Saturday, January 31, 2009

Iron City is Steeler Beer

My first cousin is married to a feller who hails from Pittsburgh. Not only that, but my cousin's husband got cut on the last day of a Steelers' training camp back in the late 70s. He was once an official Steeler ... if only for a couple of months.

Back in the late 80s, I went through a beer-can-collectin' faze. My cuz-in-law gave me several Iron City beer cans featuring the Pittsburgh Steelers, some of 'em dating back to the mid-70s. I'm proud to say that I've held on to 'em to this day.

Speaking of Iron City Beer and the Steelers:

Not every football team has a (semi-) official beer, but the Steelers certainly do: Iron City. Brewed in the Lawrenceville neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Iron City has long paid homage to the hometown team, even designing a series of beer cans in their honor back in the late 70's days of the famed "Steel Curtain" defense, as well as a Jerome Bettis can a few years back.

Despite the fact that Iron City's roots go back over 100 years, 'tis no microbrew. No, think more along the lines of a Pabst or Genesee: A blue-collar beer that gets the job done. Rather like the team it shares a nickname with. As such, Iron City always feels a bit of a sales bump whenever the Steelers hit the Super Bowl. The brewers are especially hopeful this year, as many of the workers in their Pittsburgh plant have been temporarily laid off. It's apparently just until some kind of trouble with the manufacturing line can be solved. Once it is, everyone will be back.

We certainly hope so: There was a time when the Steelers had two beers, back when Rolling Rock was brewed in Latrobe, a town northwest of Pittsburgh where the Steelers had their training camp. The brewery was bought by Anheiser-Busch, who then closed it and moved all operations to New Jersey, thus severing all ties with all things Pittsburgh. Given that I have family in Latrobe, I myself haven't let a drop of the stuff pass my lips since the sale. So, if you want to honor the Steelers on Super Bowl Sunday, go for the Iron City, not the Rolling Rock.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Blown away

I've bragged about the quality of my homemade beef stew many times here at AMGE. What I've never admitted, until now, is that practically every pot o' stew I've cooked has included a "secret" ingredient not of my making: Tony Chachere's Instant Roux.

I made a pot of beef stew last week, and it was damn good, but it didn't have any TC's Instant Roux in it. You see, I discovered something that might just be a better addition to soups and stews than roux mix: Glory Foods (beef-flavored) Seasoned Cooking Base.

I've been a big fan of Glory-brand canned vegetables for a long, long time. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised that the folks at Glory make one hell of a soup/stew-starter. Indeed, their beef cooking base infused my pot o' beef stew with a flavor so rich and complex, I probably could've convinced those who broke bread with me that I'd spent most of the day slow-simmering a stock with roasted bones.

It's gonna be cold in Nashville next week. I'm already looking forward to making a pot of vegetable soup with ground beef ... and Glory's cooking base. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Celebrate good times ...!

I very rarely shop at Kroger. I did so this afternoon, however, because (a) I needed some cold medicine and (b) I pass a Kroger on my way home from work.

As is always the case when I enter a grocery store intending to buy just one thing, I thought of something else I needed tonight. As I was making my way toward where the tortillas were located, I passed the beer cooler.

One particular beer happened to catch my eye, Tap Room Brewing Company Pale Ale, mainly because each package said "Celebrating The Repeal of Prohibition 1933." "I'll celebrate that!" I said to myself. And the price was certainly right: $5.99 for a six-pack.

Tap Room Brewery's pale ale ain't the best pale ale I've ever had, but it's certainly not the worst. It had a wonderful color and had a very hoppy taste; however, it didn't finish very clean and left a bit of an aftertaste in my mouth. Let's just say that it wasn't anywhere near as good as any of the ales in the Boston Brewing Company's family of ales.

One interesting tidbit about the Tap Room Brewing Company is this: According to the Beer Advocate, Tap Room is a Kroger-brand beer brewed and bottled under contract by a brewery in New York. (You can read all about it here, but you'll have to set up a free BA account.)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Eatin' speaks louder than words!

Anyone who spends more than 20 minutes with yours truly knows that I can reference an episode of The Andy Griffith Show for just about every ordinary, or extraordinary, daily event. (Go ahead, tell me something that happened to you today and I'll tell you how it relates to Andy Griffith.) Furthermore, if you live to be 100, you might only run across one or two folks who like Andy Griffith more than I do ... and that's a mighty big "might."

Imagine my surprise when a co-worker alerted me to the fact that a local grocery store was selling Mayberry's Finest canned vegetables (with Andy, Aunt Bee, and Opie right on the label). I had no idea such a brand existed, which was pretty embarrassing considering that I try to stay abreast of all things Andy.

It took me a couple of days to get to the grocery store in question -- Apple Market, 3955 Nolensville Road -- but when I did, boy howdy, did I stock up (apologies to Goober Pyle). I got me two cans of blackeyed peas, two cans of pinto beans, a can of creamed corn, a can of green beans, a can of turnip greens, and a can of beans and franks. In addition, I picked up two packages of garlic and herb biscuit mix and one package of buttermilk biscuit mix.

Now I've been trying these items one at a time, so I'm gonna tell you about 'em one at a time. (Mr. Jimmy got my can of beans and franks, and I know for a fact that he ate 'em. Perhaps he'll send us a review.) First up ... Mayberry's Finest Southern-Seasoned Blackeyed Peas with Bacon.

I'm a feller who loves him some blackeyed peas. I don't usually buy canned blackeyed peas because most of the brands I've tried are quite bitter to taste. Not so with Mayberry's Finest. I detected not a hint of bitterness from the first bite to the last.

Mayberry's Finest blackeyed peas aren't heavily seasoned, and that can be a bad thing or a good thing, depending on your taste. I saw fit to spice 'em up a bit with a pinch of salt and pepper and a toot of Tabasco. I'm going to hit the next batch I cook with a little cayenne. I bet that'll make 'em extra good!

Pinto beans with bacon will be the next Mayberry's Finest product to get served in my kitchen. Stay tuned.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Slainte mhath!

Is there a more manly dish than haggis?

Grind up a sheep's heart, liver, and lungs; add minced onions, oatmeal, spices and salt; stuff the mixture in the animal's stomach; and just boil the hell out of the whole shebang. Serve it up with a premium Scottish whisky and, again, you have a meal any manly man would be proud to eat.

Yesterday was Robert Burns Day in Scotland, a day during which all proud Scots celebrate the master's poetry with whisy, song, and ... haggis. I didn't even think about it being Robbie Burns' day yesterday 'cause I ain't been feelin' too good. Otherwise, I would've posted this story, well, yesterday:

There is a movement to get the USDA to drop its ban on Scottish haggis. But it's Burns Night and you absolutely have to have good Scottish haggis for the occasion. Unfortunately, if you're in the U.S. you'll just have to smuggle it in.

According to the
Times Online, a record number of people are going to the trouble of smuggling haggis into the U.S. for Burns Night, the anniversary of Robert Burns' birthday and a national holiday of Scotland. The USDA and US Customs and Border Protection are aware of the holiday, and are on the look out for increased attempts to get the meat into the country. The fines for trying to break the haggis ban are steep, too. You can be fined up to $1,000 and run the risk of having your name placed on an alert list.

The one butcher from Cockburn's of Dingwall, which is renowned for its haggis, says that more and more people are open about their intentions to smuggle their purchase into the U.S. Another popular route is through the mail, though you may need to worry a little about its condition on arrival. Or you could be a law-abiding citizen and get haggis that was made in America.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Hooked on Coke

Earlier this week, a Swedish newspaper reported that a woman living in Malmö, Sweden will soon enter an inpatient treatment for her addiction to Coca-Cola. She claims her addiction has caused a variety of health problems, including diabetes and high blood pressure.

According to Momlogic, local health authorities recognized her health problems but rejected her request to receive state-provided treatment for addiction. The Swedish Administrative Court of Appeals, however, ruled that the woman's addiction to the beverage warranted treatment at a government inpatient facility.

Leave it to the Socialist Swedes to mandate that an individual is entitled to receive state-provided care for a dubious addiction. The lady in question ain't "addicted" to nothing; indeed, she just has no self-control ... and she wants to blame someone other than herself for her sad state of health.

I'll be the first to admit that I'm a serious Coca-Cola drinker, and by serious I mean I drink at least three Cokes every day. I don't have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes or distemper. If tomorrow, however, my doctor told me I was suffering from one of those inflictions, and giving up Cokes would help put my health train back on the tracks, I wouldn't expect the federal government to help me kick my Coke habit.

I hesitate to inject politics on my foodie blog. But since we have a new president whose statist economic policies would go over quite well in Sweden, I can easily see some dumbass suing Coca-Cola for damages due to its "addictive" product ... and I can see Obama's Justice Department sympathizing with said dumbass.

"Pssht!" That's the sound of me cracking openening another Coke. I didn't want to, but them Cokes've got ahold o' me ...! Get Tom Daschle on the horn, stat!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Goodall's is good stuff, indeed

I have a good friend who recently returned from a business trip to New Orleans. He visited a little magasin d'Irlandais in the French Quarter during his trip, and he brought me a couple of gifts from said Irish store.

A bottle of Goodall's of Dublin Steak Sauce was one of the gifts. I tried some on a grilled chop steak tonight. I'll admit ... I was suspicious of Goodall's sauce when I read the list of ingredients -- it has apples and dates in it, in addition to the requisite tomato purée, vinegar, and spices, neither of which are on my list of favorite things to eat.

Now, sweet is the first taste that trips o'er your tongue when you try Goodall's; but that taste is quickly muted by a strong "whang" from the vinegar and spices. In the course of about 1 and 1/2 seconds I went from thinking "This is too sweet" to "This is damn good!"

Goodall's will never supplant HP Sauce on my list of favorite steak sauces, I'm sure. However, I'm quite sure that I'll be asking my local Publix to special order me some as soon as I run out.

Goodall's is good stuff, indeed.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Who says you can't buy happiness for $.50?

I collect hot sauces like Dean Martin collected hangovers. Whenever I see a hot sauce I've never tried before, well, I just gotta have it. Like yesterday ...

I came across Parade Louisiana Hot Sauce at a convenience store on Nolensville Road. At $.50 a bottle, the price was certainly right to give it a try. I was mighty impressed by my half-buck bottle o' sauce; indeed, I was so impressed that I went back to that little store today and bought four more bottles!

I sure am glad that my tobacco craving led me to that convenience store yesterday. Otherwise, I may have never had a chance to try Parade's fine sauce.

At this point, I guess I should tell you how the sauce in my 4 3/4 bottles of new hot sauce tastes. Well, it has a great cayenne pepper flavor with a subtle "tang" that tickles the sides of your tongue. It packs more than a little heat - a heat that kinda sneaks up on you - but the heat in no way interferes with the taste of aged cayenne peppers.

One final thought 'bout Parade's Louisiana hot sauce: A lot of "Louisiana" hot sauces are just too damn salty -- Bruce Foods' "Original" Louisiana Hot Sauce immediately comes to mind. The same can't be said about Parade-brand Louisiana hot sauce. It has salt in it, of course, but you don't feel like you need to take a blood pressure tablet after each teaspoon you consume.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Poulet avec des herbes

In response to my "fried chicken" post, AMGE fan Kim forwards this recipe for 15-Minute Fried Herbed Chicken:

1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 to 2 tablespoons mixed fresh herbs, like tarragon and sage
2 tablespoons tahini
1/4 cup olive oil, more for frying
Flour for dredging
6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs or 4 half-breasts
Chopped fresh parsley leaves for garnish
Lemon wedges for serving

1. In a blender or the container of a food processor, combine onion, herbs and tahini. As you purée the mixture, slowly add just enough olive oil through the feed tube to make a thick, smooth paste; do not let it get too thin.

2. Put flour in a shallow bowl. Place chicken in another bowl. Rub puréed mixture over chicken, then dredge each piece in flour. Gently shake off any excess flour, coat again with paste and dredge once more in flour.

3. Heat 1/4 inch olive oil in a skillet; when it is hot, fry chicken for about 4 minutes each side, until well browned and cooked through; it will take longer if you use chicken with the bone in. Garnish with parsley and serve hot or warm, with lemon wedges.

I ain't a big fan of sage. However, I think this dish might be right tasty using some Provençal herbs. I think I might try me some.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

C. Wing Confessional

This post is going to be short and sweet, er, short and hot ...

I love hot chicken wings. Publix is my favorite supermarket. This evening, I purchased a 20-box of hot chicken wings at my favorite supermarket, Publix ...

... I ate 12 Publix hot wings for dinner tonight 'cause they were almost - almost - as tasty as the wings served at Nashville's best wing-buying place. (A review of said wing-buying place will soon appear here ... very, very soon.

I can't wait to eat the remaining wings for lunch tomorrow.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Best. Period.

In the Great Nashville Meat-N-Three Debate, Arnold's and Swett's get the most attention. That's unfortunate because neither of those restaurants serve the best country cookin' in Nashville.

Arnold's food is overrated, the portions ain't as big as they used to be, and Arnold is one surly SOB. (I once swore I'd never eat at Arnold's again after Arnold refused to honor a coupon he said was "expired," but which had no expiration date. A friend treated me to lunch there a few months later, and I nearly choked to death on a piece of dry-as-hell roast beef. I swore again that I'd never go back. And I ain't been back, neither.) As for Swett's ... it's pretty good, but every thing there is way too salty. If you have high blood pressure, you'll probably want to stay away from the place.

Now, if you want to eat food that tastes like it came out of your grandmother's kitchen, go to Dandgure's Cafeteria, aka Dan's Cafe, on Lafayette Street. Not only will the food make your knees buckle, if you happen to be standing up whilst eating, Dan is one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet.

I remember the very first time I ever went to Dan's. I was in college and working part-time at a trucking company on Murfreesboro Road. I went in early one day to help the president of the prepare for an important meeting. In appreciation he told me that he'd treat me to lunch. Dan's parking lot was full, so we had to park down the street a bit. Then we proceeded to walk in a side door and through the kitchen to the dining room. I'll never forget that.

10+ years and probably a hundred Dan's meals later, I'm still as impressed with the place as I was the first time I ate there. First of all, Dan's serves the best turnip greens in Nashville. Period. Furthermore, Dan's serves the best country-style pork ribs I have ever eaten, ... and I've had country ribs in at least a dozen different restaurants from Memphis to Knoxville.

As for the rest of Dan's grub, it's all out-of-this-world as well. I don't know it for a fact, but I suspect that Dan's fried chicken gets double-dusted in well seasoned flour. The macaroni and cheese is very, very creamy, and if you get there early enough you might just get some of the baked cheese from the top of the pan. And that's not all, Dan's fried pork chops are almost - almost - as good as my Granny Ruby's fried pork chops (and I'll admit they're better than my fried pork chops). Finally, I don't usually eat deserts, but I always get me a piece of chess pie when I go to Dan's -- if there's any left.

With all that said I have a final anecdote to share 'bout Dan's. A visit to Dan's with a former lady friend back in the day was the inspiration for the title of this blog, if not the blog itself. Keep that it mind 'cause I'm going to talk about it real soon. And get thee to Dan's real soon for some of the best food you'll ever put in your mouth. Tell Dan Joltin' Django sent you.

Dandgure's Cafeteria
538 Lafayette Street
Nashville, TN

Saturday, January 17, 2009

There goes my hero (watch him as he eats)

Fellers 'n' folks who gotta eat should know ...

... Adam Richman is my new hero.

Who's Adam Richman you ask?

This Wednesday, you can watch Adam "Man v. Food" Richman on the Travel Channel (9 p.m. CT) as he returns home to New York City. He'll be tackling a one-pound sandwich at Katz's Delicatessen; and he'll eat "soul food" at Sylvia's Restaurant; and he'll also eat the hottest curry in NYC at Brick Lane Curry House.

I can't wait to see it all "go down" ...!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Joltin' Django ♥ Cincinnati Chili

When it's cold outside, tain't a better thing in the world to eat than a big plate of Cincinatti-style chili. Please to enjoy this A Man's Gotta Eat post from last January:

I was 12-years-old the first time I went to Cincinnati. A kid who played on my baseball team that year was from Ohio, and he and his father were huge Reds fans.

One sunny summer day, my friend, his dad and I drove to Cincinnati to take in an under-the-lights Reds-Cardinals game. We stayed at a hotel near the stadium that night, and we started our journey back to Nashville at noon the following day.

Before leaving Cincinnati, however, my friend's dad insisted that we stop at Skyline Chili. Neither my mother or my father were big chili fans (I don't remember my mother ever making chili when I was growing up), and I'd sort of adopted their indifference to the stuff. I don't remember exactly what I ordered, but I know it wasn't chili.

I remember when my friend's dad's chili arrived. It did not resemble any chili I'd ever seen. First of all, it wasn't in a bowl, which was how I'd always seen chili served. And it wasn't just chili on the plate. It was spaghetti noodles and chili and cheese and beans and chopped onions. I was intrigued, to say the least.

My friend's dad asked if I'd like to try his chili. Since what he was eating looked more like a plate of my mother's spaghetti than any chili I'd ever encountered, I probably said, "Yes, please" (I was full o' manners when I was a young boy), and boy was I glad I did.

The first thing you notice about Cincinnati chili is its slightly sweet taste. That's 'cause it is made with cinnamon, cocoa and paprika (Texas-style chili it ain't). I know the sweet taste is what I enjoyed most about my first few bites of Cincinnati chili. I'm sure others feel the same way.

My two traveling companions and I made two more trips to Cincinnati that summer. We saw the Braves play during one of those trips; I don't remember who the Reds played during the other. What I do remember is this: I just begged my friend's dad to take us back to Skyline each time, which he did. I suspect he would've taken us there whether I'd lobbied for the trip or not.

Since those first three trips to Skyline during the summer of my 12th year, I've been a confirmed fan of Cincinnati chili. I've been to Cincinnati a couple-dozen times over the years for business and pleasure, and I've always - and I mean always - go to one of the myriad chili parlors that serve the fine citizens of the Queen City (Skyline, Gold Star, Empress, Dixie Chili, etc.).

Now, if you don't want to drive all the way to Cincinnati to try this unique American dish, you can drive to your nearest Kroger grocery store and get a package of Cincinnati Recipe Chili Mix. (Kroger is the only grocery store in which you're likely to find the stuff, which makes sense considering Kroger is headquartered in Cincinnati.) I've made Cincinnati chili from scratch, but it didn't taste as much like the real thing as the chili I've made with Cincinnati Recipe's mix.

I made a big batch of chili tonight (see picture above), which I shared with a neighbor who's suffering from cancer. He eats like a bird these days, but he did have a pretty big helping of noodles and meat. I think that's a pretty good tribute,
n'est-ce pas?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Little Wendy's

I left work this afternoon at 4 p.m. to fetch a close family member who was expected to arrive at Nashville International Airport at 4:15. 'Cause of what happened today, we didn't leave the airport until nearly 6:15. Since my previous dinner plans were kaput at that point, we headed to the nearest Wendy's.

I wasn't real hungry, so I ordered a $.99 double-stacker:

As far as fast food is concerned, Wendy's serves the most homemade-tasting fast food burgers around. When I was 8-years-old, a Wendy's opened about a mile from my house. It quickly became the post-baseball-game haunt for me and my buds for the next ten years.

Wendy's burgers ain't quite as good as homemade burgers, but they're damn close. What I like about Wendy's is that their burgers are made to order, topped with fresh lettuce, tomatoes, and onions ... as well as the best fast-food pickles known to man.

Like I said, I ain't much on fast food. But that $.99 Wendy's burger may be the best fast food bargain in town. To borrow a line from Jules Winnfield, it is a tasty burger!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

C'est de bonnes nouvelles!

Good news from New Orleans:

An explosion tore through the Abita Brewery near Abita Springs early Tuesday morning when a tank became over-pressurized.

The 1:30 blast blew through the roof of the brewery, shattered windows and left debris strewn through a nearby trailer park and was heard two miles to the south along Harrison Avenue, said Capt. Matt Huddleston, with St. Tammany Parish's 12th Fire Protection District.

No one was injured in the explosion, which did not cause a fire.

I've not blogged 'bout it before, but I love me some Abita beer ... especially the Turbodog and Red Ale varieties.

First time I ever had an Abita was in October 1999 in New Orleans. I was in a French Quarter bar near the River watching the Red Sox-Yankees playoff game. The only on-tap beers in said bar were Abita beers ... and I had three glasses of Turbodog that night. (I still have a glass from that bar to prove it.)

Now that the Abita Brewery is safe, I wanna see the Dixie Beer brewery back up and running.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I ♥ fried chicken

Two things every Southern gentleman should love: His mother and fried chicken.

Speaking of loving fried chicken and one's mother, I got me a two-fer this year. Check it out:

What you see there is pick-o'-the-chick pieces of chicken that I rolled in flour, salt, black pepper, and hot paprika ... and fried in the Hamilton Beach deep-fry cooker I got from my mother for Christmas. (Just so you know, it tasted as good as it looks in that pic.)

And I thought quality fried chicken could only be, well, fried in a skillet! Shows what I know ... praise be to Hamilton Beach, indeed!

Monday, January 12, 2009

"Bacon explosion"

Damn, this looks good:

I'm-a-gonna make one ... stay tuned.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Miss you much (redux)

I've been haunted in my sleep
You've been starring in my dreams
Lord, I miss you

-- Rolling Stones, "Miss You"

Last August, I told you about my favorite now-closed restaurants. I just knew that I was leaving a few out when I penned that short piece. I was right, of course, and here're three more Nashville restaurants that I wish were still with us (I'm sure I'll think of a few more) ...

Old Heidelberg

When it comes to German food in Nashville, most people think of the Gerst Haus. While I like the Gerst Haus as much as anyone, it ain't exactly what you'd call "authentically German." Oh, sure ... they serve kraut and knockwurst and hasenpfeffer and German fried potatoes (all of which is pretty darn tasty), but they also serve hamburgers and other American-style pub food. Again, authentic it ain't

Up until a couple of years ago, folks in these parts could dine in a German restaurant that was as authentic as some of the "authentic" German joints you find some of America's biggest cities. That restaurant was located right smack in the middle of downtown Nashville, and its name was Old Heidelberg (which was located on Union Street near TPAC). Whereas the Gerst Haus - the new one anyway - has all the ambience of a Steak & Ale or some other such chain restaurant, stepping into Old Heidelberg was like stepping into a quaint little German-owned joint in NYC, D.C., or Chicago. Black and white photos of Germany bedecked the walls; soft German music was always playing; and when you were greeted at the door, the person doing the greeting always had a German accent. Then there was the food ...

When I worked in downtown Nashville, I ate lunch at Old Heidelburg at least once a week. For six bucks you could get a knockwurst or brat, potato salad, kraut, a slice of rye bread and a small bowl of chicken soup. And oh, man, was it good. With each bite you just knew that someone's German grandma was in the back doin' the cookin'.

I would give anything if I could have just one more portion of OH's potato salad. I doubt if I'll ever have potato salad that good ever again.

Belle Meade Cafeteria

Back in my undergrad days, I dated a girl whose parents lived about a mile and a half from the Belle Meade Cafeteria. The very first time she and I went out, I picked her up at her parents' house and we went to Nashville's Cheekwood art gallery. When I asked her where she wanted to eat she said (these are her exact words, which I can remember to this day): "Let's go to the Belle Meade Cafeteria. It's the only restaurant in Nashville that makes fried chicken and mashed potatoes that's as good as your grandmother's."

Well, the Belle Meade Cafeteria's fried chicken wasn't quite as good as my Granny Ruby's fried chicken, but it was pretty damn good. The green beans, mashed taters, fried okra, and turnip greens were also darn tasty. And - and this was one of the things that made the Belle Meade Cafeteria one of my very favorite after-church lunch spots - you could just taste the buttermilk in the BMC's cornbread ... and that is always a good thing (apologies to Martha the Ex-Con).

One of the Belle Meade Cafeteria's quirks was the dozen or so bow tie-wearing gentlemen who would take your tray to your table and then come back later to refill your drink. I can't tell you how many times one of these fine gentlemen not only refilled my drink but brought me extra portions of okra or cornbread without me even asking. And for that they were always well-rewarded. Indeed, I don't think I ever once left the BMC after placing less than a $5 tip on the table.

Most of the gentlemen in question were black, a fact that led one Nashville-based food writer to remark that she not only felt "uncomfortable" going to the BMC, she more or less compared the place to a plantation. I sent her an e-mail in which I reminded her of this: most of the guys who made her so "uncomfortable" had been working at the Belle Meade Cafeteria for years, and some of 'em had been there since the place opened in the '60s. It was hard to imagine that those great guys would've hung around that long if they (a) weren't paid well or (b) had been mistreated or dehumanized in any way.

2nd and Goal

2nd and Goal, which was located smack in the middle of 2nd Avenue between Broadsay and the Metro courthouse, had all the trappings of a typical sports bar: lots of sports-related crap on the walls, lots of high tables with stools, lots of attractive young waitresses, er, servers, and a no-frills menu that featured lots of fried stuff. That said, the folks at 2nd and Goal could serve up one hell of a grilled chicken sandwich A 2nd and Goal chicken breast went something like this:

A stumpy toasted hoagie roll. A juicy grilled chicken breast that spilled over the sides of said roll. Sliced red onions, sliced tomatoes, and green leaf lettuce.

2nd and Goal's chicken sandwiches didn't come with any condiments -- the chicken was so damn juicy and flavorful it didn't need no embellishment. Indeed, you had to request condiments for chicken sandwiches. I'm sure a great deal of snickering went on in the 2nd and Goal kitchen whenever some poor soul requested mustard, mayo, or (GASP!) ketchup for his or her chicken sammich (Only thing I ever put on a 2nd and Goal chicken sammich was a dash or two of Tabasco 'cause, well, I can't eat nothin' unless it has hot sauce on it or in it.)

Speaking of 2nd and Goal, I had two memorable experiences there -- and each time I ate a chicken sammich.

The first was in 1998 at a "draft party" for the Tennessee Oilers. The draft party took place two days after a tornado tore through downtown Nashville; thus, wasn't nobody downtown that day. I not only sat at a table with Nashville radio titans (!) George Plaster and Duncan Stewart, my beer-drinking visage appeared in the local paper the next day (I was literally lifting a mug of beer to my mouth in the pic).

On election night in 2000, my bud Mr. Mordecai and I ate dinner at 2nd and Goal before heading to the Wildhorse Saloon for the Tennessee Republican Party's election shindig. We all know what happened that night -- and what happened over the next 30+ days -- so I ain't gonna do no political rehashing. However, I can't think of that election night without also thinking about the excellent chicken sammich I devoured at 2nd and Goal.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Vive la reine du congélateur!

Folks who regularly read this blog know that one of my favorite things to eat is macaroni and cheese ... homemade macaroni and cheese. But homemade macaroni and cheese ain't easy to make, what with all the grating of cheese and stirring of sauces and cracking fresh black pepper. So when I want some quality macaroni and cheese but I don't want to do a lot of work, I'll cook up a pan of Freezer Queen® mac-n-cheese:

Now, I don't just pop that pan o' noodles 'n' cheese in the oven, let it cook the recommened 45-50 minutes and chow down. Oh, no. I fix it up a bit by taking it out of the oven after about 30 minutes; I toss in a quarter-stick of butter; then I pour in a good splash of milk; I add a heavy-helping of medium-grind black pepper; and I just stir the hell out of it all and shove it back into the oven to cook for another 15-20 minutes.

I'm firmly convinced that I could sell a whole lot of "fixed up" Freezer Queen mac-n-cheese in a restaurant and pass it off as "homemade." I could do it, and folks would love it, but I'd know in my heart that I was selling macaroni and cheese that wasn't as good as the Belmont Bi-Rite's macaroni and cheese.

That's a teaser alert, by the way ... stay tuned.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Drink 'n' decolletage

Wine Spectator magazine has a story about a champagne glass that's ... well, I'll let you read 'bout it:

Following Bollinger's homage to James Bond and his bullet, now comes Dom Pérignon's tribute to Claudia Schiffer's bosom. The breast-inspired bowl is the latest creation by German designer Karl Lagerfeld for Moët & Chandon's famous Champagne brand. This artwork is supposed to be a modern version of the bowl from the dining service made especially for Queen Marie Antoinette back in 1787. Legend has it that it was the exact size of one of her breasts, and used, in turn, to model the well-known coupe-shaped Champagne glass. Lagerfeld's offering rests upon a stand comprising three porcelain replicas of Dom Pérignon and a platter bearing the signatures of the designer and his favorite top model. The creation is sold along with a bottle of 1995 Dom Pérignon Oenothèque, but some still might find it a tad bit too expensive at $3,150 a pop, considering you don't get to take the real Schiffer home to share the bottle with you.

Three grand for a bottle of bubbly and a glass is a tad expensive for my taste, even if said glass is shaped like one of the most beautiful gals in the world's breasts. Perhaps Martini & Rossi should package a bottle of Asti Spumante with a glass shapped like one of Kim Kardashian's ample butt cheeks. I'd buy that for a dollar!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

My first Lithuanian beer

Sometime during the "Christmas season," I visited a new liquor store - located on the corner of Blue Hole Road and Bell Road in Antioch - to get some wine. I was perusing the chilled wines when I seen a brand o' beer that I'd never seen before: Zhiguly Grand, which comes straight from Lithuania.

Zhiguly Grand is a high-alcohol beer, 9.5% by volume, which is the reason it can only be sold in a liquor store in Tennessee. (Don't even get me started 'bout Tennessee's arcane laws dealing with the sale of booze and beer.) I'd never heard of ZG before, and the label looked pretty cool, so I decided to give it a try ... $2.99 for a pint.

During check-out, the liquor store guy not only told me that ZG is a tasty brew, he also told me that it's a corn-based beer. The label didn't say nothing 'bout corn, so I can't vouch for it being corn-based; however, I can tell you that it is one fine-tasting Lithuanian brew.

I usually shy away from high-alcohol beers, mainly 'cause they tend to have a thin, metallic taste that burns the tip of one's tongue. Tain't the case with Zhiguly Grand. Indeed, it has a rich taste that trips over the tounge and coats one's throat like a quality lager.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I give Zhiguly Grand a 7.5. I will purchase it again.

Toot, toot!

Not to toot my own horn, but a classic A Man's Gotta Eat recipe was featured in yesterday's Tennessean. See if you can find it ...

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Beef 'N' Bird was the word ...

Back in the late 1980s, there were a half-dozen drive-through food-servin' joints in Nashville called Beef 'N' Bird. The joint in question was called Beef 'N' Bird due to its limited menu: burgers, grilled chicken sandwiches, fries, and drinks (soft and milk-shook). Beef 'N' Bird didn't do much, but what they did was done very well, indeed.

The reason I remember Beef 'N' Bird so well is because one of their drive-through stands was located less than a half-mile from the recreation complex at which I played summer baseball. The reason I remember Beef 'N' Bird so fondly is because my Mom or Dad would often take me there on Saturdays after I'd spent the better part of the day playing, and talking about, baseball with my friends. And while I liked me the Beef 'N' Bird's made-to-order burgers and chicken sammiches, I freakin' loved their thick cut, seasoned fried taters.

By the time I graduated from high school, Beef 'N' Bird had gone the way of wild cows and dodos. (As late as 1998 or 1999, the shell of a Beef 'N' Bird could still be seen on Church Street across from the Nashville Electric Service.) It really bummed me out, too, 'cause, again, I couldn't get enough of their fried taters.

I can't tell you how many times I've thought about - nay, pined for - Beef 'N' Bird taters over the years. I also asked countless friends, co-workers, and casual acquaintances they ever ate at Beef 'N' Bird and enjoyed their damn-good taters. Sadly, I can count on one hand, er, finger, the number of souls whom I know who ever ate at Beef 'N' Bird, and that's my buddy Bruce -- who, truth be told, probably only ever visited the place 'cause I dragged him there (the fact that he doesn't remember a thing about the quality of Beef 'N' Bird's food confirms such).

I've looked far and wide on the Inter-Web for "stuff" 'bout Beef 'N' Bird. The only thing I've been able to find is a 1990 Tennessee Supreme Court decision that name-checked a Tenn. Court of Appeals decision involving Beef 'N' Bird and an insurance company. (The name-checking involved whether parties to civil litigation must always be responsible for paying court stenographers.) Not what I'd call a fitting way to be memorialized.

So why am I telling you about Beef 'N' Bird? Well, I'll tell you ...

Regular A Man's Gotta Eat readers are well aware that my favorite supermarket - supermarket, not grocery store - is Publix. I stopped at Publix this afternoon to get a couple of things, one of which was located in the deli. While I was passing through Publix's deli, I spied some taters behind their plate-lunch/dinner counter that looked pretty good. "What the hell," I said to myself. "I'll give 'em a try." Boy, oh, boy am I glad I tried 'em.

Halfway between Publix and my home, I decided to try me a deli fried tater. I dug into my grocery bag, opened the tater box, got me a big one, and I took a bite. Wasn't nobody in the car with me, but I couldn't help but announce aloud: "This tater tastes just like a Beef 'N' Bird tater!" One more bite and that first tater was gone. I grabbed another and it was gone in one bite. Then I grabbed another (you know where this's going). Needless to say, didn't none of my Publix taters make their way through my backdoor.

I encourage you to go get you some taters from the Publix deli. If you do, just know that you could once get equally fine-tasting taters at quaint Nashville-area drive-throughs called Beef 'N' Bird.

Beef 'N' Bird ... man, I miss that place.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Chee-burger, chee-burger, Cheeseburger Charly's

My bestest bud, Big Bruce D., and I went to see The Spirit on New Year's Day. [Note: If you liked Sin City, chances are you'll like The Spirit. I liked 'em both.] Before the picture show started, we sat down at Cheeseburger Charley's to enjoy a bite. 'Twas my first time ever to eat at a Cheesebuger Charley's, and, to be honest, I was only half impressed. Allow me to explain ...

Cheeseburger Charley's concept -- grilled hamburgers, hot dogs, and chicken breasts served on a half-dozen different style buns, and a "condiment" bar stacked with fresh vegetables and various mustards, mayos, ketchups and sauces -- ain't unique. Indeed, Fuddruckers started doing what Cheeseburger Charley's is now doing years ago.

I can't tell you how many times I ate at Nashville's Vanderbilt U.-area Fudrucker's over the years. It was but a hop, skip and jump ('bout three blocks) from the famous Exit/In; thus, it was a natural pre-concert eating destination before I and assorted buds went to see King's X, Against Me!, They Might Be Giants, etc. I always thought the burgers at Fudrucker's were so-so; but Fuddruckers had great fried taters, and they always had a tub of amazing-tasting sauerkraut on their condiment bar.

But enough with Fuddruckers. Let's talk about Cheeseburger Charley's ...

Right off the bat I'm gonna say: Cheeseburger Charley's French fries leave a lot to be desired. It's one thing for a restaurant to use bags o' frozen taters. It's quite another thing to cook said taters until they resemble thick toothpicks ... thick toothpicks sans salt. That's what I got at Cheeseburger Charley's: over-cooked Ore-Ida fries that lacked post-frying salt, pepper, and, well, flavor.

That said, Cheeseburger Charley's can serve up a pretty juicy burger. Not only is a Cheeseburger Charley's burger juicy, it has a (damn-good) subtly-spiced flavor as well. Which is due to the fact, I'm sure, that said burgers are dusted with an unidentified "spice" concoction whilst cooking. (I seen cooks doing the "dusting.") Furthermore, the bun on which my Cheeseburger Charley's burger was served -- it was grilled before serving, and I liked that -- was as good a hamburger bun as I've ever been served in a chain restaurant whilst eating hamburgers. No kidding.

On to the condiment bar. Cheeseburger Charley's features the standards on its dress-your-burger bar: mustard, ketchup, mayo, sliced tomatoes, sliced onions, pickles, and lettuce (just like Fuddrucker's.) Charley's don't stop there, however. There's also Louisiana hot sauce, sliced jalapeno peppers, fresh tomato-onion-pepper salsa, banana peppers, olives, and various barbeque sauces. Wow.

When I said I was just half-impressed with Cheeseburger Charley's, I meant:

They need to learn how to cook fresh-cut French fries (dumping bags of store-bought taters into a fryer ain't a hallmark of a fine restaurant). When they learn how to do that, I'll be there every week ... if not more. After all, Cheeseburger Charley's knows how to cook a burger that is,well, a tasty burger (apologies to Jules Winnfield); they just need to learn how to cook the with the correct équipements.

So there.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Happy New Year!

Hagar the Horrible has always been one of my favorite comic strips. And why shouldn't it be? I mean, Hagar is an über-nationalist who not only loves meat and strong drink, he's always uncorking non-politically correct quips faster that he can pull a cork out of a barrel. He IS the comic strip equivalent of a Man Who's Gotta Eat. Indeed.

Who wants to be Joltin' Django's Lucky Eddie? Auditions begin in a month.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Bright lights. City lights. I'm talkin' 'bout a Yankee, er, sauce

Friends who're around me on a regular basis know that I have almost Matlockian cravings for hot dogs. My friends also know that I'm pretty egalitarian when it comes to hot dogs. That is, I don't care if it's an eight-pack of $.99 or $5.99 dogs ... I'll put 'em in a bun and top 'em with mustard, chopped onions, peppers and, on occasion, chili meat, and just eat the hell out of 'em.

I have a friend who hails from up north, North New York (aka Upstate) to be exact. As long as I've known him [he agreed to be name-checked as "Yngwie" for our purposes here], he's known how much I like hot dogs. And every time he's ever heard me talk about how much I like Nathan's hot dogs, he's always responded thusly: "Sabrett's are better."

During my first trip to New York, in 2001 -- two weeks before 9/11 incidentally -- I ate at the Nathan's on Coney Island twice. It was during those two visits that I came to the learned culinary decision that Nathan's makes the best hot dogs in the known world. (Hell, my first visit to the Coney Island Nathan's inspired me to purchase a circa-1950 black and white glossy photo of hot dogs being cooked on the Nathan's grill, which hangs in my kitchen to this day.)

Second time I went to New York, in 2006, I ate me my first Sabrett's hot dog -- from a street vendor near Central Park. "A [Sabrett's dog is] pretty good dog," I remember thinkin'. But I also remember thinkin' this: "This [dog] ain't nowhere near as good as a Nathan's dog." Fast forward to today ...

My Yankee friend (he don't mind the "Yankee" moniker) gave me a jar of Sabrett Onions in Sauce as a belated Christmas present. He intimated that he'd had very few hot dogs in his life that weren't slathered with Sabrett's onions-'n'-sauce. Then he said, and I quote, "You probably won't like it, but we'll see."

Let's see ...

I made a special trip to Publix today to pick up a pack of Sabrett hot dogs and some fresh buns. (I got me some fresh wheat buns from Publix's deli.) I boiled two hot dogs as soon as I got home, and then I bunned-'em up. Next, I opened my jar of Sabrett Onions and Sauce and I let it breathe for a bit. Finally, I took a spoon and covered my dogs with sauce; I took hold o' one of my dogs with both hands and took a bite; and I took a mental note of what I was thinking as I swallowed:

This Sabrett's hot dog is pretty darn good good -- not Nathan's good, but pretty darn good; and Sabrett Onions and Sauce tastes suspiciously like Hunt's extra-sweet ketchup that's been infused with sliced onions. (Oh, and then I said, outloud to no one in particular, "Yee-uck!")

I'm of the opinion that no one over the age of 12 should eat a hot dog with ketchup on it. Hell, ketchup is only useful as a dip for fried potatoes and as a base for certain barbecue sauces ... period. Ketchup should never be placed on a sandwich or a hamburger or, especially, a hot dog. Repeat: Ketchup should never be placed on a sandwich or a hamburger or, especially, a hot dog.

Sabrett Onions and Sauce probably would taste good on a fried tortilla -- you know, like salsa. But it don't have no place on no hot dog at no time. Indeed.

I'm sorry, Yngwie.