Not in the clamor of the crowded street, not in the shouts and plaudits of the throng, but in ourselves, are triumph and defeat.--Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

REDIRECT ALERT! (Scroll down past this mess if you're trying to read an archived post. Thanks. No, really, thanks.)

Due to my inability to control my temper and complacently accept continued silliness with not-quite-as-reliable-as-it-ought-to-be Blogger/Blogspot, your beloved Possumblog will now waddle across the Information Dirt Road and park its prehensile tail at http://possumblog.mu.nu.

This site will remain in place as a backup in case Munuvia gets hit by a bus or something, but I don't think they have as much trouble with this as some places do. ::cough::blogspot::cough:: So click here and adjust your links. I apologize for the inconvenience, but it's one of those things.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Dr. Smith put in a request for some lunch blogging, and being that I am always willing to respond to my vast reading audience, today I decided to try something a bit on the differentish side.

I don't like to do this, because once I find a comfortable food rut, I figure there's no good reason to jump out for some fad or other.

But, in this instance, I figured it would be like I was pretending to be an investigative reporter or double-naught spy or something, so I set out for the wilderness of the AmSouth Harbert food court to follow up on a sighting from last week--Golden Rule Barbecue.

As I have mentioned several times in the past, I am basically distrustful of any fancy barbecue place, and even more so when said joint doesn't actually HAVE a barbecue pit, but rather brings in its meat from elsewhere. But, having said that, there is still the lure of being able to go somewhere close-by for smoked pig meat, so I figured I owed it to myself to find out if it's worth a second visit.

First of all, it's cold outside today. Second, I thought I was going to get hit by a black 7-series BMW when I was crossing the street. Just wanted you to know.

Anyway, on to the food court, after passing by the nice flower shop lady explaining an odd-looking basket to a couple of older guys, and up the escalator past the piano-playing guy. (The harpy was nowhere in sight.)

As to this new joint--well, we can't really call it that--this new tenant, the decor when you first see it is very nice, with a dark wood storefront in the modern faux historical look. The walls have a few photos of the old original restaurants, as well as a couple of Bear Bryant/Alabama ones. Not that there's anything wrong with that. The back of counter area was humming along efficiently, with gleaming stainless warmers and coolers doing their warming and cooling duties respectively.

First disappointment was the front surface of the counter. A pretty little mural of a brick wall, with a trompe l'oeil depiction of a pork-shoulder-and-butt-filled barbecue pit, complete right down to the cast-iron cleanout doors. ::sigh::

Sure, I understand the need to add some atmosphere or else it would look no different than every other place there, but, still. It would be like going to a strip club and all there was were paintings of nekkid girls. You know, like at the Louvre.

I realize I should not prejudice my feelings for the taste of the food by the atmosphere, but the whole experience of settling in at a good ol' barbecue joint to eat and tell lies is such a deeply ingrained part of my social upbringing that it is difficult to separate the experiences into the eating part and the non-eating-but-still-darned-necessary parts.

The menu board included their complete fare, including salads and chicken and such like, and it was good to see they did have banana pudding, or as we say, "nannerpuddn." (I didn't get any of the sweet stuff, though, because they would make me fat.) Since it was chilly outside, and since I have been craving it, I got a pork sandwich with the combo platter (yet another nod to senseless modernity) that had the Brunswick stew.

Brunswick stew is good. When it's done right.

I ordered my sandwich chopped, and got an order of potato salad just because I needed to maximize my carb intake for the month. By the time I got to the fellow at the cash register, my food was ready, which is laudably speedy service. Over 7 bucks, though--that's a bit on the pricey side. Especially after considering the eating of it. I filled up my styrofoam cup with refreshing and tasty Diet Coke, and set off again for my toasty warm office to see how good this brown bag of delights could be. And no, there is no place to sit down inside--it's like the other establishments and relies on the sea of tables out in the atrium.

The sandwich was of a goodly size on a regular white bread bun. I had ordered chopped which, to the uninitiated, means that they are supposed to take a hunk of meat and whack at it with a cleaver until it's not a hunk of meat anymore. (It's different from sliced, which is just exactly what it sounds like.) Anyway, my idea of chopped is that it should be chunky, with some irregular-sized bits, but still identifiable as meat. The meat I received looked to have been pulverized into tiny splinters. That's not really SO bad, but when you do that, it makes the people eating it wonder if the meat hadn't really been nice and tender to begin with, so you had to run it through a jet engine to get it into chewable pieces. Anyway, I took a bite. Good, a bit of hickory smoke. But not great. As I have ALSO said before, any barbecue meat that can be served with an ice-cream scoop probably can't be all that great. There was a dill pickle.

The sauce was okay, as sauce goes, but it's not quite what I think of as traditional sauce, especially considering how much touting Golden Rule does about it. According to this, their sauce contains: "water, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, vinegar, modified food starch, salt, tomato paste, spices, paprika, dehydrated garlic and onion, monosodium glutamate, sodium benzoate added as a preservative, propylene glycol alginate." Doesn't quite sound like anything from 1891. Compare this with Ollie's sauce--"vinegar, water, tomato products, salt, sugar, spices, soybean oil, margarine." That's more like it.

On then to the Brunswick stew--like barbecue in general, there are a billion variations of the recipe--but this was a pretty good rendition, thick with lots of meat (pork? chicken? both? neither?) and corn and chunks of tomato. Also a lot on the greasy side. The lurid slick orange glow on the side of the paper container will probably pass unmolested through my gut and leave a similar coating on the old porcelain throne this evening. What did they give me to go with it? Crackers. ::sigh:: Should be hush puppies.

The potato salad is pretty much beyond mentioning. Much like a cross between chunky mashed potatoes and library paste, it would possibly keep a hungry man from starving, if he could bring himself to eat it.

Overall, it's really not horrible food, but fails by not meeting some awfully high standards that have become expected of something wishing to wear the noble name of barbecue. Like real Philly cheesesteaks, and real New York cheesecake, and real Rice-a-Roni from San Francisco, some things are just too important to dabble in for fun, and around here, barbecue is one of those things.

Eat it if you must, but there are better local alternatives.

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