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Monday
Nov172008

Restaurant Review - Masterpiece BBQ

Recently a co-worker and I hit a new BBQ restaurant for lunch.  Given the options of a pancake place or BBQ, the choice was easy enough.  I was encouraged when I spotted a Southern Pride towable cooker in the parking lot upon our arrival and caught a whiff of hickory smoke coming from the building.

The restaurant is called Masterpiece BBQ.  They have 3 locations and an apparently thriving catering business in the St. Louis area.  I was hopeful when I entered the building.  The atmosphere was consistent with most BBQ restaurants that are expanding into multiple locations these days.  Red checkered tablecloths, corrugated tin on the walls, and lots of pig related paraphernalia scattered about the place.

The menu was clearly displayed on a large board at the front counter, so I ordered up a two meat platter (pork & brisket) with garlic cheese bread and BBQ beans.  And no BBQ meal is complete without sweet tea.  However, this is where it began to go south for me.  As I paid for my lunch I looked up in time to see one of the food prep employees dip a glob of saucey meat onto a slice of white bread, followed by a second dip of thinly sliced brisket out of a vat of au jus.  I let out an audible groan before I could help myself and a second one when a ladle of thick brown KC style sauce was poured over the whole mess.

All my hopes were dashed by the time the plate arrived at my table, but I dug in and tried the BBQ.  The flavor of the brisket was okay but frankly with the pork being pre-sauced and then ladeled with the sweet KC sauce, it was hard to taste anything but the sauce.  The BBQ beans were really tasty as were the green beans that my co-worker had as a side dish.  The garlic cheese bread was a disappointment however.  It was nothing more than a slice of cheese over a piece of thick white bread.  It was "toasted" just long enough for the cheese to get soft, but I certainly wouldn't call it toasted.

BBQ is always better than pancakes, but I probably won't eat there again.  Here's my report card for Masterpiece BBQ.

  • BBQ - C

  • Side Dishes - C

  • Atmosphere - B

  • Value - B

  • Overall - C


Cheers,
Braddog
Friday
Nov142008

Big Green Egg Rain Gear

As I mentioned in an earlier post, my current cooker is a large Big Green Egg.  I love to cook on this thing whether I'm grilling or smoking.  However, like most outdoor cooks I find myself battling the elements from time to time.  I’ve never had a downpour completely wash out a cook, but I do try to take preventative measures when I get caught in the rain.  Most of the time that means trying to build a rain fly for the daisy wheel on the BGE and trying to keep it on the leeward side of the garage.  This works okay as long as the wind isn’t gusting too bad.

Now I have a good friend and neighbor who enjoys the fruits of the egg nearly as much as I do and has witnessed my hurried construction of a makeshift aluminum foil rain fly a couple of times.  So last night he presented me with a solution to the problem as an early barfday present.  No longer will I be scrambling for aluminum foil and performing speed origami with it when the rain begins to fall.

Here are a couple of shots of my new rain gear.  Place your orders now if you’d like one before Christmas!  Everyone knows that we consume more cream of mushroom soup & canned salmon during the holidays than any other time of year!  :)





Cheers,
Braddog

Thursday
Nov132008

Review - 17th Street BBQ

I went to college within spitting distance of the original 17th Street BBQ restaurant and never ate there.  It's funny that 25 years later they have opened a restaurant roughly the same distance away from my home.  Today I finally found a way to convince my family to eat there for lunch.

17th Street BBQ is owned by Mike Mills.  Mike is called "The Legend" in BBQ competition circles.  His competition BBQ team, Apple City BBQ, has won a number of Memphis-in-May titles.  Memphis-in-May is the Superbowl of BBQ competitions.  He's been featured in Gourmet magazine and his BBQ is served at Memphis Championship BBQ in Las Vegas.  This is a pit master that knows what he's doing for sure.

The building that they've occupied has been several different restaurants, including a previous BBQ purveyor.  What struck me when I entered the place is that they have completely redone the inside.  There are walls where there weren't before and they've given the place a very traditional feel.  I liked the atmosphere right away.  The only thing that I found odd was the choice of classic rock music in the background.  I don't think I've ever eaten BBQ while listening to Pat Benetar signing "Hit me with your best shot".

17th Street does BBQ in the Tennessee/Memphis style.  Their original sauce is vinegar based and they serve "chow" (a sweet slaw) on their sandwiches.  This is right up my alley in terms of personal preferences and I have to say that they did a nice job with the BBQ.

The side dishes were also very traditional and very tasty.  I had creamed corn and baked beans with my BBQ pork sandwich.  Both sides had a "down-home" quality that I enjoyed very much.  And no BBQ meal would be complete without sweet iced tea.  My only real complaint is that I felt that their prices were a bit high.

Here's my report card for 17th Street BBQ:


  • BBQ - A
  • Side Dishes - A
  • Atmosphere - B
  • Value - C+
  • Overall - B+

I enjoyed my meal and would recommend 17th Street if you find yourself near one of their locations.

Cheers,
Braddog

Monday
Nov102008

I believe....there's no such thing as too much barbecue

For the past several months, NPR has put out a call for a series called "This I Believe".  Over 13,000 essays have been submitted by listeners.  This one was submitted about BBQ and I thought it was so well done, I had to re-post the transcript here and leave you with a link to the audio.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

"After listening to the results of this project for several weeks, I knew I could do three minutes, too. Certainly not on world peace or the search for meaning in an increasingly distracted world or anything as grave and serious as all that, but on a belief just as true.

I believe in barbecue. As soul food and comfort food and health food, as a cuisine of both solace and celebration. When I’m feeling good, I want barbecue. And when I’m feeling bad, I just want barbecue more. I believe in barbecue in all its regional derivations, in its ethnic translations, in forms that range from white-tablecloth presentations of cunningly sauced costillas, to Chinese take-out spareribs that stain your fingers red, to the most authentic product of the tarpaper rib shacks of the Deep South. I believe that like sunshine and great sex, no day is bad that has barbecue in it.

I believe in the art of generations of pit men working in relative obscurity to keep alive the craft of slow smoking as it’s been practiced for as long as there’s been fire. A barbecue cook must have an intimate understanding of his work: the physics of fire and convection, the hard science of meat and heat and smoke — and then forget it all to achieve a sort of gut-level, Zen instinct for the process.

I believe that barbecue drives culture, not the other way around. Some of the first blows struck for equality and civil rights in the Deep South were made not in the courtrooms or schools or on buses, but in the barbecue shacks. There were dining rooms, backyards and roadhouse juke joints in the South that were integrated long before any other public places.

I believe that good barbecue requires no decor, and that the best barbecue exists despite its trappings. Paper plates are okay in a barbecue joint. And paper napkins. And plastic silverware. And I believe that any place with a menu longer than can fit on a single page — or better yet, just a chalkboard — is coming dangerously close to putting on airs.

I believe that good barbecue needs sides the way good blues need rhythm, and that there is only one rule: Serve whatever you like, but whatever you serve, make it fresh. Have someone’s mama in the back doing the “taters” and hush puppies and sweet tea, because Mama will know what she’s doing — or at least know better than some assembly-line worker bagging up powdered mashed potatoes by the ton.

I believe that proper barbecue ought to come in significant portions. Skinny people can eat barbecue, and do, but the kitchen should cook for a fat man who hasn’t eaten since breakfast. My leftovers should last for days.

I believe that if you don’t get sauce under your nails when you’re eating, you’re doing it wrong. I believe that if you don’t ruin your shirt, you’re not trying hard enough.

I believe — I know — there is no such thing as too much barbecue. Good, bad or in-between, old-fashioned pit-smoked or high-tech and modern; it doesn’t matter. Existing without gimmickry, without the infernal swindles and capering of so much of contemporary cuisine, barbecue is truth; it is history and home, and the only thing I don’t believe is that I’ll ever get enough."

Cheers,
Braddog
Friday
Nov072008

Braddog's BBQ Journey

Pig n Chik BBQ SandwichGrowing up in the southern half of the US, I’ve always loved good BBQ.  Now BBQ in the south has lots of variations (we’ll cover that in a later post), but I grew up with a taste for Memphis style BBQ.  For the uninitiated, Memphis style BBQ is slow smoked with a dry rub.  BBQ Sauce is strictly a condiment and pulled pork sandwiches are served with a sweet slaw.

 

 But I digress.  My uncle was the family BBQ’er and he became a pretty fair hand at smoking turkey, beef etc.  But I don’t think he ever pulled off really good pork butt.  It was after I got married that I decided to try my hand at BBQ.

I started, like a lot of people do, with a Brinkmann bullet-type, water smoker.  I tried both the charcoal & electric varieties.  I turned out some decent chicken, but really good pork butt & ribs eluded me.  I decided that I must need a better cooker, so I moved up to an off-set New Braunfels.  This was an impressive looking unit compared to the bullet smoker and much more involved.  I could make the entire neighborhood crave BBQ with the smell of hickory smoke, but still good pork butt & ribs eluded me.  In fact, I sold the pit and gave up the quest for a couple of years.

About 5 years ago, I decided that I would try to do pulled pork for the family reunion.  My dad had a brand new gas smoker that he’d never used and offered it up for my use.  I had spent my BBQ exile reading a lot of information on the internet about BBQ and knew that I probably hadn’t approached the elusive pork butt & ribs the right way.  So when this presented with this opportunity, I was prepared.  In fact, that day was a defining moment for my BBQ career.  When I put a huge tray of pulled pork on that buffet table and saw the reaction of my extended family, I was hooked.

2007 05 27 004

That year, my bride presented me with a gas smoker of my own and we enjoyed some really nice BBQ over the next couple of summers.  But with my interest growing, I couldn’t enjoy this hobby in the winter using the cooker that I had due to the winter weather we have in the mid-west.  It was about this time that a co-worker introduced me to the Japanese Kamado style cooker.  Cold weather, rain, wind, none of these were a problem with the ceramic cookers.  After 6 months of yearning for a ceramic cooker, I acquired my large Big Green Egg.  This is what I cook on today and it affords me year round enjoyment of my favorite past time and favorite food.       

The journey has been a lot of fun.  Like many folks, I’ve always got my eye on my next cooker.  When I know what the next destination is on my BBQ journey, you’ll be the first to know.

Cheers,
Braddog
 

 

Tuesday
Nov042008

Grill or BBQ....America Decides 

I know it's a pretty lame attempt at election humor, but it is the first Tuesday in November after all.


Today I thought I'd take a shot at defining the difference between grilling and BBQ'ing.  Depending on where you are from, grilling and BBQ'ing are sometimes used interchangeably.  But that's just plain wrong!  :)

I kind of like the way Wikipedia differentiates between the two things.
Barbecue has numerous regional variations in many parts of the world. Notably, in the United States, practitioners consider barbecue to include only relatively indirect methods of cooking, with the more direct high-heat methods to be called grilling.

Now I consider myself a "practitioner" so for the purposes of this blog when I say BBQ (or barbecue or barbeque) I'll be talking about a low, slow, and indirect method of cooking.  Grilling on the other hand tends to be hot, quick, and over direct heat.  If you stick around long enough, you'll get plenty of both.  However, I do prefer BBQ over most things so that's where we'll spend most of our time.

As the Wikipedia reference indicates, there are regional variations.  So, I'll leave you with an explanation of some of the variations on this wonderful thing we call BBQ.

Cheers,
Braddog

Sunday
Nov022008

Welcome!

Few things go together as well as BBQ and Beer.  So this site is dedicated to helping folks who aspire to create either on their own.

Here you'll find help for getting started in either past time.  Whether you have a hankerin' for a good stout or a side of baby back ribs, we'll try to help you sort out the things you need and provide some tips from our own experiences.

So let's fire up the grill, get a tall glass of your favorite libation, and get started brewin' an quein'.

Cheers,
Braddog
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