Monday, June 15, 2009

Mama Dip's

A slow and steady drizzle fell down upon Rosemary Street. The lingering chill of winter in late spring’s breeze had subsided making way for the foul breath of summer’s humidity that was only days away.

But people could worry about that then, for now we all just tried to stay dry.

For locals, a spring shower was nothing more than a weekly occurrence which none would look upon with similar romanticism. But having spent the last decade in a state that rarely gets rain, this shower was something of a nostalgic big deal for me. That being said, when my car door opened I sprinted like Usain Bolt to the front porch of Dips restaurant.

I can’t with all certainty say if I was racing to the shelter of the wrap around porch or if I was just simply that eager to eat Mama Dip’s traditional country cooking. Regardless, I made it in record time.

Mama Dip has been fixing food for the folks of Chapel Hill since November 1976. And today was no different. There she was, all six-plus-feet of her, leaning against the kitchen wall and surveying the scene, all the while being interrupted by comments from full and happy customers on their way back to work where they would almost certainly close their doors and fall asleep to the sound of rain pelting down on aluminum a/c units outside their office windows.

After opening a menu, I decided I wanted it all. Luckily, my mother was with me, so between our two orders we got a chance to taste almost all of it (and I knew she would insist on picking up the tab).

We started out with an order of fried green tomatoes. Three thick slices of green tomatoes were fried to a golden brown perfection and served with a side of creamy ranch dressing. Although I had a whole heaping of food yet to come, I believe I would have been satisfied had they told me I was getting nothing else.

But they never told me that.

And because they didn’t, they continued to bring out more food. A basket of hush puppies was immediately followed by our meals. I was having the 3-piece fried chicken dinner. However, our server informed us that Mama Dip had deemed my three pieces too small and added a fourth to my plate. That was good, because I would most certainly need a fourth piece of chicken after finishing up my mess o' greens, gooey mac and cheese, flaky buttermilk biscuit and inevitably the majority of my mother’s BBQ sandwich and her trough of Brunswick stew which I knew she would certainly fill up on before even nearing completion.

Sure, that fourth piece of chicken was necessary.

I ate it.

All of it.

I was so stuffed that food was backing up in my throat simply because my stomach had reached capacity and there was nowhere else for it to go. This was a shame because I longed for a nice slice of pecan pie to top things off.

But pie wasn’t happening today. And that was okay, because I would soon be boarding an airplane for a ride across the continent where I would be in for a five hour nap with all the joy that comes from having a belly full of good ol’ southern cookin’.

Here's a recipe for fried green tomatoes. While they probably won't be as good as the ones Mama Dip is frying up, they sure can't be bad.


2/3 c all-purpose flour
salt & pepper
3 lbs green tomatoes, cut into 1/2" slices
Oil for frying

In pie plate, combine flour, salt, and pepper. Dip in tomato slices to coat both sides. In 12 inch skillet over medium heat, heat 1/4 cup oil. Fry slices, a few at a time, until golden on both sides and heated through. Drain on paper towels. Repeat, adding more oil as needed.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Perfect Bloody Mary

For Memorial Day weekend I found myself visiting the great state of North Carolina. Not because during these hard times I decided to turn paparazzo and shoot fish in a barrel by snagging a few pics of the anything but elusive Kate Gosselin and her 8 children frolicking on the beach, but rather because it is the state from which I am from and I like to visit it every now and again...and my buddy having a place at the beach and a boat may have factored into the equation just a bit as well.

By the time Sunday rolled around there had been two full days o’ sun &
fun with enough drinking to send an Irishman into detox. But as this was a long weekend, there was still at least one more day of no holds barred excitement left. But upon awakening the beers just weren’t going down like they had been the previous two days. This was cause for serious concern within my group and we made the decision to remedy it stat.

There was a place in town that we had visited briefly the night before and were told made the best bloodies in town…as well as out of town for that matter. So that became our destination. A few vodka-tomato drinks and we should be back on the road to debauchery once again. So we packed into the car and headed to downtown Wilmington to a place named the Duck and Dive Bar & Pub.

I never knew there was any true distinction between a bar and a pub, but the Duck and Dive made sure it was both so you were taken care of, no matter your fancy.

I think we were all secretly hoping it would be closed on Sunday just to buy us a little more time in the car where we weren’t expected to be drinking, but no such luck. The bar could have not been more wide open and empty. With that we parked and went inside ready to jumpstart our day with a round of bloodies.

The ever-so-friendly bartender whupped us up a batch and it took no longer than 10 minutes to do so. He even brought the things over to our sorry asses where we were sprawled out on benches in a sort of lazy prayer ritual begging the gods to make our headaches to subside.

Our prayers were answered.

With only one sip of this concoction, we knew we had indeed found something special. Several more glasses and we were well on our way to an encore performance of the previous two nights.

I’ve written the recipe here. It’s not exact, but is bar tending truly ever an exact science (mixologists please save your comments)? Anyway, if you can’t make it to Duck and Dive in Wilmington, NC anytime soon, try your hand at this recipe and alter accordingly. I think you will be happy.

Oh, and yes, it is not a typo. Guinness is indeed included in these bad boys!

Duck and Dive Bar & Pub
114 Dock St,
Wilmington, NC 28401

Best Bloody Mary Ever

Fill a pint glass with ice.
Add vodka to your liking
Zing Zang Bloody Mary Mix
Splash of pickle juice
Dash of Worschire sauce
Emeril’s horseradish mustard (first and only time you will see Emeril’s anything listed in a recipe on this blog), to taste
1-2oz Guinness
Shake well and garnish with lime, olives and a gherkin.