I checked Google Maps for the closest Bojangles' and Popeyes. Madison has a Bojangles', and Eatonton has a Popeyes. Yes, this would work! Additionally, I realized that although I've had chicken fingers from the local Big Chic, I had never had their bone-in fried chicken. I added Big Chic to my itinerary.
Right after I hatched my plan, Popeyes came out with a chicken sandwich that many say is better than Chick-fil-A. I avoid Chick-fil-A because I disagree with its corporate LGBTQ policies. Not to say that Chick-fil-A sandwiches don't taste good, but it would be great to verify that Popeyes has an equally tasty, less fraught chicken sandwich. Even though it looked like I wouldn't egg-actly be comparing apples to apples (bone-in chicken at Big Chic vs. boneless chicken sandwich at Popeyes), I looked forward to my important research.
Last Saturday was fried chicken day. I brought along my bird flu chicken for the ride, pinning it to the back of my jersey:
It made most sense to start with Big Chic, but they didn't open until 11:00 AM. No problem - that gave me time to go to the farmers market on the square. It was good to go back to the farmers market after being gone so many recent Saturdays.
A young girl, maybe eight or nine years old, came over to talk to me while I was getting back on my bicycle. She told me about her own bicycle ride that morning - 50 miles! She had roused her father early, saying, "Get up! Get up! It's bicycle day!" Even if she didn't really ride that far, I loved her enthusiasm. Another cyclopeep in the making!
Time for some poultry in motion:
First stop, Big Chic:
I ordered a single thigh (I prefer dark meat) because I still had a lot of fried chicken coming up. My favorite hot sauce for fried chicken is Crystal brand Louisiana hot sauce, but Texas Pete certainly will do.
The chicken must have been taken out of the fryer just minutes earlier. It was almost too hot to eat. However, it was delicious, crispy, and juicy. I gave it a 4 out of 5 in each category. I didn't want to get overzealous in my numeric analysis too early. If Bojangles' or Popeyes were better in one or more categories, I wanted room to reflect that. Also, Big Chic was mighty fine, but I wouldn't say it's the absolute best fried chicken I ever had, which a 5 out of 5 in every category might imply. Still, it's hard to beat bone-in fried chicken. Any subsequent boneless chicken had a high bar to reach.
Big Chic had some nice chicken art, too:
From there, I headed north toward Madison on familiar, quiet, lovely back roads. This huge hay field near the Jasper/Morgan County line caught my eye. It was even prettier than I could capture in a photo:
It was a little dicey trying to get to Bojangles', which is on a busy highway. However, thanks to the Hoot Owl 200K brevet a couple of months ago, I knew of a less traveled connector road that put me out close to Bojangles'.
At Bojangles' a man asked me if I had been in Newborn earlier. I said yes. He had seen me there and was rather incredulous to see me in Madison now. Also, I was pleasantly surprised to see some Jasper County neighbors, George and Rita Goodman and George's mother.
The fried chicken at Bojangles' was adequate at best. I got a Cajun Filet Biscuit. The flavor of the chicken was OK, but it was dry and rather limp. It would have gotten 2's across the board on my highly scientific analysis, but I asked for pimento cheese on my chicken biscuit, which boosted the flavor and juiciness scores. Although the biscuit wasn't part of the official highly scientific analysis, it was good. It was the typical, greasy fast-food biscuit, but it was better than the chicken itself.
A few years ago, Robert got together for a weekend with some college buddies. They stopped by Bojangles' on their way to play golf. Robert says his friends went gaga over the BoBerry biscuits. So, I had to try one for myself when I visited Bojangles' last Saturday. The BoBerry biscuit is on the dessert menu. It has blueberries in it and is covered with glaze - pretty tasty! I'm sure it had a gazillion calories, but that was OK as part of the day's bike food.
By the way, I have a recipe for Hot Cranberry Biscuits that taste even better than BoBerry biscuits. Robert and I call them Crack Biscuits. The original recipe calls for fresh strawberries, but I love them with fresh cranberries, especially in the fall. They even make a great accompaniment to Thanksgiving dinner.
Hot Cranberry Biscuits
2 cups sifted, unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary leaves
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
6 tablespoons vegetable shortening (or butter), chilled
1 large egg
2/3 cup buttermilk
1 cup fresh cranberries
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet, or use parchment paper.
Sift together the flour, sugar, baking power, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the rosemary and lemon peel and mix until combined. With a pastry blender or your fingers, cut in the shortening until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Make a well in the center. In a separate bowl, lightly beat the egg and stir in the buttermilk. Add this liquid and the cranberries to the well, and mix just until blended. The mixture should be soft and tender; do not overmix.
Turn out the dough onto a well-floured board. Gather the dough and gently knead it 2 or 3 times, until it is well formed. Do not overwork it. Pat the dough into a circle about 1/2-inch thick and cut out biscuits with a floured biscuit cutter. Place on the prepared baking sheet and bake until golden, about 20 minutes. Cool slightly.
Meanwhile, make the glaze: Combine the melted butter, sugar, and lemon juice in a small bowl. Brush over the warm biscuits and serve hot.
Yield: 15 biscuits
Source: adapted from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Bojangles' also had the least chicken decor of the three places I visited, but I did appreciate the chicken wire separating the booths in the dining area:
It was nearly mid afternoon, the hottest part of the day. George and Rita thought I was nuts for riding in the heat. It didn't ruffle my feathers, though. I simply thought to myself how much better it was than those cold nighttime portions of PBP a few weeks ago! In fact, by the time I left Bojangles', I was cold from the air conditioning. The afternoon heat felt good, at least for the next few miles.
Cold beverages in my water bottles were also pleasant. Bojangles' serves Pepsi products instead of Coke products (sadness), another strike against them. However, I do like diet Mountain Dew, and it has the most caffeine among soft drinks. I had filled one of my water bottles with diet Mountain Dew and one with unsweet tea. (Don't revoke my Southerner card). In general, I prefer to eat my calories instead of drink them. I do drink electrolyte drinks on long rides, but I figured I was getting enough calories and salt from my food that day.
I was definitely drinking more in the heat of the day. It was less than 30 miles from Bojangles' in Madison to Popeyes in Eatonton, but I had to stop for water again during this stretch. There were no stores, but I knew I could get water at the B.F. Grant Wildlife Management Area Check Station. It's a little cabin by the side of the road where we've stopped several times during the BBQ Bass Ride.
Popeyes at last! Uh oh. They were out of chicken sandwiches. That was OK; I got another bone-in chicken thigh. The server asked me if I wanted a biscuit, too. Sure, twist my arm.
|Not pictured: accompanying hot sauce packets|
I'm glad I got the Popeyes biscuit. It was better than most fast-food biscuits, almost like homemade. FYI, Big Chic doesn't serve biscuits, just rolls. Rolls aren't nearly as exciting as biscuits.
If I had been assessing the restaurants on artwork, Popeyes would have scored well on that, too. I loved this mural on the wall:
Time to tackle the remaining 21 miles to get home. They included some of my favorite Putnam County roads. Along the way, I rode by this place. I've passed it a number of times over the years and finally stopped to take a picture. Apparently, Robert has been moonlighting:
Robert had been keeping tabs on me through Find My Friends. When he saw that I was almost home, he went to the trouble to get off the tractor (he had been plowing) and greet me as I rolled in. He congratulated me on my long, hot ride. It had taken me a little over six hours, including stops, to do my ride. Robert said he had been able to manage only an hour-and-a-half ride. Sure enough, I was a fried chick; Robert pointed out the salt coating my kit!
Following my fried chicken foray, I wanted something decided not fried that evening. Some vegetable pasta and a fresh, green salad were just the ticket. We had some sparkling wine with it. Believe it or not, sparkling wine goes great with fried chicken. (Remember that for your next picnic.) Sparkling wine also always makes me think of France; now it makes me a little nostalgic for PBP, too.
|The final results|