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"A gourmet who thinks of calories is like a tart who looks at her watch." - James Beard


Sunday, May 4, 2014

Southern USA Road Trip - Bourbon, Bacon, Biscuits, Beer & Barbecue

We just returned from a seven-day road trip through the US South.  We drove through Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina and we ate and drank everything!

Before we left I made a list of regional specialties I wanted to try.  We managed to hit almost all of them.

#1 Cincinnati Chili

The first regional specialty we came across was Cincinnati Chili.  For this we went to Skyline Chili, a chain with locations all over Ohio.  The chili is a thin meat sauce spiced with cinnamon and cloves, served over spaghetti in a variety of "ways".  Three-way is spaghetti topped with chili and cheese.  Four-way adds onions and five-way adds beans.  It's served with oyster crackers on the side.  I have to say, I wasn't expecting much, but this was really tasty.  I was surprised by the warm spice of the sauce and the amount of cheese on top!  Also, the staff couldn't have been friendlier.  When we told them it was our first time, our whole meal was free!  Unbelievable.  

#2 Kentucky Bourbon

We only spent a short time in Kentucky, but we managed to try a bit of bourbon.  We toured a bourbon distillery and tried some samples and bourbon cocktails.  I even brought a bottle home as a souvenir.

#3 Grits

Our first time trying grits produced mixed results.  We had a wonderful brunch in Lexington, Kentucky.  Matt had shrimp & grits that were just delicious.  I ordered grits as a side with my breakfast and didn't fall in love. They were kind of bland, I'm afraid.  But with shrimp and remoulade they're a real winner!

#4 Barbecue, Meat & Three

We never did have a traditional Tennessee "plate lunch" which is meat (roast beef, meatloaf, fried chicken, etc.) and three sides (greens, mac & cheese, potato salad, beans, cornbread, etc.) But we did have barbecue & sides and fried chicken & sides, so I think we can count it.  This barbecue was just fantastic and I'll be writing more about it.  We shared a sampler platter with pulled pork, ribs, brisket and sides.  Amazing!

#7 Bacon

We made a special trip to this Tennessee smokehouse that's supposed to have the best bacon in North America.  Much more to come about that!  

#6 Biscuits, Red-Eye Gravy, Fried Green Tomatoes, Country Ham

This single dish knocked out four items on the list.  It's a biscuit with egg, cheese, country ham, fried green tomatoes, and red-eye gravy.  All of it was so good!

#7 Cheerwine

Cheerwine is a regional North Carolina cherry soda.  I was hoping to find it in a glass bottle, but this was just as good.  Not too sweet, very tasty.  

#8 Fried Okra

We almost missed this one but found it on our last day. I've never been a huge okra fan but battered and fried, it's a revelation.  So delicious!  

#9 Banana Pudding

Unfortunately we didn't get a chance to try many Southern desserts. We don't generally eat desserts but I would have loved to try some cobbler and pie if we weren't stuffed full of meat all the time.  But we did try the most delicious thing - banana pudding.  It's vanilla pudding with banana slices and vanilla wafers, topped with whipped cream.  So simple, light, creamy and delicious.

#10 Hot Chicken

I've saved the best for last.  Nashville's famous local dish is hot chicken.  It's spicy fried chicken and it is so insanely good we ate it every day we were there.  Sometimes it was covered in a dry spice rub and sometimes it was wet, but it was always tender, juicy and super spicy.  And it's always served on top of a slice of white bread with pickles on top.  I am absolutely going to attempt to get over my fear of frying and make this at home.  

There's much, much more to come with details on all these fantastic foods, plus the beer we tried and the fantastic music.  We had a wonderful trip we will never forget!  

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