Friday, December 2, 2011
TBG Eats: The Fried Chicken & Pancakes and the Bacon Old-Fashion from Slater's 50/50
Current Weight: 168.0 lbs.
For the first time in ten years, my wife and I did not host Thanksgiving dinner at Stately Bootleg Manor. Instead, we made the 90-minute drive north from San Diego to my mother's house in Ontario. This, of course, meant that for the first time in ten years, my wife couldn't complain about having to cook Thanksgiving dinner.
Actually…scratch that. Mrs. Bootleg's Thanksgiving gripes really never rise past a melodramatic, exasperated sigh while mixing the filling for her famous sweet potato pie or her annual hollow threat ("This is the LAST year I'm doing ALL of the cooking!"). Ironically enough, after receiving a reprieve from primary kitchen duty, my wife unleashed an especially prickly grievance. It seems that after asking my wife to cook the greens – which Mrs. Bootleg makes better than anyone on either side of our families – my mom stepped in at the 11th hour and claimed the collards for herself.
Rest assured…I did make the obligatory Tyler Perry analogy on Twitter in response.
Otherwise, the holiday went off without a hitch – good food, bad football and family. For those scoring at home, these were the top three finishers in my own 2011 Thanksgiving MVP balloting.
(1) My Grandfather: His pointed wit and physical prowess belie his 85 years. He and my aunt arrived at my mom's house shortly after Mrs. Bootleg, my son and me. He walked in with an ear-to-ear grin and a package under his arm. "I know you like good beer", he said as he handed me a six-pack…of Bud Light. He laughed heartily at my misplaced anticipation. Later, he performed random acts of yard work on my mom's front lawn as a houseful of able-bodied adults – several decades his junior – marveled from afar. And then, in the main event of the evening, he graced us with a spontaneous running commentary of the Enrique Iglesias/Pitbull performance during halftime of the Dolphins v. Cowboys game.
"Pitbull? His name's 'Pitbull'?! Pitbull's not a poi-sin*. Pitbull's a damn dog."
(*Obviously, I can't do it justice, but it helps if you consider my grandfather is originally from Alabama and pronounces certain words with an early 20th century southern black accent. "Person", for example, is "poi-sin".)
(2) Kool-Aid: After dinner, I asked my seven-year-old son to tell me his favorite food from the feast his grandmother had prepared. My vote would've gone to the macaroni and cheese**. Creamy, but with a sharp cheddar tang, I shamelessly shoved half the pan into my take-home Tupperware. A close runner-up would've been my mom's ridiculously delicious deviled eggs with diced bits of bacon mixed into the middle. My son, however, happily nominated the "red drink".
With apologies to the National Black Caucus, Mrs. Bootleg and I don't keep Kool-Aid in our house. But, when I was growing up, Kool-Aid practically established permanent residency on the top shelf – always on the right-hand side – inside our refrigerator. In 2011, my mom still makes it – and in the same Technicolor-stained plastic pitcher that I stole sips from 30 years ago. I watched my wide-eyed son ask his grandmother for another glass…then, another…as I couldn't help but think I'd somehow failed Jalen – by filling our refrigerator with organic milk, orange juice and bottles of water.
** -- Last week, Pat Robertson used the holiday lull to sneak into a national news cycle for the first time in almost 20 years when he asked, on the air, if macaroni and cheese was "a black thing". Lost in the subsequent 20 minutes of indifferent indignation was that, yes, it IS a black thing. Certain side dishes are the closest thing we have to a family crest (at least ones that we don't share with, umm…"certain Southerners" from 150+ years ago). We get excited and prideful about macaroni and cheese, greens and 7-Up cake in a way that you probably don't about green bean casserole. Some of us also eat chitlins, but even I ain't THAT black.
(3) Standard Definition Television: On Twitter, I asked if standard definition TVs were the new "rotary phone" of technological trademarks inside our parents' homes. Even as I watched teeny, fuzzy football players run around 27-inches of televised turf, it occurred to me that I might've spoke too soon. The one-ply toilet paper in my mom's bathroom and the razor-thin bar of soap that sat alongside the bathroom sink were other archetypes from the way-back machine. (Hey, YOU try those scented soaps from Bath & Body Works and tell me your hands aren't in heaven!)
Two days after the holiday, it was time for my other Thanksgiving tradition: meeting up with my aging high school crew for beers, lunch and hurtful laughs at each other's expense.
Once again, we opted for Slater's 50/50. We ate there for the first time back in the spring. We visited their Huntington Beach location shortly after it opened during the summer. And, our unintentional once-a-season Slater's campaign continued with some autumnal eating last weekend.
I arrived shortly after noon and found my friend Smitty and his wife parked at the bar. They were clearly 1-2 drinks ahead of me, so I wasted no time in placing my order. The "Bacon Old-Fashion" included words like "bacon", "bourbon" and "maple syrup" in the description. Like the rest of you, I've only ever dreamt of dipping my bacon into syrup n' bourbon at breakfast. Now, I can have it for reals!
The drink was sweeter than I thought it would be, but the traces of citrus and acidity from the orange twist helped cut the sugar. The bacon notes from the bourbon were a bit inconsistent from sip to sip, but the Basil Hayden's itself was buttery smooth and warmed wonderfully as it went down. If a 90-minute drive back to San Diego wasn't looming in my immediate future, I'd have ordered two or three more.
About 30 minutes later, our friends Thai and JP walked in, so we moved over to the dining area for lunch. Three of us ordered the "Fried Chicken and Pancakes" -- Slater's obvious play on the soul food staple, chicken and waffles. From the menu:
Fried chicken topped with house-made bacon-infused country gravy, two strips of thick-cut bacon and a fried egg between three buttermilk pancakes smothered in real maple syrup.
Awww, yeah. The impressive-looking plates arrived and I quickly removed my serrated sword. There was no room to separate the components, so I went all-in with mouthfuls of everything at once. The unquestioned star of this steroidal short stack was the fried chicken. The seasoning was spot-on without overwhelming any of the other ingredients and the steam from the pillows of pancakes acted like a syrupy sauna as it kept the chicken moist.
I continue to regret coming around to over-medium eggs so late in life. The gooey yolk oozed everywhere, lifting the flavor profile of the pancakes and anything else it saturated. And, while I wasn't picking up much of the bacon from the country gravy, the two strips of bacon here did the work of four or five strips.
If you're going to order this, I'd strongly advise avoiding any appetizers beforehand. Our party of five split a platter of fried pickles, French fries, sweet potato fries and onion strings. Consequently, I could only finish about half of my chicken and pancakes. This is a heavy, heavy meal that sneaks up on your stomach pretty quickly.
My only real criticism is Slater's application of the syrup. Personally, I prefer to pour on the syrup myself -- gradually, as I focus my eatin' on a certain pancake area. Smitty had to ask for extra syrup and I would have, too, if I'd had any room left for the rest of my lunch. Unfortunately, Thai's pancakes were flooded with syrup, as it pooled about twice as high on his plate than anyone else's. The pancakes soaked it up and all he could taste was the cloying sweetness.
After returning home to San Diego, I discovered another minor nit -- the pancakes don't reheat well. They'd absorbed so much syrup and yolk and country gravy that chewing them became a challenge. The solution to this non-problem seems simple enough: eat it all at the restaurant.
We'll meet again, Fried Chicken and Pancakes. We'll meet again.
Grade (Bacon Old-Fashion): 4 (out of 5)
Grade (Fried Chicken and Pancakes): 4 (out of 5)