Friday, December 21, 2012

On Location: Luella's BBQ in Asheville, NC

 My job takes me on the road occasionally. When it does, I'm always keen to find a good local joint. A co-worker insisted I try Luella's in Asheville, NC. Boy, am I glad he did. They have a complete menu of all sorts of good stuff like chicken, brisket, pork and even turkey. Since it was my first visit and since I'm kind of a  purist, I ordered the chopped BBQ pork.

As I ordered, the helpful woman behind the counter asked if I was interested in having some local pork from Hickory Nut Gap Farms for a little bit extra. Sure! For my sides I got the spicy vinegar slaw (or "slaw" as I was raised calling it) and the fried okra. The plate comes with hush puppies.

First of all the sides were all great. The slaw was tangy and had a nice crunch to it. After I ordered it dawned on me that okra was out of season. I don't know a whole lot about what needs to happen to make fried okra taste right. The cynic in me says that simply frying is 90% of what makes fried okra good. But all fried okra is not equal. I would suggest that Luella's has some mighty fine fried okra. It totally hit the spot. I even found myself squirting sauce on a fried nugget before popping it in my mouth. I was having fun. The hush puppies were good too.

But the barbecue. Let start by saying that it's really easy for me to get disappointed by a plate of BBQ. This stuff was excellent. It comes with a "touch of Scooter's Vinegar Sauce." So I had my first few bites just as it arrived. The pork was moist and tender with a subtle and delicious hickory smoke. Once I had a good appreciation for what I was eating I started squirting some extra sauce around--namely I experimented with the Sweet Pisgah, but was drawn mostly to having a little more of the Scooter's. Mmm.

The sauces were so good that I bought some jars as a present for my dad. I got the last jar of Scooter's and also bought some Lusty Mustard Sauce, which I imagine would be good on wings or pork tenderloin or something. 

Luella's really was a treat. This isn't a restaurant you check off your list. You look forward to going back.

Love Okra?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

On Location: Bob's Grill

Some folks at my employer, Davidson College, have a loose tradition of visiting Bob's Grill in  downtown Mooresville, NC for a mass hot dog run. This was my first visit to Bob's.

I took this photo toward the back of the restaurant. Yes, this is it. At the far end is the grill and a counter where you order. On the right is a counter where you can stand and eat. And if you must, there's a bench there on the left for sitting.
On this particular visit, Parker (glasses) instigated a hot dog eating contest. The lone entrant was Ryan. Once upon a time apparently there was an employee of Davidson who managed to take down 5 dogs in one visit. So Ryan decided to start with 6 just to dispense with that record. Just to drive the point home, he ordered his 6 "all the way" and took them down without much ceremony.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Thai Grilled Chicken Breasts

This is another recipe that came from The Cook's Illustrated Guide to Grilling and Barbecue and it's good for making up some of the best chicken I've ever tasted. Brining the chicken ahead of time, plus the rub made this something special.

The folks at Cook's Illustrated are big on brining chicken. By putting the chicken in the following bath for more than 30 minutes, but less than 60 the chicken gets a nice, tender texture and a very clean, fresh taste.

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 2 quarts cold water

The Rub:

  • 2/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 lime juice
  • 12 minced garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons fresh, minced ginger
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cracked pepper
  • 2 tablespoons ground coriander
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

"There's the rub." -- Prince Hamlet
So the bulk of the cook time is drawn up to be indirect, but the recipe calls for you to cook them skin-side down for 3 minutes first to crisp things up a little. So I used my platesetter, but just set the breasts at the edge of the cooking surface, where there is direct exposure to the coals. See 'em under there?

Meanwhile all that lime juice and cilantro got us thinking: guacamole. Because what goes better with Thai chicken, than guacamole? It wasn't tough to sell it to these customers.