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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.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

4 Gas Grills

Well, since my friends at Chrbroil first corrupted me and gave me a TEC gas grill, I have to admit I've been much more open to using one and recommending one to various people who for various reasons would never cook on wood or charcoal.

This month's Popular Mechanics takes it a step further by recommending four gas grills based on their specific performance in various aspects of outdoor cooking. Enjoy.

1. Indirect Grilling

Ducane Affinity
Applying too much heat can make tough cuts like brisket or ribs even tougher. Instead, brown them over a hot burner. Then slide the cuts over an inactive adjacent burner but keep the first one going, says David Kamen, a professor at the Culinary Institute of America. Let the meat roast slowly until the inside reaches the target temperature. This technique requires multiple burners, so look for a unit with at least four, like the five-burner, 60,000-Btu Ducane Affinity S 5200 ($1000, ducane.com).

2. Radiant Heat

Char-Broil RED
Infrared grills use ceramic tiles that emit radiant heat, and can quickly rise to a steak-searing 900-plus degrees Fahrenheit—great for cooking a slab with a crunchy crust and for cutting your cooking time, Kamen says. But high heat means it’s easy to burn your chops. The Char-Broil RED ($700, charbroil.com) has a built-in food temperature probe and digital timer, upping the odds your steak will come out crisp and browned instead of black and burned.

3. Sear Marks

Brinkmann Pro Series 6418
Burn lines don’t just look great, they seal in juices and flavor. For well-defined stripes, jack up all burners to high and shut the lid for 10 minutes, says Jamie Purviance, author of Real Grilling. Then lay your meat directly over a burner and leave it untouched until you flip. Porcelain-enameled cast-iron grates, like those on the four-burner, 60,000-Btu Brinkmann Pro Series 6418 ($500, brinkmann.net), hold heat better than stainless steel, making them the best metal for producing deep lines.

4. Coal Control

Weber Char Q
Devotees swear there’s no substitute for charcoal’s smoky flavor. For a long and steady burn, cluster the coals on one side of the grill with as little space between the briquettes as possible, Purviance says. Not only does this minimize airflow, which keeps the coals burning longer, it provides cooking space for both direct and indirect heat. The drum on the portable Weber Char Q ($180, weber.com) is 18.6 in. deep—that’s enough room to stack ’em high.

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

BBQ Events: Smoke N' Steam

The barbeque season is beginning to heat up in New York. There's a new event being held out in Oyster Bay, Long Island - The Smoke n' Steam. I really hope you can attend this event. It's sanctioned by the New England Barbecue Society and should be a lot of fun, it's in a beautiful location and not to mention good eats!

SATURDAY, MAY 10, 2008
7:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

The first annual Smoke n’ Steam BBQ grilling competition event will be held on the Audrey Avenue extension in the beautiful and historic downtown Hamlet of Oyster Bay, NY, Saturday, May 10, 2008, from 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

The event is organized by the Oyster Bay Railroad Museum, and sanctioned by the New England Barbecue Society.

Grilling teams from throughout the New York area will be competing for prizes in four categories: beefsteak, pork chop, chicken, and oysters.

For more information check out their website at: The Oyster Bay Railroad Museum

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Monday, April 28, 2008

A Contest: Comfort Food

A new week brings another contest here at WhiteTrash BBQ. I have a pre-release copy of the new novel, Comfort Food by Kate Jacobs author of The Friday Night Knitting Club.

So what's Comfort Food about? Here's some of the back cover info...

"Shortly before turning the big 5-0, boisterous party planner and Cooking With Gusto! TV personality Augusta "Gus" Simpson finds herself planning a birthday party she'd rather not - her own. She's getting tired of being the hostess, the mother hen, the woman who has to bake her own birthday cake. To make things worse, the network execs at the Cooking Channel want to boost her ratings by teaming Gus with the beautiful, backstabbing Carmen Vega, a former Miss Spain, who is decidedly not middle-aged.

But Gus is not giving in without a fight."

I'm just starting to read this myself, so I can't get into the details of the book yet. I like what I've read so far and I think you will too.

So how do you get a copy of the book? Send me an email at BrooklynQ@gmail.com with the correct answer to the following...

"Who won the first Grillin' On The Bay in 2006?"

The answer can be found here on the blog or at the Grillin' On The Bay website. This contest is open only to residents of the United States. All responses are due no later than Midnight on Saturday, May 3, 2008. The winner will be chosen at random from all correct responses. The winner will be announced on Monday May 5, 2008. My decisions are final.

Good luck and thanks for playing!

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Friday, April 25, 2008

In The Backroom She Was Everybody's Darlin'

Wow, Wildwood is getting press as fast as wild fire.

Grub Street picked up my review. Beef Aficionado posted his experiences on opening night. Chowhound is buzzing about it too, but tho they keep deleting my comments about the place. Yelp is yelpping about it. Even Roadfood gets into the act.

Keep it up Matt and Lou!

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

BBQ Events: Wildwood BBQ Opens Tonight

What are you doing tonight? Are you in New York City? Then you have a new dinner destination; Wildwood BBQ.

Wildwood Barbeque on Urbanspoon

From Zagat....

B.R. Guest Hits the Sauce
With Wildwood

Published in Notable Openings


B.R. Guest – the restaurant group behind Blue Water Grill, Dos Caminos, Ruby Foo's and many more – branches out to yet another cuisine with Wildwood Barbeque. Set to debut tomorrow in spacious Flatiron digs that manage to be both rustic and industrial-chic thanks to accents of reclaimed timber and blackened steel, this saucy newcomer doesn't limit itself to one type of 'cue but instead borrows the best techniques from each region. BBQ fans should be pleased enough that "Big Lou" Elrose, who hails from Hill Country, is the pit master t hat they'll be willing to overlook that there's vegetarian chili with smoked tofu on the menu – hey, it's New York.

225 Park Ave. So.; 212-533-2500

Back to me now...I was there last night for a pre-opening feast. Now I know that the professional food reviewers feel that a restaurant needs to be in operation for at least six months before it should be reviewed, I'm going to give you folks a sneak peek.

First - I liked this space a lot. It's designed with a sort of post industrial Adirondack lodge feel. It honors the inspiration of a barbecue joint in the country without ever succumbing to the need to build a theme park like replica.

One side of the restaurant is lined by a long bar with a great selection of beers and bourbons. The room is divided visually into a bar area and a sit down restaurant, but you can get the same food throughout. Like a lot of NYC restaurants, they pack the place with tables, a couple too many in my opinion. It's tight in there.

But what about the food? Service? The real meat and potatoes of a restaurant. (Sorry.)

Well, the kitchen has got it going on! The "Que" that Matt Fisher - aka Hampton Smoker and Big Lou Elrose are producing is pretty close to outstanding. Some of it is just plain outstanding.

The spare ribs, not trimmed but skinned were competition very high quality. I don't think I've ever had a better rib in a restaurant. I was blown away in my first bite. These ribs were pretty close to perfect. What would make them perfect? A little more sauce. I like my ribs sloppy.

The ribs were so good, that I was using Wildwood's ribs to teach my daughter how competition barbecue is judged. A RESTAURANT RIB. If you've never judged a barbecue contest, you don't understand how rare it is to get ribs of this quality in restaurants. The meat came off the bone only where bitten. The rib sweated lightly where the meat was removed. You could taste the meat and the seasonings and they actually complimented each other!

The meat chili was fantastic. I think I may have a new favorite restaurant chili. They do offer a Tofu based chili which I hear is good but we didn't order it tonight. Honestly, I don't think I'll ever try the tofu chili. Tofu ain't for me.

The pulled pork sandwich in which the pork is tossed in a sauce before serving was very good. Conversely, the pulled pork served on the piggy platter was left un-sauced and missed the mark flavor wise. It was beautifully cooked and tender, but could have used some of that sauce.

The brisket gives Hill Country (largely credited by some, such as Time Out Magazine, with having the best brisket in NYC) a run for its money. I'd give Wildwood the edge, but some preferred Hill Country's. The brisket sandwich, the name of which I forget, is great. It would make a fantastic lunch. I only say that because I rarely do sandwiches for dinner. It makes a fantastic dinner as well.

We didn't have the chicken, but we asked others about it and only heard raves. I didn't get to try the lamb ribs either, they're top of my list for my next visit.

They offer two in-house barbecue sauces. The Raspberry Chipotle is outstanding. The other is reminiscent of a vinegar thinned version of Kraft. On the table you'll also find Dirty Dick's hot sauce and an excellent in-house rub.

They have a large range of appetizers and side dishes which I'll leave you to explore. Some need some work. I did have an outstanding lettuce wedge with Texas chipotle-blue cheese dressing with sweetened pecans. I only wish I had a little more pecans and dressing on the lettuce. But that's just my opinion. Getting salad dressing right is tough. Most places over do it.

Desserts were good, with the fluffer-nutter smores being the shining star in the pack. I'm not a big dessert fan. I've never turned down another serving of chicken or left room for dessert, but if you're eating here, you should consider it.

Front of the house service was a mixed bag and you could tell that the staff is still learning. 5 or 6 servers would surround a tray of food trying to figure out what was what and where to deliver it. Inevitably they got it wrong. I would much prefer the servers asking who gets the ribs, rather then placing the wrong dishes in front of the various diners. Plates, glasses and silverware were removed between courses, which I loved, but then next course would arrive long before your next round of silverware. One of our appetizers never appeared. I know all of this will be fixed before opening. Supervisors were taking notes.

My buddy Gary over at Pigtrip got into Wildwood on Sunday. His take on the place is filled with some great pictures. You can get his review here.

So to sum this up... Wildwood has some very minor problems to work out, but trust me my loyal readers, this is the new destination barbecue in New York City. Let me change that a little bit. Wildwood is the new destination restaurant in New York City. Period.

If they're this good now, I can't wait for that magic six month review. Peace out!

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Grillin On The Bay 08

to benefit St. Mark School
Sponsored by RUB BBQ

Grillin' On The Bay
New Yorks City's Original Barbecue Contest

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Open to the public, free admission.

St. Mark School
Corner of East 18th Street and Avenue Z
Brooklyn, New York

New England Barbecue Society
Sanctioned Grilling Contest

Chicken Breast, Fish, Pork and Chef's Choice

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

NY BBQ is Growing.

Keep the home-fires burning,
While your hearts are yearning,
Though your lads are far away
They dream of home;
There's a silver lining
Through the dark cloud shining,
Turn the dark cloud inside out,
Till the boys come home.

Well, the boys and girls aren't home yet, but here in New York we're getting a new barbecue joint; Wildwood. In today's New York Post there's a great article about B R Guest's Corporate Pit Master, Big Lou Elrose and the exciting news that Wildwood will be opening next week. Big Lou is no stranger to me or to the readers of this blog. I wish him and his team much success.

Speaking of his team, as any restaurateur will tell you, a chef is only as good as the rest of his team and Big Lou has put together a great one. Matt Fisher, aka The Hampton Smoker will be serving as the Pit Master at Wildwood in NYC. So while Big Lou is off riding his bike with the other 125 BBQ-loving bikers in a ride to Washington, DC, Matt will be serving up the Que and tending the flames.

Let the flames begin!

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Sometimes You're the Bird...

My taxes are done. My obligations to the IRS are fulfilled this year. Yours?

Found this on You Tube tonight. It's a fair representation of how I feel tonight. It's been a lousy week and my body ain't feeling better. It's a poor quality video, so watch close. Warning, this is not for the faint of heart.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Beans, Beans, The Magical Fruit

Your Grillin' Recipe Could Be Worth $5,000!

You're a master in the pit, so why not show off your skills on the grill? Enter your favorite chicken, steak or chop recipe in the Bush's Grillin' Beans Perfect Pair Recipe Contest.

The only catch is that it has to pair perfectly with one of Bush's New Grillin' Beans varieties: Southern Pit Barbecue, Bourbon and Brown Sugar, Steakhouse Recipe or Smokehouse Tradition.

You could win $5,000 for a backyard makeover and a TV appearance in partnership with Food Network Challenge.

Plus, the first 800 to enter will receive a coupon for a free can of Bush's Grillin' Beans.

Hurry! The submission deadline is May 1, 2008. So, grab your video camera and get grillin'!

Enter Today

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Christopher L. Sargent, Come On Down!

Congratulations to Christopher L. Sargent, the winner of our first contest here at WhiteTrash BBQ. Christopher will be receiving a copy of He Said Beer, She Said Wine by Dogfish Head brewery founder Sam Calagione and renowned sommelier Marnie Old and published by DK Publishing.

Thanks to everyone who entered. Even if you didn't win, keep reading my adventures here at WhiteTrashBBQ; we'll be having lots more new and exciting contests over the next few months.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Friday, April 11, 2008

Friday, I'm in Love

I have a bbq secret that I can't share. It's like a bright rainbow in this shitty week. All will be revealed soon.

Remember our contest for a copy of He Said Beer, She Said Wine expires Saturday at midnight. Be sure to get your entry in!

BD asked for a recipe for smoked meatloaf. While I don't have a specific recipe that I would share, my meat loafs are usually whatever is in the cabinet or fridge, here's a recipe from the fine folks at Weber.

April's Barbecued Meat Loaf
Prep time: 20 minutes
Grilling time: 50 to 60 minutes

Meat loaf
  • 1-1/4 pounds ground chuck (80% lean)
  • 1-1/4 pounds ground pork
  • 1 cup yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 cups panko bread crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1 teaspoon dried tarragon
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup bottled barbecue sauce
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
1. In a large bowl combine the meat loaf ingredients. Using your hands, mix until thoroughly combined.

2. Divide the meat loaf mixture in half and form into 2 loaves, about 4 inches wide and 6 to 7 inches long. Place the loaves on a baking sheet.

3. In a small bowl mix the sauce ingredients. Top each meat loaf with 3 tablespoons of the sauce mixture and coat thoroughly.

4. Using a metal spatula (you may need two), gently pick up each loaf from the baking sheet and place them directly on the cooking grate. Grill the meat loaves over indirect medium-low heat (about 300°F), with the lid closed, until a thermometer inserted horizontally through the top of the loaf registers 155°F, 50 to 60 minutes. Remove the loaves from the grill and let rest 10 to 15 minutes (they will continue to cook, allowing them to reach the recommended 160°F for ground beef and pork). Slice the meat loaf into 1/2-inch slices and serve with the remaining sauce.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

A Day in the Life of a Brooklyn Driver

Sorry for the lack of updates this week. On Monday afternoon I was on my way to a wake for a good friend's father. About a mile from my house I was in a car crash and I'm in quite a bit of pain right now. My daughter's got some pictures and we'll get them posted up on line soon, but my little red Suzuki is no more.

As I was waiting at a red light, a woman in a US Post Office uniform crashed into the rear of my car. The force of the impact knocked me into a Toyota in front of me and pinned my car into a school bus on the left.

After totaling my car and causing a four car collision, this woman got out of her Lincoln Navigator, with her "diva" and "chocolate divas" stickers all over the Navigator, looked around and left. I don't know why but while I was on the phone with 911, I had enough sense to get her license plate. Something told me she was going to bolt.

What kind of person causes a four car accident, involving school children and an elderly driver of the Toyota, leaves the scene?

Now I hear that the registered owner of the car is denying being the driver. I don't know for sure, since the driver didn't speak to anyone before leaving the scene of the accident, but the registered owner is a woman who's name matches the ethnicity of presumed driver. I hope I get to do a police lineup. I can identify her. I saw her.

To this driver whomever she is, I just hope she's having as a many sleepless nights as I am since the accident. Not from the physical pain as I am, but from the pain of a guilty conscience.

Accidents happen baby. Leaving the scene is unforgivable and criminal.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

A New Sadam?

Is the world ending? Does Ringo deserve the same fate as Sadam's statues?

Ringo Starr topiary beheaded in Liverpool

What does that have to do with barbeque? Nothing. But I like the Beatles.

The British Are Coming!

Well, not actually coming, but coming around to barbecue. The First British Barbecue Championships have been announced. The British Barbecue Championships are to be held on June 14, 2008 in Ilminster, Somerset and is open to 20 teams. It appears that the Brits have a bit of Yankee envy.

(Wow, that statement may piss off the British and my Southern brothers who would never equate barbeque with anything "Yankee"!)

Anyway, the British Barbecue Championships have been announced and here's some of the information from their website...

"Formulae One Barbecue has finally arrived in Britain! Forget throwing a couple of sausages or burgers onto a gas or charcoal grill. Championship Barbecuing is a true test of outdoor cooking using specialist equipment and cooking to tight rules and regulations.

True aficionados of barbecue say that mere grilling is a poor relative of proper barbecues where meat is cooked slowly away from the direct heat source with its taste modified and enhanced by using different types of wood or charcoal. It is claimed that this technique was developed by native Americans and that modern day barbecuing is simply a retrograde development of this ancient process. Whatever its history, this style of cooking produces delicious succulent food completely different from the usual fare.

It will perhaps come as no surprise to discover that in North America competition barbecuing has been developed into a major event with several hundred thousand people regularly attending competitions. These competitions have strict rules and regulations with standings accrued throughout a season that leads to a putative World Barbecue Championship. Similar events are now held in Europe, Australia and South Africa.

To date Britain has not conducted a similar competition although several individual teams have participated in European and American events with some success.

It is the intention of the British Barbecue Championships to promote an annual competition using international competition standards to find the British Barbecue Champion."

Hmm, it may be time for a trip across the pond.

Today's radom barbeque link... The BBQ Mafia. Unlike most of my random links, I know these guys personally. Show some respect and pay a visit.

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Monday, April 07, 2008

A First: A Contest on The Blog

It's a first for WhiteTrash BBQ - A contest! I'm giving away a copy of "He Said Beer, She Said Wine." Keep reading and find out how to get a copy for yourself.

Finally a book about wine and beer for the rest of us; "He Said Beer, She Said Wine" by Dogfish Head brewery founder Sam Calagione and renowned sommelier Marnie Old and published by DK Publishing just this month.

I loved this book.

Beer is traditionally the drink of choice when it comes to barbecue, but as barbecue expands to grilling and more "exotic" foods face the flames, many people are searching for the right wine for the meal. Others still reach for that beer but are growing bored with the mass produced brews.

So what do you do? Which beer will make him happy with Carpet Bagger Steak? Which wine is right for Tuna Confit? Don't know? "He Said Beer, She Said Wine" will help provide the answer.

"He Said Beer, She Said Wine" is written in a style that pairs beers and wines together with real foods for a meal. It's written so that even the most novice wine or beer drinker can learn what makes a good wine and deciphers all that vinology gobbledygook without making the reader feel like a real dumb ass. And it makes beer accessible and desirable to the wine snob all the while singing its praises for the great unwashed.

Beer is not the plebeian drink and wine is not just for the Rockefellers. In "He Said Beer, She Said Wine," we can all get along.

Want your free copy of "He Said Beer, She Said Wine?" All you have to do is answer the following five questions and send your responses, with a valid return email address to me.

  1. The Kansas City Barbeque Society is the largest barbecue sanctioning organization in the country. Name two others.
  2. Who is the Baron of Barbecue?
  3. What is the difference between barbecue and grilling?
  4. Who does WhiteTrash BBQ turn to for wine advice?
  5. Besides barbeque, what is WhiteTrash BBQ's other food obsession?

All answers can be found here on the blog. This contest is open only to residents of the United States. All responses are due no later than Midnight on Saturday, April 12, 2008. The winner will be chosen at random from all correct responses. The winner will be announced on Monday April 14, 2008. My decisions are final.

Good luck and thanks for playing!

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Friday, April 04, 2008

BBQ Events: Judging the Snowshoe: II

So, we've talked about the first two entries fish and fattie, now let's talk about the beef and vegetables.

Beef - any cut was the contest requirement. There were some discussions over on the NEBS mailing list about people submitting some of the more esoteric cuts of beef, but unfortunately that didn't come to fruition. I was looking forward to the threatened submission of tongue. I enjoy tongue and would have liked to see some experimenting in this category.

We received six beef steak entries. All of them were ice cold. Not a little cold, but ice cold. The winds must have picked up outside or the temperatures dipped significantly, because the fish entry half an hour earlier were all fairly warm. Fortunately for the cooks, temperature is not a consideration in judging.

We had a mix the usual of steaks. One entry was presented almost as if you had bought it in a Chinese restaurant; as strips in a pile covered in teriyaki sauce. It was tough and overly sweet. A couple were just flavorless.

I hate to say this, but this category was a lousy sampling of steak. Having said that, except for one entry, not pictured here or mentioned above, I would have enjoyed eating any one of these at home. They weren't bad, but not one stands out in my mind for its flavor.

One steak remains in my memory because of the presentation box. Ya see, according to KCBS rules, meat can be presented with a garnish of green leaf lettuce, parsley and or cilantro. Most cooks fill the box with a mix of lettuce and parsley. In the box that stands out in my mind, which is pictured above, only the top half of the box had greenery with the steak fanning down from the lettuce and parsley.

I thought that was a very interesting presentation and one I was thinking about stealing for one of my cooks. But then it happened. When the box was presented and tilted so that the judges could get a good look, the meat slid around the box and ruined the presentation. Ha, right there in front of me was the best reason I know of for keeping the garnish, it holds the meat in place.

Now I hear the howls; "you're only supposed to judge the appearance of the meat, not the presentation of the box." I know I tried to do that, but I think that subconsciously a sloppy presentation affects the appearance of the meat. One other thing I notice about this box is that in the sunlight outside, you can see the grill marks and the pinkness of the meat. In the lighting of the judge's room, it just appeared dark and almost completely brown.

On to the vegetables. Yes, the Snowshoe always includes that nemesis of the pit master, vegetables. But you know what, before judging the Snowshoe two years ago, I thought that didn't like sweet potatoes. The Snowshoe showed me that I do.

This year's vegetable entries were a mixed bag. There were two entries that stood out for taste but both got hammered in the presentation category. First up was a stuffed long green pepper. It tasted very good and was cooked beautifully but it looked like crap. The peppers must have rolled around while they were in the box because the stuffing was everywhere and not too much remained in the pepper. What did remain of the stuffing was a little bland for my tastes, but that didn't hurt its score. A couple of the judges complained that the pepper was too spicy, but I didn't get that at all. There was some heat, but it wasn't overpowering.

Someone presented a vegetable lasagna that was absolutely beautiful. You could see where it was cut, but it looked whole and as if it was cooked in the presentation box. But because of that it was hard to get a whole piece out of the box. I noticed that some judges left the bottom layers in the box when taking their sample. They didn't miss anything. Unfortunately for all it's beauty, the only flavors I could get out of it was smoke. Bleah.

As expected, there was a stuffed mushroom entry. It was OK but nothing great. Last time we had some stuffed portabellos, this time it was standard white mushrooms.

Sweet potatoes were here again. One sweet potato entry was a sandwich with sweet potato slices serving as the bread and a sweet stuffing. It was OK, but the sweet potatoes were chalky, a bit undercooked and not very sweet.

The other sweet potato entry was the star of this category for me. It was a simple grilled slice of sweet potato with a sweet maple, I think, based sauce. Now this was it! This entry got a perfect score from me for taste and tenderness, but got hit hard in presentation. Again, I think this presentation suffered from the lighting in the judge's room. When it was presented, it just looked like a brownish slice of "something." What it was I had no idea.

The simplicity of this entry was surprising. Sometimes cooks, me included, forget that sometimes simple is best. I'm still pondering how the cook got such amazing flavors from just a slice of a potato.

So there you have it. One man's experience and thoughts about the food that was presented to him at the Snowshoe. I'm sure the other judges will have their own thoughts and opinions. Their opinions and conclusions are as valid as mine. We're all right.

Today's random barbeque link: Red Hot & Blue BBQ Grill. Be sure to come back Monday, ol' WhiteTrash has some exciting news for all of you.

The photograph of the steak is courtesy of Ted Lorson from the Q Haven BBQ competition team. You can check out Ted's blog and get his take on the Snowshoe and his entries here at Ted Lorson's Blog.

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Thursday, April 03, 2008

BBQ Events: Judging the Snowshoe

The competition barbecue season has begun here in the North East. The Annual Snowshoe Grilling Contest was held on March 29th and was another outstanding success.

I didn't cook, but I did judge. Last time I wrote about judging the Snowshoe I got into a large debate with many of my readers about my opinion on one entry. This caused some great discussion that remains unsettled to this day. Hopefully my opinions this time won't be so controversial.

The Snowshoe attracts some of the best teams in the North East; I Smell Smoke, IQue, Purple Turtle, Dirty Dick, Q Haven, Wildwood BBQ, Transformer, forgive me if I left you out. Even if I didn't mention the team, this is a tight field of competitors. These are the creme de la creme of barbecue.

The Snowshoe has four food categories for the competition. This year they were fish, steak or fillet; Sausage fattie, a traditional fattie is a log of uncased sausage, think a Jimmy Dean sausage, that has been seasoned and smoked; Beef of any kind and Vegetable.

Each judge receives six samples of each category to critique. We judge the food on appearance, taste and tenderness. Sounds simple right? Believe me it's not and contrary to what many cooks believe most judges take their responsibility very seriously. Especially in a field as tight as this. As in a KCBS event, this is a blind judging contest. Judges have no idea who cooked what.

First up was fish. My table of six judges received two tuna samples, two salmon entrys and two of white fish, possibly halibut. Both pieces of tuna were topped sesame seeds and lightly cooked leaving the center rare to raw. I found the pieces of tuna very interesting, but not particularly flavorful. They were both the same thickness, both cooked the same way, but one was very chewy and almost tough.

One salmon entry was breaded and one was simply presented grilled and topped with a maple based sauce, which was my favorite. One whitefish sample - halibut maybe was breaded and topped with a mustard sauce. I liked this a lot as I cook fish this way often, but this piece was a little undercooked and a bit under seasoned. The other, I have no memory about.

Next was the fattie. Now I already told you what a traditional fattie is, but the organizers of the Snowshoe defined the fattie as follows: " *A “fatty” is basically a sausage roll without a casing (think Jimmy Dean). It is made of ground meat and may be either stuffed with other ingredients, or have ingredients mixed throughout. It can be pre-seasoned. It may not be pre-cooked or contain pre-cooked ingredients." So that opened up the field quite a bit.

At our table, we didn't receive a single traditional fattie. First up was a large mound of sausage that had been hand formed and a little spicy. It was ugly as sin and had a very strange spice mixture that just didn't do it for me.

One sample was a rolled and stuffed pinwheel style log that was stuffed with what could have been stove top stuffing. The meat in this roll was different from any sausage I had ever had. If I didn't know better, I would have guessed that the meat here was a single piece of meat pounded thin and rolled around the stuffing. Wait a minute, it was much like a piece of braciole. It looked great, but when I took my sample from the box, most of the stuffing fell out. Eating it, I found the meat very tough and the stuffing mushy which provided too strong a contrasts in textures. As my teeth fought with the meat, the remaining stuffing fell into my mouth or onto my shirt.

Another fattie that stands out in my mind was the traditional fattie type sausage that was laid out, topped with a cheese mixture (goat or creme cheese) and rolled up jelly roll style and cooked. I enjoyed this on immensely, but some of the other judges at my table didn't like the combination of sausage and cheese. (!??!) The last fattie I recall, was prepared in a very similar style to the last, but included nuts and fruit in the stuffing which was a nice touch. The nuts provided a great textural contrast to the soft stuffing and sausage, but it was very bland. Unfortunately I don't remember the others which I guess says something right there.

I'll tell you the rest tomorrow, but as Ted Allen said to Richard Roeper last night on Top Chef when Roeper said that the "experts" were being too hard on the cooks, "We have to pick it apart." Or something like that. That's part of being a barbecue judge, especially in a contest where the teams are so damn good. It really comes down to the little nit-picky things. If I was served ANY of the entrys from this event at a meal, I would be one very happy camper.

Today's random barbecue link: Uncle Bub's BBQ

Thanks to the New England BBQ Society for the photo from the Snowshoe.

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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

If I Knew Then, What I Know Now...

If you're looking for a bbq post today, you're not going to find it here. I'm in a bit of a reflective mode today, but there are some great things in motion. All will be revealed soon.

Things I wish I'd known when I was younger

(I found this article on Red Lobster Boy who found it on LifeHack.org)

Most people learn over time, but often learning comes too late to be fully useful. There are certainly many things that I know now that would have been extremely useful to me earlier in my life; things that could have saved me from many of the mistakes and hurts I suffered over the years—and most of those that I inflicted on others too.

I don’t buy the romantic notion that my life has been somehow richer or more interesting because of all the times I screwed up; nor that the mistakes were “put” there to help me learn. I made them myself—through ignorance, fear, and a dumb wish to have everyone like me—and life and work would have been less stressful and more enjoyable (and certainly more successful) without them. So here are some of the things I wish I had learned long ago. I hope they may help a few of you avoid the mistakes that I made back then.

  • Most of it doesn’t matter. So much of what I got excited about, anxious about, or wasted my time and energy on, turned out not to matter. There are only a few things that truly count for a happy life. I wish I had known to concentrate on those and ignore the rest.
  • The greatest source of misery and hatred in this world is clinging to past hurts. Look at all the terrorists and militant groups that hark back to some event long gone, or base their justification for killing on claims of some supposed historical right to a bit of land, or redress for a wrong done hundreds of years ago.
  • Waiting to do something until you can be sure of doing it exactly right means waiting for ever. One of the greatest advantages anyone can have is the willingness to make a fool of themselves publicly and often. There’s no better way to learn and develop. Heck, it’s fun too.
  • Following the latest fashion, in work or in life, is spiritual and intellectual suicide. You can be a cheap imitation of the ideal of the moment; or you can be a unique individual. The choice is yours. Religion isn’t the opiate of the masses, fashion is.
  • If people complain that you’re too fond of going your own way and aren’t fitting in, you must be on the right track. Who wants to live life as a herd animal? The guys in power don’t want you to fit in for your own sake; they want you to stop causing them problems and follow their orders. You can’t have the freedom to be yourself and meekly fit in at the same time.
  • If you make your work your life, you’re making your life into hard work. Like most people, I confused myself by looking at people like artists and musicians whose life’s “work” fills their time. That isn’t work. It’s who they are. Unless you have some overwhelming passion that also happens to allow you to earn a living doing it, always remember that work should be a means to an end: living an enjoyable life. Spend as little time on the means as possible consistent with achieving the end. Only idiots live to work.
  • The quickest and simplest way to wreck any relationship is to listen to gossip. The worst way to spend your time is spreading more. People who spread gossip are the plague-carriers of our day. Cockroaches are clean, kindly creatures in comparison.
  • Trying to please other people is largely a futile activity. Everyone will be mad at you sometime. Most of the people you deal with will dislike, disparage, belittle, or ignore what you say or do most of the time. Besides, you can never really know what others do want, so a good deal of whatever you do in that regard will go to waste. Be comforted. Those who love you will probably love you regardless, and they are the ones whose opinions are worth caring about. The rest aren’t worth five minutes of thought between them.
  • Every winner is destined to be a loser in due course. It’s great to be up on the winner’s podium. Just don’t imagine you can stay there for ever. Worst of all is being determined to do so, by any means available.
  • You can rarely, if ever, please, placate, change, or mollify an asshole. The best thing you can do is stay away from every one you encounter. Being an asshole is a contagious disease. The more time you spend around one, the more likely you are to catch it and become one too.
  • Everything takes twice as long as you plan for and produces results about half as good as you hoped. There’s no reason to be downhearted about this. Just allow for it and move on.
  • People are oddly consistent. Liars usually tell lies. Cheaters cheat whenever it suits them. A person who confides in you has usually confided in several others first—but not got the response they wanted. A loyal friend will stay loyal under enormous amounts of thoughtless abuse.
  • However hard you try, you can’t avoid being yourself. Who else could you be? You can act and pretend, but the person acting and pretending is still you. And if you won’t accept yourself—and do the best you can with what you have—who then has any obligation to accept you?
  • When it comes to blatant lies, there are none more egregious than budget figures. Time spent agonizing over them is time wasted. Even if (miracle of miracles!) yours are honest and accurate, no one else will have been so foolish.
  • The loudest noise in the world is the sound of people whining. Don’t add to it.

Adrian Savage is a writer, an Englishman, and a retired business executive, in that order, who now lives in Tucson, Arizona. You can read his other articles at Slow Leadership, the site for everyone who wants to build a civilized place to work and bring back the taste, zest and satisfaction to leadership and life. Recent articles there on similar topics include Chickens, eggs, and happiness and Why perfection isn’t a viable goal. His latest book, Slow Leadership: Civilizing The Organization, is now available at all good bookstores.

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