Friday, July 31, 2009

... is my all-time favorite restaurant

I've said it before and I'll say it again: The only thing the Tennessean has going for it these days is a stable of excellent food-writers.

Take today, for example. The Tennessean had the good sense to send Nancy Vienneau down to Murfreesboro's famous Kleer-Vu (pronounced Clear-View) Lunchroom, and she penned a review in which I can't find nothing I disagree with. Read it here.

To put it simply, Kleer-Vu is my all-time favorite restaurant. Period. Indeed, I often tell people that if my last meal on this earth is consumed at Kleer-Vu, I will die a happy man.

During my years as an undergrad and grad student at Middle Tennessee State University, I reckon I put my legs under one of Kleer-Vu's tables about 200 times -- and that's a very conservative estimate.

I never tired of spreading the Gospel of Kleer-Vu to new MTSU students. And the day I received my bachelor's degree, the kind folks at Kleer-Vu fed me, my parents, and my grandmother gratis.

I'll be posting my own Kleer-Vu review sometime this fall. (Football season is just around the corner, and I already have my MTSU season tix.) Until then, please know ...

● What Ms. Vienneau says about Kleer-Vu's chess pie -- "The Kleer-Vu chess pie alone would be worth the pilgrimage ..." -- is absolutely spot-on. My sainted Granny Ruby made great chess pie, but it wasn't as good as Kleer-Vu's chess pie. So there.

● If you like pig's feet, Kleer-Vu has some of the best around. You'll have to ask if they're available, though, 'cause they ain't always on the menu.

● On that same token, be sure to request some sliced tomatoes and onions with your meal. They're not on the menu, either, but the Kleer-Vu folks will happily oblige if you ask for such.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Best road trip ever?!

Check this out (from

The Southern BBQ Boys consist of four Birmingham Southern College students. These guys not only took a barbecue road trip that lasted 17 days, but while they were roaming around the Southern United States, they earned credit toward graduation. After hearing about this, I asked if I could sign up for that class. However, after hearing the rest of what these brave fellows had to go through to get that credit, I quickly changed my mind.

This road trip was no doubt an experience of a lifetime for them with over 3,100 miles logged in five different states in their 1998 Ford Explorer, complete with a pig's nose attached to the front. They did this and only spent about $500 each.

They accomplished this feat by only staying in a motel room three nights! The rest of their nights were spent sleeping on couches, floors, or anywhere they could find with friends and family members along their route.

Read the rest here.

I'll readily admit that I'm jealous of them boys ... especially since one of their stops was at Neely's in Memphis.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Well, here you go ...

Hey, come over here, kid, learn somethin'. You never know, you might have to cook for 20 guys someday.

-- Peter Clemenza, The Godfather

Yesterday, I made a big pot of spaghetti sauce with sausage and meatballs for 16 o' my co-workers. Several of 'em asked for my recipe, so I'm happily obliging. To wit:

Joltin' Django's Meatballs 'n' Spaghetti Sauce



1 lb ground beef
1/2 lb ground pork
1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
3/4 cup finely-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 egg
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 pinch salt
1 pinch pepper

Spaghetti Sauce

1 lb sweet Italian sausage (casings removed)
1/2 cup olive oil
1 large white onion, chopped
2 medium green peppers, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 28-ounce cans Cento peeled tomatoes (with basil)
1 14-ounce can tomato puree
Red pepper flakes



Crumble pork and ground beef into a large bowl
Add egg, bread crumbs, cheese, salt, pepper and Italian seasoning
Mix and form into one-inch balls
Set aside and let sit for 20 minutes

Spaghetti Sauce

Strain tomatoes, saving juice
Hand-crush and set aside

Brown sausage in a heavy-bottomed stock pot
Remove browned sausage and add olive oil to pot, heat to medium
Add onion and green pepper and cook until softened, 3-5 minutes
Add garlic and quick-stir for one minute
Add tomatoes and juice, tomato puree, tomato paste, and sausage
Lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes
Add meatballs and simmer for an additional 30 minutes, stirring frequently to make sure mixture doesn't stick
Turn off heat and allow sauce and meatballs to sit on stove for an additional 15-20 minutes

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Colonel's "secret blend" ...

According to Ron Douglas' new book, America's Most Wanted Recipes: Delicious Recipes from Your Family's Favorite Restaurants, here's what you need to mix-together when you're fryin' chicken and you want to duplicate KFC's "11 herbs and spices":

1 teaspoon ground oregano
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground sage
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons paprika
1 teaspoon onion salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons Ac'cent (an MSG-based seasoning)

Stay tuned 'cause I'm gonna try this recipe soon -- even though I'm convinced that Mr. Douglas is leaving some important herbs and spices out.

We'll see, indeed.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Martinis, Manhattans, Negronis, and Sazeracs (Oh, my!)

I've never been a cocktail-drinker. Indeed, if I'm hankering to sip something with alcohol in it, I'll either enjoy me a bottle of Sam Smith's, or I'll pour me some Dickel into a glass over a very small cube of ice.

After reading this pro-cocktail cover-piece from the Weekly Standard, I may have to rethink my anti-cocktail position.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Over'n Humphreys County

Today, I went to the St. Patrick's Irish Picnic & Homecoming in McEwen, Tennessee...

I had a plate o' barbeque, green beans, potato salad, slaw, homemade pickles, and white bread ...

[Note: Most of the 'que, and all of the homemade pickle slices, are covered by bread in that pic. Just so you know, I was stuffed full o' juicy chopped pork - and about a dozen pickles slices - when I was finished.]

I had a lot to say about the St. Patrick's Irish Picnic last year, and I had a little bit to say 'bout it in 2007 (see here and here). The only thing I wanna add this year is this:

I was fortunate enough to engage in a short sit-down with one of the "in-charge" guys at this year's Picnic. We talked about how some two-dozen guys stayed up all night tending to the pits in which pork shoulders and whole chickens were smoked. We talked about the history of the Picnic and the Irish influence in McEwen, Tennessee. And we talked about how the St. Patrick's Irish Picnic has been the lifeblood for McEwen's little Catholic school for over 100 years.

Oh, and I also learned that by 11 a.m. today, the Irish Picnic had served up nearly 4,000 lbs of pork (either on a plate, in a sammich, by the lb, or by the shoulder). If'n you don't believe that, check out how the Picnic's pitmasters have to move the hickory wood with which they cook ...

Heavy machines needed to bring wood to the Picnic's pits, that should tell you something about how much 'que is cooked there. And it serves as a testament to the quality of said 'que. I mean ... would the thing still be going on after 100 years if they weren't doing something right?!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Re: Country Bob's

Country Bob, Inc. recently asked me to name-check its numba one product -- Country Bob's All Purpose Sauce -- on my blog. There ya go, folks at Country Bob, Inc. ...!

Country Bob, Inc. also asked if I'd be interested in receiveing a free bottle of their all-purpose sauce. I sent 'em my mailing address with a note that said, "Hell, yeah!"

Get you some, too ... right here.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Pains me to say ...

If my grandmother wasn't cooking fresh or self-canned green beans, she would use Allen's "flat" green beans. She'd slow-simmer Allen's green beans with some bacon drippings, salt, pepper, and a little sugar, and, Boy Howdy, they was good.

Inspired by my Granny Ruby, I only use Allen's flat-beans when I'm cookin' green beans. I cook 'em just like she did -- with the bacon drippings, salt, pepper, and sugar -- but I also add a couple o' peeled potatoes cut into large cubes. (Granny, who's granny came straight from Ireland, wouldn't protest my potato-added green beans, I'm sure.)

Last week, I purchased a couple o' large cans of Allen's Seasoned Turnip Greens at my local Dollar General. "I like Allen's unseasoned green beans, so I must really like Allen's seasoned turnip greens!" I thought to myself. And then ...

Allen's seasoned turnip greens ain't real good. Indeed, 'bout the only seasoning you'll find in 'em is the taste of the can in which they were, well, canned. It pains me to say this, as a certified Fan O' Allen's, but I had to empty a bottle of Trappey's hot vinegar to make Allen's seasoned turnip greens palatable.

I won't be buying any Allen's-brand canned turnip greens again. Period.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Ain't no whiskey like Tennessee whiskey 'cause Tennessee whiskey, ahem, is the best

When it comes to Tennessee whiskey, Jack Daniel's gets all the attention. When the whiskey hits the tongue, however, George Dickel is a superior product. This is what I said 'bout it back in '07:

There are two things you can count on seeing when you visit ma maison: my cat, Hambone, and several bottles of George Dickel Tennessee Whisky. Jack Daniel's may be the world's best known Tennessee whiskey - hell, the world's best known whiskey period - but it is not anywhere near as good as Dickel No. 8 or Dickel No. 12. Not only does Dickel have a smoother taste than its more-famous cousin, it leaves less of an acohol burn on the back of one's tongue as well. tells us about a very exciting development vis-à-vis Tennessee whiskey. The whole article can be read here. Here's a sample:

Tennessee whiskey, which has long been the exclusive province of Jack Daniels and George Dickel, may soon be welcoming some new faces to the fold.

The Tennessee legislature this month passed a law permitting the distillation of spirits in 44 counties instead of only the three in which it is currently legal. It's a move some legislators say should generate needed tax revenues for the state and new jobs for its residents.

Artisan distillers predict the relaxed restrictions could also spur a Tennessee whiskey renaissance. The term "Tennessee whiskey" denotes whiskey filtered through sugar maple charcoal, a step known as the "Lincoln County Process" in honor of the county where Jack Daniel pioneered it. In addition to Lincoln, Moore and Coffee are the other two counties where distillation has long been legal.

While the new law allows distillers to produce any sort of legal liquor they choose, Andrew Webber, owner of Kentucky's Corsair Artisan Distillery, suspects many of the dozen or so artisanal spirits makers reportedly eyeing the Volunteer State will experiment with Tennessee whiskey.

Webber, a Nashville native, plans to open a second distillery in his hometown shortly.

"Right now there's Jack, and then there's George Dickel," Webber says. "Now there'll be competition."

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Sharp-dressed chicken

Last month, I told you about Marie Sharp's Grapefruit Pulp Habanero Pepper Sauce. I told you here. Well, the co-worker who gave me my bottle of Marie Sharp's "grapefruit" hot sauce came through again today. This time it was a bottle of Marie Sharp's Habanero Pepper Sauce ...

Marie Sharp's Web site says its gold-label habanero sauce is "fiery hot." I don't know if I'd call it "fiery." It does, however, pack enough heat to leave the tip of your tongue tingling for a minute or two after you've eaten it.

Enough about the heat, let's talk about the flavor. One thing I've noticed is that all my favorite habanero sauces are made with carrots (see Melinda's). As much as I like the heat in a habanero pepper sauce, I also like when there's a subtle sweetness to temper the heat a bit. That temperin' sweetness is just what you get with Marie Sharp's habanero sauce -- which, in addition to carrots and peppers, is made with lime juice, garlic and salt.

Luckily, I had a grilled chicken breast upon which I put three or four big dollops of Marie Sharp's habanero sauce at lunch today. Oh, and I had three or four spoonfuls - from an actual spoon - for good measure.

Once again, thanks Nate!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Better'n Whitt's (part two)

There's a small brick building less than a mile from my house that's housed many a b'iness over the last ten years. None of 'em -- check-cashers, antique-sellers, plumbers -- could make a go of it for very long. Indeed, I seem to recall that the antique store lasted for less than six months.

Well, something new has gone into the small brick building near my home ... a barbeque joint. A big pink pig appeared on top of the place about two months ago, and then there was a lot of fixin'-up activity going on for the next three or four weeks. I kept wondering what was up with the big pig, and then ... a "Fat Boy's BBQ, Coming Soon!" sign appeared in the window. "Someone up there likes me," I thought.

I drive by Fat Boy's every evening on my way home from work. From the day it opened, I've not not seen at least a half-dozen folks queuing-up for 'que in the restaurant. I was going to wait until after my yearly barbeque pilgrimage to McEwen, which takes place this weekend, to visit Fat Boy's. I was passing the place this evening with my car window's cracked -- thanks to the global warming that's left Nashville's mid-July temps hovering in the high-70s/low-80s! -- when I got a big whiff of hickory smoke. I immediately turned around.

First thing I noticed about Fat Boy's BBQ was the conspicuous lack of fat boys. There were two very cute girls working behind the counter and tending tables, and there were two average-sized guys doing kitchen stuff. Maybe the "fat boy" thing is a joke, I don't know. What I do know is:

I like to keep it simple when I visit a barbeque joint for the first time. If I'm dinin' in, I order a simple 'que sammich; if I'm takin' out, I order a pound o' 'que. I don't want to be dazzled with fancy beans or slaw or tater salad (or fancy desserts) ... I just want juicy, smoke-infused 'que. Indeed.

Well, Fat Boy's pork is juicy all right. It pains me to say it, but Fat Boy's might just serve up juicier 'que than Martin's. Might. Now, I'm going to go back to Fat Boy's soon to make sure that the excitement of having a quality barbeque joint just 'round the corner from my house didn't prejudice my initial impression.

I know for a fact that Fat Boy's 'que isn't entirely cooked over hardwood (i.e., hickory, apple, etc.) The charcoal bags near the smokers were a dead giveaway. That said, there's a subtle flavor infused in each bite of Fat Boy's 'que that lets one know that it didn't just slow-cook over charcoal, there's a good deal of woody flavor in that meat (but maybe not as much as in the meat served at Martin's, Neely's, Mary's, etc.).

Fat Boy's serves up some mighty fine 'que, with a a great sauce -- available in hot or mild -- that's equal parts tomato and vinegar. It's infinitely better than Whitt's. That's all you need to know.

So there.

Fat Boy's BBQ
2733 Murfreesboro Road
Antioch, TN 37013

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Ol' Huck wouldn't like this Big River

I drank a couple o' Big River "Vienna-Style" lagers whilst pickin' my bluegrass guitar this evening. Let me just say this: Big River Vienna-Style lager sucks.

The expert beer-drinkers at give Big River lager a "B-". As far as I'm concerned, that's an over-grading.

Now, if you've ever had one of them high-alcohol beers - like Thomas Hardy's Ale or Le Fin du Monde - you know they all have something in common (other than getting you drunker faster): they all have this "metallic-taste" thing going on. That is, high-alcohol beers make your tongue wonder whether it was just visited by a beer or liquid lead.

Big River Vienna-Style Lager not only tastes like a high-alcohol beer (to say that it has a metallic finish is an understatement), it doesn't have much flavor beyond its tin-can taste. Indeed, Big River tastes like Budweiser filtered through a dollar-store colander.

So there.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Fried pickles: A "Southern novelty food" no more

One of my favorite restaurants of all time is Toot's in Murfreesboro, TN. Toot's serves some of the best chicken wings known to man, and they have excellent thick, beer-battered onions rings. During my years as an undergraduate and graduate student at Middle Tennessee State University, my friends and I ate enough chicken wings and onion rings to fill the Charles M. Murphy Athletic Center. And that's not an exaggeration.

I was eating at Toot's when I ate my first fried pickle. I'd seen 'em on the menu the, oh, four-dozen previous times that I'd eaten there, but it'd never even occured to me or any o' my friends to order the things. (Indeed, we only went to Toot's for: the wings, the short-shorts-wearing servers, the $5 pitchers of beer, and the onion rings ... in that order.) We went there one night with someone who'd never been there before. We just happened to mention that when we were ordering, and our server told us that all first-time diners received a bowl of complimentary fried pickles. From then on, my friends and I designated a First-Time Visitor each time we went to Toot's ... not just because the pickles were free, but because they were very, very good.

I'm going to post a proper review of Toot's soon, in which I'll go into more detail 'bout their fried pickles. In the meantime, check out this excellent fried pickle post from

While fried dill pickles long ago surpassed their status as a Southern novelty food to become a ubiquitous bar snack, condiment selection is apparently still regionally bound.

For the uninitiated, fried pickles -- a dish that probably dates back to the 1960s -- are thinly sliced pickle chips, dredged in the same batter that classically envelops deep-fried catfish, oysters and okra. While the rare rogue restaurant employs unfried pickle spears, chips have been an industry standard since at least 1984, when a
Wall Street Journal reporter journeyed to Arkansas to document the burgeoning pickle craze.

Adding legitimacy to the radical dish, the story quoted Southern food authority Craig Claiborne: "They're fantastic -- a totally new experience."

But the story also included a quote from a Heinz company spokeswoman, who bestowed her enthusiastic approval on what she insisted on calling "frickles."

"I don't know that it's the world's favorite recipe, but we don't care as long as they use ketchup," she said.

Only in Pittsburgh. Ketchup is almost never used by southern pickle snackers, who generally prefer ranch dressing.

"Ranch dressing pretty much goes with anything fried," explains Billy Murphy, executive chef at the Hollywood Café in Robinsonville, Miss., one of at least two eateries that claims to have originated the fried pickle. According to the Hollywood's creation story, the two recent college grads who'd opened the restaurant ran out of food.

"One particular night, they looked at them jar of pickles," continues Murphy. What happened next is, of course, legendary.

Murphy says Hollywood's patrons have always been partial to ranch: "It intensifies the flavor of the pickles," he says.

Just as Carolinians rub butter on their hush puppies and Mississippians soak them in hot sauce, condiment selection opinions get feistier the further south one travels. At Liuzza's in New Orleans, which nightly serves order after order of deep-fried pickles, the pickles are served without accompaniment. Manager Pam Dugas says customers often request remoulade sauce.

"Actually," she adds, "I recommend ranch."

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Note to readers ...

I hate that it's come to this, but I will no longer publish anonymous comments.

Look, if you're not even clever enough to be able to think of a fake name, I'm not going to bother messin' with you.

Furthermore, any comment in which I'm called a "redneck" will not only NOT be published, I'm not going to waste my time reading it. (I've rejected at least a dozen such comments over the past couple of weeks.)

I chew tobacco and use "ain't" a lot in conversation, I'll give you that. But I also have an advanced degree, I'm a huge opera buff, I'm bilingual, and just for kicks I've been working my way through the Babylonian Talmud. Thus, I ain't a redneck.

I want to thank all who read my simple foodie blog. I especially want to thank those who not only read, but who leave thoughtful, tasteful (!) comments.


Joltin' Django

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

How now, chow-chow

My grandmother canned all kinds of things. Green beans, pickled cucumbers, stewed tomatoes ... you name the vegetable and chances are she canned it at once time or another.

Something else my grandmother canned -- or "put up," as she called it -- was chow-chow. My parents and I'd drive down to my grandparents' house on a Sunday and chow-chow was always on the table. We'd scoop big portions of the stuff onto the pinto or mixed beans my grandmother always served when she cooked a big meal.

For the uninitiated, chow-chow is a Southern relish made out of chopped cabbage, onions, peppers, mustard, vinegar and sugar. It's used to give a sweet-and-sour kick to soups, stews, or slow-cooked beans. Some folks, my self included, don't need to be eating soup, stew, or slow-cooked beans to enjoy chow-chow; indeed, I often spoon it on meat, or just put a big pile of it on my plate to enjoy alongside whatever else I'm eating.

Now, some chow-chow recipes throw in additional vegetables, like tomatoes, and some even throw in spices like thyme and rosemary. I can live with tomatoes and sich in chow-chow, but don't even get me started on chow-chow that's made with a bunch of unnecessary crap like thyme and rosemary. (That's so much Yankee-tinkering, if you ask me.)

All that said, there's an article 'bout chow-chow in today's Tennessean (check it out here.) It's more than a little serendipitous that the article ran today because, well, the chow-chow intro you just read was going to be published tomorrow along with this pic ...

... and I was going to tell you this:

I've been a big fan of Mrs. Renfro's jalapeño peppers for a long, long time. Indeed, if you search this blog's archives, you'll see that I've name-checked Renfro's peppers at least a dozen times.

Until recently, Monday to be exact, I had no idea that Mrs. Renfro's produced hot chow-chow. I ran into a local independent grocery store -- Apple Market on Nolensville Road -- for a loaf of bread, and I walked out of the place with my loaf of bread ... and three jars of Mrs. Renfro's Hot Chow Chow (which was on sale for $2.00 a jar).

Verdict: Mrs. Renfro's is pretty spicy, and it has a great green-vegetable flavor. It is, however, a bit too sweet for my taste. The sugar in chow-chow should always just temper the sour from the vinegar and the heat from the peppers. Sweeteness should never be the first thing you notice in a quality chow-chow.

"Pretty good, but" ... that's what you need to know about Mrs. Renfro's hot chow-chow.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Phở-nominal shirmp

There's an international market near my home, CCN International Market, which, due to the quality of its seafood, is my favorite Nashville international market.

I went to CCN this afternoon to pick up a big bottle of my favorite Mexican hot sauce (stay tuned for a review); I left with a pound of $3.19-per-pound fresh shrimp. I used said shrimp this evening to make me some phở. To wit:

What you need to know ...

First, CCN's shrimp tastes better than any of the supposed Gulf Coast shrimp that was once available at the Nashville Farmer's Market.

Second, here's my phở recipe (just add CCN shrimp):

Joltin' Django's Phở


2 28-ounce cans spicy beef broth*
8-10 pork meatballs (cut in half)*
1 medium white onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 cup green onions, thinly sliced
2 large jalapeños, thinly sliced
10-12 medium-sized shrimp
2 cups Asian noodles
1/2 cup cilantro (pulled from stem)
Fresh basil, bean sprouts, and Thai chilis for garnish
*Note: These can be purchased in most Asian grocery stores


In a small stock pot add both cans of beef broth and a half-can of water. Bring to a slow boil and add onions, green onions, jalapeños, meatballs and cilantro. When the onions are clear and the meatballs are cooked through, should take a minutes, add shrimp and noodles and cook until shrimp turn pink and noodles are soft (4-5 minutes). Serve with basil leaves, bean sprouts, and chilis

Third, here's CCN's info:

CCN International Market
2615 Murfreesboro Pike
Nashville, TN 37217

Monday, July 13, 2009

There goes my hero ... watch him as he, er, eats!

I don't think I have to tell you how much I admire ol' Anthony Bourdain. Be sure to check out new episodes of his show, No Reservations, on the Travel Channel ce soir.

A preview:

Saturday, July 11, 2009

A great little seafood place?

I've been to Long John Silver's one time in my life. I was 12 or 13-years-old, and my baseball coach took me and my entire team there after we'd swept a double-header. I know I ate fish, but that's about all I remember from the experience.

That Long John Silver's is long gone. The building - on Murfreesboro Road near Thompson Lane - is still there. Right now it's a check-cashing/pawn shop kinda thing with lots of words en español in the windows. That's a subject I can best address on my political blog ...

On Tuesday, Long John Silver's will be giving away a free fish taco - no strings attached - to every patron who visits before 2:30 p.m. I might just take 'em up on their offer. It has been, ahem, ten years since I last dined at LJS.

Here's more info:

On Tuesday, July 14, every Long John Silver’s location will be promoting their new Baja Fish Tacos by giving away free Baja Fish Tacos from restaurant open until 2:30 PM. Limit one per customer; available to dine-in, carry out and drive-thru customers.

Long John Silver's new Baja Fish Taco is LJS's core batter-dipped Alaskan Whitefish with crumblies, lettuce and Baja sauce. (Love the crumblies! Excellent idea to include those!)

I love the tag line their using on the Long John Silver's web site for their new fish taco: "Sounds weird, tastes delicious!"

If you can't wait to try the fish taco for free on July 14, Long John Silver's new Baja Fish Tacos are available now for 99¢.

Ain't many better ways to spend $1.99

I don't shop at Food Lion very often. Indeed, I prefer to shop at Publix and my Favorite Grocery Store. Yesterday, however, I stopped at Food Lion 'cause A) I needed some throw-away plate's for my last night's pickin' party, and B)I pass a Food Lion on my way home from work.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that Food Lion had Sabrett's hot dogs on sale for $1.99. Man, them things usually sell for upwards of four bucks in some grocery stores. I grabbed three packs (hey, I ain't afraid to freeze hot dogs for later eatin'), some buns, and a can of Patterson's fine Southern-made hot dog chili, which I didn't know you could buy at Food Lion.

I grilled a couple of Sabrett's tonight, grilled 'em until the outsides had a nice char on 'em. The first one I ate with some Gundelsheim kraut (which I'll tell you about sometime in the near future) ...

I ate the second dog with a healthy helping of Patterson's chili and yellow mustard. What a fine dinner, indeed. (Check the AMGE archives to find out if Sabrett's hot dogs are my favorite store-bought hot dogs ...)

Friday, July 10, 2009

"We're an American Ale ..."

A buddy brought some Budweiser American Ale to a guitar-pickin' soirée I put together this evening. I've been seeing Bud's American Ale in the grocery store for several months now. I never entertained buying any 'cause I friggin' hate Bud and Bud Light beer.

Bud American Ale is better than plain ol' Bud, I'll admit that. However, you have to fast-pour the beer into the glass -- you really should drink your beer from a glass -- to get any kind of a head on it; and while the deep amber color may remind you of a quality ale, like Samuel Adams Boston Ale, it tastes like a pale imitation of Killian's Irish Red (and I do mean pale).

Over at, Budweiser American Ale gets a "B-" rating. I give it a "C" ... "C+" at best.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Better'n Whitt's (part the first)

Read this blog long enough and you'll learn two things: 1) I love me some barbeque (meaning slow-smoked pork), and 2) Whitt's barbeque sucks. (Whitt's does b'iness outta several locations in and 'round Nashville, which is kinda surprising because, well, it sucks.)

Last year, I was challenged by a guy named Mark Whitt to identify barbeque joints that turn out better 'que than Whitt's. I'm calling that dude's bluff and I'm starting a new feature on AMGE, "Better'n Whitt's," which will allow me to tell my loyal readers about barbeque joints serving smoked pork that's better than the -- alleged -- smoked pork that's served at Whitt's.

First up, Martin's BBQ in Nolensville, Tennessee ...

First of all, the "Life & Food" section in today's Tennessean tells us that Bon Appétit's July magazine has picked Martin's as one of the "Top Ten New Barbeque Restaurants" in America.

Martin's ain't a "new" restaurant. Indeed, there's been a link to Martin' 'que-blog on AMGE from the get-go ... back in 2007. (Looks like Bon Appétit needs better fact-checkers, n'est-ce pas?)

That said, I visited Martin's Bar-B-Que on July 4 -- mainly 'cause I figured dining on a quintessentially American food like pulled-pork 'que would be a perfect way to celebrate our nation's independence. I picked up a pound o' 'que, a pint o' slaw, and a pint o' green beans. I'll tell you 'bout the 'que first.

Martin's claims that its meat is cooked for "upwards of 22 hours." I believe 'em. The pulled pork I had on Saturday was so tender, it was literally melting in my mouth. And -- and this is a mighty important and -- each and every little bit of Martin's 'que was infused with a distinct smokey flavor. Tain't no way anyone can say that about Whitt's 'que!

In addition, Martin's pulled-pork had several big pieces of rind -- that is, pieces of the shoulder's skin -- in it. I've often used the amount of rind present in a barbeque joint's pulled-pork as a mark of the joint in question's quality. After all, the salted, seasoned rind is the most flavorful part of a smoked piece of meat, right?! I've had dozens of sandwiches from Whitt's during the past 20 years, and I can't remember finding a piece of rind in a single one of 'em.

Here's a pic of the sammich I made with my Martin's 'que:

Take note of that colorful slaw. Martin's slaw is made with fresh chopped cabbage, celery, red onions and mayo. It was a little bit milky, but that's just how my Granny used to make it. Also, you'll see a container of green beans in the above pic. Take note that the rim of the container of green beans is red. That's 'cause Martin's green beans are seasoned with pulled pork and a lot of the restaurant's spicy barbeque sauce. They're real good, lemme tell you, and might just be my favorite restaurant green beans.

If you like good barbeque, you need to get out to Martin's one of these days ...

Be sure to tell 'em Joltin' Django sent you!

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Pancho's power to inspire

Inspired by the tasty, rib-sticking chicken stews at Pancho Mexican Restaurant, I endeavored to replicate a Pancho-like chicken stew in my own home. I started with what I know is in Pancho's chicken stews (chicken legs, onions, green peppers, and tomatoes); I added what I think is in Pancho's chicken stews, which you'll see in the recipe below.

Now, even though my chicken concoction turned out to be real good, it wasn't as good as the real thing. I hate to admit such, but it's true.

Joltin' Django's Pancho-Inspired Chicken Stew


6-8 chicken legs
3-4 potatoes, cubed
1 large green pepper, sliced
1 large white onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 28-ounce cans peeled tomatoes
1 7-ounce can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1 16-ounce container vegetable broth
6-8 sprigs fresh cilantro, chopped
Olive oil


In a heavy-bottomed stock pot heat 3-4 tablespoons olive oil. Add onions and peppers and cook until onions are clear (3-4 minutes). Add garlic and cook for 60 seconds, stirring continuously.

Add chicken, potatoes, tomatoes, chipotle peppers, and vegetable broth to pot. Cover and slow-simmer for 1 1/2 hours. Add chopped cilantro to pot before serving.

Monday, July 06, 2009

The power of Pancho! (update)

In May I told you about Pancho Restaurant. Here's some o' what I said:

[Pancho is] the finest Mexican buffet I've ever visited. Wait, I'd never been to a Mexican buffet restaurant prior to visiting Pancho.

Pancho's buffet "tables" ain't real big, but each and every thing on those tables packs big, big south-of-the-border flavor: warm 'n' fresh lard-filled tortillas; juicy hunks of chicken and beef, served with sautéed onions, tomatoes and green peppers; seasoned ground beef, and spicy seasoned ground beef with onions and carrots; homemade tamales wrapped in corn husks; juicy hunks o' chorizo sausage; black beans bursting with earthy black-bean flavor; and fluffy Mexican rice.

And then there's the pico and the hot and mild salsa and the tomatilla green sauce. Pancho's pico de gallo has lots o' tomatoes, onions, and peppers ... and a whole lot o' cilantro. Same goes for Pancho's salsas. As for the tomatilla sauce, it not only tastes very "green," it tickles the tip of one's tongue with a muted heat; and then it leaves a hot spot in the back of one's throat which lingers for several minutes -- several "Oh, this is good!" minutes.

A Mexican buffet sounds like a real, real bad idea. Thank God Pancho was able to pull it off.

I've been back to Pancho at least a half-dozen times since my first Pancho-post. During my last visit, I snapped some pictures. To wit:

What you see there is a big pile o' moist, spicy roasted chicken, quesadillas (with cheese, onions, and green peppers), chicken enchiladas, and homemade tamales. Looks good, don't it?!

Another pic:

There you see a tamale, a big bowl of Pancho's excellent pico, and big hunks o' white and dark meat chicken slow-stewed in a spicy red sauce. That chicken 'n' sauce, I swear, I could eat nothing but that for the next 30 days and I'd never get tired of it.

According to the Pancho flyer I posted back in May, Pancho's buffet is $7.49. That's incorrect. It's actually $6.49. (To borrow a line from Eddie Murphy, what a bargain!)

Pancho needs all the business it can get. It's not in an easily-accessible locale; thus, it's never been covered-up with business any of the times I've eaten there. It'd be a damn shame if such a damn fine restaurant had to close up shop. Indeed.

Pancho Mexican Restaurant
1001 Bell Road
Antioch, TN 37013

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Them Frenchies ...

Michael Steinberger says French cuisine "is an ossified relic, weighed down by time-worn conventions and overshadowed in many eyes by more innovative cookery in countries such as Spain."

No wonder, as the Toronto Globe and Mail reports, he can't find a French publisher to distribute his new book, Au Revoir to All That: Food, Wine and the End of France.

Speaking as someone who's visited France, I don't think there'll ever be a time when it's impossible to sample classic and/or provincial French cuisine in and near Paris. That said, I think it's funny that Mr. Steinberger's French-cuisine-is-dying thesis is based on France's statist economic policies and French cultural chauvinism, indeed.

More from the Globe and Mail ...

[French] [v]ineyards are going broke, dozens of restaurants are closing each day, artisanal cheeses are disappearing. Even Camembert, one of the country's signature cheeses, is under siege.

"Every year you have thousands of cafés, brasseries and bistros shutter," says Mr. Steinberger, who was in Toronto last week to promote his book. "You've seen an entire food culture in eclipse."

The French blame globalization and the rise of chains such as McDonald's, which now counts France as its second-most profitable market after the United States.

Mr. Steinberger isn't buying it. "Globalization is their catch-all for everything that's wrong with France," he says, but the problem is at home – an "inside job."

Domestic wine consumption has plunged, Mr. Steinberger argues, and decades of a lagging economy and high unemployment mean the average French family just doesn't have the money to eat out regularly at bistros and higher-end restaurants. McDonald's is all they can afford.

On top of that, the country's high taxes and oppressive labour laws make it next to impossible to make a profit running a restaurant, Mr. Steinberger says.

As a result, chefs with ambition have looked abroad to more fertile markets such as New York and London – where almost half a million French have become what Mr. Steinberger calls "economic refugees."

"French cuisine has stagnated because France has stagnated for the last 30 years," he contends.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

The Whole of Foods

As Whole Foods and other "trendy" groceries continue to do bad, I thank God that my favorite local grocery ain't in any peril of closing; oh, and I can't help but think o' this:

In the December 17 issue of the American Conservative, John Zmirak discusses his recent visit to a Dallas-area Whole Foods grocery store. This quote stands out:

"[T]here ... lingered in me a sense of excess. Did one really need this many choices of chard, and was it really healthy to cultivate such delicate sensibilities? It's one thing to shop at farmers markets because you want to support the folks who grow apples in your area. It's quite another to learn how to care, really care, about whether your sea salt comes from Brittany. C.S. Lewis dubbed such exquisite awareness the 'higher gluttony,' which consists not in excessive consumption but undue attention to food. He smelled it in vegetarians, food faddists, and others who made of their bodies not so much a temple as a fetish."

"He smelled it in vegetarians, food faddists, and others who made of their bodies not so much a temple as a fetish." ...

You know, there are some food faddists who regularly comment here at AMGE. I don't like 'em, but I welcome their comments. How 'bout that?!

Let's hope the fifth time (!) is the charm ...

Thanks to AMGE reader Angela for telling us that a famous meat-and-three has opened on Old Lebanon Road over in Donelson. She even sent pics (here's one of 'em):

Sylvan Park, over on Murphy Road, is a Nashville institution that's been voted "best meat-and-three" in various papers and on various Web sites. It's been, at least, ten years since I put my legs under a table over there. I remember it bein' pretty damn good.

It'll take me, oh, about two weeks to get over to the Donelson Sylvan Park. Stay tuned.

Friday, July 03, 2009

BLT: So simple, so good!

There ain't nothin' I like in the summertime more than a good BLT. In-****in'-deed.

My good friend Bruce's famille is in the tomato-growin' business in Arkansas. I just got me some of them incredible Arkansas-grown tomatoes, and tonight I made the sandwich you see in the pic above.

If you want to make you a BLT that looks as good as my BLT, here's what you do:

Well, you're going to need ripe Arkansas tomatoes. Get them, and also get you some Duke's or Sauer's mayo. You'll also need to have some Tennessee-made bacon (like Elm Hill) on hand, as well as a loaf of goooood white bread . Oh, and lettuce.

Get all that and get back to me ...

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Happy National Ice Cream Month!

This piece, from, made me go "Hmmmmm." A sample:

It's National Ice Cream month, and who -- the lactose-intolerant aside -- doesn't like ice cream?

Well, Southerners. America's favorite dessert is still a third-tier treat below the Mason-Dixon line, where cakes and puddings have a firm hold on the region's collective sweet tooth. Even in the most sweltering of Southern summers, New Englanders out-gorge their Southern neighbors. (Heck, New Englanders hang onto their ice cream eating edge straight through the winter, when their freezers are sometimes warmer than the air outside.)

Nobody's quite sure why Southerners never took to ice cream, although North Carolina food writer Sheri Castle confirms the phenomenon: "It's just not a big thing," she says. She suspects the relative paucity of milk cows might have contributed to ice cream's historical absence from the local food scene.

When I was a kid, I spent a good portion of every summer with my grandparents out in the country. My grandmother was always makin' homemade ice cream (usually plain vanilla, which she served with fresh fruit and assorted store-bought chocolate sauces).

Also, I remember going to a hardware store with my grandfather when I was very small; indeed, I couldn't have been more than 7-years-old at the time. On the sidewalk outside of the store was a large display of ice cream-makin' machines (you know, the ones with the large, sturdy bucket and the mixin' mechanism that clipped on top). I remember seeing that display and thinkin', "Maybe Granny'll get her ice cream-maker out today!"

Southerners don't like ice cream? Pish posh,! Join me at Bobbie's Dairy Dip sometime and you'll see what I mean ...

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

I so admire them Québécois et Québécoise for their culinary adventurism. I mean, they ain't afraid to eat 'em some goose/duck liver, and they ain't afraid to eat poutine -- fried potatoes drenched in brown gravy, cheese curds, peas, and lots of black pepper. (I sampled poutine during a French-immersion tour of Québec in 1993. I'll just say: I liked it!)

Speaking of north-of-the-border culinary adventurism, check this out:

Canadian Chefs Serve Seal, With a Side of Controversy

You know, if Jordin Tootoo says eatin' seal meat is okay by him, well, it's by-God okay by me.