Archive | 11:46 pm

“The Rise of Southern Cheese”

16 Apr
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Sheryl’s Buffet Does Live Oak FL Proud

16 Apr

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The last time we ate at Sheryl’s it was on a tip from a web site we have come to trust. This time we didn’t need anyone pushing us in their general direction. We made the trip gladly! Live Oak is a nice little Southern town. It feels much more like Alabama or Georgia than it does Florida. But I guess that could be said for much of the northern third of the Sunshine State. The people are so darn friendly at Sheryl’s — we have been treated like family each time we have visited.  In fact, we arrived just a few minutes from closing time (they are open from 11:30 a.m. ’til 2:30 p.m. daily) and they suggested that we call ahead next time if we are running a few minutes late and they’ll keep the place open for us. How ’bout them apples???

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The fried chicken and the charcoal-kissed pork ribs (yes, they were cooked outside over coals) were the stars of the show on this particular afternoon. I added some turnip greens and some stewed okra and I was ready for business! Step one was to grab myself a big glass of ice cold sweet tea (they make it right here at Sheryl’s); step two involved splashing some Texas Pete Pepper Vinegar on my greens; while step three was to annoint the slimey okra with a few drops of Tabasco hot sauce. Finally, I ladeled out a small cup of the sweet, dark BBQ sauce (step four). It was all pretty amazing — the chicken some of the best we’ve ever tasted. Crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside, with none of that typical  greasy aftertaste.  

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I was bummed to find that they were completely wiped out of Sheryl’s homemade banana pudding, but that disappointment soon disappeared when I spied the squares of red velvet cake on the nearby dessert table. Our server Debbie was super pleasant and highly efficient. She dished out the “sweeties” and “darlins” with the best of ’em while anticipating our every need. We were even awarded with a complimentary cartoon map of Live Oak and surrounding Suwannee County. This is probably the closest we’ll ever get to receiving a key to the city.

The true key to Live Oak, FL is good folks and good downhome eats. So please stop in the next time you’re on the road between Gainesville and Tallahassee. It will stimulate the local economy and your taste buds, y’all!

Southern Power Pop Lives on Bar/None Records

16 Apr

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I first heard of the dB’s (led by Stamey & Holsapple) back when I was in college at WUVT Radio — and that has been a while back! The band came out of North Carolina and were masters of the genre that became known as “Power Pop.” Jangly guitars, crunchy chords, high octane arrangements, catchy melodies – I think you know the drill. Flash forward 30 years or so and the boys are still at it. The have mellowed a bit, but these guys have retained their knack for composing and performing some highly enjoyable music. We especially enjoyed the single “Early in the Morning” and the track called “Santa Monica.” If you fondly remember The dB’s “(I Thought) You Wanted to Know” or Stamey’s timeless “The Summer Sun,” pick up on this CD — and fast! You will surely dig it.

“hERE aND nOw” is the first new collaboration in almost two decades by Peter Holsapple and Chris Stamey, the acclaimed songwriters of the dB’s. Scheduled for release June 9 on Bar/None Records, it features Branford Marsalis on two tracks: the single “Early in the Morning” and Peter’s ode to New Orleans, “Begin Again.” Drum aces Jon Wurster (Superchunk, Son Volt, Bob Mould, the Mountain Goats), Logan Matheny (Roman Candle, The Rosebuds), and percussionist Gary Greene (Hootie and the Blowfish, Big Head Todd and the Monsters) bring power to tracks such as “Some of the Parts” and “Widescreen World”, and the dB’s’ rhythm section Gene Holder and Will Rigby join in on the atmospheric “Santa Monica.” The acoustic side of the duo, reminiscent of their 1992 RNA album “Mavericks,” comes to the fore on tracks such as “Long Time Coming,” one of several that feature Greg Readling (Chatham County Line, Tift Merritt) on pedal steel. The lead track, “My Friend the Sun,” is a cover of a classic from the legendary British prog-pop band Family.

Peter and Chris grew up together in Winston-Salem, NC, and started playing music together in middle school—and have really never stopped. Through countless bands along the way—including Rittenhouse Square, Little Diesel, Sneakers, the H-Bombs, the dB’s, Continental Drifters, the Golden Palominos—and recording sessions and sideman stints with the likes of R.E.M., Bob Mould and Hootie and the Blowfish, the two have maintained a deep musical connection. They both are proficient at most string and keyboard instruments, and neither is much good at winds! Having relocated to Durham, NC, from New Orleans in 2006, Peter is constantly evident in international musical situations while Chris produces many records each year at Modern Recording, his home base in Chapel Hill, NC, where this record was made. www.holsapplestamey.com

Brick Pit in Mobile is Still Really Great Stuff

16 Apr

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We first visited the Brick Pit some 15 years ago and we were duly impressed. A return trip last week proved that very little had changed — and that is a very good thing! Why mess with pure porcine perfection? The cracked and aged sign seen above is in exactly the same place and still features the same half-assed effort at censorship.  

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The big oak tree located just inches outside the Brick Pit’s smokehouse is a little taller now — and a hell of a lot smokier. Frankly, the grand ole tree doesn’t seem to mind. And why should it? I wouldn’t fuss a bit if I could sniff up that wonderful aroma of burning hickory and pecan all day.   

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The roadside sign also remains unchanged – Old Glory still flies proudly!

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The actual structure looks a tad more rickety than it did way back in 1995. My wife Eileen commented that it seemed a good deal more smoky too, which in BBQ terms means the building has finally been “broken in.”

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They don’t sell cold brew at the Brick Pit – just sweet tea and Coke products and a lot of it. But owner and all-around good guy Bill Armbrecht promotes a casual BYOB policy, which is clearly advertised just outside the main entrance to the Mobile eatery. I trust these folks own stock in the company that makes Sharpie markers.

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Just about everyone (including yours truly) has claimed a little space on the interior walls. But strategic chunks of the vertical real estate are reserved for images of Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant and other Crimson Tide football heroes. Yes, this is without a doubt a Bama joint … but they treat everyone (including Yankees) to good old Southern hospitality and top notch “Q.”

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That’s BBQ chicken swimming under that layer of delicious blanket of Brick Pit sauce. We think the BBQ sauce here is some of the best in Dixie. The expertly smoked bird ain’t all that bad either!

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The pulled pork plate comes with a generous portion of BBQ pig meat with some tantilizing charred end pieces. The sauce (offered in mild and hot varieties) is served warm and that is always a welcome touch. My order was served with some crispy cole slaw, baked beans, and a fat slab of Texas toast.  I quickly polished off the Q before topping off my tank with the sides. You have to have your priorities in order. And, before I forget, make sure you try the banana puddin’ for dessert … oh yeah, baby!

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This sign, which has also been around for well over a decade, was created in reaction to the opening of the Mobile franchise of Dreamland BBQ. Founded in Tuscaloosa, Dreamland now has outlets all over the Southeast USA. The Brick Pit and Dreamland have squared off for many moons now, but there is obviously enough business to go around. In other words, this is serious BBQ country, folks!

The Brick Pit is simply one of our favorite BBQ dives in Dixie. We highly recommend it and encourage you to visit soon and often. Tell Bill and the gang that we invited you over. I know they will appreciate it — there are some really nice folks at the one and only Brick Pit!

www.brickpit.com