Finding, Without Looking, the Best Fried Chicken!
Yes, I embarked on the Amtrak SILVERSTAR Train 92 from Miami to Tampa, for a 24-hour visit to the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Tampa (the return train derailed, by the way). This 5-hour disconnect, without the best sightseeing terrain, served as a good time to ponder, “What The Rez Grill the hell am I doing on a slow train to Tampa?” Moving fast forward, we arrived at the Seminole Hard Rock, packed with people, smoking and gambling their life away, and there we were, ready for cocktails and a surprising dinner at The Rez Grill, their new restaurant.
In the expert hands of Frank Anderson, the Creative Culinary Director, we started with their reinvented and expeditiously Improved G&T, a version of a Gin & Tonic, served out of a house-mixed individual bottle that combined Elderflower, the herbal St. George Gin, tonic water and a b’lure ice, which is a blue ice cube that turns the beverage into a beautifully dark lavender color. But there was a great revelation at this dinner. Besides the fact that everything we ate was down-home simple and delicious, including the most amazing Biscuits with Benton’s Country Ham, Homemade Chicken Liver Pate, a marvelous Cucumber and Heirloom Tomato Salad with different textures and flavors, like pickled onions, flamed charred pickled cucumbers, and compressed tomatoes, that all played together over a small pool of fresh herbed yogurt and fresh dill dressing with crispy garlic chips. It was sophistication made simple and delicious. But the real reason that I am telling you all this, is because among the many wonderful entrees we tasted, the one that became the revelation of the evening was the Fried Chicken with Waffles, Citrus Butter, amazing pure and thin Real Maple Syrup, Hot Sauce and Bacon Jam. This is the best Fried Chicken I have had so far, and even the small waffles were historic, as the maple syrup was of such quality, just a little went a long way. If your travels take you to Tampa, don’t hesitate to even consider eating anything else but this Fried Chicken Platter. Its huge, so sharing is a must!
My former favorite fried chicken, which still is but in Miami, going head to head with my new-found sensation at The Rez Grill, is Joe’s Stone Crab’s, Miami Beach’s legendary one. Who eats chicken at Joe’s? Lots of people do. Actually, the new thing is to order your Stone Crabs and combine it with an order of Fried Chicken, which for $6.95 for half a chicken is a steal. But steal or no steal, this is an amazing quality bird that has been fried to perfection and is the ultimate new Surf & Turf. Add a Wedge of Iceberg with Blue Cheese, Hashed Brown Potatoes Lyonnaise, Creamed Garlic Spinach, and even those great house-made Cottage Fries, and you will have rewarded yourself with extra calories you will enjoy!
But, the “go to” place to get comforting, well made, greasy but crunchy, full flavored fried chicken any time is, non-less than, PUBLIX.
Yes, PUBLIX has been serving the most consistent wonderfully delicious fried chicken for so many years that most of us foodies have turned a blind eye and never inquired about the bird’s pedigree. All it matters is, it fills the void when you crave fried chicken, and it’s conveniently available at a supermarket near you!
Terry Zarikian is a connoisseur of good food and wine with unparalleled experience and vision in the culinary sphere. His early beginnings at the award winning L’Alouette Restaurant in Bal Harbour served as a stepping stone to the luxurious Grand Bay Hotel and its legendary Regine’s, the international disco and private club atop the hotel, where he directed the food and beverage operations in the 80s and 90s. Entering the new millennium, his culinary PR agency, Shapiro & Zarikian joined forces with Jeffrey Chodorow’s China Grill Management.
Zarikian is most recognized for his strong hand in the development of the South Beach Wine & Food Festival under Festival Director and Founder, Lee Brian Schrager. Today Zarikian is the festival’s Culinary Advisor and liaises with some of the most renowned chefs in the world.
Since 1988 Terry has been the Food Editor of Selecta Magazine, a national Latin lifestyle publication; he is also the Culinary Content Director for azureazure.com, an online publication dedicated to all things luxury, as well as contributor to American Airlines’ Celebrated Living magazine and SocialMiami.com. The focus of his writing is travel, restaurants, food and wine.
Additionally, Zarikian is the Director of New Business and Development at Rockaway PR, Marketing & Events, a culinary agency with offices in Orlando and Miami.