Adam Richman is a jolly man, a jolly fat man. Well actually, he’s not that fat, considering how much food he eats. He is, of course, the man that fights food. He generally wins too. The food, in question, is American, largely meat based and served in huge quantities. Richman’s escapades are entertaining and fascinating in equal measure.
The problem I have with Man vs Food is that it’s main feature, Richman’s “battles” against portion size or obscene chilli heat, make up only a small portion (pun intended) of the show. In the main, he is passionate about amazing fresh food, cooked to family recipes by accomplished chefs – but this is often lost in the “look mum, I’ve just eaten a whole cow” freak show.
The truth is that Americans are bloody good at food. It’s all supercharged stuff of course, much like their beer. Big flavours cooked with smoke and fire. Grrrrrr.
When something’s big over there it’s only a matter of time until it’s big over here. We’ve taken to super hopped IPA’s like ducks to the recent floods and we’re now going for their grub to soak it all up. There are few other styles of cooking that work as well with beer and that makes it alright in my book.
A couple of weeks ago we visited 40 Alfred Place, the permanent “pop up” restaurant in Kingsdown. For two nights it was run by Grillstock, Bristol’s very own “low and slow” American style BBQ food specialists. You’ll probably recognise the name from the festival they’ve held for the past 3 years at the Lloyds amphitheatre, a perfect mix of music, meat and alcohol. Well now they have a permanent outlet in St Nick’s market knocking out smoked pork, brisket and chilli to anyone that’s lucky enough to get before they’ve run out (as they always do).
For £30 a head we ate deep fried gherkins – or pickles if you want to use the US term – shoestring fries with a Big Mac-esque mayo sauce (courtesy of Dan from Essex Eating), humungous beef ribs, smoked pork, beans, brisket and corn bread followed by waffles with bacon ice cream. Yes, the ice cream had bacon in it.
It was a meal and a half, literally. We took home the leftovers and got two sandwiches and another dinner out of them. But again, it wasn’t a quantity issue, the food was excellently executed and the night was a great success.
The only very minor criticism I had was that there was only one beer to drink, a Sam Adams Boston Lager, a good beer but it got a little repetitive by the end of the evening. Still, as Jon – Grillstock’s founder – pointed out, it just wasn’t practical to have an over stocked bar given they were only there for two nights. As Jon is a keen home-brewer (check out his awesome guide to kitchen brewing here) I am sure that beer will be a big part of their future events.
Duke’s Brew and Que (as in BBQ, not the line of people) in Dalston, east Laaaanndaannnn, does have a bit more capacity to satisfy the petulant beer tourists amongst us. Run by Logan Plant (famous father, yada yada), it’s the brewery tap for Beavertown (also run by Plant) – a new, unashamedly Americana influenced, brewery – one of several that has sprung up in that area over the last year. We visited last weekend and drank Gamma Ray American pale ale from Beavertown and a Great Eastern IPA from Redchurch – also from that neck of the woods.
The food was unsurprisingly American-centric too. We ate slow cooked pork ribs with BBQ sauce, slaw and fries which were very good indeed. Our 6pm table was due back for a 7.30pm sitting so we were wiped down and shown the door about ten minutes after we were done eating. We had places to go and bands to watch anyway but it could be a bit jarring if you wanted to spend any length of time there – given that the actual bar area was tiny.
Not content with taking over our beer culture it seems the Americans want our restaurants too – and it’s not just the big smoke doing the big smoke – which is good news for anyone that likes to sit in a restaurant for more than an hour!