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, July 27, 2007

Waltz Across Texas: Post Oak Memories

A few years ago, a fella that goes by the name of "Woodburner" posted a narrative of his eating tour of Texas, Little Rock, Memphis, and Kansas City on the Cookshack Forum. He included some absolutely wonderful pictures of the joints he visited along the way. It helps capture some of the atmosphere of these places that more and more seem out of time. Included in this post are just a few of his pictures and a sample of the storytelling-- the pictures and text aren't all from the same pieces from his report....Thanks for sharing your experience with us, Woodburner.

"Ordered the pulled pork sandwich and a rib. The pulled pork was very good, shredded with some good chunks; moist with a nice KC red sauce on it. The rib was tender, tuggable, flavorful, and not drowned in sauce. Plus? pickle slices! The menu said the slaw was 'ho'made' but I did not ask any questions about the 'ho.' Slaw was nice, but average. Besides the seeded bun the sandwich came with, the rib came with a slice of white bread.

They use a wood pit, with offset heat. They've been in that location for some 20 years, but more in another building (took pic of the pic on the wall). This is the place with the 'eat it an beat it' pig out front. They use pink trim color on the building and it works well. This is a fun little place and worth a visit in KC."

"I drove through the small town of Llano, out in the hill country, about 60 miles NW of Austin. Driving up, they told me you'll probably see the smoke when you turn the corner, but it was still shocking to see the smoke filling the street, the two open drums - each big enough for three people to stand in - stoked with mesquite bonfires. The coals are literally shoveled into the six big metal pits. About 3x3x10, my guess. All of this under a huge corrugated tin roof."

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Hang on to a dream: Catering for 300 and more!

So, the wife and I have been contracted to cook bbq at a Democratic Presidential fundraiser for 300 in the Hamptons in early August. This is one of the largest and most exciting gigs we've been offered and I have to thank my friends from the BBQ-Brethren that have stepped up and offered to help. You guys rock. I'm touched that most volunteered to help without even being asked.

Also, since the event is on a friday, these folks are willing to take off from work to help us-- and we need all the hands we can get. We went from being shorthanded to having the help we need.

The menu is chicken, ribs and pulled pork. The event planning company that hired us is taking care of the sides. This event is sort of a pool party barbecue-- probably no swimming-- and a chance for the candidate to let her hair down and mingle with the people. Apparently, some of the hipper and younger nightclub owners from out there will be there and it is a chance for the candidate to connect with some of her potential younger voters.

Unfortunately, we cannot release the candidate's name.

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Cold as Ice: Dry Ice Cream

So here's an interesting recipe from Popular Science to make ice cream with liquid C02. The freezing cold gas is discharged from a fire extinguisher into a pillow and then slowly added to an ice cream base and stirred. They say that the ice cream comes out slightly carbonated. Hmmmmm.......

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Letter to a Fanzine: New York's BBQ Revolution

Here's a piece from NY Magazine's Adam Platt that talks about the incredible barbecue boom that New York City has seen in the last few years.

The burning log has been passed from Texas to NYC, or at least a guy from Rego Park.
Photo: Josh Ozersky

Is the great Calvin Trillin rubbing his eyes in wonderment? Has New York become, after years of bitterness and complaint, a kind of glittering, Kansas City by the sea? Or is New York actually a better barbecue town, these days, than K.C. or Memphis or any of the other fabled smoke pits around the country? With the success of Kansas City facsimiles like RUB, Danny Meyer’s annual BBQ festival, and the recent arrival of Hill Country, some respected barbecue hounds actually think so. And what does the Gobbler think? The Gobbler thinks barbecue is a lot better and more ubiquitous in the big city than it used to be. Here’s his guide to the new barbecue revolution.

New York, international BBQ mecca. Since the advent of Danny Meyer’s wildly popular Big Apple Barbecue Block Party put the city on the BBQ map, noted pitmasters have colonized the city like superchefs in Las Vegas. Kansas City's Paul Kirk helped found RUB; Rick Schmidt brought a charred piece of oak up from Lockhart, Texas, to christen the smoker at Hill Country.

Know your local pitmasters.
The best new BBQ joints in town share one thing in common: Their pitmasters (Daisy May's Adam Perry Lang, RUB's Scott Smith, Hill Country's Robbie Richter, and Dinosaur's John Stage) are homegrown and learned their craft in New York State.

Hold the sauce!
New York pitmasters may know how to cook meat, but their feeble attempts at barbecue sauce (see the dreckish sauce sold at Fette Sau and Hill Country) are grim approximations of the real thing.

Faux is good.
There will never be such a thing as terroir in New York BBQ, so embrace the honky-tonk-themed Vegas fakery. As the competition increases, the quality of the city’s facsimile rib joints, like Hill Country, has increased too.

Diversity is all.
Can you get real “soft” Texas brisket in Kansas City? Or anything approaching the smoky, gently charred platter of pork short ribs the Gobbler enjoyed the other evening at Momofuku Ssäm Bar? The Gobbler doesn’t think so! What the big city lacks in singular barbecue “terroir,” it makes up for, these days, in range of choice.

Order that pork butt!
Or that whole side of ribs. Or the slab of brisket cooked overnight at exactly 220 degrees. Thanks to newfangled chimney technology, the mastery of bulk cooking is the key to the NYC barbecue revolution.

Embrace your yuppiness.
So what if there are a bunch of insufferable bank interns chewing baby backs at the next table? Insufferable bank interns are as integral to the New York BBQ scene as grizzled hog farmers are to the scene in North Carolina.

Don’t eat those side dishes (or desserts), because they’ll kill you.
It’s the rule in most respectable BBQ joints around the country. With the possible exception of Daisy May’s, it’s the rule here too: These are profoundly unhealthy dishes. —Adam Platt

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Living on a Prayer: big news!

Well, it looks like our merry little crew from Atom's Ribs will be catering a 500-person political fundraiser in just about 2 weeks. This is for a well known political candidate but I cannot say more than that at this time.

We're giddy and nervous. I used to have more of a crew to depend upon, but one of our more reliable team members has dropped from our inner circle recently of their own accord. It really is a bummer. So....

We're reaching out to some friends for assistance, but being down one person for a gig this important really sux.

More news to come.

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Between the Wars: Grant Achatz Diagnosed w/ Cancer

I was struck dumb. A cold, lifeless feeling ran through me and I could feel my shoulders slump. I had just read the fifth line of Pete Wells' Diner's Journal piece about Grant Achatz. Given my mothers' recent diagnosis as terminal, this hit me like a ton.

July 23, 2007, 3:55 pm
A Chef’s Toughest Challenge
By Pete Wells

A few minutes ago, Grant Achatz, the chef of Alinea in Chicago, released this statement through his publicist:

“I wanted to personally report that I have been very recently diagnosed with an advanced stage of squamous cell carcinoma of the mouth. I have consulted several prominent physicians and will likely begin aggressive treatment within the next few weeks. I remain, and will remain, actively and optimistically engaged in operations at Alinea to the largest extent possible. Alinea will continue to perform at the level people have come to expect from us — I insist on that. I have received amazing support from friends, family, and everyone who has thus far been told of the disease, and I look forward to a full, cancer-free, recovery.”

Mr. Achatz, 33, is one of the most acclaimed young chefs in the country. He is a leader in the avant-garde movement in cooking, which can take many forms but in his hands means a style of cuisine that is more playful than confrontational, more gentle than abrasive, more witty than cerebral.

While he uses his share of technology in the kitchen, a visitor to his dining room is more likely to notice unexpectedly low-tech innovations like a linen pillow filled with scented air. (A waiter sets a plate down on the pillow, which gradually expels the air. When it works, the technique can add an aroma to the diner’s experience of the dish - an aroma of an ingredient that might not be present in the dish itself.)

Frank Bruni reported on Alinea the week it opened in a piece in The Times about the avant garde movement. I wrote a profile of Mr. Achatz several years ago in Food & Wine magazine.

I traded instant messages with Mr. Achatz a few minutes ago. He said that his dentist had noticed a “dot” on his tongue back in 2004 but a biopsy came back negative. Then around a month ago, his tongue began to hurt pretty seriously, and he went back for a biopsy. This time it was positive.

His energy level is high, he said, but because eating is painful he has lost about 12 pounds in the past two weeks. While he weighs his treatment options, he said he was “trying to work as much as possible,” and has already started planning his fall menu. He said his staff had responded to the news “amazingly, as I expected them to.”

Mr. Achatz sometimes gives the impression that he is either working or thinking about work all the time. Now his staff is getting accustomed to receiving some of those thoughts on e-mail and instant messages tapped out in the waiting room of his doctors’ offices

Photo of Grant Achatz: Peter Thompson for The New York Times

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Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Best is Yet to Come: Exploring Flushing, Queens

I've got a slight backup of things to tell you, peoples. I cooked some lamb a week ago that was sent to me by the American Lamb Board and it was amazing! Pictures and that story are forthcoming.

But first, a quick foray in Chinatown in Flushing, NY.

New York City has at least 4 Chinatowns and Flushing's is one of the largest and most vibrant. There are shopping malls-- actually they are cramped buildings with a number of stalls, some sell clothing or cell phones, others sell food. We hit the food courts for a quick look around yesterday and here are some picturess.

The first pic is on the way into the food court at the Golden Shopping Mall (located on Main St. near Roosevelt Ave., which is the heart of chinatown in Flushing), which is almost a block in length and has travel agencies, clothing stores and pharmacies, electronics and food. In one of the stalls, an elderly asian woman making small, fresh dumplings. The filling is scallions and shrimp and "???". The scallions, shrimp and cleaver were there to make the fillings.

Picture 3 is a plate of 8 fresh steamed small pork and cabbage dumplings. That plate was $2.50. We sat on little stools and slurped these down. On the table was a bottle of rice vinegar, a bottle of soy sauce, a watered down bottle of Sriracha, a little cup of hot chile oil and toothpicks. They gave us chopsticks.

The last two pictures are from a huge Asian coffee shop/diner that we ate in before we left Flushing. On the table are Siu Mai (pork and shrimp dumplings with a more yellow or tan-ish wrapper), Har Gow ( aka 'crystal shrimp', which are shrimp dumplings in a translucent rice dough, and char siu bao (bbq pork buns), and in the squeeze jar is hoi sin (Asian bbq sauce made from soybean paste, garlic, chilies, sugar and more). The har gow were my favorites, but everything seemed like is was made from pre-made frozen dumplings and buns. Not surprising from a diner.

All in all, a fantastic day of exploring. For all that food and two large cups of ice coffee, we spent a total of $25.

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Friday, July 13, 2007

Honky Tonking: More Hill Country News

I've made no secret of my love of Robbie Richter's cooking, so it should it come as no surprise to anyone that I'm head over heels for Hill Country NY, where he is the pitmaster along w/ Big Lou Elrose. (Editor's Note: Big Lou closed down his Queens location discussed in the article linked here shortly before the opening of Hill Country.)

That being said, here's a great article from Metromix w/ Mr. Richter that I found on Eater. It has a cool photo gallery that gives some of the flavor of the new joint. Is that Post Oak I smell?

Mazel tov and yee-haw!
Hill Country pit master in chief Robbie Richter dishes on his Texas-born sausages and having David Byrne in the house

By Matt Rodbard, Metromix
June 28, 2007

Thank you for smoking: Richter and pal
(Credit: Melissa Hom)

It’s mildly amusing that a Jew from Queens wound up running the smoker at Hill Country, the latest entry into New York’s upscale barbecue wars—Robbie Richter did cater his brother’s wedding but, alas, no pork could be served in accordance with the rabbi’s wishes. The restaurant’s namesake is a region in central Texas, near Austin, known for giant pecan trees, a burgeoning wine scene, and badass brisket and sausage.

Richter, who also runs catering company Big Island Bar-B-Que, doesn’t rock the ten-gallon but cooks like he sho
uld: He’s an award-winning pit master who’s participated in barbecue competitions for the past ten years. Metromix spoke with Richter about poseur ‘cue joints, the importance of the side, and David Byrne’s impromptu concert at the new Chelsea smokehouse.

Click Here For The Photo Gallery

What's your proudest moment as a competitive barbecue pit master?
Winning first place chicken at the 2005 American Royal BBQ Championships in Kansas City, where we bested 478 teams.

Are there groupies at these events?

You see a lot of familiar faces. It’s great because we love to feed them and they love to eat. There is a guy who the members of my team used to call the Meat Stalker.

Explain your five-way chicken recipe?

We use only natural, organic chickens and first place them in a brine, then a marinade, then we rub it and finally sauce it multiple times before serving. If you put the chicken into a cooker with fully concentrated sauce, you are going to burn it. The chicken is cooked hotter than most of our other meats it makes for a better-textured product. It all takes a couple hours to prepare.

At Hill Country you serve Kreuz Market sausages, links shipped all the way from Lockhart, Texas. What’s so special about this meat?

They are made from a 107-year-old recipe. The sausages we serve are made primarily of beef with a little pork added. The meat comes to us already cooked and smoked, and we then put it in our smoker, so it’s actually double-smoked.

Hill Country has opened amid dynamos like Blue Smoke and R.U.B. How do you separate yourself from the pack?
In New York there are only a handful of barbecue restaurants equipped with actual smokers. There are some restaurants that think that cooking ribs or chicken in an oven, and then slathering sauce on top, is barbecue. That is not barbecue, and people know it!

Sides at local barbecue joints are often maligned in the press. Defend yours.

Normally, sides are an afterthought, but New Yorkers need good sides. I love our baked beans, made with brisket burnt ends, and our cornbread—ours is moist and beautiful. They're cooked individually in a cast-iron skillet, which is the key to great texture.

It was rumored that Talking Heads frontman David Bryne played an impromptu show during your opening weekend. Confirm or deny.
I can confirm that. I was upstairs serving meat at the time, so I didn’t get to see it. But it was certainly the buzz of the night. He just got up on the stage and played a couple songs with the band Hey Bale.

You must get sick of barbecue sometimes. What non-barbecue foods do you like?

I tend to gravitate towards Asian and Italian food. One of my favorite restaurants is Fatty Crab.

Do you and Zak Pelaccio trade notes?

Zak is a big barbecue fan—a big meathead, as I like to say—and I’ve cooked some barbecue with him.

How often do you get your cholesterol checked?
My cholesterol is borderline, but I don’t overeat. Barbecue is hard work. Lots of heavy cuts of meat and long hours. I like to say this barbecue business is no picnic.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Three Times A Lady: Hill Country NY in the NY Times

This must be some kind of record for me-- 3 posts in one day!? Well with a news day like this who could blame me. I am thrilled to see that my good buddies Rob Richter and Lou Elrose got a rave review for their Hill Country NY in Peter Meehan's $25 & Under column in today's NY Times. Tell us all about it, Peter....

SMOKE MASTERS Lou Elrose, left and Robbie Richter of Hill Country.
Photo by Julian Jourdes for the NY Times

The Brisket Speaks With a Texas Accent

Published: July 11, 2007
I’VE never fallen afoul of a Texas Ranger, but my first bite of the fatty brisket at Hill Country hit me like a Chuck Norris roundhouse kick to the head. I was stunned. Was I eating beef barbecue this ridiculously good in Chelsea?

The New York-born pitmasters Robbie Richter and Lou Elrose shepherd brisket to perfection in big black smokers in the back of the restaurant. Alchemy, really, is what they’re practicing back there. No other barbecue place that has opened in New York in recent years has gotten it so right, right out of the gate.

It’s one of those multimillion-dollar joints: blaring music (live bands occasionally perform on the stage downstairs); a calculatedly weathered look that is more T.G.I. Friday’s than Freemans; a fair number of communal tables that can be reserved for groups of eight or more.

If the vibe is new school, the service is not: meats, sides and drinks are dispensed at separate counters; a “meal ticket” is used to tally the total at the end of the meal.

Which brings us to that brisket, that exemplary specimen of Texas-style salt-and-pepper pit cooking Mr. Richter and Mr. Elrose practice. The fatty part — the deckle, sold as “brisket moist” (the less marbled part, the flat, is sold as “brisket lean”) — should first be contemplated with nothing more than bare fingers and closed eyes. One should take a moment to appreciate the textural contrast offered by the ring of sweet-salty meat crust that surrounds the yielding, moist flesh, slick with fat, and the smokiness that never threatens to overwhelm the beef flavor. It is a thing of balance and of beauty.

Some meats are available by the piece, like links of chunky, dry sausage flown in from the legendary Kreuz Market in Lockhart, Tex., and whole game hens cooked on Lone Star beer cans. Everything else is by the pound: hammy pork chops cut from the rack; a few more cuts of beef including a supremely tender barbecued prime rib.

Side dishes, for the most part, don’t spark a must-eat-more response. In the future, I will augment my meat pile with nothing more than the dead-simple cucumber salad and the smoky campfire baked beans. Desserts, like a jelly-filled, peanut butter-frosted cupcake, are best suited to those who want their sugar buzz delivered with as little pretense and refinement as possible.

The drink selection includes sweetened iced tea in Mason jars and a vast selection of overpriced mass market beers (Miller High Life runs $5). The whiskey selection is respectable, the wines an afterthought.

The verdict? Easy: Hill Country is one of the finest new barbecue spots to open in New York in quite some time.

Hill Country

30 West 26th Street (Avenue of the Americas), Chelsea; (212) 255-4544.

BEST DISHES Brisket; prime rib; beer can game hen; Kreuz sausages; baked beans; cucumber salad.

PRICE RANGE Meats by the pound, $6 to $18; prime rib, $29. Some meats, like game hens ($10) and sausages ($5.25 to $5.50) are priced by the piece. Sides, in three sizes, from $3.95 to $16. Desserts, $4 to $6.

CREDIT CARDS All major cards.

HOURS 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 11:30 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday.

WHEELCHAIR ACCESS First floor accessible; basement with stage is downstairs.

EDITED TO ADD: Hill Country was in today's NY Post as well. Steve Cuozzo doesn't hold back declaring it the best bbq in NYC.


July 11, 2007 -- SOMEDAY, maybe by Thanksgiving, I’ll be in the mood again for white tuna and Kobe beef. But for now, my idea of a “luxury” item is the barbecued splendors that gush from new Hill Country’s trio of mighty, Texas-style pits.

I’ve never had barbecue this good in New York. Neither have you, although fans of Daisy May’s, Blue Smoke and their outer-boroughs ilk are sharpening their blog-axes, whining that Hill Country’s grub would be cheaper in Texas.

Barbecue, America’s favorite folk cuisine, is not brain science. It involves putting meats into an indirect-heating device and simply leaving them in for longer than it takes to roof a house.

This time-intensive process has been loonily eliticized and intellectualized by foodies obsessed with elusive regional “authenticity” and by shills for overpriced sauces and rubs.

Hill Country (30 W. 26th St.; [212] 255-4544) dispenses with the baloney. It delivers (mostly) beef in its unadorned, 16-hour, slow-smoked glory. Nothing goes onto it when it enters the pits but Kosher salt, large-grain black pepper and a hint of cayenne. The sweet, juicy result tastes of the “post oak” hardwood that fires the pits.

It also tastes like beef - unlike barbecue that’s slathered in sauces and rubs to compensate for shortcut cooking that drains moisture and flavor. Sauce is completely unnecessary.

Hill Country specializes in Texas barbecue, meaning mostly beef. There’s no pulled pork in sight.

Pit master Robbie Richter says, “The Texas style relies on the flavor of the meat to come through. Our rub is very simple. People ask me what makes our ribs so sweet, but it’s simply the wood we use, which has a wholesomely sweet flavor.”

Daisy May’s turns out some awesome products - I love its mammoth, succulent Oklahoma beef rib. But Hill Country, with two fun-filled dining floors compared to takeout-oriented Daisy May’s dreary back room, changes the balance of power.

Hill Country is so slickly designed down to the last nail that you could mistake it for a chain. But it’s one of a kind, crafted to resemble places in and around Lockhart, Texas, where owner Marc Glosserman’s grandfather was once mayor.

Telecom mogul Glosserman, all of 33, was born in Maryland, but, “I have tons and tons of cousins in Texas.”

Tons of “natural materials from the central Texas region” went into the joint - Southern pine and oak, black iron, limestone and what the promo sheet calls “a thoughtfully restored 1950s refrigerated beverage case.” More than half of the 250 seats are in the rowdy downstairs, where musicians take the stage three nights a week.

You order the way you do at Katz’s deli, which happens to be the way they do it in Texas. Take a ticket to counters for meat, sides, dessert and drinks, where it’s punched to be paid on the way out. Carvers plop meats onto butcher paper, which you lug on trays to picnic tables.

Jurassic-proportioned beef ribs are basted to a crisp finish that executive chef Elizabeth Karmel immodestly, but not inaccurately, calls “magic.” The flavor complexions are as variegated as shades of black, red, pink, gray and even blue that speckle the crust-like surface.

Hill Country has glitches. One busy night, they ran out of most of their meat before all customers could be served.

Chicken and beef shoulder can be dry. Although smoky chipotle deviled eggs are outstanding, mac and cheese is clumsy. But peanut butter and jelly cupcakes are distressingly delicious.

Lots of New York places now claim to have “real” barbecue, and some truly do. But until they catch up with Hill Country, they’re just blowing smoke.

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Double Shot: Emeril Live at Red Hook Ballfields 7/14

Folks....this just in. If you are in New York City and you haven't been to the Ballfields, you owe it to yourself. This is a great chance to come out and support the vendors. They are in danger of losing the right to vend in Red Hook as the location is going out to bid for next season.

Photo: Joe Fornabaio from NY Times

Grub Street has a fantastic video of Josh Ozersky and Aaron Sanchez (of Paladar and Centrico fame) touring the food stalls RIGHT HERE.

Dear Friends,

I am pleased to inform you that the crew from Food Network's Emeril Live
show will be coming to do a piece on the Food vendors this weekend, Saturday
July 14 from noon to 4pm. I received confirmation this week.

In addition to featuring some of the foods that are most popular of our
affair, the crew informed me that they will be interviewing individuals who
frequent the stalls and enjoy the affair for their opinions on the food and
on what makes the Red Hook Food vendors unique.

I would love to extend a special invitation for you to come to the park on
this date and show your support, as well as hopefully express your opinion
on what you feel makes our affair special to you.

We are very happy about this happening, as it is a welcome shift of
attention from our current situation to what is really most important about
us -great food and good times!


Cesar Fuentes
Executive Director
Food Vendors Committe of Red Hook Park Inc.

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Hot for Teacher: Ancient Peppers of Mexico and Chinatown Flavor

Here are are some pictures from a recent foray into Chinatown. Anyone who has read my blog for a while (I'm talking to you, mom) knows how much I love eating in Chinatown. This last time I got to introduce my father to a new place-- New Yeah Shanghai Deluxe on Bayard. He loved it. He proclaimed the fried pork dumplings and kung pao the best he'd ever had.

While waiting for my father, Hiroshi and I ducked into the tea house across the street for a quick char siu pork (Chinese bbq pork) bun to tide us over. When we got to the restaurant w/ my dad, we had an amazing Rice Cake w/ Pork dish and several different kinds of dumplings including scaldingly hot soup dumplings, and the aforementioned kung pao. We finished the meal right next door to New Yeah Shanghai Deluxe by going to the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory next door. I had the Pistachio-Cherry. Delish.

My capitalization is random.

Incredible news about the discovery of ancient dried peppers in Mexico--

"Shriveled peppers preserved for 1,500 years in two caves in southern Mexico are giving scientists a real taste of pre-Columbian agriculture and the spicy fare it yielded."

Click the text above to read more about the Mexican peppers.

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Thursday, July 05, 2007

All Along the Watchtower: July 4 w/ Hill Country NY

Hey everyone, I'm feeling sore today. I spent the day cooking with my great friends from Hill Country NY yesterday at the Water Taxi Beach in Long Island City, Queens. We were part of a fundraiser to help children with cancer. The weather kept some people away, but it never rained all that heavily and it was an amazing spot from which to see the fireworks.

We served brisket sandwiches to the public and I cooked up some babyback ribs, chicken, kielbasa, italian sausage, shrimp and chopped beef for the crew. It was fun to hang out with my Hill Country friends Big Lou, Barry and Danny and my Atom's Ribs peeps Hiroshi, The Wife and my sister. The entire Hill Country crew is a heckuva lot of fun. Here're the visuals.

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Palomine: BBQ safety and More

As everybody gets fired up for their fourth of July celebrations, it seemed to be a good time to remind everyone to always be safe when dealing with fire. Make sure all the flames and embers are extinguished before starting to pack up. This means having a metal basket or can with a lid for your ash and embers. I like to run water over everything to be extra safe and ALWAYS....ALWAYS have a fire extinguisher close by. Test them each year to make sure they work. Please be safe.

Ashes from barbecue start fire that destroys Holladay house
By Russ Rizzo
The Salt Lake Tribune
Article Launched: 07/02/2007 11:13:26 AM MDT

Posted: 11:16 AM- Ashes left in a trash can from a weekend barbecue started a fire Monday morning that destroyed a Holladay house, displacing a family.

The fire started in a trash can leaning against the house, near 1650 E. 4400 South, and quickly went inside about 8:30 a.m., Unified Fire Authority spokesman Chad Simons said. It burned through at least two bedrooms, a living room and the attic of the rambler-style house, he said.

A father and daughter escaped unharmed before fire crews arrived, Simons said. Their names were not released. Firefighters put the flames out by 9:15 a.m., Simons said.

And here's some bbq history and patriotism wrapped up in one. This article is from the Washington Post.

Take a 'Cue From History and Get Your Grill On

By Sally Squires
Tuesday, July 3, 2007; HE01

You and George Washington may have more in common than you might think. When you pile your plate high with barbecue tomorrow, you will be engaging in a celebration deeply rooted in our nation's history.

Getting together for barbecues was a popular pastime in mid-18th-century Virginia and many other colonies. Both before and after the Revolutionary War, Washington frequented barbecues in Alexandria, along the Potomac and in Fredericksburg, as Mary V. Thompson notes in "Cornbread Nation 2," a collection of essays about barbecue organized by the Southern Foodways Alliance. Washington hosted a few barbecues of his own, giving one at Accotinck in May 1773 and buying flour "for barbecue" in August of that same year, presumably to make the bread or biscuits that are part of the meal.

These days, barbecue buns are store-bought, not homemade. And most of us don't arrive on horseback or sail as Washington and his contemporaries did. (Think of the calories burned!) But what has changed surprisingly little is the idea of gathering with family and friends to savor slow-cooked barbecue.

"Barbecue" is an amalgam from the Haitian "barbacoa" and "babracot," believed to be from Guianian Indians, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. These terms describe the practice of cooking fish and meat over a fire on a wooden grill of sticks set on posts. Today's barbecue is more apt to be prepared on a sleek stainless-steel grill fueled by propane, but the food hasn't changed much.

"Cherished" is how Lolis Eric Elie, the editor of "Cornbread Nation 2," describes barbecue in the introduction to the collection.

But is the best barbecue pork or beef? That's still hotly debated, and some would add chicken, fish and lamb to the mix.

"Though the various versions of barbecue differ from each other as much as cows differ from sheep, or as much as tomatoes differ from mustard seeds, the common themes of wood and smoke, meat and sauce, family and fellowship transcend regional rivalries and recipe differences," Elie writes. (Find barbecue recipes at

There wasn't an obesity epidemic in Washington's day, but the barbecue still provided a great excuse to pig out. As one plantation owner groused in 1772, "barbecues and what-not deprived some of their senses."

Go easy, however, and barbecue is not as calorically damaging as you might imagine. Two tablespoons of barbecue sauce have about 50 calories. Six ounces of barbecued beef or pork clock in at about 300 calories. Two barbecued chicken wings have about 250 calories. Six ounces of beef ribs, with most of the fat trimmed, have about 604 calories. Six ounces of pork ribs run about 550 calories. Add about 100 calories for a bun or a biscuit. All of this is sans the sides of baked beans, corn and coleslaw -- the reason that moderation is key.

In recent years, barbecue's popularity has been clouded by concerns over heterocyclic amines (HCAs) -- cancer-causing substances that are produced by grilling.

But researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the University of California Cancer Center in Davis have discovered some easy ways to significantly reduce HCAs. Among them:

· Use the microwave to partially cook meat before grilling. Be sure to discard the cooking juices. Precooking a burger for a few minutes in a microwave cuts up to 95 percent of HCAs, the scientists report.

· Flip meat about every minute on the grill. That keeps internal temperature lower and significantly cuts HCAs.

· Marinate. One study found that marinating chicken for 40 minutes with a mixture of brown sugar, olive oil, cider vinegar, garlic, mustard, lemon juice and salt cut HCAs by 92 to 99 percent.

· Sweeten your meat. Add tart cherries or other fruit to meat and chicken. They're loaded with antioxidants, which seem to help suppress HCA formation. Seasoning with garlic also seems to help reduce HCAs.

· Take your meat's temperature. Cook poultry to an internal temperature of 165 to 180 degrees; ground beef, pork and lamb to 160 to 170; and beef steaks and roasts to 145 to 160. Don't cook meat to "well done," which can boost HCA levels.

· Load up on cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale and Brussels sprouts a day or two before you barbecue. All contain cancer-fighting compounds that activate enzymes in our bodies to help detoxify HCAs.

And while you're waiting for the barbecue to cook, take another tip from our country's forebears, who whiled away the time playing music, singing and dancing. Or follow the example of Washington, who played "pitching the bar," thought to be a predecessor of horseshoes. In one account, he reached for the heavy iron bar and sent it whizzing through the air, "striking the ground far, very far beyond our utmost limits. We were indeed amazed." Washington observed, "When you beat my pitch, young gentlemen, I'll try again."

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Monday, July 02, 2007

Simply The Best: National Barbecue Roundup

Hope you all had a great weekend. We cooked up a storm and hopefully I'll have the pictures up tonight.

In the meantime, I wanted to share with you this article that ran in this weekend's Wall Street Journal. The article by Raymond Sokolov entitled "The Best Barbecue" is an excellent overview of the regional styles of barbecue and the places to find the good stuff. Sokolov has obviously done his homework and he names my good friend and awesome pitmaster, Robbie Richter's Hill Country NY (note: Marc Glosserman is the owner of Hill Country and Elizabeth Karmel is listed as Executive Chef-- she came up with the sides and desserts). as one of the best in the country. I have to agree. For more information on the great places mentioned in the article, check out the interactive map when you're done.

Photo courtesy of Austin 360
The Best Barbeque
Juicy brisket pulled straight from the pit in Texas. Pulled pork shoulder with crispy browned bits in Tennessee. And versions rivaling both in Boston and New York. Our food critic goes cross-country for the pick of the pits.

June 30, 2007; Page P1

True barbecue is a complex, slow method of cooking meat in an enclosed space with low, indirect heat and smoke. True barbecue emerges from the "pit" still moist and very tender after as many as 18 hours of cooking. Its flavor is a mix of the smoke, the sublimation of fat, the caramelization of meat juices, spices rubbed on it, soaked or injected into it and sauce basted ("mopped") over it while it cooks.

Within all this, there are endless variations: Tennessee takes its pulled pork from the shoulder; eastern North Carolina uses the whole hog, and flavors the smoky, succulent meat with vinegar sauce; and of course Texas serves up beef from ribs to brisket to sausage. But as I learned on an odyssey in search of America's best barbecue, the cuisine is outgrowing its regional origins. Barbecue joints up north can hold their own against the best below the Mason-Dixon.

The steamrolling migration of true Q is obviously a good thing for diners. But it's also a radical change for a cuisine that's always been defined by its regional differences -- two barbecue restaurants 100 miles apart in the South are likely to serve completely different styles, sauces and cuts of meat. The best northern barbecue restaurants take an anthropologist's approach: They scrupulously research the authentic methods for Carolina pulled pork and Texas brisket, but then offer them on the same menu.

The sleeker, sophisticated places up north may lack the romance of a trip to a shack in rural Alabama or Tennessee, but they also don't threaten the originals, a remarkable number of which show few signs of losing spirit or changing their methods. At Carl's Perfect Pig Bar B Que in White Bluff, Tenn., I dined on an artful jumble of shoulder shreds punctuated with browned bits of the outside of the meat. At Kreuz in Lockhart, Texas, I devoured juicy beef brisket, pulled from the smoker and sliced before my eyes.

In every region, the mutual differences may inspire fierce loyalty, but a fundamental essence and fundamental standards link all the multifarious versions of what is at bottom one place's version of the same brilliant idea.
Photo of Robbie Richter by Josh Ozersky

First, a word on what barbecue is not. Barbecue (the noun) is not something that occurs over direct flame in the open air. Grilling steaks or chicken or burgers is basically harmless, but it doesn't produce true barbecue in the strict sense applied on its native ground to this quintessentially American, smokily superb form of meat cookery. So those of us who will be barbecuing (the verb) on our grills on July 4 will not be eating barbecue 20 minutes later.

All barbecue ought to taste of the smoke given off by the fire it has cooked in, and should be juicy despite the long hours of exposure to heat. Pork ribs should not "whitebone": If you pull two ribs apart with your hands, meat should remain on both bones and no bone should show. Otherwise they are overdone.

Maybe the most important sign of seriously smoked barbecue is that curious pink line that the process leaves behind at the edge of the meat. You can easily taste the wood smoke in righteous 'cue. In my first bite of brisket at Smitty's Meat Market, a short drive from Kreuz in Lockhart, Texas, that smokiness was so strong, it changed my idea forever of what barbecue could be. This style of heavily smoked beef may take some getting used to but for me it is the zenith of the Q universe.

Photo of burnt ends at RUB BBQ by Slice from Flickr

That doesn't mean I don't love the pork barbecue that other regions excel in. But Smitty's is a temple of purity, a dark brick cave of making, with its stark black steel-doored smokers and taciturn pitmen who stand in the heat of the post oak logs, pull out a piece of brisket and ask you if you want it sliced from the lean or the fatty end. I go for the fatty end -- more juice -- and don't mind that Smitty's is really just a specialized meat market. For sauce and cutlery, you go through a door from the darkness of the pit area to a bright-lit concession. The transition is something like the shock Plato tells us his cave-dwellers experienced when they emerged into the sun.

Purists in Lockhart eat with their hands and don't mess with sauce. I'm on their side when it comes to sauce, but if you can't do without it, you can't go wrong in a world where top-flight places serve anonymous brews ranging from sweetened ketchup to peppy vinegar, and anything in between.

A book could be written about the cole slaws -- shredded, chopped, hot, mild, vinegar-based or mayoed -- that Q joints offer along with tangy baked beans and a half-dozen other standbys. We particularly loved firecracker corn, a highly spiced corn on the cob. The classic dessert beyond all others is a vanilla pudding full of banana slices and vanilla wafers.

These dishes attached themselves to barbecue late in its history, which began before Columbus landed. Arawak Indians in the Caribbean must have been slow-cooking meat on a wood platform because their word for this grill moved into Spanish as barbacoa.

For them, as for early settlers, smoking meat was a simple and, it turned out, delicious way to preserve it. We owe our country hams and smoked bacon to this principle. And in poor rural communities in the south, white and black men adapted this into a style of preparing humble meats, first in open pits in the ground and later in the enclosed metal "pits" or smokers of today.

The most fervid celebration of this cuisine occurs every year at the barbecue contests held in hundreds of locations. Teams of mostly amateur chefs compete against each other for blue ribbons in categories such as whole hog or rub. So it seemed reasonable to start my quest at the country's premiere competition, a huge festival on the banks of the Mississippi called Memphis in May.

The odd thing about Memphis in May is that you can't eat the barbecue. The overwhelmingly male teams hang about in their colorful booths, minding their techno-pits. The general public just mills around or pays to go into a special tent where they can ingest limited samples of the contestants' output.

This elitist setup mirrors the larger barbecue world, which is starkly divided between the mob and the cognoscenti -- a paradoxically snobbish rift in a subculture built on a myth of rural simplicity and y'all-come populism. Barbecuemania is split between the uninstructed millions (who will eat a sparerib no matter where it's been) and the adepts who love to split bristles over where to find the best "dry" ribs or the tangiest vinegar-based sauce.

At Memphis in May, I cadged enough meat to conclude that there was plenty of bad 'cue and some very fine stuff to be had. But for those of us outside the contest circuit, the real contest is in restaurants, where pitmasters test their skills every day for the benefit of Everydiner.

The most famous barbecue venues tend to be big, souvenir-sauce-selling places coasting on their owners' fame as contest winners or on raves from the small coterie of barbecue critics. I trekked to Decatur. Ala., to Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q, a multiple first-place winner at Memphis in May, and found the pulled pork mushy and the much-touted sauce underwhelming. I had a passable lunch at Mike Mills's 17th Street Bar & Grill in the cheerless southern Illinois burg of Murphysboro. Mr. Mills uses applewood in his smokers, which is too mild for my Lockhartian taste for post oak.

The most famous of all barbecue restaurants is Arthur Bryant's in Kansas City, Mo. Put on the map by Calvin Trillin who in the 1970s called it "the single best restaurant in the world" in Playboy, Bryant's is now a minichain in Kansas City. I found the barbecue serviceable but unexciting.

Tennessee may qualify as the capital of the most basic kind of barbecue, pork shoulder "pulled" or shredded by hand. Shoulder, like other barbecue cuts, is not a luxury meat -- it's tough -- but benefits from the slow braising of the pit.

At Bozo's BBQ in Mason, east of Memphis, you don't need to sauce up the perfect squills of pork shoulder. Outside this unassuming family operation, a lonely whistling freight train rumbles by. The bright lights of the high-security federal pen next door cast an ominous shadow on the humble former farmhouse. Within, all is good cheer restrained by the confident reserve that comes from knowing you can pull pork so that each strand comes away long and perfect, like hanks of moist beige yarn.

This is the Memphis style at its apogee, 40 miles out from Graceland, and all the other sights and sounds of downtown. Bozo's does not serve ribs. Don't ask for brisket either. In this shrine of the shoulder of the sow, aficionados know that "barbecue" signifies only one cut of meat, from high on the hog.

For a serious challenge to this fare, you'd have to head to the Raleigh-Durham airport and scoot down to Wilber's in Goldsboro, N.C. You are now in whole-hog territory. Vinegar is the basic condiment underlying the pulled pork, which Wilber's variegates with meat fragments from all up and down the succulent swine. You could have this as a sandwich topped with chopped, vinegary cole slaw, but I prefer the unadorned piggy perfection. The southern-fried gizzards are also A-one and offer a crunchy counterpoint to the silken, mildly peppery main event. At Dillard's Bar-B-Que in the city of Durham, they offer a similar, if smokier pork in a dandy coleslaw sandwich.

Texas is another state with a high Q factor. In particular, I mean the woodsy hill country surrounding Austin, the state's capital of politics and intellect. Beef is the main meat here, beef ribs and brisket and piquant sausages that mix local German and Mexican ideas. Lockhart is the Vatican of this persuasion, with its rehabbed turn-of-the 20th-century downtown. This was where we found Smitty's, in a former Shiner's brewery, and Kreuz, pronounced "Krites" and referred to locally as the Church of Kreuz.

From there, we drove north to Oklahoma. Leo's in Oklahoma City and Oklahoma Style Bar-B-Q and Wilson's in Tulsa all offer hickory-smoked sliced brisket of very high quality. They also serve a regional specialty, bar-b-q bologna, segments of lunchmeat sausage smoked as if it were brisket or ribs, and a side dish of pickled mixed vegetables.

Then we headed home, literally and figuratively, to the three cities we have the closest ties to. In each of them, the menu represented, with great fidelity, barbecue styles originating elsewhere. Slows (no apostrophe please) in Detroit, where I was born, is a treasure-house of Q eclecticism. Its ribs were about as good as any we encountered anywhere.

The East Coast Grill in Cambridge, Mass., is rightly famous for its scholarly re-creation of pit barbecue, although we think even the first-rate eastern North Carolina pulled pork relies too much on its excellent vinegary sauce (probably because the kitchen thinks its customers wouldn't appreciate the meat on its own). And in New York City, the Cue millennium came to town last month in the form of Hill Country, a very skillful rendition of Texas barbecue based directly on Kreuz Market in Lockhart. Barbecue expert Elizabeth Karmel consulted on the operation, which imports its sausages directly from Kreuz and burns post oak in its three smokers.

The Q evangelists behind this barn of a place should think about extending their mission to the barbecue wilderness of Los Angeles. We ate in the local standbys Woody's and Phillips, but found their meats overcooked and undersmoked. What Tinseltown most needs these days is authentic Lockhart brisket followed by a rough-and-tumble banana pudding from Carl's Perfect Pig.

While we stuffed ourselves this spring with these splendid viands, and wiped our hands with pieces of paper toweling torn from vertical rolls standing within convenient reach, we kept trying to decide which restaurant would be our pick for champ of the pit-barbecue nation. In the end, because of the dramatic variation of style and content from place to place, we began thinking that any of the places we've mentioned favorably so far was tied for first with the rest.

But if I could only have one meal before being forced to turn vegan, I would charter a plane to Smitty's for a piece of brisket pulled from the pit.


3 egg yolks

½ cup sugar

1/3 cup flour

2 cups whole milk

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

About 36 vanilla wafers

3½ cups ripe bananas (about 4 bananas), sliced

1 cup heavy cream, whipped

• Whisk the egg yolks together until they are smooth. Then whisk in the sugar until the mixture is a lemon yellow. Whisk in the flour and milk.

• Scrape the mixture into a heavy nonaluminum 1-quart sauce pan. Set over medium heat and whisk until the mixture thickens. Stir in the vanilla.

• Pour a thin layer of pudding into a 4-cup serving bowl. Cover with a layer of wafers, then a layer of banana slices.

• Pour a third of the remaining custard over the bananas. Add wafers and bananas as above. Add half the remaining custard. Add wafers and bananas. Cover with remaining custard.

• Cover with whipped cream and serve, or refrigerate until needed.

Serves eight

Note: Many people top the pudding with meringue instead of whipped cream and bake until the meringue is lightly browned. If you prefer this, reserve 3 egg whites when you separate the yolks for the custard. Beat the egg whites until they begin to form peaks. Then whisk in ¾ cup sugar and beat until stiff and glossy. Spread the meringue over the custard and bake in a 350-degree oven for 15 minutes, or until the meringue is lightly browned. Cool before serving. --Adapted by Raymond Sokolov

Click Here For The Interactive BBQ Map
Click Here For A BBQ Podcast on Where to Find The Good Stuff

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