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, August 31, 2007

Motherless Child: Random Musings

This site is normally about food-- BBQ in particular. I hope to be able to cook some this weekend. I'd like to do a case of briskets. This would enable me to spend most of the weekend with my mother, which is what this post will be about. Anyone interested solely in food can scan down to the bottom.

She is lying in a hospital bed in the middle of the living room. A hospice nurse sits beside her, my father in the chair in front of her, with his back to her looking at the same huge tv screen that she is looking at. My brother is in one chair, my wife sits beside the nurse on the sofa, and I am standing, leaning against a wall and watching...fidgeting. I can't stop moving, have to be doing something. This is how we are waiting.

Time is running away from us. We all know it. There is an immovable wall between us and the future. There
are facts of life, or living at least, that are immutable. Most of the time we force ourselves to ignore this. We build a wall inside of ourselves to shield us from the end but, like a Telltale Heart, the throb is constant.

All we can do is wait now. I took my father to Hill Country the other day and was able to introduce him to Big Lou, show him the pits and signatures of celebrities-- some of whom my father knew-- Mayor Koch, among others. He shook hands with the Owner, GM and others. They were saying all kinds of nice things about me, I have to admit, which made me and my father both proud, and I was humbled knowing that he would later report all this to my mother. Too bad Robbie wasn't there. One of the many uncontrollable imperfections of this all.

My mother was the one who taught me about diversity and tolerance, to be respectful to women and minorities; to hear the beauty in both paintings and music, dance and the theater. All of this was important to her. I knew she would appreciate the news from Hill Country because, in her youth, she mingled amongst rock stars and other celebrities that she met growing up in Brooklyn. I also took my dad and my brother for dim sum at Perfect Team Corporation because I knew how much they would enjoy it and the distraction.

My Father has enjoyed watching my modest successes because his family was always working on the fringes and, at times closer to the heart of politics and business in and around New York City. My father's mid-level profile in New York's power elite, which he in large part inherited from my grandfather, enabled my parents to continue to mingle their way through the Studio 54-era in New York City to the Hamptons where the most relaxed and familial spirit we knew inhabited our family. Where my father slumbered on a float in the pool with a mystery novel on his chest--face down--- and his sunglasses dangling on his face while my mother sat inside, half-watching a black and white movie while furiously working on the Sunday Times Crossword Puzzle. My brother, in his room, music forever playing and my sister on a beach with her dog who is exploring the surf. When asked about the movie, my mother, invariably wouldn't even know the title, just that it passed the time well with a bag of pretzels and the puzzle.

It didn't matter. Like none of this matters, in a way, right now, but it filled us with joy to be in our favorite place and, most importantly, together, as we are sitting in the living room with her, enjoying these desperately fleeting moments while we can still laugh and smile and share together...The way she wants it to be and the way we will always remember it........

My mother in East Hampton, NY Memorial Day 2006

Food Content: Click Here for the Slideshow of Day 2 at Perfect Team Corporation

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Perfect This Time: The Perfect Team Corporation

My family has always loved dim sum. In fact, Chinese food in general has always played a role in my life. Some of my earliest childhood memories are of meeting my grandparents, aunts and uncles in Chinatown and ascending the escalators into the overwhelmingly decorated, glittering dim sum parlors and planting ourselves around a tremendous round table and covering every surface with dishes of steaming, glistening dumplings and gently undulating things I had never seen before. We would sit for hours grazing and, most often, the adults discussed politics.

My grandparents helped bring a family to this country from China, and as a child I knew them as aunts, uncles, and cousins. Through them and my grandparents, we met a family that ran an import store on Mott St. and after dim sum, or a meal at the original Peking Duck House, we would stop by the store and I would suck on rice candies that came wrapped in rice paper that slowly dissolved on your tongue. The candies were soft, like sweet, slightly fragrant rice flavored disappearing gum. That's how I remember it, anyway.

This is a long winded way of getting to the point. That my mother is living what are most likely the last days of her life. Armed with that knowledge and the hangover of a generally sleepless night, I awoke yesterday and told The Wife that we were going to Flushing for breakfast. She enjoys Chinese food, but wasn't raised with Soy Sauce in her veins like I was. So, we wound up at Perfect Team Corporation on 37th Ave. This is possibly the best, freshest, most hot and steamy dim sum I have ever had. It tasted like my childhood, my memory, my life and the way of the world-- salty, sour, sweet, spicy, tart, and it just felt right.

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Foggy Mountain Breakdown

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Friday, August 24, 2007

The Ballad of El Goodo

I apologize for the delay in posting, but some things are unavoidable.

Coming up is a big collection of links to blogs that we've discovered in the last few months and have wanted to share. There are more than 70 links coming up!

I also have been enjoying Atom's Ribs' new site that is under construction.

Below is a song that seems to fit my mood today. It is from the amazing Big Star-- an early 70's power-pop group led by Chris Bell and Alex Chilton. Fans of the Beatles, Badfinger, The Byrds, etc...should check them out.

Years ago, my heart was set to live, oh
But i've been trying hard against unbelievable odds
It gets so hard at times like now to hold on
My guns they're waiting to be stuck by
At my side is god

And there ain't no one gonna turn me 'round
Ain't no one gonna turn me 'round

There's people around who tell you that they know
The places where they send you, and it's easy to go
They'll zip you up and dress you down
Stand you in a row
But you know you don't have to
You can just say no

And there ain't no one gonna turn me 'round
Ain't no one gonna turn me 'round
Ain't no one gonna turn me 'round
Ain't no one gonna turn me 'round

I've been built up and trusted
Broke down and busted
But they'll get theirs and we'll get ours
Just if we can
Just, ah, hold on
Hold on
Hold on
Hold on

Years ago my heart was set to live, oh
But i've been trying hard against strong odds
It gets so hard at times like now to hold on
Well, i'll fall if i don't fight
And at my side is god

Ain't no one gonna turn me 'round
Ain't no one gonna turn me 'round
Ain't no one gonna turn me 'round
Ain't no one gonna turn me 'round
Hold on
Hold on
Hold on
Hold on

[alternate lines of last verse:]
Years ago i was all set to go
And i've been trying hard against long odds
It gets so hard at times like this to even hang around
I can either stand or fall
And i believe i'm gonna stand tall

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I Saw The Light: Peace, Love and Barbecue

A recent post by my friend, Robert, over at WhiteTrashBBQ made me grab my copy of Mike Mill's and Amy Mills-Tunnicliffe's astoundingly wonderful book, Peace, Love and Barbecue.

Unfortunately, Robert's fish based on the recipe from the book went awry somewhere, but I wanted to stop and look at it again to remember why I loved it so much.

I realized that it is more than the recipes, which are careful, generous and user-friendly. It's also not the stories of real life barbecue artisans and legends, their triumphs and failures, and the b.s. that makes the 'que game fun on top of everything else it offers.

The thing that I love most is that the book delivers on the promise that the title offers. It truly is filled with peace, love and barbecue. From the opening sections of the book, where the story of how bbq filled the Mills family's life and travels, to Mike Mill's introduction to the business of barbecue, Peace, Love and Barbecue offers an open hand to encourage you to begin on the road of barbecue, to share with your friends and family, and most of all, to have fun.

Mike signed my copy in June, 2005-- "To Matt, Thanks for the support. Hope you enjoy. Barbecue is all about friends, family and love." Couldn't have said it better myself.

Basic Dry Rub
Peace, Love and Barbecue
Rodale Books

3 Tbsp paprika
1 Tbsp ground black pepper
2 teaspoons chili pwd
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp celery seed, bruised
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp granulated garlic
1/4 tsp mustard pwd

Mix all ingredients and store in a tightly covered container.

Makes about 1/3 cup

I posted a video from the BBQ Pilgrim about Mike Mills right here

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Friday, August 10, 2007

Life in the Fast Lane: Dinner w/ Bill Clinton Pt. 2 Assorted Ephemera

Not only did the President have seconds, but he had a to-go box w/ extra chicken waiting for him in the hot box for when he hit the road. He was slim and vivacious. His eyes are more sparkling in person than television and pictures can reflect.

Among those we saw were Star Jones and Maura Tierney-- she's quite petite! My picture of the President was taken right over her head...LOL.

It was touch and go leading up to the gig and the menu and number of guests expected were changing up to the very last minute. In fact, I received a text message with the final count after I had already set up and started prepping food-- an hour before service(!). Fortunately we had enough pork for 200. There were about 160.

Here are an assortment of pictures that have been due for over a month. I still owe a note on my experience cooking lamb that was sent to me by the American Lamb Board. Until then....

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Sunday, August 05, 2007

On The Darkside: My night of cooking barbecue for Bill Clinton Pt. 1

Yes, you heard me right. It happened. Above is a blurry cellphone pic. The Wife and I were hired to cook for a Hillary Clinton fundraiser for 150 people at the Hamptons home of Jaci and Morris Reid, the brother of LA Reid.

There is a long story to tell about this gig, but the menu was hamburgers and cheeseburgers, pulled pork, barbecued chicken, grilled chicken breasts, corn, bbq beans and three kinds of bbq sauce.

The Wife and I were up in a blast of 43 hours straight to get this job done, which would not have been possible without our all-volunteer army of helpers from the bbq-brethren. We had just the right number of people for the gig to be efficient.

Below is the To-Go plate that I made for the President. Pulled pork, a cheeseburger, bbq chicken and beans. Thanks, Steve for the picture.

Our crew got to shake the hand of the President and take a picture with him. More on that in the next installment. Did Bill have seconds? You'll have to wait to find out about that.

He did ask me one question...."Did y'all cook me some baaaarbecue?"

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