Monday, January 30, 2012

Same Name, Different Place

It’s always interesting where you’ll find a good meal. I’m not talking about the obvious spots but the more obscure ones. Like in gas stations or drug stores or in the case of Puckett’s, a grocery store. 065Perhaps you remember Puckett’s from this earlier post. The name is the same but it’s no longer associated with the other two stores. This Leiper’s Fork, Tennessee location has seceded and remained more true to it’s roots. It’s still a grocery store and the menu is BBQ and southern comfort food. No bar or bistro fare here. Unlike Kleer-vu in near by Murfreesboro, the restaurant hasn’t pushed the groceries out yet.  They still sell gasoline and have a good selection of household staples and at holiday time they even smoke turkeys and hams for lucky customers.

Opened in the 50’s by the Puckett family, Puckett’s Grocery served the many small communities in Williamson County, Tennessee. Located on the main strip (like there’s much more) in Leiper’s Fork for decades it’s played multiple roles but perhaps most importantly, meeting place.  A visit anytime is great but the seafood boil and open mic. night on Thursdays has the joint jumpin'. Get some creole style shrimp or crawfish and check out the next great country music star. So popular is the music that it’s streamed online and you can live message while you watch. Mrs. Sippi got a shout out after posting that she was watching all the way up in Canada. You never know who you’ll end up rubbing elbows with either. Country music legends, producers and movie and TV starts alike stop by for a bite to eat or to see a good show.

The building from the outside is pretty non descript. It’s fitted out with a smoker, patio tables and gas pumps.064Inside grocery shelves and dairy cases make up about a third of the store with an open kitchen, stage and a dining room with mismatched tables and chairs. There’s plenty of antiques and kitsch adorning the walls and ledges.013
So enough of all that, let’s get to the goodies.

The Fried Baloney is, well, fried baloney. It’s like a large, round hot dog. It’s good of course but I think it would’ve been better on toast or grilled. Maybe even a slice of American cheese as well.067The Pimento Cheese was great. Made right in house it was more cheesy than the others I’ve tried. Again, I’d like to have tried it on toast but I get scolded for such thoughts.060I’m sure if you’re scoring at home you’ll know by now that just about every time I try Pulled Pork I note that it’s not as smoky as I’d like. Well not here. This is the closest thing I’ve had to my own home made and thus, outstanding. The fact that they don’t sauce it and allow you to do it at the table makes it that much better.062The Fried Chicken is awesome. More like the Colonel’s with a herby, crispy crust. It was just fantastic. I’d suggest waiting for it to be straight out of the fryer. They make batches and they can sit for a little while. It didn’t affect the taste or crispiness but it wasn’t piping hot.
The Fried Okra on the side was very good but sadly the Mac n Cheese really lacked a good cheese punch. I mentioned it to Rob (the owner) and immediately one of his employees said she thought that batch was sub par. So it may be better on another visit.059The Chicken Fried Steak was of course fabulous but even better was the gravy. Some of the best white gravy I’ve had. The Johnny cake was nice and so was the fried okra. The corn casserole was really tasty. A bit light on the corn flavour but very creamy.014The ribs are outstanding. I’m not as much a fan of baby back ribs as you know but these among the best. Fully smoked and pull apart tender. Great when topped with the tangy BBQ sauce. The tater salad was good IMHO but Mrs. Sippi loved it.015Deserts are made by Rob’s wife right on the premises. A cooler full of these tasty treats sits off the dining area. We opted for Chess 070and Pecan pie slices. 069Both were just as good as they could be.

The cinnamon buns are baked fresh every morning but need to be consumed early. I had one after lunch and it wasn’t as fresh as it needed to be. The early bird gets the good cinnamon bun.017A trip through the country side is a beautiful drive and a stop for lunch at Puckett’s is a great way to top it all off.

You can find Puckett’s at 4142 Old Hillsboro Rd. in Leiper’s Fork, Tn.
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You can also find them on the web and facebook.
 Puckett's Grocery & Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Well that’s all for now. We’ll see you next time in the food court.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

1000° of Separation

Okay, so I’m not into “Hip” restaurants and certainly cringe every time I see the the words “Gourmet” and “Burger” side by each. Sometimes however it pays to put prejudice aside. It’s worth opening your mind (and mouth) to notions that run contrary to your opinions. So with that in mind I ignored my instincts and suggested to “The Law” that we hit up the newest, hippest place in the Arcadia neighbourhood of Scottsdale, Arizona. The Grind.101_1145
The brainchild of George Monzures and Allen Thompson The Grind “Combines old world tecniques with modern day favorites to create quality appetizers, salads, chicken, fish, steak, burgers and weekly blackboard specials.” Well known and respected local chef Matt McLinn, who has since moved on, fashioned a menu using locally sourced and organic ingredients to compose offerings that are both upscale and simple. If those two factors weren’t enough to tempt you, consider that they have the only 2 coal fired ovens of their kind in the US. Capable of temperatures of over 1000° the heat creates a great crust that seals in the juices of whatever critter they roast.

Found in a strip mall the exterior is quite contemporary looking with it’s wood, stainless steel and glass. You’re greeted with a big heavy door that feels like you’re entering a secret social club.101_1146
Inside a long zinc bar provides ample seating with great views of the liquor selection and nine TV’s. The interior is long and slender with a warm use of wood. All adding to the hip and stylish labels.

So enough of all that, let’s have a look at the food. A burger each with sides of wings and fries.

The wings were fantastic. Seasoned and grilled over mesquite charcoal and coverd with their secret wing sauce. They had a nice crispy exterior and were a decent size. They didn’t pick up much of a smoke flavour from the charcoal which was a bit of a surprise. Mesquite is a very pungent wood. I asked what was in the sauce and other than butter and hot sauce they wouldn’t divulge their secret.
The standard celery and carrot sticks that usually accompany wings were done rather differently. Thin julienne’s of carrot were tempura battered and deep fried. Very nice for dipping in the blue cheese sauce. The celery on the other hand was something more. It was like a vinegary, celery slaw. A great idea and one I may just have to steal from them.
The burgers were definitely the stars of the show though. The Nogales burger, named for the county in which Phoenix sits was fresh ground and blasted in the oven to a perfect medium. Topped with arrugala, a corn tamale, chorizo and montery jack cheese it was spectacular. Much like having a hamburger tamale.101_1149
The Steakhouse BLT was a bit of a mountain of a burger. Mayo, steak sauce, bacon, grilled onion, fresh tomato and lettuce stacked high. It was a lot to cram into my burger hole but I managed. My only complaint was there was too much lettuce. I’m not big on lettuce on a burger anyway so I took a good portion of it off. This was just a good, solid, tasty burger.101_1150
We had some fries with lunch as well. They were fine. They have fresh cut Herbed Fries and Sweet Potato Fries. We couldn’t decide which ones to go with so the bartender suggested a bit of both. Good call.

We left room for desert and it was a good idea. The neighbouring bar patron ordered the donuts and salted butterscotch and they looked fabulous. So, 5 warm yeast donuts lightly covered with powdered sugar and a drizzle of butterscotch. Accompanied by a tremendous home made butterscotch syrup. It was absolutely amazing.101_1151
Well there you have it. Opening up to different ideas can really pay off. I ignored my thoughts on burgers and restaurants and in the end was rewarded. I guess it’s true what they say, “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.

You can find The Grind at 3961 East Camelback Road in Phoenix, Arizona.
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You can also find them on the web, facebook and twitter.
The Grind on Urbanspoon
The Grind on Foodio54

Well that’s all for now folks, we’ll see you next time in the food court.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Go Blue

In 1817 the governor and judges of the Michigan Territory established the Catholepistemiad or University of Michigania in Detroit. The university would move to Ann Arbor in 1837 after the town lost it’s bid to be the newly minted state’s capitol. The land earmarked for the capitol would be turned into the Universtiy of Michigan’s Central Campus. The first graduating class in Ann Arbor consisted of 11 students. It has grown to include one of the largest alumni groups in the nation at aproximately half a million.
It was on these campus grounds that President John F. Kennedy first proposed publicly the notion that a group of "young college graduates would find a full life in bringing technical advice and assistance to the underprivileged and backward Middle East.” In 1961 the President would unveil, the Peace Crops.

Much like any college town Ann Arbor has a thriving food scene. As you know I’ve visited Zingermann’s Deli and Krazy Jim’s Blimpy Burger (among others) in the past. Mrs. Sippi also has a friend that works at the University. So with that and our love of food we have occasion to visit periodically. This particular trip saw a stop at Maize and Blue Delicatessen. A venue I recently saw featured on Man vs. Food.
A favourite of UM students and fans Maize and Blue has been around for almost 25 years. Opened by the Jordanian/American Sukkar family they’re serving up tall sandwiches and other deli favourites to Wolverine nation and anyone else who just likes great food. Started as a take out only sandwich shop they now seat 20 or so patrons in what was once the waiting area. Much like most deli’s these days they do not cure their own meats but do source them locally from respected vendors. They do however cook what they can in the tiny kitchen. 
 From the outside it’s little more than a store front on University Ave. On the inside is rather sparsely decorated. One thing that stands out though, the signature board. A large tribute to UM on one wall has filled up with signatures of guests and alumni alike. Among them are a multiple gold medal winner, a hall of fame coach and a 3 time Superbowl champion.
Both sandwiches came with a half pickle that’s as good as I’ve had. Sour and crunchy and excellent.


Mrs. Sippi tried to recreate her favourite sandwich from her days at Ole Miss and the Rebel Deli in Oxford, Ms. While she failed terribly in her attempt the result was one great sandwich. Smoked turkey and gouda on sourdough rye. It was fantastic. The cheese was a perfect match for the meat and deli mustard rounded it out nicely. 

My Triple Play Rueben was simply awesome. I’m more of a pastrami than corned beef guy but having both together between some great bread is the best of both worlds. Top that off with both Jarlsberg and Swiss cheeses and top that off with kraut and house made Russian dressing. How can you go wrong??

The chocolate chip cookie was a winner too. A Toll House style cookie with plenty of chocolate chips to keep those owing to the Dark Master happy.

The brownie was phenomenal. Chocolate with caramel icing, milk chocolate drizzle, dark chocolate shavings and pecans. Decadent.

Well there you have it folks. A little taste of the college experience from Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan.

You can find Maize and Blue at 1329 S. University Ave. in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
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You can also find them on the web or facebook.
 Maize and Blue Delicatessen on Urbanspoon

See ya next time in the food court.


Saturday, January 7, 2012

10–4 Good Buddy

Say one thing about Southerners. They’re nothing if not colourful. Never mind all the “Redneck” humour and interesting engineering feats for which they’re famous. And as we all know, even the the most fiendish of insults can be hurled without fear of reprisal with the simple preface “Bless their heart…..” They also have their own signature expressions. Bathed in meanness they’ve long endured. “Beat them like a red headed step child” for one. “So good it’ll make you wanna slap your momma” for another.140
Just off I-65 in Munfordville, Kentucky Big Bubba Buck’s Belly Bustin’ BBQ Bliss has adopted the “Slap your momma” saying. Offering up food worthy of the maternal clubbing adage. Road weary travellers and locals have been enjoying Bubba’s porky goodness and fried catfish for almost 10 years now. The audience Buck’s is really tapping into though is the trucker. Their expansive parking lot out back offers up plenty of room for the big rigs and their location a half mile off the interstate makes for a quick stop. Daily specials are broadcast every half hour over a CB and orders are frequently radioed in for pick up. To keep the wheels turning as they say. Heck, all they need is a pick up window and a driver would never have to leave the cab.
Bubba’s is really not much more than a shack on the side of the road. From the outside it looks like little more than shed with a handful of smokers and various and sundry items littering the grounds.141
On the inside it’s as basic and “Divey” as it can be. Simple paneled walls, rudimentary chairs and tables with plastic table clothes. In other words, scary to one. Oozing cred to another. Yep, other than the lack of smoked pig amoma (the smoker is outside so the smell of greens hung in the air) this place is a true BBQ joint. 143
Now keep in mind that Kentucky, just like every other state has health inspectors and they do pay visits to Buck’s. Rest assured, it’s clean. That said, Mrs. Sippi and I have debated the notion that, bless its heart it’s the dumpiest restaurant we’ve been in. It may be, it may not. One thing there was no debate over. The food was top notch. There was plenty of it too. So let’s have a look.
Mrs. Sippi’s catfish was excellent. Buttery and juicy with a nice flour and cornmeal breading. I didn’t even bother trying the tartar sauce.146
The fried corn on the cob was, well, interesting. While I always maintain that taste trumps all I’m gonna make an exception here. The taste was indeed good but the texture ruined it for me. Mrs. Sippi agreed. The kernels were mushy on the inside with gummy skins that got caught in your teeth. Give me a nice steamed or roasted ear any time. Where the golden nuggets burst when you sink your teeth into them.147
The pinto beans were good. Nothing special. Simply seasoned and cooked. I’ve had better, I’ve had worse.

My combo plate ranged from really good to excellent. Really good was the pulled pork. I didn’t like that they sauced it but it wasn’t overpowered so not a strike against. It had a really nice smoky taste that I really enjoyed. It was very finely shredded which is not my preference but I’m fine with it.
The ribs were great. They’re baby backs which is a half a strike against since I much prefer side ribs for BBQ. They had a great smoke flavour and little seasoning. They actually put them on the smoke naked. Their philosophy on this is a rub inhibits smoke flavour. One very important thing about ribs. They should NOT fall off the bone but yield when pulled gently. Leaving a clean rib. The meat should have some chew to it. Not be a spongy mess. On this, they nailed it.
The smoked pork loin was amazing. Tender, succulent, smoky and porky. A clear winner on my plate.148
The mac and cheese wasn’t overly cheesy but still quite serviceable.
The greens were as good as I’d hoped. Less pork taste than I’d have expected but seemed to be super charged with “Greens” flavour. Of course when balanced with pepper sauce, that much better.145
The deserts were unimaginably good. I love banana pudding. Quite frankly and not disrespectfully, it’s not hard to make a good one. It was almost as good as my home made much as I expected. 147
What really got me though was the apple, black berry cobbler. A great combination of flavour with a smack of cinnamon that was right in my wheelhouse. I love a good cinnamon kick and find that most places downplay its use. An absolute home run here in my books.145
So don’t let the ruddy appearance dissuade you. This place serves good food that has the CB radio waves humming.

You can find Big Bubba Buck’s at 1802 Main St, Munfordville, Ky.

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You can also find them on the web.
Big Bubba Buck's Belly Bustin' BBQ Bliss on Urbanspoon
Big Bubba Bucks Belly Bustin BBQ Bliss on Foodio54

Well that’s all from off the beaten path in Kentucky. Y’all come back now ya hear.