Extra Credit:Hogs and Hops and a Healthy Olive

Today was a fine spring like day and after doing a little work on the plant bed this morning I decided to investigate a downtown Seneca area, Ram Cat Alley. It’s a couple of blocks long leading to Main Street and an old train depot. I knew there were a couple of restaurants in the area and I figured I’d make a decision once I got down there and see what struck me. What struck me was Hogs and Hops with it’s outdoor seating on such a wonderful day.

The non-BBQ special of the day was chili and cornbread which I almost bit on but figured here was a chance to add just one extra joint to my BBQ database. The other customers and the owners knew one another and didn’t mind chatting while the work got done. To me that was a good sign if people are coming often enough to get to know one another.

BBQ sandwich plate it was for me. For sides I went with the mac and cheese and Brunswick stew. My sauce selection was unorthodox for a southern BBQ sandwich, peach habanero sauce. Hogs and Hops has, hands down, the most interesting selection of sauces of all the spots locally. They also had a pineapple habanero that I almost went with but the pull of the peach was stronger. Speaking of pineapples there was also pineapple upside-down cake. Oh and a diet coke to wash it down cause I’m watching my figure. I was happy to come off the 11 bucks and change for this meal.

The BBQ was smoky and moist and the sauce added a really nice sweet kick of heat. The Brunswick stew also was a fine tasting example of its genre of stew. It had more vegetables than Cole’s that I raved about in a previous blog but I was just fine with that. The mac and cheese was the best of any I’ve had in the area and better than most I’ve had anywhere. The consistency was good and the cheese was just stringy enough to know you had real cheese in this mixture. Really nice. The cake was a little dry except where the pineapple had added some moisture. That didn’t keep me from knocking it out though. I was very happy with my decision to spend the afternoon dining al fresco.

You may have noticed nowhere did I mention hops other than the name. Well apparently they have some deal with Brews on the Alley, a coffee and craft beer bar and if you want to dine indoors you can just cross the street and dine in there and get your beer on. That explains the hops but what about the Healthy Olive I know you’re wondering. Let me tell you.

It’s a little boutique store with way too many cool olive oils and vinegars plus other gourmet type stuff I didn’t know I needed until I went in. I don’t know how many different varieties she has of each but if you can’t find something that intrigues you, you are dead inside. There are little tasting cups so you check them out before committing to a significant purchase. I tasted 2 and bought 2. A blood orange infused olive oil and an aged cinnamon pear balsamic vinegar. Both amazing. Plus a little applewood smoked sea salt and a fancy Italian dinner, just add boiling water.

I will definitely be visiting again. If I bring the bottles back she knocks $1 off the price and there’s a punch card program too.

It’s been a great day already but on the way home I noticed there were two baby goats in the pasture next door. They were just gamboling all over the place. That just leveled up the day.


What the Fries?

This weekend I actually hit food trucks in Augusta, GA and Charlotte, NC both times with friends and live music so it was a pretty good weekend.  I didn’t take any photos or note the name of the truck in Augusta because I am a slacker sometimes.  That being the case I’m going to focus on Saturday evening’s food truck but want to give a shout out to the folks who made that polish sausage on a big roll with grilled onions and peppers plus slaw but sadly no napkins.  It was a miracle we didn’t wear more of it than we did.  Also thanks to Renee, Mike & Kim for sharing the evening and enduring some good and not that great cover bands on the Commons in Augusta for St. Patrick’s day.

Saturday evening I had my stuff together a little better and met with friend and fellow food enthusiast Jody at Food Truck Saturday (FTS), sponsored by The City Kitch and Wild Wing Café in northeast Charlotte.  We had been stalking a food truck called What the Fries Charlotte for a while trying to find a time and place we could meet to check them out and this event worked out.

From the skies you’d never know we had a short rain delay but the evening turned out to be a fantastic one for eating outside.  As you might expect from the name the headline truck specializes in fries but not just any fries.  They had a number of different and interesting selections and we settled on the Truffle Parmesan fries and the Smokey Bacon Fries.

One of the great benefits, aside from good company, to bringing a friend is you get to try more things that you would on your own without being a total glutton.  I was the primary on the Smokey Bacon and Jody was the primary on the Truffle Parmesan.  Both were good but the general consensus was the Smokey Bacon was the better of the two.  The sauce on the Parmesan Truffle was creamy, truffley and parmesany and the fries were good.  The Smokey Bacon was really good. Applewood bacon, shredded smoked gouda, tomatoes and scallions on fries that were cooked through but not crunchy.  The flexibility of the fries let you fold them around the great toppings like a potato corral and scoop up the tasty results for a delightful bite.  After downing those we decided we had to try at least one more thing from one of the other 6 MoFUs (that’s Mobile Food Units I learned from the City Kitch blog).  Since we were in topped carb mode we strolled over to Bebo’s Mac Shack and grabbed a small Chili Mac and Cheese and two forks.

This was some serious comfort food.  The base is their straight up mac & cheese which has pesto cream cheese, smoked gouda & cream topped with chili, shredded cheddar, scallions, sour cream and a few jalapenos to keep it interesting.  This was definitely worth having and without a partner I’d not have been able to hit two trucks without ditching some food.

According to the website they will be doing this a couple of times a month (1st & 3rd Saturdays) with a rotating line up of food trucks so I will definitely be going back for seconds.  A couple of tips if you plan to go; parking was tight at 6:00pm when I got there so be prepared to walk a short ways, there are places to set up a chair if you are so inclined or you can pull up a curb, there is a limited beer and wine selection, and I didn’t see any public restrooms but I wasn’t looking for one either so I could have overlooked them.

Anyway I’d recommend the event, What the Fries & Bebo’s Mac Shack food trucks.