Thoughts from the ammo line

By request Ammo Grrrll takes a look at ROAD FOOD in her rearview mirror complete with a sidelong glance at rush hour in the Twin Cities. She writes:

A few weeks ago, commenter John Pilsun suggested that he would like to see a column on interesting road food from my most recent trip from Arizona to Minnesota and back. John, your wish is my command. Column ideas are always welcome, even if it takes awhile.

I contrived to spend my first night in Van Horn, Texas, because of the quaint and delightful little hotel El Capitan, which features one of the best restaurants in the Southwest. If you haven’t tasted their Pistachio-Encrusted Chicken-Fried Steak with Chipotle Gravy, you haven’t lived. Key Lime Pie and the kind of waitresses who call you “Hon” and “Baby Girl.”

From there, I traveled to Fort Worth, technically, Southlake, to spend two wonderful nights with my dear friend Heather, and her new fella, Bill. Frankly, if your travels take you anywhere near Texas, I would recommend a good long stay at Heather and Bill’s. Not only is the price right, but Heather and Bill are both excellent cooks. She made an exquisite Beef Stew and Greek Salad in such extravagant quantity that we ate them for two meals, and Bill grilled awesome Steaks and made Breakfast Burritos to die for. Call 1-800-555-1234 for reservations. Hahaha, I kid.

Bill is not only a great guy – the best friend of the equally-great Paranoid Texan next door to us – but a true Southern Gentleman who would sooner be dragged behind wild horses than allow anyone, but especially a lady, to treat. Under extreme duress — a loaded .45 on the table — he did allow me to buy a little lunch at The Cotton Patch, a Southern-fried cooking place that correctly understands that Gravy is a beverage. I like to keep my arteries taut.

Heather and Bill packed me an emergency go-bag of Fudge from Bass Pro for the road, but that was gone at the first stop sign on the way out of their complex. I don’t remember what the emergency was, but it came up awful sudden-like. With a sticky steering-wheel and an electric sugar buzz, “I persisted.” My next stop was in El Dorado, Kansas, where I had a surprisingly adequate Oriental Chicken Salad with Peanuts at a little 50’s-style diner.

Throughout my comedy career, I had many gigs in Des Moines and I always ate at Dudley’s Cafe in Latimer, IA. They make a world-class burger and hot, crispy fries. Whatever you order, you will struggle to get the bill into double digits, so leave a huge tip. They also have a fun little gift shop with plaques that say things like: “Marriage is like a deck of cards. You start out with two hearts and a diamond and end up wanting a club and a spade.”

I had planned to overnight in Ankeny, IA, and drive to Alexandria early in the morning. But I got to Ankeny and breezed right on by, rejecting motel after motel, getting ever closer to what Minnesotans simply call The Cities. This was a mistake. I hit Burnsville at 4:00 on a Thursday afternoon and 35 miles later in Maple Grove went screaming from my car into a Marriott. It was now 6:00 p.m. Yes, it had taken me two hours to go 35 miles. My patience for rush hour traffic is exceedingly low, probably because of my claustrophobia. I hate being trapped and unable to move. Mad props to those of you who have to do it every day. Twice. I know I ate in the Marriott, but do not remember what. But I do know what I drank: much.

After driving 2100 miles, on Friday the short trip “up north” to my hometown of Alexandria seemed like a little jaunt to the grocery store. I stayed six days in a hotel a few miles from Daddy’s. There was a Perkins next door where my BFF, Bonnie, and I met for Girl Talk and Pie, but Perkins had taken all the joy out of it by publishing the calorie counts. What righteous scold thought THAT was a good idea? 930 calories in a piece of Peanut Butter Silk Pie? Surely you jest! That has to be computed in some sort of “dog calories.”

Back to The Cities to pick Mr. AG up at the airport and begin the arduous task of clearing out personal items from 38 years of life in our Minnesota house. Sadly, we have a “mixed marriage.” I like a lot of clean, open space, and Mr. AG believes that there is literally nothing that is not a precious souvenir. Think what 10,000 ATM receipts could fetch on eBay.

After five emotion-laden days of closing down our first home and celebrating our son’s marriage, we packed up for home. The night before we had celebrated with our new family members in our favorite Twin Cities steakhouse – Porterhouse in Little Canada. Perfect tender steak, baked potato, and salad, just the classics done right. No silly “Reduction of Mango and Lima Bean Glaze over Salted Caramel Arugula Breading.” Sometimes there is a reason why no one has ever tried a particular combination of foods before, people.

Not a lot to report, culinarily speaking, on the trip home. We just beat feet, anxious to be settled. I had been living out of a suitcase for three weeks. Good wings in Amarillo (and deep-fried cheesecake bites – why not?) with no attempt to eat the legendary “free” 6-pound steak with all the sides in an hour or less that Amarillo is famous for.

And then we were “standin’ on the corner in Winslow, Arizona” ready to check into the historic La Posada Inn, with its restaurant, The Turquoise Room. Oh. My. Gawd. We started with Deep-Fried Squash Blossoms Stuffed with a Mexican cheese, and a Southwest Caesar Salad with Pumpkin Seeds. I had the Halibut on Polenta with Mushroom Broth and a bowl of gorgeous organic vegetables. Mr. AG had the Chicken grilled, over Black Beans and Roasted Corn Pudding in Endive. We both had martinis and Gelato in a Cookie Crust Cup. Beautiful presentations. A feast for all the senses. Excellent service.

The creation of Chef John Sharpe, and once rated by Conde Naste Gold List as “one of the top three restaurants in the U.S.” (2009), it was easily one of the 10 best meals I’ve ever had in my life. And the breakfast the next morning – Orange Crepes, Turkey Sausage and Baked Eggs – was equally memorable. Google it, friends.

So that’s about it, John. We drove home by 2:00 p.m. and I had half a Peanut Butter Sammich and promptly began my latest– not to be confused with, last — diet. Sigh. I think I’ve gained 3 lbs. just from writing this column!


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