No Beef With Al’s #1 Italian Beef

Al's #1 Italian Beef, Chicago, Illinois

Al’s #1 Italian Beef

Chicago’s Iconic Sandwich; Italian Beef

Welcome back gluttonous readers to an Al’s #1 Italian Beef Shytown edition of the Pot & Pan Handler’s derelict blog. Today we’re going back to an old favorite, the epitome of Chicago dining. More iconic than their hot dogs & as recognizable as their corn meal lasagna called Chicago style pizza, the heavy weight champion of Chicago foods, the Italian Beef with spicy Giardiniera.

For those uninitiated in the unctuous details of an Italian Beef, allow us to initiate you. Picture an Italian sub loaf stuffed with slow cooked, thinly sliced, rump roast. Now dip the entire sandwich in the resulting au jus. Is it a drippy hot mess? Yep, so, dip it again & top with sweet roasted bell pepper &/or spicy Giardiniera (a spicy pickled veg medley and our preferred delivery method). If there’s a better regional sandwich we’ve never had it, we get ours at Al’s #1 Italian Beef. Get your eating stance ready because this time we’re taking you with us to get Italian Beef Sandwiches at Al’s #1 Italian Beef. Get in the car, buckle up, it’s going to be a messy ride.

Chicago Dogs @ Al's #1 Italian Beef, Chicago, Illinois

Chicago dawgz? They got those too.

Cold enough for ya der?

The last time we were in Shytown it was January and below 0 degrees. That alone would not daunt us but that damn Chicago wind made outside a near impossibility. The result of which was us retreating to the hotel & not leaving until we took a cab back to the airport. Regretful our opportunity to acquire Italian Beefs was gone. That means it’s been an unacceptable 4 years since we last had the beefy deliciousness called an Italian Beef @ Al’s #1 Italian Beef. After checking in to Chicago’s answer to a renovated post office turned into a hotel, modernized slightly & divided into two hotels, Club Quarters we hit the streets to rectify this situation.

Let’s talk Italian Beefs. Decidedly not Italian at all, they were developed in Chicago, thinly sliced beef to stretch the portions for the working class. These Italian Beef sandwiches are so fatty & beefy; they are a concoction that could only be conceived in the Midwest (and possibly Texas). When you order an Italian beef they slap the tender, juicy beef into a carb envelope. Now you have a choice. Do you want sweet peppers or hot Giardiniera, which is just as hard to spell as it is to say. Either roasted green bell peppers or a spicy, oily, pickled veg contraption that is far tastier than it sounds. Now here’s the secret, ask for it double dipped. They take that beefy, pepper filled sandwich and dunk it in the au jus, do you want it dipped again? Yes you do.

The sheer unctuous fattiness of all that beef, double dipped in its own fat & melted collagen needs a hit of acidity that’s where the Giardiniera comes in. Spicy, & slightly acidic, it cuts through the fatty beef with a spicy acidic kick that balances what otherwise would be a very heavy sandwich.

Mr. Beef, Chicago, Illinois

Meat, the other beef.

Mr. Beef was our first introduction to Italian Beefs; Jay Leno put them on the map, when he became famous. An owed recompense for all the free & discounted food he received when he was still a failing standup comic. These sandwiches are good but the slices of beef are far larger which leads to an almost beefy gum texture. Not unlike the difference between Geno’s & Pat’s Cheese steaks in Philadelphia, it’s a preference, we just happen to prefer a finer dice. Enter Al’s #1 Italian Beef. Thinly sliced, double dipped, hot Giardiniera on Italian loaf. They are our current favorite.  https://www.yelp.com/biz/mr-beef-chicago-5

Italian Beef's It's a Beautiful Thing @ Mr. Beefs, Chicago, Illinois

I’ll pay you one day, for an Italian Beef today.

We’ll Take Two

We get to Al’s #1 Italian Beef & order two Italian Beefs, throw in an order of fries and son of a bitch, they don’t have beer. Um, root beer, I guess? Textbook as always, fatty, juicy, deliciousness with a bold acidic spicy kick, all that fat needs texture & acidity, fortunately Giardiniera makes its grand entrance. Crunchy bits of celery, carrots & hot peppers. This brings a textural & acidic balance to the sandwich equation. I would be surprised if there’s a better Italian Beef than those at Al’s #1 Italian Beef. https://www.alsbeef.com/

The fries on the other hand… They’re house made and they’re fairly good, but they don’t double fry. Erroneously they believe crispy fries are the result of food processing, when it’s actually technique. The result of frying twice is a crispy exterior with a pillow of potato on the inside. Al’s #1 Italian Beef’s fries are amateur, like a Five Guys, a step in the right direction, but ultimately a fry fail. Al’s #1 Italian Beef’s fries are slightly greasy and limp, but they’re still better than the fries across the street, but that’s a different post.

Gravy up that sandwich boy @ Al's #1 Italian Beef, Chicago, Illinois

This dip is a ladle.

We’ll take it. A slightly substandard fry is a small price to pay for the unctuous, fattiness that is an Italian Beef sandwich. Our only real beef with Al’s #1 Italian Beef is those puritanical bastards don’t serve booze. Nary a pint of beer or glass of wine in sight, which leaves you in the uncomfortable position of consuming a soda (pronounced Pop in Chicago) with a sandwich that cries for a beer accompaniment. But their ubiquitous Italian Beef sandwiches more than make up for a couple of slight shortcomings.

Italian Beef @ Al's #1 Italian Beef, Chicago, Illinois

Al’s #1 Italian Beef, juicy.

A Better Beef?

The next day, a local told us that there’s a joint serving even better Italian Beef’s than Al’s #1 Italian Beef. And it’s right across the street. Spoiler alert they serve beer… But that dear reader’s is different post.

Coming soon we’re still wearing our Italian Beef hats in shytown as we check out Portillo’s hot dogs. As distressing as it is to eat anywhere that has the word hot dog in the name, word is, there’s an even better Italian Beef there. Secondly they serve beer. But first we take a foray into the Billy Goat Tavern… We’ll see you there.

The Pot & Pan Handlers are escaped restaurant émigrés & food porn fluffers. The result of which is the hardest food in the industry. Armed with a rusty spatula, they’re on Quixotic mission to find edible food in a neighborhood near you. Preferably in a windmill, we’re looking at you Simon Pierce.

Banksy Art precedes the opulent cookie, Kinston, NC

Made up corporate sponsor: Cancelled.

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Elwood’s: Miami’s answer to British pub’s

Elwood's Miami, FL

Elwood’s Kitschy English Pub.

Elwood Miami’s answer to a British pub

Welcome back delusional readers to the Pot and Pan Handler’s fake news edition Elwood. Today we’re visiting the heart of the city that cocaine built, looking for a Cubano, we get sidetracked twice, & find ourselves in Elwood’s listening to stirred excrement from a dude who is more mustache than man. Then we retreat from nature & seek shelter in cured meats. Like most stories worth telling we’ll start where good stories start… at the beginning.

Hasta Havana   

After a couple hours of rocketing through the air in a cigar tube filled with people whom it would seem are all dying of a terminal coughing disease we land in Miami. There’s one thing on my mind, El Cubanos, the grand poohbah of regional sandwiches. The Cubano is Miami’s answer to Chicago’s Italian Beef or Philly’s Cheese Steak.  Picture this; roasted pork loin & or shoulder, ham, Swiss cheese, tart pickles & mustard all griddled on airy Cuban bread. Yeah, right, it is perfect. After we check in we’ll pick one up at my favorite little Cuban joint the Havana coffee & Tea Company.

The Havana Coffee & Tea Company is closed. Our minds are having a hard time wrapping around the fact that something we traveled 800 miles for is unavailable. Having no plan b we wander aimlessly until something interesting presents itself as the 30th rule of travel states. Once you’ve been reduced to doing nothing, you’re now in proper travel form as the pedestrian ritual of ordering a pint has now become something to do. When traveling it’s always good to have goals, luckily a kitschy English style pub rests right here on the corner. We pass the union Jack and head into the Elwood Pub.

Elwood's Miami, FL

Elwood’s; English Pub with a side of disco.

Is that a molestache or is there a snake on your face?

Inside the Elwood it’s suitably dark as per the rules of English Pubs the world over, thus making it easier to shove all the dirt & dust into unseen corners. It’s the English Pub’s way. The walls are adorned with the kind of stuff Americans think Brits would hang on the walls. For some unknown reason there’s a disco ball in Elwood’s, like a standing invitation to bring disco back. We try not to let that bother us.

Soon out of the gloom a figure looms, my first thought is that this is Slender Man, trying to contain my terror, I wait. When he pours out of the gloom, we see he’s not a terrifying fictional character, just a millennial douchenozzle with a two foot mustache. Greased, manipulated, rubbed with saffron & gold flakes, his molestache reaches a stunning foot away from his face ON EACH SIDE. Ram rod straight until the very end where it flows into a graceful, architectural, stomach churning curl. Dressed at the height of steampunk fashion, he looks like an old timey bartender straight down to the sleeve garters.

Elwood's Bartender, Miami, FL

I am my own best friend.

How do you like your excrement, shaken or stirred?

After acquiring pints for your humble narrators, the bartender noticing we’ve been here for more than 10 minutes and neither of us has tried to booty call an attractive cousin, he’s decided we’re tourists. He asks where we are from and what we’ll be doing in town. We relate our home state & add that though we don’t have solid plans yet, we will be dining at the Federal Miami, at some point.

Contempt is suddenly evident on his face. Don’t believe everything you see on TV he said menacingly.  Incorrectly assuming the reason we were going was because they were on Bravo’s America’s Best New Restaurant the previous year. Truth be told we planned on going there because we’ve been there before & the Federal has those delectable, flaky, buttery biscuits you only find south of the Mason Dixon Line. Plus a delightful duck confit, served in a jar, conveniently called duck in a jar. Yet steampunk molestache, delights in publicly crying foul, declaring that Elwood’s pub however unlikely, has far superior food.

Elwood's Miami, FL

Hold my beer & I’ll hold my nose.

Bar None

We’re up to the challenge. We’ve got a week to eat at the Federal and if this place has food half as good as the bartender alluded to we’ll have an amazing meal indeed. Calling themselves a gastropub, Elwood’s risk offending every other English style pub everywhere. We’re on board. It is easy to assume that an English pub would do a good fish & chips. The menu is small with a sensible amount of bar food, nothing unassuming or fancy, we figure they probably do a good beer battered chicken strip. Secondly what bar can’t do a decent bowl of chili? That question would soon be answered, not this one.

On the 9th ring of hell, sarcastically called Rochester, MN there’s a little bar that does insanely good beer battered chicken strips. These are delightfully breaded crispy, on the outside, light & airy in the interior and juicy chicken that defies the humble name of chicken strips. Elwood’s are the opposite of that. A drab batter reluctantly clings moistly to the flavorless, dry chicken strips. Splattered with a halfhearted neon red splash of tomato sauce that is reminiscent of ketchup that masquerades as a hot sauce.

Elwood's Chicken Strips Miami, FL

Mmmmm spongy.

The chili arrives with little fanfare. We arrange for the arrival of another pint to wash the taste of spongy chicken out of our mouths. Elwood’s answer to chili does not disappoint. After the chicken strips, edible food seems to be a stretch, here at Elwood’s the Gastropub. The chili is a three bean affair, like someone who might’ve heard of chili before, has deemed himself allergic & believes that chili is a dish where you put in every ingredient you don’t know what else to do with and stir. Is that a freakin’ chunk of zucchini in there? Soon we order a pint to wash out the taste of three bean, vegetable orgy in light chili sauce out of our mouths.

Elwood's Chili, Miami, FL

Pass the rutabaga I’m trying to make chili.

Bastille my heart

We settle up & do something we rarely doing right after eating, find a place to eat. Like a dog climbing out of a lake aggressively shaking the water out of its fur. We’ll need to do the mental equivalent to get the taste of Elwood’s bad pub food out of our mouths. A patented Florida rain made our decision for us. Walking by Café Bastille, the sky opens up & torrential down pours commence, chasing us inside the closest shelter.

Rain Outside of Elwood's, Miami, FL

A good rain washes the vomit off the streets.

Cafe Bastille, Miami, FL

Like a beacon in the night.

Café Bastille is everything that Elwood’s is not. Instead of dark & dinghy, it’s modern, linear & bright with the requisite amount of trendy industrial glass & steel. We’re greeted amicably by a waiter, gracious that the rain brought someone else in and acts as if we are possibly the last people on earth. He presents with a world class wine list, which we ignore & frustrate him to no end by ordering beer.

Cafe Bastille, Miami, FL

World class wine list? Naw, thanks.

Beer @Cafe Bastille, Miami, FL

There’s wisdom in wine? Beer please.

Meats the cure

We choose to order an assiette de charcuterie or assorted cured meats & cheeses, apple compote and toasted baguette. You can never go wrong with French cured meats & cheeses.  An unctuous, fatty Rosette De Lyons is similar to salami. The thinly sliced, prosciutto, salty deliciousness is slightly reminiscent of ham. Pate De’ Maison or Pate of the house is a tasty pate of presumably pork, with a welcome fattiness. Café Bastille’s charcuterie also contained some salty & briny olives, two triangles of a happily fresh milk cheese, rinded, & runny with just a hint of the requisite smell of feet. Sweet compote of tart apple compote rounds out the balance with lightly dressed greens as a palate cleanser. Don’t forget the ubiquitous French baguette as a vehicle for everything else. This meal is perfect.

Cafe Bastille Charcuterie, Miami, FL

Charcuter-than-Elwood’s

Cafe Bastille, Miami, FL

Baguette about it. Tomato’s my jam.

We decide to quit while we’re ahead. Now that the quaint Café Bastille has washed the subpar food of the Elwood out of our mind, everything is perfect. The Miami restaurant scene is a fickle, bitch. There’s good food everywhere. The Elwood learned a Cuban flavored Miami lesson; they’re not open anymore. Nor is the Federal, Café Bastille lives on. So do the Chefs responsible for the Federal, now running Miami’s Cajun/Vietnamese fusion spot Phuc Yea. Included for your ignoring pleasure; http://cafebastilledowntown.com/ here’s a link. And another… http://www.phucyea.com/

Coming soon; we’re back in the Windy City, & we’re doing Italian beefs, Chicago dawgs, goats, pigs, Italian pizza, Chicago pizza, carnitas, tacos and a side of Podcast, when we finally cross paths with @theBenRandall from the In the Weeds Podcast. We hope to see you there.

The Pot & Pan Handler are rare restaurant escapees that travel the nation armed only with a rusty spatula in a Quixotic mission to find good eats and tell a story. With varying degrees of success.

Chef Michael Symon

Brought to you by: Chef Symon’s waning masculinity.

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Salt, World History; An our books are cooked edition

Salt A World History by Mark Kurlansky

Take it with a grain of salt.

Salt A World History

Welcome back food minded readers to the Pot and Pan Handler’s malevolent blog edition Salt. Today we’re discussing two things near & dear to our hearts, reading & salt. Sure salt’s a mineral, a rock, a preservative and necessary for life, but it’s also much more. Salt has started & ended wars, sparked broad social change and changed lives for better & worse throughout history. Mark Kurlansky, took the subject of salt on and the result is a fascinating read, Salt A World History. https://www.amazon.com/Salt-World-History-Mark-Kurlansky/dp/0142001619

Did you know that Buffalo, New York is located where it is because of salt? Or that the creator of Tabasco once made millions selling salt to the Confederacy? Are you aware that Soy sauce is only created by hand in one place and it sure the fuck isn’t in the United States?  Have you ever heard that Clarence Birdseye started their frozen food empire by fast freezing cod? Then, like a Wall Street shark, Mr Birdseye sold the company just before the stock crash of 1929? If you find any of these colloquial facts interesting than you’ll enjoy Mark Kurlansky’s book; Salt A World History.

Look I know that insert noun here A World History as a title comes across as a little overwhelming. However Mr. Kurlansky keeps it interesting delving into a subject & quickly moving on. This blitzkrieg style of writing leads to a quick read. Salt A World History almost comes across as a novel, the novel of salt. Filled with interesting factoids this book keeps moving from a to z. But manages to never comes across as a text book of dates that need memorizing.

460 pages takes you on a 5,000 year salt pilgrimage through  China, India, Egypt, Japan, Morocco, Israel, Africa, Italy, Spain, Germany, Austria, England, Scandinavia, France and the United States. Salt a World History takes us on a rock fueled wandering highlighting the relationship & drama that this mineral has contributed to humanity throughout history and it’s a salty ride.

A little bit disjointed as the timeline is not as fixed as a perfectly horizontal insert date here timeline you’d find on a high school marker board. Rather it jumps from culture to culture, covering a culture until its demise or until said culture takes a step back from the salt fueled history covered in this book. This is easily countered by putting Salt down, observe real life for a minute, until it gets too real. Then, reopen Salt vigorously refreshed and ready for a dose of historical context.

Historical context it should be noted, should always be paired with a Reisling as that will provide clarity.

Coming soon; we finish up in Miami when we find shelter in cured meats, then with all the grace we can muster, we skip to shytown. There we’re privy to Italian beef’s, Italian Dawgs, Pigs, Goats, Tacos, Carnitas and a heaping side of podcast, when we meet @theBenRandall of the In the Weeds Podcast, we’ll see you there.

Guy Fieri

Totally Made Up Corporate Sponsor… Guy Fieri: “I’m a douchenozzle.”

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Camila’s Restaurante Brasileiro

Camila's Miami, Florida

Camila’s Got Portuguese?

Camila’s

Welcome back deficient readers (sound it out little buddy, you’re doing great) to a Camila’s edition of the Pot & Pan Handler’s illiterate blog. Today we explore the ravenous nature of the restaurant scene in the city that cocaine built, meet a dude who is qualified to run with scissors, discover a hot sauce so indelible I want to buy it by the quart. Lastly we’ll see that my tenuous grasp on Portuguese has no grasp indeed. Join us on our foray into frivolity, edition; Camila’s.

American Dream… cancelled

The unforgiving yellow orb shimmers in the piercing blue sky of Miami. The putrid heat is palpable radiating uncomfortably from all the pavement downtown has to offer. The dining options are not as static here as one might hope. The little Cuban restaurant that could, the Havana Coffee & Tea Company, turns out they couldn’t. Despite their delicious Cuban sandwiches, house made bread & wickedly strong Cuban coffees they are now closed. http://potandpanhandler.com/havana-coffee-tea-company-a-perfect-sandwich/

The French joint where I’ve had a salad before, Downtown Bistro is closed on the weekends. By all popular media channels, I’ve garnered that it’s Saturday thank God for smart phones. http://potandpanhandler.com/blue-shoes-a-french-horn-in-a-cuban-band-miamis-downtown-bistro-2-10-16/

Walking around glancing in the windows of closed restaurants is overrated. I’m fluid. I walk into the next restaurant I see and immediately wished that I hadn’t. Camila’s, once inside I see this is a buffet situation. Glaringly red & white a linear product of mass marketing, antiseptic, Camila’s inside reminds me of a Target. Or like Target & a Brazilian Golden Corral had a love child they named Purell.

Camila's Chicken Rotisserie Miami, Florida

Camila’s Rotisserie, what are ya’ chicken?

Once inside, I’m powerless to avoid the cattle like trance one encounters when herded so efficiently. An unforeseen consequence of the nationwide prevalence of the TSA, suddenly it’s time to order. The electric hum of a chicken rotisserie breaks my trance and I order a ¼ chicken, side salad, black beans and a coffee. I hope the coffee is the same wicked strong Cuban coffee one can’t find outside of Miami, but this place is clearly Brazilian. Where else, outside of Brazilian joints do you see the cut of steak called picanha?

Camila's Water, Miami, Florida

Styrofoam. Camila’s didn’t get the PC memo.

Portuguese… the new Spanish?

The server’s grasp on English is tenuous. My grasp on Portuguese is nonexistent. These facts have made this harder than expected. A bonus point, the coffee is the aforementioned wicked strong and bitterly delicious Cuban coffee not found outside of Miami and presumably Cuba. I order a bottle of water (suck it hippies) the whole point is to have some agua I can take with me back out into the Miami heat. However, bottle of water seems to mean dilapidated Styrofoam cup (suck it again hippies) in Portuguese. Who would’ve thunk?  The server is curt. She deftly drops a utilitarian tray of food in front of me & promptly disappears.

Camila's Cuban coffee, Miami, Florida

Camila’s deliciously bitter, Cuban coffee. YES!

Left to my own devices my attention is now on three sauce bottles on the table. Let us refer to my meticulously curated Comey-esque journal notes concerning these sauces.

#1 Aioli, lemony.

#2 acidic, lemony, avocado aioli.

#3 Red, spicy, elixir of the Gods.

After a sample of all three I judiciously covered my entire platter with the red hot sauce. Chicken, black beans & even the salad get doused in this delightfully spicy concoction. I can only imagine the decades spent perfecting this sauce. I personally want to thank the Brazilian Grandma in the back for allowing me into the family and sharing this obvious family secret recipe sauce with me.

Camila's Chicken Miami, Florida

Chicken, salad, bean there, done that.

The chicken is juicy with the requisite crispy rotisserie chicken skin. Seasoned well and then liberally doused in the tangy & spicy family recipe hot sauce. Camila’s black beans are typical, perhaps under seasoned, but that’s what Granny’s hot sauce is for. A liberal mix in and these beans are textbook. The salad was fresh & crispy and showered in the garlicy, tangy hot sauce.

Camila's Chicken, Miami, Florida

Like a Michael Bay flick, we’ll confuse you with multiple angles.

Runnin’ with scissors

My coffee is gone and I’m in awe. As a restaurant refugee, I’m no stranger to breaking down a chicken. But I’ve never seen it done like this. The chicken rotisserie at Camila’s is open and the line cook is breaking down chickens at a breakneck factory pace, chicken after chicken is deftly and efficiently separated into quarters. No knife in sight he’s doing it all with a pair of tongs and a scissors!?? Like a boss.

Camila's Salad, Miami, Florida

Camila’s well dressed.

I profess my awe to the nimble handed line cook. He turns out to be far more benevolent with his time than the absentee server whom I have yet to have seen again. I have to ask, what’s in the sauce? He doesn’t know it must be a secret only known to Grandma. He asks the manager, the manager says he doesn’t know either. This is becoming intriguing. The line cook takes a break from punctuating our conversation by quartering chickens and goes in back. In a couple of minutes he’s back with a sticker. It reads;

Hot Sauce

Products & More, Inc.

6522 W. Atlantic Blvd.

Margate FL 33063…

So it turns out that Grandma’s family recipe sauce is a premade in the factory, prepackaged and delivered food service jug of hot sauce. The mystery thickens, so do my arteries if I keep eating this sauce. I can’t stop. I squirt some more onto the beans.

Camila's Black Beans, Miami, Florida

We already told you, bean there, done that.

Camila's running with scissors, Miami, Florida

Camila’s scissoring, it’s getting hot in here.

You can’t stop chang

The empty coffee cup mocks me. Suddenly I hear, you neat chang? The question jerks me out of my hot sauce induced reverie. What does that mean? Oh, do I need change, I get it. Yes I will. Purell aesthetics aside, this meal was less than $20 a rare find in the city that cocaine built. I only have a $50 dollar bill. I reply yes please I’ll need some change and for good measure I also add si, por favor.

Suddenly the permanent scowl is replaced with elation. Tank you, she smiles a beaming smile that creeps up into her eyes. I wonder what is going on. She immediately went about deliberately ignoring my imploring body language. Quickly running around she’s completing side work, I’m starting to think I’ll never get more coffee. Even more I’m starting to think she’s not going to bring back any change. Where did she go anyway?

Eventually I stop the manager, I enjoyed the meal, but it was not worth a $35 dollar tip for a $15 dollar lunch. The manager eventually finds and questions the server. In Portuguese, she explains that I’m a shrill, pale tourist and as such I don’t deserve my own money. The manager empathizes, but eventually recovers and hands me the change, emphatically stating that a mistake had been made, and it’s most likely my fault. A mistake? Do you need change? Yes please. No change for you… How is that a mistake? I toss a few $1 bills on the table and give the benevolent line cook a $5. That might’ve been a mistake. I’m not sure, I don’t speak Portuguese.

Camila’s is a bargain. If you are in the neighborhood and just need a cheap, utilitarian lunch, this is one of the few places to go downtown. Do yourself a favor, learn Portuguese and try Grandma Factory’s hot sauce.  http://camilasrestaurant.com/  here’s a Camila’s link for your ignoring pleasure.

Coming soon; a 3 foot waxed mustache stirs excrement into the Miami dining scene in an English Pub. We’ll also provide a glimpse into the brutally fickle nature of Miami food trends. Then a predictably climactic tropical storm chases us into the romantic and comforting arms of charcuterie. Cured pork is there nothing you can’t do? Same Bat time, same Bat channel, malevolent readers, until then may the odds be ever in your flavor. – Pot & Pan Handler

The Pot and Pan Handler are maniacal escaped restaurant refugees and food porn fluffers. We travel the nation wielding a rusty spatula in search of a burger that needs flipping.  While we travel we’re bringing you with us, because who doesn’t enjoy the story of a burger that needs flipping for some reason.

Homer, we’re out of vodka. – Ron Howard

Chef Mario Batali

Totally made up corporate sponsor… Mario Batali: I’m an asshat.

 

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Quality Meats, Menage A Trois

Quality Meats, Miami, Florida.

Quality Meats, steakhouse or male prostitution?

Quality Meats, Menage A Trois

Welcome back enthusiastic readers to the Quality Meats regurgitation that is our blog. In today’s edition we swim the streets of superficiality wearing nothing but a fake tan in South Beach, Miami. Until, that is, we found Quality Meats inside the Bancroft Hotel. When in Rome? Exactly. Another quintessentially overpriced steak house in the city that cocaine built, how could we say no? We read the grill menu outside and liked what we saw so inside we went, join us stalwart readers, for our foray into the place where Quality Meats, South Beach. http://www.qualitymeatsmiami.com/home.cfm

Quality Meats @ the Bancroft, Miami, Florida.

If the cars in the parking lot are an indicator, we can’t afford it.

If the menu is good enough to grill, it’s good enough for me.

We stepped inside the fairly brightly lit interior at least, brightly lit for a steakhouse. Modern & linear, the kind of place where people with fake breasts sit comfortably in their own mock tanned skin and judge you. Moments later we’re seated at the bar where polite societal norms demand we acquire beer. Mission accomplished. Having adhered to polite societal convention we began to peruse the menu. We can’t help but notice that this menu differs from the menu board outside. Whatever, surf & turf bitches, scallops and steak 3 ways, shut up & take my money.

Quality Eats Amuse Bouche, Miami, Florida.

Quality Meats amuses us, they’re salty.

Amusement

Before we even order an amuse bouche is presented to us in proper modern restaurant fashion on a slab of wood. Plates are soooo last century. Bright pink water melon cubes accompanied by smoked sea salt. Slightly sweet, slightly salty and a refreshing treat on a hot Miami evening. Quality meats are off to a great start. It’s nice to meat them.

While we’re still contemplating the amuse, we’re offered garlic butter dinner rolls. Quality meats nail this one too, this is the singlehanded best bread course, we’ve ever had anywhere, ever. So buttery, and garlicy, sweet and pillow soft, we’re taking the leftovers with us.

Quality Meats bread rolls, Miami, Florida.

Buns like these don’t require squats.

A couple sidles up to the bar and are handed “the grill” menu as the bartender adds, this menu will save you a little money. We recognize this Quality Eats menu as the one we saw outside. I don’t know what there was about us that made us look like we didn’t want to save money, but here we were. I suppose we looked like we wanted to eat at an overpriced Miami steakhouse and he was understandingly optimizing the experience. We should send him a fruit basket and thank him.

Quality Meats, seared scallops, Miami, Florida.

Bacon, seafood, corn, did I mention bacon?

Seafood? Eat it

The amuse bouche and the bread course have done their job magnificently.  Slightly whetting our appetite, we’re ready for more. Seafood came scalloping to the rescue. Artfully prepared, the scallop has the traditional hint of crispy exterior, barely containing the buttery texture of the seafood insides. Served on a sweet creamed corn, with ramps and bacon, because duh, pass the bacon I’m trying to eat seafood over here.  Buttery, savory, sweet & bacon, all tastes are presented in this stellar dish.

Quality Meats now has me speaking in tongues. As I aim the camera, to take a barely legible, out of focus picture of these scallops, the bartender scowls. I feel like I’ve been caught doing something wrong. His voice drips with disdain, “It makes me nervous, when people take pictures of their food.” Before I can explain that we’re not yelpers and as such are perfectly sane and of sound mind, he disappears with one last scowl in our direction. This does not bode well.

Cholester-Y’all

I once read that scallops contain a great deal of cholesterol. If we ordered a Farmer’s salad that would offset any cholesterol snafus set for ourselves from that last course wouldn’t it? But hold on. I’ve also read that drinking alcohol on a plane is bad for you. That obvious quackery has to be denounced as a malicious lie immediately and fundamentally. Thus proving not everything one reads is a proven fact, but some things are. It’s exhausting trying to decipher truths from untruths, better get the salad.

Quality Meats brings a Farmer’s salad, to help us with our general health. I don’t know which farmer’s salad they brought but at $13, we should cut out the middleman and go straight to the source. Crispy, green iceberg lettuce, crunchy carrot strips, a hint of pickled onion and garlicy crouton, dressed lightly in tangy vinaigrette. Nicely done this salad will certainly add years to our lives after side kicking the neck of cholesterol. A farmer somewhere nearby tents his fingers and laughs evilly as he lines his pockets with hard earned tourist cash.

Quality Meats, Farmer's Salad, Miami, Florida.

Bwah ha ha ha hahaha.

Menage A Trois

Finally that part of the report you’ve been looking for patient readers, the meat of it. One look at the description of this dish and I thought two things. 1. I bet the line cook’s hate making that. 2. I am totally ordering that. The menu simply read: Seared three filets Oscar, Au Poivre, and Wellington. Yes, you read that right. One steak with crab, one pepper crusted & one topped with mushroom & puff pastry… all on the same plate. Why don’t you try and stop me Quality Meats. They didn’t try and stop me.

Quality Meats, Steak 3 Ways, Miami, Florida.

There’s a lot at steak with this dish.

Where has three steaks on one plate been all my life?  The steak Oscar sits atop buttery crab and green beans a perfect medium rare; it is cloaked in a tangy béarnaise sauce. The crab is suitably soft and buttery, the blanched green bean are just shy of crispy. The steak’s sear is exceptional, crusty seared steak goodness on the outside, a perfectly soft, red interior, it tastes like all steaks should taste + seafood= color us happy.

Steak Au Poivre is lightly pepper crusted with the same textbook sear as Oscar. Drizzled with lightly spicy pepper gravy, that brings a light kick to the taste equation. Garnished with onion strings the steak Au Poivre is a slightly peppery, artfully prepared, Miami interpretation of the French classic.

Wellington, the very name evokes the desire to celebrate every Englishman’s dream of decimating the French navy while belittling a short Italian guy in funny French pants. This savory expertly cooked filet from Quality Meats is topped with a flavorful and aromatic mushroom duxelle. Resting atop the mushroom is a glorious ode to Lincoln a proud, stovepipe hat of puff pastry. When you bite all three together it’s a worthy symphony of flavor. The salty crispy exterior of the steak is welcome alongside the buttery, chewy, interior. This contrasting texture dances nicely with the earthy, pungent, mushrooms.  And who could forget the tawdry & promiscuous light breadiness of the puff pastry? Exceptional.

Jean Valjean

While we’re contemplating the steak and the absurdity of capital gains taxes, the bartender makes his move, and stealthily snatches the leftover garlic, butter, bread rolls & walks off. Did that lil’ Jean Valjean just steal the remainder of our bread? Yes, he had. Soon he came back from wherever shifty eyed, camera shy, bread thieves go when they’re not tending the bar. We mentioned the misbegotten bread at which point the light bulb went off in his head… I got you his facial expression said. By accident, we had just confirmed his suspicions. We are not rich. His bartender calculator did the math. White trash + Free Bread= Bigger tip. Consumer Math 101. We’re not above bread bribery, especially for this bread.

Quality Meats bread rolls, Miami, Florida.

Remember me? Please take me home with you.

You know the old saying all steak & no sides make Homer go crazy? That shit makes me crazy too. Creamed Spinach, because we’re in a steak house and spinach is wicked good for you. Especially, when it’s poached lightly in gobs of cream & cheese, then it is especially healthy. It’s totally true, I asked someone who’s in Cross Fit. Creamy, a hint of salt, and what is that, possibly nutmeg? Served in a deliciously eggy Yorkshire pudding bowl, by the second bite any doubt that this is the least healthy thing you’ve eaten all week will be removed. But all the fucks you give will also dissipate after eating two bites of this creamy, salty, delicious, spinachy goodness.

Quality Meats, Yorkshire creamed spinach, Miami, Florida.

Creamed health food.

The End

Would we go back? Yeah, we’d go back, the bartender was a little snarky, but the food was great, we still tipped well. It’s not his fault, Miami is just one of those cities, like DC, Atlanta or anywhere Italians are where our finest clothing pale in comparison to the shimmering fabrics found on the locals. Quality Meats is, at least for us, a special occasion joint as the prices are quite steep even for Miami.

Coming soon, I watch a dude who is clearly qualified for running with a scissors and I find myself in a comprising position. Not only that, but putting my Portuguese to the test ends in failure at Camila’s, we hope to see you there. Until then may the odds be ever in your flavor. – Pot & Pan Handler.

The Pot and Pan Handler are 100% organic, free range, all natural, nomadic restaurant émigrés with an inexplicable food obsession and frequent contributors to the delinquency of diners.

Chef Wolfgang Puck

Made up corporate sponsor Wolfgang Puck: “I endorze zis produkt & or zervice.”

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Second Annual Fan Poll for the Hardest Working Entity in Food Porn

Chef Michael Symon

Don’t look at me.

Second Annual Fan Poll for the Hardest Working Entity in Food Porn

A Poll only a stripper would love

Welcome back funky readers, to the Pot & Pan Handler’s hedonistic blog. Today you’ll be privy to our fan poll we asked, you voted, for the Second Annual Fan Poll for the Hardest Working Entity in Food Porn. Seriously we didn’t make any of this up, except of course we did. There were some pretty big upsets this year, read on to see if your favorite food porn entity made it back. There’s a reason listicle rhymes with testicle, but here’s one worthy of reading; our Second Annual Fan Poll for the Hardest Working Entity in Food Porn.

Ree Drummond & her mumu

My other shirt’s a curtain.

#10 Ree Drummond’s Mumu

Anybody who has watched Ree Drummond’s Pioneer Woman knows Mrs. Drummond has a different mumu for every day of the week, possibly she’s prepared for several mumu changes a day. Although the mumu dropped from #1 last year to the 10 spot this year there is no denying that those mumus work hard. From masking, to cloaking, draping and hiding, that’s a lot of responsibility for one article of clothing and viewers appreciate the effort.

Alton Brown

Fresh Ground Pecker?

#9 Alton Brown’s Social Media Avoidance

Last year Alton Brown’s Post-It Notes and Sharpie markers, made the #2 spot. This year the writing implements fell off the list entirely. Fear not Alton Brown fans because his willful avoidance of you has been duly noted. Whether he’s attacking Delta Airlines, or hawking an upcoming bullshit reality show on Food TV or even imploring you to buy a book, he won’t acknowledge you. Facebook or Twitter, Reddit, or Instagram, Mr. Brown would rather paper cut himself to death on his own Post-It Notes in a suicidal act of avoidance than acknowledge your internet existence. No matter how many books you’ve bought. Alton Brown is better than you and he knows it. Congratulations Mr. Brown, you once again avoid obscurity in the Second Annual Fan Poll for the Hardest Working Entity in Food Porn.

Chef Aaron Sanchez

It totally inks in here.

#8 Aaron Sanchez’s Tattoo Artist

Whether he’s a guest on Masterchef or trying to sell you queso fresco, fans all know, Mr. Sanchez has more ink than an ink jet. In an effort to separate himself from the inkless generation X’ers like Bobby Flay, Aaron Sanchez is inked like a millennial bartender in a restaurant with no signage. Mr. Sanchez has cast off the old guard chefs and flew a flag to millennials that states; I get you millennials. Soon the old shouting chefs of the past will be replaced with the new generation. We’re looking at you, Mr. Ramsey. However Mr. Sanchez will still be there, dressed in lumberjack chic, stroking a newly sprouted hipster beard and flexing flabby tattooed chef muscles. Millennials the world over appreciate the nod and have voted accordingly. Thanks to you tattoo artist, Mr. Sanchez will be around for another generation.

Chef Wolfgang Puck

I haf many panz to zell.

#7 Wolfgang Puck’s Accent

Ziz iz amazink, Volfgang Puck moved to ze united ztatez een 1973 and quickly became one of ze firzt zelebrity chefz een America. Alongzide Alize Vaterz, Volfgang put American cuizine on ze culinary map. Yet, ze fanz know, it wouldn’t have been pozzible wizout zat adorable Auztrian accent. It vould zeem that lozing your ackzent, eez az hard as gettink a table at Zpago, For zis, Volfy, ve zank you.

Giada DeLaurentiis

I will eat your freakin’ face homie.

#6 Giada De Laurentiis’ Neck

Like bobble head night at the minor league ball park, Giada’s head bobs and weaves to the beat of an unseen conductor. Not only does that petite neck hold up her gigantic head and a city’s abundance of hair, it also supports her shark like mouth. Modern science has been unable to count them, but made up scientists have stated that Ms. De Laurentiis, like a tiger shark has between 5 and 15 rows of teeth on each jaw. Keep up the hard work Ms. De Laurentiis’ neck, because we’d all miss the hypnotic yaw and pitch of that colossal face.

Guy Fieri

DDD Watch my health department violations.

#5 Guy Fieri’s Hair Gel

Once again in our Second Annual Fan Poll for the Hardest Working Entity in Food Porn, Guy Fieri’s hair gel made the cut. Like a pride parade, Mr. Fieri’s hair stands tall and proud, it’s here, it’s queer and we’re used to it. Not only does his gargantuan head of hair stand tall, it stands tall with a purpose. Much like his recently shuttered 0 star rated restaurant in NYC, we all know it’s there, but no one understands it. When asked how it does it, Mr. Fieri’s hair gel replied, “Piss off, I’m busy.” We appreciate the effort hair gel.

Chef Tom Collichio

Kojak was an amateur.

#4 Tom Collichio’s Razor

As bald as a baby’s bottom, Mr. Collichio’s head remains as clean as a sufferer of Alopecia areata. Suck it Mr. Clean, you have a full head of dirty hippy hair compared to Chef Collichio’s clean shaven dome. A stunning upset, as Mr. Collichio’s Razor, has replaced Sunny Anderson’s desire to kill her audience with recipes like Beefy, Cheesy, Slider Casserole in the #4 spot. We all appreciate the consistency chef, especially the shower drain.

Chef Vivian Howard Deep Run Roots

Don’t make me kale you.

#3 Chef Vivian Howard’s Titanic Book

Not only did Chef Howard beat the odds by opening an uber successful destination restaurant in a destination no one ever heard of, she also wrote an award winning book.  Deep Run Roots; is a massive tome full of terrifying regional southern ingredients, like butterbeans. This volume comes in at 1/3 as long as War & Peace. That means Deep Run Roots is easily large enough to use as a battering ram to break out of a Turkish Prison (much to the relief of imprisoned Turks). But Tolstoy never included a recipe for Corn and Snap Bean Succotash.

Chef Mario Batali

Her ass was this big, smell my finger.

#2 Mario Batali’s Gross Sexual Improprieties

Work for Mario Batali? You’re going to get touched. Like sex with Kevin Spacey, kicking and screaming, like it, or not, it is going to happen. http://www.foxnews.com/food-drink/2017/12/14/mario-batali-cut-from-abcs-chew.html   A stunning comeback as Mr. Batali’s Gross Sexual Improprieties didn’t even make the list in the First Annual Fan Poll for the Hardest Working Entity in Food Porn. Who would’ve thunk that a millionaire chef with a literal food empire, who steals his tipped employee’s wages would have a questionable moral compass. https://ny.eater.com/2017/11/29/16716398/mario-batali-wage-lawsuit-babbo-nyc

Chef Michael Symon

Masculinity can be toxic, ask Mario B.

#1 Michael Symon’s Waning Masculinity

Finally your patience will be rewarded, enduring readers. The #1 spot in our Second Annual Fan Poll for the Hardest Working Entity in Food Porn goes to… Michael Symon’s waning masculinity, as one of the co-hosts of ABC’s estrogen fueled The Chew his testosterone levels have nowhere to go but down. The Chew is an estrogen driven orgy of recipes, crafts and tablescapes, not intended for the masculine. Now thanks to co-host Mario Batali’s gross sexual improprieties, Mr. Batali has been asked to exit stage right. This exit has left a testosterone vacuum in his place. This has resulted in the removal of the last vestiges of masculinity that Michael Symon might have once had. Congratulations Mr. Symon, you’ve earned the #1 spot in our Second Annual Fan Poll for the Hardest Working Entity in Food Porn.

Coming soon: we swim a sea of superficiality in the beach town of Miami, where we eat meats of quality, until then you be you & we’ll be we. May the odds be ever in your flavor. – Pot & Pan Handler

potandpanhandler.com graffiti

We used to live in a subway.

The Pot & Pan Handler are spatula wielding, escaped restaurant émigrés, food porn fluffers and professional stirrers of excrement. We’re scouring the States, for edible food, so you don’t have to. You can find us online or in a restaurant bar somewhere near you.

Orange Juice

Obligatory OJ Endorsement.

 

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Rural, urban Saxapahaw the Eddy Pub

Ramen at the Eddy Pub, Saxapahaw, NC

Eddy Pub Rockin’ Ramen.

Welcome back indifferent readers to the Pot & Pan Handlers deviant blog edition Eddy Pub. A stone’s throw from Chapel Hill NC you’ll find Saxapahaw, NC. Oops did you blink? Then you missed it. Take the u-turn and you’ll see it… Saxapahaw, NC. The entirety of Saxapahaw is almost entirely located in one central building. A trendy revamped giant warehouse, that probably at one point housed & dried tobacco or something equally outdated. Now it’s a dream of successful marketing, reclaimed woods & metals, a clean linear ultramodern hipster utopia.

Eddy Pub, Saxapahaw, NC

Here thar be hipsters.

Repurposing repurposed

Contained within this Northern exposure is a General Store, serving farm to table foods, a butcher that receives their meats from neighboring farms. Not to be outdone, of course there is also a hipster coffee shop; your beard must be this long to apply. Live music venue? Duh. Obviously there is a brewery. Also located within the confines of this hipster utopia is our personal favorite the prerequisite Pub. Eloquently named the Eddy Pub, they have a seasonally changing menu. Fittingly this offers you the opportunity to adhere to the seventh rule of travel which states; never eat at a restaurant with a laminated menu. http://theeddypub.com/

Eddy Pub Menu, Saxapahaw, NC

Tapa the day to ya.

This ambitious seasonality lends itself to an eclectic array of changing good eats. We’ve never had the same thing twice. Even if we wanted to it would be difficult as the Eddy Pub menu changes frequently. Parking is somewhat iffy as every hipster in the otherwise rural county literally has nowhere else to go. Once parking’s found, go up the stairs they probably manufactured from a larger set of stairs. Once inside, take in the Eddy Pub ultra-hipster ambience, including repurposed beer bottles as light shades. Go green bitches, reduce, reuse, and recycle. They probably recycle used grease to use as biofuel to power a converted VW hippy bus with the unrealistic expectation of one day walking across the Bering Strait. #Goals

Eddy Pub, Recycles, Saxapahaw, NC

Ol’ four eye Eddy has glasses.

Don’t forget your beard

On one occasion, predictably in my tightest hipster jeans, I’ve ordered a Black bean, chipotle soup. Of course containing bacon it’s garnished with a dollop of sour cream and fried tortilla strips. Smooth and slightly spicy, the drab chipotle brown soup is relieved to be topped with a splash of white sour cream. The sour cream brings a bright fermented acidity to the earthy soup and the tortilla strips bring a textural counterpoint to keep it interesting. Oh yeah and the bacon tastes like, well… um, bacon. How superlative do you need it? Isn’t bacon good enough?

Eddy Pub Chipotle Soup, Saxapahaw, NC

Black beans matter.

As I was still comfortable in my tightest pants, we followed that up with Pig Head Fritters. The Eddy Pub nails this one. The golden brown fried nuggets of porky goodness taste like the very essence of fried pig and contain everything but the oink. The Eddy Pub serves these with a healthy portion of Lusty Monk Mustard that brings an acidic counter punch to the unctuous fritters. And the obligatory North Carolina coleslaw that sings soprano with a crisp cabbage crunch swimming in restaurant grade mayonnaise.  All together Pig Head Fritters are a composed and thoughtful dish that pleases the palate and the plate. With two pints of beer in the form of desert, it’s time to change my pants.

Eddy Pub pigs head fritters, Saxapahaw, NC

Can you pig it?

Rocking ramen

With Ramen dishes finally shedding the stereotype of college dorm food and Ramen joints popping up all over the landscape, the Eddy Pub got on board. Ramen noodles, pickled cabbage, pig belly, and soft a soft boiled egg all floating in a rich, velvety bone broth. Perfect. The bone broth is elegantly soft, almost buttery with just a pinch of salt and could that be ginger?

Eddy Pub, ramen, Saxapahaw, NC

Still rockin’ ramen, eggcellently.

The noodles are pleasantly done, softened in the broth and soaking up the concentrate of bone broth. Meanwhile the crispy pickled cabbage brings the necessary acid component. Thin strips of carrot offers crunch. And the perfectly unctuous pork belly brings the fat and porky texture of artfully prepared belly. Textbook, the belly is seared and crispy on the outside, a pillow of silky meat inside. Once the egg yolk is cracked the broth, thickens and everything becomes married in a gastronomic orgy of flavors and textures that binds the entire dish into one entity.

Cod, are you there? It’s me, Pot Handler

As a recent transplant from the Northeast, we’re suckers for a fried fish. Haddock or cod preferably and the Eddy Pub does cod right. Properly old English style with a beer batter, the carbonation in the beer leads to the patented crispy English preparation. Crispy buoyant batter on the outside, but inside the flaky and fork tender cod disintegrates into tasty bits with the slightest threat of a fork.

Beer Battered Cod, Eddy Pub, Saxapahaw, NC

We swear to cod. It’s tasty.

Once upon a time the stupidest person in the world stated “It’s a great idea to serve fries underneath a pile of fried fish.” Thus ensuring the once crispy fries would steam underneath a dome of fried fish and become squishy sticks of gummy potato. But it’s tradition blah, blah, blah. So was serving them in a newspaper, a tradition that the health department would never allow now. It’s time to move on.

Liberate those crispy fries to a side plate to ensure a life of maximum crunchy exterior. I implore you Eddy Pub to forgo your delusional serving of exploited French fries. Of course the American requisite side of coleslaw to round out your fried foods with a hit of sweet, acidic crunch is well achieved with a purple Eddy Pub slaw. This American tradition has a foundation in culinary technique rather than the baffling English accompaniment of green peas. What the fuck, England?

Again a desert of fermented barley served in a pint glass was exceptionally received. For that and all the reasons above… we thank you Eddy Pub.

Coming soon: we hit up a Durham (Durm, say it like you’re from there) area brewery with tasty results. Spoiler alert; bacon jam. Until then, may the odds be ever in your flavor. –The Pot & Pan Handler

potandpanhandler.com

Pot & Pan Handling since 2015.

The Pot & Pan Handler are escaped restaurant scum, armed with nothing but a torn apron and wielding a battered spatula, we bare the cross of mediocre food like a badge of honor. So you don’t have to. Same bat time & same bat channel eccentric readers, we’re sharing our tips, tricks & travels we’ll see you soon in a restaurant or bar somewhere near you.

Orange Juice

Who got the stupid juice, homie?

A special shout out to the OJ endorsed face melter @burrobot who guest hosted as the Pan Handler for a portion of this post. No affluent suburbanite WASPS were harmed in the crafting of this compelling blog post.

 

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Queen Street Deli… I did it all for the Cookie.

Banksy Art precedes the opulent cookie, Kinston, NC

University of Phoenix online.

Welcome back insatiable readers to the Pot & Pan Handler’s frivolous blog edition: cookie. Come, hither astute readers while your humble narrator weaves a tale of a Franken Cookie. A cookie so opulent it could only spew forth from the insanely deviant mind of a culinary genius or gastronomic mad man. Our narration begins in a city the size of a needle eye; Kinston, North Carolina. While there we had a Saveur worthy dinner at the now famous destination restaurant the Chef & the Farmer. Before we left to poke new notches in our belts we asked the cheerful server if she knew a good spot for lunch the next day. http://potandpanhandler.com/north-carolinas-the-chef-the-farmer-9-6-2017/

Olvera Street Taqueria, Kinston, NC

Nothing says EU like a Scooter, except maybe bankrupt.

She replied with a word that is near & dear to our hearts… Tacos, try Olvera St. Tacos. Banging chicken tacos accompanied by the requisite hipster art supplied by Banksy. The pork tacos on the other hand were bland; I don’t know how you go about making tasteless pork. This faux pas is especially heinous in Eastern NC where you could be tarred & feathered for such a blasphemy. Accompanied by a weird tasting chili, that seemed more like stew, this place was only ½ successful. Others must agree, because they’re no longer open. Back to the streets homie.

Before cookie there was taco, Olvera St Taqueria, Kinston, NC

Yes, we’re that old, shut up.

Banksy Art, Olvera Street Taqueria, Kinston, NC

Nothing says Urban Hipster like Banksy Art.

Chicken Soft Taco Olvera St. Taqueria Kinston, NC

These tacos were banging. What are ya’ chicken?

Pork Soft Taco Olvera St. Taqueria, Kinston, NC

A super villain removed the flavor with a ray gun.

Chili Olvera St. Taqueria, Kinston, NC

Objects in photo may appear tastier than reality.

One last stop before we left, Chef Vivian Howard’s sister’s restaurant, Queen St. Deli. As she is the perennial winner of Kinston’s southern side’s potato salad contest, we wanted to give this spot a shot. A typical southern diner serving up southern foods, breakfast, casseroles, sandwiches and salads, much like the Midwest, the south has a formula for making salad… Take food, add mayo, now it’s a salad. We got potato salad, it’s award winning and tastes like it. Also the requisite southern classic pimento cheese, it’s even better than the potato salad, for one reason & one reason only, cheese. Lots of cheddar cheese. But of course, we tried the cranberry chicken salad. It was good. Yes we cran. http://www.queenstreetdeli.com/

Home of cookie opulence Queen St. Deli, Kinston, NC

Queen Street Deli, not a queen in sight. WTH?

Home of Franken Cookie, Queen St. Deli, Kinston, NC

Here thar be Franken Cookie. “It’s Alive!” “ALIIIIIVE!”

When we were about to pay for our salads I saw it. Hulking over the baked goods like an angry German Furor sizing up Poland, there it lay. It was a peanut butter, chocolate chip, oatmeal cookie. Are you fucking kidding me? That’s gotta be overkill right? That sounds a lot like a Reuben, pizza, spring roll right? All tasty by themselves but mashed together it sounds disgusting. Would this cookie be like that? I considered that a personal challenge and got one peanut butter, chocolate chip, oatmeal cookie.

Opulent Franken Cookie courtesy of Queen St. Deli, Kinston, NC

Peanut Butter, Chocolate Chip, Oatmeal Cookie. Suck it raisins.

BOOM! That was the sound of our brains collectively exploding. One bite turned us into ravenous, cookie monsters. The peanut butter, chocolate chip, oatmeal cookie was delicious. All the best things from everyone’s fave cookies combined into a culinary juggernaut. Yet, the gastronomic genius continues in the form of restraint, the always controversial raisins are left out of this Franken Cookie. Much to the pleasure of raisin haters, all over Kinston, as the old saying goes; haters gonna hate.

This cookie brings the power of a power coupling to the equation. Julius Caesar & Cleopatra, Beyonce & Jay Z, Scully & Mulder, Peanut Butter & Chocolate, are the strongest power couples in history. Who doesn’t like velvety chocolate combined with silky peanut butter? Add oatmeal, now it is health food. Et tu cookie? Our only regret, once again, is it will be a long, long, time until we get to eat another. Next time we’ll get a dozen.

That cookie was so tasty I might just rethink my earlier statement… Maybe a Reuben, pizza, spring roll would taste pretty fucking good.  But not really.

Coming soon: we go back in time, to an old timey diner, called Johnson’s, that’s where we find Claxton Johnson. At Johnson’s they’ve been slanging PRIME beef burgers since way back, before it was cool. So freakin’ good they sell out every day and it’s no surprise as their prices haven’t changed since about 1976. Bicentennial bitches.

The Pot & Pan Handler are food obsessed, restaurant industry escapees, with no tattoos & no hipster beards in sight, it’s hard to believe but true. Simultaneously wielding a weird pub divining rod & a stained spatula, we scour the earth for worthy eats & even more worthy drinks. No raisins were harmed in the posting of this blog. Until next time we’re raisin hell, we’ll see ya there.

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North Carolina’s the Chef & the Farmer

Kinston North Carolina's Chef & the Farmer

the Chef & the Farmer, they promise, what they deliver.

Part Five: the Chef & the Farmer

Welcome back exasperated readers to the continuing chronicles of the Pot and Pan Handler’s devious blog. Part five the Chef & the Farmer, of the five part series: The Wife Beater, a Producer, Chef & the Farmer. A series of events led us to the tiny town of Kinston, NC and a name dropping worthy meal in a celebrity chef’s destination restaurant. We attacked that meal with the surgical precision of Meal Team 6. Our gluttony so remarkable it still floats over the town of Kinston in the form of a gaseous, belching cloud, to this day. Read on, sweet readers, if there’s a better meal in NC we’ve never had it. http://potandpanhandler.com/the-wife-beater-a-producer-the-chef-the-farmer-8-29-2017/

The Town Tobacco Built

Unless you are particularly pork obsessed eastern North Carolina is a dreary drive. Only the pork related billboards remind you that there is anything out here besides failed tobacco farms. Fortunately we are pork obsessed. Eventually we get to the tiny town of Kinston, check in and get to the restaurant just in time for our reservations. http://www.vivianhoward.com/chef-the-farmer/

Kinston, North Carolina's the Chef & the Farmer

the Chef & the Farmer’s marketing states; you’ll be casually comfortable.

The Chef & the Farmer

It’s always weird to go somewhere that you’ve first seen on TV. Like you are appearing in your own episode only you know that your life is filled with mundane societal rituals. Things you don’t see on TV, like teeth brushing, dish washing and looking both ways before cross the streeting.  We step inside and we’re not in North Carolina anymore. Inside, this place is urban hipster. The Chef & the Farmer would be just as comfortable in Miami, Atlanta or London. The requisite amount of reclaimed wood, streamlined stainless steel and ubiquitous open kitchen are all represented.  We were greeted a little bit quicker than immediately, taken to our table and left with menus, our Eastern NC journey was about to begin.

We start with Kinston’s own Mother Earth brewery’s Oatmeal Porter and the house made bread. Dark, moderately heavy and a very approachable porter, it’s a pleasant start. The house bread; sweet potato sourdough, tastes pleasantly yeasty and doesn’t come across as too starchy. The texture is pleasant, part biscuit, part corn bread, slightly sweet and all tasty. Served with a fresh, sweet, rich whipped butter, we’re happy.

the Chef & the Farmer Sweet Potato Sourdough Bread

“Only suckers give away bread for free.” – the Chef & the Farmer

Surfing & Turfing Play That Beet

We followed that with a perennial favorite Beef Carpaccio. Thinly sliced, the well marbled cured beef rests atop a slightly acidic pillow of Lemon Crème Fraiche that helps cut through the unctuous beef. Garnished with sweet seasonal apple cubes and the southern favorite salty boiled peanuts and finished with the nutty punch of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Chef & the Farmer’s take on carpaccio is a perfectly balanced yin-yang. This dish is simultaneously unctuous, acidic, salty, sweet, soft, toothsome and crunchy perfection.  Our only regret is we’ll probably never have it again.

the Chef & the Farmer's Beef Carpaccio, Kinston, NC

We put the car in carpaccio. It’s a long drive.

Alongside the elemental carpaccio’s turf we opted for the predictable surf. Newport Oysters, lovingly smoke kissed with a wood roast. Served on a bed of salt Chef & the Farmer’s oysters are topped with luscious, slightly spicy and nutty tabasco, brown butter sauce. Heroically a slice of bacon rests atop the oyster, a promise of the salty, buttery, briny, spicy, slightly smoky goodness soon to come.

the Chef & the Farmer Oysters, Kinston, North Carolina

In NC even oysters get bacon.

Time to dial it back; unless we want to be rolled out of here, it’s an opportunity to eat our vegetables, which is sure to make our grandmas proud.  On the small plates menu there’s a Chef & the Farmer’s Apple’s, Beets, & Carrots. The sweet beets, tart apples, and earthy carrots are artful. Balanced in taste and to the eye they make a beautiful counterpoint to the pungent blue cheese and crunchy pecans. Garnished with an herbaceous punch of mint, this dish makes absolute sense both to the eye and to the tongue.

the Chef & the Farmer's Beet Salad, Kinston, North Carolina

Carrots and apples, we’ll play that beet.

Entrée at your own risk

Chef & the Farmer give a nod to the Sicilian tradition of serving grilled fish with capers. Vermillion Red Snapper served with smoky roasted cauliflower, crunchy smoked pecan and velvety caper butter. Orange and raisin bring a sweet and acidic, citrus element, served all together once again culinary balance is artfully achieved. The smoky, slightly spicy fish, with pungent capers in buttery sauce with citrus notes and crunchy, salty pecans is perfectly fucking balanced.

the Chef & the Farmer Snapper, Kinston, North Carolina

Oh snap-per! The brown butter caper.

When pressed as to what she would order if posed to choose between two items: short rib or pork chop? Short Rib, the efficient server replied with the comforting certainty of someone who knows she has chosen correctly. We’ll take it.

the Chef & the Farmer Short Ribs, Kinston, North Carolina

“I might be short, but eat me.”- Short Ribs

The short rib is a mountain of delightfully fatty beefiness. The beef is served with an herbaceous, kick, carrot top chimichurri, sweet and earthy roasted carrots and garlicy, cheesy, and crunchy Gruyere soldiers.  (Chef speak for garlic, herb & cheese toast of sourdough.) The bread is a much welcome and useful accompaniment as it helps soak up the swimming pool of unctuous beef juices the dish relaxes in. Savory, fatty, well-seasoned, salty with an herby kick and a juxtaposition of textures with toothy roasted carrots and crispy toast this dish is another win. Chef & the Farmer keep bringing it.

The Trinity

Ingenious, Vivian Howard and Chef and the Farmer have a special on three desserts. Order two desserts, you pay full price. Order three on the other hand and you get a discount. It’s a no brainer, what kind of stupid sucker would pay full price? Stuffed bitches? Not us. We’re primed to eat three desserts. Or kill ourselves in a gluttonous display of shrewd fiscal policies.

the Chef & the Farmer Chocolate Cake, Kinston, North Carolina

Ten Layers of chocoholic.

Dessert number one: Ten Layer Chocolate cake. Because, duh, everyone knows the optimal number of layers on a cake are officially ten. Nine layers would be frugal, sorry and inadequate. Eleven layers would be entitled gluttony. Not excessively sweet, this cake is what all chocolate cakes should aspire to be. The slightly bitter chocolate is sweetened with a caramel icing. Fudge brings a depth of texture and taste with a toffee crunch playing the role of textural dance partner. This cake is a clever and tasty modern take on the dessert classic.

the Chef & the Farmer, Panna Cotta, Kinston, North Carolina

Panna Cotta be kidding me? Ridiculously good.

Dessert number two: Buttermilk Panna Cotta. Light, airy and creamy, slightly acidic, citrusy with grapefruit. Not overpoweringly sweet yet the textural pop of pomegranate seeds add a sweet textural element with just a bit of sour buttermilk tang to remind your mouth to enjoy the sugar. Served with sweet lemon biscotti, the texture of which is softer and much more cake like than any biscotti we’ve had before. These biscotti are lightly sweet with a pleasant hint of citrusy lemon. It’s always refreshing to try homemade versions of factory made, plastic encased, “pastries” found in “coffee shops” throughout the nation.

the Chef & the Farmer Bread Pudding, Kinston, North Carolina

Bread pudding tastes better when not named spotted dick.

Dessert number three: Roasted White Chocolate Bread Pudding. The Chef& the Farmer’s take on bread pudding, is not overly sweet, almost savory. Served with a cranberry coulis that brings a bright sour note that counteracts the sugar while cinnamon pecans bring texture, this bread pudding has balance. Topped with a savory sage ice cream, there’s also a beautifully creamy herbaceous component to this dessert. If all places did desserts as superlative as the Chef & the Farmer’s we’d eat far more of them and there would be a lot more of us to feed. We still look forward to one day going back.

the Chef & the Farmer Birthday Panna Cotta, Kinston, North Carolina

Attention to detail: a birthday candle to remind me of my own mortality.

Let the name Hhhhhmmmmmmmmmmmm Drrrrop.

We’ve had a lot of legit meals in restaurants staffed by celebrity chefs and or owners including Tom Colicchio, Anthony Bourdain, Brian Malarkey, Paula Deen, Mario Batali, Joe Bastianich and Richard Blais. The meal we had at the Chef & the Farmer was as good as, or better than many of these, one of the better meals of our lives. The next morning we dropped some money at Chef Vivian Howard’s sister’s restaurant. Keep it in the family indeed. There we were privy to a southern salad trilogy plus a cookie that defies reason and could only be conceived by a deviant culinary mind. However dear readers, that is a different post.

We’ll see you there omniscient readers, until then may the odds be ever in your flavor. – The Pot & Pan Handler

The Pot & Pan Handler are all organic, cage free, sinister, spatula wielding, nomadic, restaurant immigrants. Though fans of beef we appreciate the irony of eating a meal sourced entirely in North Carolina that included almost no pork.  Maybe next time. No celebrity chefs were harmed in the making of this post.

 

 

 

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The Wife Beater, a Producer, the Chef & the Farmer

the Chef & the Farmer Kinston, NC

the Chef & the Farmer. There’s servers too.

Welcome back infrequent readers to the Pot & Pan Handler’s infamous blog edition; Chef & the Farmer. Today’s story is a reflection on the social ramifications of European Class system on transgendered, squirrel catchers. Just kidding it’s more interesting than that and we only argue with one squirrel.*The cast of characters in order of appearance: Wife Beater & Wife, the Cameraman, the Assistant, the Producer, the Chef & the Farmer.* Sit back and enjoy a tale of a transgendered squirrel catcher disenfranchised by a class system that fails to accept him. Still, just kidding, it’s really just a bunch of stuff that happened. Welcome to our tale of the Wife Beater, a Producer, the Chef & the Farmer.

This house led us to the Chef & the Farmer

Featured in a Sundance film, this place is famous. Or is it infamous?

Part One: The Wife Beater & Wife

There we stood in front of our new home, the sunshine, unrelenting.  I’m dressed at the height of southern summer fashion; a white wife beater and shorts. Since moving south of the Mason Dixon Line, I’m stripped down to a wife beater June 1 until late September, sometimes October. The Pan Handler is dressed similarly in a tank top and shorts. To wear more in the tropical North Carolina heat is unthinkable.

We live on a private road, but we haven’t lived here long enough to be familiar with all the neighbors or their cars. A nondescript cream yellow car approaches our driveway coming from the interior of the neighborhood. We paste goofy neighborino grins on our dorky faces and wave obsessively to the car we assume contains our neighbors. The yellow car has gotten close enough to see into. There are three people in the car and the occupier of the back seat is pointing a, what is that (?) at us. A bazooka?

Our dorky grins have morphed into grimaces and our wave stops in midair. We look like particularly horrified Saguaro cacti. Oh, I realize it isn’t a bazooka. Even more alarmingly it’s a GIANT fucking TV camera. I almost prefer the thought of the bazooka, even if I admit it’s just on the assumption something interesting was about to happen.

The road to neighborinos

The road less traveled?

Part Two: The Cameraman, the Assistant and the Producer

The occupants of the car are like Hollywood, white. They drive by very slowly filming the horrified Saguaro cacti that have miraculously appeared in blacktop, in this climate. As they drive by, I admit to myself that being filmed was admittedly preferable to getting exploded.  Ask any one from Boston. It’s cool to be Boston strong, especially if you still have all your limbs.

The yellow car reaches the neighbor’s driveway and they turn around. Wait, what, they’re coming back?! To finish the job? Maybe I was right the first time and it was a bazooka. Or worse maybe it’s Wolf Blitzer and he wants a soundbite, either way we were about to find out. They pulled in our driveway. “Hi!” the occupant of the passenger seat quips. The cameraman has put the bazooka down, for now. The passenger continues “We came back to tell you what we’re doing, as that probably looked weird.”

We didn’t react as this was the first time we’ve been filmed by a moving car while pretending to be cacti. Therefore we had no idea if it looked weird or not. “We’re making a film.” She pointed at the driver and said “This is Cynthia Hill.” “She’s a producer, she’s directing this film we’re making about how spousal abuse, isn’t confined to ghettos and trailer parks.” “You find spousal abuse in more affluent neighborhoods too, it’s everywhere.” “I’ve had two cases that took place in this house.” This news is weird to digest and I can’t help but think what else did the realtor leave out about this neighborhood when she showed us this house? We would’ve never moved here if we knew it was affluent. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Private_Violence

Orange Juice

O.J. on spousal abuse in affluent neighborhoods.

I hurriedly explain that we’ve just moved in, so I haven’t even had time to beat my wife yet, but would she like a phone call when I get around to it? I made that part up. We explain that we’ve just moved in and assured them that we, though the current owners, assuredly are not the people involved in the aforementioned domestic disputes. Did that come off as defensive? Probably.

They’re most likely trying to distract me with small talk while they wait for the cops to come. It’s working. “Where did you move here from?” “Massachusetts.” I replied, which is easier to say than spell. Followed by the ritual, “What do you do?” “I write for the food section of a regional paper.” “Oh, really!” she exclaimed, “Cynthia is the producer of a TV show about a Chef, what’s it called Cynthia?” “A Chef’s Life.” Cynthia said with the kind of scowl you give a suspected wife beater while you wait for the cops to take him away. “Well anyway, check it out, it was nice to meet you, we’ll see you later!” the assistant yelled. Cynthia put the car in reverse and they drove away.

Part Four: A Chef’s Life

We went about the daily routine of a Southern couple, filled with the obligatory domestic disputes. They usually end up in us pairing a Malbec and a Shiraz with the pot roast. One particularly lazy evening, I came across the show a Chef’s Life in the TV guide, grabbed a beer and tuned in. http://achefslifeseries.com/

If you’re anything like us, there’s no way you clicked that link, so I’ll tell you about it anyway. It’s a documentary style cooking show. They follow Chef Vivian Howard’s pursuit of opening and maintaining what started as a destination restaurant in a rural eastern North Carolina town. To what is now a small empire including two restaurants, a TV show, numerous awards and appearances. Plus a cookbook so heavy you can use it to break out of prison. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vivian_Howard

Each episode focuses on a specific southern ingredient. As a recent transplant from the North I found this an entertaining approach to learn how to prepare terrifying southern ingredients like Kale and butterbeans. All while tuning into Chef Howard’s trials and tribulations as co-owner of the Chef & the Farmer. Chef Howard’s positive outlook on sinister, NC foods is contagious, and soon I found myself wanting to try them, no matter how terrifying. The opportunity came in the form of a birthday present. I never thought that the little rural town of Kinston, NC would be a desirable destination, but here we are. We got reservations; we were going to the Chef & the Farmer! http://www.vivianhoward.com/chef-the-farmer/

the Chef & the Farmer Kinston, NC

We came, we saw, we liquored.

Our apologies as this ran a little long so we divided into two posts… Coming next: the Chef & the Farmer spoiler alert, we went in hot, with surgical precision, like Meal Team 6. Our gluttony so remarkable it still floats over the town of Kinston in the form of a gaseous, belching cloud, to this day. We’ll see ya’ then, until then, may the odds be ever in your flavor. – Pot & Pan Handler

The Pot and Pan Handler are travel obsessed, escaped restaurant immigrants, eating good food, in weird places. We craft our blog from 100% organic, cage free, local, diverse, far ranging, all natural, very big, small internet. We’re probably elbow deep and having a pint in a peculiar bar near you.

*Characters are played by in order of appearance: Pot and Pan Handler, Some Guy, Um… and, um… I don’t know, I’ll say Angie, and Cynthia Hill.

*Did you really have to read this to know we don’t really argue with squirrels? Or do we? Hmmmm.

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