Road Food, A Podcast

*** SHOW NOTES ***

Recorded February 25, 2020 in the beautiful Fairfield Inn & Suites Duluth, GA.

 

Stayed in state last week with a quick two-day trip down to South Florida and then back up to O’Town for the weekend.

Ended up spending Saturday morning at Wekiva Island, it had been a stop that we had wanted to do for years, but since every picture, we saw of it made it appear that it could only be accessed by water…Turns out we were wrong.  

At first appearance, Wekeiva island will remind you of a cross between the bar in the movie Porkies and most y place at Flora Bama. But don’t let that fool you. Yes, we were drinking before 11:00 AM. Bloody Mary for the CEO and this Florida Man was drinking a Cigar City Florida  Man Double IPA.

Being situated right on the water there was plenty of canoe and kayak traffic, but that didn’t stop the egrets and the otters from putting on a show. The bar wall was stocked with what makes Florida, Florida. Several alligator skins mixed with deer and fish mounts. This is the kind of place that John Anderson sings about.

If you’re not much of a bar-fly-guy or gal there had to have been 25 Adirondack chairs stationed along the seawall just waiting for you to sit in and enjoy the morning sun. 

Since this is a food-themed episode, aren’t they all, you can grab a bite at the “Without A Paddle Cafe” food truck. With such delicacies as blackened Mahi. coconut shrimp and of course gator tacos, Gator tacos with jack and cheddar cheese atop mango salsa there’s no way you can say it tastes just like chicken.

What was really nice were the Cabanas, rentals start at around $100.00 per day and go up from there. The cabanas were sweet, each had at least a sofa and a couple of chairs, complete with camo upholstery… it is Florida. They all had some sort of a table for laying out your food and drinks, and there was no shortage of gas grills in case you wanted to impress the place with your “Grill Skills”

They rent almost every style of a human-powered floating vessel – canoes, kayaks, singles, and doubles as well as paddleboards.  There’s a boat ramp in case you want to bring your own, but no motors above 25 HP on the water.

If you’re looking for a place to wind down the week check out Fire Pit Fridays. There’s a steampunk styled industrial-grade fit pit that’s central to the grounds, and they fire it up on Fridays. This Friday the 28th they’re serving up London Broil, not a bad way to wind down the week.

Just the other day The Points Guy published 35 top hotel restaurants you need to add to your itinerary. The list offered up the stops we’ve all heard of. When in New York visit Gemma or Augustine, and if you do the only thing that’ll happen is that you’ll leave disappointed that it didn’t live up to the hype. Traveling is the perfect opportunity to expand your culinary boundaries.

Road food isn’t the same as eating while on the road. For me eating on the road normally involves a destination, 

For example….

If I’m in Franklin, NC I’ll stop at the Hot Spot gas station and visit Caffe’ Rel.  Caffe’Rel is a French-styled restaurant with a focus on sandwiches and pasta, yeah a bit confusing.

The menu is diverse as would from a place that spells cafe with two “F’s” and an apostrophe. You’ll start with a plate of fresh bread and an oil and tomato sauce. Order the crab bisque….. you need to order the crab bisque! Franklin is about 300 miles from the ocean, but somehow they found a way to source some solid crabs. The Opal Basil Shrimp is something to behold. Being a sandwich guy their  Philly is a work of art. Warm perfectly seasoned juicy meat smothered in fresh cheese, it doesn’t get much better.

When I’m in Meridian, MS whether I need fuel of not I’ll stop at Seafood Express, located inside the Green Maple Leaf gas station, for one of the best Shrimp Po’ Boys around. And while you’re there order a side of fried oysters.

No trip to Birmingham, AL is complete without a stop at Golden Rule BBQ in Irondale. When it comes to BBQ the rating is in the mouth of the eater. From Texas-style to vinegar-based sauces there are more variations of BBQ than Larry King has had wives. When you think of a BBQ Pit this is the place, the pit boss has been here since 1974 and there’s a memorial wall of employees with 30+ years of service. The meal started with “BOTTLES” (not cans) containing the Champagne of Beers – Miller. A sliced BBQ pork sandwich with coleslaw & fries is a whopping $7. The pork displayed a beautiful smoke ring encased in that delicious slow-cooked bark. The bun is Southern white bread, the kind that was baked just for BBQ. Sit at the counter so you can watch the Pit Boss work his magic.

Road trips are fun, but at some point, you’re going to find yourself hungry and at a gas station that won’t have a Caffe’ Rell or Seafood Express attached. Besides you might be participating in the Cannonball Run and don’t really have time for a sit-down. 

If you’re fortunate you’ll land at a Flying J or Pilot, as most of these places offer two things, variety and freshness. A good freshness indicator… if there’s dust on the package it’s not that fresh.

Time to talk about that’s never had a heartbeat and contains ingredients you can’t pronounce and will more than likely be constructed in a lab. Yes, this is the stuff that you’re going to eat while driving.

I’m not a fan of eating while driving! In full disclosure, I’m not a fan of eating in my car. Not because of the safety concern, I can blaze down the road steering with my knees, I’m more worried about taking a bite out of a Taco Bell burrito and then suddenly all that refried bean goodness oozing out the other end of the processed tortilla making a mess of my clothes.

For most road trips, I’m wearing some sort of dress clothes, so this has some bearing on my food choices. For example, as much as I love powdered donuts this isn’t an acceptable road trip food, nor is any sort of Ramen. More than likely that first bite of either is going to cover my shirt or pants in something that will stain. 

Stay away from chocolate candy like Snowcaps & M&M’s. They are small in size making it all too easy for a piece to fall out of your hand and end up under your butt, where it melts. When you exit the car you’ll have melted chocolate all over the seat of your pants, I’ll let you put together the visual. 

I love pizza, but it’s a no go due to the grease.

Here’s a Pro-Tip, foods requiring using both hands for consumption need to be avoided no matter how skilled you are driving with your knees.

Gas station food needs three things, taste, portability and it has to fill you up. 

Grabbing a package of Swedish Fish or Twizzlers is tasty and portable but after the sugar buzz wears off you’ll once again be hungry.

*** Disclaimer *** Provided you’re not gluten or lactose intolerant, equipped with a nut allergy, been blessed with high blood pressure and/or diabetes and have decided to go vegan the foods below should sustain you till you get to your destination or at least a few hours.

First on the list is Beef Jerky and Slim Jims, actually make that any processed meat product wrapped in plastic that doesn’t need refrigeration.

Positives – High in protein, easy to eat and little or no mess.

Negatives – High in salt and the smell might offend passengers, which might be a good thing depending on who is riding with you. Beef jerky can be a tad expensive when purchased in a gas station.

 Most every gas station will have a rack filled full of Little Debbie snacks. Oatmeal pies to cosmic brownies, there’s a snack for everybody. My favorite, the Nutty Buddy or anything from their Zebra collection.

Little Debbie’s are produced by McKee foods in a small town just outside Chattanooga Tennessee, To this day they are still family-owned and in addition to Little Debbie, they also produce Sunbelt cereal and granola, Heartland Brands and Drake’s Cakes. Drake’s includes such staples as Ring Dings, Yodels, and Devil Dogs. Over the years, I’ve been fortunate enough to do several projects with McKee and they are some of the nicest people around. After each visit, we’d leave with a box, or two of their tasty treats. Then we’d head down the road to their thrift store where for $20.00 I could purchase enough snacks to get my kids through several months of school lunches.

Positives – As tasty as it gets, inexpensive, easy to hold and almost never expires. Don’t forget their seasonal offerings such as Fall Party Cakes.

Negatives – Loaded with sugar and not the most filling, so if you happen to eat four or five keep an eye on that calorie count.

Roller food, those tasty cylindrical tubes of nutrition. Looking to snack on an egg roll, tamale, hotdog or taquito while driving 75 MPH? If so, then grab those tongs and pluck a few of these rolling beauties.

Positives – Cheap, usually $1.00 plus they taste good and are relatively filling. Where else can you eat food from three different ethnicities all in a single stop?

Negatives – Be careful if you load any of these items up with salsa. ketchup or mustard, it’s very easy to end up with a goopy mess in your lap. Stay away from any item that’s not rolling, a sure sign that the bottom is more than likely over-cooked and has been on the rack for hours.

 Cow Tales is one of my favorite candies and usually, an impulse buy since they’re normally located by the cash register. Combine Cow Tales with some roller food and you have a perfect snack.

String cheese and almonds both tasty and relatively healthy. Pork Cracklins is another favorite, exercise caution as these tasty pig bits can be rock hard, and no one wants a chipped tooth while traveling. Don’t forget crackers, endless flavors, delicious, easy to hold and besides a few stray crumbs, they’re not very messy.

 

The one area I stay away from is the refrigerated pre-made sandwich and salad section. You have no idea how many times that stuff has gotten warm and then re-chilled, and I guarantee that any sandwich you buy will be soggy. Also, stay away from gas station fruit, bananas covered in spots are sketchy as hell.

Of course, the simple solution is to pack your own food, which I do on occasion, but seriously eating grapes and celery sticks aren’t much fun, and it tastes like you’re eating grapes and celery sticks.

 Also, keep a package of wet-wipes in the glove box, no one wants to shake your hand if it’s covered in honeybun residue.

If you’re a traditionalist and lean towards the golden arches, there’s nothing wrong with that, be careful of as their products can be wrought with seepage and spillage. For some reason, the consistency of their ketchup has a tendency to slide out of the bun.  Have you ever eaten a quarter pounder where your fingers weren’t coated in ketchup? In all honesty, the quarter pounder isn’t a bad burger it just isn’t designed to be eaten while driving and its construction depends on the person making it. 

 

Besides, it’s tough to dip your McDonald’s fries in their hot mustard sauce while driving 75 MPH. If you happen to be enamored with the quarter pounder here’s a way to enjoy its beautify in your home. Golden Arches Unlimited is offering a Quarter Pounder Scented Candle Pack. A set of 6 custom scented candles in glass containers, inspired by Quarter Pounder ingredients: Bun, Ketchup, Pickle, Cheese, Onion, 100% Fresh Beef. Wait for it…..Burn together for maximum deliciousness. As you would guess, they’re sold out.

 

Road food doesn’t have to be boring, use your next trip to try something new. I went through a phase of visiting places featured on Diners Driveins and Dives, possibly fuel for an upcoming episode.

 

There you have it, thanks for listening, safe travels and have a great day!

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