So I'm back behind by keyboard; after nearly three weeks of unabashed joy, eating and drinking our way between L.A and Vegas, it's finally time to undo my top button and start to digest our adventures.
After my trip to Down Under last year, I got bogged down in all the detail and ended up only documenting a couple of my meals in Sydney, although I'm probably still digesting that beef rib now... This time I'm planning to try and write about all the highlights (there were many), but in far less detail. A kind of edible aide-memoire, grouped broadly into food stuffs or meal times, for when I can't remember why that button won't do back up again. As the title of the blog has probably given it away, I'm starting with chicken; the Ewing's favourite. After me, of course
One of my clearest memories of university came during a typical Friday night in my student halls, drinking cans of Fosters with a few mates and possibly nibbling on a Camberwell Carrot or two. Later, with Jools Holland came on the T.V. and Beck - the shaggy-haired lo-fi musician best know for mumbling about what a waste of space he was in the style of a white Chuck D - was singing a song from his new album, Midnite Vultures.
That song was Debra, and that night I fell in love with the funk soul falsetto of the story of Beck trying to hook up with Debra, and her sister, by taking her to Glendale is his Hyundai for dinner. Although he 'wouldn't do you like that Zankou Chicken'.
Of course, I really had very little idea of what he was actually singing as the lyrics weren't in the liner notes (I rushed out and bought the album the following Monday morning), and the internet was a clunky thing in it's infancy that required five minutes of painful dial up tones to even get connected, and then didn't seem to have the answers anyway.
In fact, it probably took me years to find out what he was wittering on about, and even then I wasn't ever sure that I would get to make a pilgrimage to the hills of L.A, or eat at the famous chicken restaurant that I later found out was famous for its brilliant white garlic sauce, and for it's family tragedy.
But, nearly 20 years after first hearing it, our first stop in L.A was at the original East Hollywood branch of Zankou. Despite being horribly jet lagged, and viewed with suspicion by a cop with a gun as I took photos outside (who turned out to be very friendly, as it happened), our pilgrimage was just as perfect as I hoped it would be.
The Ewing's rotisserie chicken was the perfect comfort food, even with the spiky beet pickled turnips and chillies alongside. My chicken tarna plate was even better; the chunks of spit-roasted meat served with pools of silky houmous and tahini, grilled flat breads and the unforgettable garlic sauce. It really is unforgettable; well, I'd definitely give it a couple of days and a packet of Wrigleys. Just make sure your significant other is also a fan.
Zankou wasn't the only chicken place I had dreamt of visiting (seriously, this is the kind of thing I fantasise about...), I was also extremely excited about visiting my namesake, Roscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles. Even better as it was for breakfast; who doesn't dream of consuming lashings of maple syrup and deep fried poultry before nine o'clock in the morning.
Inside is rather odd, with a kind of wood cladding effect and tiny, high windows that make you feel a bit like you're eating in a large garden shed. While the ambience may have been unusual the chicken was great: We both had the Obama Special - three wings, one waffle, butter and syrup - which was lighter than it may first appear and a just reward for our earlier trek that morning to the top of the Griffith Observatory to see the sun rise.
As I'm sure is already apparent, I love both fried chicken and spicy food. So even the Ewing contriving to get a touch of sunstroke from falling asleep on Venice Beach - alongside a livid red stripe down one side of her body - wasn't going to stop me visiting Dave's Hot Chicken in Hollywood. (just what someone needs when they have sunstroke and sunburn - the hottest chicken on earth - TE).
After leaving her tucked up and swathed in cold flannels, I made it to Dave's and made short work of my two chicken tenders (extra hot), served on a spongy slice of Mother's Pride with crinkle fries and pickle chips. Bonus points for the generous inclusion of plenty of Dave's sauce (a tangy thousand island) and honey (a revelation). Someone just open a Nashville hot chicken restaurant in London already.
And, cos I'm a kind and caring wife, I bought the Ewing her own portion back to eat in bed. Just what you want when you're already burning up. (I notice from her proofreading comment above, she's now preempted me on this....)
Tenuous link award goes to the next restaurant, Sapp Coffee shop in Thai Town, included here because of the addition of poultry in their signature jade noodles. Admittedly, it's duck and not chicken, a pretty paltry reason to shoe horn it in to this blog, but it fits here as well as anywhere else, and the food was too good not to write about somewhere in my meandering round ups.
The Ewing, unsurprisingly after a surfeit of meat, went for the classic som tum - green papaya salad with dried shrimp and peanuts and a glass noodle salad with squid. Both were excellent, but even better was watching the hysterical tears roll down her face after recklessly eating all the scud chillies, seeds and all.
I had the jade noodles, topped with roast duck, barbecued pork and crab and served with a DIY dressing including ground chillies, sugar, fish sauce, lime and peanuts. They're famous for a reason and each mouthful was a joyful blend of sweet, sour, hot and salty that makes Thai food so great. Being only eight minutes from our motel (thanks Google Maps) I'm sad we didn't get to return and try out the boat noodle soup, thickened with beef blood and topped with pork scratchings.
In a pleasing arc of symmetry, we finished the trip how we started it, feeling hungover and eating chicken. This time we had made in to Vegas (no fear, more details of the road trip to follow) and made it through both a hen night and a wedding. After a hungover afternoon, mulling over how I was going to fit my recent acquisitions of stout, M&Ms and peanut butter into my suitcase, I finally threw in the towel (I didn't, it wouldn't fit) and walked down the Strip for a last supper.
Everyone loves a good Elvis pun, especially after seeing our friends wed by the King the day before, and Viva las Arepas is one of the better ones. The menu, unsurprisingly, centres around arepas - Venezuelan corn bread cakes, stuffed with a variety of different fillings, but they also serve wood fired chicken, beef and ribs.
We ate arepas with smoky chicken, cheeses and avocado; and arepas with shredded beef, black beans and sweet plantain. My highlight was the yuca con chicharron, or plantain 'fries', topped with nuggets of crisp, salty pork, while the Ewing enjoyed her quarter chicken (it must of been a giant cock, as there were at least four pieces) served with salad in a garlicky sauce, just as we had nearly three weeks earlier. A fine and fitting end to our eating adventures.