Thursday, September 2, 2010

To Wenirs, With Love

Last fall, when I was in North Carolina, I was introduced to grits. Oh, I had tasted grits before, but they were the sort of industrial grits that are the corn equivalent to those nasty, ubiquitous frozen hash brown potatoes that don't even taste like potatoes that you get in so many diners and Denny's.

In North Carolina, however, you can get real grits - grits with body and flavor, grits mixed with cheese or topped with rapidly-melting butter, a side dish that actually adds something to the plate. I hadn't found grits like that here in NOCA until My Beloved and I went for breakfast at the Brown Sugar Kitchen in Sweet West Oakland.

West Oakland might not strike most people as "sweet." On our way there from Summit Medical Center, we drove through some pretty dilapidated and mean residential neighborhoods to find the Brown Sugar Kitchen in a solidly industrial area. When we arrived around 9:30am, there were a few seats; by the time we left, there was a line out the door. On a Tuesday, no less. Apparently, the food is worth the lack of ambiance in the 'hood.

Once inside, the tenor was actually pretty nice. Cheerful music, the clatter of dishes from the open kitchen and the buzz of conversation in the room combined to heighten our anticipation. We don't usually like noisy restaurants but at the Brown Sugar Kitchen, it's a cheerful vibe. The tables are small and close together but it feels cosy rather than crowded. In the sugar bowl on the table, only packets of brown sugar and on the long counter with seats all filled were pretty sophisticated small fresh flower arrangements, nice touches that signaled this was going to be a good meal.

There on the menu were grits with cheddar cheese; of course, I had to order it. When it arrived, I was pleased to note that the cheese is not dyed orange - it's the color of milk. You'd think that was a given, but so many places use the orange stuff. Cheese was sprinkled on top but it was also in the main body of the grits, as it was cheesy all the way through. A little drift of fresh herbs on top was a nice touch, too. The grits themselves were the creamy kind with very little in the way of texture. I have a preference for the hearty grind that gives a little chewing exercise but these were tasty enough to make up for it.

My Beloved ordered the Brown Sugar Kitchen's signature dish, waffles and fried chicken with apple cider syrup. We both swooned over the waffle, which is made with cornmeal and is as light and crisp as a new dollar bill. Buttered with their cinnamon butter, it was crazy-good. The chicken was fried exactly right - very juicy on the inside, crisp on the outside, and the syrup was quite good, too, but we agreed - either waffles or fried chicken next time, not both, and syrup on chicken is just wrong.

My friend Wenirs hates my posts about grits - she'd rather eat a bug than a bowl of grits. So, I just had to give her a little razzmatazz with my latest post about them. Hi, Wenirs! When you next come for a visit, I'll take you to the Brown Sugar Kitchen, but you can stick to the waffles, which you will love. I promise, no grits.

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Blogger Ms Brown Mouse said...

I used to think bacon and syrup was wrong - until I actually tried it :)

Thursday, September 02, 2010  
Blogger Kailyn said...

Brown Sugar was one of my aunt's favorite restaurants. Next time you're in Oakland, try out Hibiscus. I haven't been there myself but I've heard good things about it. Or Pican if you haven't been there. Both have grits on their menu.

Thursday, September 02, 2010  
Blogger namastenancy said...

Real cheesy grits? You are one lucky woman. My uncle used to send us "care packages" from Louisiana - "real" grits, water ground corn meal, spicy sausage and pickled peppers. Yum! When it's cold, I treat myself to a real Southern breakfast. complete with grits, ham and gravy. Right now, it's too darn hot but when the weather turns cooler, I'm going to cook me up some grits. Your visit sounds delightful and I'm glad that you got introduced to the real thing. "Ain't nothing like the real thing..."

Thursday, September 02, 2010  
Blogger cookiecrumb said...

"light and crisp as a new dollar bill"

C-R-A-A-A-C-K ! ! !

She hits one out of the park. Wow. I am your unworthy student.

Thursday, September 02, 2010  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Ms Mouse, now, bacon and syrup really are delish - but fried chicken and syrup? Hmmm...

Kailyn, thanks for the two additional tips - we'll check them out in the fullness of time.

Nancy, pickled peppers? Really? I thought that was just an elocutionary exercise.

Cookiecrumb, I must admit, I was rather proud of that one, myself.

Friday, September 03, 2010  

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