My AFC Divisional Round Cook-off: Tennessee vs Baltimore

In the case of this match-up, I think I was more excited about the cooking than I was about the actual game. Maybe Baltimore is not the most sought culinary destination in the US but it is famous for Old Bay spice and the iconic crab cake. It’s also home to Chap’s Pit Beef (the sandwich stop in the parking lot of an LGBTQ strip club) and Sip and Bite (the greek diner with some of the best feta cheese I’ve ever had) which rank number 8 and 13 on my DDD list respectively.

Nashville, on the other hand, is one of the more popular foodie stops which offers a blend of old school southern food outlets and chic eateries. I have had the pleasure of dining at Husk in the Sean Brock days and to this day Arnold’s Country Kitchen and its meat and three remains at the top on my list of all time Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.

Before getting into the showdown, a few comments about the game:

  1. I was surprised to see that Ryan Tannehill was only 31 so I can’t use my “Lamar Jackson got his ass kicked by his dad” joke…maybe more like his older brother although I often equate QB years to be more like dog vs human. I think it was important for Jackson to taste defeat so he can bounce back in a Patrick Mahomes vs RG III fashion. That said, it should be pointed out that Tannehill only threw for 88 yards with no picks whereas Jackson tossed for 365 but with 2 INTs so it’s hard to say that Ryan was the better QB in the end.
  2. I think the irony is the fact that Baltimore got beat by using the same blueprint that won them Superbowl XLVII…a moderately talented QB and good defense vs a flashy offence lead by a run/pass threat. Similar to this game, Flacco manged to avoid interceptions whereas Kapernick’s balanced offence numbers (including 62 rushing yards himself) was tainted by a pick and a sub 100 QB rating.
  3. Everything said, I can’t get excited about Tennessee. Sure, watching Henry run for almost 200 yards and average 6.5 per carry is somewhat exciting but I can’t help but remember every week of this year’s football pool when I cringed while being forced to choose a winner in any of the painful AFC South interdivisional game.

For the cook-off, I went with the aforementioned crab cake versus Nashville hot chicken. There are hundreds of crab cake concoctions out there but I opted for Andrew Zimmerman’s recipe which is definitely crab forward and uses saltine crackers as its binder. I did take the liberty of throwing in a pinch of Old Bay Seasoning for good measure. They fried up beautifully and really only need a bit of lemon as an accent.

My Tennessee choice was Nashville Hot Chicken, a signature item in many Tennessee eateries including Hattie B’s. Fried chicken is ubiquitous in the US but the uniqueness of this dish is the basting sauce which is a combination of fat, cayenne pepper and sugar. The result is extreme sweet/heat. I used a whole chicken which I cut into 8 pieces instead of quarters allowing for a reasonable frying time of 15 minutes or so. I tempered the heat with a tangy side of slaw, some homemade bread and some lakeside pickles which worked really well.

My Take

Unlike the game, when it came to the cook-off there was no clear winner . I mean choosing between a crab cake and fried chicken is a dubious task especially when the chosen recipes are spot on. Honestly, I think fried chicken holds it own without the Nashville cayenne/sugar topping and I guess I can handle a good crab cake without an aioli although I won’t omit the Old Bay seasoning under any circumstances.

I think Lamar Jackson needs an ass kicking to remind him he’s not quite prime time yet (6 of their games were against Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Cincinnati after all). Next year we will see whether he takes the path of Pat Mahomes or rides (or kneels) away in the sunset like Colin Kapernik. With Marcos Mariota in his prime, I wouldn’t be surprised if Ryan Tannehill ends up following in the footsteps of the likes of other past and present 30 plusers like Joe Flacco/Peyton Manning and Kirk Cousins/Brett Favre by joining a retirement team such as Denver or Minnesota.

Review:DDD:Baltimore:Sip and Bite

This is a lazy one.  I wrote this review on Yelp! last summer and I’m doing a cut and paste with a few additions.

Sip & Bite is a true diner located in the vicinity of downtown Baltimore since 1948. It has evolved into an iconic joint which now ships it’s crab cakes, mugs and T-shirts nationwide.

Sip and Bite Front
Sip and Bite Front

Sip and Bite Cup
Sip and Bite Cup

When I entered, the first thing I saw were three or four cooks busy on the grill cooking eggs, breakfast meats and potatoes. It was a divine sight. They had a synchronicity reminiscent of a team event at the Olympic games.

Although I didn’t meet the owner, I met Deena, one of the waitresses and she was terrific. When I ordered the DDD platter, ( famous crab cake and spanakopita) she told me to order the Greek salad and not the sides since the intense flavours of the sides would interfere with the crab cake. I smiled, nodded and agreed. She was right. The greek salad had the best feta I have ever tasted. Deena proudly told me it was barrel-aged imported feta and I believed her. The crab cake was amazing…great texture, great taste and a great commitment to the crab and not breadcrumbs or other fillers. The spanakopita was good as well. It was full of spinach flavours and tasted fresh. The pastry was a tad too crispy.

Sip and Bite Greek Salad
Sip and Bite Greek Salad

Crab Cake and Spanakopita Combo
Crab Cake and Spanakopita Combo

Between greeting regulars and telling me stories of defunct GPS units, I thoroughly enjoyed my experience with Deena at the helm.

Speaking of old fashioned service, Sofia, the owner, responded my yelp post with the following:

Thank you for taking the time to write us such an excellent review! Dina really is terrific, she has so many regular customers coming in for her its insane!! Very glad you enjoyed everything, please stop in again whenever you are in town, and hopefully this time we can have the pleasure of meeting! Enjoy the rest of your summer!

My Take

Sip and Bite has been around this long because they care about the right things, the food and the service. It is welcoming from the minute you walk to the minute you leave. It’s not phony or staged or deliberate. It just is. As I said on yelp, I would return here in a second. No blackboard menus or plaid-wearing abecrombie models serving you. Just old-fashioned food with old fashioned service.

If i an offer one line of advice…. Ask if Deena is in (I’m hoping she is) and order a crab cake. If you do, you will give this dive a five……

Verdict: 5 Guyz

Check out my overall  DDD List at https://fareeatales.wordpress.com/2012/12/22/diners-drives-ins-and-divesthe-list/

Sip & Bite Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Diners, Drives-Ins and Dives: The List

As mentioned earlier, I’m a big fan of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.  The closest I have come to meeting Guy Fieri  was through a window during a recent filming in Toronto.  I also managed to meet his signature red Camaro in a parking lot across the street.

Guy Fieri at Lakeview in Toronto
Guy Fieri at Lakeview in Toronto

Standing beside Guy's Camaro during DDD filming in Toronto.
Standing beside Guy’s Camaro during DDD filming in Toronto.

In my quest for great food, I have managed  to hit a number of DDDs in a number of different cities over the past couple of years.  My favorites are listed in order below.  Each will be reviewed under its respective city in the not too distant future.  In general, I have thoroughly enjoyed each experience and encourage everybody to support the locally owned establishments which exist along the path in your journey for love and passion on a plate.

The List

  1. Arnold’s Country Kitchen- Nashville
  2. Lucky’s Cafe- Cleveland
  3. Honey’s Sit and Eat- Philadelphia
  4. Dottie’s- San Francisco
  5. Silk City Diner- Philadelphia
  6. Clarkston Union Bar and Kitchen – Detroit
  7. Union Workshop- Detroit
  8. Chap’s Pit Beef- Baltimore
  9. Pastabilties- Syracuse
  10. The Tamale Place- Indianapolis
  11. Tomahawk Restaurant- Vancouver
  12. Bluewater Seafood- San Diego
  13. Sip and Bite- Baltimore
  14. Blue Ash Chili- Cincinatti
  15. Voula’s Offshore Cafe- Seattle
  16. Polish Village Cafe- Detroit
  17. Mulberry Cafe- Buffalo
  18. Red Wagon Cafe- Vancouver
  19. Meat and Bread- Vancouver
  20. El Indio- San Diego
  21. BopnGrill- Chicago
  22. Blue Moon Cafe- Baltimore
  23. Wallace Station- Lexington
  24. Milktooth-Indianapolis
  25. Peaceful Restaurant- Vancouver
  26. Flytrap- Detroit
  27. Lakeview- Toronto
  28. Georgia’s Greek- Seattle
  29. White Palace Grill- Chicago
  30. Hopleaf- Chicago
  31. Marlow’s Rib and Restaurant-Memphis
  32. Terry’s Turf Club- Cincinatti
  33. Jethro’s Fine Grub- Vancouver
  34. Momocho Mod Mex- Cleveland
  35. Kitty Hoyes- Syracuse
  36. Kuma’s Corner- Chicago
  37. Fresh, Local, Wild- Vancouver
  38. Senate- Cincinnati
  39. Falconetti’s- Vancouver
  40. Zest!-Indianapolis
  41. Studio Diner- San Diego
  42. Melt- Cleveland
  43. Blackthorn Restaurant and Pub- Buffalo
  44. The Barking Dog- Indianapolis
  45.  Nana’s- Chicago
  46. Showdogs- San Francisco
  47. Empire Brewing Company- Syracuse
  48. Bakersfield- Cincinnati
  49. Big and Little’s- Chicago
  50. Sophia’s- Buffalo
  51. Panozzo’s Italian Market- Chicago
  52. Steer-In-Indianapolis
  53. South of Beale- Memphis
  54. Yankee Lobster Company- Boston
  55. Tommy’s Joint- San Francisco
  56. Bizarro Italian Cafe- Seattle
  57. Miller’s East Coast Diner- San Francisco
  58. Tioli’s Crazee Burger- San Diego
  59. Good Dog- Philadelphia
  60. Parkette Drive-In- Lexington
  61. Funk n Waffles- Syracuse
  62. Hob Nob Hill- Philadelphia
  63. Lake Effect Diner- Buffalo
  64. Save on Meats- Vancouver
  65. Stockyards Smokehouse and Larder-Toronto
  66. Athens Family Restaurant- Nashville
  67. Alcenia’s- Memphis
  68. Bro’s Cajun Cuisine- Nashville
  69. Saus- Boston
  70. 3 Sisters Café- Indianapolis
  71. Parkview Nite Club- Cleveland
  72. Taste of Belgium- Cincinnati
  73. Joe Squared Pizza- Baltimore
  74. Byblos- Syracuse
  75. Pizzeria Luigi- San Diego
  76. Mike’s Chili Parlor- Seattle
  77. Traffic Jam and Snug- Detroit
  78. Sterle’s Country House- Cleveland
  79. The Ace- Toronto
  80. Memphis Taproom- Philadelphia