Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Best Fried Chicken

I probably should be concerned about my complete willingness to go drive over 700 miles on a weekend to get Fried Chicken, but I'm not. The consumption of some tasty bird may have been the official destination, but the other purpose of the trip was a change of scenery. Sometimes I just need to go and take in something different. Different walls, different roads, different air.

So with the trusty GPS as a guide, my husband and I headed south with the ultimate destination of Lorman, Mississippi. (See Lorman on a map here.) It's a tiny town and about the only standing building is The Old Country Store. It's questionable how it's still standing; it could be a testament to the old adage "they don't make 'em like the used to." Quickly assessing the building's ramshackle exterior, I know it was not a place I'd ordinarily stop but based on good word (Alton Brown's Feasting on Asphalt) it's contents would prove well worth the risk. Tempting me with a promise of the best fried chicken ever was enough enticement to make the drive and go for it.

As soon as we walked in the door, owner Arthur Davis, or "Mr. D" as he's known there, greeted us with a friendly reminder to leave our diets on the nail by the door. After driving over 300 miles to get fried chicken, any thoughts I might have had of a so-called diet were fading, and the heavenly smells from the kitchen were happily stomping those remaining thoughts to tiny bits. Walking through the restaurant, which is proudly announces its heritage as an old country store by the wooden floors, the shelves to the ceiling and the ladders on casters and guide rails.
A simple buffet of mac & cheese, greens, peas, dirty rice, cornbread muffins and of course, the chicken awaits the large open room of tables and hungry diners. One bite confirmed that every single mile of the drive was worth it because this really was the best fried chicken anywhere. The secret? Mr. D cooks the chicken and doesn't use chicken that has been frozen. I wouldn't be surprised if some of what was served at lunch was happily clucking and pecking just a few hours prior to meeting my plate. There wasn't a bad item on the buffet, but the chicken was outstanding. The dirty rice reassured me that the stuff Popeye's scoops into a styrofoam cup and call by the same name doesn't begin to compare to the real deal. At this point, I'm not so sure about that stuff Popeye's sells, but I've promised myself I will from here forward only consume it under the most dire of circumstances.

The drive to Lorman was a bit further than we wanted to make as a day trip, so we chose to make a weekend of it and stay in Greenwood, with a visit to Vicksburg as well. The weather was flawless and the change of surroundings was a welcome breath of fresh air. The people in the area exude southern hospitality. Any town that wants to attract visitors could learn from the relaxed and generous nature of the people in the small towns along the Great River Road in Mississippi.

More to come about this trip to Mississippi...

Thursday, September 20, 2007

I know it's a chain, but...

I think this is the only hotel I have seen with labeled pillows. Accurately labeled too.

I have to give credit where it's due, and the Holiday Inn Express at Greenwood, Mississippi really deserves some credit. While it is the generic highway hotel for the most part, it seems to step a bit beyond that. It was the quietest hotel I've stayed at, ever. Usually I don't expect a 40-plus inch LCD TV in the room and solid surface counter tops in a Holiday Inn.

I've read recently that Holiday Inn is pushing to update and upgrade their hotels and overall image, going as far as to drop some of the older hotels from the chain that refuse to bring their hotels up to par. This was a new location that opened this summer and should be an example for the whole chain.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Return Trips

Several years ago, I used to go with a group of friends to Sheffield's for lunch. It had a certain charm that only comes from a restaurant housed in a old downtown building, complete huge glass windows in the front, brick interior walls, original hardwood floors, and a ornate ceiling that hopes to hide the sprinkler system. We'd catch up on the latest gossip and socialize while feasting on homemade quiche, soups and most often their notoriously good salads. It was these gab sessions that actually encouraged me to start eating salads; prior to that I generally avoided lettuce like it was a nasty and highly contagious disease.

Skipping forward to now, the friends have moved away and the restaurant has a new owner, but it is still there. Today I went for lunch after having not been in a number of years. The salads were still as good as I recall. I think if I had a blob of mud and could cover it in their Wine & Cheese dressing, I would probably eat it. It's not unique to their restaurant, but with what has to be an astronomical calorie count, I prefer to leave it for special occasions. The quiche wasn't quite as good as I recall, but the soup was quite tasty. I suspect I might have gotten the leftovers from yesterday's lunch, so I'll certainly give it another chance.

There was an unexpectedly great dish I sampled; my husband ordered a bacon cheeseburger and fries. At this haven of upscale, gourmet, light lunch foods he ordered one of their specials, the American Burger. It was great! It's probably one of the best tasting burgers I've had in quite some time, served with hot french fries that didn't taste like they'd had a long soak in trans-fat filled lard. The bun was likely a house-made bread, thus fulfilling its gourmet setting, but still good.

While I can't go back to my "girls day out" lunches of years past, it's nice to know I can go back to the restaurant and get the same great salads and a surprisingly delicious burger.

My rating: 4 stars
Pros: The burger is really phenominal. One of the best I've had in a long time even. The salad selections are plentiful and the "mixed greens" isn't a load of iceberg lettuce with some other things lightly sprinkled in. Toppings are varied and plentiful. Service is friendly and the atmosphere is pleasant and relaxing.
Cons: Parking. It's downtown thus parking is limited. This is one of those "club" restaurants that are popping up in the area. Membership is required just to dine for lunch, regardless if alcohol is served. (The restaurant is in a Dry County.)

Monday, September 03, 2007

Dinner to Wear

I must have a target printed on me somewhere that I can't see as lately I've worn part of dinner. One night, it was a glass of Sprite, which proceeded to pour out all over the place when the table got wiggled. In less than a week, I also had a plate full of french fries dumped into my lap. Both were of no fault of my own. Whoever is in charge of the accident distribution can aim another direction now, I'm completely caught up for now, thanks.

The interesting thing was how each restaurant handled the situation. The cleanup of the Sprite was just another thing that got between the employee and her paycheck. The french fries were another story. The employee who did it apologized repeatedly. Then came the assistant manager, who also offered his apology and sent over the manager next. They all simply wanted to make it right, whatever was needed. Their gestures made me reconsider my new vow to never return. I might actually go back, they did make such great efforts to correct an otherwise unpleasant situation.

I've been to a few restaurants that I've sworn off for life, such as the one where a fellow diner found a roach in her salad. Or the one where I waited too patiently for an hour for my meal. Then there's the one where the waitress dumped a glass of ice water down my back in a full room. That last one wasn't me, but I was at the same table. I can't describe the whole Ruby Tuesday incident; it just puts me in a foul mood thinking about their lousy attitudes. But I digress. With accidents, it's how they handle it. There are some inexcusable acts like the "extra fiber" in the salad. Those put a restaurant on my permanently banished list.