After I left King’s, I drove to Winston-Salem and checked in to the Marriott, eager to start chipping away at the 26 Essential NC Barbecue Places. I sat down and started cross-referencing the 26 Places with the Campaign for Real Barbecue’s list of places in North Carolina that don’t use gas or electricity to make barbecue –only wood or charcoal. That created a dilemma. The 26 Places list included places that use gas rather than wood. What to do? Go with wood, of course. So off I went, and there began a debacle.
My first stop was the highly regarded Mr. Barbecue. As it turned out, Mr. Barbecue had been hit by fire, which happens when you cook pork directly over coals if you don’t watch out. It’s closed until July — at least. Badly shaken, I checked my list and drove down to Snook’s Old Fashion Barbecue in Advance. Had I checked, I would have known that Snook’s is closed on Wednesdays. Sloppy planning on my part.
Tired of chasing wild geese, I dragged myself back to the hotel and went outside to gather my remaining wits about me. I looked to my right, and what to my wondering eyes should appear but a sign, “Small Batch Beer Company.” That sounded like a wonderful fall-back option. Filled with hope, I strode into the restaurant.
I sat down at the bar and ordered an IPA. The young and slender arm that held it out to me was completely covered with tattoos. I have a tattoo myself. Mine is just a dot used as a target in radiation therapy (I insisted, “No butterflies!”), and my health insurance paid for it. So I’m not one to be put off by tattoos, and I support everyone’s right to get as many as they like. With the wisdom of my years, however, I do question the long term planning of people who cover their bodies with tattoos. As time makes colors fade and skin sag, what distortions may occur?
It may look good in the green wood, but how will it look in the dried?
And I vaguely associate tattoo needles with hepatitis C, which seems like a bad thing for those handling food. The substantive problem, however, was that the IPA was pretty bad.
I can bounce back from adversity as well as the next person, who in this case happened to be showing that day’s new tattoos to the staff. I ordered a light meal — a grilled chicken sandwich with Swiss cheese and, of course, bacon. And onion rings. And a stout.
You may have noticed that chicken breasts, in their natural state — or rather when removed from the chicken– are quite thick at one end and slender at the other. Now, if you or I were to cook a chicken breast on a griddle, we would first pound down the thick end down a good bit, enough so that it would be cooked enough to prevent raw chicken food poisoning before the rest of the breast was dried out completely. You or I would do that, but others would not, and one of those others was in the kitchen cooking chicken breasts. As it was, I was able to eat most of the sandwich (and all of the bacon) in relative safety, and washed it down with a pretty bad stout. The onion rings were good.
I went back to my hotel room humming the “Dead March” from Saul, and sat down to read a book that turned out to be not by Agatha Christie, but rather by someone borrowing Hercule Poirot and trying to write an Agatha Christie-ish mystery. Does that ever work? No. I took a trip around the TV dial and turned it off. I went to bed filled with resolve in future to check to make sure places will be open before I go.
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