Sunday, December 20, 2009

"Real Food, Real People and Real Atmosphere"

These are the main ingredients at Puckett's Grocery, or so says their website. They don't however give you an idea of what an eclectic mix Puckett's really offers. While it may seem like a crisis of identity, it's one part general store, one part country kitchen, one part bar and grill. It has miss matched tables and chairs and a miss matched clientele. While all this diversity seems a bit much there is one unifying theme that ties it all together. Great food.

Located on 4th Avenue in historic Franklin, Tennessee, Puckett's is a place where farmers and business leaders, struggling musicians and country music legends, road weary travelers and locals can share music, fried chicken, BBQ, prime rib and nachos.

Having left Dayton, Ohio in a snow storm 7 hours earlier a good home cooked meal was in order. Unfortunately it was past dinner time and what we would call home for the next week was still 2 hours away. Puckett's would be the perfect substitute. This choice was made even better upon arrival when I noticed the specials board advertising Mac & Cheese as the "Vegetable of the day." My doctor did say I need to eat more veggies.

I ordered the fried chicken and Mrs. Sippi ordered the fried catfish. Both mains came with your choice of two sides and a corn cake or dinner roll. We both opted for the corn cake. I chose the a fore mentioned mac and cheese and the squash casserole with my dinner. Mrs Sippi also chose the squash casserole but went for the collard greens instead.

The mac and cheese was fine. It wasn't the best I'd had but it was a solid side to the fantastic chicken. Lightly seasoned and breaded, the chicken was dribble down your chin juicy. Tender and crispy it is served up golden brown and delicious.

Mrs. Sippi's catfish was also outstanding. The fish its self was milder than the catfish I'm used to in Toronto. This perhaps because it would seem to be a younger fish (it was a smaller fillet) than we get in TO. It too was lightly breaded and crispy, golden brown and delicious. Her greens were also very good with the requite few shots of pepper sauce.

The corn cake or "Johnny cake" as it is sometimes known is a cornbread batter ladled onto a skillet and cooked like a pancake. The first bite revealed a nice surprise. It was studded with chile peppers and tasted great. Especially with a healthy slathering of butter.

Now, I'm not a big squash fan. I've had it in many incarnations with only a good butternut squash soup as something I'd seek out. However the squash casserole is worth the drive from Dayton. I don't know what magic they work in the kitchen on this dish but it is purely, simply, unbelievably delicious.

As if all that wasn't enough, the desert of the day was buttermilk chess pie. "What is chess pie" you may ask much like I did. Well, it's a custard like pie. It's uncertain where the name comes from but some people feel that it came from the pie chest that people had "Back in the day." Others will say that the evolved from the cheese pie in England. The best answer it seems is it's a result of what can only be described as a game of broken telephone. What started out as "Just pie" as in, "What's for desert?" "Just pie" has morphed over the years to "Jus' pie", "Jess pie" and on to become "Chess pie." One thing for certain, it has nothing to do with the game of chess.

This became one of those "Oh my god, how have I never had this before moments." It was caramel-ly, vanilla-y and very sweet. Much like a custard but somehow just slightly cakey. The crust reminded me very much of short bread.

On a more recent trip I decided the shrimp and grits were just too good to pass up. Grits for those who don't know are basically the southern version of polenta. It's just cornmeal. "No self respecting southerner makes instant grits" was the line in My Cousin Vinny and rest assured these weren't instant. They had a great corn taste that would suggest they were probably stone ground. The sauce and shrimp was a perfect counter. Rich, spicy (but not hot) and full of shimp flavour.

 This time I went with chocolate chess pie which was every bit as good as it's regular sibling.

I've had a few of their cobblers in the past and Mrs. Sippi's peach version is just about as good as any of them. It's one of those "You can't go wrong ordering it" deserts.

For you Civil War buffs, the Battle of Franklin was fought in and around the town. The near by Carter house still has shot and cannon fire marks on the exterior and not far away is the beautiful Carnton Plantation and the largest private Confederate cemetery.

You can visit Puckett's at 120 Fourth Avenue South, Franklin, TN.
 Puckett's Grocery & Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Well that's all from the food court for today. Y'all come back now ya hear!!


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Yes, It Really is a 62 Year Old Ham

The sign says so!! Actually, I once asked if the ham was as old as they claim and was told that it indeed was. The magic of salt curing.
Although they say it's safe to eat, don't worry if you order the country ham at Stan's Restaurant and Country Store in Columbia, Tn. it won't be that old.

Located just off exit 46 west on I-65 about a half hour south of Nashville is Stan's. One part Citgo station, one part country store and one part restaurant. If the "Restaurant and Country Store" motif seems familiar then you've been to Cracker Barrel. As I once read in a review "Cracker Barrel don't have a lick on this place" and it's true. About all the two places have in common is they both sell food and trinkets. While the menus may look the same, don't kid yourself, Stan's outshines in every way in the kitchen.
I’ve been trying for the last few years to confirm this but Dan Evins who founded Cracker Barrel may very well have modeled the chain after Stan’s. He modeled CB on a restaurant he knew from when he was a boy. There are a lot of similarities to with which to support such a rumour but as yet, I can’t substantiate this.
Although I've had breakfast and lunch in the past today's visit was for dinner. Even with frogs legs on the specials board both Mrs. Sippi and I opted for the chicken fried steak. As with Cracker Barrel (and many of the great Southern joints) it's a Meat 'n' 3 format. For the uninitiated, it's your choice of entree and 3 sides. I opted for mashed potatoes, (collard) greens and black eyed peas (note the nice chunk of country ham in the peas). Mrs. Sippi opted for white beans, fried okra and greens. Your entree also comes with dinner roll or cornbread. I chose the dinner roll and she chose the "Cracklin'" cornbread.

The greens and peas were absolutely fantastic. Very typical Southern style which is to say, cooked to death. It works though, trust me. Mrs. Sippi said that the white beans reminded her of the ones her grandmother made when she was a kid. So much so, she got the recipe and brought back 8 pounds of dried beans so she could make them at home. Other sides include mac and cheese, spiced apples and kernel corn.
The dinner roll was just that, a dinner roll. I got it simply to use as a sponge to soak up all the "Pot licker" from my greens. So all in all, it was perfect.
The corn bread was very good too with it's crunchy, porky goodness.

I do love mashed potatoes but less so when they're whipped. Some will tell you that you have to get the lumps out of your potatoes. Not me, I like them with some nice chunks of potato left in them so these were perfect. The only draw back is they don't come with gravy so I always ask for some extra on the side. The best part is, they give you sausage gravy so you get these little chunks of country sausage as well.

The steak was quite simply the best I'd had. We both agreed that it was better than the last time we had it. It's even better than the ones I've made at home. A nice ladle of the gravy over top of the steak makes it perfect. The sausage isn't enough to obscure the taste of the steak but give it a nice meaty, creamy compliment.

If you’re like me and like a big breakfast the Hillbilly Breakfast is a feast. Two “aigs” with grits, home made biscuits, hash browns, red eye gravy and of course country ham. The grits are pretty much just basic but that’s simply so they can marry with anything. The hash browns (not shown) are also good and basic. Both work well with the red eye gravy. Red eye gravy, believe it or not is made from coffee. The pan that ham is fried up in gets deglazed with the coffee. When I make it at home I simmer the ham in the liquid for a bit as well as a hunk of onion. It’s got a unique taste but the boldness really stands up well against the saltiness of the ham. After it’s all gone the leftover goodness on your plate can be sopped up with the biscuits. As for the ham, well, it’s just fabulous. Made by Harpers in Clinton Kentucky it really is, as their saying goes, “Hamtastic.”


So next time you're south of Nashville and hungry for some good down home country cookin', take exit 46 and ignore the Cracker Barrel just down the street. Stop off at the Citgo station and visit Stan's. A true gem along one of America's busier interstates.
There's plenty of parking in the back for those in trucks or large RV and trailers.
Stan's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

That's all for now folks. The food court is now closed.


Monday, December 7, 2009

Save the Deli

In his new book "Save the Deli" journalist David Sax brings attention to the plight of the Jewish deli. Dedicated to the preservation of the Jewish delicatessen, a hallowed temple of salted and cured meats" it reads in his mission statement.
Seems that people just don't flock to a good deli the way they did 50 years ago. As such, there is little reason to do things the old school way.

It was purely but chance though that he was at Zingerman's Deli in Ann Arbor, Michigan when we payed a visit for lunch. It was however unfortunate that he'd stepped out for a bit while we were there so we weren't able to meet him. I did purchase a copy of his book and I was able to get an employee of Zingerman's to get it autographed and mailed to me. I'm really looking forward to reading it.

Zingerman's does do some old school stuff but also sources out other items. The corned beef is their own recipe and for the pastrami they created the recipe with their good friend Sy Ginsberg.
As for the food it was fantastic. We spent that night in Indianapolis and we only needed a small bite for dinner. We were both still happy and satisfied.

First up was my pastrami. It came on rye with Swiss cheese and grilled onions. The sandwich is then grilled which I really didn't feel did much to improve the sandwich. I would order it not grilled next time if I could. The pastrami its self was very good however not the best I've had. Had I done my homework a little better I'd have taken Z's advice and orderd the #48, Binny's Brooklyn Reuben. Just like a regular Reuben but with pastrami instead.

The real star was the Reuben though. Mrs. Sippi ordered her favourite sandwich and it was just plain excellent. Zingerman's own corned beef was definitely the best I've had. Very tender and had a flavour profile that I didn't find was as intense as I'm used to. It was perfectly balanced with the kraut and Swiss.

Our lunch guest ordered a roast beef sandwich. It came with cheddar cheese, lettuce & hot mustard on an onion roll. I did not sample it but he said it was quite good.

All three fressors came with a fantastic sour pickle.

We had a side order of mac and cheese and a kinish. Both were very good as well. I'd never had a knish and really didn't know what I was getting. It's always great to find something new.

Any open product is available for sampling. As you can tell by the picture it was busy so we didn't do much sampling. We did manage to get tastes of spicy anchovies and their Montreal smoked meat. The smoked meat had a good smoke profile and a beefy flavour but lacked any flavour of the brine. The girl who we were talking to said that they're going to develop their own recipe for this.

Well that's all from the Food Court for now. 'Til next time.
Zingerman's Delicatessen on Urbanspoon


Monday, September 28, 2009

Things Are Cooking at Barbecue Hill

In the small town of Lynchburg, Tennessee you'll find the Jack Daniels distillery. As if most whiskey aficionados didn't already know this. Well known for it's outstanding whiskeys, the distillery is also a destination for barbecue and barbecue lovers.

Home of the World Championship Jack Daniels Invitational Barbecue held annually every October the distillery also serves up a fine "Mess" of 'cue in the Pavillion on Barbecue Hill. The noontime BBQ lunch goes on the Saturday of the long weekends (US) in May, July and September.

A Beautiful double sided stone fireplace is the centre piece of the lovely open air setting over looking the "Holler" and town of Lynchburg.

The spacious kitchen with it's friendly staff is serving up pulled pork, BBQ chicken cornbread, tater salad, slaw, spiced apples and beans.

Chocolate and whiskey lovers will go nuts for their chocolate pecan pie made with some of Mr. Jack's finest.

In a strange twist Moore county, in which Lynchburg and the distillery are located is actually a dry county. The fine folks aren't allowed to sell their own product*. Refreshments are therefore fresh brewed tea, coffee and lemonade. Damned tasty lemonade at that.

After lunch you can dance to the small Bluegrass band playing in the pavilion or just sit and relax enjoying the view. One of the many barrell houses that dots the hill sides in Moore county can be seen here.

Horse shoes and shuffle board are also great ways to pass the time.

Be sure to drop by the town square and vist the gift shop where you can pick up your complementary shot glass along with just about any other Jack Daniels souvenier you can think of.
The cost is a very reasonable $25.

While you're there, you may want to take the free tour of the facilities as well.

* The White Rabbit Saloon located inside the visitors center does have a special license to sell commemorative bottles.

You can visit Jack Daniels on the web or in Lynchburg.

Til we eat again


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Friday, July 17, 2009

Aint Nothing Like 'em Nowhere

For people living in Tuscaloosa Alabama, life as they knew it was about to change. The year was 1958 and the University had brought in a new coach. "Mama called" as he would say and when she did, Paul "Bear" Bryant just had to "Come runnin'."
It was also the year that a Mason named John “Big Daddy” Bishop opened his little Cafe in Jerusalem Heights. What would follow would be a legacy of great football and great ribs.

"Big Daddy" would sell Bar B Que of all sorts at first but since it was his ribs that made him a hit, the menu would eventually be pared down to ribs, rib sandwiches and white bread (and sauce of course). You can get banana pudding for desert as well. The Crimson Tide has gone on to win several more Championships and Dreamland now has grown to include 8 restaurants across Georgia and Alabama.

The menu varies slightly from restaurant to restaurant but one thing is for sure, when it comes to the ribs, "Ain't nothing like 'em .. nowhere." Not in my mind anyway.

The Huntsville, Alabama location is the restaurant we visit every chance we get. A nice rustic place with a large bar and license plates (even one of mine) adorning the walls. An open BBQ pit right in dining room is the centerpiece though. The smell of hardwood smoke and pork fat fills the place. Nirvana. The rolls of paper towels right on your table are always a good sign.

The only thing I've ever ordered is the ribs. They get cooked on a grill that is about 2 feet above a hickory wood fire. Simply seasoned at first, slow cooked, then basted with their signature Alabama style BBQ sauce the ribs are tender, juicy, lightly smokey, tangy and salty all at once. They come sliced individually and served with sauce ladled on them. I always ask for more sauce while Mrs. Sippi orders hers sauce on he side. I have been able to sample all of the other menu options and they're first rate as well. My sister in law always goes for the BBQ chicken salad with their house BBQ ranch dressing. Wash it all down with some great sweet tea and save room for banana pudding.

White bread and sauce for dipping are also served. The bread is Sunbeam and it's so soft, it makes Wonder bread seem like croutons. It's not all that special from a taste profile but it's only function is to get the sauce from the cup to your mouth. Said sauce is a tangy vinegary concoction that always reminds me a of French dressing.

You can visit Dreamland in Tuscaloosa, Huntsville, Northport, Birmingham, Mobile, Montgomery and Metro Atlanta as well as online.
 Dreamland Barbeque on Urbanspoon

'til we meet again.


**Please note that the picture of the sign is from 2005 and may not reflect current prices.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

"You are a Stranger Here but Once."

That's the motto of The Friendly Tavern in Zionsville, Indiana. A place that does everything it can to live up to it's name. If you ask, they'll do their best to see you get it. In my case, it was a baseball game on the big screen. Not a big request but I had only been there 5 minutes and was a stranger.

Zionsville is a small suburb of Indianapolis, north west of the city. A quaint little town with the tavern and some boutiques on a nicely bricked South Main Street. Arriving at 8 PM on a Thursday found it rather quiet. Most people out were seemingly were at The Friendly Tavern.

From my endless hours of Internet surfing and various postings on Chowhound I was to learn that the fried pork tenderloin sandwich was a local Indy specialty. Knowing this and that The Friendly Tavern had a terrific specimen is how we found ourselves there.

So without further adieu, let's get on with the food. Mrs. Sippi and I split the sandwich and an order of wings. The sandwich (pictured is only half) is huge. We had the standard condiments which as you could see were lettuce, tomato and mayo. It was the perfect trio to compliment the excellent star, the breaded pork tenderloin. Served with a side of house made potato chips.

I had also heard great things about their wings and being a wing guy, figured I had to give those a try too. They came breaded and unsauced. Some suicide sauce with ranch mixed together made for a perfect dip for these crispy appendages. What makes the wings so special, according to the waitress is that they are broasted. For those of you who don't know what that is, it's deep fried in a pressure cooker. The same process that the Colonel uses. They were excellent too.

The overall feel of this place is, well, friendly. The waitress would always spend an extra second or two chatting when she stopped by. The owner came by and asked where we were from and we ended up in a conversation with the table next to us.

The Friendly Tavern is located at 290 S. Main St. Zionsville, In. 46077
The Friendly Tavern on Urbanspoon

Thanks to the Indy Chowhounds for helping us find this place.


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Friday, July 10, 2009

"Does She Know The Name of This Place?"

That's the kind of response you'll get when you try to order a fish sandwich at Krazy Jim's Blimpy Burger.

Nestled just off campus of the University of Michigan is Krazy Jim's little burger shack. It's a place so small they don't even have washrooms so if you need to go, hit the local filling station first. We saw it featured on Diners, Drive Inns and Dives and both of us loving burgers, knew we had to pay a visit.
Blimpy Burger is one of those places where you'd best not mess up your order. They have a procedure. It's writen in stone. (And on their website). I had a slight hick up but it wasn't like the faux pas a woman trying to order after me made. "What would you like on your burger?" "Um, cheese..." "I don't do cheese..... Ma'am, what would you like?" "Cheese....." "Again, I don't do cheese!" "Oh sorry, can I get cheese....." "I! DON'T! DO! CHEESE!!!" She finally got the idea. This ordering process, while seemingly out of a Seinfeld episode is both for show and for efficiency. At 2:30 in the afternoon the line up was anywhere from 5 to 15 people deep. This with school out for the summer. Getting it right makes everything move a lot faster.

So....on to the burgers, after all, it is called Blimpy Burger. Done on the flat top as the best burgers usuall are, these mini patties are juicy and delicious.

I had a quad (4 patties on a single bun) with American cheese and bacon on an onion bun. Mrs. Sippi's order was similar. The bun and condiments were perfect for complimenting the meat, not hiding it. I had onion rings on the side and they were good. Breaded and deep fried right in front of me. Mrs. Sippi had fries. They were of the frozen variety but she still loved them.
You can visit Krazy Jim's at 551 S. Division, Ann Arbor, Mi. 48104 or on the web.
 Blimpy Burger (Krazy Jim's) on Urbanspoon

Well, until next time......


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Hands Down

The best country ham I've ever had.

I've tried a lot of country ham in my time and a lot of it has been very good. Broadbent's in Kuttawa, Kentucky is definately the best. If you don't believe me, one of their hams sold for half a million dollars at the Kentucky State Fair in 2006. That's good ham.

At the north end of Lake Barkley, just off I - 24 you'll find their operation. We stopped in for lunch in their little cafe. We were there on the recomendation of the Chamber of Commerce and Broadbent's did not disappoint.

I had the "Sweet and Sassy" (a ham and apple sandwich) on sour dough.

My wife had the "Pepper Bacon, BLT" on wheatberry bread.

We finished with a slice of chocolate silk pie.

There was a few samples throughout the store. All of which were great as well.

Click "Hands Down" to visit Broadbent's online.
Broadbents on Urbanspoon