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Thursday, September 29, 2016

Which do you prefer?

Are you a mustard person or a ketchup person?
It was an easy question or so I thought. But after much consideration I’m not too sure. Hand me a burger and I’ll likely put both condiments on. Hand me a hot dog and then it’s definitely Chicago style, meaning you never put ketchup on a hot dog.
What crazy person puts ketchup on a hot dog?
Hey I’m not alone in that thought. Just ask Anthony Bourdain, President Barack Obama and the fine folks of the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council.
And that goes the same for corn dogs — all mustard, no ketchup.
By the same token most sane people I know (all two of them) use ketchup when making meat loaf. I top my meatloaf with a can of tomato sauce, somewhat the same, but definitely not mustard.
If I am marinating a pork butt, however, I’ll smear that sucker with mustard. Somehow ketchup on that just seems wrong.
But hand anyone a pile of French fries and their first pick is usually a squirt of ketchup on top or on the side for dipping.
Don’t be going all European on me and start that nonsense of mixing the ketchup with mayonnaise for the fries. We’re talking ketchup and mustard here, no room for mayonnaise unless we’re talking about sandwiches and side salads.
When I make homemade chicken wings I make a honey-mustard dipping sauce. There is no place for ketchup when it comes to chicken wings. Even when I make my own hot wing sauce I use Worcestershire not ketchup.
I have my weird friends (there are definitely more than two of them), you know the ones who squirt ketchup on eggs, steaks and even ice cream.
Sorry but I can’t even fathom the thought of that.
Told you they were weird. I mean come on ketchup on ice cream — yuck.
When I make myself a pastrami or roast beef sandwich I reach for mustard.
When I think of salad dressing I know I’ve sampled plenty of mustard vinaigrettes that were delicious.
I can’t think of any dressing that uses ketchup as the base that I enjoy — except French dressing.
Ok, so French dressing does mix a little ketchup with mayonnaise but it’s a tolerable level for my taste buds. Thousand Island dressing does too, but that mix goes back to reminding my taste buds of the straight up French fry mix. Or the secret sauce on the Big Mac that is not so secret and still yucky.
Sometimes when I make potato salad I will use some mustard in the mix for a tangy bite of spice. Thankfully, even my crazy friends wouldn’t think of making potato salad with ketchup.
Who would?
Same goes for making cocktail sauce. Ketchup wins that contest for cocktail shrimp. But a plate of spicy shrimp with mustard sauce is just as delicious.
So I guess I have no clear favorite other than to say I prefer both over mayonnaise for sure. Unless, of course, we are talking about side dishes like egg salad and potato salad and Cole slaw. Those need mayonnaise and can be mixed with mustard — but not ketchup.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Best place in Hinesville for fried Chicken

When I first moved to the area, I was happy to see there was a KFC in town. I don’t always get food cravings, but when one hits, the one thing I normally crave is fried chicken.

For the longest time, the Colonel’s place was my fix. But then I discovered Poole’s Deli in Hinesville.

Poole’s was right down the street from the office. The fried chicken was perfectly cooked, they offered much better menu sides and definitely a much better price. I was in fried chicken nirvana, and I could justify my craving weakness by walking there and back.

Then the rug was yanked from right under my feet. In October 2012, after 21 years in business, Poole’s Deli closed.
I panicked. Truth be told I cried a little. OK, a lot.

The Colonel’s place no longer filled the void. It suddenly lacked the flavor I had become accustomed to. The taste, the crunch of the lightly battered skin. The juiciness of the meat. The real going-to-have-to-lick-my-fingers-because-this-is-too-good-to-waste deal.

What were my options? Would I have to join Fried Chicken Anonymous? Would I even survive the detox?

Around that same time, a little frozen-yogurt shop, Yogurt Café on Willowbrook Drive, started to add soups and other Southern staples to its menu and re-emerged as Izola’s Country Cafe.

Friends, who by now were feeling sorry for my fried chicken withdrawals, or maybe just tired of seeing me whimper in the back corner of the office, suggested I go check it out.

I perused the menu, which contains a smorgasbord of items like smothered chicken, chicken ’n’ dumplings, meatloaf, fried shrimp and catfish, pork chops, chicken gizzards. And then I saw it: FRIED CHICKEN, available every day of the week.

OK, it was on the menu. But what about the taste?

Would it come close to what my taste buds now demanded from fried chicken? Would I find my new escape? Or would a bad taste test take me to the brink of a full-blown meltdown and a trip to the psych ward?

I drove out to Izola’s, stepped into the diner and took a step back in time. The cafeteria-style eatery had the home-cooked feeling of being in Grandma’s kitchen. The side offerings of mac ’n’ cheese, mashed potatoes, rice, beans, yams, green beans, cabbage and collard greens had me mesmerized, as did the great smell that permeated the entire room.

I walked up to the counter and looked at the one thing I came to sample.

“Fried chicken, white meat please,” I said.

I ordered mac ’n’ cheese and some collard greens to complete my meal. I walked over to the far corner of the diner, found an empty seat, sat down and, for the first minute or so, just stared at my plate.

It looked promising. It looked crispy. And when I cut into it, juices oozed out, as did some steam. I held up the piece of chicken on my fork, closed my eyes and took the bite.

A smile broke through my still-chewing lips, and Johann Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major filled my head. Etiquette be damned from that moment on. I grabbed the chicken with my hands, hoisted it to my mouth and took a second huge bite. CRUNCH. Bliss.

The rest of my lunchtime was a blur, and it was over much too soon. Content, I did the last thing I felt would validate the remainder of my meal. One by one, I licked my fingers and savored the last taste of the chicken I had just devoured. I sat back in my seat and looked around at my newfound temple of fried chicken.

My soul and craving monster were saved.

Now, every time I get that hankering, when the craving is more than I can bare, I happily drive, without remorse or guilt, to Izola’s Country Café.

Email Leon at mebefit@gmail.com