Friday, April 11, 2014

The BrickPit

For the belated first entry in the Mobile eatery series, I am writing on Brick Pit BBQ. This place is located in a little house off of Old Shell Road near the University of South Alabama. If it wasn't for the sign and for Google Maps, it would have been easy to miss. It is set off the road a little bit with some beautiful old oak trees out front. Add to the fact it was dark and raining, you can see how it might be hard to miss on first pass. The one clue was the delicious smell of smoke in the air. Inside are a bunch of tables with walls covered in the names of past visitors as well as decorations of Alabama and (unfortunately) Auburn football.

First things before I get to the food, the staff was so friendly, welcoming, and inviting. We found a table as it was a sit on your own. We were immediately greeted and asked if it was our first time there. We said it was, and he immediately walked around from behind the counter and stand next to us and show us the menu. He treated us like we were regulars, asked if we wanted anything to drink, and had it on the table before we finished deciding what we wanted to order. We felt at home.

We all ordered the pulled pork. This pork is smoked for 30 hours and it tastes like it, in a good way. The meat had this beautiful smokey, crispy exterior that you get little bites of in the dish. When you order, they ask if you want the normal sauce or the hotter sauce. Mel got the normal, I got the spicy. Both perfectly complimented the meat. The regular was a little sweet with a good vinegar taste that is traditional to the south. The spicy still had that as well, but with more heat. However it didn't take away from the pork. The meat was incredibly juicy and had a beautiful smoke ring. The sides were awesome as well. The beans must be smoked in the smoker with the pork as they have this wonderful smokey flavor that compliments the beans without being overpowering. The coleslaw and the potato salad we of similar high quality. I have been to a few great BBQ joints, this is by far the best pulled pork I have ever eaten anywhere.

With the incredibly warming and welcoming staff, and the amazing pulled pork, I highly recommend Brick Pit BBQ. If you are ever in Mobile you need to go there.



Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Mobile roundup

At the beginning of March, Mel and I went down south to visit my brother in Mobile, AL. Since we were on vacation, we decided to splurge a little and eat out a number of days. Over the next week I will be doing in depth reviews of some of the restaurants (with pictures), but for now I wanted to give a short overall summery of our experiences. Also I will be doing another review of a local GR eatery. It is exciting for me to be able to do this again, as it has been a few months since Mel and I have been able to eat out.

Seafood
Wintzells: This is one of my favorite places to go get seafood when visiting Mobile and Destin. Great gumbo, fresh oysters, perfectly fried fish, and a good selection of non-seafood items. Also have great fired dill pickles.

Dewy Destin's: The place to visit for seafood when in Destin, Fl. Fresh seafood brought in on the boats. The restaurant is literally right on the water, boats can dock up to it. Prices are decent, but they have gone up quite a bit compared to what it used to be. But the product is worth it.

BBQ
Brick Pit BBQ: Seriously good BBQ. Easily in my top two BBQ places I have ever been to.

Saucy Q BBQ: We went based on reviews we read online. They were wrong. I'll leave it at that for now.

Other:
Jason's Deli: We got the Muffaletta sandwich. It lived up to the reputation of the New Orleans classic. Also they make a pretty good pot of Gumbo

Zaxby's: Similar to a Chik-Fil-A but offer a little bit larger selection of sandwiches.

As I said, I will be doing more in depth reviews of these over the next week. Also I will be doing on on Bagger Dave's (apparently I never posted it), and a revisit to Electric Cheetah. Welcome back everyone.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Good bye 2013, Here is some Oxtail for you

Hey all! I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I've been at this now for about a year and half. It doesn't seem like it. So without any further ado, the last posting of 2013.

Yesterday I made an oxtail dish for Mel. We were at Byron Meats, a butcher shop in Byron Center, MI, where she spotted some oxtails and wanted to get some. So I prepared them last night. I got a large pot out and heated it over high heat. I added some olive oil to the pot, seasoned all sides of the oxtail with salt and pepper, and browned all sides of the oxtail. Some beef broth was added so it covered about 1/2 way up the oxtails, the lid put on, and the oxtails braised for about 3 hours. With 15 min. to go I chopped up some onion, garlic, and grated a carrot. I saute'd them over medium high heat in olive oil until the onions started getting some color. I added about 2/3 cup of cream and a couple ladles of the braising liquid to the skillet to make a sauce and let it reduce for about 10 min. In the mean time I took the oxtails out to cool and shred the meat off the bone, and added fettuccine to salted boiling water and cooked it for one minute less than what was on the box because it will finish cooking in the sauce. To put it all together I put the meat in the sauce followed by the pasta and tossed everything together well. If the sauce is a little too thick at this point you can add a little more braising liquid or pasta water to the pan. Serve as is. It is time consuming in the fact it takes so long for the oxtail to cook, but you can basically set it over low heat and forget about it for a few hours. It is also an incredibly easy dish with tons of flavor and it makes a wonderful winter meal.

Finally, I would like to thank all my readers for taking time to read my blog. I really appreciate that you take time out of your day to read what I write.  

Saturday, November 30, 2013

XO

First of all, sorry about the lack of updates recently. It has been a busy time around the house with Thanksgiving, working more, holiday shopping, etc. As such there hasn't been much time to try new places and review them. Or to return to past ones for a second bite review. However we were able to go out to eat last week. We decided to try XO Asian Cuisine located downtown on Monroe. Mel is very cautious about trying new Asian restaurants, but had tried some food from XO because it was catered in for a lunch. She wanted to try the actual restaurant and so we headed downtown. (Pictures will be coming later.)

The restaurant is attractive, albeit a little comical in the use of Asian decor. It is also located right in the heart of downtown. The prices are good, especially for the amount of food brought out.

We started with some dumplings that were steamed and fried. They were filled with pork, green onion, and ginger. The dipping sauce was a soy sauce with a little green onion, ginger, and maybe sesame oil. The dumpling was good. It was cooked nicely and the had a nice consistency to it. There were actual pieces of pork and veggies in it as apposed to a over minced mush. The flavors were good and melded nicely. The only thing I didn't care for was the little salad under it. It was not needed.

For the mains Mel got sesame chicken and I got sambal chicken. Both, in my opinion, were fairly mundane and could be found at any number of Asian buffets. The sesame chicken was slathered in that unnatural orange colored sauce that you see at 99% of Chinese restaurants. The sambal chicken was also underwhelming. I may be wrong, but from what I know, sambal is Thai chili paste. There didn't seem to be much in there. The shrimp paste was the prominent flavor. The chicken was a little mealy. The veggies were cooked well though. The rice was also pretty good. It was nice and sticky and worked well with the dishes.

Despite these quibbles, I have to admit that the dishes are attractively priced. Our meal, of starter and two mains, came in under $30. Also the service was good. The waitress was attentive without being hovering, and the food came out fast. I have to say I was disappointed by the food. I was hoping for a more authentic Asian meal, not the mainstream, made for American tastes stuff found everywhere. I like to think I cook a little bit more authentic food at home. And that was the real shame. My expectations for Asian food were let down and my search for a tastier, more authentic Asian restaurant continues. However, I can say that if you are downtown and want a decent, well priced Asian inspired meal XO is a good place to start.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The brother's Grube kitchen

Last night my youngest brother Tay came over and we cooked a meal together. It was something that we had been talking about for a while, especially since he got a job working in the kitchen of a local restaurant called Rockwell's. So Tay, Mel, and I had a nice meal on a Saturday night watching football. Below is a sampling of what we made.


We started with my patatas bravas with garlic aioli. I won't go into too much detail about them because I have already covered them in an earlier post or two. Basically they are fried potatoes tossed in a spice mixture and served with the garlic aioli which really compliments the potatoes. This was our starter.


This was probably the star of the night. I call it a deconstructed paella. I started by making the broth. I put chicken stock in a sauce pan with a lot of garlic, onion, tomato, a half of an anaheim chili pepper, and saffron and let it reduce a long time. Basically what came out may be one of the single best components to a dish I have ever created. And the only word that Tay or myself could come up with to describe it was "sexy." I cooked some arborio rice so that it was al dente and somewhat stiff, as opposed to a risotto which is creamier. This was cooked in chicken stock. I then browned chorizo in a pan so that it became crispy and then added chicken to the same pan to help give the chicken some more flavor. I also fried up some chicken skin until it was crispy and delicious for a textural contrast to the rest of the dish. It was finished with some finely sliced green onion. All the flavors of a chicken and chorizo paella present, without cooking it in the traditional way. I am definitely doing this again so I can refine it and make it better. But for just pulling it out of my head and putting it on a plate for the first time it came out great.


To finish it all off, Tay made this apple chutney and brie on a baguette. He diced up some granny smith apples, red onion, and some anaheim chili peppers and cooked them down with some butter and added red wine vinegar to it. He also spiced it with some cinnamon and added some brown sugar to it as well. He buttered and toasted the baguette, added a slice of brie and threw it under the broiler for a minute to melt the brie. He then topped it with the chutney and garnished with a thin slice of apple. We had the first bite and it was good. The chutney was a little on the sweet side, but all in all it was a good finish to the meal. However, I tried my second with the slice and apple, and it completely changed the dish for the better. The freshness of the apple, which was tart and slightly bitter, mellowed the sweetness of the chutney, highlighted the taste of the brie, and punctuated the baguette. It was like listening to a song with one of the instruments missing. It might sound ok. But then the missing piece is added and it is a new, better experience. We all agreed the apple slice made the dish that much better. It went from a good ending to a great ending for the meal.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Quick update, chili madness

Sorry it has been over a month since my last post. It has been extremely busy as I have been in the middle of soccer season on top of working. Needless to say I haven't had much time to write. Or even go out to eat. Anyway, I thought I would share a little story about what happened last week.

Last week Mel and I went to the farmers market. Of course being the prime season for chili peppers, I was on a mission to find some new and/or exotic super hot peppers. We came across a stand calling itself "the furnace." They had at least 6 different peppers as hot or hotter than habenero peppers. I asked about a little tiny pepper called a Peruvian White Lightning pepper. The guy asked if I wanted to try it. He said "I am warning you, it's hotter than a standard habenero." So of course I said OK. I took a bite. It was hot but had a good flavor. The guy just stood there looking at me. He finally said, "You didn't really eat that and chew it up, did you?" I showed him the pepper and and took another bite. He looked amazed and called some other guys over. He was saying stuff like you aren't crying or anything. I just looked at him and said that it was hot but that I was actually there for some of the ghost chili's they had toward the back. He had a quizzical look on his face, which was about the point Mel says "He eats them raw." I think about that point all the guys' jaws dropped. He hands me one and wanted to see it. At this point there are about 6 people watching me eat another ghost chili. I got barraged with a bunch of questions after: How can you eat that? Is that even hot for you? Etc, etc, etc. So then I was offered a chocolate habenero, which had a deeper flavor to it in contrast to the bright, almost floral character of regular habeneros. Then a lemon habenero which does have a lemony taste to it. They were trying to find a red savina habenero which is the hottest habenero but couldn't find it. So I bought the little white lightning peppers and some ghost chilis. I only wanted 3 but they threw in a handful for the same price because I had eaten the one raw without falling over in pain. It was a fun little experience which even Mel admitted she enjoyed.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Wentzell's Oyster House

I remember when there was only one Wentzell's in Mobile, AL. It was downtown and I heard great things about it. Then, they decided to put one in the west side of town, on Airport Blvd, across from Providence Hospital. I have fond memories eating there every now and then when visiting Mobile and as a student at the University of Mobile. I had the chance to eat at the Airport Wentzell's once again a couple of weeks ago, 8/24/13. I drove down there with my brother, to help him move in, as he just got hired to a teaching position in Mobile. My one day there we ate at that Wentzell's for old time's sake. So, Wentzell's is a seafood restaurant. It serves all sorts of local Gulf seafood in a variety of ways. Here is what we had.


We started with a dozen raw, fresh shucked oysters. The oyster's were good and of good quality. The thing about oysters is that their flavor can change from day to day, and even hour to hour, depending on the water they are located in. Sometimes they can be salty. Sometimes they are sweeter. These were a little bit on the sweet side and were perfect as is or with a little hot sauce or horseradish. I was so happy to have some fresh oysters, as I can't get them of this quality in Michigan.


On of my favorite dishes of all time is the Gulf Coast specialty seafood gumbo. Once again it was nice to have a real, good, seafood gumbo. The shrimp were perfectly cooked as was the crab. The base was super flavorful and the rice was perfectly cooked. The veggies were also well done. I couldn't have been much happier diving into that cup.


Here is my basket of fried shrimp. The shrimp were perfectly fried and avoided being over cooked. I squirted a little cocktail sauce of ketchup and horseradish on to the basket to dip the shrimp in. Once again I was incredibly happy to have fresh fried shrimp along the Gulf Coast. There is simply nothing like it in the world. The batter coated the shrimp nicely and was very flavorful. Close to a perfect basket of fried shrimp. The hush puppies were good as well, but seemed like there were left in the fryer just a touch too long. The fries were cooked well, but were plain, salted, fries. The coleslaw was good, standard slaw in the tater sauce was pretty good too.


My brother, Brent, chose the shrimp po' boy. It was a bun loaded with fried shrimp, some pickle, tomato, onion, and cheese. Once again the shrimp was fried well with a good batter. The bun was buttered and grilled so it held everything without breaking down as well as adding flavor. It was a really good po' boy.

It was a fairly simple meal of good, quality seafood. And that is the key, the seafood. It was also a great meal because I got to spend it with my brother, who I won't be seeing for a while. I do have to note that there are now many Wentzell's as they have been franchising out, but from what I have heard the first two, downtown and Airport, are still the best ones. If you are ever in Mobile, AL I highly recommend eating at Wentzell's Oyster House.