Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Off the Map: We'll Take, the Wine, the Cake, and the Bill

Tres Leches Cake -- Kuba Kuba, Richmond, VA
Kuba Kuba

Once Vodka's friend, Diet Coke, manages to land in Richmond, they make their way to Kuba Kuba while awaiting the arrival of their final college roommate, Whiskey Sour.  
If Nothing Else, We Know How to Make the Most of a Flight Delay
We stumble into Kuba Kuba's cramped quarters laden down with six bags, up to and including a dirty one filled with leftover ribs.  Looking like we're moving in, we are sent to a small table in the back...

...and then promptly ignored for the next fifteen minutes.  We ask you, how did the girls with the 47 suitcases suddenly become invisible?!
Richmond, We're Begging You, Can We PLEASE Get Some Service Around Here?
Based on the timing of things thus far, and the fact that we need to return to the airport in less than an hour to fetch Whiskey Sour, Vodka is tempted to place our order as "Two glasses of wine, one slice of cake, and the bill."  The real reason we are here is for a piece of Duff Goldman's Best Thing I Ever Ate BETTER THAN MINE dish, the tres leches cake, though we are equally heartened by the gigantic pours of wine we receive to accompany it.
Our Initial Fears About the Size of These Glasses Proved to Be for Naught
Once the cake arrives on our table, it is beautiful in its mastery.  
I'll Get You, My Pretty
A thick slice of beige cake, decorated on top with a bevy of bright white frosting and dollops of whipped cream, it looks almost too pretty to eat.

Nothing In Life Is Actually Too Pretty to Eat
Maybe it's the lingering flavors of Ronnie's disappointing barbeque in her mouth, but Vodka finds the first taste of this creation to be nothing short of delectable.  The cake itself is light and succulent, and the frosting is sweet, but not in a hurt-your-teeth kind of way.  
If the Virginians Had Just Served This Cake, the Revolutionary War Could've Been Won Much Faster
When a bite hit the tongue, one fears for a moment that the flavors are going to turn lemony, but they always settle back to a milky consistency.
Got Multiple Milks?
This cake, in sum, is like having your dessert with a giant glass of fresh, cold milk, hold the glass.
Useful Way to Combat the Lactaid Pills
Satisfied that this foray into Richmond Best Thing I Ever Ate territory hasn't been a complete waste of time, Vodka and Diet Coke head out of the premises, a new bag of tres leches leftovers clutched in their grubby little hands, off to fetch their third roommate.
"We Saved You A Bite. Maybe Two. You're Welcome"
Or in this case, their tres.

Kuba Kuba's Tres Leches Cake: 5 stars*

*Certifiable Best Thing We Ever Ate

Monday, April 25, 2016

Off the Map: We'd Rather You Be Fast Than Nice to Us

Pork Ribs -- Ronnie's BBQ, Richmond, VA
If there is one surefire way to get a low rating on this blog, it is to irritate Vodka.  And if there's one surefire way to irritate Vodka, it is through slow service.  So let's just say that it is quite evident that the workers at Ronnie's Ribs in Richmond, VA, have never taken a gander at this blog.
Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid
Vodka is in Richmond to meet her college roommates, Diet Coke and Whiskey Sour, for a weekend of nerding it up in Williamsburg.  Unfortunately (especially for the Ronnie's BBQ staff, who is now going to be forced to deal with Vodka sans the benefit of a buffer), flight delays have left said roommates circling the premises, while Vodka makes her way to Ronnie's alone via the world's chattiest Uber driver.  
Dear Uber Drivers of the World, We Prefer Silence. Signed, Vodka and Ginger
Upon entering the premises -- which is little more than a glorified shack along the side of the road -- Vodka finds a line approximately eight people deep.  In New York, this line would take -- at most -- ten minutes to get through.

In Virginia, Vodka will be lucky if she makes it out before the end of the weekend.
Save Yourselves! Go Forth to Williamsburg Alone!
Upon eventually making it to the cashier, Vodka asks for two orders of the rib combo, which features Delilah Winder's Best Thing I Ever Ate BBQ pork ribs from the BAR-B-QUE episode.  Each combo comes with a choice of two side dishes, so Vodka picks French fries and baked beans for one, and cole slaw and potato salad for the other.  
These Varied Choices Will Come Back to Bite Her
At this point, Vodka moves off to the side to await her meal, which is when two things become blatantly obvious:

1. The Ronnie's BBQ workers are some of the nicest, friendliest, and most pleasant anywhere, and
2. Vodka could never live in the South.
And Not Just Due to the Neon Tinge of Their Potato Salad
You see, Ronnie's BBQ seems to have spent all of their training dollars to fund geniality instead of efficiency, which is pretty much the opposite of Vodka's priorities in life.  As her waiting Uber tab grows by the seconds, and the seconds turn into minutes and then TWENTY MINUTES, Vodka does everything other than leap over the counter to begin to put together the meal herself.
Clearly This Award Criteria Did Not Account for Speed of Execution
Finally -- FINALLY -- Vodka's number is called, and the worker tasked with presenting the food to the customers opens both styrofoam containers to reveal Vodka's choices.  And it soon becomes obvious why this ritual -- which would generally seem like a waste of precious time -- goes down, as the order is incorrect.
At This Point, Vodka Should Have Just Quit While She Was Not Ahead and RAN
Instead of different side dishes, both orders of ribs feature French fries and baked beans.  When Vodka points out the error, said worker heads to the back to fetch separate containers of cole slaw and potato salad, all while apologizing.  No problem, right?  This will only take another thirty seconds -- or MAYBE one minute -- right?

TEN MINUTES LATER, there are still no side dishes. 
Presumably the Kitchen Staff Is Too Busy Making Bulletin Boards to Actually COOK
At this point, Vodka has just about lost her mind, both because she doesn't want to pay hundreds of dollars to Uber for a few cold ribs, and because the Ronnie's premises are growing increasingly hot and stuffy.  When the potato salad and cole slaw eventually appear, the same worker opens them to reveal TWO POTATO SALADS.

Now, this has just taken a turn for the ridiculous.
Somebody Please Put Vodka and This 1983 Boombox Out of Their Misery
When the correct order is finally assembled, three containers of Ronnie's special BBQ sauce are tossed in the plastic bag of styrofoam... and immediately, like something out of a cartoon, they spill.  Down the bag and onto the cartons, like the whole thing is bleeding BBQ.  
At This Point, Ronnie's Is in Negative Star Rating Territory
And Vodka, who is too fed up at this point to care, hightails it back to the airport to share the assembled mess with Diet Coke and Whiskey Sour.
Sayonara, Ronnie. Can't Say This Was Fun
While waiting, Vodka very carefully disassembles the package, both because of the streaks of sauce and because she had been warned about how to open the styrofoam containers ("Watch out because these don't really close.  We weren't supposed to order these anymore, but we somehow got them anyway.")  Once she manages to make some semblance of a display, she begins photographing the food, officially becoming the biggest weirdo left in Richmond Airport.  
Would You Care For Some Cole Slaw With Your Suitcase?
Upon tasting, Vodka finds the ribs dry and smoky without the sauce, and slightly improved once the meat has been dipped within it.  While the pork comes off of the bone easily, it is also so fatty that it's difficult to chew, along with a solid degree of burnt musk over the top.  
Oh Good. One Hour Roundtrip to Obtain Charred Ribs
On a good day, these ribs might receive 3 stars for being fine, but not outstanding.  However, Vodka has been aggravated into a bitter funk, and she is outrightly refusing to dole out anything more than 2.
Moral of the Story: UNIMPRESSED
As far as the side dishes, the provided dinner rolls are unremarkable -- they taste slightly stale, with a honey tinge over the top.  
One Could Also Argue That These Rolls Aren't Necessary If Their Absence Would Make the CONTAINERS CLOSE
The potato salad is sweet from a solid helping of relish (not preferred), and the cole slaw is verging on tasteless (actually, it would be better if it were tasteless.  This cole slaw has a taste... it's just a bad one).  
Going from Bad...
...to Even Worse
The baked beans are definitely the most successful of the lot, as the soggy and limp French fries would taste great... if they were leftover from yesterday. 
And Lucky For Us, We Have a Double Helping of Them!
When Diet Coke and Whiskey Sour taste this conglomeration of food, they both rank the ribs as a 3-star dish, namely because they didn't have to live through the past hour of Vodka's life which she will never get back.  To add insult to Vodka's irate injury, she calculates that between the $26 Ronnie's price tag and the $24 Uber ride (including the 30 minutes lingering in the Ronnie's parking lot), these third-rate ribs have literally cost $50.
Think of How Much Delicious Airport McDonald's Could Have Been Obtained Instead!
And with prices like that, Vodka might as well have just stayed in New York with the rest of the world's population who values cranky efficiency over incompetent kindness.

Ronnie's BBQ's Pork Ribs: 2 stars

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Off the Map: Turkeys in a Chicken Coop

Smoked Pulled Turkey Sandwich -- Hog Heaven, Nashville, TN
Hog Heaven

To say Hog Heaven looks like the last place you'd want to get a meal would be an understatement.  A rickety shack-type structure nestled between a McDonald's and the Parthenon (way to go for architectural contrasts, Nashville), its premises are enclosed completely in chicken wire.  
Definitely Looks Like a James Beard Award Winner to Us...
Vodka and her friend, Grey Goose, try to ignore the feeling that they've suddenly been trapped in a coop as we approach the counter to order. 
Literally. We Are Literally In a Coop
Along with Sunny Anderson's Best Thing I Ever Ate THAT I'M THANKFUL FOR dish, the pulled turkey sandwich, we choose the pulled pork plate with turnip greens and baked beans (being that this is HOG Heaven, after all).  
In This Case, "Heaven" Is Relative
Since seating at this establishment consists only of two elongated picnic tables, while Grey Goose pays at the counter, Vodka sprints (definition of "sprinting" is relative in this case) over to a free spot before someone else can grab it.  This sudden burst of activity leads to a few solid stares from other patrons, as it seems we're the only ones with NYC aggressiveness still pumping through or veins, ready to knock out anyone in sight to claim a picnic bench first.
As Per Usual, We Are the Only Ones Who Care
Our meal arrives, all wrapped in various forms of styrofoam (no need for those pesky recycling containers in these parts), and Vodka examines Sunny's sandwich choice.  
Seattle's Multitude of Recycling Bins Would Have a Field Day With This
A hearty serving of turkey spills over a thick onion roll, with a single slice of orange cheddar, a large pour of white barbeque sauce, and a smattering of pickles over top.  
We Thank You Gratefully For the Large Serving of Pickles
The first bite reveals the sandwich to be delicious -- the sauce tangy, the pickles crunchy, and the onion roll the perfect selection to hold the otherwise messy sandwich together.
Bread Is Clearly the Most Vital Ingredient of Any Successful Sandwich
But by the second bite, we are over it.
Hey, We Never Said We Weren't Fickle
Similar to the pulled pork from the platter, further tastes reveal the turkey to be dry.  Indeed, if it weren't smothered in a gallon of mysterious white liquid, it might not even be swallowable, at least not without a solid swig of water.  
We Didn't Realize the Turkey Was Meant to Taste Like It Was Left Over from Thanksgiving
The sauce is mildly interesting, if excessively vinegary, but it essentially just tastes like a less ketchupy version of the one topping the pork dish.  
Aka The Difference Is That the One on the Turkey Isn't Red
Halfway through the sandwich, Vodka pulls it apart and proceeds to consume nothing but the pickles (one should never waste a pickle, after all), and it is determined that the only reason we were initially fooled into thinking this sandwich was a work of culinary art was that we were starving.
Pure Starvation Never Makes for Good Food Judgment
Accompanying the dry pork, the side dishes are anywhere from average (baked beans) to bland (turnip greens) to downright nasty (the "famous' pancake-shaped cornbread).  
Doesn't This Look... Appetizing?
As we finish our meal, Vodka looks longingly out through the chicken wire to the McDonald's a few feet away.  Because when it comes to a special sauce, never trust a hog where only a golden arch will do.

Hog Heaven's Smoked Pulled Turkey Sandwich: 3 stars

Monday, April 11, 2016

Off the Map: Elvis Has Left the Building

Bacon Old Fashioned -- Patterson House, Nashville, TN
The Patterson House

We've said it before and we'll say it again: if your restaurant was featured on a nationally broadcast television program for a particular dish, DO NOT TAKE SAID DISH OFF THE MENU.
We're Not Hard to Please: Give Us the Dish and Ply Us with Liquor. That's All There Is To It
Now we're looking at your, Patterson House.
Bottles, Bottles Everywhere and Not a Drop to Drink
Vodka is currently traipsing through Nashville with her friend, who has opted to call herself Grey Goose ("On the Rocks with a Twist of Lemon" serving as her middle name).  
Last Name: "Actually, Make That Two"
While in town, we naturally venture to the two Best Thing I Ever Ate locales that Nashville has to offer.  
Such Mission-Driven Activities Are the Price One Pays for Being Vodka's Friend
We begin at The Patterson House, home of Claire Robinson's favorite HOLIDAY dish, the Elvis Panini with a Bacon Old-Fashioned.  The problem with this plan?  NO ELVIS PANINI is on the menu.
We Are Certain That Elvis Would NOT Be Pleased
Rather than throwing an appropriate fit (which most certainly would have happened had Ginger been in attendance), Grey Goose seems to have a calming effect on Vodka, who -- with only a mild whine -- orders us each the second half of Claire's choice, Don Lee's Bacon Old-Fashioned.  
How to Appease Vodka: Hand Her a Cocktail. Immediately. If Not Sooner
The cocktails are made in front of us -- in the same shaker, which will prove significant later -- and then poured over a large round ice cube.  After only one sip, Vodka is fairly sure that she has never seen Grey Goose look more excited, while Vodka herself is puckering her lips.

"It's very bacony," she states the obvious (being that it's called a BACON Old-Fashioned, and all). 
"I love the maple and coffee pecan bitters," Grey Goose says, which immediately makes Vodka reach out to snatch her drink.  With one taste, Vodka declares that Grey Goose's cocktail is "better" than hers, despite the fact that logic dictates this can't be possible.  
One of These Things Is Not Like the Other (If You Ask Vodka, That Is)
After accepting her fate that Vodka is going to make her switch drinks, Grey Goose declares, "It's delicious.  I would absolutely get it again.  I'd give it a 4."

"It's getting a 3," Vodka says.
"Even that one?" Grey Goose quips, pointing at the "better" of the two options before us.  
Touche, Grey Goose
While we appreciate the uniqueness of the cocktail's ingredients -- and of The Patterson House's cocktail list in general -- Vodka just cannot get behind the smokiness of this creation.  In contrast, we find the sliders and tater tots which we choose as panini substitutes absolutely scrumptious, and we are also huge fans of the ambience of the place, which features a giant circular bar in the middle, surrounded by cozy booths and bookcases.
If Vodka Can't Get Her Way, a Miniature Burger Does Tend to be a Worthy Replacement
Fact: Few Things in This World Are More Enjoyable Than a Tater Tot
Indeed, if we had been able to procure the Elvis Panini which we had traveled all the way to Tennessee to taste, perhaps Vodka would be better able to appreciate the barbeque-esque taste of the bacon old-fashioned.  
Too Bad This Isn't Smothered in Peanut Butter and Banana
But being that the panini, much like Elvis himself, has left the building, we see no reason not to do the same, leaving nothing but a mediocre star rating in our wake.  

Patterson House's Bacon Old Fashioned: 3 stars