Each week on the Food Chain, we ask a chef to describe a dish he or she recently enjoyed. The chef who prepared the dish responds and then picks his or her own memorable meal. On and on it goes. Last week, Chicago's Jose Garces couldn't say enough about the Foie Gras Loco Moco from L.A. chef Vinny Dotolo at Animal. What's blown your mind in the last few months, Dotolo?
Who: Vinny Dotolo, Chef/Co-owner of Animal in Los Angeles
What: Buttermilk Fried Chicken Sandwich
Where: Bakesale Betty, Oakland
"Every time I'm anywhere near San Francisco, I go out of my way to get over to Oakland and eat at a place called Bakesale Betty, which is owned by a Chez Panisse alum, Alison Barakat. They have this fried chicken sandwich that is fucking to die for! The sandwich comes with an incredible fried chicken breast and this spicy slaw, and they put it all on Acme bread. My wife asks me about it, you know like, 'You're driving so far for a sandwich?' But it's really that good. I have to have it whenever I'm in town."
Alison Barakat (known to her customers as Betty, in the blue wig) responds:
"When I moved here from Sydney, Australia in 2000 I got a job working at Chez Panisse Caf working as a line cook. It was then and there that I was introduced to the most delicious fried chicken chicken soaked in buttermilk and then dipped in seasoned flour and deep fried. Soon afterward the Buttermilk Fried Chicken Sandwich was born. At home, I would make the fried chicken and pair it with an olive oil vinaigrette dressed slaw, put it on Acme Bakery's Torpedo Roll and pack it up for picnics. I put an aggressive amount of sliced jalapeno peppers, red onions and parsley in the slaw that made it just the right spiciness and acidity to balance out the richness of the fried chicken. I really think the jalapenos are what give it the addictive quality.
"When I started my business, Bakesale Betty, in 2002 I was selling baked goods at the Farmers' Market. Three years later my husband Michael and I opened our retail bakery store in North Oakland and the one item I was excited to add to our menu was the fried chicken sandwich I had been making for friends and family the past three years. I was thinking we would sell about 20 sandwiches a day, which we were when we first opened in 2005. The word of the sandwich got out and today we sell anywhere between 800 and 1,200 sandwiches a day. People travel far and wide for the sandwich and line up outside the bakery to get it. I never dreamed a following like this would have ever evolved! It really is wonderful to have witnessed the progression of the Buttermilk Fried Chicken Sandwich phenomenon."