eating indie in indy

Posts tagged “pork belly

Thunderbird 1127 Shelby Street

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The sign is a bit misleading. The Thunderbird opened as a night club in 1950, and “rocked” it old school until 1972. I was never there. I went to old-time “divey” bars and for late night entertainment there was Broad Ripple.

I think this new incarnation opened 2 years ago as a dinner house. They just recently decided to give lunch a go. Here is a link to their website.

http://thunderbirdindy.com/

I suggested this place a couple of weeks ago. I think Pat agreed just to humor me. As he has said many times he is a simple man with simple tastes. Also he has a well know aversion to onion.

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I don’t agree with Pat’s assessment that this place is a bistro. Their food is pretty much comfort foods with a Southern focus and a chef driven spin. Are their prices high? Yep;on some items. A 9 buck grilled cheese is high. On the other hand at $3 my biscuit sliders were quit reasonable. Especially when you realize a McDonald’s bacon, egg and cheese biscuit costs more.

One thing Pat commented on was how oily the chips were. Tasty but oily. Evidently they flash them in the fryer for a bit and then sprinkle them with old bay seasoning.

They have okra fries on their menu. I like fried okra. Finding it around here is difficult. The few places that offer it give you this frozen stuff in a bag . Here they buy it fresh, cut it and fry it to order.

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You get a nice sized bowl for $5. They offer a spicy mayo based dipping sauce I wasn’t really a fan of. I did enjoy the okra though. It is pickled before it is breaded and fried. Which adds a whole new layer of flavor and it also adds a bit of acid to the mix. Now for the biscuit sliders.

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They offer two options. Braised pork belly and fried chicken. I got one of each. The belly was melt in your mouth tender. They topped it with an onion jam, which was pretty sweet. It fit well with the fatty pork but after a few bites it became almost cloying. The next time I get it I will 86 the jam.

You can get your chicken biscuit mild or hot. I chose hot and it had a pleasant burn. The chicken biscuit comes topped with their slaw and house pickles. The slaw was vinegar based and played off the spicy crunch of the chicken nicely. My taste for slaw leans more towards the creamy style but this variety did its job well. I think a side of the slaw might be too “dry” when eaten by itself. The biscuits themselves were nice. Flaky yet substantial enough to hold up to fried chicken. The pickles were unique to my taste buds. They are of the refrigerator variety. You slice ’em; pickle ’em and stick them in the fridge. I enjoyed them.

This place is well-appointed with lots of wood and custom light fixtures. The whole joint has a dimly lit ambiance. Suitable for an evening of cocktails and snacks. I think that would be the best way to enjoy this space. With some friends and a few cocktails and eats. They offer craft draft as well as wine but I think they take their mixed drinks very serious. The bartender has several bottles of syrups that they use to flavor some of their liquors. The bartender is also serious about Bourbon. He likes to keep Bonded bottles around. Nothing says commitment like a few bottles of 100 Proof bottled in bond liquor.

Thunderbird Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Rook 501 Virginia Ave.

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This restaurant was located in a smaller venue just South of here. They made the move in February this year and I have wanted to go here since then. I didn’t want to go alone but since I couldn’t find anyone to go with me I decided that I may as well indulge myself. Their menu has a Southeast Asian flair to it with a touch of the Philippines. I am adding a link so you can see the menu.

http://www.rookindy.com/

This is their second menu. Gone are the dumplings and the Pig Faced Hash. Their dumplings were very good. They will be missed.

As you can see the chef definitely has an affection for the Noble Pig. Actually I think I finally overdosed on pork. My entire lunch was ordered from the Appetizer section of the menu. I started with a Pig Face Taco for $5.

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The meat from the head actually is the most tender on the pig so when they say it is from the face that is what they mean. The meat was rich with just the slightest hint of fat. It was garnished with small bits of cracklings and cured egg yolk. The mix of salty and savory was balanced out with a slightly sweet and sour Ponzu Mayo. It was a definite hit with me. However I was not a big fan of the corn tortilla they chose. I have had better in town.

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My second “course” was a Pork Belly steamed Bun also $5

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This was probably my favorite. A nice tender piece of pork in a soft bun with pickled cucumbers, hoisin sauce and peanuts. It just was simply great. It had all of my taste buds involved and after lunch my mouth and belly thanked me.

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The last dish I ordered was Crispy Pig Ears with a 63 degree egg and Guacamole for $8.

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As you can see the ears are sliced thin and then treated like potatoes. Fried and seasoned like a French Fry. The egg and Guacamole were to serve as a dipping sauces for the “fries”. For the most part that worked out really well. I love eggs prepared that way and to place one on a bed of chiles and avocado is great. However the whites of a sous vide egg are not really appetizing looking. Usually when I have had them they are placed in a bowl of stew, soup or noodles and the egg is mixed in. So it could just be my own peculiarity.

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So I definitely recommend this place. I also highly recommend all the dishes I have had. Especially the pig ears; as a sharable appetizer. As a first course not a last one for a solo diner. They have a whole lot to offer, not just pig.

Rook Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Hops and Fire 1259 In 135 Greenwood In.

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Note that this is a Craft Tap House, as opposed to a Craft Brew House. They sell the Craft beer they don’t brew it. And according to the signage they offer 40 different brews. That is the current “thing” with taverns. Hell Yard House and Hop Cat each have over 100 on tap. It can make a fellow dizzy. I have no idea how long this place has been open I found it on the inter net searching for joints on the far south side. They have a slick web site,but they don’t print any prices,which vexes me. I can guess what they charge based on other places of that type,but I prefer knowing.

The majority of their sandwiches are on the complex side. They add a bunch of stuff to them to create the perception of an added value. In some cases that is the case. In others it isn’t.

Take the sandwich I order for example,the Stout Pork Belly BLT.

Food Menu Ampersand Stout Beer & Kosher Salt-Brined Local Pork Belly Seared & Roasted, Sliced Thin & Pan Fried, then Topped w/ Baby Bibb Lettuce, Beefsteak Tomatoes, & Homemade Apricot Onion Jam, all on Our Grilled Garlic Shallot Bread

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It sounds swell doesn’t it. It convinced me to shell out 12 bucks for it. The reality is the bacon was too crisp. All of the fatty juiciness was removed. so instead of a crunch to your mouth it was a crack. And their marmalade was way over the top. Too much sweet to go with not enough salty.

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The bread was pretty good though it had a nice garlic taste;but that could have been from the butter. For the sandwiches you have a choice of sea salt fries, house made Parmesan chips or a “side kick” salad.  Per my servers suggestion I opted for the chips. Why O Why do places insist on making potato chips? These were reasonably well made but seasoning was non-existent. Parmesan is not a seasoning. So these were pretty bland. Also quantity doesn’t over come mediocre. Will I go back? Possibly if I am in the area. They do have a pork burger on the menu. Of course it isn’t just a plain ol’ burger

Food Menu Ampersand Local Ground Pork, Seasoned & Mixed w/ Sun Dried Tomatoes, Grilled & Smothered in Wheat Beer Braised Onions, then Topped w/ Smoked Gouda, Garlic Aioli, Tomato Chutney, & Fried Green Tomato on Our Grilled Pretzel Bun

It could be a flop, but there is only one way to find out.

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Hops And Fire Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Big Lug Canteen 1435 E. 86th Street

Well we have another Brewery in Indy. Or as some folks called it a few years ago Nap Town. This particular place is unique if only in the fact that it is part of the Sahms’ Family of businesses. The Sahm family has been involved in the restaurant business for more years than I can remember,and I think their total stands at 10 across the city. So we have pretty high expectations for this, their first endeavor into brewing. They opened this past Monday and on Tuesday I went in to have a look. The place is a two-story beauty right on the Monon Trail at the corner of 86th St. and Westfield Blvd. To ease some of the traffic problems on 86th they provided a cut in onto Westfield Blvd. Good for them.

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This sign is a large sheet of plate steel with the name cut out by laser or water jet. Pretty dramatic. I was told that the cutouts were used for a sign in the upstairs dining area. I didn’t check that out then I thought I would wait until I came back. They offer their beers in sizes ranging from 20 oz. to 7 oz. The prices go from $6 to $3. So that means you can try 2 different beers and consume less than a pint doing it. I had a pint of their IPA and a Hoss-Dip appetizer for $7. The app was melted mozzarella cheese,topped with avocado mixed with Greek yogurt;Greekamole; spicy hummus and a black bean and corn salsa served with a big side of Frito scoops. The dip was pretty tasty. A nice bite to go with a beer.

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Today we both went,and we were both impressed with the space. An up stairs deck;overlooking the trail and an expansive patio mere feet from the Monon.

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These are the cutouts from the outdoor sigh;downstairs.

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These are the remaining letters.

Not only do they offer smaller pours for their beers they also offer half sandwiches and half salads. They even have a Big Lug Half N’ Half. That is a half a sandwich and a half a salad for 2 bucks off the regular price. That is what I opted for. A Bahn Lug; their facsimile of a Vietnamese sandwich with Smoked Pork Belly, Chicken Pate and Bahn Mi vegetables. I married that with a half Judo Chop Salad. The salad was a bowl of mixed greens topped with ham and cappacola as well as olives and bleu cheese. My choice may seem odd but all the flavors worked well together and there could not be any complaining on the size of my meal.

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Patrick decided on a BLT with grilled chicken and avocado; a full size and a half salad as a side.

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We spent $11 each for our sandwiches, a price I think is more than reasonable. The menu they give is unique and from what I have had well prepared. So. Good food. Good beer. Good prices. I especially liked that they offer “specialty” salads and each one offered a protein,be it chicken, veggie patty or ham. Basically all of their salads;except the House salad was a version of what could be called a Chef Salad. I am really excited about this place and what it can do to revitalize Nora.

Big Lug Canteen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Love Handle 2829 E. 10th Street

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Well another new joint has opened in Indy. This one is unique in that the owner/operators Chris and Ally Benedyke are from Indianapolis originally and have just returned from Milwaukee where they owned a similar place by the same name. The new place, like the old one features specialty sandwiches and small plates using local sources. Since they plan on changing the menu weekly they are relying on Facebook and not a web site. Since that was the case I felt compelled to do a bit of reconnaissance, or reconn-oink-ering if you prefer. You know since they do a lot with pig. Well in either event I went in on Tuesday morning for breakfast.

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It is a small place with a counter and a few tables, so it is rather cozy. I was told it used to be a Subway, if that is the case the size makes sense.

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The one item I was most intrigued with was their version of bacon,egg and toast for $7. It was a big slice of pork belly with a jellied egg yolk and toasted french style bread. It was probably one of the most unusual things I have put in my mouth but also one of the tastiest. The pork belly;or bacon is self-explanatory. Salty and unctuous ( I know I use that word a lot but sometimes it just fits) with just the right amount of tooth. The egg was odd in all the right ways. A poached egg yolk encapsulated in an aspic derived from the preparation of hog feet or trotters. Since it was cold it was a shock to my tongue after puncturing the jelly and seeing the yolk flow out but it was as good a mopping egg as any warm poached one. And you had the bonus of pig jelly. Any talk of egg yolk mopping has to lead to bread and their choice of Amelia’s was good but their treatment of it was better. The bread is toasted then spread with a mixture of unsalted butter, apple butter and a hint of seranno chile. It was delicious. The whole plate was a hit.

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I also tried some of their miso and brown butter ice cream for $4. A browned butter is the start of a caramel so if you add that to sugar and cream you get a true decadent caramel. You freeze it you get this. Again a good job. However I didn’t taste much from the miso. But the earthiness of a brown miso can mimick an aspect of caramal I suppose. Regardless it was a great ice cream I would not hesitate to try again.

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I also tried a sweet roll, a Miso- Ovaltine Sweet Roll to be precise, and in full disclosure Ally gave it to me. I guess she thought I wasn’t getting enough to eat. It was an excellent roll and sells for 4 bucks

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So this brings us to Wednesday, the day Pat and I have decided for lunch. I had told Pat about this place and how I was going to check it out beforehand,and he groaned at my oink joke as I am sure most people would. Actually I was surprised that he was willing to give it a try,possibly because it was my turn to buy.

I was pretty sure what I wanted to try from the beginning the Tesa, $7 and the Trotter Croquettes for $6.

Tesa is similar to Prosciutto in that it is slow cured and is eaten without further cooking. Where it differs is the part of the pig it comes from. Prosciutto is from the hind or ham area Tesa is from the belly.

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I received a big old plate of piggy goodness with a bit of cooked beet,sour turnip and jalapeno as accompaniment as well as a bunch of toast. I also got another one of Chris’s eggs as a bonus. Once again everything fit like a glove. Actually I found this more interesting than prosciutto. With the ratio between fat and lean as it is on pork belly it was like getting Lardo as a bonus.

I also had to try the Trotter. Before you freak remember that there is some good meat in a pig’s foot. It just takes a while to get to it,but you do get the added value of the gelatin. Like everything else these croquettes were very good. A crisp exterior and a moist and meaty interior.

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With Pat it wasn’t so easy. I think he just agreed to go just to humor me.

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I was too busy feeding my face so I forgot to take any shots of Pat’s food until the very end.

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Pat's Popcorn

Pat’s Popcorn

They toss the corn in bacon fat and then sprinkle it with Nutritional Yeast, the result is unique and tasty.

The sauces Pat referenced was a soy type reduction and a soda pop mustard both made in-house. They both went well with the Tesa and the trotters,especially the mustard. That was made with Tamarind flavor Jarrito’s soda pop and minimally ground. A very interesting taste.

One last thing. We shared a slice of Lavender and coconut cream tart.

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Great crust,nice and creamy with good coconut flavor. As for the lavender it wasn’t as pronounced as I thought it would be. Good pie regardless. So as you can see I really enjoyed this place and its food. Pat; not so much. But he was a trooper for going there with me. In either event I think it a place worth exploring.

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St. Joseph Brewery & Public House 540 N. College Ave.

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This was actually a church from 1880 to 1949. It was owned by the Diocese from then until it was sold to private concerns in the 1990’s. Nothing was done with it until a group bought it to turn into a brewery. This same group owns a couple of other joints in town. Chatham Tap and Ralston Draft House. Now both of these places are solid. I like them both. However I gotta’ say this. Considering the magnitude of this project they might wanna’ kick it up a notch. So let’s go in

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When you first walk in you are simply amazed at the size of the place. Wood floors. Wooden pews and foot worn stairs leading up to the balcony for the choir. Wood and windows gives it bright and warm atmosphere. I spent a half hour just looking at stuff.

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All of these last shots were taken from the loft. They also have seating up there. Pat and I decided to set downstairs. I  ordered a flight of 4 beers. I picked two and Pat picked two

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The flight was $7. That is pretty typical.

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Pat chose his lunch from the small plates or appetizer section of the menu.

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Pat was right. His small plate was $8.50. Small sweet tater tots, a few scraps of bacon and a bit of shredded cheese. They were pretty good, but they were pretty pricey.

I thought the menu was spot on. Of course, as always it depends on the execution. All of their sandwiches come with a choice of fries, pickled veggies, slaw or fruit. I decided on their burger. Named after the chef/partner.

Reifen Burger

Smoked cheddar, pork belly, red onion & Beer B-Q sauce

Sounds tasty, doesn’t it. Well it wasn’t what I thought it would be. There was no bacon,pork belly. As it was explained to me the pork belly was incorporated into the patty, like a frikadellen. That is nice but it should have been written that way. I ordered my burger mid rare. It came out medium. Which is as it should be if there is pig in the mix. Tell people please. Also the smoked cheddar was shredded cheddar. Sorry I do not get it. Shredded cheese is good for a quesadilla. Not a burger.

The BBQ sauce was pretty good. The fries were ho-hum. And I really think a $12.50 price tag was a bit much.

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The bun was really good. Crisp and toasty.

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I did like their choice of greens. So I am not too concerned about this joint. They have experience. They have skill. I am just miffed that my burger wasn’t what I thought it would be. Of course your IPA was pretty good. So I know you will get it together. Just a matter of time. Just do it the way you say you will do it.

Click to add a blog post for St. Joseph Brewery & Public House on Zomato


Bent Rail Brewery

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Another new joint. According to the Star newspaper twenty new places are opening in Indianapolis this year, most of which are locally owned.  This place was the most anticipated, to me because it was the most ambitious project. A large property right on the Monon Trail with a huge old building that started its life in the 1930’s as a commercial cleaner. I doubt that the folks that put the building up could have guessed that 70 years later it would become a brewery. Or at least will soon be an actual brewery. Right now they are pouring other local beers. Of course some folks are whining about that. After all this time, etc. My thoughts are, get a million bucks and try your hand and see how easy it is.

I got a look at the menu just the other day and I was pretty excited. Naturally it all depends on the execution if it flies or not.

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The place is enormous. It will seat 200 folks. Right now they are not jamming tables into every inch, so there is plenty of room to move

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Yep that is a pin ball and a Pac-Man game. They also have a pool table by the brewery tanks.

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Surprising,to me they have a three-way license so they can sell spirits at their bar.

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But we are here for the food. I knew it would push Pat’s comfort level because all of their sandwiches are complex builds. That is to say they offer a protein and other “stuff” to both enhance the taste and the size. Pat likes, basically no more than two things on his sandwich. Preferably meat and cheese. I think he would have enjoyed other sandwiches on the menu, but he decided on the pulled pork.

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One comment on Pat’s reference to cumin as a herb. Most folks consider it a spice as it is a seed from a plant related to parsley. Like coriander is the seed from cilantro. He is right though, cumin has become rather trendy around here.

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I got the Banh Mi. It was not traditional, but I think it held true to the intent. Pork and sausage spiked with the pickled veggies, and punctuated with fresh jalapeno and mellowed with cilantro. The mayo was very unassuming, as it should be. The portion of meat was not huge I would guess it to be in the 4 to 5 oz. range but the other “stuff” made it  a big taste. I think anymore meat would have been a distraction. All food,especially sandwiches should have a proper balance and I think this one achieved that.

Oh as for Pat’s coleslaw it was very good. It would most definitely rock on a BBQ sandwich. As for the pricing it definitely has a downtown price, but then it is downtown food. I really want to go back. I mean look at that menu. And pints of a great beer for $4.50. Well needless to say we both liked this place. I think this joint will be rocking Sobro when it gets warm,especially when they start pouring their own beer.

Bent Rail Brewing on Urbanspoon


When’s the Best Time to Eat?

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This is not at all like a post that would normally be shown here. I was indisposed for a few days so we were unable to hit the streets for our usual lunch. I have been thinking about writing a post like this for a while but never thought it would be too interesting to anyone. But since I am temporarily sidelined for a while; and; since I’m an obsessive, compulsive type I thought I might as well indulge myself.

What I’ve been thinking about is the changing face of restaurant cooking during my “adulthood”. In the 1960’s &70’s “Nouvelle Cuisine” hit the U.S. New cooking. A lighter, healthier alternative to ” Haute Cuisine”. Cooks started using terms like “cuisine minceur” (a version of nouvelle); au sec and spray releases like “Pam” were being used for “frying”. Saucers were lighter, portions were smaller and presentation almost became an end in itself. These changed the fundamentals of the business. Don’t let the French terms throw you. I think schools and some cooks like using these terms to sound sophisticated. That’s probably why I use them.

In the ensuing years different “hooks” appeared. The resurgence of flambe, fusion cooking and the raw food diet. But the most basic aspect of preparing food for consumption has not changed since the advent of fire. When you go past the initial stage -“find food, add heat” you discover that; in this part of the world the main influence is European; primarily French. Culinary Schools stress “classical cooking”. That is to say French cooking. I’ll save my thoughts on that for another time.

Since I stopped working and started eating out I noticed that joints are going more country, and, shall I say more ethnic. Not just hipster joints but some taverns enjoy adding flat breads and a more Asian palate of spices and seasonings. And the sauces have a spin with soy and ponzu type sauces. All of which add a great punch to the food. As for the country tour. I am not too sure. A lot of joints love to use pork belly and kale. Now I have no problem with either,but I wonder if the folks that use them really get it. Pork belly is a beautiful part of the pig, Skin,fat,meat and more fat. Slowly cooked;in a moist environment the yield is a delicious taste of meat with an unctuous deliciousness. Of course it’s great for making bacon.  As for the skin; cut it in strips, fry and dust with garlic and Louisiana hot sauce. Now that is fusion. Whether you call it crackling’ or chiccaron it is definitely good food. Hardly heart healthy but tasty none the less.

Well I do ramble. Kale. I love kale. I love all greens. However I don’t get raw kale, or slightly cooked kale. To me greens should be cooked down. Concentrate the nutrients into the pot liquor. Make sure you have some corn bread for sopping. Now if you can get some young baby greens they are great raw. Especially mustard greens. Simply dressed with oil, and vinegar or citrus juice the result is remarkable.

Well my ramblings are through. We’ll be back on the streets next week. Great times ahead. Spring is coming and some new joints are due to open up, so enjoy yourselves.