by Anthony Harrison

America seems obsessed with deep-frying anything humanly possible. Fried bacon. Fried Snickers. Fried butter. Fried Kool-Aid is a thing.

When I come across something fried, novel and somewhat healthy, I’m amazed.

Last time I was in Winston-Salem, I covered the Cycling Classic, and it was hot as hell. I’d walked miles following the cyclists on their route. By the race’s end, I was parched and starving.

Admittedly, I don’t know the city that well, so I asked a random race officiant where I could get some decent food on Fourth Street. They recommended Mellow Mushroom — with which I’ve been familiar since my days in Boone — and Jeffrey Adams, if I happened to desire a steak or a good burger.

Since I knew Mellow Mushroom like the back of my hand, I opted for something new.

While many options at Jeffrey Adams on the solely carnivorous side piqued my fancy, I have to admit I have a soft spot for a Caesar salad. And while their burgers tantalized my taste buds’ fantasies, I saw that their Caesar salad came with, of all things, fried artichokes.

As with many trivial decisions in my gourmand life, it came to a coin toss between one of their burgers and the Caesar with smoked chicken. Heads went to the Caesar. Considering the heat of the day, I was happy the lighter option won, though I wasn’t expecting too much.

Caesar dressing is the greatest thing this side of olive oil, balsamic vinegar and a touch of salt and whole lot of pepper. The chicken, while superb, was not as good as my neighbor’s recipe. Romaine never disappoints.

But I was pleasantly surprised — those fried artichokes were worth every damned penny.

A panko coating added texture. The leafy artichoke hearts, bursting with their lovely, slightly-sweet flavor, disintegrated on the tongue with buttery texture due to the deep fry. And since the dressing was served on the side, I could dunk each panko-coated heart into the beauty of Caesar, adding those familiar, old-world flavors to the delectability of the new discovery.

We fry lots of things in this country, either for flavor or novelty. Fried artichokes meet my apex in both categories.

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