Fry Fry Again


This weekend I took the culinary-passport on the road to enjoy lunch with friends in West Columbia, SC.  The McGehees have been with me for several blog lunches and this time we were going to try a Jamaican place they’d not been to before.  Wait, you say, the title clearly says USA.  And so it does.  Our plans got derailed when we got to the Jamaican restaurant and it was closed.  When we saw the neighborhood I don’t think any of us was that sad it was closed.  I don’t feel like I’m being elitist or anything when I say this was a sketchy neighborhood because there were bars on all the windows and not the decorative wrought iron kind.

So we regrouped and decided since Jamaican wasn’t in the works and we were hungry, Jackson’s Southern Kitchen would provide the comfort food we’d need to console ourselves.  I was also promised they had some of the best fried chicken ever and what decent Southerner would turn down great fried chicken.

Aside from the assurances of my friends this was a good place to eat the number of cars in the parking lot was another give away that the place was popular.  Jackson’s is a buffet style restaurant with a salad bar (I saw maybe half a dozen people get something from it), a hot bar (where the good stuff is), and a dessert and bread bar (where more good stuff is).  The restaurant is broken up into several large rooms with plenty of seating but Saturday afternoon at the buffet is a busy time which meant tables were at a premium.  We got one in the room with the buffet bars so it was convenient but on the other hand there were so many people and it was loud.  But when the eating started it didn’t really matter.

Most of the containers here are not the huge square ones that seem to be standard at most buffets but about half that size.  The line goes down both sides so this along with the tray sizes means they are constantly bringing out fresh food and the popular items are always hot from the kitchen.  For my first trip I decided the hyped fried chicken would be the primary meat item.

In addition to the chicken I got some BBQ, hash and rice, mashed potatoes and green beans.  If you aren’t familiar with this part of South Carolina let me tell you they are a mustard based bar-b-cue sauce people and they also put mustard in their hash.  It’s not my favorite of the regional sauces so I enjoyed the smoked meat plain just fine.  The hash and rice was meh and the green beans we good.  The two best items on this plate were the mashed potatoes and chicken.  The mashed potatoes were made with red skin potatoes and were some of the best plain old mashed potatoes I’ve had at a restaurant.  They had a good potato taste with just the right amount of salt and butter that you didn’t need to add anything.  The chicken was as promised some of the best I’ve eaten from a restaurant.  We had some discussion about whether your Mama’s or Grandmama’s chicken counted when judging the best chicken ever as they were likely default winners.  We ended up with me stipulating that as purchased fried chicken went this was probably top two.  What they have going for them is the chicken is always hot and cooked just right down to the bone.  Not overcooked or undercooked but just like the baby bear’s porridge, it’s just right.  The coating is fairly light and the seasoning is simple but very tasty.  Plate 1 was a winner overall.

One reason I tend to avoid buffets nowadays is the almost mandatory second trip and I succumbed to that peer pressure from the hundreds of not skinny people around me.  I did get only ribs plus a couple of sides to help calibrate Jackson’s against other buffets and oh yeah more potatoes.  The baby limas were good and the mac & cheese was also very competently done but nothing to stretch a blog out over.  The ribs though do deserve a line of appreciation.  They weren’t fall off the bone tender like you get some places but what they were was meaty and smokey with a good sauce.  The smoked flavor went beyond just the surface and permeated the meat entirely.  The meat was tender and was easy to cut or tear from the bone depending on your caveperson proclivities.  The sauce was a little sweeter than I would make it but still very good and as I said there was plenty of meat on each rib.  Plate 2 was a winner as well.

The dessert bar was loaded down with staples of the southern buffet and each of us got something different.  I went with the banana pudding and it was ok but I’d probably have been happier with something like the strawberry shortcake or some peach cobbler.

Final verdict is Jackson’s is a great place to go with friends and family to enjoy a mess of comfort food that on the whole is made by people who know what’s what in the kitchen.  So while it’s too bad we didn’t get a chance to try something new we finished lunch more than satisfied with the backup plan.  Thanks to the McGehees for sharing the meal and their company.

Ghana Be Leftovers


Image result for ghana passport stamp

It has been quite a while since I’ve taken the culinary-passport to the African continent so today seemed like a good day to remedy that.  Mama Gee’s had been on my radar for a while and since their Ghanain cuisine isn’t something covered before they fit the bill perfectly.

Mama Gee’s is a takeout place and while they have a counter with a few stools it’s for sitting and waiting not eating.  When I walked in there were 3 other people there waiting on food and one guy running the counter.  I could see some folks in the kitchen through a window.  Overhearing the conversations of the staff and customers that came and went while I waited it was clear that the majority weren’t “from around here” and I’m guessing were from Africa.  I figured it was a good sign for authenticity of the food.  The guy working the counter was friendly and offered to answer any questions about the menu or food several times.  The first thing on the men was jollof rice which I’d already had at another African restaurant so I just moved to item 2 on the menu, waakyea plate.  It didn’t take long for them to get it together and I also picked out a drink I’ll address in a bit.  Since it was takeout I had to smell it the whole 25 minute ride home and it smelled good.

If it’s not apparent from the picture there is a ton of food in this container.  I actually weighed it because felt so full and it came in at 2 and 3/4 pounds of food.  As the title suggested there would be leftovers.  So let’s talk about what was included in this generous plate of food.  The centerpiece, covered in a tomato stew was rice and black eyed beans.  Surrounding this were a boiled egg, some gari foto (a casava root based dish), fried sweet plantains, spaghetti, more rice and beans with shito sauce and finally a fried chicken leg.

The rice, beans and tomato stew were really good and quite filling and will be good at least two more meals.  The gari foto was odd to me.  It didn’t have much taste and had the look of coarse bread crumbs but a soft consistency.  It was a starch so it fit in with half the other items.  The plantains were sweet and a nice contrast to the other foods.  I’m not sure why the spaghetti was there but the tomato sauce went well with it.  The shito sauce is the darker stuff in the top right of the picture and as I learned is made with spicy peppers.  It was not too bad on the heat front but it did get my attention.  The chicken leg had a very light coating on it and was fried enough to be done but not so much that it was dried out.

I ate until I felt full and it looked like I’d barely put a dent in the contents of that to go container.  For $10 I’m not sure I’ve had a better value while doing this blog and it was tasty as well.

Now lets talk about the drink.

They had several non-standard options to chose from and I asked what bissap was and the helpful counter guy said it had hibiscus petals, ginger and other stuff.  That sounded different enough that I had him ring one up.  Notice I went for the low sugar option because you gotta cut those calories somewhere.  In addition to the hibiscus and ginger there are “spices” and cinnamon and “flavours” on the ingredient list.  It had a floral smell and the color was a very dark purple / red color.  The taste wasn’t bad but it’s not something I want more of.  The various ingredients are distinguishable but for my palate they didn’t mesh in a pleasing way.  I’m glad I tried it but I’ll be perfectly content to never have it again, even the full sugar version.

As I was leaving the gent who I’d been dealing with made sure to give me a menu and invited me back soon.  They have some other items on the menu I might want to try in the future.

If you’re interested in the waakye or Ghanaian music and stuff check out the Tell Me More page.



Winter Bowling

Korea III

With the winter Olympics going on in Pyeongchang it really isn’t that surprising that I had a hankering for Korean.  Doing a bit of internet research to find a place other than the two I already know, I found Bulgogi Box in Charlotte that looked promising.

I found the restaurant and then a couple of blocks later a parking spot.  The restaurant has a wide front but the dining area isn’t very deep at all and the kitchen looks to be twice the size of the area with tables.  I was greeted by a couple of the staff behind the bar and they invited me to sit wherever I liked so I grabbed a spot at the end of the bar.  One of the ladies who greeted me asked if I’d been there before and when I said I hadn’t she welcomed me again and said she hoped I’d love the food.  That made two of us.

The menu isn’t extensive but varied enough to offer something for most tastes.  The didn’t have any Korean beers on tap so I ordered a Dragon’s Milk from New Holland Brewing to give me something to sip as I mulled my options.

Well that turned out to be a good choice.  It was obviously a stout and the first sip was a surprise.  It had a very smooth vanilla flavor and another strong taste it took me a minute to figure out and another moment to confirm it was a bourbon barrel aged stout.  The bourbon taste was quite distinct and not bad along with the vanilla taste.  Good start to the meal.

I was torn between the bulgogi box namesake of the restaurant or the bimbim bowl.  The waiter was helpful to let me know the bulgogi had more meat and was a bit simpler where the bimbim bowl had a bit less meat but vegetables.  I decided the vegetables wouldn’t kill me and I could get the bimbim in a sizzling pot.

I got the spicy pork version of the bowl and since it was the weekend it came with a choice of side and I selected pickles.  This was maybe the best meal I had all week.

The bimbim was presented in a very hot bowl that had rice in the center topped with the spicy pork and an egg.  Surrounding the rice and meat were sliced cucumbers, collards, shredded collards, radishes, corn, onions and mushrooms.  The pork was spicy but not too bad, just enough to cause a tingle across my scalp and a bit of light sweat on the brow.  The sizzling pot cooked the rice right at the bottom to a little crunch which added even more to the overall texture and taste.  When I ordered the pickles I expected to get a mixed vegetable pickle mix but instead it was all cucumbers, thinly sliced and a bit sweet in vinegar.  Judging by the slices and ones in the bowl these were pickled in house and complemented the spicy pork quite well.

That was a ton of food and I managed to finish it off but not without working at it.  It was a great meal for a rainy mild winter day.  I’ll definitely be going back to try the bulgogi box.

Poznan pt 2


This is part two of a visit to Poznan.  If you missed the first part you can find it here.

We continued to patronize the wonderful breakfast buffet at the hotel in the mornings and had lunches brought in so the evenings were the food highlights for the last two evenings.

Wednesday night we went back the Stary Browar and to the Piano Bar restaurant.  We had the entire compliment of people working on the project so we had a large round table that accommodated all 14 of us but still allowed conversation with everyone.  In spite of the presence of the eponymous Piano no one played while we were there and none at the table admitted to being a pianist.  So we just had socialize and eat.

My first choice of meal was a grilled ostrich steak but they were out of ostrich so I settled for lamb chops.  As settling went it was a nice back up.

The lamb came with a few little potatoes and a pureed carrot sauce that made a good combo.  The lamb was tender and very mildly seasoned so the taste of the potatoes and carrots were very much in play.  I don’t say this often but the side salad was actually more interesting from a flavor standpoint.  It had some baby greens, sun dried tomatoes, marinated pears and Gorgonzola cheese.  The slight bitterness of the greens contrasted with the sweetness of the pears and the texture of the tomatoes made them standout and of course Gorgonzola.  A glass of Lech Premium beer washed it all down.

On the final night, since we had to be up at an unbelievably early hour to go to the airport, a couple of us decided to eat at the hotel bar again. Before I get to the food I have to go off on a quick tangent.

The waiter we had was a tall, thin fellow with very close cropped hair.  He was a very model of a cordiality and precision as he took care of us but it was bugging me because he reminded me of someone and I couldn’t figure out who until after I got back home.  This guy was a dead ringer for Christopher Eccleston during his Doctor Who run. It’s probably just as well I didn’t figure it out then as I’d likely have made some sort of time lord joke he’d not have understood.

Ok now back to the food.  I decided the to just go with the next thing on the menu after the duck I’d had the first night which turned out to be veal loin.

Let’s do a trip around the plate because it’s not easily apparent what each item is.  Starting at the 6 o’clock position we have and egg yolk confit, at 9 we have buckwheat groats wrapped in cabbage and topped with a couple cloves of roasted garlic.  At 12 is a hunk of wholemeal bread toast topped with more garlic and at 3 o’clock is the veal loin. All served with a thyme sauce.

That hunk of veal doesn’t look very big but somehow it seemed bigger when I cut into it (see what I did there Whovians?)  The veal was tasty and tender but again the sides held my interest more.  The egg yolk confit had the consistency of a thick custard and unsurprisingly tasted just like egg.  The buckwheat groats were an interesting change of pace on the grain front and I enjoyed them.  The cabbage wrap was tender and not fall apart soggy like I was afraid it might be.  The toast and roasted garlic was good but since I’d be trapped in planes for 11 hours the next day I didn’t want to subject people to the aftermath of a 3 clove meal so just had one.  I have to say as hotel restaurants go I’ve had great experiences both times I’ve been to Poznan.

From a culinary standpoint this trip was a winner on every front.  The food was great, the people were friendly, the atmosphere was welcoming and the company was outstanding at every meal.