Southern-fried and tongue-tied: Woodstock chicken salad melts a Southern foodie's heart

Diana Maria Solis photo

Blame it on my Southern mama, but I can’t abide greasy fried chicken, biscuits that double as hockey pucks, or pecan pie topped with anything other than Chantilly Cream – that angelic whipped cream concoction laced with Amaretto and coaxed into a cloud of velvet sugar. “So sweet,” my mama would say, “it’ll turn a lemon into a peach.”

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That’s why, on a recent lunch trip to Soulfully Good Café in downtown Woodstock to sample their Award Winning Buttermilk Fried Chicken Salad sandwich, I had my doubts. Serious ones.

Here’s the thing: this buttermilk fried chicken doesn’t have southern roots.  The culinary mastermind behind its arrival on my plate is former New York City caterer-turned-Woodstock restauranteur, Vicki Ferentinos. And I’m not the first to find it delicious, either. Ferentinos won $20,000 on the Bravo TV series, Rocco’s Dinner Party, in which three chefs prepare a signature dish and, if they advance, design and execute a dinner party menu for celebrity chef Rocco DiSpirito and his guests. Her signature dish? You guessed it: Buttermilk Fried Chicken Salad.

But enough about its storied past. Let’s talk about what makes this dish so irresistible.

First, there’s the chicken itself – tender breast meat soaked and seasoned so well it would stand on its own. Then, the breading – a golden shell of salt-and-pepper tang that walks the line between traditional and tempura-style crisp, expertly fried without a trace of grease.

These heavenly pockets of poultry are then tossed in a sauce so sublime it almost resists description. Let’s just say that it’s equal parts sweet and savory, not too heavy, and would be the culinary offspring if the god of sauce and the goddess of glazes had a baby.

As if this isn’t splendid enough, Ferentinos adds uniformly-cubed red bell peppers, delicate baby greens, and golden kernels of sweet summer corn to the mix to create layers of flavor. Each bite delivers, blending taste with texture, color with crunch, in a way that elevates the traditional chicken salad sandwich to ethereal heights.

Served on a buttery, substantial croissant (made in house and worthy of its own post) or atop an ample plate of mixed greens, one is only left to wonder why this symphony of savory sweetness only brought home 20 grand. It’s worth at least a cool million, according to this Southern-bred food-lover, even if it will only set you back $11.

Try it. One bite, and you’ll be – as my Grandpa used to say – “grinnin’ like a possum eatin’ a sweet tater.” And that’s no lie.

Soulfully Good Cafe is located at 67 Central Street in Woodstock and open every day but Wednesday for breakfast and lunch. 

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