A Roundtable of Food at Uncle Buzzy’s

This Wednesday, I was invited to a “food blogger” tasting at the town’s favorite fried foods joint, Uncle Buzzy’s. I got to hang out and eat a ton of food with my foodie friends Michael Hastings (food editor at Winston-Salem Journal, who you’ll hear me talk about on the podcast a good bit), Tim Clodfelter (also a WSJ guy), Nikki Miller-Ka (WSNC’s very first food blogger) and Carroll Leggett (food hype man extraordinaire also mentioned on the podcast some).

We passed around a lot of food. We sat around a small round table and they had to pull another table just to stage the stuff because we went through so much. I joked at the end about someone putting me in a wheelbarrow to get me to my car. We “tasted” 10-12 items and these weren’t small portions. I didn’t eat again until midday Thursday. I can keep telling you it was a lot, but I can also show you what I’m talking about.

Super Roast Beef

Beef on Weck

We started with two different kinds of roast beef sandwiches. First was the Buzzy’s Super Roast Beef, which is rare roast beef, Memphis BBQ sauce, lettuce tomato and onion (lto) and American cheese. It was a great starter. It was at this point that we realized we needed to cut down the portions as we were going to get full right quick, fast and in a hurry. The rare roast beef which was seasoned in a house rub melted in your mouth. It juicy but I didn’t notice if it had soaked through the bun, so that’s a good thing, I believe. 

Next came what Dave Hillman, owner of Uncle Buzzy’s, calls their best seller which is the Beef on Weck. Carroll kept trying to ask what Weck was and I don’t know if he actually got his answer but it seems that Beef on Weck is a Buffalo-area thing popular up north. Weck is short for Kimmelweck, which is a kaiser roll that is topped with kosher salt and caraway seeds. Traditionally, the sandwich is served with an au jus and spread with horseradish. Uncle Buzzy’s is dipped in seasoned au jus, horseradish whipped cream and on a salt crusted caraway roll. Dave says he gets heck from a friend of his who is from Buffalo that says it’s not the same. But, Dave says this is their spin on that Buffalo classic, adding the horseradish cream instead of straight horseradish. I had never had it and the bun was a great compliment to the beef and the horseradish cream. Not too spicy but enough that it made the roast beef pop. I liked it a lot. 

The Buzzy’s Hot Chicken

The new fashion statement in food lately, as far as I can tell is this “Nashville” hot chicken sandwich. Uncle Buzzy’s Hot Chicken Sandwich is chicken thigh meat, not breast, slathered in Buzzy’s Burn sauce (a proprietary blend of hot sauces and sriracha, etc.), pickles, lto, mayo. The mayo, to me, kind of cooled it down, which is good, I don’t need spicy to get me through the day. Good flavor with just enough burn. While I’m not usually a fan of chicken thigh (I’m more of a white meat chicken kind of guy), I have to say this had some great dark meat flavor to accentuate the spiciness. I dug it. It’s better than many hot chicken sandwiches in this town. Dave also gave us a tasting of the house Fried Chicken Sandwich, which has Memphis bbq sauce, coleslaw and lto. I thought it was a honey bbq when I first tasted it because of the sweetness. I still think there was honey in it. I thought that was a great sandwich, too. My table compadres seemed to enjoy all we had at that point, as well.

Any ordinary tasting would probably have ended there. This was no ordinary tasting.

REAL Philly Cheesesteak

Next was The REAL Philly Cheesesteak. With shredded beef, onions, mushrooms, American and provolone on a sub roll. There are four slices of cheese in each sub and it’s piled onto a super-soft roll. I don’t like toasted or hard bread for my sandwiches and this bread was oh-so-soft. You could really taste the cheese in the sandwich. The ingredients all melded together for a glorious flavor combo. Add on the cherry peppers and you’ve yourself a treat. I loved that sandwich!

Spicy Garlic Wings

Korean Thai BBQ Wing

Next was the wings. Yes. Wings. Uncle Buzzy’s broils their wings, fries them and then runs them through a charbroiler to finish them off before bathing them in your favorite sauce. We tried two different wing flavors on that day, spicy garlic and Korean Thai bbq. These aren’t wimpy wings, either. There’s meat on these bones. I found it funny we had a “flats vs bulbs” discussion and it seemed that flats may be the winner although some really love their bulbs. I’m a flats-kind of dude, myself. I believe Nikki was, too. The spicy garlic was, well, garlicky. It looked odd to have a white sauce on the wing (as Carroll remarked) but the flavor was good. The bbq wing looked like it would be more along the lines of a honey bbq wing but it had some oomph to it. The flavor was thick. I know that’s a texture, but the sauce just tasted thick. Again, hefty wings are good wings. These are hefty wings.

Full yet? We’re not done.

BLT and Pimento Cheese Foot Longs

Two footlong Hot Dogs were cut into fifths and we got to try two of them. One was a pimento cheese dog that is on the menu at all times and the other is a BLT dog that was on special for that day. I’ve had the hot dogs there and they are good dogs. The toasted bun (I said I didn’t like my bread toasted, didn’t I? This is an exception) wrapped its proverbial arms around the cased meet and a blanket of pimento cheese piled on top? Oh yeah! I liked both, but I have to say I’m a fan of the build-your-own and the Chicago-style dog Uncle Buzzy’s masterfully makes.

Cheeseburger

A Burger came next. This is something that I’ve had plenty of from Uncle Buzzy’s. It’s about a bi-weekly thing at this point. Dave said their “burger philosophy” is a thinner patty. That allows a more even sear/cook. I love the way the lettuce, tomato, red onion, cheese, buzzy sauce all compliment the beef and don’t overpower it. The burger is served on a brioche bun. Their burger is one of my favorites in town. Top 5 definitely.

About this time some of us were starting to pass on food. My Beeman-Wastes-No-Food ideology was put to the test here. But, there was the “carney” aspect to veer into, so there we were…

Fried Mac-N-Cheese

The Smoked Mac n Cheese was next to come out and Dave had asked if we wanted it plain or with the four-pepper cheese sauce. We agreed “with.” I will go on record to say that “fried foods” themselves are not my thing. I don’t eat a lot of them, other than sauteed. That being said, these were good. Cheesy and I really liked the pepper-cheese sauce. But, I think I was running out of juice. I don’t know that I could give a fair review of them other than “good” or “cheesy.”

The Gooey Deep-Fried Reese’s Cup

Deep-Fried Oreos

We all did give it one last hoorah for the Deep-Fried Desserts, though. We tried both the deep-fried Oreos and deep-fried Reese’s Cups. Each was served with a special “vanilla dip” which is malted soft serve ice cream. Decadent, to be sure. The batter was great and rich, a nice compliment to the prize inside and covering them in the malted dip was a delight. I’m going to say that while I really love Oreos, Reese’s Cups are some of my favorite “candy bars” so that wins for me, hands down.

One thing we discussed with Dave was that while Uncle Buzzy’s started off with more of a “carnival food” atmosphere, the deep-fried novelties aren’t where they are now. Yes, they have stuff like that, but it’s more about good food in plentiful portions. A good bit is fried but even more is grilled. I’ve talked about this on the podcast, it’s not who they are. It is just how they started marketing themselves. And, as far as I know, or am concerned, they have moved more into a good place to grab grub.

The Aftermath… (actually just 4 courses in)

They have some seating and you’re welcome to hang out and eat, but to me, it isn’t a dine-in kind of place. Chef Brian Duffy (of TV’s Bar Rescue fame) helped devise a menu that foodies and Ordinary Joes can get behind. Sergio and Viery (pronounced Veer-E) prepare it and have been with Dave since the opening of Uncle Buzzy’s. They made our food and gave us a quick tour of the kitchen on Wednesday. They know what they’re doing.

Uncle Buzzy’s is located at 1510 W 1st Street, nestled between West End, West Highlands and Ardmore. You can order directly from them and pick it up, or go through many of the popular meal delivery services. I can’t speak for my friends in the tasting group but I loved the tasting, even if I did need help into my car after (I’m kidding). Thanks, Dave, Chef Duff, Sergio and Viery!!!

The Man Who Ate the Town Podcast Episode #23

©Hastings/Winston-Salem Journal

In Episode #23, proudly recorded from Test Pattern Studios:

I have a really great conversation with my first guest, Michael Hastings, food editor and journalist from Winston-Salem’s city daily, Winston-Salem Journal. We talk about the food scene in our town, its future and a bunch of other food grooviness. Michael and/or I also discuss:

Don’t forget my sponsor, Washington Perk & Provision Company. Better than a convenience store but not quite a grocery store, in the heart of Washington Park and Downtown WSNC.

The Man Who Ate the Town is part of The Less Desirables Network. Give it a listen on iTunes, Stitcher, Podcast Addict and TuneIn, basically anywhere you can listen to podcasts. Or you can listen here (at the bottom of the post).

Slàinte mhath!

 

It’s a Taco Joint, NOT a Mexican Restaurant

It has finally happened. I have alluded to it for the last few weeks, even mentioning it, albeit ambiguously, on this week’s podcast. Chef Kris Fuller and her fantastic taco voyage – Crafted: The Art of the Taco Winston – have arrived. Chef Kris had a sort of soft opening on Saturday, with no warning to anyone other than some foodie people, and a sandwich board standing outside of the restaurant’s doors.2016-11-02-16-29-56

Today, November 2, 2016, they opened their doors, for real. Now, the first thing you need to know is that this is not a Mexican restaurant. This is a taco joint. With food offerings for everyone: the vegans, the vegetarians, the omnivores and the carnivores, Crafted: The Art of the Taco has a menu full of delicious sounding food. Stuffed avocados, “dirty south nachos” made from sweet potato chips and pulled pork, “Mason of Bacon” or a mason jar filled with applewood smoked bacon served with salted caramel and chocolate sauce for dipping (shudders!) and taquitos are some of the main appetizer items.

Salad people may freak out a little when they see only one salad on the menu, but fear not! it’s not really, the only salad on the menu. The base is mixed greens kimchi, citrus vinaigrette, orange segments, guacamole, crumbled queso and topped with fried tortillas. But, you start with that and then add your protein of choice. Choices include grilled or battered fish, chorizo, pulled pork, braised chicken or beef, seared tuna, spiced potato, fried tofu, chofu (chorizo flavored tofu, still vegan) and seitan (vegetarian wheat meat substitute) among other things.

Salads and tacos not your thing? Burgers, man, burgers. There are seven different burgers on this menu and each can be manipulated in so many ways that it’s really hard to put a count on how many variations there really are. The first one up, “The One & Only” which is a beef burger topped with white cheddar pimento cheese, bacon and caramelized onions. “The Fuego” is topped with guacamole, grilled jalapeno, house-made “hot-hot” sauce and crumbled queso. “Smoked Goat” is topped with smoked goat cheese and an apple, bacon, onion and pepper jelly. “Poppin’ Jalapeno” is topped with jalapeno bacon, jalapeno ranch, pepper-jack cheese and a jalapeno and cream cheese fritter. Then there’s the “Greasy Spoon” (I love that name) with two diner-style patties layered with American cheese and topped with diced grilled onions, tomato, lettuce, house made pickles, ketchup and mustard. The “Chori” is beef topped with queso sauce, chorizo, pico de gallo, fried egg and guacamole… holy smokes!!

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“Baja” taco with seared, rare tuna

You can add additional cheeses, bacon, eggs, jalapeno and so on, to make your burger your own. There’s also the vegan burger made of black bean, falafel and corn patties with vegan queso, pico de gallo, guac and a cilantro-lime aioli.

But, as awesome as all that sounds, we’re here to talk about the main event, tacos!

There are 11 tacos on the menu and one predetermined three taco “combo.” You get 2 tacos and 1 side for the prices on the menu. You can also mix and match your tacos and just pay the higher of the two prices. Let’s examine these tacos: “Big Truck” with pulled pork, mac-n-cheese, tobacco onions, scallions and bacon BBQ sauce. “Bowtie” with beer battered fish, roasted corn and poblano salsa, sweet chipotle aioli and honey mustard. “Fedora” with blackened, rare, tuna, kimchi, garlic and pineapple aioli topped with scallions. “Fixie” with beef brisket, grilled pineapple, spicy sweet chili sauce and coconut aioli. “Hoodie” with falafel, spicy pickled cucumbers, shredded carrots, mixed greens and house sauce. “Messenger” with chorizo, scrambled egg, potatoes, ranchero, guacamole and crumbled queso. “Oxford” braised chicken, napa cabbage slaw, hoisin sauce, spicy Asian mustard and scallions. “Po’ Boy” with cajun fried shrimp, lettuce, pico de gallo, cajun remoulade and spicy pickles. “Wayfarer” is pulled portk, korean red sauce, sesame marinated cucumber and red onion relish topped with cilantro and scallions. “Baja Style” is cilantro, guacamole, baja sauce and pico de gallo and you pick your own protein. “‘Mericanized” is lettuce, tomato, sour cream and shredded cheese, again, you pick your own protein. The “Box Truck” is one “Big Truck,” one “Oxford” and one “Bowtie.” How’s that for whetting the appetite? Plus, you can make any of the tacos a rice bowl (for an additional charge) or into a burger. Also, you have a choice of flour or corn tortillas.

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“Baja” with pulled pork, a side of chip & queso

The menu states this but I’ll repeat it, all of the sauces are made in-house and most of them are vegan. Most of the items can be made vegetarian, vegan or gluten free (ask your server for more info). They do not use nut products in their kitchen, so those with nut allergies are safe. They take into account any food allergies that you may have.

For the kids, they have a mac & cheese quesadilla and they have churros (fried pastry tossed in cinnamon sugar, then drizzled with caramel and spiced chocolate) for dessert. I’ve basically just rewritten the entire menu for you. I don’t feel bad about that because it’s a well-organized menu and without knowing what’s on it, you may not visit or go in. Now, you’re well informed.

I went in today and ate along with local food writers Michael Hastings (Winston-Salem Journal) and Kristi Maier (Triad Foodies, Yes! Weekly) and sampled some of Chef Kris’ fantastic food. We all three sat and shared food. There was a lot of “here, Tim, try this stuffed avocado or, Kristi, try this queso, or Michael you have to taste this mac-n-cheese.” It was fun being in our own little corner having the food. Chef Kris was there with us explaining items and helping us concoct the best combo for us. I tried one of the “Baja” tacos with seared tuna from Michael. I ordered my own “Baja” with pulled pork and a “Fixie” because it had beef. My side was the queso and chips. On the table was the “Bowtie” but I didn’t get to try that one, but I got a picture of it.

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“Bowtie” with duck fat braised collards

The stuffed avocado was decadent. Spicy but not hot, creamy and tender but firm and topped with pico. Great balance and oh so good.

The “Fixie” was tangy and spicy. It was also messy. So be warned when you eat at Crafted: Art of the Taco, it will be messy. The beef was perfectly seasoned and oh, so tender. Mixed with the sweet chili sauce there was the heat without being hot. The pineapple and coconut aioli gave it a definite Hawaiian feel. I liked it a lot, but it was the last of the tacos I had and I was getting full (and fast).

The “Baja” with the pork was delicious. The tangy baja sauce had that tangy cilantro mayo type sauce that you’d expect, especially if you’ve had anything from Taco Bell with that sauce. This, however, lays the smack down on that stuff; leaves it tattered and torn. The pork was tender and seasoned. It was all a little spicy, but again, not hot. There was some of Chef Kris’ housemade “hot-hot” sauce and verde sauce by my plate and I made sure to incorporate them into the food (or just have it with chips). As great as the pork was, the “Baja” taco I had from Michael, with the seared, rare tuna, was divine. That was my favorite of all of them. I’m a sucker for rare tuna, anyway.

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“Fixie”

I enjoyed my chips and queso, but when I go back I’m certainly opting for either the duck fat braised collard greens or the pimento mac and cheese. Both of those were top notch. I am one to usually put vinegar on my collard greens, mainly because I love the taste of vinegar. But with these, there was no need or want of that. The duck fat brought out the earthy flavor of the collards. I’ve had some fantastic collards from other places and this is certainly rivaling those places. I’d say top three, for sure. The mac-n-cheese was oh so creamy and oh so rich. Melting in my mouth, I think I audibly moaned upon trying them for the first time.

To say that it was “good” would be ridiculous. That’s lying, outright and maliciously. This was fantastic! There’s a reason the town got excited about Crafted when it was announced they were coming. The reason is because it truly is some of the best tacos I’ve ever had. The tacos are actually “crafted” and tedious care is taken to make sure they’re right. Again, make sure you keep a good bit of napkins handy, you’re going to need them. I can’t wait to get back there and to take Stephanie with me. She’s going to really enjoy this.

Because you know I love my alcohol, they have taps and bottled beer and wine. To tell the truth I was too busy eating phenomenal food to even look what their libations were. I’ll report back on that, later. Perhaps on a podcast?

You can try your own Crafted goodness by visiting the newest location, 527 Liberty Street. You can find out more about her menu and her two Greensboro restaurants, Crafted: Art of the Taco (East) and Crafted: Art of Street Food, by visiting their website HERE.

The Willow’s Wine Dinner Part I

On January 31, we attended a wine dinner at Willow’s Bistro. An elegant dinner with delicious food, lush wines and fantastic community. Owner Will Kingery was a gracious host welcoming around fifty food enthusiasts and letting his star chef, Travis Myers, willows-logo_optshow off his culinary super skills. Chuck King, from American Premium Beverage was there to guide us through the wine adventure while Chef Myers enlightened us to his culinary treats. Some notable food names that were in attendance was Tony and Maria Dilisio, from DiLisio’s Italian Restaurant (I’m sure you’ve read about them here before), local “don’t call him a foodie” food enthusiast, Carroll Leggett and Winston-Salem Journal’s very own food editor, Michael Hastings, who we had the pleasure of having with us at the table at which we were seated.

In this two-part reflection, I’ll give you an idea of what you missed and why you should be on the lookout for the next pairing event happening at Willow’s Bistro.

Amuse Bouche: Roasted Old Salt – Rappahannock Oysters 3 Ways

This was paired with Gloria Ferrer Brut

I believe the consensus around the table was that we all enjoyed the roasted garlic, truffle butter and caviar the best. It was the most balanced. Not that flavor was an issue in any of the three, this was just the clear-cut winner. The bubbly Brut was a good pairing with the oysters.

First Course: Goat Cheese Truffles

Goat Lady Dairy goat cheese rooled in Willow’s own crushed candied pecans, port poached figs & pears, frisée, Fair Share Farm microgreens, Cloister Honey wildflower honey & lemon vinaigrette.  This was paired with Matanzas Creek Sauvignon Blanc.

The goat cheese was tangy but those flavors were tamed a bit by the candied pecans, but I WillowsDinner2don’t mean that it dumbed it down. I just mean that some people don’t like the tang of goat cheese. Instead, they want their cheese to be more savory, yet not void of the creaminess that goat cheese offers. This dish preserved that tang while adding a crunch and when paired with the port poached figs and pears and the honey and vinaigrette gives a breadth of tang and savory.  The Sauvignon Blanc made the whole dish, especially the tangy cheese, sing.

Fish Course: NC Golden Tilefish

Tilefish with a puree made of Evangeline sweet potatos from Hunter Farms, “dip” beurre blanc liquid ravigote (which means reinvigorated) drops, the secret weapon, microgreens and manchego cheese shavings. The best part of the dish – something you’d not expect to WillowsDinner3go with fish – is a bit of Border Springs lamb belly prepared Lexington BBQ “style.” Lamb belly with tilefish? Well, yes, exactly BBQ’d lamb belly with tilefish. It was the fish course, to be sure, but the lamb belly stole the scene. The tilefish was quite meaty and worked with the sweet potato puree and the beurre blanc sauce. That would have stood up on its own, but once you add the lamb belly the flavors jumped into the sapor exosphere. The manchego was a somewhat odd addition and it probably wouldn’t have mattered had it been missing, but what would be missed, the microgreens and the lamb belly. This dish was paired with Stonestreet ‘Bear Point’ Chardonnay.

This was the first three of the six (with a palate cleanser) courses. I’ll catch you up on the rest of the courses in the next post. Part II will be here, soon and i promise it will be worth it!