Cajun in Kentucky

Hey guess what, I’m beginning another post with a question that I have no way of finding your answer to.  Remember back in March where I made the statement that food vacations are the best vacations?  No? well maybe you should go back and read that post before this one.  Yes?  Well, lets get started on another installment of John drives really far away and eats literally everything.

This time around I’m in Kentucky with six days of planned culinary checkpoints.  Not just that, but I’m visiting five bourbon distilleries in those six days. I’m in Lexington and Louisville — with stops at Buffalo Trace, Woodford Reserve, Wild Turkey, Makers Mark and Jim Beam.  I will also be making stops at three breweries before the week is over.  I guess if you wanted to come up with a catchy title for this vacation, you could call it John Consumes Kentucky.

So after five hours of driving, I decided it was time for me to establish myself within the Kentucky food scene.  Time to let the people of Lexington know that John Moors doesn’t fuck around when it comes to food.  Actually, I walked to a little Cajun-Creole joint called Bourbon n’ Toulouse I had been reading about on the intrawebz to get myself into some NAWLINS cuisine.

Here’s where I say that I know what you’re thinking, when you’re probably not thinking it at all, just so I can bring up something.  NOW I KNOW WHAT YOU’RE PROBABLY THINKING.  John, why on earth are you eating Cajun-Creole food in Kentucky?   Well, during my research before this trip I kept seeing people talking about this little joint called Bourbon n’ Toulouse.  Word on the street is back in 2004, a retired elementary school teacher spent every dime he had to open this place up with a basic business plan of serving some damn good food.  Apparently this model has worked, as everyone I talked to that is familiar with the Lexington area recommended it.

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Bourbon n’ Toulouse is a little spot, a step up from a hole in the wall, that has about ten tables inside with a large counter where you order your food.  Behind that sits a table with twenty or so various hot sauces that you are free to bring to your table.  All food is served on styrofoam plates with plastic forks.  I went with a half and half, meaning I got to order two different entrees.  My choices were chicken étouffée, which is basically a spicy roux gravy with shredded chicken next to their chicken, shrimp and sausage gumbo, which is apparently cooked for two days (!!!!).  There are ten or so other options that you can pick from including jambalaya, chicken chili, red beans with sausage — and if you’re not into any of that there is also a BBQ menu with pork, chicken and chili dogs.

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If you’re ever in the Lexington area this is probably your spot.  The spice in the food goes deep into your soul, which is that way Cajun food is supposed to do.  Portions, as you can see, are plentiful, and I can respect any joint that served their food with styrofoam and plastic wear.  The people there are friendly and are glad to help with any questions about the area.  The guy taking my order recommended a BBQ place which I will be going today.

More to come tonight, as John consumes Kentucky/Gets really fat.  Also, I’m in a bit of a rush so I didn’t proof read any of this.  If you see any mistakes, please let me know and I’ll get them fixed.  If you don’t see any, I either did a really good job writing this or someone already gave me a heads up.

Korean Shortrib Tacos

I’m going to begin this post with a question because it makes things feel more interactive even though there’s no way for me to find out what your response is to the question.  I guess that makes it a rhetorical question?

Have you ever walked into a restaurant you’ve been to several times and find a new menu item that completely puts that restaurant over the top?  Like, you’ve been there and had a few good meals but it was never a place you would go out of your way to return to?

That happened to me yesterday.  I was getting work done on the Miracle Whip (my white 2013 Ford Focus) and I needed to kill a couple of hours.  Rather than sit in the lobby and watch Harry Potter on their 24″ TV, I walked over to Ashley’s Beer & Grill, which has always been a good option in Westland but never a place I would go out of my way to visit for whatever reason.  Don’t get me wrong, I always have a good meal here and they have an amazing beer selection — But for whatever reason, I only eat here about once per year.

I looked over the menu for several moments until my eyes stopped on one of my favorite things.  Korean Tacos.

Korean Short Rib Tacos: Grilled bulgogi short rib, roja sauce, cilantro-green onion-lime relish and kimchi slaw.

I yelled across the restaurant at the waitress to immediately bring me these tacos.  Just kidding, I didn’t do that.  When the waitress returned I asked very nicely if she could bring me a plate of these delicious sounding Korean tacos and wondered…. Could Ashley’s do it?  Could they create one of my favorite dishes and offer it a mere two miles away from my house?

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The answer is YES.  Absolutely yes.  These Korean tacos are as legit as they come — And that’s not one of those things where I just make a blanket statement about how great something is with zero credibility behind it.  If I am eating ANYWHERE and Korean tacos are available, I pull the trigger.  I’ve had Korean tacos in five different states.  I KNOW Korean tacos.

Everything about these things work.  The bulgogi is plentiful and salty, the cilantro-lime slaw is fresh and doesn’t give you any kind of overpowering fruit flavor, the kimchi adds a vinegary tang and the roja sauce..  Holy shit, the roja sauce.  The roja sauce is SPICY.  So spicy I finished two large drinks while eating these tacos.  The best part is the spice level is not indicated ANYWHERE on the menu.  That means whoever is running this place is expecting people to assume that if you’re ordering Korean tacos you know they’re going to be spicy.  That’s exactly how it should be.

So if you’ve had Korean tacos before and have high expectations, go and get these.  If you’ve never had Korean tacos, go and get these.  If you’re a big fan of ground beef tacos with lettuce and not a lot of spice, please return to this site when you’ve improved your food game.

I see you Ashley’s.  You’ve stepped it up with these.  I will be back.

Ashley’s Beer and Grill is at 7525 N Wayne in Westland, MI

Chicken Chip Nacho Supreme

I previously wrote about Taco Bell’s newest shot at creating weird menu items and getting people like me to write about them for free advertising – Naked Chicken Chips.  Naked Chicken chips are essentially just triangle shaped chicken nuggets with a small amount of spice added.  I’m not sure why Taco Bell insists on calling their latest chicken products “Naked” but I gave them a shot and found them to be quite underwhelming.  The chips themselves were soft and soggy, the spices we’re non-existent and the nacho cheese dip should be replaced with Volcano sauce.

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So I did what any Taco Bell loving citizen would do.  I customized it and made something absolutely ridiculous.  I took their bland chicken chips and turned them into a Nacho Supreme.  A Chicken Chip Nacho Supreme.  Chicken topped with ground beef, refried beans, cheese and sour cream.  This was easily one of the best things I have eaten at Taco Bell in the last five years.  I can’t say much for the presentation, but holy shit the flavor.

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So yeah, if you’re hungry at this moment, don’t have anything going on and don’t really care for your physical well-being or health in general you should go and get one of these.  They will probably look at you strange but it’s worth it in the end.

Why Does McDonalds Coke Taste So Good?

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There are very few things people can agree on anymore.  Some people think Donald Trump is the perfect person to make this country great again.  Some people think that he’s a lunatic and we are headed toward the apocalypse.  North Korea believes that they need nuclear weapons to defend themselves from the United States.  There doesn’t seem to be any sort of common ground for anyone to stand on to start to build a general understanding of each other anymore.

I think there is one thing that we can agree on:

McDonald’s Coca-Cola is on another level.

I’m sure the majority of us have found ourselves, one time in our lives, taking a drink of a large Coca-Cola at McDonalds and wondering “How the hell do they make this so good?”. After all, it’s the same recipe everywhere right?  How has McDonalds figured out how to make something that tastes the same every other place taste so much better?  Has McDonalds and the Coca-Cola company come to some kind of secret agreement where they get a better version of their product?  Turns out, the secrets are out there and I’m here to give you the answer you have been looking for your entire life.  The mystery ends now.

In 1955, Ray Kroc came to an agreement with the Coca-Cola company to make them their official beverage supplier and McDonalds has been their biggest customer for years. Coke sales teams are prohibited from selling syrup to other restaurants for less than what McDonald’s pays, even if that means losing business to Pepsi-Cola.  Coca-Cola even has a separate McDonalds division.  The two companies have helped each other’s growth would neither would be as huge as they are today without the other.

With that partnership, McDonalds takes their Coca-Cola seriously.  Very seriously.  Every aspect of their Coke end game is looked at carefully — from how it gets delivered to their restaurants, to how it is delivered to customer’s mouths.  They have guidelines for each of their restaurants to follow to ensure that customers are getting the best Coca-Cola possible and damnit, it seems to be working.

The Delivery

First, McDonalds has their Cola-Cola delivered in large stainless steel containers.  Anyone who has worked in the food industry knows that soda is usually delivered in large plastic bags within cardboard boxes.  The stainless steel containers maintain freshness and preserve the ingredients inside.   This also allows the syrup to stay cooler during delivery.

The Filtration

Second, McDonalds invests more money in their water filtration process than other fast food establishments.  Specifically, their water goes through a double filtration process before it goes in your cup.  They call this the “gold standard”.  If you ever want to taste the purest water you’ve ever had go and try the tap water at a McDonalds.

The Temperature

Third, McDonalds takes the temperature of their soda very seriously.  The tube that runs from the refrigerator unit in the back of their restaurants all the way to their drive through window is properly insulated and continuously has water running through it to achieve a temperature just above freezing.  This cold temperature is essential for peak C02 levels which ensures the crispy, bubbly taste of Coca-Cola and stays carbonated for longer than other restaurants.  The syrup is also pre-chilled before it goes into your cup. The addition of ice into your cup and ice melting is also taken into account with the syrup-soda ratio.  If you ever get a Coke at McDonalds with no ice, expect a much sweeter drink than you’re used to.

The Straw

Finally, ever notice the size of the straw at McDonalds?  That’s not an accident.  The bigger straw apparently allows the Coca-Cola to reach more of your taste buds.  Taken a step further, McDonalds straws seem to be popular among a different community of Coke consumers.  Just ask this subreddit.

 

The Taco Stand

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If you judged me by what I cook, my tattoos and the food I talk about most you could probably come to the conclusion that my first love for food is BBQ.  In reality, if I could have any choice any food for any meal I could easily come up with four or give different Mexican joints I would go to.  I say joint because your typical Mexican restaurant isn’t my idea of good Mexican food.  Large menus with tons of options are great but when I think of GREAT Mexican food I think of small places with a few chairs, usually shared with a grocery store and a basic menu with the items that they have perfected from their hometown.  No sizzling trays of fajitas being walked past your table every five minutes, no jumbo margaritas, just the essentials with your choice of meats.  I recently came across a joint in Allen Park called The Taco Stand Taqueria, which could not be any more of the epitome of what I love about Mexican food.  No bullshit, just a one page menu and great Mexican food.

I’m always on the lookout for little Mexican joints and had seen The Taco Stand on a few different lists that suggested it met all criteria of greatness.  It took seeing a share from Mr. Chris Baker to really push me over the edge and get over there the next day.  When you pull up to the Taco Stand, it’s not one hundred percent clear on exactly what you do to get your food.  There are a few benches with screen windows in front of them and you eventually find yourself in front of a screen door that leads you to a small space where you can order your food.  The entire kitchen is opened up in this area so you can see exactly what is going on.  I could see a guy prepping pork fresh for other customers’ orders and goddamn was this exciting for me.

The menu is as basic as you can get — tacos and quesadillas with your choice of five different meat varieties, two burritos, tortas, Carne Asada fries and few sides.  That, boys and girls, is what a taco stand menu should look like.  Choose what meat you want and what delivery device you would like to surround it.  None of this fajitas sixteen different ways, bullshit.

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Now being the fat man that I am, I had my eyes on the tortas but I had to get a couple of tacos.  If I posted something about a place called “Taco Stand” and didn’t get any tacos, I would fully expect all of you to close this site out and never return.  I started with two Asada tacos that were everything a great taco should be — a delicious, slightly crispy corn tortilla filled with seasoned meat and topped with fresh cilantro and onions.

Now before I continue this post, I have to go on a little side rant here.  Recently, I have discovered what I believe to be the greatness of the taco and I have been able to put it into words.  For the longest time, I believed what made a great taco was the meat. Deliciously crispy, yet juicy carnitas.. Pastor seasoned perfectly with a little fruityness.. That has to be the obvious reason for a delicious taco, right?  Wrong, I say.  The greatness of a taco is defined by the reason for its delicious changing.  After I eat a taco, sometimes I am thinking about how great the onions were.  Sometimes I’m thinking about how well the fresh cilantro tied everything together.  Sometimes I’m thinking about how great and crispy the tortilla was and how it acted as the perfect delivery device.  Other times, yes, I’m thinking about how great the meat filler was.  In reality, all of these ingredients shine together and create the perfect food combination.  If you really think about it, great tacos are like the 2004 Detroit Pistons championship team — A perfect combination of players with a different player stepping up every night.

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Now the tacos here are great.  But the tortas.  Holy shit, the tortas.  If you’re unfamiliar with the torta world, it basically takes what you would get with a taco and turns it up to an eleven.  A torta is basically a Mexican submarine that can house the same ingredients of a taco but because it’s supported by two pieces of bread all kinds of ridiculousness is possible.  I would explain more on the greatness of tortas, but someone has already done that for me in a post entitled The Torta is the Best Mother Fucking Sandwich Ever.  This torta is Al Pastor, onions, cilantro and avocado, This was one of the better sandwiches I have ever had.  Normally tortas can be messy and require a fork to pick up the remains off your plate but I was able to eat this entire thing in the front eat of my car with no issues. Seriously, get the torta.

Here’s another beautiful thing – This entire meal cost $9.00.

The Taco Stand is located at 5038 Allen Road in Allen Park.  You should go there.

Hog Wild BBQ. With Raisins.

First, a simple statement.  BBQ is an amazing thing.  It’s such a simple concept – heat, wood and meat – but it has different origins in different cultures and has a different process everywhere you go. Changing the smallest details result in different flavors and textures. My preference is keeping it basic – allow the wood to flavor a quality piece of meat and leave the sauce out of it. My choice of meat? Pork.  Enough so that I have a butcher map of a pig tattooed on my arm in an ode to whole hog BBQ.

With that being said, I’m not your typical BBQ snob. I think the basic cook should always remain the same, heat and wood, but after that as long as you’re not drowning the meat in sauce I’m always up for whatever. The first concept that comes to mind is Ricewood BBQ in Ann Arbor — where they wood smoke various meats, serve them over rice topped with scallion, tomato and a spicy-sour Chamorro sauce. It’s something so basic – again: heat, wood and meat, but shows how BBQ is done in the Western Pacific. It’s a reminder that BBQ is not just an American classic. Meat heated slowly over wood is the most basic form of cooking and is done differently in every state and country around the world.

I’ll admit that’s one of the deeper things I’ve written and is an odd opening to a “review” of a BBQ truck. I just love BBQ, that’s all. So when I found out that someone had a BBQ truck directly across the street from my job — no electric, no gas,.  Just wood and heat — I showed up with money. Two days in a row. Check this place out:

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Here’s where I love maintaining this site as less of a “food blog” and more of a “here’s some great food with an interesting story behind it” site. Hog Wild BBQ was opened by Dave Price, who was an air conditioning repair man as early as 2012. After doing some back yard pig roasts his friends encouraged him to open a commercial BBQ business. He now owns two BBQ trucks, a restaurant and a catering business.

Upon my first visit, I was told that the pork had been on the smoker since about 2AM and was just being taken off for pulling. Even better, they hadn’t made the cole slaw yet so it was made while I was waiting. They packed it up in a styrofoam container and sent me on me on my way

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The pork is served naked in sandwich form topped with your spice of regular or sweet/spicy and topped with slaw. Upon opening my styrofoam container, I found something that shocked me. Raisins. This was the first time I have ever seen raisins included as part of BBQ. I wasn’t sure what to think. It adds a little bit of sweetness to the sandwich and a random chewyness to each bite. The pork falls apart, like all good BBQ should and the raisin adds a little chew.  Past that, the spicy sauce tastes like it’s hoisin based — which is typically used as a glaze or stir fry sauce in Chinese cuisine.  #interesting.

Tying this in with my long intro aka John’s ode to BBQ, this is the beauty of BBQ. Someone obviously experimented with different flavors and ingredients and tied in the age old practice of smoked meat with different flavors — even adding dried grapes to the equation. I have to say it works. Adding a dried fruit and an ingredient from a country’s cuisine that is not typically associated with USA BBQ makes this place both delicious and interesting. It’s an ingredient combination you probably won’t find many other places.

Hog Wild BBQ sets up shop at the BP right off the Grand River exit on 96 in Brighton. Check it out.

IHOP Cheeseburger Omelette

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Add this to my brand new WTF category..

I’m a big fan of breakfast but in no way do I find it be the most important meal of the day. I classify breakfast as more of a prep meal for lunch.. Something to get me through the first few hours of the day until I can enjoy an actual meal. Anything larger than a bowl of cereal or a sandwich and my day starts in slow motion.

Apparently IHOP thinks it’s a good idea to absolutely destroy people’s stomach in the morning.  Their new cheeseburger omelette is filled with ground beef, hash browns, tomatoes, onions, and American cheese, and topped with ketchup, mustard, and pickles.

When I first read the description of this it wasn’t the eight different ingredients in an omelette that pushed it over the top. It wasn’t the decision to add hash browns to a cheeseburger omelette either. It was the decision to cover an omelette in ketchup and mustard that gave me a stomach ache just thinking about it.

It’s not that I expect better from IHOP. I really don’t. I have had many disgustingly delicious meals at IHOP that made it so I could accomplish absolutely nothing that day. What I do expect is for no one to think it’s a good idea to put ketchup and mustard on an omelette.

Unacceptable IHOP.  UNACCEPTABLE.

Taco Bell Chicken Chips

Just in case you were getting tired of tortilla chips…

In yet another effort to serve you chicken in the strangest form possible, Taco Bell will be releasing their Naked Chicken Chips nationwide starting on May 11th.  They’re pretty much just how they sound: chicken nugget triangles seasoned with Mexican spices and served with a cup of nacho cheese for dipping.

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Taco Bell continues to use stunt menu items to generate buzz and judging by the fact that I continue to write about them, I would say it is working.  These will be available at a surprisingly low price of $1.99 for a six piece and a $3.99 for a twelve piece. If you’re really feeling unhealthy you can get a six piece, a burrito supreme, a crunchy taco and a drink for five bucks.

While the thought of chicken chips alone don’t get me too excited, I will visit and use this as an ingredient to create something else.  A Nacho Supreme with regular chips replaced with chicken chips comes to mind.

The biggest potential of this though: Fire Sauce as a dipping sauce.  Bring it back please.

Grindstone Smokehouse Burned Down

I woke up up this morning to a message from the Filipino Pounder saying that Grindstone Smokehouse caught fire last night an hour after they closed. Either this was the worst pun ever, or we had ourselves a fire in Westland last night.

A little background first — Grindstone Smokehouse was opened in late 2015 and replaced Beaver Creek Saloon. It quickly became one of the most inconsistent dining experiences in the area. One day you would go and everything would be fantastic, the next you would be served what tasted like cold steak bites pretending they were burnt ends. It was almost depressing that I had a smokehouse down the street that I couldn’t depend on.

I immediately ran out the door to collect evidence (actually I needed catfood) and get the people some kind of update, as no one else seems to know what’s going on.  Since there were police on the scene, I didn’t feel like it would be a good look for me to get out of the car so I literally just drove by about four times and kept hitting the camera button.  IT’S SOMETHING, OK?

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It looks like they’re boarding the place up but the structure of the building is still intact.  I haven’t seen anyone else report anything on what’s going on so it’s hard to say how bad the damage internally is.  There are police in the parking lot which can only mean that they’re still investigating the cause. I’ll keep updating you as I hear things.

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Update: Got a video posted on Facebook by a Vic Barra last night of them trying to put it out:

Deep Fried Cheesesteak Roll

I visited a joint called Mocha Bistro in Dearborn, MI after seeing their stuff on Instagram for some time. They advertise themselves as Yemeni-American fusion and have a pretty solid social media game. As you go through their shares, they definitely focus on the sweet stuff – cheesesteak rolls, milkshakes, fruit cocktails and smoothies. The pictures make this side of the menu look delicious but I’m not interested in that kind of thing. If you scroll through you will eventually come to the Mocha Steak Roll.  The Mocha Steak Roll is a deep fried cheesesteak roll.  Here, let me write that in bigger letters to get your attention.

DEEP FRIED.  CHEESESTEAK.  ROLL.

Now that description alone is enough to get my attention.  It’s amazing to me that someone thought to themselves “You know, a cheesesteak is a pretty good sandwich — But what if we deep fry it?”.  Whoever that was, THANK YOU.

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The Mocha Steak Roll is sliced ribeye, grilled onions and peppers with Swiss and American cheeses all wrapped in a tortilla. It’s like a wonderful cheesesteak chimichanga hybrid. It also comes with “Mocha Sauce”, which appears to be a spicy mayo, and a green salsa. Both are delicious and give a different flavor friend to each bite. The textures are soft in the middle with a slightly crunchy, chewy tortilla exterior. It’s as close to perfect as a deep fried sandwich can get.

If you’re not a steak person, they offer a similar sandwich in a chicken roll and also a chicken shawarma. So far I have been there twice and haven’t been able to eat anything else other than the steak roll. Eleanor, on the other hand, had the genius idea to dip chicken nuggets in hummus.

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Mocha Bistro has TWO locations – 14456 Michigan Ave in Dearborn and 9335 Constant Ave in Hamtramck.