Saturday, September 27, 2008

Barbecue Coma

From the Silver Lining Department:  One of the good things about being back in the Rocket City is the proximity to decent barbecue.  (I know I've yammered on and on and on ad nauseum about barbecue, and will probably continue to do so, until I can't even remember how to spell barbecue.)

This week was an interesting one.  I went on my first site visit for the new company, and much to my relief, it's a lot like the old company's version (the one I got laid off from 3 years ago).  It's nice to know that the learning curve will not be quite as steep as it was waaaay back then.

Since the site was in Kentucky, close to the Indiana border, I decided that it would be easier to drive instead of fly.  It was going to take about the same amount of time, so why not be moving the whole time?  Plus, we were going to need a rental car anyway, and what's 4 and a half hours?  Especially if barbecue can fit into the equation.

As I started my journey, I decided to hit a barbecue joint in the little town directly to the west, since it was on the way.   Had a bit of a scare when the road in front of the barbecue shack was all torn up and required a detour...I wasn't sure that the barbecue shack was still there.  It was, thank the pig!  I got a sandwich, chips, and a big ol' sweet tea.  Heaven.

What is is with potato chips?  I remember as a kid, I could take them or leave them, but now they are like food of the gods.  Maybe it's because they're sort of "forbidden fruit" now that I know they are bad for me, will add inches to my hips, and take years off my life by eating, blah, blah, blah, blah, but damn, they are good!  All salty and potatoey...yum.

So, the site visit was near Owensboro, KY, an area long famed for its barbecue, and especially for an oddity even for the barbecue worlds--mutton.  Mutton does seem like an odd choice for barbecue, but I'm game to try it.  

The people we are working recommended a couple of places, one of which had burned 4 times!, and we settled on the Moonlite Barbecue Inn.  Located in Owensboro, KY, its parking lot was a veritable convention of pickup trucks, which is always a good sign for a barbecue joint.

We go in, and lo, behold, they have a buffet.  A freakin' barbecue BUFFET!  I am positively aquiver with excitement and the almost overwhelming thought that I can actually achieve smoked meat nirvana.  It's heady stuff, I tell you!

There's a salad bar, a hot bar with meat and vegetables, and a dessert bar.  I promptly make the call to punt the salad bar and move directly to the hot bar.  Amazingly enough, ALL the vegetables that I tried were wonderful.  Bad for you?--yes; tasty?--even more yes!  And this is very unusual for any buffet, you know.

And then, there was the meat end:  brisket, pulled pork, ribs, chicken, the mutton, and country ham.  I just knew that my ankles were going to swell to the size of my head by morning from this little foray into Sodium Land, but I didn't care...because, repeat after me, how often do you see a barbecue buffet that actually looks worth eating?  (Refuse to count chain "barbecue" not real barbecue, according my version of the barbecue bible.)

I piled on some beef, pork, country ham, and a little mutton...remember, lamb is not all that high on my list, so old sheep is probably not going to be up there, either.  It actually was not bad...very moist, a little fatty, and not too gamey.  I would not order a whole barbecue mutton meal, but if given the opportunity to go back to the Moonlite, I'd put a little on my plate.

The meats were all tender and tasty, with the right amount of smoky flavor.  The Moonlite also has a couple of house specialities, like burgoo, which I did not have room to try, and "banana salad."  Banana Salad seems to be sliced bananas mixed with a little mayo and some chopped peanuts.  Not my favorite way to eat a banana for sure.

We moved on to the dessert portion of the meal, and I finally didn't have to make that hardest of choices:  chocolate pie or coconut cream pie?   I'm always torn between the two...homemade pie is hard to pass up anyway.  I try to remember which one I had last, so I can pay fair homage to the other flavor, but chocolate may be ahead.

Since the Moonlite has so thoughtfully provided the opportunity to eat both, along with banana pudding, buttermilk pie, cherry cobbler, blackberry cobbler, peanut butter pie, and a few other  goodies, I just had to build myself a dessert sampler with small slices and scoops of each.  It was all I could do to stay awake on the drive back to the hotel.

I decided that I would not subject my traveling companion to another night of barbecue...especially since she had just spent a week in Kansas City and had eaten barbecue practically every night.  But, I really wish I had.  We spent the last night in Evansville, IN to be closer to the airport for her flight out in the morning.  We ate at a local place that was sort of an Italian bistro kind of place.  I had the short ribs with risotto and asparagus.  The asparagus was great, the short ribs were so-so, and the risotto tasted like it came  out of a box and an off-brand box at that.  Ah, the joys of eating on the road--sometimes you win, sometimes you would have been better off going to Steak and Shake.

Seriously...the risotto really sucked.  And, I have actually made boxed risotto that tasted better.  (The key to using the boxed risotto is not to really think of it as risotto, but just as a rice side dish.  Your brain will be in a much better place if you do that.  Oh, and add about 1/2 cup of shredded Parmesan cheese.  Then, you won't care what you call it.)

And, to top off my trip, I get home to a dead refrigerator.  I walk into the house and smell something that is faintly reminiscent of burned electronics.  I think this is odd, but write it off to the AC not being on for a couple of days.  Then, when I go to get a glass of ice and water pours out of the ice chute, I realize something is up...or down.  Sure enough, I open the door, and while I still have some ice in the bin, it's pretty obvious that we're no longer freezing.  the fridge side was still cool, so this event must have occurred within the last 12 hours or so, and luckily, there was not much in there besides beer and butter.  

No one can come to fix it until Monday, so thank heavens for the garage fridge.  I can at least keep the beer cold...which is of utmost importance, you know.

And now, I must find the remote control and turn off the television, because The Semi-Ho Sandra Lee is doing Oktoberfest in La Crosse, WI, and she's scaring me in her dirndl and flower wreath.  She's promised us something called "Apple Lager" for the cocktail, and I am afraid...very afraid that she is going to add apple juice to beer.  You should be afraid, too.

(Okay, I had to watch to the bitter end to see if she really did put apple juice into beer.  She actually put a shot of apple brandy and an apple slice in glass of lager...which still makes me shake my head, but at least it's not apple juice...or Cool Whip.  Ah, now Paula's Home Cooking is on, so I can relax.  And laugh when Paula, who is making weiner schnitzel, which is essentially German country fried steak, says that it must be a diet dish because the meat is pounded so thin-hahahhahhahaa!  I love Paula!)   


J said...

I am truly jealous. The buffet sounds like heaven!

LinC said...

I wanna go to the barbecue buffet! It sounds heavenly. I don't understand by "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives" hasn't spotted that place yet. I've never heard of barbecued mutton before. (I ate more lamb when I was a Yankee.)
I'm also happy that I've discovered I can comment again -- work was blocking that for a while.