Tag Archives: Shreveport

BBQ Chronicles: Smithfield’s Chicken ‘N Bar-B-Q–Fayetteville, NC

Last week I endured a marathon road trip to Portsmouth, VA and back to Shreveport in four days. It was somewhere on the order of 2500 miles. I went to assist a friend transport a mobile kitchen for Mercy Chefs. We only slept 3-4 hours a day so that we could cover these miles. As a result, we had our share of truck stop food.

On December 4, we decided that we needed to enjoy some fine BBQ, not once, but twice. Our first stop was at Smithfield’s Chicken ‘N Bar-B-Q in Fayetteville, NC. That evening we were passing through Birmingham, AL and had to make a stop at Dreamland BBQ.

Simple presentation.  Big flavor.
Simple presentation. Big flavor.

Everyone knows that I’m a BBQ junkie. I take my fifteen year old daughter on Texas road trips to seek out and savor the best BBQ. I was pleased to sample some Carolina BBQ. I’ve heard about it and my chef buddy I was accompanying actually made Carolina BBQ on a deployment in Chambrun, Haiti. It was delicious then and I expected nothing short of perfection in North Carolina.

You may think a pulled pork sandwich is just a pulled pork sandwich. If you blindly accept that error as truth, then you live an empty life. I don’t want to sound mean, but the sweet pork tangified with the right amount of vinegar elevates this humble sandwich to something epic.

I was skeptical of the slaw on the sandwich as I really don’t like slaw. There is something unappetizing about shredded cabbage coated with a runny mayo. This slaw wasn’t runny and I had to try the sandwich as it was intended.

I’m not going to say that I became an overnight fan of slaw, but the crunch paired with the soft pork works. The fries were frozen, but were mightily fried and I hungrily scarfed them down.

Extreme closeups make me hungry.
Extreme closeups make me hungry.

My only regret is that I was too full to sample the fried chicken. The week prior, I enjoyed Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken in Little Rock, AR. I suspect that Smithfield’s chicken was insanely good. I’ve never been to a restaurant that sells sacks of fried chicken skin. If they sell chicken cracklings, the chicken itself must be unmatched. Maybe I’ll have the opportunity to pit Gus’s and Smithfield’s against each other one day, but in the meantime, I’d like to see a restaurant at home sell fried chicken skin.

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Operation Love Your Neighbor

Heather and I were supposed to go on our annual mission trip to Honduras. The previous two years have captured our hearts and we have been privileged to be able to go and share the Gospel. It’s quite challenging to spend time with children that don’t even share your language. We thought we were getting on a plane to bless some third world children. Now I know that the blessing was ours.

We had trouble raising funds this year as my ankylosing spondylitis limited my ability to cook. I have no idea how many lasagnas I made the previous two years to fund our trips, but I’m glad to have a skill that translates into mission work. We just have a head start for next year.

Instead of leaving the country, we went to a neighborhood in our own town. With assistance from Common Ground Community and many friends we were able to launch Operation Love Your Neighbor. We have typically prepared and served a nice meal one Thursday a month for the past three years. We continued that tradition yesterday and served up a delicious meal of pork loin, roasted potatoes, green beans, and banana cake. We continued today with a nice spaghetti lunch and an afternoon of teaching 22 kids the love of Jesus. Tomorrow, we will conclude the week with a morning walk to visit some homeless friends.

This week has reminded me that service doesn’t require trekking around the world. We can serve right where we are planted.

The Cotton Boll Grill

Confident that my rheumatologist is nearing an explanation for my ailments, Heather and I decided to celebrate with lunch. Besides, I always get hungry when I have an appointment.

It’s been about a year since we visited The Cotton Boll Grill at 1624 Fairfield Ave. It’s not that we had a poor experience, we just aren’t in this part of town often and the restaurant closes at three.

As we sit down, the waitress comes by and asks, “Do you two know what–” Fried chicken! I never gave her a chance to get the words out. The waitress was taken aback and laughed. She returned shortly with the special of the day. Why can’t they sell fried chicken everyday?

I feel it is only fair to mention that this establishment has fallen to second place since I last visited. The current champion of fried chicken is Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken in Memphis, TN. Serious chicken. I wake up in a cold sweat like a panicked heroin addict in a shooting gallery and nothing but collapsed veins.

Gus’s satisfies an itch that you can’t scratch. Have your adenoids ever itched where you have to snarl your face and throat? Gus’s is more effective with their fried chicken. The Cotton Boll won’t soothe any itching adenoids, but it cures dry mouth and scurvy.

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I always have time for fried chicken.

That zing you taste is flavor, baby. It definitely has some cayenne to wake you up. You wanna know the Portuguese translation? FLAVOR. Actually, I think it’s cayenne, but I’m no linguist.

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See that orangish color under the skin? That’s flavor.

The potatoes were mediocre, but the pinto beans and blackeyed peas were delicious.  Besides, I don’t remember coming here for the mashed potatoes.  If I came for the potatoes, I would expect some top shelf spuds.

There aren’t many establishments in Shreveport that I would consider good eats.  I don’t normally get excited about food unless it’s exceptional.  This chicken is exceptional.

In the Kitchen

Do you love to dance, sing, write, sculpt, paint, or debate? What’s your favorite way to express yourself, creatively?

(I have to thank the staff at The Daily Post for triggering Madonna’s ‘Express Yourself’ in my brain.  This will confound me for a couple of days just like when ‘If I Could Turn Back Time’ by Cher was unleashed.  Well played, Daily Post.)

 

My favorite way to express myself is through cooking. Who doesn’t like cooking? Apparently a lot of people. My mom was a good cook. I say was as if she is no longer among the living. She is a good cook. I usually get to enjoy her food around Thanksgiving.

Around June, she will ask me what I want to eat. Since we stay three days, there is room for more than turkey. Chicken and dumplings usually hit the list. So do pork chops, egg salad, seafood dip, and whatever else I can get her to make. Still no salmon patties.  I may have to resort to threats.

The short order cooking adventure is always surprising as my mom hates cooking. She despises it. As long as I remember she has always hated cooking. I never watched her cook. I never learned her techniques. This skill is mostly self-taught.

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Black Eyed Peas I made for the Thursday meal at Common Ground Community. The neighborhood along with homeless people from the area come to eat and worship.

I believe I mentioned couch surfing for a couple of years. My friend who lent me his couch was also kind enough to let me watch him cook. I watched. And watched. When I got tired of watching, I watched some more. That’s all I ever did there. I remember I was allowed to stir gravy a couple of times. Woohoo! Actually, I was really jazzed. It took me years to get the gravy just right. It’s simple to make, but it is more art than flour and oil.

Sixteen years later, my fanaticism has only grown stronger.  Yesterday, my wife told me that she lost the three pounds that she gained from my recent cake spree.  She likes my food.  I have friends who take phenomenal pictures who will shoot my food in exchange for a meal.  This would be a bad trade if I made them a pan of Hamburger Helper.

The past two years I have spent volunteering with Mercy Chefs, and now I have finally decided to try my hand at catering. Hence, the name Cater It Forward.  We have a long way to go on, well, everything.  There is a lot more to this business stuff than slinging hash.

Making an income is secondary. The original plan was, and still is, to cater to raise money so I can afford to deploy with Mercy Chefs. The organization is 100% volunteer. This business can help earn gas money, hotel accommodations, airplane tickets, whatever I need so I can serve others through Mercy Chefs.

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Cajun pork loin, rice pilaf, corn and a layered brownie thing. This was one of the meals served in Colorado.

This organization has been to Africa. I went to  with Mercy Chefs. My good chef friend was in the Philippines recently to provide aid.

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On Nehemiah Vision Ministries’ compound just outside Chambrun, Haiti.

Am I starting to sound like a shill? Sorry about that. With all of this cooking, I think of that 80’s drug PSA.  Or was it the nineties.

“I do coke. So I can work longer.  So I can earn more. So I can do more coke.” Cue the sad trombone:  Wah wah wah waaaah. The infinite cocaine loop.

I cook. So I can serve others. So I can do more coke cook. It’s not perfect, but I hope I was able to illustrate my point.

(Featured image was a result of bartering food.  My good friend Josh shot the image).

Feeding the Masses

I am spending my day at Common Ground Community (CGC) today. CGC is a faith-based organization and It’s quiet as I’m the only one here. This evening will resemble a three ring circus with kids running loose and parents being ministered to by our volunteers. I’m in charge of tonight’s meal.

I guess I’ve been volunteering here close to three years. I typically volunteer to create supper one Thursday a month. I think volunteering here and with Mercy Chefs are what helped me become comfortable with catering. It’s only a fledgling business and I’m not looking to make millions, just enough to contribute to our household so we can finally melt that debt snowball.

Most people who come here don’t know who I am or what I do. I like it that way. I hope they came for Jesus, but I’m sure many just come to get some of their basic needs met.

Sometimes it’s difficult for me to volunteer here as my wife and children have told me that on several occasions, they have heard people whine and disparage my food.

They hear this while serving the members of this community. I ignored what they said for a couple of years and kept making things like spaghetti and meatballs, meatloaf, BBQ chicken, and homemade bread. Along with the main courses were various sides and desserts. I usually don’t go all out on the sides, but the main courses and desserts have always been from scratch.

A couple of months ago, we were short handed. After I was done in the kitchen I went to serve meals. We serve cafeteria style to feed everyone quickly. That night I heard many negative remarks and only one positive remark. I’m not here to boost my ego, but I hope all of my effort is well received. I’m wasting everyone’s time if nobody wants to eat it.

After this experience, I looked back on my experiences with Mercy Chefs I served in Kenner, LA after a hurricane, West, TX after a plant explosion. (I think that was a feed plant.) I even spent time in Colorado after last year’s flooding. We have served thousands of meals and I have never heard anything negative on any of these adventures. There was only gratitude. Again, this isn’t about some pity trip I’m on. I’m just making observations.

I believe that the victims of disasters are so grateful because they just lost everything. The people I encounter in this neighborhood are victims of the system.

This system encourages government dependence. This system holds very little value for dads or for families with both a mom and a dad. This system encourages thug life where eight year olds try to act like their favorite hardcore rapper wif diamonds in their teefs.

Granted, there are many who come here and are struggling to raise their children properly. To raise them to have respect for their elders. To raise them to have respect for themselves.

Society as a whole can get locked in a groupthink mentality where they think it is best to throw money at the problem. To give handouts. CGC, a Bible believing organization, now appears to be transitioning from a handout system to one that encourages the individual to help himself. I’m not a fan of clichés but in a sense, to give a ‘hand up.’

Since hearing feedback firsthand for the food I expended so much love to prepare, I’m in a sort of transition. Maybe I should cook something more fundamental. Last month I made Hoppin’ John, a dish consisting of blackeyed peas and rice. Today, I’m making pinto beans and rice. Don’t worry, I’m going to have cornbread, too.

I still expend the same energy shopping, chopping, and cooking. These beans are going to taste out of this world, but for now, I’m offering two basic meals that we enjoy every week at home: beans and rice and rice and beans.

I can feed them today, but I hope they find the Bread of Life where they will never hunger again.

Nuts and Feet

I remember this radio promotion I was involved with many years ago at this Active Rocker. We had front row tickets to see Tool along with passes to the pre-show party.

This was during Fear Factor’s heyday and we wanted to cash in on that notoriety. A select number of listeners were going to be abused for their big opportunity by playing Nuts and Feet.

The premise was simple. Fill a kiddie pool with mayonnaise, pork and beans, relish, and a few more ingredients. Several boiled pig feet and one boiled pig testicle were buried in this slop. Score a foot and win a free CD. Land the baseball sized pig part and win the grand prize. Oh, and you had to retrieve these items with your mouth.

The smell emanating from that pool was horrendous. I almost vomited. The smell hit a woman and she threw up. We had this stunt in a store parking lot next to a busy street. This commotion even caused a car accident.

I don’t remember who won. I don’t even care. I was too busy laughing at this spectacle.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/03/25/prompt-moments-to-remember/

 

The Real Pickle–Shreveport, LA

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They bring a small bowl of these guys to you as you look over the menu.

Since Dave Ramsey took over our home two and a half years ago, we haven’t had many opportunities to go enjoy a meal.  Today was different because I was only with my fourteen year old daughter, Alli, so it wasn’t too hard on my pocketbook.

I try to frequent local places because franchises sometimes seem really stale, unless of course you are talking about Five Guys.  I just love those fries.  This afternoon was no exception and we decided to visit The Real Pickle.

It’s been here as long as I can remember.  I’ve only been here a couple of times prior, but those gastronomic experiences were definitely memorable.  I usually get the shrimp poboy with remoulade sauce because it has always been excellent.  Today, it was very good but it was too salty for my taste.  We were the first customers of the day.  Maybe the chef got too excited and oversalted the shrimp.  Maybe I cut him off in traffic one day and he finally had his chance to get back at me.  Nonetheless, I go light on the salt in my own cooking and I frequently have had meals at restaurants that were too salty for me.  Perhaps I’m just a salt wuss.

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These fries are nothing like Five Guys.

On the plus side, the prawns were breaded nice and happy and were a fried jubilee.  The spice level was excellent.  I love firey hot food, and typically if I can detect ANY heat, it’s too much for many people I know, but I was surprised with a nice, warm burn.  The remoulade was remoulade.  I don’t care where you get it.  Remoulade tastes great.  It tastes good on everything.  The bread was so light and crusty and had a hint of buttery delight.  The fries?  Well, they weren’t Five Guys.

Alli had a ham and something on a croissant.  It wasn’t mine, so I didn’t pay much attention to it.  She liked it and that is what’s important.

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Alli really enjoyed her ham and something sandwich.

In fine, (I’ve always wanted the opportunity to say “in fine” as I remember it from the poem “Richard Cory“).  In fine, the most important aspect was that I had an opportunity to spend some quality time with Alli.  I need to take her to another Texas BBQ joint soon, but that’s another story.