I Can’t Believe It’s Been A Year…

It is true. I have sadly neglected this blog for far too long. There are a lot of reasons. When I started this, I was going to use it to talk about culinary discoveries I make as I traveled around the country performing my side show act. Sad to say, with the general tanking of the American economy, my entertainment career has tanked as well. I haven’t been on the road much at all this year (and the last half of last year for that matter) With no road trips there has been little opportunity to find road food.

Therefore, I have decided to start blogging about food in general. Local food that I find and love, new recipes I discover and, of course, news of my state fair prize winnings.

I have won state fair blue ribbons the past two years for my Bread & Butter pickles. Anyone who tries them says they are the best they have ever eaten. I had high hopes for a repeat ribbon this year. I entered my Bread & Butters, Deli Style Dills and on a whim, I also entered my organic Blueberry Jam and my Cherry Marmalade. I was really busy during the time the fair was here so I didn’t get a chance to go and find out if I had won again but a friend called me to let me know that, unfortunately, my Bread & Butters did not win a ribbon this year. I was a bit crestfallen but I had a good run for a couple of years so I was fine with the loss. The final day of the fair rolled around and I had to go pick up my entries, and get one of those state fair Italian Sausage sandwiches. I had my sandwich and made my wat to the agriculture building to pick up my canned goods. I gave the attendant the receipts for my entries and off she went to retrieve them. The first jar she put on the counter was my Blueberry Jam and, much to my surprise, it had a big blue ribbon hanging on it. It appeared that my friend who reported my lack of ribbons was unaware I had entered jams and didn’t check for winning entries in that category. I was surprised and delighted. I had made an end run and my winning record remained unsullied!

The Winning Jam


Victory Is Mine


I just returned from the Tennessee State Fair. Last year, the chocolate pecan pie I entered into the baking competition won second place. This year, my pie didn’t fare very well and finished with no ribbons. However, for the second year in a row, my Bread & Butter Pickles won the First Prize Blue Ribbon. So, yet again, I have

pissed off a lot of blue haired grannies!


In Praise Of The Pig

This originally appeared in my LiveJournal Blog in a slightly different form…

Is there any more gloriously noble, yet humble, versatile and above all, tasty, animal than the pig? I can answer that without hesitation with a resounding, NO!!

Being from the south in general and Tennessee in particular, I have a long association with pig. My grandmother (my dad’s mom) raised Berkshire hogs for a while and some of my earliest photos are of me posing beside a group of black and white porcine wonders.
Bennie & The 3 Little Pigs

Bennie & The 3 Little PigsMy grandfather (my mom’s dad) raised hogs, peanuts and tobacco. I have seen sausage being made and I still eat it.

I immediately have a deep distrust of any culture that forbids consumption of pork. I mean, why would something so wonderful as a pork chop be forbidden? The only reason I can think of is because someone, somewhere, a long time ago, decided that a way to keep folks in line was to deny them some of the finer things in life. To repress their natural urges for good stuff, and since outlawing sex wasn’t going to work, then eating pork was the natural second choice on the list of great things in life. I feel sad for those people. Al Queda may hate us for our culture of permissiveness, our music, our movies, our entire way of life, but whether they will admit it or not, I think they are just jealous that we unashamedly revel in the joys of BBQ baby back ribs.

I have friends, close friends, who deny themselves the porky delights because pigs are smart, because they read ‘Charlotte’s Web’ as a kid (now that is one of the few books I would support being banned for what it does to kids. You folks do know that the guy who wrote ‘Charlotte’s Web’ was a hog farmer who continued dining on pigs long after his damnable book came out…) or they saw Arnold Ziffle on ‘Green Acres’ or some such. In a way, I suppose I respect their decision to engage in such unwarranted self-denial much in the way i respect the celibate, the hermit or folks who don’t watch TV. I respect their will power in spite of the fact that I think they are out of their mind…

Think about it. There is no more versatile animal than the pig. Take breakfast alone. Bacon taste nothing like sausage which tastes nothing like ham. Country ham is as different from ‘city ham’ as Hall is from Oates, and yet, they come from the same glorious animal. Pancetta (Italian bacon) is different from good old country slab bacon. I can go on and on.

I have always said that there is nothing in the world wrong with a vegetarian that a pork chop wouldn’t take care of. And let’s not even get started on spare ribs with lasagna…

What prompted this Ode to the Hog?? Last night’s dinner of course…

I went to a mexican restaurant around the corner from the hotel. Los Cabos is a local chain but in spite of it’s chain-ness, the food is pretty damned good. They do a guacamole that is made tableside and it is delicious. The Jumbo Gold Margarita was damned dandy. I ordered Carnitas al Puerco.

At my favorite mexican restaurant in Nashville, the Carnitas are roast pork loin that is flash deep fried at a very high temperature which give the pork chunks a deliciously crispy exterior while remaining tender and juicy inside. It is kind of the same principle as the chinese version of Twice Cooked Pork.

The Carnitas al Puerco at Los Cabos were totally different. Slow roasted pork shoulder was used and the meat was fork shredded into a heaping pile of heavenly porkiness. It was not deep fried but rather left to wallow, unadorned, in it’s own natural goodness. It came with the requisite beans and rice, which were decent and was served with a fresh pico de gallo, some of their wonderful guacamole and sour cream along with fresh, steamy corn tortillas. The Carnitas were piled onto a tortilla with the pico, guacamole and just a little sour cream. The pork was melt in your mouth, ‘cut it with a plastic fork’ tender. It was juicy and flavorful without being strong or overpowering. It was a delight.

Now all you folks out there who eschew the noble pig, you have my blessing. Keep on denying yourself. It builds character to deprive yourself of one of the finer things in life and, of course, it leaves more for me.


what have you been eating lately bennie part 2

Farmer’s Markets are an amazing piece of a city’s culture and soul. They are a gathering place, based around the freshest of foods, where a cross section of the populous comes together to support local agriculture and merchants. They can be clean and clinical or funky and fun but either way, I love them all. I mentioned in the last post that Kitty and I had tried to find the Tacoma Market and that it had been canceled due to the impending windstorms. Just because we couldn’t check out the Tacoma Market doesn’t mean there has been a lack of market adventures…

I heard about the Olympia Farmer’s Market around town so I looked it up on the internet and found they were open on Thursday-Sunday until Xmas Eve. So the first Thursday that I had free, I called up Kitty and Michael and asked if they would like to hit the market with me. They agreed so I met them at their house, which is close to the market. Kitty and I loaded into my car and Michael, since he needed to be back before us, took his bike and off we went to The Olympia Farmer’s Market.

This one is a small market right on the waterfront. We started out with some breakfast. Michael had mentioned that he was going to hit the Mexican food shop for a breakfast burrito and that sounded dandy to me. I ordered the burrito and a few minutes later I was straining my back carrying this massive, big as a Thermos bottle burrito back to the table. This thing was HUGE, stuffed with eggs, chorizo, rice, potatoes, lettuce, cheese, sour cream, beans and a delicious red sauce. We sat at one of the picnic tables in front of the stage while we listened to the melodious tones of Quatro. This was a band consisting of piano, drums, upright bass and sax and the average age of the players had to be 70. I am sure they cats had kicked out the jams in the Truman administration and their jazzy renditions mixed well with the cool air and the hot sauce on my burrito. It is a rare instance when I can’t ‘clean my plate’ but I left about a third of this monster-rito on the plate.

The Olympia Farmer’s Market was a delight. The produce, mostly locally grown and organic, looked wonderful and I seriously lamented my lack of a kitchen. I did pick up some apples for the room and I had to snag some of the perfect chanterelles. I do have an electric skillet in my room so I do have some minor cooking capabilities. I also snagged several pears, four different varieties of locally grown pears to box up and send back to the Missus at home. After she got done working her culinary magic on the, they are now sitting in jars on my counter back home in the form of pear honey, which is not actually ‘honey’ but a thick, sweet syrup made from the pears and spices.

There was all manner of vegetable, from beets and broccoli to these weird, Italian cauliflower that looked like something straight out of The Day Of The Triffids.

Triffid CauliflowerTriffid Cauliflower

Fresh seafood, a nice meat market, a sausage store were all well stocked and reasonably priced.

There are a couple of bakery stalls, a spice shop, a metal worker and some interesting artwork all over the place. I think this is supposed to be a turkey but I couldn’t help notice the eerie resemblance to the airplane eating, atomic mutant bird from the classic B movie, The Giant Claw…

Science fiction movie references aside, The Olympia Farmer’s Market is a glorious place and I have been back a couple more times since the original journey.

Then, there is the Mother of Markets, Seattle’s Pikes Place Market. This place is a wonder. It has been in continuous operation for 100 years. Back in the 60’s, some developers and city council folks and even the mayor wanted to knock it down and replace it with apartments and an arena and other such signs of a city’s so called progress and the locals banded together and blocked the drive and got the place deemed a historic site. We are all better for their actions.

This place is amazing. Six levels of shops, restaurants, buskers, merchants and the freshest and most amazing produce you can imagine. This is the view from the back of the place showing the six levels.

The original Starbucks Coffee shop is here in Pike’s Place. There is a Sur le Table store that I always make a visit to whenever I am there. All manner of tiny shops and food stalls are neatly tucked away in various buildings and there is always an air of organized chaos.

One of the stops I made this year was Beecher Cheese. These folks make an incredible array of cheeses on site and they also have a small sandwich shop where I had the most amazing grilled cheese sandwich of my life. It was made on a sourdough bread with their flagship cheddar and their jack cheese with tomato and fresh basil and then grilled in a pannini press. I sat and munched on this wonderful sandwich while sitting in front of the plate window that separated me from the gentleman on the other side who was going about his business of making the cheese.

There is stall after stall of some of the freshest fruit and vegetables I have ever seen. Once more, I cursed my lack of kitchen facilities. Oh, the things I could have done with this stuff. The fresh fish shops were stocked with every manner of sea creature you can imagine. From salmon and halibut from the nearby waters to geoduck and crabs, it was a dazzling display. You can also check out, in person, the shop that you see on every travel and cooking show on TV. You know the one where they throw the fish around the room. This place is fun but I just can’t imagine that the poor fish is worth eating once it has been tossed back and forth that way.

Now personally, I love Brussell Sprouts but apparently, someone doesn’t share my affection for them.

You can spend an entire day at the Pikes Place Market and still not visit every shop. I didn’t have time for that because I wanted to make a run to Uwajimaya.

Uwajimaya is not a farmer’s market per se, but it is a huge Asian Market and is a must visit spot whenever I am in Seattle. A combination grocery store, meat market and department store, these folks carry everything Asian. You can get all your Hello Kitty needs, a sake set, dishes, cookware, 20 varieties of rice and even more types of teas. The noodle selection is dazzling and they make sushi and japanese desserts on site.

This visit, I decided to grab some food I could make in my hotel room. Since I have a mini-fridge, a microwave and an electric skillet, I knew I could easily prepare a small meal. I found a large piece of sashimi grade tuna, all fresh, firm and cherry red. I also found a precooked bowl of sprouted brown rice that was microwaveable. I rounded this out with a container of seaweed salad and my meal was complete. I took it back to the room and splashed the tuna with soy sauce and coated the outside with cracked black pepper. I seared this quickly in my skillet, taking care to not set off the smoke alarm in the room. Once the tuna was well seared on the outside, I let it rest for a few minutes while I heated the rice. I put the rice on my plate, thinly sliced the tuna and spread that over the rice and drizzled it with a mix of soy sauce and wasabi. The seaweed salad was opened and some green tea made in the room’s coffee pot. It was absolutely delicious…

The Seattle area is goldmine for good food and food products. If you ever have the good fortune to visit this part of the country, check out these markets. You will in no way regret it!


What Have You Been Eating Lately Bennie? Part 1

It has been an interesting couple of weeks on the culinary front here in Washington. I have had several interesting meals. Most were excellent, some less than stellar. There is much to report so let’s get started shall we?

One of my favorite things about coming to the Pacific Northwest is, with the large Asian population, there are loads of tiny, non-descript Asian restaurants everywhere. It seems that every strip mall and parking lot houses some manner of restaurant that caters to the Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese food lover and many of them make the real deal food.

I made the trek to the Borders Books in Tacoma to pick up some reading material for my room and as I came up on the store, I missed my turn. I pulled into the strip mall across the street to make a U-Turn and go back when I saw Happy Teriyaki #7 tucked neatly into the middle of a long row of shops. It was lunchtime so I stopped in. They had a sushi bar with chef diligently slicing away on a chunk of tuna behind the counter. I took a table and the server brought the menu. An excellent selection of teriyaki, sushi, gyoza, and noodle bowls smiled at me as I opened the menu. I decided on the Yaki Udon with pork. I was there past the lunch rush and there were only a couple of other patrons in the place so it only took a few minutes for a large platter to be placed in front of me. It was heaped with a large pile of thick, glistening udon noodles with teriyaki pork mixed with fresh, stir fried broccoli, snow peas, carrots and onions. The udon was perfect; nice thick strands, silky smooth and slick on the outside with a little bit of chewiness in the middle. The pork was thin sliced on the bias, succulent and tender, with that delicate teriyaki blend of sweet and salty. The vegetables were nice and crunchy and the whole plate was tossed in their teriyaki sauce. It was just delicious. The only thing that was a bit confusing is that on the side of the plate was also a baseball sized scoop of white rice. I am sure it was good but noodles and rice? My momma always told me you can’t have two starches at the same meal so the rice stayed on the plate. Even with that, the plate was so full I could barely finish it. Apparently, Happy Teriyaki is a local chain because I have found Happy Teriyaki #3 just down the street from my hotel. I haven’t paid them another visit yet but, it’s very likely I will.

While out searching for the local post office, I spotted Pho Vy. (909 Sleater-Kinney Road Lacey, WA) Now I am an absolute sucker for good Pho. Pho (I have heard it pronounced as everything from ‘foe’ to ‘F-uh’ and, while I think the later is correct, I usually call it the former since most folks mispronounce it and they will know what I am talking about) is a Vietnamese beef and rice noodle soup loaded with ‘stuff.’ The ‘stuff’ usually consists of various vegetables and herbs and, while I have seen it made with chicken or seafood, pho is traditionally beef.

Pho Vy offered several selections, There was a range of pho, rice dishes, egg noodle dishes and rice noodle dishes that were served in different stocks and with different meat. I decided to order carry out and take it back to the room and eat it while watching a movie. Now I am one of those odd guys who tends to go for the proverbial ‘nasty bits’ so I ordered the Pho Dac Biet which was beef stock with rice noodles and steak flank, meatballs, tripe and tendon. When they called my name, I grabbed the plain brown paper sack that had been taped closed and headed back to the hotel.

Pho Dac BietPho Dac Biet

Once back in the room, I began unpacking the load of food. In the bag, I found large container of the beef stock, a plastic bag filled with filled with crispy bean sprouts, chopped scallions, fresh basil, a small bag that I thought had chopped tomatoes and a couple of plastic cups filled with sauces and condiments. There was also a styrofoam container with the cooked meats and the rice noodles. I pulled out my large bowl and filled it with the noodles and meats. I dropped in a handful of the raw bean sprouts and several leaves of basil. I unwrapped what I thought were tomatoes and found, to my surprise, that it was actually raw, shaved flank steak. I separated it and scattered that into the bowl too. Once the bowl was filled with these delights, I poured the stock over it. The steamy stock cooked the raw steak immediately. I mixed in the hot sauce and hoisin sauce from the plastic cups and gave it all a big stir to mix it. I sunk a spoon in and took a taste of the stock. It was beefy and rich with overtones of charred anise and cinnamon. The tendon was gelatinous and soft, chewy but not gristly, the steak delicious and the tripe was more texture than flavor, all waxy and crunchy at the same time and the meatballs were small and spicy but a bit to the little to the rubbery side, which is not unexpected with boiled meatballs. I scattered some scallions over the top and it whole thing was just great and at under $7.00, you certainly can’t beat the price.

Thursday has become the day I get to hang out with my Olympia pal, Kitty. We had decided to go into Tacoma and visit the Tacoma Farmer’s Market. The Tacoma market is a temporary affair that is set up on Thurdays only. They block off one of the streets downtown and folks set up temporary stalls with their produce and products. I discovered it the first year I was here and was staying in a hotel just down the block from where it was set up. Kitty and I got to downtown Tacoma and, oddly enough, couldn’t find the market. I had checked online and it was supposed to be there but we couldn’t seem to locate it. We finally noticed a sign advertising the market but with a piece of paper over the it saying it had been canceled due to inclement weather. We were disappointed but it was understandable why it would be canceled. We were getting the effect of the tail end of a Pacific typhoon and there were 50 to 60 mph winds whipping through the area, downing powerlines and cutting power for thousands in the Tacoma area.

We took our disappointment and decided to drown our sorrows in a big plate of homestyle Mexican food at Taco Guaymas. (2630 S 38th St Tacoma, WA)  Kitty and her partner, Michael love this place for the home style food and heaping portions. The building itself appears to have been a Burger King or a KFC or some other fast food establishment. We strolled in and checked out the menu, which was posted above the counter. Kitty ordered first while I was making up my mind. She got the grande burrito stuffed with BBQ pork. I ordered the regular beef burrito and, in keeping with my thoughts that if something is available that I have never had, I should try it, I ordered 2 tacos, one with pork carnitas and the other with beef tongue. Yes. Tongue tacos. I was feeling that nervous excitement that I get when I order something new. I have never eaten tongue before and didn’t really know what it would be like. I thought it would be somewhat chewy and strong tasting. We would find out soon.

Kitty’s burrito came out. It was the size of a pillow. You could nap on this thing. Huge and stuffed full of rice, beans, vegetable and pulled pork. She cut into it and offer me a bite, which I gladly snagged. The pork was well cooked and tasty.

 Kitty's Burrito Pillw

About that time, my food arrived. I had gotten the smaller burrito, but it was not much smaller than the grande burrito on Kitty’s plate. The tacos were in a separate basket, soft, warm corn tortillas piled high with pork carnitas on the left and tongue on the right.

 Carnitas (left) Tongue (right)Carnitas, Tongue

 Both had lettuce and a homemade pico de gallo. I speared a piece of the tongue with my fork and popped it in my mouth. It was not at all what I expected. It was not the least bit chewy. It was velvety soft and tender and tasted a bit like pot roast with a very slight liverish aftertaste. It was quite good. Kitty tried a piece and agreed with my assessment. I rolled up the tortilla and took a large bite. The corn tortillas, if not made in house, are certainly locally made. They were excellent and the pico was  fresh and flavorful with cilantro and garlic. Both the tongue taco and the carnitas taco were wonderful and the burrito, like Kitty’s, was overstuffed with chopped beef and vegetables and rice.

Taco Guaymas is one of those family owned treasures that one stumbles on occasionally that makes being a culinary adventurer worth all the effort.


Fat Rascal’s Port Orchard, WA

This originally appeared in my LiveJournal blog on October 11, 2007

I was regaling my friends Terri & Marc of my disappointment in the lack of quality smoked meat in this part of the country when they mentioned that there is a place in Port Orchard that has good BBQ. I asked if you could smell the smoke outside and they said you could smell it down the street. I was sold!

So last night, I made the hour long drive from Olympia to Port Orchard. It is an annual trek I make to visit with these fine folks and they always let me in on some excellent local eats. Last year it was a dandy Mexican restaurant that kicked large amounts of ass and this year, it is going to be MEAT! We sat around their place, chatting and having a few beers while watching Planet Terror. The evening was off to a rolling start and Planet Terror is likely the finest noxious chemical Zombie movie ever! Buckets of blood, anyone can can be turned into chum at anytime and plenty of primo gut eating. What better way to get stoked for a plate full of smoked meat?? After the movie, it was into the car and off to Fat Rascal’s. (682 SW Bay St Port Orchard, WA)

Port Orchard is a nice little city that sits on the Sinclair Inlet. We negotiated the hills leading down to the inlet, drove through the small downtown and soon, we were parked at Fat Rascal’s. I got out of the car and was immediately engulfed in the powerful smell of hickory smoke. I had a feeling this could be good…

Fat Rascal’s goes one step further in proving my BBQ theory. You can get high quality, tasty BBQ anywhere in the world, as long as the owners are from the south. I could tell by the decor that these folks were southern transplants. Statues of bears and raccoons and the obligatory pigs were everywhere. We grabbed a table and were asked what our drinks would be. Terri likes their sweet tea and while I usually take my iced tea unsweetened, I was feeling a wee bit homesick so I ordered the sweet tea as well. It was actually good. Sweet tea is very hit or miss outside the south (and inside the south for that matter) but this was really good. Not syrupy sweet like Texas sweet tea but just sweet enough to take the edge off. This was a very good sign.

I checked out the menu and decided that the only way to truly get the whole Fat Rascal’s experience was to loosen the belt and go for the Sampler plate. With that you got some pulled pork, beef brisket, cajun sausage and BBQ ribs plus 3 side orders. The sides consisted of hot and smokey beans, sweet and smokey beans, potato salad, coleslaw and deep fried corn on the cob (more evidence that these folks were southerners. Who else would deep fry corn?) I love good beans so I opted for both kinds of beans and the potato salad. Let’s party!

The server, a fine figure of a young, blonde woman, came back shortly with plates lined up her arm. She put a huge platter in front of me, piled high with various smokey and delicious meats slathered in a thick red sauce. “This is part of your dinner.” she smiled. “PART??” I thought. Oh yeah, the sides hadn’t arrived yet. Damn, I better let the belt out two holes instead of one. The sides arrived on a separate plate, three small bowls of goodness.

I started with the brisket. Aside from chicken, brisket is the easiest BBQed meat to dry out and turn to shoe leather. I popped a slice into my mouth and was surprised at how moist it was. Tender, juicy and just excellent. The sauce was a good mixture of sweet with a healthy dash of vinegar. Tangy and just sweet enough, without being face puckering, with a nice dash of heat. The pulled pork was transcendent. It was as perfectly cooked pork shoulder as I have had anywhere. Big chunks of piggy deliciousness without any fat or gristle. The word flawless comes to mind. The cajun sausage was nice and spicey with a good flavor but not all that remarkable and the ribs were quite tasty too. Delicious, tender and smokey, but nothing approaching The Rendezvous in Memphis, South Street in Nashville or my back yard on Labor Day. The hot beans had a very good flavor but had just a wee too much burn to them for my taste and the sweet beans just a skosh too sweet but when mixed together, they were absolutely perfect. Potato salad is potato salad. Good mayonnaise based salad but nothing out of the ordinary. Marc ordered the deep fried corn on the cob. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. It was corn, skewered corndog-esque, on a stick and dropped into the Fry-O-Later. He raved about it and I believe him. I mean, what’s not better deep fried??

All in all, Fat Rascal’s gets this southern gentleman’s seal of approval. It was exactly as promised. Delicious, well cooked, properly smoked BBQ. Nothing fancy, nothing gourmet about it. Just like BBQ is supposed to be.

The owners? Virginia and Florida. I knew they were from the south as soon as I stepped out of the car and inhaled…


The Clubside Cafe Olympia, WA

This was originally posted, in a substantially different form, on my LiveJournal blog on October 8, 2007

As I was driving to the Sasquatch exhibit at The State Capitol Museum with my Olympia pal Kitty, she was pointing out local eating establishments that I should check out. One of the places that got a special mention was The Clubside Cafe. I made a mental note and after the museum excursion, I was on the way back to my hotel when I drove past the Clubside. I hadn’t eaten breakfast and I was pretty hungry so I decided to check the place out. I am happy I did.

The Clubside Cafe (408 E. 4th Ave. in Olympia) is a full blown rockabilly cafe. The right side wall was covered in a hot rod flame mural. Flames were painted behind the vintage hubcaps that decorated the area above the lunch counter. In between each hubcap was a framed, Vargas style pinup girl. The table tops were red & white formica and the chairs were stainless steel tube chairs with shiny red vinyl seats and backs. The Clubside Counter

The place has moderately filled with locals of every stripe. There was a good sized area in the back corner that was literally fenced in and full of toys. Folks came in and dropped their little children in there and they played quietly and didn’t annoy the diners. It was brilliant! I grabbed a seat and a cute young waitron came by with a menu. I was in time to catch the weekend brunch so I asked for coffee to drink. She returned with a cup as big as the top half of my skull with that dark, rich, full bodied Seattle coffee that I love so much. Kitty had recommended their breakfast burrito that was “as big as a newborn baby.” I checked out the menu and they had all manner of breakfast foods. Burritos, omelets, meat & eggs, pancakes. You name it. Then I spotted it. Corned Beef Hash & Eggs. I am a sucker for corned beef hash for breakfast. It is a taste of my childhood. There are not a lot of places at home that serve this so I grab it when I find it on the road. I ordered up the hash with sunny side up eggs and rye toast. Rye toast is another thing you rarely find in the south. I have no idea why this is but I grab it whenever it is an option.

I picked up the local alternative paper and was perusing it when they brought my plate. It was a thing of beauty. Fresh, in house made hash. Shredded potatoes and onions, browned on the griddle, topped with a mixture of red and green bell pepper and cooked until the peppers were slightly softened. Then the shredded corned beef was mixed in and just heated through. This was placed on the plate in a pile that was a good 2” thick and completely covered the plate. The perfectly cooked sunny side ups were placed on top and the rye toast sitting on the edge of the plate in the Mickey Mouse ears position. It was gorgeous! A wee sprinkling of salt, a good dash of pepper and a fork were all that was needed. It was absolutely delicious, hot and crispy, with the egg yolk running down into the hash and giving it just enough thick moisture to tie it all together. The only time I have had a better plate of freshly made Corned Beef Hash is when I make it myself. This wonderful meal set me back less than $10. When the server/owner, Kenny, found out that I was visiting the area, he gave me some suggestions as to what to see while I was in town and we chatted for a several minutes. It was a delightful experience. The Clubside Cafe will be seeing this fat boy again!

…and see me again they did.

I was back in Olympia 5 days later and, to my delight, it was around lunchtime. I had noticed that the Clubside menu said that they serve Kobe beef hamburgers. I was sure that it was likely to be American Kobe style Wagyu beef but, even so, I was intrigued and wanted, no, needed to try them.

I settled into my seat and checked out the menu. In addition to the Philly cheesesteaks, the hoagies and grinders and the all day breakfast, there were ten different burgers from which to choose. Other than the Hawaiian Burger (I’m sorry, I love pineapple but not on my burgers) they all looked good and it was hard to choose. Finally, the Bacon Bleu Cheese Burger called my name. I love a gloriously stinky cheese and bacon makes everything taste better so what’s not to like? I added a side order of fresh cut fries and an iced tea and settled in to wait for my order.

It was another cold, dreary, rainy day in Olympia. I sat, sipping my iced tea, and watched the rain pelting down on the sidewalk and the large front windows, wondering how the weather was going to effect the shows the next night. Just then, an angellic vision in jeans and a T-Shirt slid a red plastic basket onto the table. It took me back my days as a short order diner cook. Nearly 40 years ago, at The Burger Boy Diner, I had served thousands of burgers this way. A basket, lined with waxed paper, a pile of crisp, golden french fries piled on the left and a big burger on the right. The 1/3 pound burger was dripping with juicy goodness with the bleu cheese melted on top. The bacon crossed like bones on the Jolly Roger placed atop the cheese and rounded out with lettuce, tomato, thin sliced red onions and pickles. I took a bite.

Bacon Bleu Cheese Burger

I like my burgers to the medium side but these days, unless I grind the meat myself, this is not something that I will do. This burger was cooked medium well. Not a trace of pink, and yet, it was still juicy and flavorful. Seasoned with salt and pepper on the griddle, caramelized on the outside and moist on the inside. The bleu cheese was in perfect balance with the meat; enough to give it an excllent taste without overpowering the rest of the burger. Even the tomato was ripe and not the least bit mealy or mushy. It was truly a great burger. The burger with fries set me back $11.00 and was worth every penny.

I was wrapping up my meal when Kenny, the server from my previous visit noticed me. He remembered me and came over with a big friendly smile to chat and ask how my visit was going and that he was happy I came back. I felt at home and welcome.

I will say it once more, they will be seeing this fat boy again. I have my eye on the Fish & Chips which is made with house battered wild caught Alaska Halibut and those wonderful fresh cut fries.

*please forgive the quality of the photos. They were taken with the camera on my cell phone.

November 2017
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