You can tell how excited I was about My Salinger Year (yesterday’s post) because I wrote about that before writing about some small food adventures over the Fourth of July weekend.
Steve and I have an annual tradition for the Fourth, one I highly recommend: eat fried chicken. This is typically the only time of year we indulge ourselves (though I’m more prone to break this rule than he is). When you eat fried chicken only once a year, even KFC is pretty good, so we’ve sometimes bought chicken from there. We also make it ourselves [link to recipe below], and have gotten pretty good at it over the years…but what a mess!!! (You would think it would be lovely to live in a house that smells like fried chicken for a week but actually it’s not.) Plus, we were feeling lazy this year.
So how fortuitous that Steve received a promotional email from Bryan Voltaggio (of “Top Chef” and chef/owner of several restaurants in Frederick, Maryland; we had an amazing meal last year at the chef’s table at his fancy restaurant, Volt, to celebrate Steve’s birthday). The email noted that they were taking advance orders for buckets of fried chicken at his casual restaurant, Family Meal.
Buckets! I sure liked the sound of that.
Also, it’s been my experience that in general, when a restaurant acts as though its fried chicken is something special, it usually is. (Sadly, this rule does not apply to other food dishes…never buy barbecue because it’s “famous” and I could tell you a sad story about the time I had to try “world’s best concession crabcake” at a fair.)
For several days, we pondered the wisdom of driving an hour for fried chicken. Remember the lazy part of the equation?
A day or two before the ordering deadline, I decided to call for more information. I couldn’t find the original email, so I googled “fried chicken in Frederick, Maryland.”
Hello? First up was a link to Doc Geiser’s, which has won Frederick’s best fried chicken award for FOURTEEN YEARS IN A ROW! And yes, they were open on the Fourth!
Well, I reasoned—first with myself and then with Steve—it’s a little crazy to drive an hour for a bucket of chicken, but if you’re going to try TWO different places after an hour’s drive, doesn’t that really make a lot more sense?
He agreed (which is one of the reasons I married him)…though he did note for the record, “So you’re going to go eat fried chicken before getting more fried chicken?”
Exactly! We would go to Doc Geiser’s and then bring home the Family Meal chicken.
Doc Geiser’s was in a little strip mall, tucked off a major road of bigger strip malls, and we got a warm welcome as we ordered our 4-piece dinner to eat in (sides: [average] mac and cheese and [really good] lima beans…guess who picked which??). I was surprised no one else was eating in the restaurant, but as we waited for our food, a stream of people came in to pick up take-out orders, including a huge Styrofoam cooler of 50 pieces! I gotta say, you see that and you feel pretty confident that you’re in a place that knows its chicken. (Plus, they had sweet tea, as I suspected they might.)
And yes! The chicken arrived, and it was gorgeously crisp and light, with good crust to meat ratio, and hot-hot-hot! Not overly salty, not bland…in fact, just about perfect. There was talk of saving one piece for later, but it was only talk. Another reason I married Steve: no fighting over the 4-piece meal, as between us we each got our favorite pieces with no need for negotiation (though I don’t understand his attitude that “the wing is only a vehicle for skin”…I mean, of course! That’s why it’s so desirable!).
And then…off to pick up our bucket of chicken and sides from Family Meal, which is located in an old…train depot? in a semi-industrial part of town. A very cute and breezy place, with nice outdoor seating and an inviting dining room and bar. I was pretty confident that this would be good chicken too, because when I placed the order, I had to pick a 15-minute window for pick-up. (Another fried chicken rule: if a menu tells you that you’ll have to wait 30 minutes for fried chicken, ORDER IT without hesitation.)
We were lured into ordering some desserts to take home (and a milkshake for the road, which was superb; and actually there’s another blog entry that could [and should] be written, The Milkshakes of My Summer), and we loaded up our meal (which included a beautiful little whole watermelon!) and headed home.
If I had followed my instincts, we would have eaten a piece in the parking lot—just to “try it” while it was hot—but Steve drew the line (another reason I married him…he’s not as crazy as I am!). So later, while we heated the chicken slightly at home, it was basically room temperature by the time we ate it…which is actually a good test, as superior fried chicken must be amazing whether hot, room temp, or cold.
Passed! With flying colors! Amazing! This was a more modern interpretation of chicken, with a passel of spices and (maybe?) some cracker meal in the coating. Whatever it was—YUM! As a bonus, there was a delicious hot sauce for dunking, so good that we felt a little guilty covering up the amazing chicken with sauce. But you know, if that’s how the chef serves it….
Two great sides, also: green bean casserole (which was along the lines of the “famous” Thanksgiving green bean casserole with the fried onions, but made with real ingredients instead of cans of soup) and smoked potato salad, which was a brilliant interpretation on a dish that’s already awfully brilliant.
To top it off, we’ve been eating the little watermelon for breakfast for the past several days…it’s like the way watermelon is supposed to taste and usually doesn’t anymore, sweet and juicy, deep red, seedless. The essence of summer. Totally worth an hour’s drive itself!
If you’re feeling that you must have some fried chicken right now and can’t possibly wait until July 4, 2015, here’s more information:
~~Doc Geiser’s: http://www.docgeiser.com/
~~Family Meal: http://www.voltfamilymeal.com/
~~Our fried chicken recipe: http://www.workinprogressinprogress.com/2010/07/work-in-progress-fried-chicken.html