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WhiteTrash BBQ -- Real Pit Barbecue from New York City. This is the story of a fire obsessed guy, living in Brooklyn, with a dream of producing award winning, competition busting, real Barbeque. Come live the dream as I compete around the country in the KCBS Championship Barbecue circuit.

Monday, July 31, 2006

The Egg

Interesting advancement in Egg technology. I wonder if it's available in the United States yet.

The egg that will tell you when it's perfectly boiled
By Brian McGinley

(Filed: 31/07/2006)

It could be an answer to the prayers of people who, quite literally, cannot boil an egg. Or at the very least, a godsend for a new generation of students struggling with the most basic of culinary tasks.

Revolutionary "self-timing" eggs designed to overcome the perennial problem of how to avoid runny whites and overcooked yolks will appear on supermarket shelves in the coming months.

A boiled egg
Perfect every time: an egg cooked with the new label

The eggs are marked with logos in "thermochromic" invisible ink, which turns dark when it reaches a certain temperature.

Inks have been created to appear after three minutes to indicate a soft-boiled egg, after four minutes for medium and after seven minutes for a hard-boiled egg.

Shoppers will be able to buy the eggs of their choice in cartons marked "soft", "medium" or "hard".

The project was launched by the quality assurance scheme Lion Quality Eggs in response to thousands of people asking how to boil eggs properly.

Gilly Beaumont, of B&H Colour Change, which developed the logos, said: "We are still perfecting the technology, but we are very excited at the prospect of sorting a problem that has wound people up at breakfast time for decades."

The egg logos are the latest application of heat-sensitive technology, which is likely to transform future kitchen landscapes. Other inventions include oven gloves that not only have temperature sensors built in, but also "talk", with phrases such as "The food should be checked in 40 minutes".

Scientists have also been exploring the use of thermochromic technology on fire doors that change colour when hot, football jerseys that can tell when a player is overheating and on road signs that change colour to indicate icy road conditions.

Nestlé Rowntree has experimented with thermochromic logos on its chocolate wrappers in an attempt to cater for consumers who hate a soft KitKat bar. The label is printed directly on to the wrapper.

Once placed in the fridge, the bar cools down while a note appears indicating that the chocolate is ready to be eaten.

Such materials have already been used for some time on a range of products, such as for chill indicators on beer bottles and as safety features on baby spoons.

Meanwhile, a student has come up with a device designed to solve the morning-time conundrum of how best to soft-boil an egg.

The PerfEGG device keeps water temperature constant for 8.5 minutes without reaching boiling point, which aims to let the egg white coagulate but keep the yolk runny, regardless of egg size.

The timing of the device can also be adjusted for hard-boiled eggs.

Brunel University design student Ben Harris, 22, from Dublin, is in talks about launching his gadget.

He said: "I love soft-boiled eggs with toasted soldiers but I get so frustrated if I get the timing wrong and the egg is too hard to dip my soldiers in."

Sunday, July 30, 2006

BBQ Drink: Rolling Rock

With apologizes to my friend Lenn, Beer is really the best thing to drink with barbeque. I know that there are wines that work well with the flavors of the pit, but beer and barbecue are the quintessential pairing.

So it's with tear in the eye and sadness in my soul, today I bid goodbye to a dear old friend, Rolling Rock. The LaTrobe Brewing Company which produced Rolling Rock since 1939 had been sold to Anheuser-Busch back in May. As you may know Anheuser-Busch is the parent company of Budweiser and on Friday shut down the legendary Latrobe Brewing plant. Rolling Rock will now be brewed in the Anheuser-Busch plant in Newark, New Jersey. Ugh.

It's a sad day.

If you want to read more about it, check out Yahoo News. Or Real Beer. Or Off the Broiler. Or The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. It's a sad day.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

BBQ Meat: Goat

I don't know about you, but I'm tired of the same old stuff. Brisket, Chicken, Pork, Ribs, Steaks etc. I need something new.

How about goat? Yeah, goat. Kids to be more exact. I haven't tried this yet myself, but I plan to. I've eaten a lot of curried goat in Indian and Jamaican restaurants so why not try it on the grill? Check out The Shamless Carnivore's story.

Friday, July 28, 2006

New England BBQ Society

It's that time of year again.

Time to announce the New England Barbeque Society's Team of the Year.

And the winner is.....

I Smell Smoke !!!

And the winners in the individual categories are....

Chicken: Purple Turtle Catering Company
Ribs: I Smell Smoke !!!
Pork: I Smell Smoke !!!
Brisket: I Smell Smoke !!!

Rookie Team of the Year: Qhaven

Congratulations to everyone! I want one of those spots next year.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

BBQ Lingo: Cook Like a Man

Part of the Q world is being able to talk a good game. Just be sure your barbecue backs you up.

Here's some more barbeque lingo as published by the Tabasco Company in The Original Cook Like a Man Cookbook. Take these definitions with a grain of salt. My comments are in the brackets at the end.
  • Barbeque ("BBQ", "Que"): Although true barbeque is cooked by the "smoking" method, most folks say they're "barbecuing" when they're actually "grilling." (I don't have to tell you guys this!)
  • Brine: A solution of salt, sugar and water that marinates food before cooking. Adds loads of flavor. (When I brine I also add spices and seasonings)
  • Cowboy Barbecue: Texas style grilling and smoking method. Start by grilling the meat over hot coals until rare, then finish slow-cooking over indirect heat with mesquite chips. (Chips? When I was in Texas I didn't see anyone using stinkin' chips!)
  • Direct Heat: Cooking food quickly by placing it directly over the heat source.
  • Indirect Heat: Cooking food slowly by NOT placing it directly over the heat source.
  • Marinade: A flavorful liquid concoction that food soaks in before cooking.
  • Ms. White: The moist, meaty inside of pork barbecue. (The other white meat - the white meat from a pork butt)
  • Mister Brown: The dark smoked outer part of pork barbeque. (The outer layer of a pork butt aka the bark)
  • Mop Sauce: A mixture basted on food during cooking to add moisture and flavor.
  • Pachanga: South Texan term for a get-together, complete with BBQ and live music.
  • Pig Pickin': North Carolina slang for an outdoor gathering where pulled pork is served.
  • Pitmaster: The craftsman who tends the barbeque pit for hours on end until the meat is perfectly done. The true definition of patience.
  • Rub: Dry seasonings that are massaged in the meat before cooking. Rubs lock in flavor, add a little bite and create a crust on the meat.
  • Searing: Cooking meat on high heat for a short time. Seals in juices and creates a crunchy outside.
  • Smoking: Cooking meat for long periods of time at low temperatures. Fired by burning hardwoods that infuse a "smoky" taste into the meat.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

BBQ Heresy: Grilled Tofu

I have a friend who is a vegetarian. I don't know why and I don't understand the lifestyle. But then again, she doesn't understand my lifestyle either. When we talk about barbeque she's always after me to include vegetables in the cook.

So, here today, to make Maria happy, here's a recipe for Grilled Tofu. May Aetna, Balder, Belenus, Camaxtli, Futsu-Nushi, Hine-i-tapeka, Eate, Gerra, Ometecuhtli and all the other fire gods forgive me.

Grilled Tofu With Ginger-Soy Dressing
  • 3 pounds firm tofu, each cake cut crosswise into six 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons dark sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more for brushing
  • 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger
  • 2 scallions, trimmed and cut into paper-thin diagonal slices (both white and green parts)
  • Red pepper flakes for garnish
  • Toasted sesame seeds for garnish
Line a plate with a double layer of paper towels, then place the tofu slices in a single layer on top. Place another double layer of paper towels on top and refrigerate for 2 hours.

In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, the sesame oil and 2 tablespoons vegetable oil. Brush each tofu slice with vegetable oil on both sides.

Prepare a hot fire in a charcoal grill, or preheat a gas grill to 500 F (high). Grill the tofu slices, turning them once, until heated through and golden, about 2 minutes per side.

Place the tofu slices on a serving plate. Spoon the dressing over and around each piece of tofu. Sprinkle lightly with red pepper flakes and toasted sesame seeds and serve.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

(Adapted from "The Asian Grill" by Corinne Chang, Chronicle, 2006, $22.95)

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

BBQ at the end of the world....

At the end of the Google world anyway. I just did a search for "BBQ" in google and this is the absolute last link mentioned. After 90 pages of links, Google takes you to Maxium Bob.

Monday, July 24, 2006

BBQ Events: Harpoon 2006

Every July, the premier event barbeque event of the North East is held at the Harpoon Brewery in Windsor, Vermont. I was planning on competing at this event, but we were shut out as the event fills up just about as soon as it's announced.

So here's an article from the Valley News about this great event.

When Smoke Gets in Your Food
By Carolyn Lori
Valley News Staff Writer

Windsor -- Using kale as a garnish, pre-seasoned meat and deep-fried anything were not allowed. The same went for branding a pork chop with an identifying mark, using a gas or electrical grill and serving any kind of sauce considered "“chunky."”

These were among the rules at the Sixth Annual Harpoon Championships of New England Barbecue held at the Harpoon Brewery on Saturday, where 41 teams barbecued four categories of meat -- pork chops, chicken, pork ribs and beef brisket -- and vied for the title of Grand Champion and Vermont State Champion of Barbecue. There was also a less-formal cook-off yesterday that had the added requirement of using Harpoon beer-based sauce.

Despite Saturday's rain, Fitz Granger, vice president of marketing from Harpoon Brewery, estimated that about 4,500 people attended the event, which went from noon to 8 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. yesterday.

"We didn't let the rain spoil anything for us,"” Granger said yesterday afternoon.

The more than 30 judges came from all over New England, each of them certified by the Kansas City Barbecue Society, which is the ruling body of many such competitions around the country, explained Ken Dakai, a representative of the society from Clinton, Mass.

The team, I Smell Smoke!!, with members from Fitzwilliam, N.H., Salem, Mass., and Malden, Mass., took top prize on Saturday, earning them an invitation to the premier barbecue competition, the American Royal in Kansas City, later this year and putting them in the running for a chance to compete at the Jack Daniels Barbeque in Tennessee this fall.

The team got its name, according to one of its members, "Charcoal"” Charlie Pini, because whenever he started up the back-yard barbecue someone in the neighborhood would call the fire department and complain, "“I smell smoke."

"It got to the point where every time we'd start the barbecue, we'd hear the sirens,"” said Pini. "“We started chanting, "“I smell smoke!" When he, his brother, Doug Pini, and friend, Steve Farrin, decided to enter their first barbecue competition in 1994, the organizers wouldn't allow them to join without a team name, so Charlie Pini suggested I Smell Smoke!! and that's how the three have been known ever since.

While Doug Pini cooks professionally at a hotel in Cambridge, Mass., Charlie Pini and Farrin are engineers. "“I like to do it for the fun,"” said Charlie Pini. "“If I had to do it for a living, it wouldn't be fun anymore."

Though he doesn't plan to quit his day job, Pini enters a lot of barbecue competitions -- he even got married at one -- and while it may be a hobby for him, for others winning the grand prize can be a windfall. Caterers who win have seen their business triple, said certified judge Jim Thatcher from Bedford, N.H.

"“People take it really seriously,"” he said, as he served pork to other judges during yesterday's contest.

In addition to the grand prize, the top 10 teams were named in each category on Saturday, with Bare Bones of Fairlee taking second in the chicken category. The team was headed by Crystal Johnson, owner of the Whippy-Dip Restaurant in Fairlee, and "pit master,"Mark Fifield.

At yesterday's less formal competition, there were contests for best sausages, pork chops and chicken wings, among others categories. Each entry was tried by six judges, who looked for the right taste, texture and tenderness. The few small bites of each sample were washed down with water and saltines.

"By the end of the day, you usually eat about two pounds of meat,"” said Philip Tacy, a judge from Plainfield.

While the cooking might have been taken seriously, the naming of teams clearly was not. In addition to I Smell Smoke!!, there was Dr. Frank-n-Swine from Orleans, Cape Cod, Porkaholics BBQ from Haddam, Conn., the Bastey Boys of Templeton, Mass., and Seabriskets from Seabrook, N.H.

In addition to Bare Bones, local team Howling Hog from East Randolph was in the fray, walking away with 10th place in yesterday's chicken wings competition. Team member Chris Sargent said he was pleased that on Saturday the team ranked 13th in the brisket category, a big improvement over last year's last place.

But in the end, I Smell Smoke!! was the big winner of both days. As members picked up the New England Team of the Year trophy yesterday, several fellow barbecue aficionados bowed on the grass beneath the awards tent, chanting, "We are not worthy."

Sunday, July 23, 2006

BBQ Sale: BBQ Sauce at Cracker Barrel Restaurants

Sorry for the quick post, but I just got back from a road trip taking my daughter up to Massachusetts for 2 weeks of summer camp. On the way up, we stopped at a Cracker Barrel Restaurant just across the Massachusetts boarder from Connecticut.

Wandering around their general store, I found that all their summer goods are on sale for 40% off. I picked up some great new; new to me at least, barbecue sauces to try out. The stash is Arthur Bryant's Original Barbeque Sauce, Neely's Bar-B-Que Sauce and Carolina Country Barbecue Sauce. All three bottles came in for under $7!

If you are near a Cracker Barrel, be sure to check it out.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

R I P: Harry Olivieri

It's not barbeque, but it's good eats. Harry Olivieri the Philly cheesesteak creator, died at age 90 the other day. He will be missed. So out of respect for a great foodie, the fires were not lit today in Brooklyn. Instead we feasted on his creation. Goodbye Harry.

PHILADELPHIA - Harry Olivieri, co-inventor of the Philly cheesesteak, has died. He was 90.

Despite a heart condition, Olivieri had showed up at the store almost every day until about three years ago. He died of heart failure Thursday at Atlantic City Medical Center.

Harry and his older brother, Pat Olivieri, were running a corner hot dog stand near South Philadelphia's Italian Market in 1933 when they made the first version of the sandwich.

Tired of hot dogs, Pat suggested that Harry go to a store and buy some beef. Harry brought it back, sliced it up and grilled it with some onions. The brothers piled the meat on rolls and were about to dig in when a cab driver arrived for lunch, smelled the meat and onions and demanded one of the sandwiches.

Cheez Whiz was added to the steak and onions starting in the 1960s, and provolone, American cheese and pizza sauce later became options in the concoction along with various condiments and side dishes.

Friday, July 21, 2006

BBQ Events: Grill Kings 2006 - Some pics

Here's some random pictures that were taken at the Grill Kings event by my friend Jason Perlow from Off the Broiler. I'll be posting pictures of our food and turn in boxes soon. Enjoy.

The last picture is of our pork entry. Consider that a pre-view for the rest of the pictures.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

BBQ Events: Grill Kings 2006

So what happened at Grill Kings? I've had a couple of days to mull this over and think about it. So let's take a look at the event with a fresh, relaxed set of eyes. I'm sorry that this is so long, but I want to get it all out on the table. I spent a lot of time, effort and money promoting this event and I feel that you need to know the good and the bad.

Let's start with the good things.

  1. It is a good thing that this event takes place at all. Like it or not, New York is not barbeque country. Dean and his team at Grill Kings deserve major kudos for putting this event on each year.
  2. Trophies were given out to third place and ribbons out to fifth place. It's great to recognize as many teams as possible. Grill Kings gives out some nice large customized trophies as well.
  3. The bands were pretty good and at the other end of the parking lot. Bands are nice, but if you're setup right next to the amps, it can get a little tough by the end of the day.
  4. The port-a-potties were plentiful and immaculate.
  5. The crowds this year were much better behaved than last. We didn't have anyone trying to steal our turn in foods and no spectators demanding to be fed.
  6. The chance to meet some more of the competitors.
  7. Ice was available from a vendor at the event at a reasonable price. While ice was not free as at many events, the prices were comparable to 7-11.
  8. Power was provided to every site and was reliable.
  9. The spaces were clearly marked and well laid out.

Now, let’s look at the problems. Now not all of the problems I mention are major problems. Many of them are minor annoyances and if they had not compounded I would have long forgotten them. But the problems continued to mount and nothing was resolved.

  1. If I had to sum it all up, the major problem was a total lack of communication from the organizers and contest reps. I saw the organizer a few times both days, and the KCBS reps not at all. This is very unusual as at most contests both the organizer and reps are in your cooking area many times a day.
  2. The event was miss-represented from the beginning. After last year's event at Hecksher Park, the organizer immediately began promoting Belmont Racetrack for this year's event. It was promoted as being held in the racetrack and "part of the Belmont experience." There was talk by the organizer about the event being held next to the actual race course. Belmont has a beautiful festival area which is where it was being touted as where the event would be held.
    Two weeks before the event, the layout is published on the Grill Kings website and the event is placed in the outermost parking lot of Belmont, about 1/4 mile to 1/2 mile from the main entrance to the race track. There's no shade and the lot is surrounded by the Cross Island Parkway on one side and a busy major roadway on the other. To claim that we were part of the Belmont experience is like saying that you're at Kennedy Airport when you're in the long term extended parking lot and need a bus to get to the terminal.
  3. The organizers touted having 100 teams at this event, when the actual number turned out to be about 40. I honestly don't have a problem with this as it's irrelevant to me how many teams show up as long as the prize money is as promised. But to many of the other cooks, this was an issue. They feel that winning a small contest is not as prestigious as winning a large event.
  4. The organizers touted an expected attendance of 30,000 spectators. Now that's a wild claim which doubled last years numbers. Again, this isn't an issue for me, but it was a major problem for the vendors. I would say that less than 5,000 people showed up. You can attribute that to many things such as the weather, the entrance fee and the lack of attractions, but this wasn't the first Grill Kings event. A more reasonable number should have been presented. By the end, vendors were selling rapidly defrosting meat for bargain basement prices.
  5. Team sites were reassigned from the published layout on Saturday morning. While this isn't a major issue, it's an annoyance when you tell friends and family where you'll be only to have them have to search for you when they arrive.
  6. Guest passes. There was a $5 entry for adults and a $2 fee for children. Unfortunately my family was unable to attend, but my friend Pete's family did. Pete was competing, at my urging, for the first time. His family of 4 adults paid to enter the event each day. Apparently the organizer provided guest passes for family member of the teams, which would have allowed them to enter for free, but this was not communicated to every team. I didn't know about this until late in the event and Pete didn't find out until after it was all over.
  7. This was an expensive contest to enter. To cook in the KCBS sanctioned event a team paid $300. To enter the PureFire grilling contest the fee was an additional $50. Most events include entrance to any ancillary contests in the KCBS fee. For other contests in New York the entrance fees run from $100 to $225.
  8. Most events give something back to the contestants. It can be as simple as coffee and bagels on Sunday morning, or a t-shirt, a hat or a pin. Some events are very generous and give each team goodie bags that include such things as fire extinguishers and coolers. Grill Kings gave the teams nothing. On Sunday morning I asked the organizer if the teams were getting a t-shirt, which they were selling for $16, I was met with a resounding no.
  9. While the cash awards remained the same, but the prizes have changed from what was originally posted on the website. I don't know when the prizes were finalized, but I know for example, that the prizes from T-mobile that were promised originally were never given out. I don't know if this is a violation of the KCBS sanctioning agreement, but it needs to be looked at.
  10. Nassau County health inspectors required each team to have a separate hand washing station in addition to the three compartment sinks required by KCBS. There was nothing about this in the cook's pack and left us scrambling to satisfy the health department. I know a couple of teams were notified prior, but many were not. I know we weren’t.
  11. There was a lot of confusion this year during meat inspection this year. KCBS rules state that a team can not begin to marinate or season its meat until the meat has been inspected on site. Usually meat inspection occurs right after you check in at the event. Grill Kings had meat inspectors for the PureFire grilling challenge and a separate inspector for the KCBS event. Unfortunately, the inspectors for the challenge were not properly trained and told us that we were not able to touch the meat for the KCBS contest until it was inspected on Sunday morning! For many teams this caused some real problems getting their meat ready on time. This whole situation could have been avoided had the organizer or reps were more available.
  12. For the PureFire grilling challenge, teams were required to cook on their charcoal. Many teams did not and this rule wasn't enforced. I don't know if it affected the outcome, but some teams were put at a disadvantage because of this.
  13. There was no announcement of the cook's meeting for the KCBS contest. If there was one, none of the teams I talked to heard it. I don't even know if a cooks meeting took place.
  14. Water was provided from one large tank for the teams to haul back to their site. While this isn't uncommon, it's certainly not ideal. What was unique about this event is that the water supply ran out on Saturday afternoon and was not refilled until late Sunday morning. The organizers could have really helped out here but visiting each team and explaining the situation and explaining what they were doing to correct the situation. If I was in that situation, I think I would have offered to buy each team a few gallons of water to tide them over.
  15. The teams weren't provided with our turn in boxes until about 10:30 on Sunday morning. Again, there was no announcement that they were available, just word of mouth as the knowledge spread from one team to another. I only knew because I saw them being unboxed in the judges tent as I walked by. Sunday morning is crunch time; the teams don't need to be worried about the location of turn in boxes when the meat is coming off the cooker.
  16. The judge’s tent wasn't secluded enough at this event. While it's interesting to see the judging and the weather was oppressive this year, the judges need to be less accessible to the public. Their tent was completely wide open and smack dab in the middle of the contestants. After I turned in one of my boxes, a table captain called me over and tried to start a conversation. Not good. I don't think there were any shenanigans going on, but the judges need to be more remote next time.
  17. Garbage was picked up regularly on Saturday, but not so much on Sunday afternoon. The people who were supposed to be doing it were hanging out in the now empty judge’s tent and the garbage piled up. There weren't any dumpsters as far as I could find, so we were at the mercy of the clean up crews. I would have liked to dispose of some of the more fragrant garbage myself instead of leaving it in the aisle waiting and fermenting in the hot sun.
  18. The awards ceremony was scheduled to take place at 4:30 on Sunday. They were late which is no big deal, but the band called everyone up to the stage at 4:30. The viewing area was in the hot sun, without shade or seats. According to the radio, the real feel temperature for Sunday was running at about 108. We were all standing there, tired, hot and wanting to go home. The band just kept playing without explanation which pissed the teams off even more. Many of us returned to our sites to continue breaking down.
  19. The organizers had stated that the event would run until 6:00pm, but some teams were ready to leave earlier. Security guards blocked the gates with their bodies and cars and would not allow anyone to leave the event. We were told by the guards that this was the order from the organizer and if we wanted out we'd have to talk to them, if we could find them. When one of my team mate’s wife threatened to call the cops, the guard laughed at her and said - "What are you a lawyer?" Which - guess what - she is! That shut him up fast and he offered to let her and only her leave.
  20. Around 5:30 suddenly the band stopped and with out any sort of announcement Sal, one of the organizers began the awards ceremony. I missed the beginning because of this. Again, no big deal but at this point any mistake was a major problem. I felt bad for Dean and Sal on that stage, because they were getting no love from the audience at that point.
  21. Score sheets were lost for the individual teams.
  22. The security guards were snotty all day and night, even when cruising through at 1:00 in the morning in response to a report of gun shots being fired.
  23. There was no place to dispose of ashes. A large mound of ash was created by the water tank. The ashes were still smoking and blowing around in the wind last I saw.
  24. The power was turned off at 6:00pm on Sunday while we were still breaking down.
  25. And finally a personal slight. Phil, my team mate's truck broke down and needed a jump at the end of the event. Dean did arrange for one of the vendor's to provide it, but he didn't take a minute to make sure that we were alright even as he drove past us twice.

So there you have it. I think that's all of it, but frankly, I'm tired of writing about it. The major problem from my point of view was the lack of communication from the organizers and contest reps. At other events these people are everywhere. They're constantly checking on you and asking what you need or what they can do to make your life easier. Here, they hid out in their air conditioned trailers while we went without water.

But did I have fun? Yes. It’s always fun and a high to cook and compete. Winning anything is just the cherry on the cake.

I think that the Grill Kings event is redeemable. It can be fixed, but the organizers need to talk with the teams or better yet get out and cook with some teams and find out what we need. I hope it's back next year, but without some real substantial changes in attitude and execution, I won't be back.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

BBQ Life: The dilemma

One of the great things about publishing this blog is that it has given me a lot of exposure in the world of competitive barbeque. One of the bad things about this blog is that it has given me a lot of exposure in the world of competitive barbecue. It has opened many doors and introduced me to many people. When I was walking around Guitarbeque a couple of weeks ago, I was really surprised to see how many people knew who I was.

I've been lucky to meet and spend time with some of the legends of BBQ like Dr. BBQ, Paul Kirk and Chris Lilly. I've met some of the rising stars like Steve Farrin, Adam Perry Lang, Nancee and Greg from Purple Turtle, the guys at Dizzy Pig, the boys at iQue and Rod from Pellet Envy. I've gotten to know some great behind the scenes folks and organizers like the Mullanes. It's been great.

But, it has raised a dilemma for me. I started this blog to document my experiences in the world of barbeque. Now that the names have become faces, personalities and in some cases friends, what do I do when I have a bad experience? Or a bad meal in one of their restaurants? Do I only blog the good?

I've decided that I'm going to report the good, the bad, the ugly and the pretty, and let the chips fall where they may. I won't report rumors, only my experiences. I'll be as truthful as I can be, but I'm not going to pull any punches. I think I owe that to you, my faithful readers.

I've already gotten some flack for my opinion of the Grill Kings 2006, but I stand by my statement. I know how hard it was for the event to be put together and I feel for the organizer, but I think it would be dishonest of me not to blog about the event after I've spent so much time promoting it. I'll give you the full run down tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Ol' New York

I owe you a report on the Grill King's event, Jack's Firehouse and my TV experiences; I'll get to that later in the week.

But tonight, let's just say that sometimes it's good to take some time and play tourist in your own home. I got to spend all afternoon in the Department of Motor Vehicles, so afterwards I rewarded myself with New York's best bargain, a trip on the Staten Island Ferry. It's absolutely free and provides an incredible view of the New York skyline, the harbor and the Statue of Liberty.

The boat ride was a great way to cool off on an incredibly hot day. Even the Coast Guard thinks so. They traveled right along with us the whole way. I'm sorry that the picture is so crappy, I took it with my cell phone, but you can just make out the machine guns on both ends of the boat. Lord, I miss the old days.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Grill Kings 2006

I'm home boys and girls from the 4th Annual Grill Kings contest on Long Island. The food was great, the weather oppressive - hot beyond belief, the camaraderie excellent.

The event itself, not so hot. It was the worst run event I've ever been to. I'll get into that in a later post, but here's the list of the top ten winners.

Congratulations to all the winners and to all the teams that competed. Just getting all four categories submitted on time is a major accomplishment.

Overall Team Results:

Grand Champion
- I Que
Reserve Grand Champion - Pellet Envy

3. I Like Smoke & Lightning
4. Dirty Dick & The Legless Wonders
5. Purple Turtle Catering Co.
6. Hill Country BBQ
7. BBQ- Brethren
8. Cue's Your Daddy !
9. Long Island Porkers
10. Holy Cow ! MoohandessGhandi

1. Purple Turtle
2. Hill Country BBQ
3. Dirty Dick & The Legless Wonders
4. Pellet Envy
5. BBQ Brethren
6. I Que
7. Dr. Frank N Swine
8. Sir Sauce a Lot
9. I Like Smoke N Lightning
10. Babylon Grillbillies

1. I Que
2. Pellet Envy
3. Dirty Dick & The Legless Wonders
4. Cue's Your Daddy
5. I Like Smoke N Lightning
6. Holy Cow ! MoohanddesGhandi
7. Camo Q Crew
9. Babylon Grillbillies
10. Purple Turtle Catering Co.

1. I Like Smoke N Lightning
2. I Que
3. BBQ Brethren
4. TNT Dynamite BBQ
5. Bad Bones BBQ Crew
6. Holy Cow MoohandeesGhandi
7. Grills Gone Wild:NY, NY
8. Bayside Buttheads
9. Two Fat Polocks BBQ
10. Hot Hogs USA

1, Holy Cow MoohandeesGhandi
2. I Que
3. Ma's Que's Crew
4. Pellet Envy
5. Bayside Buttheads
6. Long Island Porkers
7. Two Fat Polocks BBQ
8. Purple Turtle Catering Co.
9. Dirty Dick & the Legless Wonders
10. BBQ - Brethren

Friday, July 14, 2006

What are you doing this weekend?

I won't be blogging. Sorry, but I'll be at the Fourth Annual Grill Kings contest cooking with The BBQ-Brethen/Brothers in Smoke. Talk to you next week. Or better yet, why don't you come out to Belmont Park and join us?

BBQ Extravaganza
Newsday Staff Writer
July 13, 2006, 9:43 PM EDT

In four years, the annual Grill Kings Long Island BBQ Cook-Off has grown from a humble local cooking competition into two-day extravaganza drawing barbecue teams from all over the country.

Last year's event, held at Heckscher State Park in East Islip, attracted 15,000 people, said Grill Kings co-founder Dean Camastro. This year, the contest moves to Belmont Park Racetrack in Elmont, and Camastro expects attendance to double.

"The Belmont location allows us to turn it into more of a family festival," Camastro said. "There will be thoroughbred races all day, two rock bands -- The Mystic and Mystery Play -- and midway games for the kids." For adults, there also will be the chance to win a Ford F-150 Lariat truck.

While the 45-odd (WTBBQ Edit - 43) barbecue teams concentrate on tending their entries, local restaurants -- Big Daddy's of Massapequa, The Hog House of Huntington, Big Boy's Grill of Uniondale, Laura's BBQ Roadhouse of Bellmore and Buddy's Bar-B-Q of Floral Park -- will offer barbecue, burgers and sides for sale.

Of course, the heart of the matter is the competition. Last year, Grill Kings became the first New York State contest to be sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society, whose rules govern the country's most prestigious barbecue events. (WTBBQ Edit - the first LONG ISLAND KCBS sanctioned event.)
Grill Kings' grand champion, to be named about 5 p.m. Sunday, will (WTBBQ Edit - possibly) represent New York at the 27th Annual American Royal Barbecue contest in Kansas City. The winner also will be put in a pool with two other New York State champions for a chance to compete in the 15th Annual Jack Daniel's World Championship Invitational Barbecue in Lynchburg, Tenn.

The 2006 field is wide open because last year's grand champion, Ray Lampe of Florida, is out of commission. According to Camastro, "Ray is finishing up his third barbecue cookbook, and the deadline is on Monday."

This year, the total prize money has nearly doubled to $11,000. In addition to donning the Grill Kings title belt, the grand champion will receive $5,000, a trophy and prizes from various manufacturers. Prizes will also be awarded to a reserve Grand Champion and to a winner and four runners-up in each of the four Kansas City Barbecue Society-sanctioned categories: ribs, pulled pork, (WTBBQ Edit - pork does not have to be pulled.) brisket and chicken.

On Saturday, the teams also will compete to see who makes the best pork chops, chicken wings and BBQ sauce. The winner of the PureFire Grilling Challenge will be announced at about 4 p.m. (WTBBQ Edit - The grilling contest results do not effect who becomes Grand Champion of the KCBS sanctioned area of the contest. The PureFire Grilling Challenge is just for fun and only occurs at the Grill Kings event.)

Thursday, July 13, 2006

BBQ Media and Pilgrimage

I'm too beat to post anything tonight folks. Matt from the Hampton Smoker, his lovely wife Amy, my charming and talented daughter and I broke sunrise by driving to the TV studios of Comcast's CN8 - Your Morning show. We did a live segment about the Grill Kings contest with some pan grilling of chicken and a bit of BBQ sauce making.

Afterward the show, we made a bee line for Jack McDavid's barbecue restaurant, Jack's Firehouse in Philadelphia.

I'll give you the details and pictures soon.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

BBQ Events: No Fire Just Smoke

One of the great things about the BBQ circuit is meeting the other judges, cooks, teams and organizers. I have to say that just about everyone I've met on the circuit has been real good - salt of the earth - type people. The stories of one team helping out another are legend.

At Guitarbeque this year I got to spend some time with the RIBS Within team. I don't remember names for shit, so I didn't remember that we had met before when I saw the name, but as soon as I saw Doug and Laura I recalled them from past events. They're good people.

Doug and Laura are busy this summer putting together the 2nd Annual Central Jersey Fireman's Cook-off; No Fire Just Smoke. It's a one day event held to benefit the local Hillsborough Volunteer Fire Company. And contrary to the event's name, this contest is open to anyone with a grill can enter. You can find the entrance forms here.

So on September 9th, I'll be there along with Matt of the Hampton Smoker. I hope you'll join us in supporting this good cause. Money from last year's event purchased two HAZMAT suits for the firemen. Let's see if we can do more this year.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Guitarbeque 2006

Guitarbeque 2006 has come and gone and it was another hugely successful event. Arlie Bragg seems to have a magic touch with every event he puts together. I don't know the name of the woman in charge of the bands and the rest of the fair, but this event just seems to get better and better with every passing year. She and her team deserve a great deal of praise.

Asbury Park was actually showing signs of renovation this year. The large skeleton of a building that was there last year and 15 years ago at my first visit had finally been torn down. There are new townhouses and condos popping up all over the place. It looks like Asbury may actually rise from the ashes after all!

The judging was interesting this year. KCBS has tightened up the rules and changed the CD that is played before every judging class. The CD gives the judges a quick refresher course on the rules before the contest begins. Photography is not allowed and they have expanded methods for judging the meat. They've also clarified a few points about judging brisket and the "accordion test" is now the standard and codified method for judging brisket.

In the chicken category, there were 5 samples of chicken thighs and one of chicken legs. The chicken legs looked awful when they were presented for appearance. They were light yellow and looked like they were cooked without seasonings in an oven. But they made up for it in taste and tenderness. I've never bitten into a piece of chicken so flavorful and moist. Whomever cooked it had it going on. Remember, the judging at these contests is blind.

There was nothing exceptional in any of the other categories with the exception of one of the brisket entries that was almost perfect. My buddy Phil gave it perfect scores across the board, but I gave it a "8" (9 is the top score) on taste. It was damn good, but IMNTBHO, it just missed the perfect mark. A contest organizer was overheard telling another judge that this contest had the lowest scoring pork entries he/she's seen in all the years he/she's been competing.

I've learned that I'm a tough judge. I was taught that 6 is average and that you score up or down from there. My scores ran from 4 to 9 which reflected my opinion on each piece of meat. Very few of my fellow judges are comfortable giving anyone a lower score than 5. I think long and hard before I give a low or a high score, but I try my damnedest to always give fair scores.

I finally saw some of the classic cooler toting judges. Two judges at the end of our table were packing up meat after every category. They'd even take samples off other judge's plates! Each sample was placed into a separate zip lock bag and coolered for the trip home. When they were presented with the pulled pork for sampling, they each took about 1/2 lb each! I'm beginning to understand the resentment of many of my fellow cooks to these judges. Rumor has it that by next year there will be a policy in place forbidding judges from taking food home after an event.

It was great to see some, what are now becoming, old friends. Renee, my fellow judge from Sheepshead Bay. Rich Decker the babe magnet of Lost Nation who shocked me when he said he was 50! And, the ever charming Nellie and Bruce Kain from the Front Street Smokehouse. It was also great to make some new and newer friends, the boys at Dizzy Pig, The Anchormen, The BBQ Guru, Ribs Within and the New York City Firemen from Vinegar Hill.

Overall a splendid time was had by all.

Monday, July 10, 2006

BBQ Equipment: Duraflame Quick Coals

BBQ Equipment: Duraflame Quick Coals - Light-A-Bag

I got a chance to grill some shrimp on a bag of Duraflame Quick Coals yesterday. Duraflame was giving away samples of this charcoal at the Guitarbeque event. I don't usually use quick coals like this or matchlight, but I thought I'd try them out on a quick cook.

The idea behind this charcoal is that you just lay the bag in the grill, light it, walk away for 10 minutes and you're ready to cook. The bag lit easily with a strong smell of wax. In a couple of minutes, paper ash was flying all over my yard.

After about 10 minutes the coals were lit, but there were still large sections of paper ash laying in the grill which eventually wound up on the cooked food.

The bag claims that there is enough charcoal for a small or medium grill. The grill I used to cook was the standard 22.5" diameter Weber Kettle and it wasn't enough by half.

So what's the verdict on this charcoal? Don't waste your money. They barely lasted long enough to grill 2lbs of jumbo shrimp. Stick with Kingsford.

I know I owe you a post on the Guitarbeque event. It's coming, but life is in the way right now. Please be patient.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Guitarbeque 2006

Just got back from judging Guitarbeque in Asbury Park, New Jersey. I'm sunburnt and worn out. I'll give you a better post tomorrow.

Congratulations to Dizzy Pig for it's first place win, and to the BBQ-Guru for taking second.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Barbecue bravado!

Here ya go - from today's New York Daily News. Two New York City "budding barbequers" make history.

Barbecue bravado!
Local competition heats up over smoking meats Southern-style


One Saturday morning this spring, Matt Fisher and Robert Fernandez made barbecue history in a Sheepshead Bay parking lot.

Despite overcast skies, the two - Fisher, a Queens resident who works in pharmaceutical communications; Fernandez, a Brooklyn computer consultant - helped teams like Flushing's Beer Belly Porkers fire up their grills in the city's first official barbecue competition.

And if the one-day affair fell shy of better known matches - typically two-day jaunts spent slow-smoking meats - it set the stage for next weekend's smoky showdown.

On July 15-16, the Grill Kings Long Island BBQ Cook-Off will meet for the first time within easy reach of the city - right over the Queens border at Belmont Park, in Elmont, L.I.

For urbanites not yet familiar with competition barbecue, national events like Grill Kings and the music and meat fest called Guitarbeque in Asbury Park, N.J. (which starts tomorrow) aren't merely burger battles.

"Barbecue is cooked low and slow," reminds Don McCollough, president of the National Barbecue Association, "and not over a direct flame."

At the fourth annual Grill Kings, sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society and sponsored by biggies like Anheuser-Busch, you can expect to find more than 100 teams from around the country cooking low (over indirect heat) and slow (overnight) on everything from kettle grills to 10-foot smokers.

There'll be plenty of revelry, too.

Beyond the good feeling that comes from acres of slowly smoking meats and camping cooks, says McCollough, cold beer and "secret sauce" hype always adds to the fun.

"A lot of this is about the connection and swapping lies with the other team," says Purple Turtle team member Greg Hunter, who came all the way from Norwalk, Conn., to win in Brooklyn.

Still, competition contestants are dedicated sportsmen (and a few women) paying $300 entry fees and hundreds more on meat that must be cooked to contest rules.

Even at a small contest like Sheepshead Bay, says Fernandez, the New England Barbecue Society (NEBS) made sure the meat was inspected, prepared inexacting proportions with proper amounts of sauce, turned in at specific intervals and ranked by a sequestered team of judges.

For hard-core New York competitors like Phil Rizzardi, a Nesconset, L.I., resident who heads a "brotherhood" of national teams under the banner of the Barbecue Brethren, that's good news.

"I'm so sick of hearing that the [Northeast competitions are] the South's chance to come and spank the North," says Rizzardi, who judged the Sheepshead Bay event and runs the barbecue site bbq-brethren.com.

In New York, "barbecue used to be hamburgers and hot dogs," he says, but "now people are starting to understand that barbecue means a little more."

One local enthusiast, Rob Richter, helps run a part-time catering outfit and award-winning competition team in Rego Park called Big Island Barbecue.

Richter encourages budding barbecuers like Fisher and Fernandez to get in on competitions and throws smoking competitions on his Queens street. In fact, that history-making Sheepshead Bay event - known as Grillin' by the Bay - was Richter's idea.

Not that Fisher and Fernandez took much convincing: Both are city smoke-hounds with their own barbecue blogs: Fisher's is backyardchef.blogspot.com; Fernandez's is whitetrashbbq.blogspot.com.

Now that the two have running a minicontest under their belts, they're ready to compete. (WTBBQ Edit - I've been ready to compete for years! I've been doing it for the past 3 years!)

With any luck, they'll soon join die-hards like Rizzardi, who recently hosted more than 20 Brethren members to his house for a weekend of wood-fired meats.

"Barbecue has ruined me for other food, says Rizzardi. "I need some form of smoke in my system."

* * *
Baby Back Ribs
Serves 6-8
Adapted from Robert Fernandez

If you don't have the time or the backyard to slow-cook ribs, says Fernandez, this recipe provides smoky flavor fast.

2 tablespoons each Kosher salt, turbinado sugar, ground cumin, chili powder
1 tablespoon each freshly ground black pepper, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, onion powder
1/2 tablespoon each white pepper, dried oregano
1/2 cup paprika
3 full racks of baby back ribs
1 bottle yellow mustard
1 bottle of your favorite barbecue sauce

Combine all dry spices in a small bowl.

Using a dull knife, remove the tough membrane covering the underside of the rib bones. (After you have it halfway off, recommends Fernandez, (WTBBQ Edit: you only need to pull off about 1/2 to 1" then) grip it with a paper towel and pull it off in one piece.) Cover the ribs in a thin layer of mustard. Shake or sprinkle on rub thickly to cover the meat. Let the ribs come to room temperature; the meat will release moisture into the spices.

Build a medium-hot fire on one side of your grill. Cook ribs over the fire for about 20 minutes, flipping frequently to prevent burning.

Move ribs to the cool side of the grill; stack them up if necessary. Cover the grill and let the ribs cook for about one hour.

After an hour, check the fire and add more charcoal if necessary. Check the ribs by picking them up by one end. They should bend and flex easily, almost breaking in half (if they do, don't worry).

Apply a thin layer of sauce to each rack. Keep them on the cool side of the grill, cover and let cook for 15 minutes to allow the sauce to set. Then cover the ribs in a thicker layer of sauce and move them directly over the fire. Cook for an additional 5 minutes to char the sauce, flip often to prevent real burning. Let the ribs rest for 5 minutes before cutting and serving.

All-Purpose Barbecue Brine
Makes about a gallon
Adapted from Matt Fisher

This brine works for all kinds of barbecued or grilled meats, says Fisher, and "provides some wiggle room to prevent well-done foods from being dry."

1/2 gallon water
1/2 gallon apple juice
1/2 cup table salt or 1 cup Kosher salt
1/8 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons five-spice powder (or use another seasoning of your choice, like lemon pepper)

Mix brine ingredients. In the refrigerator, soak pork chops or other meats in brine for 1-3 hours before cooking.

* * *

Attn: grill seekers

Summer BBQ competitions near the city:

Guitarbeque - Tomorrow and Sunday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m., in Bradley Park, Asbury Park, N.J. Free; visit www.guitarbeque05.com for info.

Grill Kings - Belmont Park, July 15, 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; July 16, noon-8 p.m. $5 for adults, $2 for kids. Visit www.grillkings.com.

For more on the Hudson Valley RibFest, Aug. 18-20, in New Paltz, N.Y., visit www.hudsonvalleyribfest.org. You can also find a local judging class or other competitions through the Kansas City Barbecue Association at www.kcbs.us.

(WTBBQ Edit - also check out the New England BBQ Society's website for more contests in the North East.)

Originally published on July 7, 2006

Thursday, July 06, 2006

BBQ Signs

A little levity today. Here's a link to generate your own BBQ signs.

Go on and play!

I'm out today cooking with the BBQ-Brethren team.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

All of yesterday's news that's fit to print?

It seems that our friends at the New York Times are a bit behind the times when it comes to barbecue. They finally published an article about Grillin' on the Bay and the KCBS judging class held back in April! Readers of this blog already know all about it.

Nonetheless, it's a good article and it does mention the Grillin on the Bay contest that Matt aka The Hampton Smoker and I put together back in March. Enjoy.

The Pay Is Awful, but Judging Barbecue Has Its Rewards
Published: July 5, 2006
Franklin Square, N.Y.

Meat awaits the judges at the Grillin' on the Bay Contest in Brooklyn - Photo by: Melissa Horn (WTBBQ edit: That's fish being judged - not meat!)

ON a Saturday morning, 56 people filed into a nondescript office building on Hempstead Turnpike here to learn how to eat barbecue. And how to taste it, smell it, prod it and otherwise determine whether it is worthy of honor — and cash prizes.

As barbecue competitions become more popular around the country, skilled judges are increasingly in demand, especially in the Northeast, which has no great history of the smoking pit.

The number of contests sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society, competitive barbecue's most influential governing body, has risen in the past five years, to 220 a year from fewer than 60, said Carolyn Wells, the executive director. So the organization has been training more judges — 8,000 have been sworn in over the past decade — but until recently few New Yorkers were among them.

The students here, mostly local men who spend many weekends little more than an arm's length from their backyard barbecues, had paid $70 each to cover the five-hour class and membership in the Kansas City Barbecue Society. (Members of the society paid only $45, for the class.) After studying the rule book and signing the judges' code of conduct, they would qualify to rate events like the fourth annual Grill Kings competition, with 50 teams, at Belmont Park on July 15 and 16th

As the instructor, Jerry Mullane, outlined the scoring system, students learned that the rules of barbecue are not intuitive, but they are exacting.

"How much sauce can you have?" Mr. Mullane asked, pointing to the bottom of a plastic-foam box like the ones competitors use to deliver meat to tables of six judges. "We say a 50-cent piece." That is, bigger than a dab, smaller than a puddle.

Students patiently scribbled notes as Mr. Mullane, a restaurant owner from suburban Philadelphia and a longtime judge, listed acceptable garnishes: parsley and cilantro, yes; red leaf lettuce and crinkly greens, no.

Stomachs were growling by lunchtime, when each table was presented with a dozen meat-filled boxes: three variations each on chicken, ribs, pork shoulder and brisket. But hunger did not cloud the students' criticism.

Debbie Knicos, who runs a cookie business out of her Long Island home and barbecues on a kettle grill she converts to a smoker, raised an eyebrow at a box of haphazardly arranged chicken thighs. "There's no lettuce," she whispered, penciling in low marks for appearance, moderate marks for taste and tenderness.

"In places like Kansas City everyone's a judge, and they let people out of work to judge," Mr. Mullane told the class. Events in New York, like the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party, where some of the country's top pit masters cook in Madison Square Park, are more about bonhomie than championship titles.

Still, interest is growing in the Northeast. "We used to be a clique," said Mr. Mullane, who started judging around the country 10 years ago with his wife, Linda, after their son left for college. Now there are new judges at every event, he said.

Barbecue judges are not paid, but many believe that the smoked meat they consume — about two pounds at each contest — is fair compensation. Mr. Mullane, a man whose girth suggests a sincere love of food, revealed tips for getting even more.

"If you get there on Friday you're going to have a great time," he said, describing the night-before party that unfolds while competitors are cooking. "The best way to get food is to say, 'Wow, that's a great smoker!'"

Many of the students were looking for cooking tips, too. After learning that perfectly cooked brisket should expand and contract and that ribs should not fall from the bone, Walter Ejnes, the president of a medical education company, revised his recipe. "I overcook my ribs," he wrote via e-mail after the event. "One hour less on the smoker might make them even better."

During breaks, the students hobnobbed with the competition barbecuers who prepared the meat for the class: Phil Rizzardi, who competes for Barbecue Brethren, a Long Island team, and Nancee Gell of Norwalk, Conn., whose team, representing Purple Turtle Catering, won top prize at Grillin' on the Bay in Brooklyn in March. It was the first competition in New York City sanctioned by the New England Barbecue Society, which follows Kansas City Barbecue Society rules.

Mr. Rizzardi said later that he was a little dubious about the class. A grease fire did in the ribs, he said, but that did not keep many students from awarding top marks. No experience beyond the class is required for certification.

"It kind of concerns me!" Mr. Rizzardi said. "These are our future judges of America."

The ribs, overcooked and charred, didn't go unnoticed by a few competitors who were among the student body, hoping to glean what judges are looking for.

"I wanted to see the inside of the game," said Lou Elrose, a k a Big Lou, a retired New York City police officer who cooks on the competition circuit with Adam Perry Lang, the chef at Daisy May's BBQ USA in Manhattan. Mr. Lang won the grand championship last year at the Great Pork BarbeQLossal in Des Moines, the first New Yorker to do so.

Mr. Lang, like most restaurateurs who moonlight as competitive barbecuers, has taken the judging class. He arrives at competitions early to shop local supermarkets and eat at local barbecue places, in an effort to understand the mind-set of local judges. "You want to know your audience," he said.

He uses sweeter flavors when competing in Kansas City, more vinegary undertones in the South. And he relies on tips he has picked up on the circuit, like injecting meat with marinade to keep it moist.

Judges warn, however, that if dark liquids are injected, they could streak the meat, drawing demerits for appearance. Not Mr. Lang's award-winning pork butt recipe, which has a hint of soy-spiked fruit. But he doesn't inject his meat at his restaurant.

"Competition barbecue," he said, "is its own art form."

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Big Island Bar-B-Que

Happy Fourth of July everyone. Get out there and celebrate America's birthday.

I found a great article today about another friend of mine in the barbeque world, Rob Richter and Big Island Bar-B-Que. Rob's like the grand daddy of NY competition barbecue. He's been at it for about 3 years. And like any true BBQ Pitmaster, one of the great things about Rob is his hutzpah and bravado. But he has the goods to back it up. Rumor has it that Rob has some big plans up his sleeve for later this year, but I can claim that I knew him when.

Eats & Drinks
New York Press
By Gabriella Gershenson

Big Island Bar-b-que, 718-997-8572.

At a high school graduation party in Hamilton Beach, a waterfront neighborhood bordering Kennedy Airport, it'’s difficult to decide what is more unusual: seeing guests arrive in the backyard via sailboat, or watching Robert Richter tend to a smoking rig.

Richter is a mild fellow who, at 40 years old, could pass for a gawky 31. The self-taught barbecue aficionado from Rego Park is here as the front man for Big Island Bar-b-que, a Queens-based catering business enjoying its inaugural summer, counting this party among its first. This reality aside, Richter, who has garnered 16 awards in only three years as a competitive barbecuer, comes off like a pro: He wears a straw hat, an apron that says "Peace, Love, BBQ" and, like all true cuemasters, seems indifferent to his deepening sunburn.

An urgent holler erupts from the side of the house. "The meat'’s at temperature!" The call to action comes from Barry Stockman, a Hawaiian-shirt-clad member of Richter'’s small but dedicated crew. Stockman is the "time guy," who keeps both eyes on the fire and the meat. The rest of the team includes big brother Michael, the appointed grill guy, and Richter'’s girlfriend, Sheba Besasir.

Richter opens the door of the oblong rig, which is actually a converted propane tank, but looks more like the caboose of a choo-choo train. Inside are several triangular steaks (Santa Maria Tri Tip, a sirloin cut) and close to a dozen splayed chickens. Richter removes one from the oven, and with arms outstretched, proffers the chicken, which drips with clear liquid.

"See what's coming out of that chicken? See the juice? See how juicy it is?" asks Richter in rapid rhetorical succession. "Chicken'’s been on for three hours and 47 minutes," declares Barry as he stops his timer in the manner of a track coach. "Low and slow, low and slow."

"Low and slow" is the mantra –low refers to the temperature at which the meat is cooked, slow to the time taken to cook it. Using this method in a wood-burning rig that cooks with dry, "indirect" heat (meaning the meat is not over a fire but is cooked by the heat and smoke that approach it from a remote flame), the meats, especially cheap, tough cuts, come out incredibly tender and juicy.

"I buy brisket and pork butts for $1 that end up tasting like $16.99 filet mignon," says Richter. His briskets can take 12 to 16 hours to cook, and whole hogs –an option on his menu, –have taken as long as 18 hours. If need be, Richter and his team will take turns stoking the fire and sleeping in four-hour shifts the night before their catering gigs.

With Big Island Bar-b-que, Richter wishes to fill what he sees as a serious barbecue void in New York City. The lightweight presence of New Yorkers on the barbecue competition circuit, plus the want of New York State's own barbecue championship, are evidence that Empire Staters are slow on the slow-cooking uptake. To jumpstart the trend, Richter and fellow enthusiasts plan to hold a day-long cuefest on Ward'’s Island on August 16.

"What you are witnessing is a genesis right here," says Richter. "A barbecue revolution in New York City."

That's a great article, but it has a few mistakes in it. New York has FOUR, count them FOUR, state championships happening this year!

The revolution has started and war declared. With that revolution, there are the upstarts! The battle's begun! The gauntlet's been tossed! Gentlemen, light your fire!

Monday, July 03, 2006

The barbecue and the stout were really gross

I just found my next road trip destination, 70 Rehoboth Avenue, downtown Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.

Why Rehoboth Beach? Why Delaware? Because Rehoboth Beach is the home of Udder Delight Ice Cream House. So what makes the Udder Delight Ice Cream House worthy of a road trip? Because they make great ice cream with unusual flavors. Some of my favorites are G.I. Love Dirt, Moo Moo More Fruit, Bon-Bon Jovi, Brain Freeze, Britney Spears (there's a lot of air mixed into that one), Bacon and Memphis Barbeque. Yup. Finally someone has had the balls to create BBQ Ice Cream!

Memphis Barbecue ice cream is described as "Drumstick drizzle/African vanilla ice cream with cackalacky (spicy sauce)" Sounds great to me! Cackalacky makes a great sauce and what could possibly be wrong with vanilla ice cream made with premium African vanilla beans? I've got to try this place out!

Now these flavors aren't for everyone. "The barbecue and the stout were really gross," says Amanda Glusco, 19, of Peoria, Ill. "Bacon and ice cream? That's just wrong," mutters another woman, before ordering milk-chocolate cake batter ice cream.

But I can't wait.

If you want to read more about the Udder Delight Ice Cream House, here's a great article (which is the source of the quotes above) at Delawareonline. See you at the beach.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Barbecue of Belize

Is there Barbeque in Belize? I don't know. From what I can find on the internet, I'd have to say no. I'm sure they have a version of it but it may be even more elusive or cultist than here in New York City.

According to Belizean Journey "You can't live in Belize, or spend a vacation here, without eating rice-and-beans. It is the national staple and some people eat it every single day! No kidding." And, "Of course the real variety comes in the choice of meat or fish. A lot of items are stewed: stewed fish, oxtail, beef, chicken or pork. There is even stewed lobster, when the season is open. Game meats are popular too, with Belizeans enjoying deer, Hicatee, iguana or gibnut. Side dishes are generally potato salad made from real Heinz salad dressing, the key ingredient that makes Belizean potato salad Belijun, or coleslaw." Well, that's nowhere near barbecue.

, Hicatee (a fresh water turtle), deer and gibnut? Someone there must know about the magic of low and slow cooing!

But fear not my faithful friends, I have found a great recipe for a Grilled Mah-Mahi kabob over at Food Down Under. While it's not a true barbecue recipe, it is a recipe that calls for live fire cooking. And as my old friend Spice says "Fire Good!"

Curried Mahi-Mahi Kebabs Belize


  • 1 1/2 lb Mahi-mahi Fillet
  • 1 large not-too-ripe papaya
  • 1 large plantain
  • Vegetable oil for the frill
  • Cilantro springs for garnish
  • 1/4 cup Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup White Wine
  • 1/4 cup Minced white onion
  • 3 tbl Minced fresh cilantro
  • 1 tbl Curry powder
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Seafood Alternatives: swordfish, shark, halibut
  • Rinse the mahi-mahi and pat dry with paper towels. Cut the fish into 1-inch cubes. In a shallow dish, combine the marinade ingredients and mix well.
  • Add the cubes of mahi-mahi and toss to thoroughly coat.
  • Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. If using bamboo skewers, soak them in a bowl of cold water for at least 30 minutes before grilling.
  • Meanwhile, halve the papaya and scoop out and discard the seeds. Peel away the skin with a small knife or vegetable peeler. Cut the papaya into 1-inch cubes.
  • Peel the plantain and cut across into 1-inch pieces.
  • Preheat the grill to high, or heat coals until they glow red, with white ash around the edges.
  • Take the mahi-mahi cubes from the marinade, allowing excess to drip off; reserve the marinade. Thread the mahi-mahi onto the skewers, alternating with pieces of papaya and plantain. Do not crowd ingredients on the kebabs, but leave a little space between so they will cook evenly.
  • Rub a lightly oiled towel or cloth over the grill and cook until well browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Brush a little marinade over the kebabs, then turn and continue cooking until the fish is opaque through, about 5 minutes longer.
  • This recipe yields 4 servings.
  • Comments: The combination of fruit and fish is an exotic alternative to the traditional "meat and vegetable" kebab. A dash of curry adds a golden hue and delightful flavor. Choose fruit that is still somewhat firm, without being rock solid, to ensure that it will hold up in cooking

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Rib Recipes

I'm taking it easy today and heading out to a block party out in Long Island. Since I don't have much to say, I've lifted a bunch of rib recipes from somewhere. Now I didn't have time to fully edit these recipes, but remember, we NEVER soak wood before using it and we NEVER, EVER, NEVER use a gas grill.

The first is a barbecue variation on the shiny, dark red, candy sweet, soy and salty spareribs you get at Chinese restaurants. The twist here is that the ribs are smoked.

Chinatown ribs
Makes 4 servings
1 cup hoisin sauce
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup Chinese rice wine, white wine or dry sherry
3 tablespoons Asian (dark) sesame oil
5 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
5 slices ginger (each 1/4 inch thick), peeled and crushed
3 scallions, white parts bruised, green parts minced and reserved for optional garnish
2 racks of baby back ribs (4 to 5 pounds)
Oil for greasing grill grate

Whisk together hoisin sauce, sugar and five spice powder in a nonreactive mixing bowl. Add soy sauce, rice wine and sesame oil and whisk until sugar dissolves. Stir in garlic, ginger and bruised scallion.

Peel ribs and place in a nonreactive baking dish just large enough to hold them. Pour 2/3 of the marinade over ribs, turning to coat. Reserve remaining marinade for serving. Cover ribs and marinate in the refrigerator at least 4 hours, or as long as overnight. Ribs can also be marinated in large resealable plastic bags.

Meanwhile, cover 1  1/2 cups wood chips or chunks (preferably cherry) with water. Let soak 1 hour. Set up grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium. Brush and oil grill grate. Drain wood chips.

Drain ribs well and arrange on grate, bone side down, over drip pan away from heat. Toss half the wood chips on each mound of coals. Cover grill and cook ribs until dark brown and very crisp on the outside, yet tender enough to pull apart with your fingers, 1  1/4 to 1  1/2 hours. Replenish coals as needed. Transfer reserved marinade to a saucepan and gently simmer 3 minutes over medium heat. Let cool to room temperature, then strain it into a serving bowl. Transfer ribs to a large platter or cutting board and cut the racks in half widthwise, or into individual ribs. Brush or drizzle ribs with some of the reserved marinade/sauce and sprinkle with reserved scallion greens.

Per serving: 781 calories (53 percent from fat), 46 grams total fat (14 grams saturated), 116 milligrams cholesterol, 60 grams carbohydrates, 29 grams protein, 2,982 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber.

Kansas City is well represented in a new book called Killer Ribs: Mouthwatering Recipes From North America’s Best Rib Joints (Chronicle Books, $16.95) by Nancy Davidson. The book features recipes from 50 barbecue restaurants nationwide, four of them in the Kansas City area: Oklahoma Joe’s, Arthur Bryant’s, Gates and Buffalo Bob’s Smokehouse in Lawrence. Some of the recipes from the book follow.

Oklahoma Joe’s tasty ribs
Makes 6 servings

For the dry rub:
4 tablespoons salt
4 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon MSG
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 tablespoons black pepper
2 tablespoons white pepper

For the ribs:
4 tablespoons brown sugar
3 slabs loin back or spare pork ribs
8 ounces apple juice
Your favorite barbecue sauce

Preheat grill or smoker to 250 degrees. Combine all the dry rub ingredients. Place 1 tablespoon dry rub in a separate bowl and mix with the 4 additional tablespoons of brown sugar; set aside.

Remove the membrane from the ribs and season both sides of ribs with dry rub. Place ribs on grill or smoker, away from direct heat. Add wood chunks to the fire and maintain a 250- to 275-degree fire. After 1  1/2 hours, spray ribs with apple juice. Spray again after 3 hours and remove ribs from the heat.

Add the rub and brown sugar mixture to the meat side of the ribs and wrap them in aluminum foil. Return ribs to grill or smoker and cook an additional 1  1/2 hours at 275 degrees. Remove ribs from the foil, brush them with barbecue sauce and put them back on the grill no more than 5 minutes. Let ribs sit 15 minutes before cutting.

Per serving: 477 calories (52 percent from fat), 28 grams total fat (11 grams saturated), 83 milligrams cholesterol, 29 grams carbohydrates, 29 grams protein, 2,684 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber.

Gates’ Rib Seasoning

Makes about 1 1/2 cups
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup salt
2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons red pepper

Combine all the ingredients and store in a tightly sealed jar. This seasoning will flavor several servings of ribs. When it’s time to cook, sprinkle pork spareribs with the rib seasoning, making sure both sides are covered evenly, but don’t rub it into meat. Shake off any excess and let the ribs stand in the seasoning until it starts to liquefy, about 15 minutes.

Per (1-tablespoon) serving: 34 calories (2 percent from fat), trace total fat (no saturated fat), no cholesterol, 9 grams carbohydrates, trace protein, 2,132 milligrams sodium, trace fiber.

Arthur Bryant’s Rib Rub
Makes about 3 cups

1 cup salt
2/3 cup paprika
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground mustard
2 teaspoons white or black pepper
3/4 teaspoon ground celery seed
2 teaspoons powdered onion
2 teaspoons powdered garlic

Mix all the ingredients. Generously sprinkle both sides of the ribs with the rub and massage it in. Let ribs sit at least 12 hours, refrigerated, before cooking. This recipe flavors 12 slabs of ribs.

Per (1-tablespoon) serving: 24 calories (8 percent from fat), trace total fat (no saturated fat), no cholesterol, 6 grams carbohydrates, trace protein, 2,133 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber.

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