(atLarrys.com co-host Kathleen Poirier and her friend Andrew Gordon – pictured here – are motoring from L.A. to Florida. Both have been line cooks at Ruth’s Chris Steak House in Los Angeles. Reason for the trip east: Andrew is re-locating to a new job at Ruth’s Chris in Ft. Lauderdale. Kathleen will return to her job in L.A. in about a week and to her culinary arts classes at Mission College.)
By Kathleen Poirier –

DAY 6 – Gator Tail (final day)
Woke up to the beautiful scenery that is Lake Weir in South Florida this morning. We hopped on the boat and Andrew took me around the lake to get my bearings. Then we were off to Gator Joes, a cute lakeside restaurant with boat access and a very good reputation.

The walls were covered in Gator gear and big fans at either side of the restaurant blew cold air in and all the humid hot air out. We ordered gator tail and hot wings to start off with. Both were fried and tossed in a buffalo sauce and came piping hot to our table.

Alligator, as Andrew had told me, tasted like a cross between chicken and pork. It has the mild flavor of chicken and the texture of pork. Apparently the only way to properly cook gator tail is to fry it; any other cooking method and it will turn to rubber. Good to know if I ever find myself on Chopped and I find gator tail in my mystery basket.

For my entree I got the blackened mahi mahi sandwich that came with chips and a pineapple salsa. I got to try a frog leg which was very interesting. Lightly battered and fried with the same consistency of chicken. I would definitely try frogs legs again.

Unfortunately the one weekend I find myself in Florida is the same weekend hurricane Isaac is hitting south Florida, so the weather took a turn for the worst just after lunch. That being said Andrew found the time to wake board just before the rain came so it worked out perfectly.

We spent the remainder of the day under shelter from the rain with the weather channel in the background. Being from California this whole hurricane watch thing is completely foreign to me. I’ve got to admit it’s kind of exciting, when you know it won’t be hitting right where you are.

Andrew’s family was coming over for dinner so we ordered take out from Sonny’s real pit BBQ, which is quite popular in Florida. The sauce was very good with a little kick to it. We ordered the pulled pork, baby back ribs, grilled chicken, corn fritters, garlic bread, baked beans and Cole slaw. After eating at Pappy’s the other day, it’s hard to enjoy other BBQ. But it was good and perfect for large parties.

Tomorrow is the last leg of our very eventful road trip. I will be sorry to leave Florida. Hopefully I’ll have some good food in the meantime to cheer me up.

DAY 5 – Reaching Florida
Today is the last long day of driving – Nashville to North Florida. I’m looking forward to not having to drive all day tomorrow and just resting. Road trips are exhausting.

We woke up bright and early so we could get to Florida before dinner. We stopped at Sonic Drive In, a new experience for me. There are a few Sonics in California but not near me and I had never been to a drive in before.

I was a bit confused at first but once I realized you don’t have to keep the button depressed when you are talking, things went much smoother. Food was generic fast food but it filled us up until dinner and the drink menu was quite extensive. Shakes, slushes, flavored sodas and floats are all there and you can customize any drink you like. I like options.

Lunch was skipped but dinner was well worth it. Andrew’s father took us to Nancy Lopez in the Villages in North Florida. A very quaint retirement community that is 97% golf course. The restaurant was fantastic. For appetizers we had lobster al forno, chunks of lobster in a garlic butter sauce; and escargot in a parsley garlic sauce. Both were cooked wonderfully and went great with the breadsticks. For my entree I got the duck with a bourbon orange reduction and peas. The duck was crispy and tender and the sauce paired perfectly with it. Very happy with my decision.

A NOTE FROM ANDREW: Add to Kathleen’s description of the lobster al forno, it also was topped with a garlic Gorgonzola crust. So delicious. Only way to describe this dish is epic! For my entree I had the rosemary roasted rack of lamb prepared medium. Alongside was a ramekin of port wine sauce. What a perfect pair. The lamb melted in my mouth. Cooked just the way I wanted and a perfect portion size. Very enjoyable.

BACK TO KATHLEEN: For dessert we went to super Wal Mart and picked up some cookies and milk and fell asleep before we could eat them.

Tomorrow we spend the day on the lake and I’m going to try gator tail and frogs legs for the first time. Go gators!

DAY 4 – All BBQ, all the time
The morning started somewhat irrelevant and unimportant. But then came lunch and that mean BBQ in St. Louis.
Pappy’s Smokehouse is Mecca. My knees went weak the minute I walked in. The smell was heavenly and there were signed menus all over the walls and pictures of the owners with Chef Michael Simon and Adam Richman from Man vs. Food.

Andrew and I each ordered a full rack of ribs. They came with fried corn, which was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. And there was apple sauce. The ribs were tender, cooked perfectly, and paired with their sweet Baby Jane sauce that was out of this world.

For dessert we ordered the Frito pie with pulled pork. It consisted of baked beans, pulled pork, onions, cheese and of course Fritos. Not really a dessert but good enough to make room for. My first bite had a little of everything and I almost stopped breathing. The beans were sweet and all the other ingredients were so savory it was culinary genius.
My utter respect goes out to the owners and workers at Pappy’s. They crank out fabulous BBQ all day, until they run out of meat. It takes a lot of talent and a really good recipe to keep so many people coming back. If I could only get my hands on their dry rub recipe. It makes me take a second look at mine and wonder why mine isn’t as good as theirs. I’ve got a lot of work to do.

After the Snickers and IHOP debacle of the day before, I intended to eat too much BBQ in St. Louis and that’s exactly what I did. And before I knew it we were back on the road again.

From St. Louis to Nashville we enjoyed the scenery but were very happy to make it to our last stop before Florida.
In Nashville Andrew’s friends took us to a new restaurant that had opened about three months ago called Urban Grub. They had never been there before so we were going off recommendations from his friends’ friends.

I was not disappointed at all. Our appetizer was pulled pork fries. On first seeing this on the menu I thought of fries with pulled pork on top. The waiter informed me that it was thick pieces of pulled pork, battered and fried and served with a white BBQ sauce. Absolutely incredible, I had never seen anything like it before.

The waiter told us the executive chef came up with it just messing around with different ingredients. Trial and error makes for a good end product that’s for sure. For my entree I got shrimp and grits, another bit of heaven. The shrimp were substantial and cooked perfectly and the grits had smoked Gouda and chipotle. The chipotle gave it body and the Gouda added a nice creaminess to the dish.

Andrew was equally happy with his lamb chop topped with roasted garlic. Apparently every piece of meat they have on hand is first cooked sous vide then finished off in the broiler. This way the meat retains all its natural juices and stays tender. I admire a restaurant that takes the extra step on ensuring quality product. For a new restaurant it was pretty busy. Today was the best food day so far and I can’t wait to get into Florida and try some gator.

DAY 3 – I want my BBQ and eggs benedict
An incredibly uneventful food day, but an incredible concert day. We woke up early again to embark on our journey from Broomfield, CO to Kansas City, MO – a drive everyone said is awful. Nothing but dried up corn fields and anti-abortion signs, and that’s exactly what it ended up being.

The drive was a strict 70 mph speed limit with state troopers all over the place so speeding through and getting it over with was not an option unfortunately. I did have a scare when I went passed a highway patrol officer with the cruise control set at 71 mph. He pulled out from his hiding spot and pulled over the car in front of me. I almost had a heart attack. Andrew was sleeping next to me, calm as can be.

Our breakfast in Colorado was supposed to be at a quaint place just outside of Denver that Andrew’s friends had suggested. I was excited because they said the eggs benedict was amazing and I love good eggs benedict. We missed our exit and found ourselves in a carpool lane we couldn’t get out of for at least five miles. So we said we would find something on the way.

We went on forever in the middle of flat, boring Kansas looking for something, anything. Eventually, we got to an IHOP. My coffee was weak and the bathrooms were connected to a truck stop. What kind of cruel substitute was this for eggs benedict?

After the IHOP fiasco Andrew suggested we get some authentic Kansas City BBQ before going to the Phish concert. That sounded like the best idea in the world. We went on Yelp to compare different BBQ places and we found Oklahoma Joes which was on a list of 13 places you have to eat before you die. Naturally we had to go.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: I’ve already scolded Kathleen for using Yelp instead of atLarrys.com, where she would have found some excellent recommendations by her co-host Larry Sheingold. Yelp in a place that thinks IHOP is haute cuisine?)

We arrived at the restaurant/gas station only to see a line at the door. Pick up would be an additional 45 minutes, 45 minutes that we did not have because of this concert. So once again the thought of good food was ripped away from me. We left empty handed and that hurt. I was tempted to just run over and grab a bite of a patron’s rib and drive away so at least I could say I tried it.

I’m bored, tired, irritable, and resentful of Phish because they took my BBQ away from me. My dinner consisted of a Snickers, which in my opinion are one of the best candy bars that gave me the energy to dance all night to Phish. But Snickers on a day that promised eggs benedict? Snickers on a day that promised Kansas City BBQ?

My resentment for Phish faded when Andrew informed me that tomorrow is authentic St. Louis BBQ day and we would make sure we had plenty of time so nothing would come between me and my beloved BBQ.

DAY 2 – On to Denver
We woke early today to hit the road for a 10 ½ hour drive from Las Vegas to Denver. We were in a hurry to get started, but that wasn’t going to keep us from taking a tip from Jeanette, my manager at Ruth’s Chris in L.A., and stopping for breakfast at Hash House A Go Go at the Imperial Palace.

With rumors of fried chicken and waffles, I wasn’t going to pass up the chance.

I ordered a much-needed coffee and Andrew and I split the sage fried chicken and waffles. Not only was it the greatest thing I have ever consumed but the portion was so big we had leftovers. The chicken was fried to perfection in a sage batter atop fluffy waffles that had bacon inside. There was literally a piece of bacon sticking out from inside my waffle.

Andrew and I sat at our table picking apart the dish and examining it. We pride ourselves on the ability to not stop talking about food.

Hash House was amazing and we were ready to start out on our long journey to Colorado.

Around lunch time with about a quarter of the driving for the day done, we stopped at Wingers in Richfield, UT. Wasn’t much of a selection in this city, it was between Wingers and Burger King and I would much rather try a new wing place so we went for it. The decor was very casual and laid back with a very homey feel. We got our food to go to save time. It came out promptly and hot and I was happy. I even went ahead and bought a bottle of their house wing sauce that’s hot but sweet at the same time and has the consistency is like syrup. They offered us a bowl of popcorn to dip in each sauce so we could try them and I fell in love. Little morsels of sweet and spicy popcorn definitely hit the spot.

The route from Utah into Colorado was absolutely spectacular. Deep red rocks turned to lush green mountains as we went up in elevation. I had never seen mountains so vast and so much undeveloped land.

I was overjoyed when we arrived in Broomfield, CO, where we would be staying the night. Unfortunately most places nearby closed fairly early and we didn’t arrive until after 10. One of Andrew’s local friends saved the night and took us to C.B. & Potts, which was open until 2:00 a.m.

This brewery/restaurant was quaint with the biggest bar I have ever seen. Andrew ordered the apricot blonde ale which was brewed on premises. With hints of apricot, he said it was absolutely amazing and only $2.99 during happy hour. I must admit I enjoying how inexpensive things are here compared to Los Angeles. Getting a good $3 beer in Los Angeles is hard to come by.

We ordered appetizers to share including loaded waffle fries, nachos and yes, more chicken wings. Your typical bar food but it was good and the staff was friendly and attentive. Even though we shouldn’t have, we got ice cream cupcakes which I had never seen before. Mine was peanut butter ice cream with Reese’s minis inside a fudge cup and garnished with caramel. Andrew got the muddy cupcake with Oreo ice cream and an Oreo shell with a molten chocolate center. The stomach ache that followed was well worth it.

Tomorrow we make our way to Kansas City, where we will see Phish perform and hopefully get our hands on some good BBQ. That thought hopefully will get me through the most uneventful part of our drive, going through the Great Plains.

DAY 1 – Viva Las Vegas
The last time I was in Vegas I was 12 years old and Vegas to me seemed like a hectic mess.
Last night, when Andrew and I arrived at the strip, I was given a sense of comfort knowing that’s exactly what people come here for, the complete lack of reality. After working full time in a crazy kitchen you begin to appreciate the things that make you forget about that crazy kitchen.

Our first stop was The Beatles Love Cirque du Soleil show at the Mirage, which I would recommend to anyone whether you like the Beatles or not. The songs, which were seamlessly translated into beautiful scenes, made me resent being born in the 90’s and not having the chance to see the Beatles together or alive for that matter.

After Love we went to BLT Burger at the Mirage, which my mother had suggested. I must say she does know what I like because this place had it all. From sweet potato fries to handmade milkshakes it’s all there. We started off with BBQ nachos, which had their signature BBQ sauce, sour cream, jalapenos, sharp cheddar cheese and a heaping portion of tender brisket.

Burgers are served medium which is how they should be, with fresh toppings and a toasty bun. The bar looked very nice. It surrounded the open kitchen, overall a great place to just relax and get a good burger.

After dinner I was in a food related coma so Andrew and I walked off a bit of that burger and went off to dream about our breakfast the next morning at the Hash House A Go Go*. I’ve heard rumors of sage fried chicken and waffles that I just can’t leave without experiencing. Can’t wait!

The TexMex Burger at BLT Burger in Las Vegas.
(*EDITOR’S NOTE: Hash House A Go Go in San Diego is a recommended restaurant at atLarrys.com – http://www.hashhouseagogo.com/)

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