Kurtis Jantz: "The Best Thing I Ever Ate"
Barbecue... well, that's easy. I remember moving to Kansas City as a
boy, and everyone kept talking about Arthur Bryant's. It was located in a
poverty-stricken area in K.C. round 18th and Brooklyn. I had to try it!
I remember the small restaurant with cafeteria-style seating and a
walk-up counter... The sweet, smoky barbecue scents hit you as soon as you
pulled in the drive. As I sat with my plastic tray overflowing with
both beef ribs and pulled pork, I knew this would be a hot spot for me
and any of my family and friends who came to town. The tangy coleslaw,
slow-baked beans, and side of cornbread didn't hurt the whole experience
either! To this day, it's the best barbecue I have ever eaten. Can't wait to go
As for "fried to perfection"...
This one creates a pull from my left brain to my right. There are two
fried foods that truly stick out in my mind that make my mouth water as
I am typing... Chef Mike, still my sous chef today, makes the best fried
chicken I have ever eaten. And yes, I have eaten a few pieces of
chicken. Mike and I met back in 1997 in New Orleans, and we have been
best friends since. Growing up in Austin Lesley's neighborhood, it was
inevitable that Chef Mike would be a connoisseur of fried chicken. I
was always trying to sneak around the corner while Mike was whipping up
the egg like brine with creole-type spices. He would first inject the
chicken with a blend of Louisiana hot sauces, brine the chicken, and then
fry it in his "original recipe" flour mixture. Let me tell you, the
burst of hot sauce, the crisp breading, and the juicy meat... just give
me an Abita beer!
I have always had an affinity for authentic Mexican cuisine, which no
matter what most Americans think, they have not had the real deal. I
was traveling through Southern California in the late '90s and knew I had to
cross the Baha border and go for some fish tacos. I thought I knew a
thing or two about this delicacy because I had traveled to Mexico many times
and had studied the tradition. I pulled into a little city call El Puerto Nuevo and drove to a small shack on a cliffside. I walked in and noticed it was one round Mexican woman by herself, pressing tortillas, whipping up the chili crema, and shallow-frying this light, tempura-style, crispy, juicy centered shark fillet. I made myself sick eating taco after taco as the crunchy fish melded with the creamy slaw, cilantro, and finely diced onions. I have been trying to duplicate that recipe since!