Sunday, December 28, 2008

Chitlins Poll

I hoped to experience some unusual meals on this quest, but I am beginning to doubt my goal of eating chitlins for the first time. Now is a time that my fans and followers can aid me. What are your thoughts on a little indulgence in chitlins? Perhaps knowing what the heck chitlins really are would help your judgment? "Chitlins are the intestines of a hog, most often served in a stew, though they can be barbecued, too." And you think that cleaning your room sucks! Now imagine as a culinary entrepreneur that you procure and clean your own chitlins. If you did not sell enough chitlins dishes in your place you will need to consume the remaining chitlins because your business cannot suffer a complete loss on the time you invested cleaning hog intestines by hand, with a hose, probably in your own backyard, with neighbors yelling about the smell, your wife strategically sleeping as far away from as possible on your mattress. I do not anticipate a resurgence in the chitlins market and wonder how much longer our current chitlins procurers will continue this "tradition."

Country Cuisine in Lafayette, LA, is on our list of possible destinations. And what do you think that it serves:

Mark Matluck

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Cochon, Part Two

This has to be one of the high points of the trip. A new, modern restaurant, excellent, exotic food, and a minimum of dental hygiene photos. Wild boar sausage with carrot pecan slaw, roasted oysters (without cheese), poppy seed angel food cake with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream and tropical fruit salad. Only appetizers were ordered, but they were filling, and the quality and presentation were well above average. Nothing was overly seasoned or spiced, and the blends of flavors resulted in pleasing combinations. A hearty recommendation, especially the wild boar sausage and paneed pork cheeks. - Arthur Matluck

Cochon, Part One

Cochon, the Cajun term for hog, is also the name of one of the best new restaurants in New Orleans. Reservation for 7:30pm, Saturday night. I started with the boucherie plate. This appetizer is a sampler platter of charcuterrie, a style of curing each and every part of the pig for eventual consumption.

Clockwise, from the bottom right corner: Hog's headcheese (a gelatinous slice of what is strained and cooled after boiling a whole hog head); two slices of country bologna; four slices of a thin salami; one slice of tasso ham (a Cajun tradition); pork rillettes in the small ramekin; five croutons; and several sweet dill pickles. Everything was awesome, especially paired with Abita Restoration Ale.

The paneed pork cheeks with goat cheese arugula & beet rösti. Translation: small chunks of pork cheek meat served over a shredded beet 'latke.' Perhaps the highlight of the meal, but the competition was fierce, as every dish was cone extremely well.

Above is a root beer parfait with malt & chocolat cream, paired with a shot of 'Catdaddy' moonshine. This unusual liquer tasted like sambuca made with corn.

Cochon is a destination to recommend and return to. Wow!

Jackson Square, St.Louis Cathedral, Statue of Andrew Jackson (with me!)

St. James Hotel - New Orleans

Exterior, on Magazine Street:

Interior, view of bathroom:

The Legend of Willie Mae's Fried Chicken and the Loss of Hyperbole

We were both excited to easily find Willie Mae's and a parking spot just at noon, Saturday, and especially pleased that a table was available.

We both ordered the fried chicken platter, with one side (me: Red Beans & Rice; Dad: potato salad). It took about fifteen minutes for the chicken to arrive, making me wonder about all the hoopla by foodie bloggers and forums about the long wait for freshly-fried. I stopped wondering moments after our chicken was served and I had finished the photography when I took my first bite of the fried chicken breast. Having experienced a few culinary epiphanies in my lifetime, I knew that my repeatedly mumbling "Oh, my G-d" between bites was a sure sign of such gastronomical bliss. I simply cannot imagine better fried chicken. There is no measure of improvement at this height. Willie Mae's Scotch House was my one true goal on this journey. Expectations about how great something will taste can often diminish one's experience. This chicken cannot be diminished, and only grow in my memory.

Crossing Lake Ponchartrain - Scary Long Bridge

Cotton Fields along Hwy 90

Breakfast in 'Bama

I finally found my ham steak/country ham breakfast at the Tiny Diny in Mobile, AL. Served with two perfect biscuits, one egg over-easy, buttery grits and red-eye gravy, it was deelish, not to mention a stomach-stretching start to the New Orleans leg of constant eating slated for this weekend.

My Father had a biscuit with sausage gravy. It, too, hit the spot.

Some women cannot resist the irresistible, which, in this case, is my shiny shaved head. Everyone at the Tiny Diny was extremely friendly.

Two golden toothpicks, for sure!

Heading to New Orleans

We are leaving the hotel room at 7:45 am, CENTRAL time. 10 hours of driving yesterday was rough. Anyway, a southern breakfast awaits us at the Tiny Diny. From there, we're winging westward to N'Awlins' fried chicken institution, Willie Mae's Scotch, for James Beard Award-winning fried chicken. More photos and words after check-in at the St. James Hotel.

Mark Matluck

Friday, December 26, 2008

Wintzell's Oyster House - Mobile, AL

If you want very good fried green tomatoes, with a healthy dose of crisp and spicy breading, served with even better crawfish sauce, then make the trip to one of the five Wintzell's locations in Alabama (We ate at the West Mobile spot). My Father and I arrived 30 years too late, as it is apparent that the original restaurant's 1970's sale has resulted in a committed and effective re-direction towards a franchise-formulaic business model.

The fried and sauteed crab claws, which would be called more appropriately as crab fingers, are not worth it, especially the tasteless fried crab claws. I understand the concept, but why anyone would desire this twice baffles me. The sauteed crab fingers were worth a letter grade of B, with the fried green tomatoes earning an A (F for fried fingers).

For the final round, char-grilled oysters coated with parmegiano cheese did a franchise-like parade similar to the crab claws. Too much cheese. Instead, we should have ordered some raw oysters. Wintzell's had giant oysters, and they tasted pretty darned good after scraping off most of the cheese. If G-d made raw oysters perfect for the indulgence of the taste buds, then why should Man come along take away such perfection by trying to improve it?

Wintzell's is a decent place, just not what I was seeking on this road trip. Golden toothpicks? Not this time.

Pearl Country Store and Barbecue

We stopped for our first meal in Micanopy, FL. Don't ask me how to pronounce it. The Pearl Country Store and Barbecue served up our smoked goodies. My Father had the chopped pork with macaroni n' cheese and coleslaw as sides, while I had a 1/4 pound of smoked ribs. The BBQ sauce was served on the side, contained in a well-used squeeze bottle (I'll spare y'all the photo). Basically the joint is part of a grocery store/gas station with several tables and a counter near the back.

This was some excellent pork! My first bite was of a crisped end of a rib, which was a little tough. So I was extremely pleased to feel the second bite completely melt in my mouth! Delicious without the sauce; even better with it (sweet, but with body). The mac n' cheese was very good, too.

My Father was surprised at the amount of meat this 1/4 pound order contained. It had all the crispy, little burnt ends, tasting like spareribs off the bone. Rest assured, no meat went unmasticated and is currently being digested. Yet two more golden toothpicks!

The Trip Begins

Time: 8:00 AM EST. Date, December 26th, 2008. Location: Port St. Lucie, FL. Odometer: 173,602 miles. Destination: Mobile, AL. So begins the latest Matluck road trip. I'm behind schedule already!

Mark Matluck

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Tom Jenkins' BBQ - Ft. Lauderdale

A good test to determine if a BBQ joint is sufficiently apt at the craft is to ask if you would drive past the century mark to partake of its smoked treasures. (Translation: Would you drive 100 miles to eat this BBQ?) Today I travelled that 100 miles, meeting my good friend and colleague, Jodi, to see if Tom Jenkins' BBQ would pass this test. Old smokers sitting in the parking lot behind the restaurant - good sign.

Giant cords of wood next to the smokers, with the aroma of wood smoke in the air - another good sign. ("Peace, Love and Barbeque" is the BBQ'ers Bible.)

A well-maintained smoke pit for all to view when ordering - a third good sign! Enough of this photographic tease. Let's see some 'que!

My order of 1/2 rack of pork spareribs with baked beans, macaroni and cheese, and a corn muffin:

Jodi's order of 1/2 rack of baby back ribs, coleslaw, baked beans, and corn muffin:

The pork spare ribs were awesome. Tons of meat, nice char and smoke ring, and succulent pink pork greeted every bite of every rib, whether sauced or not (Tom Jenkins' sells its sauce in bottles. No T-shirts or baseball hats advertising Tom Jenkins' were displayed.). I chose spare ribs, instead of baby back ribs, because the spare rib cut is a meatier cut, and I was not disappointed. Jodi and I exchanged some ribs, and I can confidently state that the baby back ribs were the equal of the spareribs in the taste departement. We were there for the ribs, and we were not disappointed!

Proof of actual eating!

Did Tom Jenkins' BBQ pass the golden toothpick test? Double yes!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Epic Undertakings Are My Responsibility

Arising from the ashes, again my blog belches! As this creature raises its head, particularly mouth and brain, it shall gurgitate and then regurgitate the culinary collection awaiting it throughout Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana (appetizing thought, I know!). And my cameras will do so as well. They shall gurgitate and regurgitate the images of the delights awaiting my stomach, my mind, my tongue, pre-mastication, of course. Tomorrow, Saturday, December 20, 2008, the prequel to the latest Mr. Matluck Super Amazing Road Trip Adventure shall initiate this "whenever-I-can-do-it rite": The official warm-up to my next foodie road trip! A friend and I will make the 90 minute drive to Fort Lauderdale to partake in the smoky glory of Tom Jenkins' Barbeque! Photos and feedback (ha! pun! I'm too good!) will follow.

Bet you wish you were there, like me!