New England Food Day 3: Chicken Showdown

This entry is part 5 of 4 in the series New England Food

A lot of people who know me know that I’m partial to the occasional piece of chicken fried in the style of a certain Kentucky colonel. It doesn’t quite form a staple part of my diet, but it’s certainly an easy go-to when I need something satisfying and delicious. I could spend hundreds of words describing why I like it (especially for those of you who are wondering whether I’m really interested in good food after that revelation) but I won’t do so in this post.

The purpose of that meandering introduction?

Today was the day I had KFC in the USA.

Day 3 itinerary

0900: Wander around Harvard and grab a breakfast at Panera bread

1030: Pack the bags and head to Boston Logan airport, to pick up our rental car

1300: Start the drive to Vermont

1430: Make a visit to Colonel Sanders in Manchester, NH

1715: Arrive at the Greenbrier Inn, Killington VT

1900: Eat more food than is strictly necessary at the Foundry at Summit Pond, Killington

Capture

The Google Maps Timeline map from today doesn’t really do much except tell you how much we drove.

Breakfast

Wandering around Harvard was okay, but it wasn’t quite what we thought it would be. But then again, this isn’t a blog about our holidays, it’s a blog about food.

So after about half an hour of wandering we decided to grab a late breakfast. Just outside of one of the gates of Harvard Yard was Panera, which looked good and had decent reviews. What I didn’t pick up was that Panera is a chain of cafés; I take this to be in Panera’s favour, as they genuinely had me fooled.

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I’m pretty sure I had Egg and Cheese on Asiago Cheese – the picture above doesn’t give a huge number of clues. It was pretty good, though rather expensive, and I remember dousing my table with coffee by accident.

The purpose of choosing Panera bread was to ensure that we had something healthy, and it was pretty tasty. I think it was cooked freshly to order, and they clearly didn’t just used bog-standard pre-made ingredients like they might do for a fast-food chain breakfast (which I also enjoy, but for the wrong reasons). But it was a bit flat as well, and so on the whole I ended up slightly disappointed.

The coffee was from a insulated flask which was topped up from a vat every so often. It was better than instant, but only by a bit.

Lunch

I am at pains as to whether to describe this as the main event. It has inspired the title of this post, but at the same time the dinner was actually leagues better in terms of the objective serving of food. Then again, it was less enjoyable for reasons to be revealed.

After a couple of hours of driving we ended up driving around Hooksett, near Manchester, NH. It wasn’t actually our intention to go for KFC but as there was one close by it made sense to do so – I always knew I was going to do a comparison at some point.

So we stopped off at around 1430 and ordered. Frustratingly, I can’t actually remember what I ordered, but I’m pretty sure it was a combination of pieces of chicken and hot wings (I don’t go for burgers at KFC).

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You can see in that shot the chicken pieces (to the left of the box) and the hot wings (front right). I think by this point I’d eaten about half of it before remembering to take a photo. There were also side orders of sweetcorn and coleslaw, which you can just about see in the background.

Where to begin? The KFC I encountered in the US was different in many, many ways to that in the UK; not just in how it was served but also in the flavour. I think I’ll need to break into bullets for this one.

  • The chicken pieces were on the whole less greasy. They weren’t exactly dry, but they definitely felt like they were depositing less oil on my fingers than they would in the UK. I would say that on the whole this is a good thing.
  • The batter was crunchier and drier. The crunch was great, but the dryness wasn’t. It is possible that, being 1430, these pieces had been sitting around for a bit.
  • The chicken itself was less moist. This surprised me because I would imagine the preparation method (I believe it’s called broasting) would be the same – it’s a method that’s better than deep frying but ends up with a moister finished product than say baking or grilling.
  • The flavour was different. This was the most surprising of all. I would have imagined that the Colonel’s recipe of 11 herbs and spices (I’ve looked it up, and it’s quite interesting – the recipe is made in two separate factories and only one person apparently knows the whole recipe) would be the same, but it tasted markedly different. The main thing I got was that there was more pepper – in fact, the whole thing was a bit spicier.

[If you don’t believe that I would be able to remember what UK KFC tasted like while in the USA, you clearly don’t realise how well I know KFC.]

There were a few additional differences. It was served in a box (nowadays it’s mostly served in bags in the UK) and the sides were really sweet. I actually believed that the sweetcorn and coleslaw had sugar added to them, which might be possible for the latter but is unlikely for the former. And there were no fries; I don’t think it was even an option. You had to have it with biscuits (like a bready scone). Nevertheless, I ate everything.

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So what was my experience like, ultimately? Well, I’d have to say it was good, but slightly disappointing. But the disappointment came from how much drier the chicken was, rather than anything else, so it may well be purely a factor of the chicken having sat around a bit at a quieter part of the day. I was definitely glad to have done it, and here’s a picture of me post meal:

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Looks like Colonel Harland Sanders was photobombing.

Dinner

Feeling rather full but also very satisfied, we then drove up the rest of the way through New Hampshire and into Vermont. Now, Vermont is famous for food too: they make maple syrup here. And they love their seafood too. So I was excited.

Our residence was the Greenbrier Inn, which is like a ski chalet; Killington is an excellent ski resort (I used to go here as a child, to ski with my family). There was no dinner facility here, but we were heartily (and strongly) recommended to go to The Foundry at Summit Pond. So we did.

Now here’s the issue. I got the impression that this was a pretty nice place. It had good reviews and a good menu of interesting food, but I was still very full of chicken. So obviously I ordered a small portion, right? Wrong.

It’s possible (but unlikely) that I didn’t order a starter – I can’t remember and didn’t take a picture. But even if I didn’t, I ordered a large burger for the main course, which was a bit silly.

And not only that, but the restaurant provided bread too. The bread was really good, very fresh, and came with maple butter, which is an excellent invention. The maple flavour is brilliant on bread and just added to it. I suspect it’s not very hard to make, and part of me really wants to do so. But then again, it might just feel a bit different if it was a bog standard thing to have at home.

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Once again, we’d eaten a lot of it before remembering to take a photo.

So, the burger.

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It was pretty enormous. The meat itself was a half pound at least, and it came with bacon, and a pile of fries which you can see lurking in the background. Even the lettuce was huge, though it’s because it’s romaine lettuce which has very curved leaves.

But I finished every last bite of it, because it was so tasty. The burger was done just right and was juicy in the middle, and the combination with bacon was predictably good. The fries were also great, which was almost a shame, because it would have given me a reason to leave some of my food. But they had a garlic and herb flavour to them, and were served with a really nice and tangy barbecue sauce. And the atmosphere was great too – we were sitting outside the restaurant, under cover but with a view onto the eponymous pond, which looked increasingly beautiful in the evening light.

And just another word on the beer. This time I went for something by the Long Trail Brewing Co which they served at the bar. I can’t remember the exact beer, but I was struck that it had a very strong flavour. It wasn’t bad, but it was a bit strong; kind of dominating and in the end a bit of a shame. It’s definitely better than the ‘king of beers’ or the equivalents, but it just wasn’t the same as a nice ale you’d find here.

Nonetheless, we managed to get to the end of the day on a high note. From fast food to a gourmet hamburger, we’d had it all, with sides. Another satisfying day…and we were going to need the energy.

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