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.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Born to be Wild: Bikes and BBQ

Over on Grub Street, Mister Cutlets (aka Josh Ozersky) is reporting that Andrew Fischel of the fantastical RUB has contracted with the bickering chopper builders of American Chopper to build a sweet ride to be unveiled in Sturgis and then driven west to the new RUB that Fischel is opening in Vegas. What's the skinny, Cutlets?

The mind of Andrew Fischel, the brash young owner of RUB barbecue, never seems to rest. The last time we looked, he was opening up a giant spinoff in Vegas, and had retooled the New York branch with the loudest neon sign this side of Times Square. Now Fischel has engaged the guys at Orange County Chopper to create a customized “RUB Chopper” with a working smoker as its sidecar. “We’re creating the most kick-ass mobile barbecue vehicle ever made,” Fischel says. “It costs as much as a Bentley.”

The chopper, which will be the focus of an American Chopper episode to be aired next season, will make its public debut on August 8 at Sturgis Bike Week, the so-called “Biker Woodstock” held every summer in North Dakota. Lead singer Josey Scott of the heavy-metal band Saliva, the last person in the world you would imagine to be a bosom pal of the nerdy Fischel, will unveil the chopper to the world, and it will then make its way to Las Vegas for the opening of the new RUB. “We’re going to have motorcycles, barbecue, and rock and roll,” the reedy restaurateur tells us. “What else could you want?” We’d settle for the barbecue.

Photo courtesy of RUB via Grub Street

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Back on the Chain Gang: Recent bbq pictures and life there anybody out there?

Sorry to be absent the last few days. Life's been busy and, well, that's all. The camera was out of commission for a little while there (dang batteries!) and I finally had a chance to get my pictures uploaded.

Smoked, then grilled Skirt Steak. A new favorite of ours. I cooked this for my brother and my dad. It was marinaded in a combination of Yoshida's and Garlic paste.

This knife kit was a gift from my friend Anastasia. She is a talented chef and baker that I went to high school with in Brooklyn. She's married now and lives in Ohio.

Here're two looks at some delicious pulled pork that Hiroshi and I made. I brought this in to work with some ribs and chicken for lunch with my friends. It was so moist and tasty as you can see in the pictures.

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Friday, June 22, 2007

Date to Church: Holy Smokes BBQ burns down

Sad news to report today in the world of bbq. Holy Smokes bbq restaurant of Hatfield, MA burned down. Here's the story as told in The Republican.

Hatfield eaterie destroyed
Friday, June 22, 2007

HATFIELD - With their restaurant in ruins a few yards away, the owners and employees of Holy Smokes BBQ and Whole Hog House sat around a picnic table yesterday afternoon, eating comfort food and trying to come to grips with the fire that turned their world into charcoal hours earlier.

The landmark restaurant on Route 5 was the site of a Lutheran church built in 1889. Owners Louis and Leslie Ekus bought the building in 2003 and turned it into a popular barbecue joint that developed a clientele of true believers in its wood-smoked dishes. For customer seating, they used the church pews. The original pulpit was the wait station.

All of that lay smoldering yesterday following a fire that started in the early hours of the morning. The Hatfield Fire Department was on the scene shortly after state police were alerted at 3:30 a.m.

Fire Chief William A. Belden said the roof burst into flames within minutes of their arrival. In addition to the 18 Hatfield firefighters who responded, personnel and equipment from Northampton, Whately, South Deerfield and Deerfield provided mutual aid, Belden said.

Although the fire was contained within 45 minutes, Belden said the building was nearly a total loss. The roof had caved in and some of the remaining walls would have to come down, he said. Firefighters had yet to explore the basement, which housed most of the kitchen equipment.

Lou Ekus said he was told that the fire did not originate at either the restaurant's meat smoker or its oven, the two obvious hot spots. Arson investigators and insurance adjusters were combing through the rubble yesterday afternoon. Belden said the cause of the fire is under investigation.

At a picnic table alongside Route 5, a dozen or so employees snacked on food delivered by Claudio C. Guerra from his Northampton restaurant Spoleto Express.

"This is our funeral pyre," said Claire M. Allard, who worked as a waitress at Holy Smokes.

Allard said customers had been stopping by all morning to offer support. One left a ceramic pig with wings that resembles the restaurant's mascot. Lou Ekus said the flying pig played on a heaven-and-hell theme at the former church.

The Ekuses, who live in Montague, had been looking to open a barbecue restaurant for more than a decade before locating in Hatfield.

"When we saw this place, we fell in love with it," Ekus said.

Although Holy Smokes had a strong local following, repeat customers came from as far away as Canada, according to Ekus.

"We've had tons of nice customers," he said. "It's not just a restaurant that burns down. It's a whole community that gets affected."

Ekus said he was especially worried about his 17 employees.

"Everyone who works at the restaurant automatically becomes family," he said.

Among those who stopped by the site yesterday were fellow restaurateurs Guerra and Daniel Yacuzzo, who owns Eastside Grill. In 2000, the Paradise City Tavern, one of Guerra's businesses, burned to the ground in downtown Northampton. Guerra said he knows how Ekus feels.

"It's a huge learning curve to go through that process," he said. "The worst thing is that you put all your heart and effort into it. It's like your baby."

Guerra, who dined several times at Holy Smokes, summed up the fare as "awesome." He believes Ekus will weather the tragedy.

"He's that kind of guy," he said. "He rolls with the punches."

Staff writer Mary Ellen Lowney contributed to this report.

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Monday, June 18, 2007

Red Hots: Which Charcoal Burns Hottest?

Cooks Illustrated have done the head to head to determine which charcoal burns hottest. Interesting results.......

What's the Hottest Charcoal?

Conventional wisdom dictates that hardwood (or "lump") charcoal flames up fast and furious, while charcoal briquettes burn low and slow. For that reason, most of the outdoor-cooking guides in our library (including our own) recommend briquettes for barbecue (cooking ribs and briskets) and hardwood for quick, direct-heat grilling (cooking burgers, steaks, and chops). Two dozen grilling gurus couldn't be wrong, right? We headed to the test kitchen's back alley to find out.

We filled 6-quart chimneys with either hardwood charcoal or briquettes. Just before lighting the match, we outfitted the cooking grate with seven thermocouples -- wire probes that feed temperature data to an attached console -- and set about recording heat levels at five-minute intervals. We ran the tests a dozen times and then analyzed our data.

The results were startling. In every test, the briquettes burned as hot, or hotter, than the hardwood. In the grilling tests, the fires produce nearly identical heat for about 30 minutes-enough time for most quick grilling tasks. From there on, the hardwood coals quickly turn into piles of ash, while the briquettes slowly lost heat.

As we've always contested, slow-cooking a pork shoulder for eight hours would be a high-maintenance affair with hardwood. Our briquettes took nearly three hours to fall below the 250 degree mark; in that time we'd have to refuel the hardwood fire twice. The slow, steady descent of the briquettes is perfect for this job.

So what about our old assumptions? Hardwood is, in fact, the hotter-burning charcoal, at least when comparing charcoal pound for pound. But most outdoor cooks measure out charcoal by volume (filling a chimney), and a 6-quart chimneyful of briquettes weighs more than twice as much as the same volume of hardwood.

And briquettes are cheaper: Filling a chimney with lump charcoal costs about $2 compared with just $1.37 for briquettes.

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Friday, June 15, 2007

Shore Leave: bbq weekend

I'm gonna fire up this weekend, cook some ribs and drink a few for all my friends out there.

I'm in a strange mood tonight. Feeling sentimental, I guess.

I added a new song to 'cue by. This week it's Tom Waits doing 'Long Way Home' from his Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers and Bastards collection. This is a tune from disc, 2, Bawlers.

New song to cue by can be found by clicking on this LINK HERE

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Cool It Now: Pepsi Ice Cucumber

Released June 12th in Japan, Pepsi Ice Cucumber is the newest fruit-flavored beverage to hit the market. A limited edition creation, the beverage mixes the cooling, soft flavor and perfumey scent of cucumber with the sugary fizz of ordinary soda. I hope it hits the shelves here in the US of A, but we rarely get the really interesting stuff.

One a personal note, I have one of those renegade tastebuds that get inflamed and make you want to bite your tongue off. I have a feeling that would hurt massively.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Monday Morning Coming Down: Block Party Round-Up's the next installment from my weekend of cooking with the Hill Country NY crew for the Big Apple BBQ Block Party. I wish I could mention all of the wonderful people that I met this weekend by name, but there were just too many. Just about everyone that I talked to was exceptionally gracious and generous in their information and feedback.

The food, of course, was dazzling...Mike Mills' babyback ribs, Ubon's pork sandwich, Ed Mitchell's hog, the sausage and brisket from Southside Market (my personal fave, sorry folks!!!), brisket from the Salt Lick, the Brunswick Stew from Proclamation Stew Crew, babybacks from Rack and Soul who also threw onions on their dying charcoal which was one of the best smells of the weeekend....I could go on....but the drool would kill the keyboard.

Chris Lilly of Big Bob Gibson, Andy Campbell of Ubon's, the entire Bracewell family, Mike Mills and Amy Mills Tunnicliffe, Lonnie Moore and the members of the Proclamation Stew Crew, Ed Mitchell, Chris Lilly, Harold Dieterle, Lisa from The Homesick Texan blog, Jeffrey Steingarten, and so many others that I met were just plain gracious and it was at an absolute pleasure and honor to have the opportunity to speak with them all. And for those of you that I met and spoke with whose names are not listed here, I apologize, but I hope you enjoyed the food and the company. I would also like to personally thank the makers of Woodford Reserve bourbon, without which so much of this would not have been possible. If you ever have an interest in some kind of sponsorship or review kind of deal, please think of me. Thank you. Amen.

Here's the rest of the pictures...

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Saturday, June 09, 2007

Big Apple BBQ Block Party Days 1&2

I've been cooking with the Hill Country folks for the Big Apple BBQ Block Party. I brought my pit, Large Marge into the city and parked her on 26th Street. We loaded in Friday and Saturday was day one of the Block Party. Hill Country opened Friday night, too! Quite an action packed couple of days.

Here're some early pics from Friday and Saturday

More tomorrow. Lines are moving fast, weather is great and the food is outstanding. Come on out! Click Here for the Big Apple BBQ Block Party Website

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Thursday, June 07, 2007

Thank You Friends: Big Apple BBQ and dancing in the streets

This just in!!

I want to thank my friend, Mona, of the fabu Mona's Apple blog for her shout out of the The Hampton Smoker in a recent ABC News piece on food blogs. Ms. Mona's stupendous site was mentioned alongside such heavyweights as Ed Levine Eats, Chez Pim, Salli Vates and other amazing food blogs that I read and re-read like an addict getting my fix. Thanks, Mona. You rock!!

Pictured slightly blurrily above is Pitmaster Robbie Richter of Hill Country NY, a brand new entry into NYC's blossoming bbq scene. The restaurant is based on the old meat markets in Texas that played a massive role in defining and developing bbq in this country. The story is told wonderfully in Robb Walsh's book, Legends of Texas Barbecue.

I was in there last night and it is spectacular. The 2-story space is decked out in raw wood and a carefully cultivated lack of frills. Upon entrance, there's a bar to the right and the food and pits are immediately visible right in front of you at the back wall across the room and behind the counters where you order the food. The food is ordered by weight (2lbs sliced brisket, etc..), removed from the brick show pit (as seen above) and then sliced and weighed right in front of you and served with crackers on butcher paper. Next, you move to the counter to the right for sides. A meal ticket is marked up and turned in when your meal is over (a la Katz's deli). A live music space as well as another bar is located downstairs. I don't want to spill all the beans about this place, but I will tell you there is no other bbq place even remotely like this in New York and I expect great things for them.

I'll be cooking with the Hill Country crew this weekend at the 5th Annual Big Apple BBQ Block Party. Stop by and say howdy, if you get a chance.

For more on Hill Country NY:
Off the Broiler has a report and some great pictures of the restaurant.

And NY Magazine has a piece on the opening, as well.

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Little Drummer Boy: BBQ Percussion

My friend,Greg, sent me this link. Enjoy!

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Cuts Like A Knife: Ribs 101

Here's a jolly video from those crazy kids over at Kraft foods. This is a decent overview of some of the common rib cuts you'll find in the store.

Ribs Basic
Uploaded by timmyboi

And here's a video showing you one way of cooking ribs. This is not the only way. He is using a pellet cooker (fueled by compressed wood dust w/ the fire automatically fed pellets as the previous ones burn down). This is not the cooker that I use, but the principles are the same, low and slow w/ clean burning fire.

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Friday, June 01, 2007

Video Killed The Radio Star: Friday BBQ Video

It's a multimedia bonanza for you today, my peoples. I added two new songs to the Songs to 'Que By section. It's been a while so here's two killer tracks: Walking Through My Dreams, by The Pretty Things and When I Blow, by Bill Fox. Plus, check out another great video from the Bbq Pilgrim, Mark Dolan. Take it away, Curtis....

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