The Hampton Smoker

What's up wtih what's going down? Does a tree falling on the ocean with no one around make a sound? Barbecue, BBQ, Bar-b-que. It's all in how you sell it.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Time Has Come Today: Recent BBQ Exploits

I've been lucky enough to be cooking some holiday meals for some friends. The last few weekends I've been smoking up a storm while the weather has remained uncommonly mild in our neck of the woods.

This past weekend, I cooked two turkeys, 2 tri tips, a few pounds of kielbasa, a pound of cheddar cheese, 2 racks of spareribs, a clove-studded, honey glazed ham, and more. The weekend before that was more turkey, a beef tenderloin, more ribs and some ribeye steaks. I've been using a mix of hickory and cherry on everything and even have made some cherry wood lump charcoal of my own. Here're some pictures of the goodies.

Wubby in the sun

Honey-glazed ham


Smoked kielbasa

Fire-roasted Beef Tenderloin, Smoked Turkey and Spareribs

Homemade Charcoal and 10 pounds of Pulled Pork

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Sunny Side of the Street: Hill Country BBQ

It looks like barbecue in NYC is not yet a dead issue. New York Magazine's new-ish online food section, Grub Street, has a piece today on my good friend, Rob Richter's new joint, Hill Country, which is set to open in the spring. Grub Street's editor, Josh Ozersky (aka Mister Cutlets) has been doing a great job of keeping the site lively, current and ever-so-slightly snarky. Kudos, Cutlets.
Hill Country to Challenge Blue Smoke, RUB on Their Own Turf

Hill Country BBQ, we've learned from owner Mark Glosserman, has officially signed its lease and begun construction at 30 West 26th Street, just a few blocks from Blue Smoke and RUB . Isn’t it bad medicine to open so close to a pair of established, busy barbecues? Says Glosserman: “It's a great spot, and the price was right, and we're in a big office building, so there will be a lot of traffic even though it's a side street. We have a lot of faith in our product.” No doubt. But we actually like Hill Country's chances. New Yorkers have shown a willingness to go the extra mile to eat great barbecue: Daisy May's BBQ sat on a desolate stretch of Eleventh Avenue and didn't even have tables; RUB ran out of meat every night; Blue Smoke barely had any smoke flavor during its first year, as a result of chimney malfunction. Glosserman hired the best barbecue cooker in the city, Robert Richter. If Hill Country delivers the goods, New Yorkers will support it … right? (Grub Street)

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Friday, December 15, 2006

Home on the Range: Podnah's Pit, Portland, Oregon

The wife and I were out in Portland, Orgeon for Thanksgiving, which was an absolute blast. We spent a few days in and around Portland, and a few days on the coast. What a beautiful place. While the weather seemed to switch from sunny and mild, to grey, windy, wet and cold and back to sunny in the time it took to blink, it was still quite lovely.

Portland is an eater's city. It has a wonderful array of ethnically diverse, inventive restaurants that focus on fresh, high-quality, local ingredients. They really support their local farmers and strive not to compromise flavor to chase foodie fads as much as it seems chef's in NYC will attempt. All of that being said, my highlight meal, not surprisingly, was at a new bbq joint called Podnah's.

Podnah’s Pit’s owner, Rodney, may look familiar to locals. He formerly was the pitmaster for Low's bbq which was a favorite of many visitors to Portland 's Farmers Market where he used to park his pit and serve up the 'que. Recently, Rodney and his partner, Ken, split up the Low's team. Ken now is serving food at Ken's Place and Rodney welded himself a new pit and parked it out back of this petite new space and started burning some logs. Podnah's focuses on a Texas-style cue with straightforward rubs and bold sauces which stray from the 'universally popular' sweet and sticky.

Our meal started with an unexpected highlight-- the iceberg lettuce wedge with blue cheese dressing, which had a nicely tangy dressing with a robust blue cheese flavor that was not overly twangy or too rich. Everyone at the table loved it, but we were there for the meat.

Of the main event, the spare ribs and the brisket were the real stars. The pulled pork was doused in a vinegary sauce that became a bit too sour after a few bites, and was lacking in the crunchy outside flavoring (known as bark). The larger chunks of inside meat, while generally moist, were slightly under seasoned and somewhat lacking in tenderness.

The ribs, on the other hand, were wonderfully smoky and moist, with meat that came off the bone cleanly without being mushy or overcooked. They had a pleasant rub and didn't need any of the sauce that came with them. We tried both the tomato-based and mustard sauces that were on our table. Both were strong and distinctive, but the mustard sauce seemed to be missing something to round out the flavor. It was a bit too much like just plain yellow mustard.

Also outstanding was the brisket, which was among the best bbq restaurant brisket I've ever had. It was sliced wonderfully, and was moist, tender, smoky and beefy, and not overcooked. It was fork tender, but not stringy and didn't have the boiled, pot roast-like texture and flavor from overcooking brisket in foil or liquid. The sides, ultimately, were all forgettable, unfortunately. Two people at our table mentioned their potatoes in the salad were actually undercooked and still crunchy. The pintos also could have used a little more 'jazz'-- maybe some bacon or green peppers. They were a bit flat. The corn bread, however, was a nice accompaniment.

They have a nice a nice, if limited, selection of beers and pop and are offering specials including smoked prime rib by the inch and, potentially, lamb ribs. Call them for more info.

If you are a bbq lover in the PDX area, you owe it to yourself to get over to Podnah's and chow down on some brisket and ribs. Rodney's handmade offset smoker is out back and is a beautiful thing to behold-- especially when the sweet blue smoke is rolling.

Podnah's Pit
1469 NE Prescott

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Freefallin': Podnah's Pit in Portland; Grill Kings Fallout

Some big news brewing in the local bbq community, folks. As reported by WhiteTrashBBQ, the Grill Kings contest has been cancelled. This was a pretty big contest (one of a few NY state championships sanctioned by KCBS) that was held on Long Island each year. The main reason being whispered about in the last week or so was the harsh criticism that the contest received after last year's debacle. Apparently bloggers and bbq forum members had been too mean in their comments and accusations and the contest's main backer (a wealthy businessman) opted to pack up his marbles and hit the road. Sad.

Even more sad is the toll this has taken on at least one local area team that also hosts it's own national bbq discussion forum. The team and website's founder put a lockdown on discussion of Grill Kings-- particularly negative comments, which has caused the team to splinter and two members to exit the group.

It's unclear whether a new contest will arise to fill the gap left by Grill Kings, or whether there will be additional fallout. I will say that the amount of intrigue fueled by rumours and 'backroom' discussions has been nearly comical, were it not for the fact that so many hurt feelings have been caused. It's only bbq people. Right?

Lastly, I've been holding off on a review of a new Portland, Oregon BBQ joint named Podnah's since Thanksgiving. I'll have the full review up tomorrow, but let me just say that anyone in the vicinity of Portland should get their (pork) butts over to Podnah's Pit real fast for some tremendous oak-smoked ribs and brisket.

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Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Night Chicago Died: Blues and Barbecue

Often, when people talk about barbecue in the U.S., the names that come up the most are Texas, Kansas City, North Carolina and Memphis. But while some of those places were close the genesis of American barbecue, this overlooks other cities and states with longstanding traditions and unique styles, such as Chicago, where rib tips are awfully popular-- a somewhat unique specialty, or St. Louis, where pig snoots are cooked up and served as a sandwich.

So, this morning I came across an interesting article about Chicago bbq that I thought I would share with you.

Chicago style: a tale of two barbecues - Leon's Bar-B-Q and Hecky's Barbecue
American Visions, August-Sept, 1994, by Heidi Haughy Cusick

Here's an excerpt-- hey it got me hooked:
Finney's story is typical of the black immigrant experience on Chicago's South Side. A native of Mississippi, he arrived in town in 1940 at age 24, nine years before Powell was born in nearby Evanston, Ill. His first job was helping an aunt cook barbecue and fried chicken at a little restaurant on Garfield Avenue. A year later, the owner of the restaurant, who was running a bookie joint in the basement, got busted, and Finney scraped together $700 to buy the place.

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Welcome to the Jungle: BBQ in New York City

Here's another roundup of NYC bbq joints. They include a bunch of grilling places in with the bbq and one place has already closed (sadly, Big Lou had to give up his much lauded concession in Queens). Nevertheless, the nice folks at Gridskipper put this out there:

The Sweet Char of Success: NYC's Best BBQ
Due to laws banning smoke pits in the city, it's hard to find authentic BBQ in New York (unless the restaurant buys an expensive smoke diffuser). However, with so many transplants from BBQ capitals in the south and Midwest--not to mention enthusiasts from South America and Asia--we still have a lot to choose from. Just don't expect to stumble onto it.

RUB : Righteous Urban Barbeque--or RUB--has the craziest BBQ pig-out in the city. First of all, they bought a smoke diffuser and have three customized pits. More importantly though, they serve a whole pork butt rubbed with spices and smoked for hours. It'll for you about $90 but when else are you going to eat a whole pork butt? Other highlights are the burnt ends and short ribs.
Kang Suh: Korean and Japanese BBQ places are more focused on grilling than barbeque, since smoke is not usually involved. However, there are over a dozen excellent Korean joints on 32nd St. where you can cook your own meat at the table. A good place to start is Kang Suh, which has excellent bulgogi and a friendly staff.
Big Lou's Breakfast and BBQ: "Big Lou" Elrose recently opened his cart in Ozone park to counteract the shortage of good BBQ in Queens now that infamous Pearson's has closed. He smokes pulled pork, brisket and chicken over fruitwoods and makes his own BBQ sauce and coleslaw.
Dinosaur: Fans of the original BBQ in Syracuse know this is a serious place for BBQ. The pork ribs are smoky and fall right off the bone. Way uptown, it can be a little out of the way and is always packed, but its well worth the trip.
Daisy Mays: DM has been satiating Midtown and Downtown office workers with stellar pulled pork for years. The sandwiches are delicious and sure as hell beat the salads at Cosi. If you go to their restaurant on 11th Ave., the barbequed rack of lamb is the best in the city.
Pies N Thighs: Their fried chicken is perfectly salty, the pulled pork, juicy and slightly spicy. This little kitchen, outfitted with a few stools, serves up the best BBQ and baked goods in Brooklyn.
Yakitori Totto: This is the place to go for excellent grilled chicken on skewers. The chicken is smoked over Bincho-tan, an incredibly expensive charcoal made from bamboo. It is almost smokeless and burns at a high heat. Every dish is great except the chickendoodledoo.
Smoke Joint: This new BBQ spot in Fort Greene is serving up some real barbeque, meaning the meat is cooked over wood at a low temperature for a long time. It's not perfect yet but the beef short ribs are excellent.
Churrascaria Platforma: One of the most well known churrascurias in NYC, you can definitely get your fix for grilled meat here. The deal is you pay about $50 for an all you can eat Brazilian feast of pork ribs, short ribs, rib-eye, sirloin, flank steak, brisket, top round, special top round, pork loin, and lamb.
Ihawan: This large and friendly restaurant in Woodside is the best place for outstanding Filipino BBQ. The recommended dish is the "Pork Belly Meal": two skewers of marinated pork belly with rice for $5. The pork is brushed with a thick sweet syrup and has a slightly smoky flavor. Be adventurous and try some of the other Filipino food while you're there.
[Text: Amanda Kludt Photo: tlmoore/ Flickr]

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