Thursday, December 31, 2015

It's Not Healthy So Just Shut Up And Cram It In Your Piehole

Chef Chad Harris prepares bacon

We must have driven by the Fremont Diner 500 times in the last 17 years but we never stopped and ate until this week.  To be fair, it's only been the Fremont Diner since 2009, but we still should have stopped in before now.  It has all of the elements that make an eatery enticing to me:  Roadside, small, unpretentious, and inviting.  Well, inviting except for the ever present line of people waiting to get in which is typically an automatic turn-off for me regardless of the venue.  We went early and avoided the wait. When I tried my first bite of food I realized why that line is always there.  The food is good.  Really good.

It's called comfort food for a reason:  It has lots of fat, cholesterol, and calories, but damn it makes you happy to be eating it.  When ordering from a comfort food join, don't be an idiot and ask if the dish is gluten free because it probably isn't.  Besides, if that's the type of question you ask when you order, then you probably shouldn't stop at the Fremont Diner anyway.  A person of average intelligence should be able to decipher from the size and decor of the building that the food most likely isn't for the health conscious consumer.  It's advertised as "locally sourced, seasonal, country cooking. Our goal is to combine homestyle cooking & high quality, seasonal ingredients."  I will admit that "locally sourced" has become a buzzword in the food lexicon and it sounds pretentious.  All that means, really, is that the beef you're currently eating was grazing on the grass a mile up the road yesterday.  It's fresh, that's all.  Had they used the word "organic" I would have had to kick somebody in the balls.  That means a farmer took a dump on the tomatoes yesterday and you'll have hepatitis C, or whatever it is Chipotle serves its customers, within a week.

Once inside the diner you immediately figure out there's nothing formal or corporate about the operation.  Everything is plain and simple. The food is prepared feet away from you.  Our waitress handed us a paper menu with several dishes crossed out in pen and said, "We've been closed for three days so we're playing catch up.  We don't have the lined-out dishes today."  I nervously scanned the menu and saw a line through "Biscuits and Gravy".  We might have to leave, I thought.  "Except that one", she said.  "We do have Biscuits and Gravy today."

When it comes to ordering, there are three baseline food/drink items I used for universal comparison when I order:  IPA (beer), Biscuits and Gravy, and Pecan Pie (on a similar note my litmus test for vocal artists is hearing them sing either the Star Spangled Banner, O Holy Night, or Ave Maria).  This lets me know how good or crappy the chef or brewer is in relation to others.  My first bite told me this chef, Chad Harris, is good.

Biscuits are similar to tortillas in that there appears to be no reason why making them shouldn't be easy. The reality is that making these two things well is as difficult as it gets, and Chad has mastered it.  The biscuits at Fremont Diner can best be described as chewy.  They were flaky, and fluffy and big, of course, but more than anything they were chewy in the best way imaginable.  They had substance and complexity and weren't merely a landing spot for a ladle full of gravy, a prop used for appearances because eating a bowl of gravy by itself is too embarrassing.   No, they had purpose and that purpose was to bring me joy, in concert with the deliciously life threatening thickness of the savory sausage gravy.  I gave it my A+ Zagat rating when I whispered "Holy Shit" to myself.  Nikki's biscuit sandwich with a fresh pork patty and cheese in the middle made me say the same thing.  Like everything else, the sausage is prepared on-site.  I didn't take any photos of my food because that's what instagram is for.  Go look there, I'm sure you'll find it.

In addition to the great food, they served fantastic coffee, the kind of coffee that requires one statement and one follow-up question.  Here's how it goes:

Me:  "I would like some coffee, please."

Her:  "Cream and sugar?"

That's it.  There's no wasted conversation,  no follow-up questions or clarifying statements, and mercifully no "shots" or other condiments are up for consideration.   On top of that blissfully simple exchange, they serve the coffee in a thermos so you don't get asked every 15 seconds if you need a refill.  Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the prompt server who's paying attention, but I don't need a refill after every sip of coffee.  It's nice to fill up my own exactly when I need and want it.

I ended the meal with a slice of Pecan Pie.  My eyes rolled a little and glazed over when I put it in my mouth and I said "Holy Shit" again.  I contemplated ordering an IPA (which was on tap right in front of me) but I figured that might be too embarrassing at 9:00 a.m.  I guess I'll have to go back.

It's simple, stop touching every piece of silverware!

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