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Wednesday
Feb112015

Review: The Righteous Pig

I finally had a chance to try one of the newer BBQ joints in my area.  In fairness, they've been there a little while but I've only just had the opportunity to give them a try.

The formula for BBQ joints is pretty predictable these days.  Like most of these places, the menu is on a chalkboard, you order at the counter, self service drink station and so on.  The Righteous Pig is no exception to this formula.  I really like the old building they are in.  Old hardwood floors and exposed brick walls make it a pretty cool place.  

 

The menu items are pretty standard fare at the Righteous Pig.  But, the burnt ends sandwich is the specialty on Friday.  The server at the counter talked me into it, as apparently it's the only day of the week that burnt ends are available.  All I can say is, I shoulda had the pulled pork.

I know that burnt ends are made from the fattier, point of the brisket.  But, I got way more fat than I bargained for.  I was also surprised that the sandwich was served on an onion roll, adding an unexpected flavor to the meal.  Overall, I didn't care for my lunch all that much.

In keeping with the formula, there were a jumble of sauces on the table.  A couple of them were really heavy on the heat, a couple were unique flavor combinations (bacon, peach, beer, etc.).  I don't expect boutique sauces, but prefer more traditional regional varities instead.  

Will I go back?  Sure, I'm willing to try it again.  I'd like to try an everyday menu item and see if my experience was an anomally.

In the meantime, here's my report card for The Righteous Pig:

  • BBQ - C

  • Side Dishes - B

  • Atmosphere - A

  • Value - C

  • Service - A
  • Overall - B-

And, here's the particulars for The Righteous Pig:

The Righteous Pig
124 East Main Street
Belleville, Illinois  62220

http://www.righteouspigbbq.com

Cheers,
Braddog 

 

Monday
Feb092015

Review: Smokeware Vented Chimney Cap for the Big Green Egg

I've been cooking on a Big Green Egg for several years now.  My stand operating procedure (SOP) has always been to place the cast iron vented cap inside the hot grill when I finish and use the solid ceramic cap to extinguish my fire (along with closing the lower vent compeltely).  This allows for the cast iron cap to burn off any build up, while extinguishing the fire more efficiently with the solid ceramic cap.

Alas, I finally did what may others before me have done.  When removing my all weather cover from the egg and table, I inadvertently flipped the solid cerami cap off and busted it on the pavers in my cooking area.

Sure, I could just use the cast iron vented cap to shut the cooker down.  But I know from previous experience that it gets gummed up pretty quickly and becomes hard to use.  I could also break out the JBWeld and try to repair the ceramic.  But I know from previous experience that it would only be a temporary solution.

So I decided to just buy a new cermaic cap.  Much to my surprise, I had a hard time finding one.  Then, I stumbled onto this new SmokeWare SS Vented Chimney Cap from Smokeware.  It looked very interesting and it's affordable enough that I thought, "Why not?".

 

The product shipped quickly and I finally got around to installing it.  First, I had to clean the chimney where the new cap will sit.  I scrubbed it pretty good, but there's some discoloration from years of use that was more stubborn than me.

Then, to ensure that the new cap is airtight a felt gasket is applied.  This is similar to the gasket between the base and lid of the Big Green Egg.

Then the lower part of the 2-piece stainless steel vent cap sits firmly agains the egg.

And finally, the adjustable cap fits on top of that.

Here are my initial thoughts on the SmokeWare SS Vented Chimney Cap .

Pros:

  • It's affordable, yet well-made
  • It solves both the need to control air flow and the need to cover the chimney for extinguishing the fire and storing the egg
  • It's build like the flue on your chimney such that it won't allow rain/water into the system.  I've cooked under an umbrella and other unique arrangements to avoid this.
  • It sealed tight enough that I don't think it'll come off easily

 Cons: 

  • It's stainless steel and it does get hot.  I wish the tab to control the size of the opening was a little longer/bigger.  If you're not careful you'll burn your hand, trust me I know.
  • I wish the sliding vent control had a stops for fully open and fully closed.  As it is, the vent control can move 360 degrees.  You have to be sure to position it exactly right to fully close off the air flow.

All in all, I think it's a winner.  Check out the folks over at Smokeware.net for this and other BBQ accessories.

Cheers,
Braddog 

Saturday
Feb072015

Review: Randy's House of BBQ

So while attending an event with my kids, I spotted a "BBQ" sign in a strip mall near the event.

Once I had everyone squared away, I headed over for some lunch at Randy's House of BBQ. The waitress told me snoots were the specialty of the day, but since they aren't my cup of tea I opted for a more traditional pulled pork sandwich.

Randy's is a small place, decorated in an automotive theme. That's a little unique for a BBQ joint, but aside from that it's your typical joint. Order at the counter, menu on the chalkboard, and an assortment of sauces on the table.  You get the picture

My food came out very quickly. I was surprised that the BBQ chips on the menu were a bag of Lays. I guess I assumed they would be made in house. My bad. The BBQ beans were nothing special either. However, I was far from disappointed with the pulled pork. It was very good.  It had the right amount of smoke and seasoning, it was moist and tender, and there was a generous serving on a simple bun.  I enjoyed it with the house "competition" sauce.

No doubt about, the pork and the sauce were the highlight of my visit.  And, I'm always happy to see someone who has taken the time to create their own flavor profile, and bottle it.  The have their sauces and seasonings bottled, as they should.

Here is how I'd rate my trip to Randy's House of BBQ:

  • BBQ - A

  • Side Dishes - C

  • Atmosphere - B

  • Value - A

  • Service - B
  • Overall - B+

Definitely worth the trip.  And, if I find myself in that area again I'll definitely be back.  Who knows, maybe I'll even try the snoots next time.

Here's their location & contact info:

Troy, Illinois
Intersection of 
Rt 40 and Troy O'Fallon Road 
618-667-RBBQ
618-667-7227 

Highland, Illinois
2649 Northtown Way 
618-654-1800

http://www.randysbbq.com/

Cheers,
Braddog 

Friday
Jan162015

Review: Beast Craft BBQ

BBQ joints seem to be opening every other week in my area.  Recently, Beast Craft BBQ opened up in the location of a former diner.  I've been anxious to try it out, and today I finally had a chance.  

A friend and I agreed to meet for lunch at 11:30.  The parking lot was pretty full when we arrived and when we went inside, the line was 20+ people long and there were no empty tables.  I figured this was a good sign.  However, nearly every table in one of the dining areas were waiting for their food and the line hardly moved.  In fact, more than a few potential customers in line behind and ahead of us chose to go elsewhere based on the slow service.

All that aside, how was the BBQ?  Pretty darned good.  I had the brisket sandwich and hand cut fries, while my lunch mate had the pulled pork sandwich and corn on the cob.  All the items were very tasty.  The brisket sandwich was served with grilled onions and a house mustard.  The pulled pork was served with slaw on the sandwich (as it should be).

Brisket Sandwich with Hand-cut Fries

Pulled Pork Sandwich w/Slaw & Grilled Corn

Beast Craft is bucking one of the most common trends in BBQ joints these days.  There was "1", count 'em, "1" bottle of BBQ sauce on the table.  And, it was very good.  In fact, it might be my favorite part of the meal.  I saw no evidence that they're bottling and selling this sauce, but they should.

I also like that they are selling soft drinks from a local bottler and not the big guys.  However, no self-respecting BBQ joint should ever sell sweet tea that is mango flavored.  That's just wrong.

If they can address their customer flow and service issues (and lose the mango flavored tea), I believe that they'll do just fine.  Here's my report card for my visit to Beast Craft BBQ:

  • BBQ - B+

  • Side Dishes - B

  • Atmosphere - B

  • Value - B

  • Service - C
  • Overall - B-

And, here's their location & contact info:

Beast Craft BBQ

20 S Belt W Belleville, IL 

Give 'em a shot, I think you'll like it,

Cheers,
Braddog 

 

 

Monday
Jan122015

Recipe - Bacon Wrapped Chicken Bites

It's playoff time in the NFL and that means I have a lot of chances to get together with friends for football on the weekends. I don't do this all that much during the regular season, but after the holidays it seems like folks aren't as busy and we enjoy getting together.

But I digress. I get tired of the same old snacks that I've done for gatherings like this. So, I was looking for something different when I came upon a reference to bacon-wrapped chicken bites. Sounded good to me, so I gave it a shot on Sunday.

I cubed 2 large chicken breasts and wrapped each cube in a half a strip of bacon. I then rolled them in brown sugar and hit them with a little bit of spicey rub. That's all there was to it.

I fired up the Big Green Egg and set it up for indirect cooking. However, I ran the temp up to about 350 degrees. The chicken cooked for 45 minutes to an hour. The only problem I had was judging the doneness of the chicken, as I couldn't really see the chicken through the bacon.

 

There are a couple of things I'll do differently next time.  First, I won't panic and switch to direct cooking half-way through.  That was a mistake (and why there are no "after" photos).  Second, I think a little more brown sugar and a little more heat would be good.  I will try to punch up the flavor next time for sure.

Conference championships are coming up this weekend so you've got time to perfect your game time grub before the Superbowl.   Leave a comment and let me know what you're going to cook for the big game.

Cheers,
Braddog 

Tuesday
Dec162014

2014 - "Operation Hickory Smoke"

I'm a little late in getting this post written.  But if you've read Grill & Barrel before, you know that each year we cook for some of our service men & women at Scott Air Force Base during an annual exercise.

This year was no different.  Well, maybe it was a little different.  This event seems to get just a little bit bigger every eyar.  The first year, we only cooked 2 pork butts.  This year, we cooked a whole case.   See what I mean?

Not that I'm complaining.  I consider it an honor to cook for these folks and I'm glad that they enjoy the food (by all accounts).

image

Here's looking forward to the 2015 version of Operation Hickory Smoke.

Cheers,
Braddog 

Wednesday
Sep102014

My BBQ Space

For the past few years, I've cooked on a variety of pits at home. Each time, I've moved the pit from the garage to the edge of the driveway or onto the lawn. The benefit is that my BBQ Pits (I have more than one, doesn't everybody?) are stored indoors. The downside, my cars are not.

So, I've decided that I'd like to get my cars in the garage. But, I didn't really have a great place to keep the BBQ gear and I wasn't sure about storing my gear outdoors. Recently, I took the first step in solving this problem and laid pavers behind the garage. So far, I couldn't be happier with the result.  I've got 2 of 3 cars in the gargage and a dedicated space for cooking.  I've ordered a cover for my Big Green Egg and table and I'm about to order one for my Backwoods cooker.

IMG_2095

Some time in the future, I could see a cover on this space.  But that's a blog post for another day and at a time when the finances could support something more.

Cheers,
Braddog 

Wednesday
Sep032014

4th Annual Kentucky State BBQ Festival

If you find yourself within a reasonable drive of Danville, KY this weekend, you definitely need to stop by the Kentucky State BBQ Festival.  If you've ever attended a BBQ competition, you know that it's a little disappointing not to be able to sample the best BBQ at the event.  Well this festival changes that.  Here, some of the top pitmasters in the country will be selling their BBQ.  

The lineup this year includes:
  • Carey Bringle of  Peg Leg Porkers BBQ Team
  • Moe Cason of Ponderosa BBQ and contestant on the TV show BBQ Pitmasters
  • Mike "The Legend" Mills of 17th Street BBQ and 4-time World Champion at Memphis in May
  • Craig Kimmel of Firehouse BBQ, a regular champion on the BBQ competition circuit
  • Shelly Frisch of Desperados Barbecue & Catering, an award winning pitmaster and a regular at Danville
  • Shane Draper of Draper’s BBQ, creator of Draper's Rubs & Sauces and a Memphis in May competitor

This year, the event starts on Friday.  Here is the schedule for the weekend.

Friday: 5PM-10PM

5:00 PM 5:30 PM KY State BBQ Festival Official Opening Ceremony Main Stage
5:00 PM 10:00 PM Festival Open  
6:00 PM 10:00 PM

 

8:00 PM

VIP Benefit Auction Event
Tri County Bluegrass Band
Auction Starts
VIP Area
10:00 PM Festival Closes for the Day
See You Tomorrow!
 

Saturday: 11AM-10PM

9:00 AM Baron/Baroness of Backyard Competition Begins BOBB Area
9:00 AM Smokin’ Butt Bike RideBegins Danville Bike
11:00 AM Festival Open  
12:00 PM 12:30 PM Tim Mikeska – Demo Subject TBA Demo Stage
1:00 PM 2:00 PM Diana Chittester Main Stage
2:15 PM 2:45 PM Tim Mikeska – Demo Subject TBA Demo Stage
2:50 PM 3:00 PM Backyard BBQ CompetitionTurn-in BOBB Area
3:00 PM 4:00 PM The Mojos Main Stage
4:15 PM 4:45 PM Tim Mikeska – Demo Subject TBA Demo Stage
5:00 PM 5:15 PM Door Prize Drawings Main Stage
5:15 PM 5:30 PM Baron of Backyard BBQAwards Ceremony Main Stage
Saturday Night Blues Party
6:00 PM 7:00 PM The Sonny Yingst Band Main Stage
7:30 PM 8:30 PM The Kingbees Main Stage
9:00 PM 10:00 PM LaMont Gillespie and 100 Proof Main Stage
10:00 PM Festival Closes for the Day
See You Tomorrow!
 

Sunday: 11AM-5PM

11:00 AM Festival Opens  
12:00 PM 12:30 PM Tim Mikeska – Demo Subject TBA Demo Stage
12:45 PM 1:45 PM Tall, Dark and Handsome Main Stage
2:00 PM 2:30 PM Tim Mikeska – Demo Subject TBA Demo Stage
2:45 PM 3:45 PM Toad Strangler Main Stage
4:00 PM 4:45 PM 4th Annual Bean Eating Contest
Hog Calling Contest
Main Stage
5:00 PM 6:00 PM Award Announcements,
Big Green Egg Raffle Drawing
Door Prize Drawings

 

Kids Helping Kids
Best in Show Award
Grand Champion Award

Main Stage
6:00 PM Festival Closes
See You Next Year!
Get out there and have some fun in Danville!

Cheers,
Braddog 
Wednesday
Aug132014

My mini-BBQ Crawl - Kansas City

I recently had to be in Kansas City for business.  With KC being one of the BBQ hot spots in America, I had to try to get as much BBQ eaten during a 3 night trip as possible.  I was successful in eating BBQ 2 out of 3 nights, and that ain't bad.

On the first night, plotted a course for Arthur Bryants.  Unfortunately, I rolled into their parking lot at 9:05pm, 5 minutes past closing time.  

Undeterred, I reset the GPS and targeted the nearest Gates' BBQ location.  Luckily, they were open until midnight.  At 9:30, there was a line of at least 6 people in front of me.  I figured that was a good sign.  Being in KC, I had to order the burnt ends sandwich and fries.  Gates did not disappoint.

The next night, we worked until nearly 2:00am so I didn't have a chance to even think about BBQ.  But on Wednesday, I managed to get to the nearest BBQ joint to my work site that I could find, a place called the Smokebox Cafe.  I had a brisket and pork plate.  I preferred Gates, but still had a good experience.

Like I said, 2 out of 3 ain't bad.  Look forward to my full review of each of these places coming soon.

Cheers,
Braddog 

Wednesday
Jun252014

Regional BBQ Infographic

While America is a melting pot, local cultures and preferences are varied in almost every area of life.  BBQ is no exception.  Recently, I came across this infographic that does a nice job of describing the different styles of BBQ that you find in different regions of the country. 





Infographic courtesy of http://www.goedekers.com.

Thanks to the folks at Goedekers in St. Louis for the artwork. Cheers, Braddog