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Charleston. An arterial adventure.

Cotton country.

It’s hard for me to believe that Burgergal and I went to Charleston, SC, nearly a month ago.  It served as my third foray into the American South in the last few months, and I was looking forward to experiencing yet another region’s unique food and historic offerings.  Going to the Low Country, I knew that shrimp and grits, fried chicken, and other unhealthy goodness would be in my future.

Rather than bore you with endless words, I think I will take a different approach to this post and treat you with a photoessay about the burgerbuddies’ trip down to South Carolina.

Continue reading ‘Charleston. An arterial adventure.’

Stuff we’ve been eating.

Man, oh, man, what an eating journey I have been on over the last few weeks.  Due to some technical difficulties, I was unable to post pics of some home-cooked meals, so this post is going to be a gather-all of everything that has been going on in my culinary world over the last couple of weeks.

I will start from the most important two meals that I have had in the last couple of days: my two birthday dinners.  Yes, burgerboy is one year closer to being a burgerman, and the dreaded 3-0 awaits me in 364 days.  But until then, I am going to keep eating like I am a twenty-something stud with an iron stomach.

Continue reading ‘Stuff we’ve been eating.’

What Have I been up to?

I’ve been lazy over the past few weeks.

Well, to be honest, I’ve not been lazy, but have been a combination of busy and exhausted.  I have simply not found the time to serve you, the readers of my blog.

And for that, I am truly sorry.

So let me give you all a quick update on what I’ve been up to.  I’ve been traveling a bit, and of course, I’ve been eating.  One of my recent trips was down to Charlottesville, VA, for a weekend with burgergal down South (ok, and an actual reason, a trip to the Darden School of Business).  Charlottesville is a great town for local food, given the fact that it’s surrounded on pretty much all sides by farmland.  Leave the “city” and drive about 20 minutes in any direction, and you pretty much see this:

As you can see, it gets pretty rural, pretty quick.  However, tucked away within all of that open land is a place that is heralded as the perfect example of a sustainable farm: Polyface Farm.  It was featured in Omnivore’s Dilemma, and Joel Salatin, the farm’s owner, speaks around the country of the importance of the local food movement and supporting local economies.  Since we were going to be within an hour of it, BG and I had to check it out.  I wish I had been staying in the Courtyard again so I could have done some cooking with their products, but a simple visit was going to need to suffice this time.

Of course, just as we fueled the car up before the trip, we needed to fill our bellies a little bit.  A friend and former UVA student had recommended that we check out Wayside Chicken for some fried chicken.  As you all know from the eUWS project, we have been jonesing for some fried chicken for a while, and Harriet’s hadn’t quite cut the mustard.  Needless to say, we were excited.

There it is.  A modest cafe and restaurant, tucked away on a pretty average street in Charlottesville.  “This chicken clucks for you.”  It actually does.  It makes a clucking sound when you walk by.

We ordered up some fried chicken: a breast for BG, thigh and a drumstick for me.  Some mac and cheese and cole slaw on the side.  Keepin’ it real.

So how was it?  It was awesome.  Take a look at that rippling layering of the batter and the crispy nooks and crannies.  The chicken was cooked perfectly, and it was well seasoned throughout.  My guess is that the chicken is allowed to soak in a brine before battering and frying.  And the temp of the oil was just right– there was definitely a little grease going on, but the crunchy exterior formed a crust that prevented sogginess.  If you are down in C-Ville any time soon, do yourself a favor and grab some lunch there.  Just remember, they are closed on Sundays.

After loading up on some fat, it was time to head out to Polyface.  Since the big February storm had just passed over the area, there was quite a bit of snow and ice on the roads, but it was all no challenge for the Kia Sportage and my Andretti-like driving abilities.  We made it out there in about an hour, and despite the confusion over the un-marked and at times un-plowed roads, we finally made it.

Just as it was in Film, Inc.  Polyface Farm.

Now, it being the middle of the winter and us being two of the only fools out on the roads in these parts, we had no idea what to expect.  The place is a working farm, but in the Winter there’s not a whole of action going on.  And it’s also the Salatin FAMILY farm, so that means that there is a house on the property, where people actually live.  So it’s kind of like pulling into someone’s driveway and saying, “let me see your chickens.”  But no worries.

We pulled in and were immediately greeted by Joel’s son, Dan Salatin.  Right off the bat he was a really nice guy, and told us to make ourselves at home and wander around, even though we weren’t buying anything.  True to his word, he pointed us in the direction of the pigs and sent us off on our way.  Everything was pretty muddy and slushy, but we got a pretty good look around in spite of the sub-par conditions.

Right off the bat, you see the chicken coops with the laying hens in them.  They’ve got two different colored birds, grey ones and brown ones, which are color coded really just to help with the processing, which happens every three years.  The first thing I was struck by was how smooth and shiny the chickens’ feathers were– the feathers looked like fur, they were so smooth.  The hens had plenty of room to roam around, and the coops smelled like a barn should smell: like hay.

Look how spacious that is!  Those hens have more room to roam around than I do in my apartment.

A quick walk around the corner and you are in the middle of the pig pens.  The pigs were pretty much doing what pigs do: hanging out in the mud, eating, getting into trouble.  Again, their living quarters did not smell at all, another testament to the cleanliness of this place and the lack of need for antibiotics.  Great stuff.

These guys are going to make some sweet bacon someday.  Until then, they’re just chillin.

There are cows, too.  Not much to say about that.

All in all, this place is great.  I wish the weather were a little more cooperative so that I could have run in the fields, but alas, that was not in the cards for me.  I’m really glad I got the opportunity to head down there, and I look forward to doing so again.

In other (more local) news, BG and I went to Northern Spy with her dad last week, prompted by Sam Sifton’s review in the NYT a few weeks’ back.  The place is all about locally-sourced food and food products (they have a small “general store”), and bobo chicken makes an appearance on the menu.  The food was simply prepared but flavorful, and definitely worth checking out if you find yourself in the East Village.  Be prepared to wait, though, as the space is small and reservations are not taken.

Arterial clogging, part one.

So it was burgergal’s birthday this past weekend, and of course this required eating out.

A few times.  And last week, too.

It kicked off with Wednesday night at Locanda Verde, for a double celebration with burgergal’s dad, (burgerman?) who also celebrated being another year older.  I didn’t take any shots of that meal, since, as you  may recall, Locanda is so dark that none of the pics come out.

But I can certainly write a lot about the meal.  In the absence of pics, I’ll keep it brief.

The meal rocked.

I had been to LV twice but had never experienced the pleasure of eating anything off of their regular menu.  BG had and thought it was great, so I was pumped.  I was finally going to experience something from LV that was not fried or coated in truffles.

On second thought, that doesn’t sound like a good thing, after all.

We started out with some crostini to enjoy with a few glasses of wine.  Some fresh ricotta with roasted garlic bread, another with sausage and pickled ramps (hello!), and a chicken liver mousse.  The chicken liver was the only one that was just “ok”– the liver was too smooth for my liking.  The sausage was exceptional, and everyone loves fresh ricotta.

For actual food, we decided to get a few things and share.  We started out with the lamb sliders, which I had seen recently in a photo and thought they looked eerily similar to the Little Owl sliders.  The taste, however, was compeltely different.  The delicate lamb had only a hint of gaminess, which I love about lamb, and the addition of a thin slice of cucumber and caprino cheese (a soft goat’s milk cheese) brings the slider to a whole new level.

We then had a couple of pastas: the gigante with Sunday ragu, and a ravioli with meat filling (veal, pork, and beef, I believe).  Both pastas were hearty and satisfying, the perfect interlude before the main event: the garlic roasted chicken.  It was garlicky and succulent, roasted to perfection, with some parsnips and other veg on the side.  It was a pretty perfect roast chicken.

Since it was a double birthday celebration, we had to indulge in a few desserts as well.  The maple budino was excellent, topped with roasted walnuts; the toffee date cake was fine, but nothing to write home about, nor was the “chocolate fantasy,” which was billed as something magical but was really just a brownie with two or three gelati on top.  All in, however, it was a great meal.

Part two of the BG birthday extravaganza was Friday night’s dinner at Big Nick’s.  This place was more on my turf than on burgergal’s, but after spending a bit more cheddar on her christmas present than originally planned, it was all that was in the cards for her bday (except for the present and brunch at A Voce– more to come on that in the next post).  Feisty Foodie had done a writeup about the Bistro Burger (I know, don’t get excited for a throwback to the old days in the West Village), and I knew that it was going to be mine.

And it was.

It was an enjoyable burger.  Although not the best one I have ever had, it was a solid representation of Big Nick’s, and I was glad to share it with my main squeeze in celebration of her day of birth.  But, if we keep eating like that, it might be a shorter list of future birthdays.

So what did we do?  We kept eating like that.  Fast-forward to Saturday night.  11.45pm.  Momofuku Noodle is the place.  Fried chicken in my face.

I had high hopes for the fried chicken at Momofuku.  Every blogger in the city knows about the $100 fried chicken dinner, with two types (one Southern style with Old Bay and one triple-fried Korean style with bibim sauce), so I won’t belabor that point.  The point I will belabor is that it really wasn’t anything special.

Yeah, I said it.

Everyone in this town has a hard-on for the Momofuku empire, including, to a degree, myself.  I can’t say enough good things about the bo ssam, and I’ve even given the guy second chances after a dinner at Noodle Bar ended up with me “giving back” the entire meal within 20 minutes of eating.  But the fried chicken was just not anything special.  When it comes to the southern style, I honestly prefer the colonel’s original recipe.  The old bay was not a great addition, and the chicken was so salty I’m still thirsty three days later.  Some of the meat was brutally undercooked (I’ve read about that happening on other posts about this, too), but I didn’t even care to send it back, because it was too salty to eat anyway.  Set me up with some bon chon or KFC any day.

The Korean version was a different story, and it was actually quite tasty, but again, not really worth the hype that surrounds it.  I enjoyed it.  I’ll leave it at that.  The sauce was good, the chicken was (thankfully) cooked.

That’s my plate.  Clearly I still ate my fair portion, and then some.  I gave the chicken the old college try.  I ate a lot of it.  I wanted to love it.  I really did.  But I just couldn’t.  I fell victim to the David Chang-hysteria that has swept this city.

But who am I?  Try it yourselves and let me know how it goes.

Hopefully my heart will go on…


 It’s Monday night, and I have just been on a fatty food bender.  I can’t even remember the last time I ate something either green or something that didn’t involve animal fat or deep frying.  I guess it has all been worth it.  I’ve got a lot to say.

Since b4b isn’t really all about food reviews, let me just briefly touch upon the meals that have added a special layer of padding around my precious mid-section.  Fall is coming, and my instincts are kicking in full gear.  It’s time to get ready for a long drought.

On Friday night, I headed out to Fort Greene, Brooklyn, to hang out for a bit with Uberchef and his gal.  After their most generous hospitality and a bottle of wine, BG and I headed to No. 7 for dinner with a couple of friends, whose nicknames I have yet to come up with.  I had known about No. 7 for a long time, since the owner’s wife is a friend of mine from our glorious days in the media business.  I guess in the spirit of friendship, I would have to say this meal was great.

The meal was great!

But really, the meal was pretty solid, although there were a couple of misses, in my honest opinion.  We started off with the fried broccoli (which I guess was green, so I take back my earlier statement), which was much better than I expected.  It wasn’t tempura style, but it was not as heavily battered as a good piece of fried chicken (I must admit, I just got back from Locanda Verde and I still have fried chicken batter on the brain).  We also got a scallop ceviche, which was pleasant enough, if not a little bit uninspired.  There was also a frisée salad with some fig stuff and a grilled octopus salad.  There were ok.  That’s about all I have to say about that.

Then we moved on the main courses– two orders of fried quail (see, fried food dominates my life right now), a Wagyu ribeye, and some chicken thing wrapped in cabbage.  I don’t really feel like commenting on these items, so I wont.  They were good.  The wagyu is probably worth going back for, but the quail and chicken are not.  I will comment on the buttermilk pudding, which was great.

But really, all of this just ended up being killing time before the main event of the night.  Unbeknownst to me, next door to No. 7 and down the block from uberchef’s lair is the Cake Man.  The Cake Man, which you may recall, was featured on Bobby Flay’s Throwdown, for his red velvet cake.  Needless to say, when you walk into the place, there are a lot of slices of red velvet cake in the display case.  A LOT of slices of red velvet cake.  In fact, there are so many, it just seems like there is no way that it can be good.  But this assumption is totally wrong.  This stuff was DA BOMB.  I don’t really like Red Velvet cake, and I couldn’t get enough of this stuff.  The cake was moist, the frosting was creamy but not overly sweet, it was just perfect.  I can still taste it if I close my eyes.  Maybe uberchef will find it in the kindness of his heart to give his buddy the BB some…

So that was Friday.  Saturday was time to party like it’s 5769 going on 5770.  For all of my jewish readers, “l’shanah tova!”  BG’s mom had me over for “the Rosh”, so I knew it was time to party and get my brisket on.  

I got my brisket on.  I got it on good.  I got it on again today for lunch with uberchef (man, uberchef has been getting a lot of shout-outs in this post).

What I really got on and what I’m going to be getting on for the rest of the week is some chopped chicken liver.  Everyone that knows me (so, basically everyone that reads this blog) knows that I love offal, and BG’s mom made a batch just for me.  In fact, I was the only one that got it at dinner.  And then I was the only one who took it home.  So it really was just for me.  And it is awesome.  Maybe I’ll post a pic on Wednesday, when I am reunited with this inner-organ deliciousness.

Now for the main event.  As heavily touted on my twitterfeed and FB page, I went to Locanda Verde’s fried chicken dinner.  For anyone who doesn’t know, it’s a 4-time occasion at Locanda Verde, down in Tribeca.  There are two seatings a night, and for $41 bucks per person, you get half of a fried chicken, a fatty slab of bacon, a bunch of sides, biscuits, and a slice of pie.  It’s a lot of food.  Serious eats has pretty solid pics, so it’s probably not really even looking at mine.  But I am going to make you look at them anyway.

I arrived at LV, and BG was already there.  Apparently there was a reservation mix-up, and my reservation wasn’t actually there.  After a moment of rage at Eva (WTF, Eva, you said we were cool!), BG confirmed that we were ok, they were going to “squeeze us in.”  At that moment, I felt like I needed to overcompensate that we actually belonged there and we weren’t just some losers who wandered in off the street and tried to pull the “but I called ahead… I talked to some woman… she said she would seat us right away…” trick.  I felt like I had to name-drop, but resisted the urge.  Whose name would I use, anyway?

So we sat down in the back dining room.  It reminded me of the lodge at which I stayed while fly fishing in Alaska.  It was all deep, made-to-be-expensive-looking wood, and there was a fireplace.  In the corner, the Woes were warming up, getting ready to play “some music to stuff yer face to” (I am saying that, they did not ever utter the words, but I would have enjoyed them more if they had).  Behind me, one of the floor manager-types got a ragin’ fire burning, reminding me that if I wasn’t sweating my ass off from all of the fried products I was about to devour, I was going to sweat my ass off from the fire that was burning about four feet behind me.

Roaring fire

Roaring fire.


The Woes

The Woes

After a few minutes of hanging out and taking in the scene, the night’s plan of attack on my arteries was placed before me.  I knew that it was going to be a tough battle, but I was determined to get through it.  As I hoped, I only had two choices to make: what was I going to drink and what kind of pie was I going to have for dessert.  Fortunately, I was only forced to choose what I wanted to drink.



The rest of the evening was a blur from this point on.  There was bacon slabs with lima beans, disorientating flashes from all of the amateur food bloggers like myself (but I, unlike those oafs, prefer to have blurry dark pictures instead of looking like a tool in a restaurant), buttery corn on the cob, buttery doughy biscuits, buttery fried chicken, buttery butter, buttery water, butter beer, buttery collard greens, and butter on my shirt.  

And a small heirloom tomato salad and some cole slaw, neither of which was buttery.


Bacon and Lima Beans

Bacon and Lima Beans


Cornucopia of heart ailments

Then there was pie.  I actually felt pretty good going into the pie round.  My stomach had not yet reached full capacity, and since I am reading Mindless Eating, I had set aside some chicken in an extraordinary show of self restraint (by the way, BG and I had three pieces of fried chicken left over.  I know that we had three because in my head I had already planned out a leftover dinner around these pieces of chicken in which I would make a small salad on the side.  I secretly gave myself two pieces of the chicken in this dream while she only got one.  Anyway, when we got back to BG’s apartment, there were only TWO pieces of chicken.  WTF???  If you’re reading this, Andrew Carmellini, have that extra piece sent to my office.).  But the pie really did me in.  And, to be honest, I didn’t really love either of them– one was a blueberry crumble and the other was a peach pie.  They were both just ok.  I know that there was a lot of hype around them, but I wasn’t feeling it.

If you get a chance to go to the fried chicken dinner, do it.  Tell them burgerboy sent you.  Since that will probably work about as well as my reservation did, give them a ring (you can only make reservations starting the Tuesday prior, and you can only reserve one week in advance, ask for Eva).


Locanda Verde
Corner of Greenwich and N. Moore Streets