The most Southern link, which turns out not to be so Southern, is back from an August 30 Wall Street Journal article entitled "Why We Can't Get Enough Fried Chicken." It includes an interview with Linton Hopkins of Restaurant Eugene and mentions versions by Ford Fry at JCT. Kitchen (including Fry's recipe) and Asha Gomez at Cardamom Hill.
Writer Josh Ozerky, who calls fried chicken this year's "it dish," includes both Hopkins' and Fry's chicken on his list of 11 favorites, describing them this way:
Restaurant Eugene, Atlanta: A mind-bending chicken cooked in a cocktail of savory animal fats.
JCT. Kitchen & Bar, Atlanta: Stripped-down, urbane, brilliant.
Now, here's a catty observation, but still...The WSJ piece came out almost a year to the day after Jennifer Zyman penned a piece for the AJC, "Hot Fried Chicken." True, Ozerky's piece was more general, but he did strongly stress the trend toward spicy-hot chicken, including the Korean versions, common in Atlanta now. You need to read both articles to get a good overview. (Jennifer also wrote a piece for CL about Korean fried chicken in 2008, about the time it began its surge.)
Ozerky's article has one omission history-wise. It doesn't mention Scott Peacock, former chef at Watershed, whose chicken is legendary. True, he's not in the restaurant biz these days, but how can you write about the resurgence of fried chicken without mentioning him and his mentor, Edna Lewis?
For some strange reason, amongst people I know, this is the summer of Paris. We just got back. We ran into two sets of friends while we were there. We actually had two other sets of friends in Paris that same week that we didn't get to see. And another few on their way later this month. Why now? Why Paris?
When you're in Paris, the answer seems painfully obvious - because it's Paris. It's always a good time to be there. No other place in the world has that same swanky and sensuous swirl of art and architecture, romance and frivolity, and, dare I say most importantly, food. Ahhh, the food. And it's not just the presence of the food, but the way in which the people of Paris partake of it. It's the daily trip to the boulangerie, the fromagerie, the boucherie down the block. It's the stroll through the crowds at the weekly open air markets. It's the pique-nique along the Seine laughing at the tourists packed into the passing bateaux mouches river tours. (I'll admit, I partook of both pique-niques and boat tours on this trip)
So, if you are fortunate enough to be making your way to Paris (and have an iPhone), I have one piece of advice: download Patricia Wells' Food Lover's Guide to Paris app tout de suite (that means "right away").
Things are cheaper here, about 40-50 percent, except for American places like KFC, which is about what it is at home. And no corn syrup! I've had my first Cokes and ice cream in years. Is this why I've seen no really fat people? They also have orange juice stands everywhere - fresh squeezed for 4 cents. The expected snake charmers and monkeys.
Now, why in the world would anyone go to Marrakech and eat KFC? His reply:
I got really tired of tagines and lamb. And it is across the street. I'm off now to a very good Indian restaurant high atop this swanky hotel. No fried chicken or tangines.
Unless you're on your way to Tallahassee, you probably have to go out of your way to get to Thomasville. It's a little town just north of Georgia's border with Florida, about 40 miles due west of Valdosta and I-75. And even though it was a bit out of my way when I was driving home from Florida with my family in early January, I knew I wanted to make my way to Thomasville for one reason: Sweet Grass Dairy.
You've probably heard of Sweet Grass Dairy's cheeses, but there's a good chance you didn't know that they operate a cute little cheese shop/wine shop/cafe in the historic heart of Thomasville. I had heard about the shop, but didn't know what to expect as we drove into town. The road from Valdosta is an immediate jump from the interstate into agriculture country, ringed by fields and farms, then mills and farm supply shops as you get closer to Thomasville. There's a brief stretch that makes clear that the area has seen better days, but then you hit Broad Street and the quaintness factor kicks in.
I don't eat steak all that often, but I've got a thing about old-school steakhouses. It's really more about enjoying the atmosphere and the memorabilia on display. If the food is decent, then all the better. And in New York, you don't get much more old-school than Keens Steakhouse, opened in 1885 just north of Herald Square. I've wanted to eat at Keens since first seeing a photo of the dining room, with walls covered with old photos and handbills, and thousands of ancient clay pipes hanging from the ceiling. But, after checking out the very New Yorkish prices, I became concerned about the prospect of paying a small fortune for mediocre food.
We arrive customarily early and wedge ourselves into the crowded bar, which — first good sign — boasts an impressive display of dozens of bottles of obscure Scotches and other spirits. Spotting a brand of rye I'd not seen before, one WhistlePig from Vermont, I asked the bartender how much it was. He couldn't recall but offered to look it up.
"Don't go to that much trouble," I said. "I'll take it in a Manhattan — unless it's, like, $40 a shot."
Famous last words.
From Bangkok, Thailand. But can he do that with sweet tea? Mary Mac's wants to know!
There's a special place in my heart for the little, old shack that serves up great food. A tiny run-down place, often on the wrong side of the tracks, more often with metal bars over the windows. There's usually a walk up counter with a view of the kitchen, a down to earth proprietor manning the stove and the cash register at the same time while chatting up every customer who walks in the door. The food is often completely straightforward and incredibly nuanced at the same time, a time-tested recipe that defies imitation. And the best shacks manage to perpetually stay great and perpetually avoid the type of success (or notion of what success is) that might send them in search of shinier digs. In Memphis, it's Payne's on Lamar. In Nashville, it's Bolton's. In Atlanta? Well, I can't say that there is one shack that stands out above the others. Carver's Country Kitchen comes close. It's definitely time-worn, decrepit in a comfortable way, family-driven, and the food satisfies deeply. Ann's Snack Bar? Nah, too much of a gimmick now. Fatt Matt's? You've got to be kidding, right? There are a few fried fish shacks that might qualify, but none really seem to capture a uniquely Atlanta vibe. And maybe that's the thing - Memphis has their BBQ, Nashville has their hot chicken, and Atlanta has a melting pot without a singular dominant flavor. Maybe our signature shack is a banh mi joint, or crawfish by way of Vietnam, or an out of the way place with corn tortillas hechas a mano. I'm still looking for my Atlanta "love" shack, but maybe the search is simply better than the final destination.
So... what's your Atlanta "love" shack?
The dog was the heralded chili-slaw dog at Macon's Nu-Way Weiners. The downtown Macon location is the place to go, in business since 1916. It's just a mile or so off the highway, and a perfect pit stop on the way from Atlanta to Savannah. The friendly folks behind the counter make you feel like family. And that chili-slaw dog? It is something magical, a classic example of the sum being greater than the parts. The dog itself is bright red industrial meat in a tube, not likely to win any beauty contests. The slaw is crisp and creamy, fairly standard stuff. The chili begins to bring a bit of magic, subtly spiced, intriguing even. And then a spoon of secret sauce adds a bit more mystery. Cumin? Cinnamon? Heck, I don't know. But it's when you put them all together that something special happens and you begin to see why this place has been around nearly 100 years.
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