Friday, October 5, 2007

I Savant

I'm like a savant I tell ya. My uncanny ability to literally stumble on wonderfully unexpected food moments is almost a little bit scary. Today was no exception.

Allow me to back up a bit. I'm in Washington DC with PD1 this weekend as she and her soccer team will be competing in the WAGS tournament. There are some pretty high powered teams out here, so I have no idea how they will do, but none-the-less, it promises to be an exciting weekend of soccer for us.

Earlier today, I ventured out to find some last minute items; sunblock, black electrical tape (to hold up socks and shin guards), water and a few other items. I was on my way back to the hotel when I momentarily glanced to my left and saw a sign that read, "Red Hot & Blue Express". Well, given that it was both 11:45 in the morning and my blueberry muffin breakfast was a bit insufficient on the sustanence side following my Olympian like performance on the elyptical, one thought ran through my malnourished brain.


Clearly, this was too good to be true; a real honest to goodness BBQ joint in Falls Church Virginia. But my stomach was empty and my hopes were high so I strode through the front doors of the place ready for whatever the fates had in store. As I approached the counter a nice young man came over and asked if I would like to order. I glanced at his name tag.


Not a good sign, no sireee. Of course I personally have nothing against our fine fellow citizens of middle eastern descent, it's just that you don't see a lot of guys manning the BBQ pit who don't have names like Smitty, or Hoyt, or Bubba. Not that Ahmed couldn't be a great pit man, I'm just sayin' its unlikely.

None-the less, I perserveered. I ordered a pulled pork sandwich, some fries and a coke to go. I thought about eating in, but my rental has Sirrus radio and I had been listening to the blues channel when I pulled up to the joint. They were midway through a three set comparison of Muddy Waters', Jeff Beck/Rod Stewart's and Led Zeppelin's versions of "You Shook Me" and I wanted to get back and hear the rest. For the record, I liked Zep's version best, which surprised me a bit.

Anyway, back in the car I dug into my lunch. The pork was served between two halves of a bun, which I discarded. "Not bad" I thought as I began eating the meat without any of the sauce. It was very tender, moist and mildly smoky. In short, Ahmed was putting out some decent stuff - take that all you profilers!

After I finished the meat I tried the fries. Not so good here. Do you remember those ads in the back of magazines when we were kids? You know, the ones next to the "X-Ray Specs" ads for "Tricky Joke Buzzers". The basic premise was that you'd offer to shake your friend's hand after secretly putting the buzzer in your palm, and when the foolish dupe would take you up on your offer of friedship ZAPPPP - he'd bet buzzed! Good yuks for you, pain for him! Apparently somebody thought this was the basis for a lasting friendship.

I bring this up because there are those, and my dear friend Ahmed appears to be one of them, who do the same thing with french fries. Not content to leave well enough alone, they sprinkle some reddish powder over them in a doomed quest to "make them better than before". Of course, any decent American realizes that fries need only salt and katsup, and eating the doctored version of fries is like getting zapped with the buzzer in comparison. All the anticipation of fresh cut potatoes, cooked in oil and lightly salted comes crashing down in a painful rejection of this most American of foods.

Still, the pork was good.

So, undeterred by the marring of the fries I re-entered the restaurant.

"Is something wrong" Amed said, clearly thinking I was on to him about the tricky joke fries.

"Yes, there is. It seems I didn't order any brisket and that was a mistake" I said.

"You want the combo meal again?", a greatly relieved Ahmed said.

"Not a fan of those fries Ahmed, just give me the sandwich. Oh, and hold the bun" I said

"No bun?"

"No, no bun"?

"You just want meat?"

"Brisket, to be specific"

Well Ahmed hustled in back and brought me a to go plate. As I started the car again, Albert Collins - "The Iceman" was playing, "I Ain't Drunk, I'm Just Drinkin'" on the radio. Listening, I began to eat the brisket. This too was good - an unexpected pleasure in the middle of Virginia. Now, don't get me wrong, it was nowhere near the quality of some of the stuff I had in Texas, but it was quite good. There was a curious aspect to the beef that I did find a bit off putting though. It seems that after they slice it, they lightly dust it with some sort of orangey powder and crumbled bay leaves. I'm not saying this tasted bad, - it didn't - but it did detract from the pure smoky goodness of the meat. A minor quibble.

All in all, my new buddy Ahmed is doing ok with the que. I plan to return for the ribs tomorrow.

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