Bone marrow freaking bread pudding!

Listen, before you recoil in disgust, ask me how I do it, or give me so much as a hint of shade over my eating habits (which I’ll remind you are only partially documented on this blog), let me say this: I began my Saturday in Charleston with an 8-mile run all up, down and around the peninsula.

Eight miles is not nothing. It’s a pretty exhausting bit of exercise actually. Let me tell you, you work up a good amount of sweat. So much so, that when other runners were wearing fleece headbands, windbreakers and gloves, I had peeled off my long sleeve shirt (mid-run, like the graceful swan that I am) and was running in a tank top, so sweat-drenched I looked like I’d crawled out of the river.

Why did I do it? Well, part of it’s that I’m training for a half marathon next month, but the real answer, the more pressing answer is bone marrow bread pudding.

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You just can’t capture this level of deliciousness in a photo

The MacIntosh had been recommended by a good friend and when I looked up the menu and saw those four magic words— words I’d never seen all together—I knew there was no getting out of that long run.

Now, I ate a lot of great food in Charleston, pretty much only great food, but hands down, the best thing I ate was the Mac Attack, a  hunk of bone marrow bread pudding topped with pork belly, a poached egg, and hollandaise sauce. Basically their version of eggs benedict, the Mac Attack was unbelievably good, all gooey and rich and packed with flavor. The bread pudding was almost custard-like, just fatty enough to remind you where you were but not so fatty that it felt gross.

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When bone marrow pudding is an option, you should always go with it.

I thought it was so exceptionally delicious that after, when the waitress came around to ask about dessert, I easily let her sell me on the Mac Attack’s sweet cousin, a take of sorts on french toast, this time featuring the same custardy bone barrow bread pudding smeared thick with apple butter now and topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I’m a fan of mixing sweet and savory so this spoke right to the fat kid heart of me.

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You know what goes well with bone marrow bread pudding? Bacon.

My sister’s entree, a fancy variation of biscuits and gravy, was also delicious, the giant biscuit with butter and jam we split as an appetizer was scrumptious, and my bacon bloody Mary with its candied bacon salt rim was one of the best bloodies I’ve ever enjoyed, but that bone marrow bread pudding… ooooh, I’d run a full ass marathon just for a piece of that at the end.

Binging in the Lowcountry

Hot damn you guys, I just went on a serious biscuit bender. Almost three days spent in the lovely and oh-so-charming city of Charleston, South Carolina, and let me tell you: biscuits biscuits BIIIISCUITS.

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A biscuit fiend

There is many a mile to be spent on the treadmill in atonement in the weeks to come . Yes, weeks. That’s how much biscuit binging went down this weekend. I let southern comfort food snuggle me in its warm, loving bosom and it was nice. Real nice.

My sister and I hadn’t walked more than a few blocks down King Street, one of downtown Charleston’s main thoroughfares, when I stopped dead in my tracks. I didn’t even read the whole sign on the door but I saw “biscuits” and that’s all I needed to know before I looked at my sister and said, “Let’s go in.”

Callie’s Hot Little Biscuits was just a small counter to order from and a narrow bar up against the biscuit themed mural painted wall, with people pressed in tight to get their hands on some homemade biscuits. There were small, slider-sized biscuits,  larger fist-sized biscuits, sweet ones and savory ones, filled and sandwiched. Biscuit heaven in all its southern glory, if you ask me.

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Southern Lovin’ at its finest

We got the gloriously messy Southern Lovin’ sandwich, made with a big ol’ buttery biscuit, a juicy, hunk of fried chicken, a perfectly runny fried egg, and a small sea of warm made-fresh-right-there, sausage gravy. With sticky fingers, crumbs everywhere and a losing fight with a plastic fork, we agreed this was not date food. But dates be damned, this was a sisters trip and that biscuit was phenomenal.

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Biscuits for breakfast, biscuits for dessert

As a slightly sweeter finish to the first of our biscuit feasts, we went with an order of two small buttermilk biscuits, stuffed full and oozing with dark, delicious blackberry jam. Obviously neater and less challenging to eat, these might’ve fooled someone into thinking we were just two nice girls taking a morning biscuit break.

Bless their hearts, they had no idea we were just getting started on a carb-fueled bender.

 

Southern comforts

Going “home” to Miami isn’t exactly comforting for me. It can be fun, yes, catching up with old friends, seeing family (in small, controlled doses), hanging out in my old stomping grounds. If I squeeze in some beach time, Miami can even be relaxing, but rarely, if ever, is it comforting.

Comfort in a cocktail: Yardbird's tasty Watermelon Sling

But during the last visit to my ol’ hometown, between long stretches spent trapped in the car thanks to Miami’s ever-present traffic (reason number a billion to live in a city with actual, functioning public transportation), I was able to find some comfort. As it often does, comfort came in the form of food. (Sorry, family.)

Eating at Yardbird Southern Table & Bar was one of only a small number of things on my “must-absolutely-get-done-while-I’m-in-town” list. I read about it a few months ago when it first opened and immediately wanted to go. when I read about southern comfort food staples like fried chicken, mac and cheese and cornbread. Miami may be south, but southern it definitely is not.

I loved Yardbird right away, with its country-cool, rustic vibe and a distinctly not Miami Beach feel. But when my Watermelon Sling came out, all sweet and refreshing with its crisp, clean mix of fresh watermelon juice, smokey borboun, lemon, orange bitters and a light, frothy cucumber foam, I was head over heels.

Then came the perfect follow up to my drink, melons and cheese, chosen from the small plates portion of the menu. Two fat wedges of bright, juicy watermelon were topped with a grilled cheese that the menu called farm cheese, but I thought was a lot like queso fresco, the white, salty cheese used in Mexican and other hispanic cuisines. Either way, it was delicious and further proof that mixing sweet (in this case, fruity) with savory, is always a recipe for tastiness.

Melons and cheese: win, WIN.

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Bargain brunching in Boston

Everything in New York, from the tiny apartment I live in, to the subway rides I take, to the groceries I occasionally try to stock my mini-fridge with, is exorbitantly expensive. But believe it or not, there’s actually something good about that, and it’s that almost everywhere I go outside of the city, everything seems outrageously cheap to me.

But I realize that it’s not that everything is super cheap, but just that everything in New York is so  ridiculously overpriced. But still, it’s nice to think I’m getting a deal. And sometimes, like during a recent brunch in Boston, things really are that cheap and I really am getting a deal.

Sweet plantain empanadas with cinammon cream cheese

Masa, a southwest style restaurant in Boston’s South End, would have been great even with New York prices, but with a Saturday brunch special for $8.95?? Including an appetizer/small plate and an entree aaaand coffee or tea? God, that just makes my mouth water.

And it wasn’t some Denny’s Grand Slam kind of deal either. No cold, rubbery eggs or greasy little sausage links. This was good food. Food that in New York would’ve cost at least double.

From the small plates/starters I went with the sweet plantain empanada with Mexican cinammon cream cheese, a delicious combination of two things I love. The doughy shell was full of sweet, caramelized plantains, just like the kind I grew up eating with almost every meal, and the sweet, soft cream cheese was the perfect touch to make a good thing better.

Santa Fe Style Eggs Benedict

The entree, a turn to savory after the dessert-like starter, was also delicious. I had a hard time choosing between all the amazing sounding menu items, but finally went with the Santa Fe style eggs Benedict, which came on top of soft, fluffy biscuits, buttery chunks of avocado, home fries and green chile hollandaise.

I love getting out of the city and eating in new places, and even more than that, I like being reminded that doing it doesn’t always have to be ridiculously expensive.

Airports and biscuits and gravy, oh my!

No matter what part of the world you’re in, airport dining options are usually grim. Whether it’s stale, sad panini in Rome or TGI Fridays in Tampa, I don’t ever expect to get any great eating done while I’m spending time in airports.

That is, unless I happen to be laid over in Charlotte, North Carolina, which since I occasionally travel up and down the eastern coast between New York and Miami, happens every now and then. Charlotte Douglas International Airport, you see, is home to one of my all-time favorite guilty pleasures and just about the only thing I like about not having a direct flight: Bojangles’ Chicken ‘n Biscuits.

Airport food to be excited about

I discovered Bojangles on a multi-connection flight from Italy once. I had been away for months and the yellow sign promising “chicken ‘n biscuits” was like being met at the baggage claim with flowers and a “welcome home” sign… except way more delicious.

Bojangles has lots of Southern comfort food items on the menu including mac ‘n cheese, sweet potato pie and of course fried chicken, but my stomach really only has eyes for one thing: biscuits and gravy. I don’t get sides or a drink or anything else that might get in the way of me and my gravy covered biscuits.

That’s me on the right. That’s Bojangles’ aaaaaall the way on the left.

On my most recent trip to Florida, I had the great fortune of having a layover in Charlotte, and you better believe I beelined for Bojangles as soon as I was off the plane. But it was perhaps one of the shortest layovers I’ve ever had, so that when my flight landed in terminal A, my next flight was leaving about 15 minutes later just a couple of gates down in the same terminal.  Bojangles, though, was in terminal B. So even though I was lugging my usual, ridiculously overweight carry-on piece, I booked it through the two long terminals like I had a flight to catch. Really, I had biscuits to catch, dammit.

They might not be the most visually appealing food, but God bless ’em, those biscuits are delicious. Soft and doughy, buttery and just slightly crumbly under their thick blanket of creamy, white, pepper speckled gravy, it was all the “welcome home” I needed, even if I was still a plane ride away.

Brunch amongst the hipsters

Sometimes you just have to get out of Manhattan, even if only for a few hours and even if only to go as far as a different borough. This Sunday I did just that when Flaneur and I left the frat-tastic world of Murray Hill to go explore Brooklyn.

Sunday funday at egg

And what better way to start off a Sunday morning than with brunch? The answer is there is no better way because every Sunday should involve brunch. After consulting my trusted guide to, well, everything in life (Google) I found the perfect place: egg, in hipster haven Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

It only took one menu item to convince me: biscuits and gravy. I will do cartwheels and somersaults for biscuits and gravy.  It’s such a fatty, comforting, almost nostalgic food that I try and eat it whenever I see it, which isn’t often. In Gainesville, biscuits and gravy were on any menu that included breakfast but not in New York City. I always search amongst the pancakes and French toast, the omelettes and the breakfast sandwiches but nothing. Sometimes they have biscuits, but no gravy. Must be a southern thing.

When we got to egg (yes, it really is with a lowercase e), the small waiting area in the front was packed. Guys in skinny jeans, tattered sweaters and Ray Bans squeezed in next to girls with thick-rimmed glasses, funny shoes and in the case of one girl there, mullets. It was like a live commercial for Urban Outfitters.

We wrote our name on the list and waited outside, enjoying the relative silence of Brooklyn compared to the constant cacophany of Manhattan, which most of the time appears to be concentrated outside my window. Maybe 30 minutes later, our name was called and in we went.

My game plan from the beginning was biscuits and gravy. When I picked up the menu my eyes immediately went to them on the menu, first on the list. “Homemade buttermilk biscuits in sawmill gravy made with pork sausage or pan-seared mushrooms,” I read to Flaneur, bouncing my feet on the ground in excitement.

But then my eyes wandered and saw something else. And then something else. And then something else again. Before I knew it, I was having second thoughts on the biscuits and gravy.

Everything sounded so good. Why do I have to choose? Why isn’t there some kind of sampler breakfast feast? Why God why?

Flaneur's French toast

Flaneur sat there looking at me, already set on what he wanted: French toast and a side of bacon. Easy. Me on the other hand, I was in the midst of a crisis.

“Are you guys ready to order?” asked our waitress, who seemed to have materialized out of nowhere, pen and pad in hand, ready to take our order now or never.

Flaneur gave me a look. Pick something already, I’m hungry.

“Uhm, uhmm,” I stalled, “you go first!”

Flaneur’s order was simple. It would only buy me about 15 seconds. I had to act fast. My eyes flew over the menu one last time, just as the waitress turned towards me.

“Uhm, ok, well, uhh,” I started. Her look was bordering on a glare.

“Ok, got it,” I blurted with newfound resolve. “I’ll have the country ham biscuit, please.”

“Great, thanks,” she said, collecting our menus and zipping off.

I let out a sigh of relief. I had ditched the plan and opted for something I had never had. It sounded interesting and as much as I love biscuits and gravy, the tally of how many I’ve had in my life is probably in the hundreds. I felt I was being adventurous in trying something new. Go me, I thought. A biscuit with country ham, Grafton cheese, and what sold me on it—fig jam, all with a side of grits. (Note: grits are another breakfast staple for me. My mom recently mailed me a box of instant grits because she knows how I feel about them.)

While we waited, Flaneur and I drew on the paper tablecloth with the Crayons provided. He drew a head. I drew asparagus and the icing on a cupcake. Before I could draw the base, our waitress was back with plates in hand, leaving my half finished cupcake with its cartoonish swirl looking like a purple cartoon poo.

Breakfast faves

I have to admit, when she set the plate down, it looked like something was missing, like it wasn’t as visually appealing as I wanted. Grits are never exactly great looking in general, so I felt a bit of food envy when I saw Flaneur’s plate and the fat French toast and thick strips of bacon sitting on it.

Yet when I took the first forkful of grits, all my envy disappeared. These grits were delicious! They tasted worlds better than the instant mush I make at home. They actually tasted like corn! I had almost forgotten that’s what grits were made out of. They were thick but smooth, not too dry and clumpy, or too watered down.

Almost makes you want to lick the screen doesn't it?

But the star of the show was definitely the biscuit sandwich. If you’re like me, and you like a mix of both sweet and savory, this is the way to go. The homemade fig jam added a subtle sweetness between the biscuit, ham, and the melted cheese that oozed down the side.

And what I first had thought wasn’t going to be enough food, was more than enough. The biscuit was stacked up pretty high, making it even too much to get from top to bottom in just one mouthful. The grits, which came in a large mound, were also pretty filling and by the time it was all gone all I could do was sit back and say, “Man, that was good.”

During all that I did manage to sneak a bite of the French toast and it was pretty delicious too, soft and thick without being chewy. The menu said it was made with a slice of Amy’s brioche. I don’t know who Amy is but she deserves a pat on the back at the very least.

A trip to egg was everything I could have asked for out of a Sunday: a welcome mini escape from Manhattan, a change of scenery, a slight twist on an old favorite, and a very delicious, belly filling brunch. And best of all, I now know where I can find biscuits and gravy, and it’s safe to say they’re probably awesome.