Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Belly and the Bird

Posted By on Tue, Feb 16, 2016 at 12:48 PM

Pork belly is the new bacon. - GRANT SCOTT-GOFORTH
  • Grant Scott-Goforth
  • Pork belly is the new bacon.
It's not that you thought you were done with burgers, but you really did intend to take a break. Have a salad. OK, you were going to get the fried chicken sandwich, but then someone said the words "pork belly burger." 

Let's be frank: If somebody puts a handful of roasted, glistening pork on top of a burger, it can't be bad. But the one at Plaza Grill (780 Seventh St. Arcata) is exceptional in its execution — it is everything done right ($13). The grassfed beef burger (treat yourself to the $2 upgrade) is exactly medium rare and has its own char-grilled meatiness to stand on its own. The cheddar cheese, aioli and oil-brushed and toasted ciabatta bun would be accompaniment enough. But the pork — caramelized at its edges, sweet and fatty, falling apart as you pick at a piece under the bun — is downright marvelous. Pork belly might be the new bacon, a richer and softer alternative to the usual smoky and salty stuff. Is the fried egg on top superfluous with all the umami already on the scene? No. Because it, too, is perfectly done, fried for a crisp, browned frill and a thick yolk that cascades down the side and onto the plate where you should swab at it with a French fry. If you were unsure about ciabatta before, you'll be grateful for its sturdiness and its ability to soak up all those meaty juices now. The lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle sit smug and safe on your plate, as there's no way to fit them onto this thing. No matter. You're back on salad tomorrow.
Buttermilk fried chicken goes fancy. - GRANT SCOTT-GOFORTH
  • Grant Scott-Goforth
  • Buttermilk fried chicken goes fancy.
Unless you come back for that fried chicken sandwich. The buttermilk chicken sandwich (dinner only, $12), again on ciabatta, with a generous organic breast in a none-too-salty crust, is tender to the bite. The Sriracha aioli (which sounds like a gimmick but is a genuine pleasure that lights up all parts of your brain and which you should order on the side with your fries from now on) offers a bit of a kick, but the aromatic pickled onions steal the show with their crispiness, tang and hit of turmeric. All together it's a satisfying take on a pub and diner standard. And don't scoff at the iceberg lettuce — it's what you really wanted. You have the rest of your life for dark, leafy greens. Starting tomorrow.

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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Heal Thyself

Posted By on Wed, Feb 3, 2016 at 7:38 PM

Spicy beef noodle soup for the soul. - JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • Spicy beef noodle soup for the soul.

How's your cold? Just kidding. No one cares. You missed getting sick when everyone else was coughing and sneezing, and now that your friends and co-workers are healed up, they have no sympathy for you. Fine. You can drown your sorrows in more canned soup and cough syrup or you can drag yourself to a corner table — away from other customers, Typhoid Mary — at Pho Lan Phuong (1709 Fifth St., Eureka) and order the hot and spicy beef noodle soup ($9.75).

Don't be frightened by the color of the chili oil or the red letters on the menu; it's not crazy hot. In fact, there's just enough heat in the lemongrass broth to help you fake the glow of health. Toss in the sprouts and squeeze the lime in there with a couple of jalapeno slices, and breathe in the scent of the cilantro. It's not terribly salty, so if you feel the need to paint the town red with that squeeze bottle of Sriracha, you go ahead. There are thick, comforting rice noodles, slices of beef shank and soft hunks of tendon. Hey, collagen-rich tendon is supposed to be good for your skin, and you need something to lord over those insufferable healthy people. 
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