Monday, October 24, 2016

Buttering My Bridges

Usually, you need to go to a low rent restaurant to see color pictures of the food before ordering.

Tonight's menu was nothing like that.

Oxford chef John Currence was bringing his new cookbook, "Big Bad Breakfast" to Southbound, who in turn were cooking nine of the book's recipes for guests. Having been to three of Currence's restaurants (including Big Bad Breakfast), it sounded like a hoot to me.

Only problem was no one warned me about the apparently-standard traffic issues going into Chesterfield County during rush hour, thereby proving that I almost never head out of the city into the suburbs around 6:00.

I'll never understand the attraction of dealing with that mess for the sake of mowing a lawn and sacrificing your soul, but that's just me.

Once inside Southbound, tonight's Currence mix (ELO, Clash, Guns 'n Roses, Fleetwood Mac) was deemed too short, so was in the process of being augmented when an editor came in and immediately began bemoaning the state of traffic to the Southside, a subject I'd just covered with the DJ and the chefs.

"Traffic is a thing here now," the bearded one said earnestly, explaining that he made a point to avoid it. Really, a thing, a real thing here? That's just proof of how buried a woman can keep herself by not making that trip but once in a blue moon.

I glanced at the menu with its three sections with three offerings in each, but with a brand new copy of "Big Bad Breakfast" in front of me, it seemed to make sense to absorb some of the gospel according to John Currence before ordering.

In case you don't have a copy of the book, allow me to summarize the Chef's philosophy: Breakfast should be revered, respected and adored.

Which is why he opened a restaurant devoted to breakfast and why he firmly believes breakfast food deserves the full dinner treatment. Hell, he believes even all the components for breakfast should be homemade like Grandma did.

But if I had to pick one of his 10 commandments of breakfast as the tipping point for why I've crossed state lines to eat this man's food, here it is:

4. Thou shalt slather with butter. It will not kill you (consumed in quantities within reason, that is)...No fat tastes better on toast with jelly or when cooking eggs (bacon fat included).

As someone who was recently cited for the massive amounts of butter I can consume effortlessly, these simple lines speak to my inner butterball.

Ergo, it's why I'd driven through traffic roughly equivalent to the beer lines at a summer festival to eat breakfast for dinner and score his new cookbook.

I know, I know, you're wondering why I'd need a cookbook and I don't. Fortunately, this one is also a great read since every recipe is preceded by an essay combining culinary history, personal anecdote, obscure food facts and dish inspiration stories sprinkled with a healthy dose of sarcasm, profanity and attitude.

You don't need to cook to enjoy this cookbook.

Let's just say I felt no shame in cracking my book at the bar and starting to read about the most important meal of the day as a prelude to ordering.

The reason for that was that everything on the menu was followed by a page number, so inquiring diners could look up the recipe to scope out the ingredients or see a photo before placing their order.

The essay on pork posole begins with, "Make this. That's all I really have to say" (before going on to say another 500 words) so I did, rewarded with a runny poached egg atop a bowl of spicy pork rib tips, fresh corn and hominy that spoke to needs I didn't even know I had.

Double oyster hangtown fry (introduced as a Gold Rush dish known for its pricey ingredients) scored as much for its crispy fried oysters as for the scrambled eggs with bacon and thinly-sliced slices of serrano chilis mounded in the center of the ring of oysters.

My final course, sausage cinnamon rolls, was also the first recipe in the book, which says a fair amount about its place in the chef's recipe pantheon, but also about our shared addiction to the siren song of sweet and salty.

The yeast rolls' filling of brown sugar, sausage, butter and cinnamon was as integral to their perfection as the cream cheese and butter frosting they were lavishly frosted with. Even as I felt my arteries hardening, I used my very last bite to wipe up every last dab of icing from the plate's crevices.

It's probably safe to say that I had not consumed butter in quantities within reason tonight, and for that I make no apologies.

In fact, if I were the one writing a footnote under the 4th commandment about the power and memory-making ability of butter, I'd share that I can still recall with absolute clarity a childhood episode involving me on a backyard swing having my first slice of toast thickly spread with butter and  topped with a layer of jam.

The sky is blue, the swing is moving only slightly, and there is nothing in my life so far that has been quite as overwhelmingly wonderful as the layers of that toast.

Just another five year old who knew instinctively that no fat tastes better on toast with jam.

Try it. That's all I really have to say.

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