable than most other vegetable oils, but it is costly and time-consuming to produce—and surprisingly easy to doctor. Adulteration is especially common in Italy, the world’s leading importer, consumer, and exporter of olive oil."

Speaking of olive oil, lemme show you my favorite l'olio d'oliva:

Fragrant with just enough cloudiness to let you know that it's made from first-press olives, you can't go wrong with Colavita!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Picnic Pizza Rules!

Yesterday, ma mere inquired as to where I'd like to go for our annual birthday lunch (today's Joltin' Django's b-day). "Picnic Pizza!" says I. So off we went at Noon today.

I never get tired of talking about Picnic Pizza, aka Angelo's Picnic Pizza & Italian Restaurant. Picnic Pizza has been in business in Nashville for almost 25 years, and I've been raving about their pizza almost since day one.

What's so great about Picnic Pizza's pies? Well, each pizza starts with homemade dough, hand-rolled by Angelo himself; a zesty tomato sauce, perfectly spread, is added; then comes fresh-grated mozzarella cheese; and the whole shebang's topped with the best pepperoni, Italian sausage, mushrooms and peppers I've ever eaten. Picnic Pizza' pies are sliced into big NYC-style slices (Angelo e la sua famiglia hail from Brooklyn) and are served piping hot.

When Picnic Pizza moved to its current location in 2000, Angelo added a lunch buffet. For the past seven years, Priest Lake/Antioch residents have had a place in which they can gorge themselves on the best Italian food Nashville has to offer: pizza, of course, stromboli, spaghetti and marinara, sausage and peppers, fried eggplant, baked penne with vegetables, and a well-stocked salad bar, which features a damn fine vinegar 'n' oil dressing.

Nashville has a lot of Italian restaurants that claim to have the best pizza in the city. I've eaten at most of 'em and I've come to this conclusion: There ain't a pizza joint in town that can hold a candle to Picnic Pizza. Indeed.

Angelo's Picnic Pizza
2713 Murfreesboro Road
Antioch, TN 37013-2003

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Bottled water is for suckas!

To borrow a line from Cosmo Kramer, bottled water is the biggest scam since carpet sweepers and one-hour Martinizing.

A couple of week ago, PepsiCo announced that the label on its Aquafina brand of bottled water will soon carry the words "public water source," instead of "PWS." As the Economist magazine explained, "That’s right: Aquafina is to all intents and purposes tap water. Coca-Cola is under pressure to follow suit with its Dasani brand, though so far it is refusing to do so."

What does this mean? It means millions of Americans are paying $1-2 for something that they could just as easily get out of their kitchen sink.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I refuse to pay a dollar or two for a bottle of anything that's not fermented or carbonated! You know, something like this:

Friday, August 10, 2007

Drink to a good cause

If you'd like to sip on a glass of good wine, and do so for a good cause, pick up a bottle of Firestone Estate's 2004 Jarhead Red Reserve. (Nashville's Liquor World, in the Hickory Hollow area, is a known wine-seller at which one can purchase JRR).

The net proceeds from the sale of Jarhead Red Reserve - an artful Bordeaux-style blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec - benefit the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation, which provides educational assistance to the children of fallen Marines.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Don Tomás? No más! No más!

I recently purchased a box of Don Tomás Clasico Robusto Maduro cigars from Talk about a waste of 49 bucks!

There should be no labor involved when smoking a fine cigar. The half-dozen Don Tomás Robusto Maduros I've smoked thus far have been so tightly wound, I've had to suck on 'em like I was sucking a milkshake through a straw in order to keep 'em lit.

And talk about crappy construction. Remember how well my Montecristo burned? Well, each and every one of my Don Tomás smokes started out okay ...

But then they started burning uneven, which means they were probably rolled by a machine:

Anybody want 19 dark-wrapper cigars, gratis?!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Damn them squirrels!

There are few things in this world I like more than homegrown tomatoes. I like 'em so much that I've been putting out a dozen tomato plants for the past, oh, ten years or so.

This year, for the first time since I started growing my own tomatoes, I've had a problem with squirrels eating the fruits of my labor, literally. When I first noticed that I had a lower yield, if you will, than in years past, I thought it might have something to do with the drought we've been experiencing. Thus, I started a very systematic watering program lest late summer come and, bam, no tomatoes.

One morning as I was leaving for work, I spied a squirrel on top of my storage shed munching on what looked like a grape. As I opened the gate to enter my back yard, the squirrel took off and what he'd been eating rolled off the roof of my shed. It was one of my damned tomatoes!

My tomato plants are tied to metal stakes. A little over a month ago, I started spraying the stakes with Pam (and I trimmed the low-hanging vines off my plants). The amount of half-eaten tomatoes in my yard declined precipitously, so I assumed that I'd taken care of my squirrel problem. Of course, trying to stop a squirrel from eating something that he's hell-bent on eating is akin to trying to stop water from running downhill (just ask anyone who has bird-feeders). This morning, I learned that my squirrel problem is far from solved.

As I was getting into my car this morning, I happened to glance up at the security light in my backyard ... and this is what I saw:

That's a big tomato. Sitting on top of a light pole. 25 feet in the air.

Damn them squirrels!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

One fine cee-gar

I enjoyed a Montecristo No. 5 cigar on my way home this afternoon. Not only was said cigar keenly constructed (see picture), it had a mild flavor with subtle hints of pepper and coffee beans. A fine smoke, indeed.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Joltin' Django stuffs himself silly

On Saturday, July 28, my lady friend and I traveled to Humphreys County, Tennessee, for the Irish Picnic and Homecoming. The Irish Picnic, which has taken place for over 150 years, serves as a fundraiser for the Saint Patrick School in McEwen. Hundreds of pounds of pork and chicken are smoked for the Picnic, and not one ounce of smoked meat is left by the time it's over.

The Irish Picnic takes place each year on the last Friday and Saturday in July. Over the last dozen years, I think I've missed the Picnic one time. "Why would anyone want to drive to McEwen, of all places, year after year for some festival BBQ?" you may be asking. Well ...

First, to eat a heaping plate of juicy and perfectly-smoked BBQ, green beans, slaw, homemade pickles, tater salad, homegrown tomatoes, and white bread. This is all washed down, of course, with tea so sweet it could count as dessert. It ain't dessert, though. You can have scratch-made chocolate cake, chess and/or pecan pie, or homemade cookies.

This was my plate:

This was my travelin' companion's plate:

At this point I think I should tell you that these meals, which in actuality were four meals 'cause there was enough left over for dinner, cost the princely sum of $12, total.

My second reason for making an annual pilgrimage to the Irish Picnic is so's I can purchase a big-ass jug of the famous Irish Picnic BBQ sauce, which is only available during Picnic Weekend, if you will. (I've been told that the super-secret recipe for the sauce is kept in a lockbox in a Dickson, TN bank, though I've not been able to find a Picnic official who can confirm such.) This, my friends, is one of the finest BBQ sauces I've ever put in my mouth:

I'm already looking forward to next year's Irish Picnic. Wanna go?