"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Wednesday, August 31, 2011



As many of you know, my love of oysters has no bounds.  I am magnetically drawn to them, pulled towards them at any time of day or night as I pass restaurants that serve them.  If they are piled high in a storefront window, like a few in Georgetown, it takes an effort not to stop. 

One of my favorite pastimes in Paris (or any other city, for that matter) was to stop in every fish market.  I wanted to open the oysters right then and there and suck them down – the briny, succulent Fines de Claires, the meaty Belons, the Praires.  My fantasies wouldn’t stop there.  I wanted all shellfish – the wonderful phylogeny of shrimp - ecrevisses, crevettes, langoustine, langoustes, homards – each bigger than the previous, fresh, delicious.  Or the hundreds of types of fish, all attractively laid out; and the octopus, squid, clams, mussels, sea urchins.  When I went into the many brasseries of Paris, I always ogled the seafood platters ordered by large groups of diners – all the above-mentioned seafood piled high on a bed of ice garnished with seaweed. Yummy.

Chinatown markets have fewer shellfish, but they are wonderful, and seem to have more tanks with fresh fish in them.  There are many in the Richmond area of SF and in downtown Chinatown.  The smell is funkier, the fish are grosser looking, but I can’t resist, and head for the nearest restaurant to eat them.

Which leads me to ribs.  I am spending the summer in Mississippi, participating in the Tennessee Williams Centennial festival in Columbus, and loving every minute; and I eat ribs almost every night.  To me, they are the oysters of the South – such variety of taste, texture, consistency.  I have travelled 50 miles to get the ribs at the Central Service Station Restaurant in Eupora, a converted gas station that serves delicious ribs.  I have eaten them at the Pit and Cone, and especially at Hanks, my favorite.  His ribs are smoked just right, the meat falls off the bone (you can eat them with a fork, favored by this New Englander), there is relatively little fat (relative is the term for fat in the South), they are tender, succulent, and absolutely perfect.

The ribs at Pit and Cone are tighter, more heavily smoked, almost like ham, and delicious, a totally different taste than the others.  I don’t mind working at them a bit to gnaw off the meat, it’s well worth it.

Because the ribs are so delicious, I have rarely moved off that mark, but tonight I want to try the brisket.  I am looking forward to it – the beef is smoked until tender, then pulled (apparently pulling is far better than slicing because it keeps the moisture).  I have tried he smoked turkey, and it was delicious, but turkey having relatively little fat, it was a bit dry. 

I still have the pulled pork BBQ which I know is different from state to state.  I first had it in North Carolina, and it was tangy and vinegary.  I had it in East Tennessee, probably the best I have had because it was the juiciest, most smoky and tender.  Love it.

After every rib meal, I keep thinking that I really shouldn’t eat this stuff every night, and I think up all kinds of rationalizations for the fat – I won’t be down here forever, I eat no breakfast and a tomato salad only for lunch; well, there’s really not that much fat on Hank’s ribs…but the real reason is the blinking neon sign in front of Hanks:



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