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Entries in Review (47)

Wednesday
Sep292010

Review: Holland Grill - Companion Model

Holland companionEarlier this year, I had the opportunity to do cooking demonstrations for the local grill and fireplace dealer.  I was really quite pleased at the turnout and response I received from all those who passed through my Big Green Egg demos.  It also warmed my heart a bit to see how many friends made an effort to swing by and support my endeavor.

One of those lucky souls was fortunate enough to win the door prize that day and received a Holland Companion model portable grill from Holland Grill.  Further, I'm lucky enough to call the winner a neighbor and a friend.  So when it came time for our twice-yearly trip to the Bluegrass Festival in Branson, MO, we opted to drag the the Holland Companion along rather than the hitch-mounted Bubba Keg .

The Holland Companion is small enough to easily fit in the trunk of your car (or back of your SUV in my case).  The lid locks shut and legs fold under so that it takes up even less space and doesn't make a greasy mess.  The unit runs on small propane bottles like you'd use on a camp stove or lantern, making access to fuel a non-issue.

The unit is constructed of stainless steel and utilizes what Holland calls the patented Holland Grill System.  By utilizing a full sized drip-pan/heat deflector under the cooking grate, they virtually eliminate all flare-ups and catch all the drippings from your meal.  The drippings sizzle and create a smokey flavor that is missing from many gas grills.  Holland refers to this as "indirect grilling".

The Companion lived up to its billing as a portable indirect grill.  We prepared bratwurst & hot dogs one evening, fried bacon the next morning, and re-heated a brisket while grilling pork tenderloins the second night.  It performed nicely at all of these tasks.  Okay maybe frying bacon was a bit tiresome since we were cooking on the expanded metal cooking grate rather than on a flat surface, but we got the job done and enjoyed bacon, egg, & cheese breakfast sandwiches. 

This unit would be great for tailgaters, campers, or anyone who likes to take the grill along on an outdoor excursion.  Holland Grill makes full sized grills using the same design pricipals and I can attest to the flexibiliy of the units based on the Holland rep's demonstration that I observed over the course of the day at Grillfest this spring.  I should also add that my father has a Holland Grill and has been a fan since he acquired it many years ago.

Here's the contact info for Holland Grill, a company based right here in the USA (despite the name).

The Holland Company, Inc.
121 Thomas Mill Rd.
Holly Springs, NC 27540
Office (919) 557-2001

http://www.hollandgrill.com

Cheers,
Braddog

Thursday
Aug262010

Review: Flavors BBQ

With a new day, hope springs eternal. And, after yesterday's failed excursion I was hopeful that I'd find better eats at a place called Flavors in South St. Louis.

Before I got to the door, I spotted what appeared to be a Southern Pride cooker out back and I could smell the smoke. That's always a good sign.

When we walked in, I found what is quite possibly the nicest BBQ joint I've ever been in. All that was missing was white table clothes and fine wine. This place was very nicely decorated and spotless. I wouldn't have been surprised If I'd been handed a fine Italian or French menu, but I was really happy that what I got was pure BBQ.

My lunch mates ordered up the pork plates and I went for the brisket. What we received were huge portions of the respective BBQ dinners with 2 sides for less than $10. Quite a value!

The pork was very good, some of the best in town. The brisket was close, but the fact that the fat cap wasn't trimmed either pre or post cook meant that I received quite bit of fat on my brisket slices. Other than that, the meat was very good.

The side dishes were a mixed bag. My lunch mates really enjoyed a baked potato as a side dish, but being a purist I went for baked beans. What I got resembled a doctored up can of pork and beans. I wish there'd been a little more love and care in the side dishes as there was in the BBQ.  Additionally, there was only 1 sauce on the table and I'd swear that it was Original Sweet Baby Ray's in a nondescript bottle.

Here's how I'd rate my trip to Flavors BBQ

  • Atmostphere - A+
  • BBQ - B
  • Sides - C
  • Sauce - C
  • Value - A
  • Overall - B

I really enjoyed my visit.  I'll definitely go back, but Flavors BBQ could be a couple of sides and an original sauce away from making my list of the best BBQ joints in St. Louis.

Oh, and they did have sweet tea!  ;-)

Flavor's BBQ

(314) 533-1288

4317 Manchester Rd
St Louis, MO 63110

Cheers,
Braddog

Sunday
Aug222010

Reveiw: Blues Hog BBQ Sauce

I firmly believe that most BBQ sauce should only be used as a condiment.  And mostly that's the result of all the poor samples that line the shelves in the grocery stores.  Now over the years reading BBQ forums across the interwebs, a few names keep coming up regularly and come highly recommended. 

One of these is Blues Hog BBQ Sauce .  I really don't have a good excuse for not trying it sooner as it's made fairly close to my home in St. Louis, MO.  So recently I determined to give it a try and made a trip to a local BBQ shop that I knew carried the product.

Today, I got the opportunity to crack open the jar and give it a test drive.  Wow!  I was really surprised at how good it is.  In fact, I couldn't keep my fingers out of it.  It is a sweet sauce, but it has a little bite to it that lingers on the palette.  The sweetness doesn't remind of honey or sugar, instead I'm reminded of berries or currants.  I basted a pork tenderloin and a couple of chicken breasts with it and this stuff rocks!  I think I actually preferred it on the chicken.

I'll definitely use this on ribs the next time I cook them.  In the mean time, I'd highly recommend the sauce. 

Cheers,
Braddog

Saturday
Jun262010

Review: Wine Barrel Grilling & Smoking Staves

For years, I've cooked over mostly hickory or apple wood.  I really enjoy the smell of the smoke and the taste that it imparts to the meat.

Recently, I had the chance to use Wine Barrel staves on a couple of different cooks and cookers.  The staves are from actual oak wine barrels used to make red wine.  You can see how the wine has stained the inside of the staves.  Simply add these to your grill or smoker in the place of other smoking woods.

I first used them in a Big Green Egg when I was smoking baby back ribs.  The smoke was lighter than hickory or mesquite.  I really enjoyed the milder flavor as well.  Most recently, I used them in a Backwoods Fatboy and the experience was the same.  Although I'm not sure I could detect any flavor from the wine itself, I'd highly recommend this product for a lighter, milder result.

The staves were from RedEnvelope.com.  I really like the package that I received and would highly recommend this site to order up personalized gifts for the grillmeister in your life.  There's a nice selection of personalized and grilling gifts.  You should definitely keep them in mind at your next gift giving opportunity.

Cheers,
Braddog

Monday
Oct192009

Review: Alford's BBQ Sauce

I've talked about the brotherhood of BBQ fans before, and once again a member of the brotherhood has come bearing gifts.  A co-worker recently returned from a trip to his hometown and brought me a bottle of sauce from his favorite BBQ joint.

Alford's is a BBQ joint in Kennet, MO and apparently folks in that part of the country will drive for miles to enjoy some of their BBQ.  I haven't gotten a chance to eat there, but I do have the pleasure of sampling their sauce.

It's a thin sauce with a vinegary taste and a decent kick.  I applied it to some left over brisket and over the course of a couple of days, I think I went through half of the bottle on my own. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the sauce and can't wait till I find myself in that part of the country to try some of their BBQ.  If you're passing through here's their information, but apparantely you need to go early.  Cause as I understand it, they sometimes run out of BBQ.

Alford's Bar-B-Q
1009 St Francis St, Kennett, MO
(573) 888-4539

Cheers,
Braddog

 

Saturday
Oct102009

Review: Rendezvous - Memphis, TN

I'm reluctant to even write a review of the Rendezvous in Memphis, TN as I'm sure that it's been done many times given their reputation.  But, why stop now when I take every chance I get to review a new BBQ joint.

I can usually coerce my family into eating BBQ at least once when we travel and since we were staying just a block away, it seemed inevitable that this is where we would eat  BBQ.   I'd received strong recommendations for a couple of other places, but Memphis is just full of too many places to choose from and the reputation and proximity of the Rendezvous sealed the decision.

In any event, we headed over to the Rendezvous on Friday night to find the place rapidly filling up as the dinner hour was getting into full swing.  Looks are deceiving, and there is plenty of seating inside. We were quickly shown to a table where we perused the menu.  For my family, there was some debate as to what they would order but for me this was a foregone conclusion.  So my wife and kids ordered up BBQ chicken platters, while I went for the whole slab of ribs.

The Rendezvous isn't fancy and the food was served quickly on paper plates with plastic utensils.  The family got started on chicken that was very tasty and I paused to snap a picture of my ribs.  Now I prefer dry rubbed BBQ and typically turn up my nose at BBQ that is too wet, but I was not prepared for the amount of dry rub & spices that were visible on the surface of my ribs.  My wife took one look at my ribs and said, "Those don't look like Braddog ribs".  I was flattered and didn't bother to try to explain that these ribs are char grilled as opposed to the way I prepare them.

The ribs were tasty, but due to the chargrilling they were chewier than I'm used to.  The beans were very good and the slaw was sweet and vinegary (the way I like it).  Service was top notch and the we were in and out in a very short amount of time.  I'd read enough about the place beforehand that there were no surprises and all-in-all I enjoyed my trip to the Rendezvous.

There may be better BBQ in Memphis, but based on reputation and notoriety you've got to give the Rendezvous a shot when you're in town.

Cheers,
Braddog

Tuesday
Aug112009

Review: Masterbuilt Electric Smokehouse

Hang on to your hats luddites and BBQ purists, this new fangled electric smokehouse will give your stickburners and colored eggs a run for your money!

As I mentioned in a previous post, I had seriously considered buying one of these electric smokers for the last two seasons and took the plunge while planning a weekend BBQ for friends last month.  Since that day I have smoked more meat and had better results than all last season (four racks of ribs, 3 pork butts, dozen ABTs, two chickens, six breasts, pork steaks and even a couple ribeyes).

To be honest, my BBQ experience pales in comparison to Braddog’s and is limited to traditional charcoal grills, gas grills, an electric bullet smoker, charcoal bullet and a propane cabinet smoker.  For me, this cooker has delivered the best results by far for slow and low cooks.

Pros:  Temp Control, Moist, Efficient 

Temperature control is the clear advantage of an electric smoker.  This unit seals tightly, is well insulated and comes up to cooking temp quickly and maintains it effortlessly.  I’ve maintained three 12-13 hour cooks now with so little effort that I feel guilty over the compliments I’ve received from friends and family over the results.

Aside from temp control, this cooker also keeps the moisture in with beads of moisture building up on the walls and window throughout the cook.  I’ve maintained a water/drip pan for each of the long cooks, but only considered adding water after 8 hours or more and it was still far from dry.  Thanks to the window in the door, built-in meat probe, and side load for wood chips there’s really no need to open the cabinet other than to load and unload food!

I’ve found that a small amount of wood for smoke goes much further in this smoker than others I have owned.   I like smoke flavor, but I’ve had to back off the amount of smoked wood chips I’ve used to keep from adding too much flavor.  I’ve over smoked chicken by using less than three cups of soaked hickory chips over a three hour smoke.  My last pork butt used about 4 cups spread over a 12 hour smoke and had plenty of smoke flavor throughout after pulling it.

Cons:  Electric Stigma, Poor LED display, Messy window

Its still electric so I don’t expect to convert any purists, but I got over that with the results of my first cook and I wouldn’t turn back now.

The control panel leaves a lot to be desired.  Controls are simple enough with inputs to set cook temp and time (auto shutoff at end of cook).  There’s a button to turn on/off the internal light and another to view the temperature registered by the meat probe.  This is awesome for overnight cooks because I could check on the grate temp just by looking out the patio window.  In daylight however it is nearly impossible to see without cupping your hand over the display to block the glare.  It would be really nice to have a wireless remote to take inside with an alarm that sounded when your meat reaches a target temp  (maybe this has made me too lazy).

The window is awesome for watching the progress of your cook, but as you can imaging it can get pretty nasty with the smoke residue etc form the cook.  Gives you a whole new perspective to “seasoning” your cooker!

Overall, this is BBQ Genius for us casual weekend cooks.  Just one month in, I couldn’t recommend it high enough and assuming it holds up, plan to use this cooker year round!  I’m ready for a throwdown with Braddog now!

Cheers,

-D

Saturday
Aug082009

Review: Peace, Love, and Barbecue

PL&BBQI grew up in southern Illinois and was attending Southern Illinois University about the same time that Mike Mills was opening his first restaurant, 17th St. BBQ, in Murphysboro, IL.  My roommate and I would occasionally make the trip to Lake Egypt to eat BBQ at a place that we liked, but we were totally unaware of the happenings less than 10 miles away from campus.

Mike Mills is an author, a restauranteur, a Memphis in May Champion, and is referred to as The Legend in BBQ circles.  This book, Peace, Love, & Barbecue: Recipes, Secrets, Tall Tales, and Outright Lies from the Legends of Barbecue, is his perspective on the culture of BBQ.

Peace, Love, and Barbecue isn't an autobiography, though it tells Mike's story from his viewpoint.  It's not merely a cookbook, though it's chocked full of awesome recipes from some of the best BBQ'ers in the country.  It's not an instructional guide, but there are lots of tips and recommendations throughout the book.  It's not a travel guide, but you could use it to locate the best BBQ  joints in the country.  This book is all of those things and more.

For every beer you drink, throw on about 6 lumps of charcoal or one small stick of wood - Mike Mills


I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book, hearing from the who's who in the BBQ world, perusing the recipes and planning my next BBQ experiment, and getting a deeper look at the culture around one of the most uniquely American foods, BBQ.  This is a must read for anyone who cooks as a hobby, aspires to cook competitively, or simply enjoys good BBQ.

So here's wishing you Peace, Love, and BBQ!

Cheers,
Braddog

Saturday
Jul042009

Review: Shorty Small's

The 4th of July weekend usually consists of me spending lots of time tending the cooker and enjoying some time out of the office.  However, this year we had a last minute change of plans and headed out of town.  So, for July 4th BBQ I found myself at a BBQ restaurant that I located based on an advertisement I saw on a billboard.  Turns out, the billboard was better than the BBQ.

ShortySmalls

I found myself in a restaurant called Shorty Smalls.  They have a handful of restaurants around Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas & Oklahoma.  I ate at one of their two locations in Branson, MO.  I can’t tell if the down home décor is typical of all their restaurants since nearly every eatery in the Branson/Ozark Mountain area employs a log cabin motif with the accompanying décor.

I was surprised to find a menu with lots more than BBQ, and I should have been suspicious when there was no BBQ sauce on the table.  It seems that these days every BBQ joint I see has an assortment of sauces on the table.  Nonetheless, I let the waiter talk me into having the ribs.  In fact, I ordered a combination plate of ribs & pulled pork with sides of slaw & baked beans.

I guess it’s a good thing I took the waiter’s advice and ordered the ribs because I couldn’t eat the pulled pork.  It might have been good, but I couldn’t tell because it was drenched in their BBQ sauce.  The ribs had no smoke, rub, or sauce flavor but they were tender.  But then again, there are lots of ways to prepare ribs that makes then tender but they don’t all make them BBQ.

Side dishes?  The beans didn’t seem to be much more than canned pork & beans and the slaw & fries were just average.  Luckily my family had a better experience, but then none of them had the BBQ.

I can’t recommend Shorty’s for BBQ, but if you’re looking for sandwiches & pasta they might be worth a shot.
Here’s how Shorty Small’s stacks up:

•    BBQ – D
•    Side Dishes – C
•    Atmosphere – C
•    Value – B
•    Overall – C-

Cheers,
Braddog

Monday
Jun292009

Review: Dickey's Pit BBQ

While noodling around with Google Maps on the iPhone, I discovered that there was a BBQ joint not far from my office that I hadn’t tried yet.  So on Friday, I set out to give it a try.

DickeysBBQThe place is called Dickey’s Pit BBQ and it turns out that they are a rapidly growing chain.  I hadn’t been there before, but my previous experience in a BBQ chain wasn’t all that great.  So with a little apprehension I stepped up to the counter and ordered my lunch.

They serve the usual BBQ fare of pulled pork, brisket, sausage, chicken and ribs.  I ordered the two-meat platter of brisket & pulled pork with a  couple of sides and a glass of sweat tea.  The food came out quickly and it looked promising enough, but it didn’t much of a smoke flavor and there was little to no additional flavor in the bark.  Having said that, the meat was tender and the portions were generous. 

The side items were probably my favorite part of the meal.  The green beans with bacon and the BBQ beans were very tasty.  And, I can’t say no to a hunk of sweet cornbread.  I also enjoyed their sauce which is served warm from a steam table by the salad & drink bars. 

Overall, it’s the best chain BBQ joint I’ve eaten at and they do have a pretty large presence across the country.  So, if you run into one of their locations I wouldn’t shy away from eating there.

 Here’s my breakdown:

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

Cheers,
Braddog