Sunday, July 27, 2008

Adler Report: Food Finds

Pulled pork or pork barbeque? Here, the difference means that the shredded pork – usually shoulder – is sauced before serving or not. I have always been a pulled pork person. I want my pork in recognizable chunks, on a toasted bun, and with a generous topping of creamy slaw. And I want to sauce it myself.
But our recent excursion to Duke’s barbeque in Wytheville may have me rethinking my position – at least when it comes to their pork barbeque.

When I saw that they didn’t have pulled pork, I opted for the fried chicken – and good chicken it was. My serving was four smallish pieces (thigh, leg, wing, and breast) which were crispy and juicy. Chuck selected the pork barbeque and, of course, I had to try some. This was so good that we brought home a pound container of the barbeque along with a pound of Duke’s excellent baked beans for a later meal. The pieces of pork were a combination of shredded meat and larger chunks. And most of the larger chunks included the “bark” – the crispy outside that comes from the long smoking time. The meat had an intense smoky flavor and the sauce was neither too sweet nor too tart.

In fact, everything about our platters (I know it is a basket but they called it a platter) was first rate. They called the potatoes home fries but I’d call them steak fries. Whatever, they were crisp outside and fluffy inside and dusted with a seasoning that included some garlic. The beans may have been the best ever. And Chuck’s cole slaw – while containing pickle which should be a disqualifier – was also very good. In all, this place is a keeper and gets a 4.5 Addie rating.

On Friday, Chuck told of our hunt for breakfast and how we landed in Sparta hungry and frustrated about missing our intended location. The extra ten miles or so that we drove resulted in finding the Pines Restaurant and the best sausage gravy I’ve ever eaten.

Now I must say – with no modesty whatsoever – that I make really good sausage gravy. But I have to admit that mine now is in second place. Too many restaurants make the white sauce and then add the cooked and crumbled sausage to the sauce. This frequently results in eating a bland sauce with pieces of meat floating in it. Good sausage gravy starts with cooking the sausage then adding flour to the pan so that the flour grains become coated with the pan juices (OK. It’s fat but we don’t think about that). When the milk is added, the sausage flavor permeates the entire sauce. This sausage was seasoned with a generous amount of sage and the sauce seasoned with lots – I mean lots – of black pepper. Our breakfast included a large slice of country ham – all for $4.75. We each ordered a side of home fries which they cooked crisp as requested. We both agreed, this was a five Addie breakfast.

And now for our vegetarian friends. In this area, menus will frequently list a “sides” platter. You can order two, three, or four of their side dishes as your meal. I tried this at a couple of places without real success but last night at Christopher’s Pizza we hit on a great combination. From a list that included potato salad, macaroni salad, pinto beans, broccoli casserole, and mashed potatoes, we selected the cole slaw, mac and cheese, squash, and - needing a green vegetable – fried okra. All were very good but the okra was the star of the plate. Now I normally wouldn’t touch okra, but when dusted in corn meal and fried in oil hot enough to make the coating crisp without over cooking the vegetable, this raises okra to a new level.

We topped off the meal with the pizza frite – deep fried pizza dough frosted with a vanilla icing and dusted with cinnamon. My only complaint about the platter was the mac and cheese was drier than I’d prefer. So, with this in mind, I’d rate this a four Addie meal.

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