Monday, April 25, 2016

Lowcountry Produce Market & Cafe

302 Carteret Strewet
Beaufort, SC 29902
(843) 322-1900
Website

In Beaufort, South Carolina it's much like you imagine sleepy southern towns. Everyone is friendly, the pace of life is SLOW, and the food is simple yet produced with the care of a family member trying to comfort their kin.


Lowcountry Produce Market is a beautiful setting for a Southern market and lunch spot. Housed in an old post office, the subway tile interior is accented by large pillars, and huge floor to ceiling shelves.


The food was straight out of Southern Living. I started with the pickles and pimento cheese plate. The green beans were bright, snappy, and had the balance that so many restaurants get wrong. The pickles were just as good, though had a sweet bite to them that contrasted perfectly. However the hands down star of the show was the pimento cheese. My god, this was the best I have eaten. And I have eaten quite a bit of pimento cheese.


The loosely shredded cheese was accented by the sweetness of pimentos, had a perfect temperature and consistency, but there was an X factor, I just couldn't put my finger on. It turns out, there are some spicy banana peppers mixed in (and what I imagine was a bit of their brine), which creates a flavor explosion – the likes of which I have not tasted in this form. Form being cheese ball, obviously.


Everything about this dish was perfect.


My sandwich was a mixed shrimp and oyster po' boy, served with tarter sauce and house made chips.


The cornmeal batter on this was divine. Heavily seasoned, the crunchy shell stuck perfectly to the tender fried seafood. I could have eaten this all day. My only gripe was the tarter sauce had no place near this ocean bounty in hotdog form. A smokey chili aioli or something more appropriate would have sent this over the top.


The chips were fried to perfection as well, and had a skillful amount of sea salt sprinkled on top. A coastal Southern lunch if I have ever had one. I wish I was able to eat this way on a weekly basis.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Brewster River

(Smuggler's Notch Resort)
4087 Vt Route 108 S.
Jeffersonville, VT 05464
(802) 644-6366
Website

A long weekend in Vermont led to some delicious food and far too many hoppy beers. Brewster River is located by Smuggler's Notch, and is a great bar to grab some food after a day on the slopes. Unfortunately I don't  have any pictures of what is most certainly the best thing on the menu, the teriyaki duck wings. I forgot I was writing about the damn place and failed to gather photo evidence of EITHER order of the drummettes. They were fried perfectly and were so good, I ordered a second round upon completion of the first. I'll also admit that there were a few drinks involved before arriving, so that didn't help my photo taking skills...


They had a "Pittsburgh sandwich" which was based on the famous and over-rated Primanti Brothers "sandwich". As underwhelmed as I am with putting french fries and vinegar slaw on your thick bread and claiming it as your regional identity, I was willing to give it a go, as I had been drinking and it sounded filling.


Brewster executed a great version, but as the Achilles' heel lies in the sandwich itself, it was just kind of okay. The fries were crispy and salty, the pastrami was tender and the slaw was well seasoned. But the sandwich was just a bit dry and flavorless. Too much bread and potato is usually the culprit. Again, I am not criticizing the bar, but rather the city. And the hockey team.



The Godzilla burger was over the top. Pastrami, pulled pork, Beef Brisket, pork roll, smoked bacon, fried egg, hash brown, pepper jack and cheddar. The meat sweats were soon to follow. My biggest complaint, was that the fried egg was fried hard. The whole point is a runny yolk.


I guess the burger was good? You can see the egg yolk, a solid yellow. Otherwise a glutton's dream. And a big fat high five for including pork roll. That is a rarity outside of our area, and a solid breakfast meat underdog.


After gorging on the pub food, we proceeded downstairs where they have an executive-size pool table. It was a lot of fun. Great place to warm up after a cold day on the mountain.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Pho Street

204 Baltimore Pike
Springfield, PA 19064
(610) 544-3934
Website

Delaware County is not synonymous with Vietnamese food, but Pho Street is the best argument I have tasted so far to try and change that. Located in (what could only be) a former diner-y looking building, this place has tons of booths in which to sit and wait for some damn good food.


They have the usual accompaniments. Which makes me very happy. Any condiment I can get my hands on...


I decided to start with a shrimp summer roll. I love the way this feels "healthy" even though I generally and thoroughly douse it with peanut sauce.


The shrimp were plump and fresh, the rolls were soft had not developed the "skin" that can occur when exposed to the elements. A nice blend of vermicelli, herbs, and lettuce added to the fresh factor. This was a great summer roll.



Because I detest pho, I did not order it. Instead I ordered Hu Tíeu Tom Thit (pork and shrimp noodle soup). Instead of a beef broth, this is a soup with a very flavorful pork/chicken/shrimp combo broth that is the very definition of soul soothing. As is usual for pho-like but non-pho soups, it was served up in a large bowl and included sprouts, jalapeno slices, cilantro and some lime garnishes.


Before I get too into the soup, I will say the pork banh mi was my favorite part of the meal. The BBQ pork was thinly sliced, tender, and the sandwich was obviously constructed with love.


The fresh jalapeño peppers bring the heat, but I didn't find it overwhelming. This was probably due to the cooling cilantro and pickled carrot mixed with the "house special zesty sauce" (spicy mayo) and buttered roll. I have eaten this one a number of times, and it always satisfies. It also doesn't hurt that it rings in at a whooping $5.49.


The soup had a broth that was better than many I have eaten, even those in the non-pho category. So much depth of flavor, like the bones had longer to roast and the maker truly cares about the product.


Once doctored up with some of the aforementioned condiments, it had the heat, the salt, and I crave out of a huge bowl of (chicken) soup for the soul. I basically transformed it into a sort of Tom Yum flavored soup with the fermented hot sauce and I would rinse and repeat as long as Pho Street is around.


If you aren't near Mac Daddy Boulevard, you can also get your fix in Bryn Mawr. Which helps ease the sting of my limited Asian-food options in the 'burbs.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Bowens Island Restaurant

1870 Bowens Island Rd.
Charleston, SC 29412
(843) 795-2757
Facebook

My low country journey would not have been complete without a trip to Bowens Island. What is Bowens Island? If I was given the (very remote) opportunity to go to heaven, and Bowens Island was one of the choices, I would be there. At the restaurant (seen on the left below), they get clusters of oysters dropped off at the dock, where they are hosed down before being sent to the basement of the building to be roasted and steamed and slapped on a tray. Unbelievable.


As you can see, there is already a line of folks waiting to order, but checking out the process was an integral part of the trip for me.


If you get someone in line, another member of the party can sneak around the back and grab drinks from the bar to hold you over until it's your shot. Unfortunately, you will have to watch THIS sunset while you sip a cold beer and wait your turn.


Inside is a bit more chaotic, with the food line wrapping towards the heron, and the bar line on the right. I typically would not wait in line for an hour, but chatting with the people waiting with you and having some drinks makes everything all right in the world. Plus, this is the South. No one is EVER in a rush, and it takes a couple of days for a neurotic Northerner to settle down and relax. I did not want to head back North at the end of my trip.


After you order, you pick up your tray of oysters from the oyster man himself in the cinder block and graffiti-adorned basement. The clusters are roasted over this fire with a burlap sack, then shoveled into a steamer.


At that point, they serve you with a snow shovel. Just amazing.


You are handed an oyster knife rolled up in towel, are left to find a table (with a convenient hole in the middle to discard shells as you eat) and get to work.


These oysters clump together in the marshes, and they are served just so. As you almost cut through your hand with the knife, get small cuts on your fingers from the shells, and quaff beers, you wonder why you don't live here.



After breaking apart a cluster, find the open shells, and pry them farther with your trusty knife. It's unbelievably fun, and makes for quite an experience.


All of this danger and effort results in a plump little briny reward. Slurp and repeat. Curse yourself for only ordering a tray and a half. Get back in line and repeat.


I also tried some of their other offerings. Boiled shrimp, fried shrimp, hush puppies, fries and slaw. Simple and perfect.


The fried shrimp had a beautiful flaky batter, and were just addictive. The sweet crustaceans were devoured like popcorn, and helped to soak up some of the beer.



The boiled u-peel shrimp were heavily seasoned, and quickly disappeared.


The surprisingly delicate hush puppies had a golden crust, and a slightly sweet interior. Everything about this place was just phenomenal. It was the best meal I have eaten this year, and one of my favorites of all time. I can't wait to go back to the low country, and next time I will probably order twice as much. If you are in the Charleston area, drive the dirt road back Bowens Island road, and you won't be disappointed.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

AC's Bar & Grill

467 King Street
Charleston, SC 29403
(843) 577-6742
Website

When visiting other cities, I often like to check out the places who try and present their take on an authentic cheesesteak. If that coincides with a great divey bar, then all the better. I was into AC's, in particular, because I'd heard that the owner is from PA.


It's is located downtown in Charleston, right between all the hot clubs and expensive shopping spots. But it had all the trappings of a dark, fantastic, late-night bar. Great dim lighting, booths, perfectly greasy bar food, and fantastic drink prices. I'd spoken with the owner, Jim Curley, for the better part of my meal & drink experience and I must say, he adds to the appeal here. Born in the Pittsburgh area, he's been living in The South for all of his life; worked at AC's for about 21 years and has owned it for about the last 15 and although he's technically not 'working' there now, he definitely spends a lot of his time there, delivering food and drinks to customers.


They are famous for their chili cheeseburger and their cheesesteak. Although I had literally just come from a dinner party, I threw caution to the wind and had to try both.


The chili cheeseburger did not slouch on the quantity of chili. Beans, green peppers, and onions strewn about the loose beef, this chili would make a Texan cry. On top of a burger, it made me smile. At $5.50, it made my wallet smile as well.



A nice medium cook on the patty, and much more manageable to eat than the initial picture conveyed. This was spot on bar food. Well seasoned, enough fat to cut the whiskey you just shot, and some carbs to soak up those ten beers.



The cheesesteak was the surprise of the night. Amoroso roll aside, it was a great replica. The meat was heavily salt and peppered, and had some mighty caramelized onions.


Look at the amount of melted American cheese intermingled with meat grease. Perfect.


I hate a dry steak, and this was quite the opposite. The roll did marginally well, and though I am a Liscio's lover, I was okay with this low brow replacement. I think that Jim's attention to quality control in the kitchen is key. He knows what a great cheesesteak can be and he doesn't let his own standards suffer, much to my appreciation.


There was no lack of meat or flavor on this cheesesteak. Never did I think that a place in the Lowcountry could compete with some of the Philadelphia area middle of the steak joints. Now I know.