Monday, July 28, 2008

Homecoming, Part Deux

It’s been a month since the trip back home to SC, but since I posted a “Part One,” I thought it best to make good on the implication of more Carolina goodness. Well, y’all, here it is.

Tasting the "New" South

(Cornmeal Fried Green Tomatoes)

The first outing of the vacation was an excellent dinner at a well-known Columbia spot, Mr.Friendly’s New Southern Café. Located in the Five Points neighborhood near the University of South Carolina, Mr. Friendly’s was the place to go on a nice date when I was in college—as opposed to the Pita Pit across the street.

(Needless to say, none of my romantic interests ever took me to Mr. Friendly’s.)

What does New Southern cuisine mean? Well, as far as I can tell, it means tasty Southern staples, prettied up on your plate with a garnish of micro-greens…the general idea being for you to enjoy the fried, fatty goodness without thinking about the sweaty people back in the kitchen who man the fryers all night long. I’m only half kidding.

We shared an appetizer of the Cornmeal Fried Green Tomatoes, which were served stacked—crispy, tangy bricks held together with a generous mortar of applewood bacon-cheddar pimento cheese. Heaven.

My entrée, Peach Mustard BBQ Glazed Atlantic Salmon, was also delectable, and definitely exemplary of what “New Southern” cuisine is all about—an homage to South Carolina’s undying obsession with mustard-based barbeque sauce (I could take a bath in it!), served with restraint on salmon instead of the standard (beloved) pork. The peach element in the dish was a candied pecan-peach salsa spooned over the top, which needed a more acid and spice. But the creamed grits served on the side made me forget any other possible criticism of the dish. Full of cream, butter, and garlic, the grits were like bites of pure nostalgia for me.

My Greasy Lover

My other meal of note was at Bojangle’s Famous Chicken and Biscuits. It’s a chain that’s been around the southern states since 1977, and I love it without shame. What makes it famous?

For one, their Cajun fried chicken is awesome, with spicy seasoning rubbed underneath the skin so it has direct contact with the meat. Then the chicken is hand battered and fried to perfection. They make buttermilk biscuits from scratch all day long, and their side dishes, called “fixins” are also quite tasty—especially the dirty rice, Cajun pintos, and spicy Cajun seasoned fries. A diehard will enjoy her chicken dinner with a nice diabetic coma-inducing sweet tea, which is like a whole separate food group in South Carolina.

Don’t cringe—Bojangle’s is worlds away from KFC, and if you’re ever in the South I highly recommend it. (There’s even one in the Charlotte International Airport, for those just passing through.)

(The Real Deal)

(Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, relation)

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