(excuse the iPhone photos)
Sweet Breads Of America
(Clifton Park, Robinson Township. Virginia Beach, Jackson)
There are times when a good meal seems like something of an impracticability - that yes, hunger can and will be quenched, but by something necessary - not desired. Obviously, by the city names involved in this current episode seem like potential dismal options for soul-nourishing eats - but fret not my friends, for my love for eating something more-than-worth-a-damn will go to all investigatory lengths.
We were on an off-date show from Mayhem, with In Flames in Clifton Park, NY - a venue and city Trivium has seen many a time in the past, and I had a feeling today may not be more than a sandwich-day. When walking to the nearest liquor store (don’t worry, this isn’t an alcoholic-prelude for Matt Heafy) for our Mayhem Themed Party stock (our theme was no theme), I noticed a “Vegetarian Italian Restaurant.” Odd. I was in the North-East, looking into the eyes of a vegetarian Italian place. Seemed almost paradoxical when talking NY/NJ-Italian cuisine…
Paolo and I popped in. Obvious local’s joint - just a couple patrons in (it was an odd hour… then again - an odd town?) I went for a glass of the house red and the Thomas Jefferson: “a stack of marinated eggplant and roasted red peppers, topped with mozzarella and marinara sauce, surrounded by onions, squash, broccoli, carrots, chick peas, artichoke hearts and olives.” A mouth full. It was solid stuff - pricey, but healthy. Proof you can eat healthy and well in some places usually lined with the typical meat-color-sprayed-down patties of assembly-line-animal part fast food shops. But yeah - vegetarian Italian? I could have used a slice of breaded-veal on top of that Tommy Jeff.
On a day off in Robison Township (a place littered with chain fast food, chain sit-down restaurants, mall food-courts, and the other usual suspects), I miraculously stumbled upon Dasonii - a Korean restaurant in the middle of a strip-mall. Next to it were something like dollar-stores and odd travel-agencies… looked great!
Greeted by an impossibly friendly waitress/possible-owner, we were shown to our table in the slightly-populated stop. This place looked half-traditional-gone-attempted-modern and half sports-bar (in a city like this, in this part of the States - you pretty much need a sports bar to survive unfortunately).
We were delivered an assortment of Korean pickles - all delicious, especially the Kim-Chee (fermented, Korean, pickled Cabbage) which is always a favorite of mine; theirs was house-made. Next up was the Gochu Pajeon, a Korean pancake with scallion and hot peppers. This thing was nuts. A fluffy, crispy goliath that was as thick as a massive-waffle - it was perfectly super-hot and very filling.
I saw “rice” and “fried egg” and knew I had to get the Dolsot Bibimbap: (fun Korean-to-English translation here) “Bibimbap with served in heated stone clay pot for crispy and crunchy rice.” Ha. I love it. This beast was something special - it came in a super-heated clay pot, a massive montage of rice, beef, Korean vegetables, the egg, sesame. The waitress told me to mix it all together with this red sauce - I thought the thing was good separated, but man… mixed up, this thing was amazing. I love all kinds of fried-rice, but this one is one that gets crispier the longer it takes you to eat it (I love crispy textures in food). Slightly spicy, very meaty; the fried egg’s yolk lightly coated all the rice and meat and began cooking mores0 into a new dish of crispy-spectacular-ness.
Full and happy - P and I wandered back to the hotel.
When hunger struck again in Robinson Township, we decided to go back to Dasonii again. The same waitress/potential-owner was still working hard at the restaurant, upon noticing us, her face lit up and she happily greeted her already-returning-patrons.
I started with the house-made barley tea; sweet, reminiscent of Japanese Mugi-Cha - earthy, delicious. Starting with decent fried dumplings, moving into the Yukgaejang, a spicy shredded beef soup with scallions and vermicelli noodles (recommended by our waitress when I asked for “her favorite thing on the menu”).
Dinner was good - but I kept wishing I ordered the Dolsot Bibimbap again… man was that thing incredible.
Much later on on the tour, finding ourselves on the outskirts of Virginia Beach, Paolo (oddly) rented a car. Thankfully I should say.
We piled in and headed to a Vietnamese place I found online (apparently, like Orlando, Va Beach has a lot of Vietnamese restaurants). With Japanese food, it can yield bad results if you pick a random spot. I find that there are lots of non-Japanese Asians who are running “Japanese” places. You know the sort - a half-flickering light pulling you in with words like: “Sushi. Teppanyaki. Sweet and Sour Pork.” Hmm… one doesn’t fit. Luckily - with Vietnamese… Vietnamese is the USA is pretty much always run by Vietnamese.
I started with the “Young Coconut Juice,” a typical-bar-soda-glass with hunks of sliced coconut and delicious coconut water inside. We ordered a very-solid Bahn Mi Dac Biet. Bahn Mi is the Vietnamese sub and it is something of beauty: French baguette, all cuts of delectable meats (creep meats as my wife calls ‘em), cilantro, carrots, cucumber, and usually some-sort of pate’-type meat-paste that lines the insides. So good.
I also, over-ordered the Pho Dac Biet (I think Dac Biet translates to something along the lines of “everything but the kitchen sink”). Pho is Vietnamese beef (or chicken) noodle soup. Pho is the iconic Viet-dish. It’s massive, it’s meant to be hot, it’s meant to be filling. Those sides of bean sprouts, basil, lime, peppers? Put those things in there - it’s meant to be eaten like that. My Dac Biet order (at home and on the road) is always the one with beef, beef-balls, tripe, and tendon. As the soup sits in the scorching broth - the flavors all conjoin and mash to make something fantastic. I judge a good Pho (pronounced kind of like “Fuhh”) by how good it’s broth it is by itself - Pho 79 did a pretty damn good job on it all.
Flash way forward into the Mayhem tour, on a last-minute-booked off-date show in a tiny little club in Jackson, Ms called Club Fire. This is a place we’ve played before - and all I really remembered was parking lots and fences and industry. Pulling up yelp on my iPhone (yelp has saved me many a time - although I typically cross-reference and reference for food when I really want something good). Really surprisingly… Jackson had tons of amazingly-reviewed restaurants.
Was my initial impression of Jackson a completely mis-led, typical-touring-band misconception of what could have been an amazing food visit last time? (Un)fortunately. Yes.
It was hot that day. Corey, Paolo and I were wandering in basketball shorts, tank-tops (me, a hoodie as well; stupidly I know, but I always cover my tattoos in the sun to keep 'em fresh) looking for anything. What’s this? We’re approaching a massively-well-reviewed by all sources restaurant? Picture me all but leaping up and down like a kid in a toy shop to Corey and Paolo, pleading that we go to this place I found online.
Corey takes off. Perhaps the heat, perhaps the Heafy-nagging. Paolo toughs it out. We head into Parlor Market.
Parlor Market is exactly what I love currently in the New American-style of food. I basically compare everything and everywhere in this genre of restaurant to my normal haunt back home, The Ravenous Pig (one of my favorite restaurants in the world - but we’ll save that for another episode). Parlor looks like an old building that has been impeccably modernized and renovated, all while keeping very comfortable, unpretentious.
It has that vibe of a friend’s mom’s kitchen mentally, but with newly-finished exposed-duct work, clean-modern furniture, exposed brick… the kind of things I’m a sucker for; open view-able kitchen - operating like a silent-machine, fantastic typography in the menus… and what’s this I see? Classic cocktails? Let me live here. Cancel the show - I’m staying here.
I ordered something to help beat the 105-degree heat: The Hemingway Daquari - grapefruit juice, lime juice, maraschino liqueur, white rum. Whether girly or not - anything with maraschino liqueur will have me ordering it. Side note: amazingly, on a Bourdain episode, he said while in Cuba, that he “was pretty sure Hemingway was hung like a hamster.” Sorry - just came to mind… hahaha.
I felt half like a jerk - I was dressed like I just came from a middle-school sleep-over in a restaurant who had been more than accommodating to me, but the Hemingway erased that. We started with Mussels and Matchsticks, Country Captain style. This was the modernized spin on something so iconically classic that I’m always in to. Moules Frites essentially, but done with super-crispy matchstick-style frites; a spicy broth, perfectly done mussels. I guess when thinking of “New American” food, it’s the idea of taking the old greats and spinning them to be what is that area. When you think Mississippi, I think spicy, hot, bold, salty - that’s what they did here with their dishes: Classics, done unpretentiously Jackson.
Looking at these photos, I realize they’re all iPhone - I didn’t know the glory I’d be stumbling upon for my lunch, and it came in the form of: The Mississippi Rabbit Sausage Roll - House-made Rabbit Sausage, white cheddar, caramelized onions and peppers, creole aioli served with russet potato friers and a house-made dill pickle. If you’ve ever gone to a restaurant with me, if you’ve read this blog before, if you know me as an acquaintance - you’d know this sandwich is me.
I’ve had a passion for anything involving sausage, peppers and onions since seeing Goodfellas for the first time (you know how in that movie they pretty much say “the sausage and the peppahs!” every 12 minutes in the beginning); I love everything “house-made.” It’s a simple concept, and all restaurants should make their product. I love game-meats, sharp cheeses, fried fries that aren’t freezer-bag fries… ugh. Excuse my over-excitement about this place/dish… but yeah - Parlor Market was one of the best meals I’ve had in the USA; gourmet without pretentiousness, familiarity combined with something new.
So there are some little stops down the way for ya’ll.