Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Dirt Road Barbeque

I have to eat. I like to eat well. The fact that I travel as often as I do and spend so much time in the car make those two goals at odds with each other. Enter the GPS. From time to time I will look for a place to eat during a drive. I generally subscribe to the "when in Rome..." philosophy and therefore search for a barbeque joint. After all, my Rome is sometimes the nowhere regions of Alabama and Georgia.  

About a mile off the highway in Cusseta, Alabama, my GPS told me, is a barbeque restaurant called Dirt Road Barbeque. As I followed my GPS down Alabama County Road 388, the road took a sharp right turn and a dirt road continued straight. There was a small sign and lots of people with horses at the entrance to the dirt road. A bunch of horseback riders were just finishing lunch and exiting the wooden structure with the particle board and corrugated metal roof.
A country accent greeted me as I entered. She apologized for the big, messy table that just vacated by the horseback riders. I found a table and she asked what I want to drink. I ordered an unsweetened iced tea, a barbeque pork sandwich, onion rings, and cole slaw. She went into the kitchen as I stepped outside to grab a few photos. It occurred to me that they may not take credit cards and I did not have much cash. She confirmed that they do not take plastic so I looked in the car, scrounging for change and brought my total to about $4.00. I went back inside and apologized, but not before she could apologize for the inconvenience. I asked her to just bring me the onion because they had already been cooked but she insisted that she would take the $4.00 and bring me everything I ordered. She has been telling her husband that they should take credit cards but he doesn’t want to.  
The tea was already on the table and everything else arrived in a minute. The pork portion was modest for the size of the bun, but the sandwich only costs $2.75. The onion rings were crispy, not greasy and had large slices onion in each one. The slaw was moist and tasty. I could smell the smokiness of the pork with every bite of all the food, not just the sandwich. I have enjoyed barbeque for a long time and my appreciation for it as a genuine contribution to gastronomic landscape of our planet. This particular experience also had the effect of restoring a bit of faith in humanity and the hospitality industry.  If you are ever in that neck of the woods, I hardily encourage you to stop by for some old fashioned southern hospitality. 

Dirt Road Barbeque
7151 County Road 388 
Cusseta, AL 36852 
(334) 756-9673

Sunday, March 15, 2009 dressing is frothing!

I have been in and around food service business for more than 25 years. My dining companions have similar backgrounds; one even owns thirty-one restaurants. So when my blue cheese salad dressing is frothing and carbonated, I trust my judgment that it is fermented and therefore spoiled. Don't get me wrong, I love carbonated things....well really just beverages.

The salad was sent back, stating in no-uncertain terms that the dressing was spoiled. Deena, our waitress, took the salad back. She returned a few minutes later and assured us that all of their dressings are made fresh and therefore the salad dressing was good but she would be glad to replace the salad...with another kind of dressing if desired. She did not taste the dressing but assured us that the kitchen assured her that it is good. OOOOKAAAY. I'll have oil and vinegar. The salad was delivered and she explained again that the dressing was fresh and their blue cheese dressing is kind of tangy and that may have been what we were tasting. A short while later, another individual who appeared to be a manager stopped by and once again assured us that their blue cheese dressing is kind of tangy but it is fresh and good. REALLY? Even if we had dead palates and somehow did not know that carbonation is not normal in blue cheese dressing, one would think that the staff would not go out of its way to argue with us, repeatedly. This Mecca of food safety and customer service shall go unnamed since I am sharing this story with management in the hopes that they address it appropriately.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Peat Virgin No More

I finally got around to firing up my peat. That oh-so-strange-yet-so-well-suited Christmas gift from my friend. It was a little slow to get going and did produce a lot of smoke, which is good because I am smoking some cured pork and some sea salt. When it finally got going, it was all I could do to keep the temperature in my smoker from going through the roof. This is the same smoker that I have put a good size pile of charcoal just to maintain the desired temperature of 200 to 250 degrees and a really large pile to get to 350 degrees. 

A small pile of natural hardwood charcoal with five one pound peat bricks has no problem getting to smoking hot temperatures well exceeding 350 degrees. The bad news is that is not what I want. I am looking for the magic temperature of 200 to 250 degrees.  

The good news is that the aroma of the peat did not disappoint. It is briny, salty, and even a little oily. Did you ever eat something so good that you kept your fingers close to your nostrils just so you could vicariously enjoy it over and over again from the residual aroma on your hands? Well I have not even eaten the results yet and my hands continually drift towards my nostrils. More good news is that even the smoker is still running a bit hotter than I like, the bacon will be done sooner and I can go to bed and dream of Scotland.