Dispatch from Charleston: The Best Cornbread. EVER.

I was lucky to be invited to participate in a conference at Boeing South Carolina earlier this month which afforded me nearly a week in Charleston, The Holy City of the South. I’ve always wanted to visit, and despite nearly annual trips to the Outer Banks in childhood and two college years in southern North Carolina, I’d never yet had that chance. Naturally, being a fan of all foods southern, I’d read about the culinary renaissance there and the good work being done by Chef Sean Brock in this capital of Spanish moss and gentility.

Yes, I took this photo. Consider it a gift after last week’s disastrous pictures

Our conference was centered at a spectacular hotel – The Charleston Place Hotel. I have no idea how much rooms cost there, but do choose it if it fits in your budget. It is at the center of everything you’ll want to see and do, and the Louis Vuitton store right in the hotel was recently visited by Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds following their Charleston nuptials. The Spa at Charleston Place was rated very highly, so I gave it a try for a lemongrass and green tea body scrub the day of my arrival, and was highly impressed at the quality of 30 minute massage included in the treatment. Usually, massages tacked on to body treatments are perfunctory, but my esthetician diagnosed my needs and gave me a true deep tissue massage, targeting my travel-weary muscles and providing a truly luxurious experience. Plus: turn down service and chocolates on the pillow!

This statue is very famous, apparently

Your home base at Charleston Place will afford you a centralized jumping off point to enjoy both the glamorous potential pocketbook trouble of King St. shopping, the touristy glee of the Central Market’s Gullah-inspired souvenirs, and tons of fabulous restaurants. One such eatery, named Best New Restaurant by Southern Living in 2011, is Husk, which Boss K and I ate at night one of our Charleston trip.

Husk has a different menu every single meal service, with all foods sourced south of the Mason Dixon line. Chef Brock has an enormous respect for local ingredients, taking the provenance of his meats and grains as seriously as French chefs take wine and cheese. What this means is, while I’m going to tell you how great my meal was there, your meal when you visit will invariably be much different. What doesn’t change is the cocktail menu, and I can tell that the Triple Lindy I had, with rose-infused tequila, tonic and cayenne/sugar/salt rim, was clean, crispy and refreshing, which is what you need when you order an appetizer consisting of battered and deep fried chicken skins.
I’m pretty sure the idea of fried chicken skin as a stand-alone dish is gross to most people. In the abstract, I get that. But think about Thanksgiving, when you crowd around your dad as the poor man tries to carve the bird, absconding with crispy, salty sheaths of golden poultry skin. You know you’ve done it! An entire plate of these was certainly more than decadent, but the piquant peach-honey dipping sauce and my own bottle of house-made hot sauce somehow transformed this usually furtively-eaten treat into a cohesive dish I wasn’t ashamed to eat loud-and-proud, in public. The skins themselves, fried up golden, had a little more give and heft than the very crispiest of turkey skin, a light-as-air crust, and that salty/fatty balance sought after by the world’s most extravagant gluttons. I couldn’t eat the entire plate, but I wanted to.

The must-order, don’t-miss, don’t even think about messing with my guidance here item at Husk, and one they actually have every day, is a side of Benton’s bacon corn bread for the table. I’m serious, people. Do not blow off this advice. Get this corn bread, and then name your first-born after me. Benton’s is the fabled smokehouse of the South, home of the smokiest bacon in the land, bred from heritage piggies and lovingly cured by gastronomic superhero Allan Benton. In this cornbread, the bits of the hickory-smoked pork belly are rendered in a small cast-iron skillet, and then the corn bread batter is poured right in over top, so that the bacon grease provides the lube for the pan. Because Benton’s bacon is so smoky, the entire affair gets that hickory undertone, with a sea-salt-sprinkled top and crispy bottom. When you bite into this heavenly lavishness, the bacon fat coats your mouth in the best possible way, and then the corn meal batter takes over to balance the porcine content perfectly. This really is a Southern classic made into a masterpiece. Incidentally, you can order bacon directly off Benton’s website. I’ve done it; it’s a GREAT idea and hilarious to receive a box of bacon via UPS.

My entrée was a pork chop, accompanied by cider-braised cabbage, apples and turnips. Overall, the dish balanced bitter and sweet really well, with the turnips providing the counterpoint to the cider, cabbage and apples. The chop was caramelized outside, and cooked medium inside, which left the texture absolutely luscious. This dish was fall on a plate, which may have been incongruous with the high 90s temps outside, but was satisfying nonetheless. The cider-based sauce on the plate was lick-worthy, and I was so glad that attention had been paid to an appropriate amount of salt and pepper on the meat – under-seasoning is one of the biggest differentiators between high-end and run of the mill dining, I think.

The setting for all this fine food is a wide-porched, classic Charleston home, renovated inside to be modern and casual. K and I wore business attire, but jeans would be acceptable here, if you funked them up with cool jewelry and nice shoes. Be aware, you never know when you’re going to run into Faith Hill or Tiger Woods in Charleston, so you kind of want to look sharp. We gave Husk an eight on the BHS scale, a score only slightly negatively affected by my less-than-stellar buttermilk panna cotta dessert, which was rather insipid, unlike the rest of this sumptuous meal. Overall, this is a spot worthy of the hype. The food is thoughtful, measured, outrageous, but still anchored in history, with a real sense of both time and place. And the cornbread is bangin’.

Another worthy stop on the very same street is Poogan’s Porch, a Charleston mainstay since 1976 and another celebrity haunt. And by haunt, I mean this place is haunted, although K and I enjoyed a somewhat more casual meal there unmolested by apparitions. We began with the fried green tomatoes, which is one of my favorite things, though it was tough not to order the pimento cheese fritters, given my recent penchant for that product. The batter on these slightly bitter babies was everything – crunchy and just greasy enough to let you know you were eating something delightfully naughty, and the pecan-crusted goat cheese alongside was a brilliant, tangy, earthy accompaniment.

This was one of those doomed meals where my eyes were bigger than my stomach and I couldn’t really do my own entrée justice as far as eating it, but I tried my damndest. The pork 3 ways was most of my favorite things all on one plate: pulled pork, pork belly and ham-studded macaroni and cheese. Every little thing on that plate was outstanding – the macaroni was al dente, the gouda sauce was sharp, smoky, and had definite personality, and the pork belly was ridiculously rich, salty but not too much, and savory with not-too-sweet BBQ sauce deliciousness. The pulled pork could have had more texture, but I’m really splitting hairs, here; this was fine food.

K had the shrimp and grits, which I thought were fantastic in a spicy, hearty, homey way. She, however, wished in the end she’d ordered the fried chicken. And THAT is why you need to go to Charleston yourself and sample these yummies – because we all have different tastes, and just today I was reading a comment on Facebook from a dear friend who thinks chefs are relying too heavily on bacon as a crutch. This is blasphemous sacrilege to me, of course, but apparently, not everyone is as obsessed with salted, cured, pork products as I am.

Oh, and try Poogan’s sweet, buttery, flaky, tender biscuits. Riiight, I forgot I ate those. That might help explain why I was so full come entrée time. Anyhoodle, while Poogan’s might not be setting the world on fire like Husk and Brock’s other baby, McCrady’s, it is classic comfort food translated in a uniquely Carolinian way, and totally worth one of your Charleston evenings.

Next week, I’ll tie up Charleston in a pretty little package for you with a breakfast that blew my mind, and some fun new friends from Abu Dhabi. Hold on to your hats and stay tuned, because it was fabulous. My hunger is big; my personality is bigger!

Husk on Urbanspoon

Poogan's Porch on Urbanspoon


Dispatch from Philly: A Golden Repast

I must preface this review of the spot Philadelphia Magazine named best restaurant in the city with an apology about the photography with which I’m about to assault you. It’s atrocious, and I realize that. Here’s why: Zahav is wonderful, but dark, and I ate there smack in the middle of an uproarious girls’ weekend that had included many adult beverages, one breathless race through Rittenhouse Square following a too-long perusal of Lululemon, and a possibly illegal Society Hill parking job on a residential side street. Keep that in mind, heed the words, and ignore the blur. Thank you.

Zahav, the brainchild of the two dudes who brought us Percy Street Barbecue and a new fried chicken and donuts joint much lauded by “Zeke the Food God” at Di Bruno Bros., Federal Donuts, is the most upscale of the trio. The word Zahav means “gold,” in Hebrew, reflecting the Israeli origin of the cuisine and chef. It’s all exotic spice souk meets monastery chic inside, accompanied by a fun, poppy, 80s soundtrack. Trippy indeed, but somehow absolutely, positively fitting for the gorgeous array of food cranked out here.

While we were seated for 20 minutes or so before our drink order was taken, this minor inconvenience was forgotten when our waiter made special accommodation to serve the roasted lamb dish a la carte for Big Hungry Jill and me, even though they don’t usually do that. I started my meal with a drink called Forbidden Fruit, a concoction of tequila, saffron and pomegranate. I’m pretty sure they don’t drink much tequila in Israel, but if they catch wind of this drink, they might start.

As a table, we ordered the Tayim, which is Zahav’s version of the Lockhart at Percy Street: a selection of appetizers, side dishes and main courses to be shared by the table. If you’re a table of big eaters, get the Mesibah, which features the same starters and sides, but the whole roasted lamb shoulder as the entrée. First up in the progression, a shallow but wide dish of hummus was delivered to the table with laffa bread, which is a thinner, more delicate version of pita. Zahav’s puffy laffa is made in house, and is crisp in some places and soft and chewy in others, like really fine pizza crust. Big Hungry Shannon muttered what we were all thinking about the hummus, “I could eat only this for the rest of my life and be happy.” It was….exemplary. Miles away from the supermarket variety – silky, earthy, salty and sweet, garnished with a fair bit of, sincerely, the most delicious olive oil I have ever tasted. We were practically licking the bottom of the serving dish, and thought about ordering seconds or thirds of both it and the bread.

Next up: the salatim, otherwise known as a dizzying selection of salads and vegetable dishes. The twice-baked eggplant was my favorite, almost syrupy sweet, caramelized and highly spiced. In the magical zoo of mythical creatures, this is what the unicorns eat. Holy God, it was delicious.

Big Hungry Jill particularly liked the carrots with cumin and coriander, and promises she has a recipe for a similar dish that she’ll share with me. Again, these were spiced without being spicy; Tender without being mushy. I would put it on equal footing with the beet dish, comprised of shredded, roasted beets, which were creamy and spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg into a comforting, holiday-like confection. The pickled vegetables were a clever foil for all the richly spiced veg dishes. I’ve never thought of a pickle as a palate cleanser before, but these made sense in that role.

Next up was our selection of mezze. We each chose two, and my faves from the list were the chicken liver mousse (duh) and baked kibbe. The kibbe, or lamb meatballs, were rich and creamy, but just a touch dry for me.

The chicken liver mousse, served in little slices on toasted, sweet, slightly dry challah bread, was a creamy, mineraly delight. The crispy chicken skin blessing the top might not be the feed of any magical creatures, but I would be glad to eat it any time. Fried chicken skin has been a trademark of successful Top Chef cheftestants for years, but I’m just now starting to see it on menus in the real world, and I shall rejoice and partake of each instance.

The fried cauliflower was good, but its accompaniment of chive, dill, mint and garlic sauce was everything. Simple, and I do mean simple, but in the best possible way; awesome. Guess what else? We tried sweetbreads. Sweetbreads! Yes, the pancreas of the calf or lamb, fried up schnitzel-style with cauliflower and tahina. The meat was very creamy and mild, and the cheesy, also mild pesto underneath and pickled cauliflower alongside were terrific foils.

The crispy haloumi is a must-order item. Haloumi is the Mediterranean cheese that you can grill up and it stays firm with just a delicious, salty edge of goo. Laura was dying to try it, so the rest of us just had small samples, but the mix of crispy cheese, peas, and pine nuts was divine. Definitely what the snuffalupagus eats in the zoo of magical pets.

There were also some tasty main courses directly prior to that piece de resistance, the roasted lamb, hitting our table. The ground duck kebabs were very tender and moist. The rice with which they were served was killer, basmati scented with cinnamon, cumin, and nutmeg. I can never get my basmati to turn out right – it’s always a sticky mess – so I appreciate when it’s done right. Plus, the spiced rice was a really yummy, comforting, warming compliment to the rich duck meat.

Everything we had eaten so far was by far heady enough – we were all in a boozy haze of satiety and pleasure. There’s something about highly spiced, but not spicy, food that is sumptuous and enveloping in a way, say, raw oysters or pork belly is not. I love all types of food, but this cuisine, which is relatively new to me, is racing up the list as a favorite. And next came the lamb, the gorgeous, rich, masterpiece of the meal. I’m so sad my disastrous photo doesn’t do it justice at all.

This lavish dish was salty, sweet, melty, crispy, meaty and rich. The meat was fall-apart tender while still being moist, with crispy, charred edges adorned in sticky-sweet, slightly bitter pomegranate glaze, with veins of heavenly fat delivered to our table by angels. It was a bacchanalia of meat, served with crispy fried chickpeas on a bed of crispy, fried rice. Equally good were the leftovers a day later, when I scooped the hunks of luscious meat onto store-bought pita bread. It is an imperative that you try this fantastic dish at Zahav when you go.

We also partook in some desserts, none of which really rang my bell after that spectacular lamb, but I will say the coconut cake and ricotta cheese dessert we sampled was enormously satisfying, and the dessert cocktail I ordered, with grand marnier, honey and cream, was slap-your-mama good.

When the manager of Zahav came out to say hi, we could not have been more effusive in our praise of this beautiful meal. Though the restaurant and presentation of the dishes are very high end, the food is ultimately so homey and comforting, it feels very relaxed. In fact, we made friends with the couple at the table next to us, ultimately giving the husband some of our lamb, since his wife was a vegetarian. We gave Zahav a 10 on the BHS scale, with two exclamation points next to it. We tried some far out stuff – sweetbreads, duck hearts, lamb – and liked all of it. If Israeli cuisine sounds far out to you, which it certainly would have to me a year ago, I promise that there are dishes here that will seem familiar and comfortable. Above all, the modern meets ancient atmosphere and knowledgeable staff will bring you a positive dining experience and a night out you won’t soon forget – even if the cocktails do flow a little too liberally. You’ll love it, just as the unicorns do. My hunger is big; my personality is bigger!

Zahav on Urbanspoon


Once Upon a Time, I Had a Birthday

Yesterday, I turned 35. I know, I can hardly believe it myself. Shawn and I marked the day at home, relaxing, figuring out some landscaping challenges in the front yard, and burning the garlic plants from this summer's garden. We ended it with leftover hot dogs and spiedies, and an early bedtime brought on by sore throats and general laze.

However, on Saturday, way back when I was still 34, my wonderful, generous, fun friends and I partied like we were still 28. Oh wait, one of us still is.

My fabulous party began around 10:30 a.m., when Jill flounced into my bedroom and I breathed, "Thank God you're here; I need help with my hair." Depite her hatred for my newly acquired curling iron, she helped, and we were soon ready to welcome Melinda, Derek, Katie and Dan, and Kate and Tom to our home for the party. The limo arrived shortly after that, and we were off to Cayuga Lake's Wine Trail for a day filled with laughter, vino, a limo packed with people, snacks, and shenanigans, and one pink elephant.

I want to thank Masterminds Melinda and Jill for planning the wonderful day, Shawn for thowing down the much-needed bank, and the rest of my friends for being so much fun. We hit some of my winery favs: Americana Vineyards, Lucas Vineyards, Sheldrake Point Winery, Thirsty Owl Wine Company, Cayuga Ridge Estates, and Goose Watch Winery. We wrecked havoc and drank much of NY's bounty.

I love Shawn's pose in this one
We were a rowdy crew, and I thank the good wine pourERs of the Finger Lakes for putting up with us all day. Especially Jim at Thirsty Owl, who serenaded us with his dulcet tones and sweet vidal blanc.

My girls were so much fun. My cheeks still hurt from smiling so much. Smiling's the best.

Thank you all for making the day so amazing! It was delicious, hilarious, uproarious, sunny, funny, and cramazeballs! I love you all!


Dispatch from Philly: A City Guide

I’ve certainly covered Philadelphia, PA for you in the past. I’ve brought you detailed descriptions of marvelous pate at Parc, bacon chocolate chip cookies at Cookie Confidential (more on this place later), and great pizza in nearby Jersey ‘burbs. What I’ve failed to provide is a true getaway guide to the City of Brotherly Love, which was initially the intention of this blog, before my own whims and lifestyle turned it into a trip around the world with me and reviews therein. Philadelphia is a mere three hour trip from the Southern Tier of NY, and five and a half from NNY, completely reasonable for a long weekend family jaunt.

Big Hungry Jill long ago devised her trademark Philly Driving Tour, which she employs when friends and family visit her the first time. With me, Big Hungry Laura and Big Hungry Shannon all visiting simultaneously a few weeks ago, she dusted off the tour but added an intriguing twist: we embarked on the excursion after a stop at famed treats purveyor Franklin Fountain. This ice cream emporium is fairly new, but fashioned after federalist-era soda fountains. The ice creams and sauces are made in-house, by mustachioed gents dressed as if they walked in from a bygone era. I procured a traditional hot fudge sundae, crowned with the richest, most fudgy-tasting hot fudge ever. The ice cream itself was replete with real vanilla flavor without being so very laden with butterfat content as to be heavy on the palate, and the whipped cream up on top was bonafide. This sundae was resplendent, and while the boys behind the counter initially forgot our order, their banter and eagerness to please made up for the lapse.

Perhaps had this boy’s facial hair been more resplendent, he wouldn’t have forgotten our order?
Creamy, cold goodness in hand, we all loaded back into Jill’s Fit (the Fit is GO!) to proceed with the tour. Incidentally, if Franklin Fountain makes it to your Philly hit list, precede your visit with a stop at Shane Confectionery, just a few doors down on historic Market St in Old City, which was the original main drag of Philly back when men wore hosiery and women thought violating their rib cages with corsets would lead to good health. Anyway, Shane is just as old-timey as FF, a charming escape from the hustle and bustle of a major city into a world of chocolates, sucking candies and fudge, plus, when you buy something at Shane, your receipt gets you 10 percent off at FF! A bargain old Benny Franklin himself would have loved.

Of course, an integral part of the driving tour is Old City Philadelphia, which encompasses the most historic square mile in America. You won’t want to miss Independence Hall, the building where Declaration of Independence and Constitution were adopted, nor the Liberty Bell, if you’re a first timer. There will be lines, and this will be a time suck, but as an American, you need to see this history, feel it. I will not recommend the Mutter Museum, a storehouse of the medically strange implements suffered by our ancestors, which we toured this time around. But if you’ve been to Philly before, and done the de rigueur, touristy stuff, make your way to South St., my favorite city oddity. This was the original border of the metropolis on the South side. Here, you can gawk at the bohemian make-up of the street’s inhabitants, indulge in some uniquely adult shopping, grab a cheesesteak from one of the top Philly steak purveyors, Jim’s Steaks, or veer off even more southward towards the Italian Market. At said market, brave the lines and hit Di Bruno Bros., the holy shrine of cheese and meat. One of the cute boys there, Zeke, really knows his prosciutto, will let you taste the olive oil, and will give you amazing recommendations on where else to eat in the city. Don’t leave this place without some fine olives, a slice of pate, and a wedge of delicious cheese. Zeke will tell you which ones to pick.

Laura likes hanging meat

Neither of these boys is Zeke. You’ll have to seek him on your own. I’m teaching you independence, here, people. Like our forefathers taught.

Back on South Street, don’t miss a cocktail at an initially scary-looking Tattooed Mom. This joint is hilariously retro, whith a kitsch-filled interior, but the cocktails are serious, and seriously good. If you happen to be hungry, order the perogies with any of a bunch of toppings, or the cheesed-up, macked-out tater tots, but make sure to try a drink. Jill and I went for the Mexico City Lunchbox, with tequila, rhubarb liqueur, lime and Tabasco sauce, served with a Tecate beer alongside. In fact, I think we may have gone for more than one. You know how I like it: spicy, sweet, tequila, ole!

If interesting cocktails are high on your list of Philadelphia must-dos, wander over to the Rittenhouse Square area and be at Franklin Mortgage and Investment Company promptly at 4. They will not make you take out a loan, but they will mix you up some of the most complicated alcoholic concoctions in the history of well, America.

This place is in the basement and very cave-like, so if sweetness and light and everything nice is more in your comfort zone, or you’re toting kids around the city, route instead to Cookie Confidential, back towards South St. This mecca of sweet and salty goodness has somehow escaped the bright, shining lights of Food Network’s and Travel Channel’s cameras, but is just as important to your itinerary as the Franklin Fountain. You may remember that I Benjamin Buttoned an entire five years after one bite of CC’s bacon chocolate chip cookie on our last visit. This time, I sampled a lovely, creamy, vanilla cake-in-a-jar, some killer, spicy bacon sriracha peanut brittle, and some shortbready lemon sriracha cookies that literally saved me during the following day’s Phillies traffic.

If you chose the Rittenhouse route and somehow missed South Street and the Italian Market altogether, fear not, because there’s a Di Bruno Bros. right across the street from Franklin Mortgage & Investment, and it’s even bigger than its closet-like, older Italian Market sibling location. This location boasts the addition of ready-to-eat foods in a vast case in the center of the store, which makes me glad I don’t live in city center Philly, because I’d probably never cook again. Also in Rittenhouse is the good shopping. I like the massive Anthropologie and Kiehl’s, while the ladies at the Lagos jewelry store told us Harrison Ford (!!) had been in earlier that day perusing their wares. I only buy my really expensive jewelry at Indiana Jones-approved retailers.

After all this drinking and sweets-noshing (not to mention sight-seeing!), you may be wondering when I’ll mention the real food. Well again, you wouldn’t be amiss in having booked a table at Parc for a foray into French bistro fare, but if you’re looking for a more relaxing and relaxed repast, stay at South St and roll on down to Percy Street Barbecue after your Mexico City Lunchbox. This new (to me) country joint, smack in the middle of the big city, is all unadorned wood and buckets of canned beer. It’s meat wrapped in butcher paper and a light-filled, honky-tonk atmosphere. This is a place that encourages a good time and a dinner where you let it all hang out and give your friends nicknames like Big Hungry Vodka Puss (Laura).

My fourth adult beverage of the day inspired some artful photography

If you know what’s good for you, you’ll start this feast with some turkey tails. No, they’re not really tails, or at least, I don’t think they are. Instead, they are supremely smoky, fatty in a good way, saucy nuggets of turkey meat and sweet sauce. The “bark” or crust on them is terrific, there are luscious juxtapositions of crunchy skin and soft meat, and they are divinely snacky – the best football food EVER. Absolutely delicious.

Also, you’ll want to order a bucket of beer for the table. They only serve canned beer here, but the list is long – way more than a 100 unique microbrews to be found – even the beer-shy at your table will be able to find something they’ll like. But beware, the bucket stand your fun waitress will bring may be a wee bit tipsy, and once you’ve joined in relative drunkenness, someone at your table might accidentally kick it over in a fit of laughter, sending a cadre of concerned wait staff rushing at you like wolves to the slaughter. You’ve been warned.

So listen, if you don’t live in Philly, but you’re visiting, that automatically means you’re on vacation. And if you’re a good Big Hungry devotee, you know we don’t trouble ourselves with things like diets or wellness or moderation whilst on holiday, correct? That’s what I thought. So, go ahead and order the Lockhart. This ensures you’ll try just about everything on the menu. No, you won’t be able to eat it all, but believe me, it’s all good the next day. We added on the pimento cheese to this smorgasbord, because I’ve been on a particular pimento cheese kick lately. It was OK. Founding Farmers, in DC, doesn’t need to worry about losing its crown, and neither does my friend Robin’s mother-in-lw, who also makes a good rendition. It was chunkier than others, and spicy, but didn’t have the depth of flavor I really like in a good pimento cheese spread.

Never fear, though, because you know what is absolute Heaven at Percy Street? The burnt ends beans, French fries, brisket, and sauerkraut. Tuck IN, dudes. The beans were the best thing to hit our table all night, and sincerely, the best I’ve ever had. They were firm, not mushy; sweet, not cloying; beefy, but balanced. They were addictive, and I not only kept going back for more, but ate the rest the next morning before breakfast. Burnt ends are the end bits of the beef brisket, usually dark brown once that huge hunk of meat comes out of the smoker. The ends are left highly caramelized and concentrated, intensely beefy and spiced from the dry rub and all that smoke. Transferred into these masterful beans, those chunks of meat leant many levels of flavor not present in beans flavored with mere bacon or salt pork. It feels like blasphemy to type that, but there it is. I’m not typically a fan of baked beans, but the next time we smoke a brisket, I’m trying this technique.

Despite the fact that the French fries were well seasoned and delicately crisp, chef told us they were a commercial product, so I won’t spend much time waxing poetic about them. Why would a place making all of this food from scratch not make their own fries? I don’t get it. But the sauerkraut made up for that glitch. It was spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg, a much less sour version than I’ve tasted before, with more of an emphasis towards a comforting blanket of stewed cabbage. Yum.

Many meats came with the Lockhart: brisket, ribs, pulled pork, chicken and pork belly. While pulled pork is my typical go-to, and BBQ pork belly made me salivate from afar weeks in advance, I have to give the win to the brisket at Percy Street. It was transcendingly tender, with a gorgeous smoke ring, perfectly crowned by a tangy, light, tomatoey sauce with a whisper of heat. It pulled apart without falling apart, and was beefy and smoky while still playing nicely with the sauce. In a word, wonderful.

The pork belly wasn’t bad. It was fatty, smoky, and chewy, providing a nice pair to the sauerkraut and hot mess sauce. But it was no brisket. Similarly, the sausage was good, also sufficiently smoky, the casing was crisp and the filling was toothsome without being too dense. But I’m telling you, the brisket took the cake. After eating a lot of it, and the beans, and then some sauerkraut and sampling some of the German potato salad which also was good, I hit the food wall, fell over, and curled into the fetal position. OK, not really. Actually, right about then, Laura kicked over some beers and swore loudly enough that we think she may have unduly and negatively influenced a minor, and I did quite a bit of raucous laughing. What can I say? I like to have a good time.

The chicken and pickles are conspiring against us, and now our pants don't fit. Thanks alot, jerks!
 There are so many good places these days in Philly to eat. Later on this week, I’m going to tell you about the near-religious experience we had the following night at Zahav in Society Hill, which is run by the same kind folks shilling buckets of beer at Percy Street. And again, I’m not taking anything away from Parc, nor any one of a number of cheesesteak joints dotting the city. But we awarded Percy Street Barbecue an eight on the BHS scale, and I highly recommend it if you’re looking for a fun night out on the town near the place the video for Motownphilly was filmed.

A couple of notes before I bid you adieu this week, my hungries. Sunday is my birthday. I am turning an appalling number and am a teensy bit scared that my advanced age will take away all the vim and vigor I bring you on a weekly basis here. Ok, not really, but Melinda is throwing me some huge bash, and I’m really excited. I can’t wait to tell you all about it. Also, my friend Gwen writes a blog as well, and has taken on a unique culinary challenge with her hubby, whom I call Airown. Read all about it at Confessions of a Gila Monster. It could be a fun activity for you and your mate. I may be back in a couple days (a bonus post since I missed last week) with my Zahav review, so stay tuned. My hunger is big; my personality is bigger!

Percy Street Barbecue on Urbanspoon