You’re probably saying to yourself “I hope he’s eating hot dogs and not hound dogs,” and I can understand why you might not be certain.
Well let me assure you no dogs were done in to further this blog. Puppies however were consumed. Hush puppies that is.
I’m traveling to a family reunion and lunch time rolled around just as I was getting into Kinston, NC where there’s a BBQ place called King’s and it reminded me they have an item worth blogging about.
First a bit about King’s. It’s been around longer than I have so you know it’s old and it has a loyal clientele built on years of serving good Eastern NC style pork BBQ and since that’s where my people are from that has always been “real” BBQ to me. The outside looks like a step up from a warehouse so pretty isn’t going to pull you in. Over the years they’ve expanded and the inside is nice but still definitely a BBQ joint. They have a buffet dining area and one for a la carte dining which also has an oyster bar. I was seated in the latter and soon had my dish of choice in front of me.
This, my friends, is a Pig in a Puppy. Just about the ultimate barbecue sandwich. It is a generous helping of pork topped with coleslaw (optional) served in a giant hush puppy instead of a roll or bread. I don’t know who had the idea but it was genius.
Amazingly with a puppy that big they manage to cook it just right so it’s not doughy inside or really overcooked outside. It is a little crumbly but that’s why they bring you a fork too. I said it was about ultimate, if I’d had some of the Pucker Butt Voodoo something or other hot sauce I have at hot to lightly sprinkle on it that would have pushed it over the edge.
In case the sandwich didn’t melt your heart they give you a basket of puppies too.
How cute are they? They were good but a little sweeter than I prefer. If they dropped the added sugar and maybe added some onion powder it would be better in my opinion.
If you find yourself in Eastern North Carolina around meal time and Kinston anywhere near your route give King’s a try.
Side note, this is the first blog entry I’ve done entirely on the phone so fat fingers are going to be my excuse for any errors, factual or otherwise.
It was my time of the month, that third Friday when the food wagons circle around the fountain and feed the crowds. This month was one of the best attended I’ve been to so crowds indeed.
My regular parking lot was closed and I had to find a spot further away. That gave me the chance to put in some additional walking time which worked out well in the end. As protocol dictates I grabbed my beer on the way in, a nice cream ale from local favorite Legal Remedy Brewing.
I had my eye on three trucks and after writing off the heavy Italian menu of one and another not convincing me the fancy chicken slider was going to be worth what they were charging I strolled down to the Herban Legend truck and there menu board had more than one item I would have been happy with.
I was just about to order the Filipino Friday Pork Sisig but swerved at the last minute and chose the Caribbean quesadilla hoping it wouldn’t be as heavy on a 90 degree evening.
This was just about right quantity wise and it was delicious. In case you didn’t read the board it was Jamaican Jerk beef (ground), mango salsa, cheddar and jack cheeses topped with an island remoulade sauce and grilled in a tortilla, as you do with quesadillas. As much as I enjoyed it I have to say the Jamaican Jerk spices were less like a jerk and more like a tug. On the other end of the scale the mango chunks were huge. Just what was called for.
So one thing that annoyed me was all the skinny people walking around showing off by not sweating in spite of all the heat. Fortunately I was sharing a table with a good sized bald guy and his kids and he was eating spicy food and having my back as a fellow sweater. Solidarity.
After eating I strolled a bit and listened to the band, whose name I don’t recall but they were good. I did crack up at this older couple who was checking out the menu on the expensive truck and the lady says,”The cheeseburger is $12.00!” in an tone of total incredulity. Her husband turns to her with a disbelieving look on his face and says, “But it’s coming off a truck!” While I don’t disagree the price was high I’m guessing they aren’t big into the food truck scene if they were that scandalized by the pricing.
Well after being smart and eating lightish plus walking around instead of sitting like a lump I thought I deserved desert and found myself standing at the window of The Art of Baking truck. The desert I went for is probably something my southern ancestors would consider blasphemous but it was called The Golden One and was banana pudding (ok so far) with sliced strawberries (what?) and golden Oreos (well now you’ve gone too far) in addition to the traditional Nilla wafers.
I wasn’t visited by ghosts of disappointed relatives so I guess it was alright. I know one thing it was delicious. The strawberries tasted fresh like they’d been added just before I ordered and the Oreos were used sparingly so they were like a little treat added to the banana pudding experience. I ate it sitting in front of the fountain waiting for the shifting wind to send a little mist my way.
I had one more beverage ticket in hand and nowhere else to be so I got a Funky Buddha Coconut Porter. I mean come on who doesn’t love a good porter and coconut is great so how could this not be a winner.
It was a winner too but not without consequences. The porter was smooth and with moderate bitterness. The coconut aroma is the first thing that hits you as you go in for a sip. Then the flavor hits after the initial porter taste rolls past your tongue. The thing is porters aren’t really light even if they add tropical flavors and on top of the desert I felt like I was filled up like a big bellied Buddha. I’m surprised no one rubbed it for luck. This is where that longer walk back to the car came in handy.
OK this is multi-day blog so it’s longer than the average entry.
A couple of weekends ago a number of family members went to Arlington, VA to have my Father’s urn placed in Arlington National Cemetery with the accompanying military honors. The service was on Monday so my sisters, their husbands and my two youngest nephews met up the Friday before and started our dining experiences at Ireland’s Four Courts pub just a couple of blocks from our hotel. My sisters both went with the Chicken Boxty and my brothers-in-law both got the Shepherds Pie. Both dishes got high marks. My choice was the traditional Irish Breakfast.
If this is a normal breakfast I don’t understand how all of Ireland isn’t a bunch round people just rolling off the island based on the quantity of food. There were eggs, sausage (kind of bland), beans, fried potatoes, roasted tomatoes, toast, black and white pudding and hiding in the picture are two rashers of bacon. I’ll tell you right now this did not all get consumed but damage was done. The white pudding was the only new item for me and for taste was just a bit milder version of the black pudding. I guess the blood does make a difference. Since I had low expectations of the sausage links I was not disappointed and overall I enjoyed the breakfast for dinner alongside a Magner’s Irish Cider, which was just OK.
Our next group meal was in DC at a place just off the Mall, b DC Penn Quarter. Their sub-title is burgers. beer. bourbon. I can vouch for 2 out of 3. We’d been to one of the Smithsonian museums and had built up a thirst and appetite. Many burgers were ordered and water consumed in large quantities. My choice of burger was the 3 Shrooms.
Now I’ll admit the picture doesn’t look appetizing but let me tell you it was fantastic. The burger was a 7 oz patty of in-house ground beef with sauteed mushrooms, a mushroom spread, truffle mayo and lots of melted Swiss cheese on a soft bun. If you’re a shroom fan I don’t need to say much more and if you’re not I’d be wasting my breath so I’ll just leave you with the fact that I left an absolutely clean plate. To partner with the burger I selected a local beer, Devil’s Backbone Vienna Lager. It was a light easy drinking beer that went well with the very flavorful burger. Oh and there were crispy tots involved too.
The evening meal was Italian with local friends not seen in person for 40 or so years. We knew them from Geneva, Switzerland and the wonderful years we lived there. This was automatically going to elevate the meal. The place picked for us by our VA friends was Pazzo Pomodoro. Now the expectation got ratcheted up quickly as on the way in a gentleman I was holding the door open for to exit stopped to tell me this was the best Italian food in the area and I’d love it. Since I had no local frame of reference for Italian food I’d have to take his word for the first part but the second I’d decide for myself. I elected to try one of the Chef’s signature dishes.
The Involtini di Vitello was veal stuffed with prosciutto, fontina cheese, and wild mushrooms in a marsala sauce with vegetables on the side. I just realized the mushroom theme of the day. The veal was tender and the stuffing was savory and delicious. I had some local beer that I didn’t bother to keep track of because I was honestly more interested in catching up and enjoying the company of friends. I don’t know if this is the best Italian food in Vienna, VA but the dish I had was well worth the going for.
The next day we decided to get our cheese on and headed to The Swiss Bakery in Springfield, VA. This is a great little place that is a bakery with a side of Swiss market and oh yeah a restaurant. The cheese several of us got was raclette over potatoes. I went to the drink case to pick a beer but saw the Sinalco and had to get that instead. It is a citrus soda that was the first Swiss drink we had at my dad’s bosses house the night we arrived in Geneva so I had to get that. It was just like I remembered.
As mentioned I got the raclette cheese over potatoes which also came with bread, dried beef slices, pickled onions and baby dills. I also got a side bratwurst.
If you’ve never had raclette before I’ll say up front it smells like feet, after a long walk, but it is good. The pungent cheese and the plainness of the potatoes go well together. The salty dried beef and tangy pickled vegetables are perfect pals to have with this. The bread clears your palate so you can load it up with flavors all over again. The brat was good but really I could have done without it and been just fine. Since this was also a market we may have purchased some Swiss chocolate and there’s a possibility some pastries were procured.
The next day the international theme of meals continued when we walked the short distance from our hotel to MeJana Lebanese restaurant. It was just a little too warm for outside dining so we got a booth by the window so we could still have a good view of the street. We started with some hummus and warm flat bread and then right into various kebabs. I got the mixed grill.
The mixed grill had one chicken, one lamb and one kafta kebab plus rice and some vegetable matter on the side. The kafta was the most flavorful but a bit chewy. The chicken was probably the best overall as it was spiced just right and very tender. It was a ton of food and under other circumstances I might have carried some leftovers home but instead I plowed through. Thank goodness for the walk back to the hotel.
My final day in DC found me at the National Archives and the Smithsonian castle working up a lunch appetite. Checking out Yelp for stuff in walking distance I did a double take on the USDA Cafeteria and the high ratings it had so I needed to check this out for myself. After going through security and getting a visitor’s sticker I followed the stream of people to the cafeteria.
Wow this was one bad-a$$ cafeteria. It had a salad bar and hot bar that you pay by the pound plus deserts including cold and frozen options. Around the perimeter of the cafeteria are specialty stations like Korean BBQ, Italian, Deli, Mexican, and at least one more I’m forgetting but the choices were quite varied and the food all looked fresh and delicious. I decided to go for the Korean bowl, specifically the regular bowl. The small would have been sufficient.
The way this worked is you picked your carb, I got brown rice, then 4-6 vegetables, your meat or tofu then sauce. For vegetables I got some kimchi, something else spicy and pickled, some broccoli and sprouts. I got the beef and house sauce that was tangy and spicy. It was very good but I only got about 2/3 of it eaten before I had to tap out. The beef was good and the sauce was just spicy enough to make me sweat just a bit.
That pretty much wrapped up the culinary experience for my northen Virginia / Washington DC trip. I do want to say thank my family and friends who shared various meals with me; Lynn, Keith, Dee, Chris, Alex, Haley, Lauren, Jesse, Jay, (we missed you Paige), Ellie, Jackie, Shelley, Stephanie, Kallianna, Kyle & Julie. The meals were all enhanced by your presence.