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24 December 2010

Tonight's episode: Boulevard of Crab Cake Dreams

           Christmas Eve Eve is a special day in the Pork Fed household. My father, the Senior Chief, was born on that day, back when the dinosaurs roamed the earth. I was able to lure him and my mother, Mrs. Doubtfire (because of the accent, not for abnormal hair growth or lack of humorous jokes) down from the Flowertown in the Pines for dinner and a meander through the Festival of Lights.
            Considering the Senior Chief's taste in food (favorite restaurant: Golden Corral) we decided to head over to the Boulevard Diner on Maybank Hwy ( I have long been a fan of the Dine With Sal family of restaurants, and Boulevard Diner delivers on a consistent basis. My first piece of advice would be to arrive early.  The parking lot was apparently designed for matchbox cars and fills up fast. The building itself is an old house with a 50s air about it. The place just feels homey.
             My second piece of advice is to consult the specials boards. They are strategically placed around the restaurant and are the greatest invention since fried butter. I've always found it annoying to have 13 dishes read off to me in a rapid fire memorized mess. 
             Mother, being the true southern Scottish woman she is, asked me to split the Fried Green Tomatoes ($6) served with a shrimp remoulade. Perfectly battered, juicy and sweet, these 5 little morsels of Southern charm would have been far more fun to spend an hour and a half with than Kathy Bates.  My only request is they offer a second sauce. I prefer a little spice with my tomatoes. Senior Chief, his heart set on seafood, ordered the Crispy Fried Oysters ($9) with the chipotle cocktail sauce. I'm a big fan of oysters in all their forms; raw, steamed, in a shot glass full of vodka, but I have never been a fan of fried oysters. Texturally it reminds me of chewing on dirt covered slugs. Now try to eat one without having that picture in your mind. I tried one for the sake of the blog, and the breading was beautiful. I quickly washed it down with some water.
             The Girl had an afternoon luncheon, so her appetite was far below normal. She settled for just a main, the Crab Cake Sliders ($9) served with remoulade and french fries. The fries are thin style, like a substantial version of the golden arches' flagship grease sponge. The Crab Cake itself is wonderfully, if incorrectly, done. I have always been an advocate of lump crab meats oil, then hits plate. Boulevard does what we call a Boardwalk crab cake. The crab is mince and has vegetable filler. Don't get me wrong, the taste is excellent, it just makes me wish Maryland was a little closer.  The Girl devoured hers, minus the bun, and has never regretted the 7 or 8 other times she has ordered them. 
        Mrs. Doubtfire's eyes grew as large as dinner plates when she saw the Catfish Fish 'n Chips ($11 on the specials menu).  These turned out to be two massive fillets of golden breaded catfish, served with slaw, tarter sauce, and french fries.  If there is one thing Boulevard has taught me, it is to trust the batter. If they can get a batter on it, it's worth a try (even the oysters). The catfish had a nice firm texture that soaked up the vinegar like me at an unattended bar tap. If you want good fish 'n chips, these don't let you down.
      Senior Chief decided on the Crab Cake Dinner ($14) served with two sides. Imagine the sliders, but larger, and no bun. Thanks for the diversity Dad. 
       I went to the specials board for my entree as well, picking the Pecan Crusted Pork Loin ($14) served with grilled asparagus and sweet potato hash. The three tree trunk sized asparagus spears were well grilled, if a little too thick for my taste. The sweet potato hash was a revelation. The sweetness of the potatoes, red peppers, and onions wasn't overwhelming and left me wanting more.  The crust on the pork was a perfect blend of seasoning and crunch, giving the pork a needed textural element. The letdown on the dish was the pork itself, which was overcooked. Pork loin can be a very fickle meat, and it gets chewy when it is over. I just wish more people would realize pork can be pink; it's not going to kill you.
        Dessert at Boulevard is a point and eat affair. A large glass case displays the various cakes and pies available by the slice. Senior Chief chose the cheesecake. I'd tell you how it was, but he wouldn't spare me a bite. He did allow the Girl a bite, and her eyes rolled back a little. If not for the late lunch, I'm sure she would have indulged. Mrs. Doubtfire and I split the red velvet cake. The cake itself was a little denser than I am used to from red velvet, but the cream cheese icing was utterly decadent. I really think I could have eaten a tub of that icing, sugar induced coma be damned. 
        What I like most about Boulevard Dinner, as with all the Dine With Sal restaurants, is the home like feel. These are classic homemade dishes executed with a deft hand. When you want a well prepared meal without breaking the bank, Boulevard Dinner should be high on your list.
Ambiance: 5/5
Service: 4/5
Food: 7/10
Value: 4/5
Overall: 20 out of 25, an affordable weekly dinner destination with enough diversity to keep you from getting bored. 

Boulevard Diner on Urbanspoon

19 December 2010

Tonight's episode: Thai me to the bed post!

          The Girl and I were ready for a crazy night out. What constitutes a crazy night out for us these days, you ask?  Step 1: Leave James Island. This is not one of my favorite things to do. Just contemplating it sends icy fingers of dread deep into my veins to do battle with 30 years of pork fat. Step 2: Invite Mother Hen, The Girl's Mother. Before you get the wrong idea, Mother Hen is not some evil nemesis. She is beautiful, sweet, thoughtful, and a regular reader of this blog. Step 3: Check out 'A Waffle Haus Christmas' at PURE Theater. Step 4: Check out Tasty Thai and Sushi ( on King Street. Oh, yeah, and do this all while hungover.
         I'll save you the recital of the trip (shouldn't you kids be home on break?) or the play (ROTFLMAO) and skip straight to the meal. One thing I have learned from previous trips to Tasty Thai is that one must master the ancient Shao-Lin art of staring at your friends waiting for the server to.....well, whatever it is you want. Whether it be taking your order, bringing you drinks, or serving your food, everything happens in its own time.
         For our starters, all three of us order the Teriyaki Chicken (3 pieces for $6.95), to which we add the Stuffed Shrimp (4 pieces for $6.95) and the Crab Wontons (6 pieces for $5.95). Now you may think that we are crazy for ordering three orders of the Teriyaki Chicken, but that is only because you have never had them. They are marinated in a thick and decadent sauce, skewered, then grilled just long enough to reach the peak of fire roasted wonderfulness. Usually. I don't know if it was having Mother Hen there, or if it was the Geminid Meteor shower, or just a careless prep job, but these were down right bad. The chicken itself was cooked to perfection, then coated in a watery salty mess. The sauce that normally elevates this dish to a must have instead turned it into a salty inedible mess. I even did something my long string of forgotten belts have never seen, I pushed the plate to one side.

       The Stuffed Shrimp are wrapped in a wonton wrapper, stuffed with chicken, and served with sweet and sour sauce. The Shrimp was perfectly fried allowing the chicken to cook and stay juicy without becoming a rubbery mess. A definite palate cleanser after the salt on a stick course. The Crab Wontons were stuffed with a crab, cream cheese, and avocado mixture that was light and pleasing for a deep fried dish.
       For the Sushi round, The Girl chose the Shrimp and Crab Crunch Roll ($7.95). This little gem is crab, tempura flake, mayo, and cream cheese topped by shrimp, crab, and avocado. The balance of flavor here is delicate and thoughtful, applying eel sauce with a delicate hand. As long as you're not looking for spice, this roll is a winner. Normally I would have chosen a spicy roll, but I decided on the Crawfish Salad Roll ($9.95). This roll is crawfish salad, lettuce, avocado, crab, cream cheese, masago, and tempura flakes, also drizzled with eel sauce. I decided on this roll as a lighter option, and it lived up to the billing.  It was light, slightly crunchy, and almost elegant.
         At this point I'm the only one still in the game. I decide on the Chicken Pad Kee Mow ($12.95). This is a spicy blend of flat rice noodles stir fried with fresh garlic, eggs, onions, green peppers, and fresh basil. This is classic Thai cuisine at its best. The heat from the house-grown peppers awaken your taste buds without destroying them. The noodles are fork tender and dripping with a sauce that puts the 'slap' in 'slap your mama.' For those like The Girl, who find spice to be the most despicable evil since Ugg boots, I would suggest the Pad See-Eu ($12.95), which is served in a sweet soy sauce.

        As we bring the dinner to a close, we unfortunately come full circle to the waiting game. From the moment I asked the cookie cutter CofC waitress for a box, till the moment a check was delivered for me to sign, a total of 27 minutes passed. What can one do in 27 minutes? You could play close to two quarters of football. You could watch Joel McHale make fun of the Kardashian Boys on the Soup. You could wash a load of dirty socks. Or you could wait for your check after dinner. I will forgive waiting for good food, but being forced to sit around AFTER the meal is grounds for me to reconsider my next trip.
       Overall, Mother Hen and The Girl enjoyed themselves, and that is what good company will do for even the worst of meals. This meal wasn't the worst, but it did have its moments. Other than the Teriyaki Chicken, which I admit has been excellent on multiple previous visits, the food was excellent. The service, though friendly, was inattentive at best, down right frustrating at worst..
Ambiance: 3/5
Service: 1/5
Food: 6.5/10
Value: 3/5
Overall: 13.5/25 My recommendation? Stay home, watch some Burn Notice, and order your Tasty Thai from Charleston Delivers.

Tasty Thai & Sushi on Urbanspoon

12 December 2010

Tonight's episode: Dude, Where's My Crepe?

           So the Girl and I have been planning a trip out to John's Island for a while now. The reason? Brunch at the Fat Hen (  There is something magical about having the words Local, Fresh, and French in the same sentence. Magical enough to drag me out of bed on a dreary December Sunday for a drive up Maybank Highway.
           When going to the Fat Hen, the first thing you must do is drive appropriately. The parking lot is a  gravel and mud quagmire that has the potential to eat even the most hearty of mommy cruisers. Vehicle of choice for us? Frank the Tank, my 1995 Range Rover. Temperamental, but not likely to bog down.
           Inside, the restaurant is controlled chaos. The buzz is loud, vibrant, and cheerful. It's hard to tell if the Fat Hen is full because of the brunch menu, or the fact that it's located in the middle of such a rural area. Looking at the menu, the Girl and I have our fingers crossed for the former.
          We were quickly seated at the long, and empty, communal table. The decor is a playful and eclectic mix of utensils. Our waitress, the Little Lost Old Lady, quickly shuffled off to fetch our drinks. Already a bad start. If you are serving sweet tea in a Mason jar, it had better be sweet enough to keep a spoon standing straight up. Sadly their tea was more Richmond Virginia than Mobile Alabama.
           The Little Lost Old Lady quickly ran through an extensive and impressive specials list. Her halting, insecure pacing made it hard to follow, and in the end I was only able to pick up the Soup de Jour. I consequently chose the soup, a creamy potato mixture finished with creme fraiche ($4.95). This was a fully creamed potato soup with a delightful flavor. What it lacked, though, was a textural element to break the monotony of the creamy, creamy, creamy. If they had finished it with some candied bacon the balance of sweet and salt would have brought a new dimension to the dish it sorely needed.
          The Girl, being the adventurous lady she is, orders the Bacon Cheese Grits ($2.95) as her appetizer. Great. Well, I have to take one for the team and try them. I'll give the Fat Hen credit, for grits (polenta's redneck cousin) these aren't bad. The texture is far less offensive than most, and the balance of bacon and cheese made them actually edible.
           For a main I settle on the Southern Chicken Crepe ($8.95). This is sold as being roasted chicken with pimento cheese, mushrooms, artichokes, caramelized onions, with red chili and hollandaise sauces, served with mixed greens. When it arrived, I have to admit I was underwhelmed. It looked like a breakfast burrito built by a stoned culinary student after a Widespread Panic show. The Hollandaise was close to broken, and the red chili sauce had a striking resemblance to the red water at the bottom of a nearly empty salsa jar. My first bite confirmed my worst fear, it looked EXACTLY how it tasted. The crepe felt store bought and soggy.  If there were artichokes and caramelized onions, they were hidden somewhere in the mess of underseasoned chicken. The whole thing tasted, and had the texture of, bad Kim Chee. 
          The Girl chose the BBQ Brisket & Macaroni Cheese Open Faced Sandwich ($8.95). I knew The Girl had won when the waitress placed it before her and said, "Here is Heaven on a plate." The brisket was tender and smoky, with hints of cumin and brown sugar. The macaroni, piled high atop the brisket, was a super cheesy rotini, cooked just beyond al dente. The potato caraway bread soaked up the mix of cheese and BBQ like a Jersey Girl at the tanning salon. The first fork full sends your eyes rolling into the back of your head. This is why I came here. This dish delivers such a concentrated punch of flavor that it is almost impossible to reconcile it with the crepe. Imagine going to a concert that gave equal billing to The Clash and 98 Degrees. The utter failure of the crepe is just magnified by the brilliance of the marriage of Brisket to Mac & Cheese. 
           Both The Girl and I end the meal full, but only one of us ends it satisfied. The Fat Hen takes chances with its food.  Some are home runs, while others miss the mark by a wide margin.  They have a great concept in need of a little fine tuning. The Girl still went home with me, so not a total failure.

The Scores:
Ambiance: 5/5
Service: 2.5/5
Food: 6/10
Value: 4/5
Overall: 17.5 out of 25 Inconsistant service, hit or miss food, but worth the drive.

Fat Hen on Urbanspoon


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