Alabama pit stops: 5 of the best gas station barbecue joints

Alabama excels at the gas station barbecue a sub-genre of one of the few truly American cuisines which is tailor-made for lovers of the open road

Gas station barbecue is just what it says it is: homespun food, cooked yards from the petrol pumps, in small kitchens. Ribs, pulled pork and chicken wings are served on paper plates at simple table settings inside the garages, overlooking aisles stacked with engine oil, anti-freeze and rubber hoses. It is not surprising Alabama excels at this road-trip cuisine of convenience: the deep souths Yellowhammer State reputedly has the most barbecue restaurants per capita of anywhere in the US.

Butts To Go, Pell City

BBQ
BBQ sauces at Butts To Go

My barbecue odyssey started in Pell City, 30 miles east of Birmingham Alabamas biggest city. Butts To Go is just off Interstate 20 at a Texaco garage run by 64-year-old entrepreneur Wade Reich. The magic happens a few paces from the pavement in four smokers. In Alabama the pig is king, and Reich smokes it over hickory. But there is also brisket and chicken, and pecan-smoked hams and turkeys are seasonal specials. Reich took over the gas station in 2008 and spotted a gap in the market when a rival barbecue garage closed.

Theres not much money in gas, he told me.

Pulled pork, Reich figured, could make up for the plunge in profits at the pumps. He experimented with a barbecue on Memorial Day in May 2009, serving meat platters. By Labor Day, in September, Reich was cooking every weekend; Butts To Go is now open seven days a week.

Wade
Wade Reich, proprietor of Butts To Go

Reich uses a dry rub, akin to a steak seasoning, containing pepper, garlic and salt. Full-flavoured Duroc pork comes from Smithfield, Virginia, and is also used for spare ribs and baby back ribs. All the dishes are available for takeaway but, for the authentic gas station barbecue experience, it is essential to fill a tray with juicy smoked meat and take a seat at the 12-cover restaurant.

A two-bone rib plate with two sides (choose from baked beans, coleslaw, wedges and baked potato salad) costs $6.99. Specialities include Reichs lemon-and-pepper smoked chicken wings ($4.99 for six pieces) and drunken chicken ($14.49). For the signature boozy bird, a chicken is placed on a 12oz beer can and smoked for three hours. As the alcohol heats up and evaporates, it bastes the inside of the chicken, keeping the flesh juicy.

A foil tray contains a selection of sauces in plastic bottles, such as the smoky, tomato-based Cattlemens BBQ Sauce (not sweet, not sour) and Franks RedHot Sauce. But for local businessman and Butts regular Larry Daugherty, it is all about the purity of the smoky protein. To me, it is the hickory smoke. Some people use cherry, but I dont like that, he said.
410 Martin Street North, Pell City,
on Facebook

BBQ 65, Greenville

Interior

Two hours drive south from Pell, off Interstate 65, is the former cotton town of Greenville, where an all-female crew serves up about 100 plates a day at BBQ 65 on Pineapple Highway. The smoker at the back of the Shell station uses hickory and oak to cook butts overnight, every night. Ribs, turkey breasts and chicken are also smoked on the revolving racks.

The chicken is brined overnight with seasoning, cooked until tender and served with a mayonnaise-based white sauce, more typical of north Alabama barbecue. Brunswick stew, a staple of southern barbecue shops, contains chicken and pork. Sides include potato salad, macncheese, speckled butter beans, fried okra and corn casserole. Four rib bones are $13.99 (six for $14.99) and come with two sides. A pulled pork plate is $10.99.

Beth Mauch, the assistant manager, says the cooks use a sop with a house marinade to keep the meat moist. The sop is applied with a brush or spray and contains a little sugar or tomato ketchup. Too much sugar leads to caramelisation and blackened meat, so balance is vital.

BBQ 65 makes its own tomato-based barbecue sauce but Mauch pointed out: We dont use a lot of sauce. We dont drown our meat. Meat should have a flavour all its own.

The kitchen and dining area, comprising 10 tables, is inside the petrol stations wood-clad, cabin-style building, its walls hung with colourful folk art. For diners with a sweet tooth, there are southern-fried fruit pies and bread pudding ($3.99). The gas station barbecue mantra is: fill up, dont calorie count.
2391 Pineapple Highway, Greenville,
bbq65.com

Soul Ful Deli Depot, Fairhope

Beef
Elizabeth Brazelton at Soul Ful Deli Depot

My satnav was then set for the Gulf of Mexico and the two-hour drive to Fairhope, on sweeping Mobile Bay. The Pride service station on South Greeno Road is home to the Soul Ful Deli Depot where Elizabeth Brazelton and her son, Trevell, create home-style barbecue with aplomb. Rich beef rib tips are cooked in an oven for four hours and doused in Brazeltons rich, dark sauce. She would only divulge some of the ingredients honey, lemon juice and brown sugar but no tomato. The sauce leaves a tingle on the tongue, so I suspected chilli or cayenne pepper played a role.

There is no smoking involved in the cooking: isnt this barbecue sacrilege? Brazelton put me straight: All my food is soulful food, she said. To me, soulful means country. It means grease, and it means fat, and it means fresh. I am cooking green lima beans now and I will put some okra with it. This is healthy eating. I dont use salt and very little pepper.

Home-cooked chicken wings came with 18 different flavours, including honey BBQ, habanero, buffalo Parmesan, ranch and sweet heat. Six pieces are $6.42.

Brazelton serves fish and grits for breakfast, from 5.30am, and said it was a blessing when the owner of the gas station called her in 2015 and asked if she wanted to take over the food outlet. Cooking is my passion. I have gone from being a worker to being an owner. It is a rewarding journey, she said.
355 South Greeno Road, Fairhope,
on Facebook

The Depot Chevron, Foley

The
The writer soaks up the atmosphere at the Depot Chevron

The Depot is 20 miles from Fairhope at an eight-pump Chevron station at the junction of Highway 98 and County Road 65 on the outskirts of Foley town. It is impossible to miss: there is a giant plastic pig in front of it proclaiming Baldwin Countys best ribs, butts and pigs feet. This is a strictly pig-only zone.

The Depot has been selling barbecue for 18 years, cooking over mesquite wood chips in an electric smoker. The meat is salted but there is no rub, before being smoked for 12 hours. So-called finger food includes corn dogs, pork and shrimp egg rolls, fried okra and pepperoni pizza sticks.

Vinegar
Vinegar slaw on a rich Carolina-style pulled pork at Foley Depot

Carolina-style pulled-pork sandwiches (small $3.55, large $4.55) are always available (we will heat to order); they are a saucy affair, a great oozing heft of pork and a tomato-based concoction, cut through with an order of piquant vinegar slaw. I chased it down in true Alabama style with a plastic bottle of Red Diamond sweet tea and enjoyed an immersive gas station dining experience at one of the rickety green plastic tables overlooking the forecourt.
17960 Highway 98, Foley, no website

Powells grocery store, Stockton

Powells

The final stop on my gas station barbecue road trip took me into the backwoods of Stockton, off the banks of the Tensaw river. This small town (population 5,086) on Highway 59 is home to the states first sawmill and has its own unique place in cinematic history, providing the backdrop for the Friday the 13th horror film franchise. Spoiler alert: it is quiet out here.

At Powells grocery store, there are Pure petrol pumps outside and ribs inside a sprawling convenience store. Baked-in-the-oven ribs ($2.99 each) are only available on Friday and Saturday, served with a separate red sauce. Beef tips over rice with brown gravy ($4.29) are popular on Sunday for church-goers.

There are hardcore southern country treats every day of the week, such as deep-fried livers and gizzards (small polystyrene plate $2.99, large $3.99). It is an acquired taste, even for cook Rose Stacey, who confided to me: I love gizzards, but I am not eating liver. It is nasty. My grandmother used to spank me and make me eat that.

Most of the trade is take-out; there is a constant stream of workmen for lunch. But there is a table for diners next to the slushie machine and a selection of local specialities including jumbo boiled peanuts ($3.99 for a 32oz cup), pickled pigs feet, pickled sausage and pickled eggs.

Fortunately, the adjoining store has everything covered, including deer corn and life jackets, and a rare sight at an Alabama gas station barbecue fresh fruit. Just dont embarrass yourself by buying it.
52825 Highway 59, Stockton, no website

The trip was provided by the Alabama Tourism department, with flights on American Airlines from Heathrow via Charlotte and Dallas to Mobile, Alabama

Let’s be real guys, Chili’s is kind of great

Twitter erupted like a Molten Chocolate Cake on Saturday when vice presidential candidate Mike Pence admitted to eating dinner at Chili’s. At 4pm. In New York City, ostensibly one of the best culinary cities in the world.

But while it’s cool to be hard on Pence, let’s soften our hearts a bit for Chili’s. Pence’s real sin was eating dinner at 4:30pm the truth is, there are many Chili’s menu items that even our jaded urban hearts can love.

Here are a few of our picks, which we cannot promise resemble these photos in real life.

1. Onion rings dipped in ranch dressing

Image: twitter/chili’s

It works. Trust us.

2. Steak fajitas

Image: twitter/chili’s

That trademark sizzle adds an extra dash of excitement.

3. Quesadillas

Image: twitter/chili’s

We recommend the smoked chicken.

4. Molten Lava Cake

Image: twitter/chili’s

Looks just like a volcano! So fun.

5. Ribs

Image: twitter/chili’s

The most famous dish at Chili’s, these ribs are sincerely delicious. They are also the inspiration for that “baby back ribs” song your dad loves to sing.

6. $5 Presidente margaritas

Image: twitter/chili’s

This is just a solid deal.

7. This cookie inside of a pan

Image: twitter/chili’s

Who could turn down a big ol’ skillet cookie?

8. Fried asparagus

Image: twitter/chili’s

In case you were wondering, that dip is totally mayonnaise.

9. Burger

Image: twitter/chili’s

“Not the best, but not bad.” our endorsement of this burger, and also the GOP’s endorsement of Donald Trump.

10. Chili queso

Image: twitter/zagat

Trust us. This beefy cheese dip is very delicious. Even Zagat thinks so.

11. Triple Dippers

Image: twitter/chili’s

The culinary embodiment of the phrase “everything happens so much” we’re here for it.

Hope you made the right choices, Mike Pence. Let’s just shoot for 5 o’clock dinner next time, okay? Great.

Have something to add to this story? Share it in the comments.

Peter Gordon’s six delicious salad recipes

Chilli-roast sweet potatoes, smoked mackerel with beetroot and more delicious recipes from the New Zealand chefs new cookbook

New Zealand and Britain might be many thousands of miles apart, but when it comes to salad, the two nations remained as one well into the 1980s. Comprising lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber and perhaps (if you were really lucky) a little grated cheese or pickled beetroot, such a dish was only ever served with ham or for the seriously upwardly mobile chicken. We used to have ours with a mayonnaise made from condensed milk, malt vinegar and mustard, says Peter Gordon, the Kiwi chef who has lived in London full-time since 1989. For years, I thought that was what mayonnaise was. He grins. My stepmother would have one head of garlic in the kitchen, and that would last us about a year. She would rub the salad bowl with an unpeeled clove, and then use it again six months later.

For old times sake, Gordons new book of salads for all seasons, Savour, includes a recipe for a condensed milk mayonnaise, even if he has swapped the mustard for the rather more modish wasabi paste. But, otherwise, it regards the past as another country: no iceberg lettuce, and certainly no grated cheese. In fact, at this point, even a nicely roasted aubergine drizzled in tahini is starting to look a touch last century. This, his eighth book, dishes up a dazzling, Technicolor new world of umeboshi (a salted sour Japanese fruit) and shimeji mushrooms, of jicama (yam beans, apparently) and truffled honey. However, should you be feeling intimidated what is freekeh again, and how exactly is it different from fregola? rest assured that there is also a recipe for a couscous and poached salmon number you could probably knock up in your sleep.

Salad is a main course now, he says. But it should still be an achievable thing, something you can rustle up. His favourite recipe in the book is for burrata and heirloom tomatoes with a mango dressing which, assuming you can get your hands on the relevant ingredients spongey supermarket toms are not going to cut it here is the very definition of doable. It sounds ridiculous. Mangoes dont grow in Italy, do they? But it comes together with such harmony. Its delicious.

Gordon, who brought his still-mourned restaurant the Sugar Club to Notting Hill in 1996, made his name with unlikely combinations; anyone whos come to dread the word fusion must lay much of the blame at his door, for all that he did it so much better than most (and still does, perhaps: his current restaurant, the Providores, in Marylebone, remains full to bursting every night). Fusion is everywhere now, he says. But back then, it really wasnt, even in Australia. As an apprentice chef in Melbourne, his college lecturers, weaned on French sauces, were dismissive of Gordons weird ideas, born of the Damascene moment when he tasted silken tofu for the first time; and it was the same when he arrived in London, doing shifts at the likes of Launceston Place in Kensington.

The whole culture was different then. It was terrible. These awful basement kitchens with no windows, the chefs and the waiters never talking. In the years between arriving in London and finally opening the Sugar Club an incarnation of a restaurant he and his then partners had run in Wellington he learned a lot, the main thing being that its best not to work for arseholes. No one in Britain had heard of Gordon and his laksa, which was difficult, but perhaps also served only to harden his conviction that one day London would go wild for coconut, daikon and all the rest.

Gordon lives alone in a small, groovy terraced house in London Fields, and youve only to take one look at its kitchen to know that he is a chef who loves to cook in his free time as well as in the working day (this isnt always the case): the counters are laden with bottles and bowls; on the hob is a grenade-like bit of kit in which coffee beans may be roasted over a gas flame. These days, he spends about 20 hours a week at the stove at the Providores, dividing the rest of his time between his other restaurant Kopapa in Covent Garden, Crosstown Doughnuts in Soho, of which he was one of the founders, and his New Zealand restaurants, Bellota and the Sugar Club (mark four). Even so, at least once a week, therell be eight people at his table here. Feeding people is in his nature.

Where did it come from, this love for the kitchen? Hes not sure. He grew up in Whanganui, a coastal town on New Zealands North Island. His father was an engineer who liked to render his own beef fat. Everything was cooked in it. I used to hate it. The first time I tasted fish and chips that had been cooked in sunflower oil, it was a revelation. When he was seven, the familys deep fat fryer fell on top of him; his burns were so bad, he needed skin grafts. But though this only added to his loathing of the oil inside it, it didnt put him off cooking: I lost a year of school, but I honestly have no bad memories of that time.

It was while hitchhiking through south-east Asia after college that he got interested in the kind of ingredients with which he is now associated. When I was at the Sugar Club [in Wellington], a Malaysian family used to come in for my laksa. It wasnt authentic but they loved it. The owners of the Sugar Club had taken a punt on him, because at this point (1986), hed never run a kitchen on his own. They gave me free rein, and I did everything. We made our own bread, chutney, goats cheese and we dried our own tomatoes this was before sun-dried tomatoes became something you dont talk about.

In his 50s now, he shows no sign of simplifying his life any time soon. The portfolio does need managing, he says, pulling his fingers through his hair distractedly. I do want to travel for work less. I started learning the cello, but didnt have the time for the lessons. But Alastair has this property in the Australian bush that hes always thought would make a good cookery school, so Alastair is his partner, Alastair Carruthers, a leading lawyer and champion of the arts in New Zealand, who is moving to London later this year to be with him, a huge deal for them both. Will he always have a restaurant? Yes, of this hes certain and likely in London, a city he has come to think of as his own. Ive lived here longer than I ever lived in New Zealand. Its still so exciting to me. Even when its hard, its a privilege to be here.

Roast chicken, kumquats, black garlic, kale and avocado

Roast
Photograph: Lisa Linder

Black garlic is a delicious fermented garlic that adds a lovely treacle-caramel flavour and depth to dishes without a strong raw-garlic aftertaste. It is becoming easier to find, but if you have no luck, you can use regular garlic. Kumquats are great here, too, adding a slight bitterness because you use them unpeeled; if unavailable, substitute thinly sliced lemon, mandarins or oranges. Avocado oil works well in any dish that contains avocado. It has a high burning point, which means it is terrific for roasting and pan-frying.

For 6 as a main: serve warm or at room temperature
boneless chicken thighs 8
black garlic cloves 8, sliced
kumquats 8, unpeeled, thinly sliced
fresh rosemary (or fresh thyme or oregano or a mixture) 2 tsp
sunflower seeds 4 tbsp
avocado oil 2 tbsp
red onion 1 small, thinly sliced into rings
kale 200g, thick stems discarded
avocados 2
lemon juice 2 tbsp
cucumber 1, ends discarded, thinly sliced

Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4.Place the chicken thighs, garlic, kumquats, rosemary and sunflower seeds in a roasting dish. Pour on the avocado oil and 2 tablespoons of water and season with salt and pepper. Toss everything together. Roast, turning the chicken several times while cooking, until the chicken is cooked through and the skin is golden and crispy, about 30-40 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave until cool enough to handle, then cut each thigh into four or five slices.

While the chicken is cooking, soak the onion in cold water for 10 minutes, then drain. Meanwhile, blanch or steam the kale for 3 minutes. Tip it into a colander and, when it is cool enough to handle, squeeze out as much water as you can, then coarsely shred it.

Remove the flesh from the avocados and cut into chunks. Mix with the lemon juice to prevent it going brown.

To serve, toss the kale, onion, cucumber and avocado together and lay it on the bottom of a serving dish. Lay the chicken on top then spoon over the contents of the roasting dish.

Crusty baked wasabi mushrooms, spinach, tomato, orange, dill and grated egg

Crusty
Photograph: Lisa Linder

As a child Id only ever eaten big open field mushrooms sliced and fried in butter or grilled on the barbecue after wed harvested them ourselves. My father, Bruce, would drive our Chevrolet Impala slowly across various farmers fields and me and my siblings would lie on our bellies behind the front seat, with our heads, shoulders and arms out of the car, and pull them out of the ground. Thankfully, Dad was a very safe driver! If you dont have wasabi to hand, replace it with mustard or horseradish. Its worth the effort to peel the tomatoes for this salsa, but if youre short of time you can skip this.

For 4 as brunch; serve warm or at room temperature
portobello mushrooms 8 (about 600g)
butter 70g
garlic 2 cloves, finely chopped
rosemary tsp, finely chopped
wasabi paste 1 tsp (more or less to taste)
coarse white breadcrumbs (or use Japanese panko crumbs) 150g
tomatoes 3 large, blanched and peeled
oranges 2, peeled and pith removed, segments removed and any juice saved
dill 3 tbsp, coarsely shredded
extra virgin olive oil 1 tbsp
baby spinach or other baby salad leaf 150g
eggs 4 large, soft boiled and peeled

Preheat the oven to 170C/gas mark 3. If the mushrooms have thick stalks, cut them out and thinly slice. Lay the mushrooms in one or two baking dishes, open side facing up. Heat the butter in a frying pan over a medium heat with the garlic, rosemary and sliced mushroom stalks (if using), and cook until the garlic turns golden, stirring frequently. Remove the pan from the heat. Mix the wasabi paste with 1 tablespoon of water to form a slurry and stir into the butter. Stir in the breadcrumbs thoroughly. Spoon this mixture on top of the mushrooms and bake until the crumbs are golden, about 20 minutes.

Cut the tomatoes in half crossways and gently squeeze out the seeds, or use a teaspoon to scoop them out. Cut the tomato flesh into chunks and mix with the orange segments and juice. Add the dill and olive oil, season with salt and coarse black pepper and stir.

To serve, divide the spinach among your plates and sit the mushrooms on top. Spoon on the tomato and orange and then, using a coarse grater, grate the eggs over the top.

Chilli-roast sweet potato, courgettes, roast garlic, hazelnuts and pears

Chilli-roast
Photograph: Lisa Linder

This is one for the middle of the table, although it also makes a tasty starter with goats curd dolloped on top, or even some thinly sliced smoked chicken breast. You dont need to boil the garlic, but it makes it a little more mellow.

For 8 as a side dish; serve warm or at room temperature
garlic 1 head, broken into separate (unpeeled) cloves
sweet potatoes 1kg, skins scrubbed, cut lengthways into wedges
pears 2 large, halved, core removed, cut into thin wedges
red chillies 1 or 2, thinly sliced
rosemary leaves 1 tbsp
olive oil 2 tbsp
sesame oil 2 tbsp
courgettes 3 (around 600g), quartered lengthways
hazelnuts 100g, skins off, roughly chopped
baby spinach 100g (or use large-leaf spinach and coarsely shred it)

Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4.Put the garlic in a pan, cover with 3cm water and add teaspoon of fine salt. Bring to the boil, then cook over a medium heat until the water has almost evaporated. Drain.

Put the garlic, sweet potatoes, pears, chillies, rosemary, olive oil and half the sesame oil into a roasting dish. Sprinkle on 1 teaspoon of salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Roast in the oven for 45 minutes, tossing twice.

Add the courgettes, hazelnuts and remaining sesame oil and toss together, then cook until the pears and sweet potato are cooked through, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and stir in the spinach.

Farro, capers, herb-baked tomatoes, roast carrots and Parmesan

Farro,
Farro, capers, herb-baked tomatoes, roast carrots and Parmesan Photograph: Lisa Linder

I enjoy farros texture and use it in salads such as this, but also serve it mixed with chopped roast cauliflower tossed with tahini and yogurt, or mixed into raw minced beef or lamb to make patties for the barbecue. Roast tomatoes are great at the height of summer when cooking makes them even sweeter, while in cooler months roasting will improve the flavour of hothouse-raised ones.

For 6 as a starter or side; serve warm or at room temperature
farro 300g, rinsed and drained
onion , chopped
bay leaf 1
baby capers 3 tbsp
red wine vinegar 2 tbsp
carrots 3, peeled and tops cut off, halved lengthways
extra virgin olive oil 4 tbsp
fresh thyme leaves 1 tsp
plum tomatoes 6, halved lengthways
oregano 1 tsp, roughly chopped
rosemary tsp chopped
rocket 2 handfuls
parmesan 50g, shaved with a sharp knife

Preheat the oven to 170C/gas mark 3. Put the farro in a medium pan, cover with 3cm of cold water and add the onion and bay leaf. Bring to the boil and put a lid on the pan. Reduce the heat to a rapid simmer and cook until tender, about 40 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon of flaky salt after 20 minutes. Drain in a colander, then transfer to a large bowl. Taste for seasoning and mix in the capers and vinegar. Leave to cool.

While the farro is cooking, lay the carrots in a roasting dish, drizzle on 2 tablespoons of the oil and half the thyme, then season with salt and pepper and add 2 tablespoons of water. Roast until cooked, about 30 minutes; you should be able to easily insert a sharp knife through them.

Cut each into five or six pieces on an angle. Lay the tomato halves, cut side up, on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment. Mix the oregano, rosemary and the remaining thyme and 2 tablespoons of oil and drizzle this on the tomatoes. Sprinkle with a little salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bake for 40-50 minutes until the tomatoes have shrunk a little and coloured slightly. To serve, toss the rocket loosely through the farro and divide among your plates. Sit the carrots and tomatoes on top, pour on any roasting juices from either and scatter with the parmesan shavings.

Butternut squash with coconut, radicchio, chicory and feta

Butternut
Photograph: Lisa Linder

You could use pumpkin instead of butternut, or even celeriac or parsnips. I cracked open a whole coconut, then used a vegetable peeler to peel strips off it but you can simply use any desiccated coconut. If feta isnt your thing, then replace it with coarsely grated pecorino, manchego, aged cheddar or parmesan.

For 4 as a starter or 6 as a side; serve warm or at room temperature
butternut squash flesh 600g, cut into large chunks
pumpkin seeds 3 tbsp
cumin seeds tsp
extra virgin olive oil 2 tbsp
desiccated coconut 40g (or fresh coconut, 100g, shredded)
radicchio head, cut lengthways
white or red chicory 1
feta 125g, crumbled
chives 2 tbsp, snipped
pomegranate seeds from
lemon juice 1 tbsp

Preheat the oven to 170C/gas mark 3.Put the butternut in a roasting dish with the pumpkin seeds and cumin seeds, 1 tablespoons of the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of water. Season with a little salt (not too much as feta is salty) and black pepper and mix together. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes, then stir in the coconut. Continue cooking, tossing every 10 minutes, until the butternut has coloured and you can insert a knife through it with little resistance. It should take about 30-45 minutes.

Separate the leaves of the radicchio, discarding the thick white stalks. Tear up the larger ones. Cut the base from the chictory and separate the leaves. Cut the larger leaves in half lengthways.

To serve, simply toss everything together with the remaining olive oil, tasting for seasoning.

Smoked mackerel, beetroot, egg, apple and dill miso mustard dressing

smoked

The slightly bitter hints that smoking gives to a piece of fish and a generally sweetish cure is a perfect combination in my view. You can use any smoked fish for this. There are many different styles of miso paste but generally the pale ones, such as shiromiso (white miso), will be sweeter, whereas darker ones, such as hatchomiso, will be more savoury. Taste the dressing to make sure it has a good combination of sweet and savoury.

For 4 as a lunchtime dish; serve warm or at room temperature
beetroot 2 medium
extra virgin olive oil 1 tbsp
lemon juice 2 tbsp
Chioggia (striped) beetroot 1 small, for garnish
smoked mackerel fillets 400g (about 4)
baby salad leaves 1 handful
eggs 4, soft boiled and peeled
apple 1

For the dill mustard dressing
lemon juice 2 tbsp
pale miso paste tsp
grain mustard 1 tsp
English mustard tsp
caster sugar tsp
fresh dill 2 tsp chopped
extra virgin olive oil 2 tbsp

Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4. Wash any dirt off the two beetroot, then wrap them up together tightly in foil. Place in a roasting dish and bake in the middle of the oven until you can insert a thin sharp knife or skewer through the foil into the centre of the beetroot. This will take anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes depending on their size. Remove from the oven and leave until cool enough to handle. Still wearing gloves, unwrap from the foil and then use your fingers, and a small knife if needed, to rub and peel off the skins.

Thickly slice the roast beetroot while still warm and toss with the olive oil, 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice and salt and pepper, then leave to cool.

Peel the Chioggia beet and slice as thin as possible into rings a mandoline is ideal. Put in iced water to crisp up.

Make the dressing. Mix the lemon juice into the miso paste to form a slurry. Mix in both mustards and sugar. Finally stir in the dill and the olive oil.

Remove the skin, bones and blood line from the mackerel, then break into chunks. To serve, scatter the salad leaves on four plates. Lay the roast beetroot slices on top, then the mackerel and Chioggia beets. Cut the eggs in half and julienne the apple, discarding the core, and sit these on top. Spoon over the dressing. OFM

Extracted from Savour: Salads for all Seasons by Peter Gordon (Jacqui Small, 25). Click here to order a copy for 20 from Guardian Bookshop

How Iowa’s state fair became a key pilgrimage for presidential politics

Although Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump havent confirmed if they will show up this year, fairgoers get ready for deep-fried everything and partisan games

Its opening day at the Iowa State Fair. The summer heat sticks like wet cotton candy. The rain spreads the smell of fried dough and penned livestock throughout the fairgrounds.

A throng of popped umbrellas makes its way toward the ticketing booth while volunteers theatrically wave cars into parking spots. A teenager with no hint of midwestern congeniality scans tickets. Somewhere nearby, a troupe of young children sing Our State Fair.

Our state fair is a great state fair / Dont miss it, dont even be late.

Its dollars to doughnuts that our state fair / Is the best state fair in our state!

What started more than 150 years ago as an agricultural expo has spun into one of the great American traditions, the state fair. Along the way, a quirk of the political process gave Iowa first draw in the presidential primaries, and brought the fair international recognition.

Its been one year since the most recent crop of presidential aspirants made the pilgrimage to Des Moines. The fields have been whittled. The parties have accepted their nominees, though not without dissent: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Despite a close race in Iowa, neither candidate has indicated they will attend the fair this year. Some Iowans dont mind.

Oh, I hate it! said Mitchell Collins, who said hes worked at the grandstand for too many years to count. The politicians come with their security details and all the press. The concourse is a mess. You just have to wait until they leave.

But presidential prospects playing Little House on the Prairie is good for business: the fair attracts more than a million visitors a year, and in 2014 the it pulled in more than $20m in revenue over its 11-day run.

Inside the Iowa state fair

For most of the world, the fair is a stage for Americas political debutantes. For local residents, its about everything else.

The fairgrounds, like a board game or the state itself, is mostly flat and rectangular. A concourse divides the 445-acre grounds. There are the Grandstand shows (Kiss, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Dierks Bently, Lady Antebellum), candy-colored midway rides, livestock competitions, livestock venues, obscure contests for cash prizes (eg the cow chip throwing contest and the twins and triplets lookalike contest), agricultural lessons (how to milk a cow) and vendors who hawk everything from John Deere tractors to cowhide lampshades.

But perhaps the fairs biggest draw is the local fare, mostly deep fried. On the menu: bacon-wrapped chicken wings, deep-fried nacho balls, Totchos (loaded tater tots), smoked chicken drummies wrapped in bacon, maple bacon funnel cake and, new this year, fruit kebobs fried in funnel cake batter.

At lunchtime, the fairground burns like a kiln. Fairgoers move down the concourse in a sluggish mass. Nearly every other person has their neck craned, teeth sunk deep into a pork chop. Not far enough away inside the Swine barn, pigs with names such as Buzzard Billy and Cotton Ball lie on wood chips in their pens.

Further down the fairway, visitors rotate through the agriculture building to take photos of the Butter Cow congealing behind a glass display. This year, the 600lb bovine is accompanied by a butter replica of the USS Enterprise from Star Trek.

Along the bottom of the display, a timeline traces the cows history: 1971: The cow is accompanied by a calf. [Sculptor Norma Duffy] Lyon loved sculpting cows but disliked sculpting calves.

The center of the political universe

The Iowa caucuses mark the official start of the presidential primary season, giving residents of this largely white state an outsized role in selecting Americas next leader. The price is that their beloved state fair turns into a political circus every four years.

The trick for out-of-town politicos is to blend in while standing out. Dress the part. Radiate down-home charm. And above all, indulge in the local cuisine, preferably something on a stick and ideally in view of the cameras.

Clintons discomfort with retail politics a meet-and-greet style that Iowans demand hurt her in the 2008 caucuses, when she finished third, behind Barack Obama and John Edwards.

But in 2015, Clinton returned, with staff, a security detail and a crush of reporters in tow, eager to prove shed learned her lesson. She wore a festive gingham blouse, chatted with fairgoers and gesticulated with full hands in one she held a pork chop on a stick and in the other a plastic bottle of fresh-squeezed lemonade.

Suddenly, the crowds gaze shifted upward. It was Trump zipping by in a helicopter, his name on its side. He wore a dark blazer a bold choice in 90-degree heat and his trademark Make America Great Again cap. From his entrance to his appearance, Trump upended, or perhaps ended altogether, a tradition of modern presidential politics.

Ive never seen anything like it, said Mike Nuttal, recalling the crowds manic response to Trumps arrival. Nuttal and his wife, Theresa, had hoped to glimpse the businessman, their choice for president, but they never got close enough.

The scene foretold a great deal: a humbled Clinton, in the midst of a meticulously laid plan that was torpedoed by Trump, making a flamboyant landing from thin air to Earth. Yet on that summers day in 2015, when given the chance, Clinton went after Jeb Bush. Trump was a celebrity sideshow.

Trump would lose Iowa, an embarrassing defeat for a man who despises losers. Clinton would declare herself the winner of the caucuses well before it was clear shed won. (The Associated Press called it the next morning: she won by a fraction of a point.)

Now the candidates are back in Iowa, steadying for a bruising battle for the states six electoral votes.

Iowa is the center of the political universe during the caucus period and then the morning after, we fall off the face of the Earth, said Dennis Goldford, a political science professor at Drake University. Normally our electoral votes dont matter.

But this year is different, as Trumps path to the White House may depend on winning the state. And with less than 90 days before the election, opinion polls show voters here are evenly divided between and almost equally displeased with
both candidates.

Iowa is the swingiest swing state, said Tim Albrecht, GOP strategist in Iowa. But ultimately I think its Trumps to lose.

Trump and his vice-presidential candidate, Indiana governor Mike Pence, have visited the state a number of times in past weeks. Clinton returned to Iowa for the first time on Wednesday.

The Torres family, sitting on a bench along the fairs concourse, said they would vote for Clinton and wondered how it was possible so many people in their state could support Trump.

I want a president that supports equality, Jessica Torres said. She added that her family felt discriminated against by some of Trumps remarks about Mexicans and immigrants.

And a vital minority, still pursued by these un-Iowan politicians a year later, could again sway an election: the men and women who are undecided between the Washington fixture and the tabloid star of reality TV.

I dont know who Im going to vote for yet, Collins, the grandstand worker, said. I may go third party. I may just write in Donald Duck. But hey piece of advice. Dont leave without trying the red velvet funnel cake. You wont regret it.

How to eat like Iron Chef Marc Forgione in Hong Kong

(CNN)Chef Marc Forgione made his name with a “new American” approach to food.

“I’m addicted to congee now. I had the fish belly and then I had the offal one … this was like heaven,” Forgione tells CNN.
The restaurateur discovered the traditional Chinese rice porridge dish while in Hong Kong to host a series of April pop-up meals at local restaurant Lily & Bloom.
    Those lucky enough to nab a seat at one of his four meals were treated to a degustation menu, demonstrating his contemporary New York style of cooking.
    From barbeque oysters — a favorite at his signature New York restaurant — to a melt-in-the mouth pastrami steak, Forgione delivered the piquancy of his New York favorites alongside matching cocktails.
    Outside of the kitchen, Forgione did some exploring of his own, trying Cantonese classics like wonton noodle soup, roast goose and egg custard tarts.
    “The food is above and beyond what I thought it was going to be,” the chef says of his Hong Kong culinary travels.
    “I almost feel like I’d never really tasted Chinese food until I got here. It’s really opened my eyes.”
    Forgione shares some of his favorite spots with CNN so you too can eat like an Iron Chef in Hong Kong.

    Best congee: Law Fu Kee

    “We were definitely the only Westerners at Law Fu Kee — it was not a tourist place by any means,” Forgione says of his favorite congee shop, which became a regular haunt during his stay.
    “The little garnish that they give you, it’s almost like a scallion and ginger salad.
    “I was shown that you put the salad in the bottom of the bowl, add a little chili oil, then the congee, and then the salad kind of breaks down a little bit. As you are eating, you kind of get a couple of pieces of that crunch. It’s like my new addiction. I hope I can find that in New York.”
    Law Fu Kee, G/F, 50 Lyndhurst Terrace, Central, Hong Kong; +852 2850 6756

    Best wonton noodle soup: Mak’s Noodles

    “I’m Italian and I love making pasta — the dough is always a big part of it,” says Forgione.
    “The wrapper on the dumpling [at Mak’s Noodles] was so light it was almost invisible. I ended up drinking the broth out of the bowl.”
    Mak’s Noodles, 77 Wellington St, Central, Hong Kong; +852 2854 3810

    Best egg tart: Tai Cheong Bakery

    “My favorite dessert, hands down, is lemon meringue and when you look at the egg custard, it looks exactly like a lemon meringue,” says Forgione of the ubiquitous Hong Kong dessert.
    “Your brain is saying, ‘This is going to be sweet’ and, instead, it was a nice savory egg custard.”
    Tai Cheong Bakery, Shop C, G/F, 35 Lyndhurst Terrace, Central, Hong Kong; +852 8300 8301

    Best roast goose: Yat Lok

    “We asked for napkins, they said no. We asked for a glass of water, they said no. I’m not making this up,” Forgione says of the no-frills Cantonese service he received at this one Michelin-starred Hong Kong favorite, said to serve some of the city’s best roast goose.
    “They don’t care who I am and we just ate the roast goose for lunch — it was incredible.”
    Yat Lok, Conwell House, G/F, 34-38 Stanley St, Central, Hong Kong; +852 2524 3882

    Best Shanghainese: Hong Kong Lao Shang Hai Restaurant

    “This was the most interesting meal,” says Forgione.
    “We had a cold pigeon dish, jelly fish, there was a cold smoked chicken and fish lips — not really fish lips, it’s like cartilage — I loved it.
    “I said put it in front of me — I love that texture, it almost tasted like the fat part of a pork belly.”
    Hong Kong Lao Shang Hai Restaurant, UG1/F, Novotel Century Hong Kong, 238 Jaffe Rd, Wan Chai, Hong Kong; +852 2827 9339

    Best chicken: Yardbird

    “This place was really cool and the food is great,” says Forgione.
    “I think chicken’s an under-appreciated animal, because it gets butchered a lot — it becomes the forgotten protein. But we had 14 courses of chicken.
    “Also, the sake sommelier — he’s been accepted by Japan as an official sake master. I’ve never had somebody describe sake to me with that passion and education.”

    Best Szechuan: Man Jiang Hong Xiao Tian Tian

    “We ate at a Sichuan restaurant the first night — got off the plane, took a shower, had a drink downstairs and boom! Incredible,” recalls Forgione.
    “We had frog legs, we had fish in red broth, we had a soft shell crab on top of a bed of probably a hundred chilies.
    “I thought it was going to be punch-me-in-the-face spicy, but it was it was like a controlled heat with a big bottle of Tsing Tao [beer]. It was awesome.”
    Man Jiang Hong Xiao Tian Tian, 393 Lockhart Rd, Wan Chai, Hong Kong; +852 2836 6971

    Best xiao long bao: Din Tai Fung

    “Soup dumplings — amazing. I had to a get a lesson on how to properly eat them, it was great,” says Forgione of the award-winning steamed pork dumplings at this world-famous chain of Taiwanese dumpling restaurants.

    Best brisket noodles: Kau Kee

    “So good! They serve three different types of noodles. We got the curry, beef and the regular beef,” recalls Forgione.
    “It’s communal seating and the guy sitting next to me was slurping loudly, so I basically just kind of joined in and did my best.
    “I’m going to try and bring that back to my Italian side of the family when we’re eating our spaghetti.”
    Kau Kee, 21 Gough St, Central, Hong Kong; +852 2850 5967

    Best cocktails: KWOON

    “The canned rose, I think it’s genius. I don’t know if it tasted better because of the way it’s served, but it’s cool,” Forgione says of the “artisanal canned cocktails” at KWOON, a recent addition to the Hong Kong bar scene.

    How Iowa’s state fair became a key pilgrimage for presidential politics

    Although Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump havent confirmed if they will show up this year, fairgoers get ready for deep-fried everything and partisan games

    Its opening day at the Iowa State Fair. The summer heat sticks like wet cotton candy. The rain spreads the smell of fried dough and penned livestock throughout the fairgrounds.

    A throng of popped umbrellas makes its way toward the ticketing booth while volunteers theatrically wave cars into parking spots. A teenager with no hint of midwestern congeniality scans tickets. Somewhere nearby, a troupe of young children sing Our State Fair.

    Our state fair is a great state fair / Dont miss it, dont even be late.

    Its dollars to doughnuts that our state fair / Is the best state fair in our state!

    What started more than 150 years ago as an agricultural expo has spun into one of the great American traditions, the state fair. Along the way, a quirk of the political process gave Iowa first draw in the presidential primaries, and brought the fair international recognition.

    Its been one year since the most recent crop of presidential aspirants made the pilgrimage to Des Moines. The fields have been whittled. The parties have accepted their nominees, though not without dissent: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

    Despite a close race in Iowa, neither candidate has indicated they will attend the fair this year. Some Iowans dont mind.

    Oh, I hate it! said Mitchell Collins, who said hes worked at the grandstand for too many years to count. The politicians come with their security details and all the press. The concourse is a mess. You just have to wait until they leave.

    But presidential prospects playing Little House on the Prairie is good for business: the fair attracts more than a million visitors a year, and in 2014 the it pulled in more than $20m in revenue over its 11-day run.

    Inside the Iowa state fair

    For most of the world, the fair is a stage for Americas political debutantes. For local residents, its about everything else.

    The fairgrounds, like a board game or the state itself, is mostly flat and rectangular. A concourse divides the 445-acre grounds. There are the Grandstand shows (Kiss, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Dierks Bently, Lady Antebellum), candy-colored midway rides, livestock competitions, livestock venues, obscure contests for cash prizes (eg the cow chip throwing contest and the twins and triplets lookalike contest), agricultural lessons (how to milk a cow) and vendors who hawk everything from John Deere tractors to cowhide lampshades.

    But perhaps the fairs biggest draw is the local fare, mostly deep fried. On the menu: bacon-wrapped chicken wings, deep-fried nacho balls, Totchos (loaded tater tots), smoked chicken drummies wrapped in bacon, maple bacon funnel cake and, new this year, fruit kebobs fried in funnel cake batter.

    At lunchtime, the fairground burns like a kiln. Fairgoers move down the concourse in a sluggish mass. Nearly every other person has their neck craned, teeth sunk deep into a pork chop. Not far enough away inside the Swine barn, pigs with names such as Buzzard Billy and Cotton Ball lie on wood chips in their pens.

    Further down the fairway, visitors rotate through the agriculture building to take photos of the Butter Cow congealing behind a glass display. This year, the 600lb bovine is accompanied by a butter replica of the USS Enterprise from Star Trek.

    Along the bottom of the display, a timeline traces the cows history: 1971: The cow is accompanied by a calf. [Sculptor Norma Duffy] Lyon loved sculpting cows but disliked sculpting calves.

    The center of the political universe

    The Iowa caucuses mark the official start of the presidential primary season, giving residents of this largely white state an outsized role in selecting Americas next leader. The price is that their beloved state fair turns into a political circus every four years.

    The trick for out-of-town politicos is to blend in while standing out. Dress the part. Radiate down-home charm. And above all, indulge in the local cuisine, preferably something on a stick and ideally in view of the cameras.

    Clintons discomfort with retail politics a meet-and-greet style that Iowans demand hurt her in the 2008 caucuses, when she finished third, behind Barack Obama and John Edwards.

    But in 2015, Clinton returned, with staff, a security detail and a crush of reporters in tow, eager to prove shed learned her lesson. She wore a festive gingham blouse, chatted with fairgoers and gesticulated with full hands in one she held a pork chop on a stick and in the other a plastic bottle of fresh-squeezed lemonade.

    Suddenly, the crowds gaze shifted upward. It was Trump zipping by in a helicopter, his name on its side. He wore a dark blazer a bold choice in 90-degree heat and his trademark Make America Great Again cap. From his entrance to his appearance, Trump upended, or perhaps ended altogether, a tradition of modern presidential politics.

    Ive never seen anything like it, said Mike Nuttal, recalling the crowds manic response to Trumps arrival. Nuttal and his wife, Theresa, had hoped to glimpse the businessman, their choice for president, but they never got close enough.

    The scene foretold a great deal: a humbled Clinton, in the midst of a meticulously laid plan that was torpedoed by Trump, making a flamboyant landing from thin air to Earth. Yet on that summers day in 2015, when given the chance, Clinton went after Jeb Bush. Trump was a celebrity sideshow.

    Trump would lose Iowa, an embarrassing defeat for a man who despises losers. Clinton would declare herself the winner of the caucuses well before it was clear shed won. (The Associated Press called it the next morning: she won by a fraction of a point.)

    Now the candidates are back in Iowa, steadying for a bruising battle for the states six electoral votes.

    Iowa is the center of the political universe during the caucus period and then the morning after, we fall off the face of the Earth, said Dennis Goldford, a political science professor at Drake University. Normally our electoral votes dont matter.

    But this year is different, as Trumps path to the White House may depend on winning the state. And with less than 90 days before the election, opinion polls show voters here are evenly divided between and almost equally displeased with
    both candidates.

    Iowa is the swingiest swing state, said Tim Albrecht, GOP strategist in Iowa. But ultimately I think its Trumps to lose.

    Trump and his vice-presidential candidate, Indiana governor Mike Pence, have visited the state a number of times in past weeks. Clinton returned to Iowa for the first time on Wednesday.

    The Torres family, sitting on a bench along the fairs concourse, said they would vote for Clinton and wondered how it was possible so many people in their state could support Trump.

    I want a president that supports equality, Jessica Torres said. She added that her family felt discriminated against by some of Trumps remarks about Mexicans and immigrants.

    And a vital minority, still pursued by these un-Iowan politicians a year later, could again sway an election: the men and women who are undecided between the Washington fixture and the tabloid star of reality TV.

    I dont know who Im going to vote for yet, Collins, the grandstand worker, said. I may go third party. I may just write in Donald Duck. But hey piece of advice. Dont leave without trying the red velvet funnel cake. You wont regret it.

    How Iowa’s state fair became a key pilgrimage for presidential politics

    Although Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump havent confirmed if they will show up this year, fairgoers get ready for deep-fried everything and partisan games

    Its opening day at the Iowa State Fair. The summer heat sticks like wet cotton candy. The rain spreads the smell of fried dough and penned livestock throughout the fairgrounds.

    A throng of popped umbrellas makes its way toward the ticketing booth while volunteers theatrically wave cars into parking spots. A teenager with no hint of midwestern congeniality scans tickets. Somewhere nearby, a troupe of young children sing Our State Fair.

    Our state fair is a great state fair / Dont miss it, dont even be late.

    Its dollars to doughnuts that our state fair / Is the best state fair in our state!

    What started more than 150 years ago as an agricultural expo has spun into one of the great American traditions, the state fair. Along the way, a quirk of the political process gave Iowa first draw in the presidential primaries, and brought the fair international recognition.

    Its been one year since the most recent crop of presidential aspirants made the pilgrimage to Des Moines. The fields have been whittled. The parties have accepted their nominees, though not without dissent: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

    Despite a close race in Iowa, neither candidate has indicated they will attend the fair this year. Some Iowans dont mind.

    Oh, I hate it! said Mitchell Collins, who said hes worked at the grandstand for too many years to count. The politicians come with their security details and all the press. The concourse is a mess. You just have to wait until they leave.

    But presidential prospects playing Little House on the Prairie is good for business: the fair attracts more than a million visitors a year, and in 2014 the it pulled in more than $20m in revenue over its 11-day run.

    Inside the Iowa state fair

    For most of the world, the fair is a stage for Americas political debutantes. For local residents, its about everything else.

    The fairgrounds, like a board game or the state itself, is mostly flat and rectangular. A concourse divides the 445-acre grounds. There are the Grandstand shows (Kiss, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Dierks Bently, Lady Antebellum), candy-colored midway rides, livestock competitions, livestock venues, obscure contests for cash prizes (eg the cow chip throwing contest and the twins and triplets lookalike contest), agricultural lessons (how to milk a cow) and vendors who hawk everything from John Deere tractors to cowhide lampshades.

    But perhaps the fairs biggest draw is the local fare, mostly deep fried. On the menu: bacon-wrapped chicken wings, deep-fried nacho balls, Totchos (loaded tater tots), smoked chicken drummies wrapped in bacon, maple bacon funnel cake and, new this year, fruit kebobs fried in funnel cake batter.

    At lunchtime, the fairground burns like a kiln. Fairgoers move down the concourse in a sluggish mass. Nearly every other person has their neck craned, teeth sunk deep into a pork chop. Not far enough away inside the Swine barn, pigs with names such as Buzzard Billy and Cotton Ball lie on wood chips in their pens.

    Further down the fairway, visitors rotate through the agriculture building to take photos of the Butter Cow congealing behind a glass display. This year, the 600lb bovine is accompanied by a butter replica of the USS Enterprise from Star Trek.

    Along the bottom of the display, a timeline traces the cows history: 1971: The cow is accompanied by a calf. [Sculptor Norma Duffy] Lyon loved sculpting cows but disliked sculpting calves.

    The center of the political universe

    The Iowa caucuses mark the official start of the presidential primary season, giving residents of this largely white state an outsized role in selecting Americas next leader. The price is that their beloved state fair turns into a political circus every four years.

    The trick for out-of-town politicos is to blend in while standing out. Dress the part. Radiate down-home charm. And above all, indulge in the local cuisine, preferably something on a stick and ideally in view of the cameras.

    Clintons discomfort with retail politics a meet-and-greet style that Iowans demand hurt her in the 2008 caucuses, when she finished third, behind Barack Obama and John Edwards.

    But in 2015, Clinton returned, with staff, a security detail and a crush of reporters in tow, eager to prove shed learned her lesson. She wore a festive gingham blouse, chatted with fairgoers and gesticulated with full hands in one she held a pork chop on a stick and in the other a plastic bottle of fresh-squeezed lemonade.

    Suddenly, the crowds gaze shifted upward. It was Trump zipping by in a helicopter, his name on its side. He wore a dark blazer a bold choice in 90-degree heat and his trademark Make America Great Again cap. From his entrance to his appearance, Trump upended, or perhaps ended altogether, a tradition of modern presidential politics.

    Ive never seen anything like it, said Mike Nuttal, recalling the crowds manic response to Trumps arrival. Nuttal and his wife, Theresa, had hoped to glimpse the businessman, their choice for president, but they never got close enough.

    The scene foretold a great deal: a humbled Clinton, in the midst of a meticulously laid plan that was torpedoed by Trump, making a flamboyant landing from thin air to Earth. Yet on that summers day in 2015, when given the chance, Clinton went after Jeb Bush. Trump was a celebrity sideshow.

    Trump would lose Iowa, an embarrassing defeat for a man who despises losers. Clinton would declare herself the winner of the caucuses well before it was clear shed won. (The Associated Press called it the next morning: she won by a fraction of a point.)

    Now the candidates are back in Iowa, steadying for a bruising battle for the states six electoral votes.

    Iowa is the center of the political universe during the caucus period and then the morning after, we fall off the face of the Earth, said Dennis Goldford, a political science professor at Drake University. Normally our electoral votes dont matter.

    But this year is different, as Trumps path to the White House may depend on winning the state. And with less than 90 days before the election, opinion polls show voters here are evenly divided between and almost equally displeased with
    both candidates.

    Iowa is the swingiest swing state, said Tim Albrecht, GOP strategist in Iowa. But ultimately I think its Trumps to lose.

    Trump and his vice-presidential candidate, Indiana governor Mike Pence, have visited the state a number of times in past weeks. Clinton returned to Iowa for the first time on Wednesday.

    The Torres family, sitting on a bench along the fairs concourse, said they would vote for Clinton and wondered how it was possible so many people in their state could support Trump.

    I want a president that supports equality, Jessica Torres said. She added that her family felt discriminated against by some of Trumps remarks about Mexicans and immigrants.

    And a vital minority, still pursued by these un-Iowan politicians a year later, could again sway an election: the men and women who are undecided between the Washington fixture and the tabloid star of reality TV.

    I dont know who Im going to vote for yet, Collins, the grandstand worker, said. I may go third party. I may just write in Donald Duck. But hey piece of advice. Dont leave without trying the red velvet funnel cake. You wont regret it.

    Let’s be real guys, Chili’s is kind of great

    Twitter erupted like a Molten Chocolate Cake on Saturday when vice presidential candidate Mike Pence admitted to eating dinner at Chili’s. At 4pm. In New York City, ostensibly one of the best culinary cities in the world.

    But while it’s cool to be hard on Pence, let’s soften our hearts a bit for Chili’s. Pence’s real sin was eating dinner at 4:30pm the truth is, there are many Chili’s menu items that even our jaded urban hearts can love.

    Here are a few of our picks, which we cannot promise resemble these photos in real life.

    1. Onion rings dipped in ranch dressing

    Image: twitter/chili’s

    It works. Trust us.

    2. Steak fajitas

    Image: twitter/chili’s

    That trademark sizzle adds an extra dash of excitement.

    3. Quesadillas

    Image: twitter/chili’s

    We recommend the smoked chicken.

    4. Molten Lava Cake

    Image: twitter/chili’s

    Looks just like a volcano! So fun.

    5. Ribs

    Image: twitter/chili’s

    The most famous dish at Chili’s, these ribs are sincerely delicious. They are also the inspiration for that “baby back ribs” song your dad loves to sing.

    6. $5 Presidente margaritas

    Image: twitter/chili’s

    This is just a solid deal.

    7. This cookie inside of a pan

    Image: twitter/chili’s

    Who could turn down a big ol’ skillet cookie?

    8. Fried asparagus

    Image: twitter/chili’s

    In case you were wondering, that dip is totally mayonnaise.

    9. Burger

    Image: twitter/chili’s

    “Not the best, but not bad.” our endorsement of this burger, and also the GOP’s endorsement of Donald Trump.

    10. Chili queso

    Image: twitter/zagat

    Trust us. This beefy cheese dip is very delicious. Even Zagat thinks so.

    11. Triple Dippers

    Image: twitter/chili’s

    The culinary embodiment of the phrase “everything happens so much” we’re here for it.

    Hope you made the right choices, Mike Pence. Let’s just shoot for 5 o’clock dinner next time, okay? Great.

    Have something to add to this story? Share it in the comments.

    Let’s be real guys, Chili’s is kind of great

    Twitter erupted like a Molten Chocolate Cake on Saturday when vice presidential candidate Mike Pence admitted to eating dinner at Chili’s. At 4pm. In New York City, ostensibly one of the best culinary cities in the world.

    But while it’s cool to be hard on Pence, let’s soften our hearts a bit for Chili’s. Pence’s real sin was eating dinner at 4:30pm the truth is, there are many Chili’s menu items that even our jaded urban hearts can love.

    Here are a few of our picks, which we cannot promise resemble these photos in real life.

    1. Onion rings dipped in ranch dressing

    Image: twitter/chili’s

    It works. Trust us.

    2. Steak fajitas

    Image: twitter/chili’s

    That trademark sizzle adds an extra dash of excitement.

    3. Quesadillas

    Image: twitter/chili’s

    We recommend the smoked chicken.

    4. Molten Lava Cake

    Image: twitter/chili’s

    Looks just like a volcano! So fun.

    5. Ribs

    Image: twitter/chili’s

    The most famous dish at Chili’s, these ribs are sincerely delicious. They are also the inspiration for that “baby back ribs” song your dad loves to sing.

    6. $5 Presidente margaritas

    Image: twitter/chili’s

    This is just a solid deal.

    7. This cookie inside of a pan

    Image: twitter/chili’s

    Who could turn down a big ol’ skillet cookie?

    8. Fried asparagus

    Image: twitter/chili’s

    In case you were wondering, that dip is totally mayonnaise.

    9. Burger

    Image: twitter/chili’s

    “Not the best, but not bad.” our endorsement of this burger, and also the GOP’s endorsement of Donald Trump.

    10. Chili queso

    Image: twitter/zagat

    Trust us. This beefy cheese dip is very delicious. Even Zagat thinks so.

    11. Triple Dippers

    Image: twitter/chili’s

    The culinary embodiment of the phrase “everything happens so much” we’re here for it.

    Hope you made the right choices, Mike Pence. Let’s just shoot for 5 o’clock dinner next time, okay? Great.

    Have something to add to this story? Share it in the comments.

    How to eat like Iron Chef Marc Forgione in Hong Kong

    (CNN)Chef Marc Forgione made his name with a “new American” approach to food.

    “I’m addicted to congee now. I had the fish belly and then I had the offal one … this was like heaven,” Forgione tells CNN.
    The restaurateur discovered the traditional Chinese rice porridge dish while in Hong Kong to host a series of April pop-up meals at local restaurant Lily & Bloom.
      Those lucky enough to nab a seat at one of his four meals were treated to a degustation menu, demonstrating his contemporary New York style of cooking.
      From barbeque oysters — a favorite at his signature New York restaurant — to a melt-in-the mouth pastrami steak, Forgione delivered the piquancy of his New York favorites alongside matching cocktails.
      Outside of the kitchen, Forgione did some exploring of his own, trying Cantonese classics like wonton noodle soup, roast goose and egg custard tarts.
      “The food is above and beyond what I thought it was going to be,” the chef says of his Hong Kong culinary travels.
      “I almost feel like I’d never really tasted Chinese food until I got here. It’s really opened my eyes.”
      Forgione shares some of his favorite spots with CNN so you too can eat like an Iron Chef in Hong Kong.

      Best congee: Law Fu Kee

      “We were definitely the only Westerners at Law Fu Kee — it was not a tourist place by any means,” Forgione says of his favorite congee shop, which became a regular haunt during his stay.
      “The little garnish that they give you, it’s almost like a scallion and ginger salad.
      “I was shown that you put the salad in the bottom of the bowl, add a little chili oil, then the congee, and then the salad kind of breaks down a little bit. As you are eating, you kind of get a couple of pieces of that crunch. It’s like my new addiction. I hope I can find that in New York.”
      Law Fu Kee, G/F, 50 Lyndhurst Terrace, Central, Hong Kong; +852 2850 6756

      Best wonton noodle soup: Mak’s Noodles

      “I’m Italian and I love making pasta — the dough is always a big part of it,” says Forgione.
      “The wrapper on the dumpling [at Mak’s Noodles] was so light it was almost invisible. I ended up drinking the broth out of the bowl.”
      Mak’s Noodles, 77 Wellington St, Central, Hong Kong; +852 2854 3810

      Best egg tart: Tai Cheong Bakery

      “My favorite dessert, hands down, is lemon meringue and when you look at the egg custard, it looks exactly like a lemon meringue,” says Forgione of the ubiquitous Hong Kong dessert.
      “Your brain is saying, ‘This is going to be sweet’ and, instead, it was a nice savory egg custard.”
      Tai Cheong Bakery, Shop C, G/F, 35 Lyndhurst Terrace, Central, Hong Kong; +852 8300 8301

      Best roast goose: Yat Lok

      “We asked for napkins, they said no. We asked for a glass of water, they said no. I’m not making this up,” Forgione says of the no-frills Cantonese service he received at this one Michelin-starred Hong Kong favorite, said to serve some of the city’s best roast goose.
      “They don’t care who I am and we just ate the roast goose for lunch — it was incredible.”
      Yat Lok, Conwell House, G/F, 34-38 Stanley St, Central, Hong Kong; +852 2524 3882

      Best Shanghainese: Hong Kong Lao Shang Hai Restaurant

      “This was the most interesting meal,” says Forgione.
      “We had a cold pigeon dish, jelly fish, there was a cold smoked chicken and fish lips — not really fish lips, it’s like cartilage — I loved it.
      “I said put it in front of me — I love that texture, it almost tasted like the fat part of a pork belly.”
      Hong Kong Lao Shang Hai Restaurant, UG1/F, Novotel Century Hong Kong, 238 Jaffe Rd, Wan Chai, Hong Kong; +852 2827 9339

      Best chicken: Yardbird

      “This place was really cool and the food is great,” says Forgione.
      “I think chicken’s an under-appreciated animal, because it gets butchered a lot — it becomes the forgotten protein. But we had 14 courses of chicken.
      “Also, the sake sommelier — he’s been accepted by Japan as an official sake master. I’ve never had somebody describe sake to me with that passion and education.”

      Best Szechuan: Man Jiang Hong Xiao Tian Tian

      “We ate at a Sichuan restaurant the first night — got off the plane, took a shower, had a drink downstairs and boom! Incredible,” recalls Forgione.
      “We had frog legs, we had fish in red broth, we had a soft shell crab on top of a bed of probably a hundred chilies.
      “I thought it was going to be punch-me-in-the-face spicy, but it was it was like a controlled heat with a big bottle of Tsing Tao [beer]. It was awesome.”
      Man Jiang Hong Xiao Tian Tian, 393 Lockhart Rd, Wan Chai, Hong Kong; +852 2836 6971

      Best xiao long bao: Din Tai Fung

      “Soup dumplings — amazing. I had to a get a lesson on how to properly eat them, it was great,” says Forgione of the award-winning steamed pork dumplings at this world-famous chain of Taiwanese dumpling restaurants.

      Best brisket noodles: Kau Kee

      “So good! They serve three different types of noodles. We got the curry, beef and the regular beef,” recalls Forgione.
      “It’s communal seating and the guy sitting next to me was slurping loudly, so I basically just kind of joined in and did my best.
      “I’m going to try and bring that back to my Italian side of the family when we’re eating our spaghetti.”
      Kau Kee, 21 Gough St, Central, Hong Kong; +852 2850 5967

      Best cocktails: KWOON

      “The canned rose, I think it’s genius. I don’t know if it tasted better because of the way it’s served, but it’s cool,” Forgione says of the “artisanal canned cocktails” at KWOON, a recent addition to the Hong Kong bar scene.