Archives - January 2009
Super Bowl Deals
Okay guys, here's the deal. The Super Bowl is one of the biggest days if not the biggest day of the year for barbecue joints from New Jersey to Maine, and just about all of them have special "Game Day" or "Tail Gate" packages, for six, for twelve, for 30, for you name it. I could list dozens of 'em, but that's just not practical due to time constraints. So I'm going to list only the ones where there's a twist to the menu, a unique item or some specal feature.
New Hampshire BBQ: Goody Cole's Is Bringing Back the Wings
Some of the best wings I ever tasted were at Goody Cole's Smokehouse (Brentwood NH), who took them off the menu after a brief stint because they were difficult to maintain for long stretches. The full details are not available yet, but if you're in the area, this development is well worth investigating. www.goodycoles.com
New Hampshire BBQ: KC's Rib Shack Expands the Wings Menu
Owner Kevin Cornish recently made a major revamp of the menu at KC's Rib Shack (Manchester NH). More on that next week, but for now be aware that the smoked wing options currently include Buffalo, Chipotle BBQ, Kansas City BBQ, Jamaican Jerk, Garlic Parmesan, Honey Garlic and 357 Diablo. www.ribshack.net
NYC BBQ: Hill Country Tweaks the Menu and the Service For Super Bowl Bash
Not only will there be big screen TVs on both levels, but Hill Country is offering table service for the big game. Fixed price items include the wings I raved about a few days ago, along with guacamole and chips, chili nachos, queso and chips, smoked pork belly bites, chili mac, BBQ beef sliders, smoked chicken sliders, smoked hamburger sliders, sausage skewers, beef ribs and pork ribs. The full regular menu will also be available at the counters. www.hillcountryny.com
NYC BBQ: Ed Levine Agrees With Choice of RUB For Best Wings
Two days after RUB (NYC) led my These Are A Few Of My Favorite Wings roundup, Serious Eats New York bestowed similar honors. Ed Levine prefers the bleu cheese dip over the ranch, but calls RUB's wings "good enough to eat without any extra dunking."
read Ed Levine's Serious Eats thoughts on RUB's wings
Recipes: Dr. BBQ's Smoked Bologna With Big-Time Creole Rub
Yesterday I talked about the big time, and Sunday is the big time game, so the timing is right for another recipe: Dr. BBQ's Smoked Bologna with Big-Time Creole Rub, from Dr. BBQ's Big-Time Barbecue Cookbok.
Ray Lampe of Southern Hospitality was kind enough to provide permission to use his recipe here. Check out the Recipes page for details.
Joints Directory Madness
Here's the latest batch of barbecue Joints directory activity, spanning just one state. This time there's three new joints, one closing, one website change and one address change.
Billy Sunday's (Brooklyn NY) is a new joint whose interesting menu features barbecue sold by the half pound, all $9 or less, including dry rubbed beef short ribs, cut St Louis pork ribs, smoked pork shoulder, "well peppered" pork belly, "12 hour" brisket and beef cheeks. Sandwiches on brioche rolls pair brisket with sauerkraut, pulled pork with pineapples and chicken with cole slaw. Thanks to Robbie for the tip.
Lucky Mojo (Long Island City NY), is part BBQ joint, part sushi house, part Mexican, part New Orleans, and they're owned by the same people who own Brother Jimmy's. Thanks again to the Robbie for the find. www.luckymojos.net
Dougie's BBQ (NYC) is a new listing of a joint that's part BBQ, part deli, and there's no pork on the menu. Thanks to Robert for the tip. www.dougiesbbq.com
Rack and Soul (Harlem) is joint recently mentioned on Serious Eats; thanks to Sledneck for catching the incorrect pre-move address I was still using. www.rackandsoul.com
RUB (NYC), after using the website www.rubbbq.net, is now using www.rubbbq.com. Both are active for the time being.
Spanky's BBQ (NYC) closed yesterday. I wasn't impressed by the 'cue but it was one good looking restaurant. I'd like to see someone emulate the way they built a bar around a smoker just off the main entrance. The space will remain under the ownership of Heartland Brewery, to become a burger joint. Off one bandwagon, onto another, I guess.
Some New Year’s Resolutions In Reverse
The clock is running out on January, so I only have limited time to make some New Year’s resolutions, but I’ve already said that I’m not one to do that. Half the promises you make to yourself can’t be met and there’s really no way to say whether lack of ability, lack of desire, lack of opportunity or lack of self discipline was the reason. However, not doing something you’re not supposed to do can only have one explanation: willful defiance. That’s why I’m making my New Year’s resolutions in reverse, outlining the things I absolutely will not do. Any resemblance to actual people or events may not be coincidental.
If I were compiling a more traditional set of New Year’s resolutions, I’d have something about competing in at least x number of barbecue competitions by such and such a date. I’m not going to do that, because I really don’t know what the future holds. But I do know this: if I do compete, and if by chance—whether due to my own clumsiness, drunkenness, weather conditions or what have you—my smoker tips over, and my briskets and butts hit the ground, I will not wash them off, continue cooking them and serve them to the judges. And if I do compete and I see someone else attempt to serve food that hit dirt to the judges, I will not let it go unchallenged.
I will not steal recipes. I will not post any recipe on this site without the permission of the author. I will not copy and paste articles from magazines that are available on the stand and meant to be sold, not used as free blog fodder (I'd link to them if online though). I will not use the often-seen, often-misused phrase "courtesy of" below a photo I borrowed unless I was actually granted said courtesy, which is defined by the giver, not the taker.
Almost every food blogger out there wants to hit the big time, whether as a cook, food writer, author, panelist, celebrity judge, consultant, columnist, you name it. Although I do what I do for the love of barbecue and to share my thoughts and experiences so that others can enjoy barbecue, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit there’s a part of me that wants that big time too. But I don’t set goals or resolutions toward whatever that big time is. However, I resolve that I will not clutter this site with self-serving accounts of awards, radio gigs, newspaper mentions, appearances on Oprah, book deals, Playboy mansion hangs, free meals, free trips, free equipment and any other benefits I can’t think of that those who hit the big time get.
If I didn’t cook the brisket, I will not grab a knife and pose with it for a newspaper photo as if I did cook the brisket. And I will not wear a red chef’s jacket.
I like to leave comments on food blogs if I have something to add about a particular restaurant. But I will not post a comment declaring or reminding everyone that it was I who “discovered” the place. The heroes are the chefs, the pitmasters and the food itself, not the bloggers who herald them.
NYC BBQ: Spanky's BBQ Near Times Square To Close Tomorrow
Eater is reporting that the Heartland Brewey's barbecue affiliate Spanky's will be closing tomorrow, to be replaced by a burger joint.
read the post on Eater
NYC BBQ: Ed Levine Digs Rack and Soul; White Trash BBQ Not Thrilled But Optimistic About Virgil's
You don't see much mention of Rack and Soul (Harlem) around the blogosphere, and I'm certainly remiss for not visiting yet, but Ed Levine of Serious Eats weighed in (and weighing less, I might add) with a photo-studded Serious Eat: New York post yesterday. The fried chicken was "the star," the babybacks "as good as babybacks get in this city" even though they suffered somewhat from oversaucing.
read Ed Levine's Serious Eats review of Rack and Soul
Meanwhile, Robert Fernandez of White Trash BBQ, who happened to join me for some chili and wings at Virgil's last Monday, doesn't exactly go out on a limb in yesterday's post by saying "neither were the best in NY." But he did think they were "good enough" to give the rest of the menu another try.
read White Trash BBQ's post on Virgil's
NYC BBQ: Wings at Virgil's and Some Virgil's Comparisons to Daisy May's permalink
Last Monday's Martin Luther King Day mini-crawl in the city followed up lunch at Southern Hospitality with a "dessert" of chili and wings at Virgil's. The wings, highly recommended by a reader several months ago, were of specific interest for possible inclusion in yesterday's These Are A Few Of My Favorite Wings list. I thought they were good enough to make the #9 slot; check the list below for the pros and cons.
In my wings description I called Virgil's the joint that gets no respect. Part of that disrespect stems from their longevity: so many new (and good) barbecue joints have arrived in New York City that Virgil's has been upstaged by most of them. The other reason is also related to the stage (not John Stage of Dinosaur—he's part of the first reason). Because of its location in Times Square, Virgil's is extremely popular with tourists looking for a quick bite before or after a Broadway show, so the natural assumption is that Virgil's offers nothing more than a tourist brand of barbecue. I disagree. While they might not still be in my NYC top four, I think Virgil's is well worth checking out. And even though I'll take Daisy May's over Virgil's, I'll take a Virgil's pulled pork sandwich over a Daisy May's pulled pork sandwich any day.
That brings me—at the risk of sacrilege—to another Daisy May's-Virgil's comparison: the chili. Daisy May's wins this one hands down, but Daisy May's chili is so good it beats practically everyone's hands down. That doesn't mean we can't compare, does it?
Daisy May's chili is nearly all meat (and clearly smoked); Virgil's chili probably has only a third as much meat (hard to tell whether smoked or not).
Daisy May's chili has no beans; Virgil's chili has a handful of tiny ones that thankfully don't get in the way.
Are you sitting down? Flavorwise, Virgil's chili is very, very similar to Daisy May's chili, with that same peppery sweet ancho flavor, and it's actually a little spicier.
Virgil's chili wins presentation points for an artful swirl of chipotle cream; Daisy May's offers a tiny cup of sour cream still hardened from its time in the fridge.
Daisy May's chili.
Remember, I said Daisy May's wins hands down, both overall and for the chili. Just don't dismiss Virgil's as nothing more than a tourist trap. I guess it's only fitting that Monday's Martin Luther King Day crawl was a march for a cause or two.
The Super Bowl is still a full five days away, but it's never too early to start thinking about the number one football food: wings. Here's a list of my dozen favorite wings available at barbecue joints in Boston, New York and everywhere in between. There's a good variety of styles and cooking methods represented here, but to make the main list, the wings need to be smoked. As with all lists, I'm only calling these my favorites, nothing more. What's "best" is up to you.
1. RUB, NYC
These wings have it all going on: smoked, then deep fried, then tossed in an exotic, pungent sauce that hints of Asian and Buffalo but lets the smoke do the talking. The wings are one of the few things you can get at RUB delivered to the table with sauce already applied, and it works. www.rubbbq.com
2. Hill Country, NYC
Usually available only on weekends, Hill Country's wings are everything you want in an unsauced wing: a sweet smoky impartment from post oak, liberal use of rub (different from what gets used on the other meats), crisp skin and tender, addictively flavorful meat. This is such a close second that I should call them 1a. www.hillcountryny.com
3. Big Bubba's BBQ, Uncasville CT
These good-sized wings are tough to describe, because I think I ordered them unsauced each time I had them. There's no doubting that they're smoked, and the rub gets more than equal billing here. www.bigbubbasbbq.com
4. Chili Head BBQ, W. Bridgewater MA
The largest wing I have ever hoisted is smoked for 8 hours, lightly fried and tossed in one of several sauce options: "Buffalo" (a thick, mildly spicy brown sauce that's not quite Buffalo, but good), "Diablo" (much, much hotter than you think) and some recently-added varieties such as honey mustard, teriaki, tequila and wasabi ginger. www.chiliheadbbq.com
5. SoulFire, Allston MA
If you like your wings to pack just a little more sweet than heat, SoulFire's spicy honey wings are what you're looking for. These smoked-then-fried wings bear crispy skin and a perfect coating of tangy goodness. I don't order these as often as they warrant, because I'm so smitten with SoulFire's Southern fried wings that they're my defacto first course. www.soulfirebbq.com
6. Firefly's, 3 suburban Boston locations
This is a smoked-then-grilled variety with a light honey-cayenne glaze. Their
doneness, crispness and smoke level vary greatly, but the consistently good remoulade is the perfect base for additions from their wall of hot sauces. The chile-lime vinaigrette offered as a salad dressing is my top secret wing topping here. www.fireflysbbq.com
7. Dinosaur, NYC
The wings here get almost as much mention as the 'cue itself. They're plump, smoked and available with one of several of Dinosaur's popular sauces. I recommend Wango Tango, which is a starting point from which to up the ante using their other hot sauces. These wings are good, but the lack of crispness here on two visits cost them a few places in the standings. www.dinosaurbarbque.com/nyc/index.html
8. High Street Grill, N. Andover MA
A three-month-old newcomer to the BBQ scene, High Street introduced smoked wings only within the last few weeks, and the one plate I tried recently nailed the smoky flavor, nailed the crispy skin and didn't go too crazy with the sauce. This is yet another "Buffalo" option that's not really Buffalo, though the flavor was good and the butter was noticeable. www.25high.net
9. Virgil's, NYC
The joint that gets no respect gets my respect for their wings, whose bulk smokiness and heat are all in play. The sauce also offers a light hit of citrus, which is intriguing at first but can overstay its welcome if you're having more than a couple. These are another example that would rank higher if the skin were crispier, but they're very good.
10. Swingbelly's, Long Beach NY
Impressive girth, crispness and a very noticeable smokiness mark these wings, which are available sauced or with dry rub only. Either way, the smokiness and flavorful rub shine through. www.swingbellysbbq.com
11. United BBQ, Providence RI
This two-month-old newcomer has fashioned a wing that's a separated-at-birth version of the SoulFire wing. It's smoked, fried and tossed in a sauce that supplies sweet first, heat second, while letting the subtle smoke peek through. www.unitedbbq.com
12. Ruby's Famous BBQ Joint , East Meadow NY
Just one month old, Ruby's hasn't been around long enough to call itself famous, but the smoked wings here have an unusually high rub-to-meat ratio and are as tender as you'll ever find. Lack of crispness hurt this one too, but there's some potential here. www.rubysfamousbbqjoint.com
East Coast Grill, Cambridge MA
Conceived several Hell Nights ago, the "Wings of Ass Destruction" are an on-again, off-again menu item that packs some serious heat along with serious flavor. If you're with a group, sharing a bunch of appetizers, make sure to try these last. You might not be able to taste the remaining appetizers otherwise. www.eastcoastgrill.net
Goody Cole's Smokehouse, Brentwood NH
Offered briefly last winter, Goody's wings were among the very best I've ever had, supplying a good balance of smoke, heat and other flavors that hold a summit at the ever-elusive crispy skin. I'm hoping they make a return appearance for the Super Bowl. www.goodycoles.com
Now these are fried, not smoked, but their dry rub version provides a nice taste sensation to balance the heaviness of the wing itself. I find these superior to the sauced choices. www.brguestrestaurants.com/restaurants/wildwood_bbq/index.php
Smoke Joint, Brooklyn NY
These are a nice workmanlike rendition that are well executed, with crisp skin and a tasty sweet sauce that has some pop. I'm not sure if they're smoked, but they're good. www.thesmokejoint.com
Uncle Pete's, Revere MA
These wings are fried and tossed in a sauce that's called "Buffalo" but is much closer to General Gau. They're sweeter than they are hot (though both elements are there) and they're always slightly crisp. www.unclepetes.com
permalink with photos of all 12 wings favorites
NYC BBQ: Wildwood Barbeque Offers Smoking and Grilling Class With Big Lou Elrose, Feb 7
Wildwood Barbeque Pitmaster "Big" Lou Elrose is holding a demonstration-style cooking class on pork butt and spareribs on Saturday, February 7, from 11:30AM to 2:30PM. The class costs $55 per person (plus tax and gratuity) and includes a BBQ lunch with beer parings and instruction on smoking and grilling techniques, rubs and sauces.
For more info or to reserve your spot, contact the BR Guest special events department at email@example.com or (212) 331-0328.
NYC BBQ: Lunch at Southern Hospitality permalink
Last Monday was Martin Luther King Day, so I parlayed an opportunity for a day off into an opportunity for a barbecue crawl. Two crawls actually, joining different friends for a Long Island BBQ crawl on Sunday and a New York City BBQ crawl on Monday. While the Recent Eats column is keeping strict chronological order, I'm rearranging the telling somewhat to make for better regional balance. I still have some Rhode Island BBQ to talk about and I'll get to the Long Island part shortly.
But I digress, this post is supposed to be about Southern Hospitality, which has been on my radar for a while now. Even though I posted a review 16 months ago, that review in many ways describes a different restaurant from the one that's operating now. Since early 2008, the barbecue program has been guided by Ray Lampe ("Dr. BBQ"), familiar to many for his victories on the competition circuit, his appearances on BBQ reality shows and his best selling BBQ books. Last spring I attended a gathering of about 20 members of the BBQ Brethren for a barbecue bash with Lampe as host. The 'cue was fantastic and the service improved by several notches over my first visit. But was that a true indication of what I'd get if I just wandered in randomly? I needed to know.
For various reasons, that "representative visit" to Southern Hospitality has eluded me. Last summer I visited on a Sunday afternoon and the brunch menu made much of the barbecue menu unavailable. More recent attempts at a return visit have been foiled by inclement weather, lack of vacation days, some friends cancelling crawls and other friends preferring to keep the crawls confined to joints further downtown.
Last Monday I finally made it back, joining another barbecue blogger for lunch. As it turned out, Lampe was in the house, and despite efforts on my side of the table to keep the visit anonymous until after the meal, one thing led to another and we were chatting with the good doctor within minutes. He's one of the great barbecue storytellers who's equally enthusiastic taking about restaurants or the competition circuit.
All of the food we had was good to excellent. A pulled pork sandwich, ordered before the discovery, was light on the pork but exhibited moderate saucing, decent flavor and a good texture (not the overcooked mush that too often passes as pulled pork). Chicken was more abundantly glazed without depending on it: even the white meat was moist and juicy. Spare ribs lacked the smoke ring and the color that typifies good barbecue, but the abundant rub, the lightly crisped crust and the juiciness of the meat were apparently colorblind. Sliced brisket—not nornally available on the lunch menu—had a pleasing flavor, moist texture and much more definition to the bark that was missing on my previous visit.
While I can't claim with any certainty that this visit was representative (though Dr. BBQ said everything we tried came straight off the line), I can state without question that the barbecue at Southern Hospitality has not only come a long way since its early days but is now pretty good in its own right. If I can get this caliber of 'cue—or at least something reasonably close—on a regular basis, I'd come back more often. As often as RUB, Hill Country, Daisy May's, Dinosaur and Wildwood? That remains to be seen, but Southern Hospitality is in the forefront of that next tier, ahead of some better known joints.
Maybe it's time the public finally stopped holding the fact that Justin Timberlake owns Southern Hospitality against it and actually tried the food before bashing it. Some of the naysayers might be pleasantly surprised.
NYC BBQ: Cochon 555 is 5 Chefs, 5 Pigs and 5 Winemakers, Today at the Hiro Ballroom
Sorry for the late notice, but if you are reading this in the morning and are looking for something fun to do this afternoon, you might want to check out Cochon 555.
This is a tasting event that allows you to sample different preparations of whole 70-lb heritage pig along with wines by family-owned vintners.
Mark Ladner, Del Posto
Corwin Kave, Fatty Crab
Bobby Hellen, Resto
Juan Jose Cuevas, Eighty-One
Michael Clampffer, Mosefund Farm
Pax Wine Cellars
Bonny Doon Vineyard
It sounds like a good time, and fans of a certain "resident Texas brisket genius" may enjoy a rare chance to talk shop.
Look for the event to hit Boston on April 5, with participating chefs Tony Maws (Craigie on Main), Jamie Bissonnette (Toro), Matthew Jennings (Farmstead), Jason Bond (Beacon Hill Bistro) and Joseph Margate (Clink).
Long Island BBQ: Some Dissenting Opinion on the Long Island Press Readers' Poll Results
Earlier this week, I posted the barbecue and ribs results of the Long Island Press's 2009 edition of its "Best of L.I." readers' poll. Smokin' Al's (Bay Shore and Massapequa Park) took top honors in both categories, with Zorn's (Bethpage and East Meadow) making the top three in both categoies. Adam's Rib (West Babylon) and The Spare Rib (Commack and Hicksville) rounded out each group.
Shocker of all shockers, there's some dissenting opinion. Within the last few days, Eric Devlin (Home Of BBQ) posted a less than glowing review of Smokin Al's on the BBQ-Brethren forum and Robert Fernandez expressed outrage over the poll results on his White Trash BBQ blog.
Hey, I'm just the messenger. I neither endorse nor agree with the results. My vote would have gone to Swingbelly's (Long Beach). Like Devlin and Fernandez, I was also a fan of the erstwhile Willie B's (Bay Shore).
But the results don't suprise me. Let me reiterate how I ended the Monday's piece: "Remember, this is a readers' poll."
That's all it is, a readers' poll and nothing more. In polls like this, someone who eats ribs twice a week has the same vote as someone who eats ribs twice a decade. In polls like this, restaurants encourage staff members and regular customers to vote on their behalf. In polls like this, restaurants with multiple locations (which all the winners have) seem to do better than restaurants with just one location. In polls like this, restaurants with sit-down service, wide-ranging menus and appeal to the whole family seem to do better than barbecue-only, takeout-only joints.
In polls like this, restaurants with longevity (which most of the winners have) do better than restaurants that are just making a name for themselves. It only makes sense. I bet most of the people who voted never heard of Bobbique (Patchogue) or Smoking Sloe's (Northport) or Seconds BBQ (Amityville) or the just-opened Ruby's Famous BBQ Joint (East Meadow). But everybody knows the Spare Rib, like it or not. So they vote for the Spare Rib, where they ate three years ago.
But back to Smokin' Al's. While Al's brand of 'cue is a more sauce-happy and for-mass-appeal version than I generally prefer, I always thought it was good for what it was trying to accomplish, and at the very least smoked. There's just enough smoke to distance his 'cue from the legions of frauds (other winners included) who boil and broil, but the mild/sauced style appeals to the legions of customers who help pay the rent. Sure, I'd like the pulled pork to have a little more bite, a little more smoke and a lot less sauce. But for every barbecue purist like me, there are a dozen who'd rather have it mild and soaked. If it were the other way around, I'm sure the pork would be the other way around too.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: Long Island, despite its population of nearly 8 million, is the weakest area for restaurant barbecue in the region I cover. When most of those 8 million have never tasted anything but faux 'cue, you can hardly blame them for their vote.
Earlier: Why Are So Many Long Island Joints Closing?
Connecticut BBQ: A Review of Smokey Joe's in Stamford
Remember the days when I frequently posted barbecue restaurant reviews on my barbecue restaurant site? Those days aren't over, at least not yet. The site's 152nd review is now available for Smokey Joe's Bar-B-Q in Stamford CT. Check it out via the Reviews page or link to reviews using the red icons in the Joints directory.
This review is much more brief than last month's review of Roadhouse Craft Beer and Barbeque in Brookline MA. Part of that is due to it being based on a single visit rather than several. Part of that is due to my lack of enthusiasm for the joint itself. For these factors I offer no apologies. But I have to admit, part of the brevity is also due to my not being in the proper state of mind during the visit. A few friends and I had already eaten at two other joints, so fullness and fatigue were probably at play, and that shouldn't be. That said, I still stand by everything I wrote, however brief.
Massachusetts BBQ: High Street Grill Reviewed in Today's Boston Globe
Today's Boston Globe ran a review of the well-connected High Street Grill in North Andover MA. Devra First covers most of the often-discussed progeny details: owner Kristi Morris is the former GM at East Coast Grill; ECG owner Chris Schlesinger is a partner and consulting chef at HSG; the menus at both restaurants offer a similar mix of ecclectic cuisine and barbecue with a few exact duplications.
The review is positive and detailed but a little lacking in the barbecue department (which isn't a problem, since barbecue constitutes only a small part of the menu). An attempted compliment of the barbecued wings calls them "intensely smoky, as if basted in Liquid Smoke." I hope not.
I'll weigh in early next month with my review, which will focus almost exclusively on the barbecue. I'll be posting a review of another New England barbecue joint tomorrow.
read the Boston Globe review of High Street Grill
Joints Directory Madness
Here's the latest batch of barbecue Joints directory activity, this time concentrated in western Connecticut and Long Island. There are four new joints, one schedule change and no closings.
Zorn's (Bellmore NY, Bethpage NY and East Meadow NY) is a decades-old chicken joint whose "barbecued" ribs and chicken earned them top-three honors in the Long Island Press "Best of L.I." reader's poll. Thanks to Chris and Robert for both suggesting this addition even earlier. www.zornschicken.com
South of the Border BBQ (East Meadow NY) has been around for about six months now; I thought I already added it to the directory but I let this one slip through. Thanks to Sledneck for the original legwork and for discovering their latest menu revamping: adding the Mexican specialties from their sister restaurant in Levittown.
Swingbelly's (Long Beach NY) has shifted to a winter schedule with opening times pushed back to 4:00PM Monday through Thursday. I don't post operating hours in the directory, as it's nearly impossible to maintain, but if I notice or hear of changes, I'll make mention here. Thanks to Robert for the info. www.swingbellysbbq.com
Smokin' Kettle (Waterbury CT) is the third barbecue joint in the city that also has Uncle Willie's and Big Frank's. The chef is Leon Newman, a Johnson and Wales grad with a pastry background and whose specialty is crawfish and andouille chowder. Thanks to Ted for the find. www.smokinkettle.com
Island BBQ and Grill (Islip NY) is a new joint that's been open just ten days. This is a sit-down restaurant with a liquor license and a website still in development. Thanks to Will for the info.
Events: Hell Night Tripleheader at East Coast Grill, January 26-28
If you caught the Travel Channel's Man Versus Food last week and enjoyed the Boston episode featuring East Coast Grill (Cambridge MA), you may want to give the pasta from Hell and other capsaicin-heavy fare a first hand look next Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday night. Jason Lord, who was featured in the episode, is no longer the chef, but the exotic peppers are in capable (and gloved) hands. Once again, the Hell Night menu is available for online preview before the event.
Long Island BBQ: Smokin' Al's Voted Best Barbecue in Long Island Press Poll
It was perfect timing, as I happened to be in East Meadow preparing for a Long Island BBQ crawl on Sunday when I picked up a copy of the Long Island Press that featured the 2009 "Best of L.I." reader's poll results.
Smokin' Al's (Bay Shore and Massapequa Park) was the winner for the barbecue category (second time) and the ribs category (fourth time).
In the barbecue category, Zorn's (Bethpage and East Meadow) finished second and Adam's Rib (West Babylon) finished third. For ribs, The Spare Rib (Commack and Hicksville) finished second and Zorn's finished third. Remember, this is a readers' poll.
More on the crawl, as well as yesterday's NYC stops, in the days ahead.
NYC BBQ: Southern Hospitality's Ray Lampe (That's Dr. BBQ To You) Offers Super Bowl Tailgating Class, January 21
Ray Lampe, the executive pitmaster at Southern Hospitality (NYC) and the most recognizable face in barbecue, will be conducting the "First Annual" Super Bowl Bowl Tailgating Class this Wednesday at 7:00PM. For $45, you can watch the good doctor prepare recipes from Dr. BBQ's NFL Gameday Cookbook, including the tropical pork chop sandwich, mac and cheese soup, Memphis style dry
ribs, vegetarian beans and the Bloody Doctor. Tickets for the class may be purchased at www.southernhospitalitybbq.com/store
New Hampshire BBQ: Goody Cole's Combats the Cold With Hot Stews, BBQ Style
I'm not one to make New Year's resolutions, but with the turning of the calendar comes a natural inclination to look back and look forward, and one of the things (not resolutions) I decided was that I want to visit Goody Cole's Smokehouse (Brentwood NH) much more often in 2009 than I did in 2008. Despite only a few visits, I still consider Goody Cole's to be among the best of the New England barbecue joints.
Toward that end, I took my wife to Goody Cole's last Saturday. Barbecue certainly isn't Saturdayworthy, but I used the impending storm as the means to skip one of our usual Saturday night fine dining haunts. (Just so there's no confusion, let it be known that I enjoy fine dining as much as barbecue if not more.)
The barbecue was all good to very good, but the standouts for me were the brisket and the new chicken and sausage stew that they posted as a special. I liked that you could get a hot, fairly traditional stew with a smoke component and some herbs for balance. Goody Cole's will be offering a variety of soups and stews that would probably go down really well on a cold day like today.
As I always say, if you can find interesting ways to repurpose the barbecue that's left over at the end of the night, you're not only adding an interesting item but making the barbecue better too.
The rotating soups and stews aren't the only new menu items at Goody Cole's. For appetizers they now offer a barbecue quesadilla with your choice of pulled pork, brisket or chicken, plus a Shepard's pie made with rib meat, garlic mashed potatoes and corn. New sides include sweet potato with cinnamon butter and a smokehouse jambalaya.
Picking Up A Few Bottles of Wine
As we prepare for what should be a light dusting of snow later today, I'm reminded of the heavier storm a few Fridays ago. That day I took a different route home from work so I could pick up a few bottles of wine for the weekend. As the snow started to fall more briskly, the parking lot of the shopping plaza was nearly full, with hundreds of people invading Shaw's to make sure they had milk for the storm. I was next door looking not for milk but for Malbecs from Argentina, which my wife and I have been exploring and enjoying lately.
Somehow a simple errand that had nothing to do with barbecue had a lot of barbecue in the backdrop. Austin Liquors (Shrewsbury MA) happens to be one of the original retailers of Dr. Gonzo's pepper mashes and other spicy condiments, which I got into after sampling at barbecue competitions in Lowell MA, Merrimack NH and Windsor VT. From my earliest trips to satisfy the Gonzo craving, I remembered that Austin had an unusually large selection of international wines, so I suspected I might find some interesting choices.
Here's the first Malbec I picked up and the first one we drank that night. If you've checked out the Andy Husbands's Fearless Chef series of YouTube videos, you know that Malbecs are among his favorite wines to drink with barbecue. Andy, did you hear about this one?
The IQue was fruity without being too sweet and had an unusual Chardonnay-like mouthfeel. We liked it and would definitely try it again, though a bottle of Salentein from the next shelf was the superior Malbec that night.
But back to the plaza. As I struggled to find my way out of the parking lot, here's dentist I passed.
A wine and a dental office, both with the names of prominent Northeast barbecue teams. I should have headed into Shaw's and bought some Lunch Meat.
Boston BBQ: All You Can Eat Fried Chicken Tonight and Every Wednesday at Firefly's
Firefly's Bodacious Bar-B-Que (Marlborough MA, Framingham MA and Quincy MA) introduced some weeknight specials at the end of summer, but as of a few weeks ago those specials have been replaced with a new set. The main attraction is the all-you-can-eat fried chicken every Wednesday night. Here's the complete rundown:
Kids eat free with the purchase of one adult meal per child.
Take It Down Tuesday:
The Chicken and Ribs Combo is $10.99. Other BBQ Platters (pulled chicken, pulled pork, chopped beed brisket, smoked sausage) are $9.99.
Southern Fried Chicken Wednesday:
All you can eat fried chicken, served with fries and slaw for $13.99.
Three Meat Thursday:
Choose any three meats (St Louis ribs, babyback ribs, pulled pork, pulled chicken, barbecued chicken, chopped or sliced brisket, fried chicken, Jamaican chicken, spicy smoked pork sausage) and two sides, plus cornbread for $14.99.
Firefly's is also continuing the "Bug Bites" Monday through Thursday from 4:00PM to 7:00PM. These are $2 appetizers, with a choice of homemade onion straws or potato chips, fried green tomatoes or pickes, pulled pork sliders, cracklin' bread, buttermilk tenders and mini burgers.
Note: If you are a Northeast barbecue restaurateur and would like to promote your menu, specials, events, openings or sauces, drop me a line at PROMOTEatPIGTRIPdotNET.
Boston BBQ: East Coast Grill To Be Featured on Tomorrow's Man Versus Food
The Travel Channel's Man Versus Food series hits Boston on tomorrow night's 10:00 episode. The previews all revolve around the Eagle's Deli burger challenge, but another segment features East Coast Grill (Cambridge MA), where the threat is posed not by the quantity of food but by the spiciness of Hell Night fare. I'll be setting my DVR.
Connecticut BBQ: Wilson's Barbeque on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives
Not to be outdone, Ed Wilson and Wilson's Holy Smoke Barbeque (Fairfield CT) will be featured on the Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives series with Guy Fieri. The airing date is February 9.
In my house the source of nearly constant conversation lately has been Stephenie Meyer's vampire romance novel Twilight, its sequels and the movie it spawned that's in theaters now. All of this conversation, not so surprisingly, is initiated by my wife, who's reading the fourth installment of the series. Every few minutes I'll hear a sigh, followed by some gush of excitement about the latest plot development or how beautiful the story is and how romantic the lead character Edward is (or is it about how romantic the story is and how beautiful Edward is?). I'll grunt in encouragement or throw out a "That's great, honey!" and return to my writing or my football game. One of the few mentioned tidbits from the series that I've actually retained is that some of the vampires get their nutrition not from human blood but from animals, and these vampires call themselves "vegetarians."
This Twilight business is starting to take over. At dinner Friday night, we were sitting with a restaurateur and his two teenage daughters and the conversation swung to a thorough analysis of the books, the movie, even the soundtrack. On the way to dinner last night we stopped at a bakery and that same soundtrack was playing. Sure enough, my wife used that as a springboard to analyze and dissect the subtleties and nuances of Twilight with all of the female bakery workers while I retreated to the free samples.
But the Twilight obsession has its perks. When my wife is home, I can now actually watch a football game in relative peace. Instead of the constant babytalk to our two dogs (one of which is deaf and can't even hear the babytalk) during crunchtime, the only disturbance I get from her side of the bed is the ruffling of the 700+ pages. If only there were a thousand. When she's not home, it's total peace. Today my wife and an equally obsessed friend are headed to the movies to see Twilight for their second and fourth times, respectively. Me? I'm deciding whether to take in the Giants-Eagles game or head somewhere for a guilt-free (aside from the calories) "vegetarian" pigtrip.
At first it was mildly annoying, but I'm really starting to embrace this whole Twilight thing. Bring on the sequels!
The 2008 Food Blog Awards
Over at the Well Fed Network, the 2008 Food Blog Awards just completed the nomination period, which ran from Monday through Friday of last week. Just like last year, I'm posting a link after the nomination process is over so that it wouldn't look like a thinly veiled attempt to beg for a nomination. There's a whole world of food blogs out there that go beyond the barbecue and meat-centric focus that many of my readers and I usually gravitate to, and I'm planning on checking many of them out this weekend for inspiration.
New York BBQ: Last Friday's Crawl to Daisy May's and Dinosaur, Part 2: Dinosaur
Dinosaur Bar-B-Que in Harlem was the second leg of last Friday's New York City barbecue crawl. The joint was nearly full and doing booming business on a day that many had off from work or school, so it was a good opportunity to see what Dinosaur had to offer.
Here are some observations, factoids and tasting notes from the visit to Dinosaur.
This was my third visit to Dinosaur overall, the first time I've hit them on a weekday and the first time I saw owner/pitmaster John Stage in person (though I did not approach him and he was unaware of my visit.
The chicken wings are one of Dinosaur's signature items and we had a wings aficionado in our group, so they were in the opening round long before we even opened a menu. These wings, coated with Dinosaur's equally famous Wango Tango sauce (tangy/spicy), were larger, smokier and more tender than the batch I described in my original review. Although finished on the grill, they still weren't as crisp as a good wing should be, but decent..
I'm a huge fan of Reuben sandwiches made with barbecue fillings, so Dinosaur's rendition had been on my hit list for a while. This is a somewhat unorthodox version, served on a classic (and very fresh) sesame seed bun instead of grilled rye, but it worked. As you can see in the Recent Eats photo, the brisket not only hung out of both sides of the sandwich but also presented a beautiful smoke ring. The tenderness of the meat was perfect from the edges all the way to the center. The flavor had just the faintest hint of gassiness among the more noticeable smoke, but was pleasing overall. Creamy cole slaw was a nice foil to the beef. Cheese, if it was in there, didn't make itself known. Overall, this was an excellent sandwich.
We ordered two-meat barbecue combo platter that featured pork ribs and a "hot sausage link from the legendary maker in Elgin, Texas." The sausage was good: crisp on the outside, loaded with hot juices inside and nicely flavored, like a more intense version of a hot dog. The ribs were good sized and flavorful, but nothing special. Though I haven't had a bad rib in three separate visits, the ribs so far at Dinosaur exhibited none of the "wow factor" you get from seeing their ribs in numerous photos in books and online sources.
The pulled pork was excellent for a second straight visit. As with the Reuben, I liked the soft, fresh sesame seed roll used here. I also liked the sauce, which isn't too sweet, isn't too thick and is used sparingly to supply just enough moistness and flavor to enhance the pork without obscuring it. But I really liked the crunch of the well done bits of pork randomly distributed in the pile.
I wasn't crazy about the mac and cheese, which seemed a little too cheesy in a harsh way that I wish I could describe better. Other than that, the sides were uniformly excellent, from the kale, blackeyed peas and bacon special to the hand cut fries to the homemade pickles on the sandwich plates.
Whether you hate the food, like the food or love the food, the thing you can't argue about with Dinosaur is the atmosphere. The space has great energy and the servers all seem to really enjoy what they do, as if it's not just a job to them. I couldn't help but notice how many of the staff went about their business with genuine smiles on their faces.
On my first visit to Dinosaur a couple of years ago, I remember enjoying the meal but wondering what all the fuss was about. Even though I'm still waiting for that first batch of really great ribs, the answer is starting to come into focus.
New York BBQ: Last Friday's Crawl to Daisy May's and Dinosaur, Part 1: Daisy May's
Last Friday morning two friends and I headed out to New York City for our first barbecue crawl of the new year. The plan was to hit Daisy May's first, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que second and Southern Hospitality third. Due to a few delays and a time consuming search for parking in Harlem, we exited Dinosaur after 2:00PM. With snow already starting to fall, I figured by the time we got downtown, found or paid for parking and made our way in and out of Southern Hospitality, we'd be leaving the city well after 4:00PM in potentially heavier snow and heavier traffic, so I made the unpopular decision to postpone Southern Hospitality. Instead, the third leg of our trip was Smokey Joe's (Stamford CT), which always seemed to get lost in the shuffle because it's too far from Boston (not really suitable for a spontaneous visit) and too close to New York (not likely to get chosen over another NYC joint).
Here are some observations, factoids and tasting notes from Daisy May's. I'll talk about Dinosaur in my next post and save Smokey Joe's coments for my review, which will probably be posted late next week.
We visited shortly after they opened at 11:00AM. Waking as early as we did for this trip, the early lunch was not a problem for us, but we wondered whether the food would suffer. For the most part, it didn't.
The chili was the logical starting point and it was excellent as usual. The thing that I've noticed on my last few visits is that the flavor doesn't come just from the sightly sweet and slightly spicy broth. The well-seasoned meat within had a detectable bark with a rub that clung to it even after immersion. As I've said recently, this chili needs to be bumped up a few notches in my 2009 chili rankings.
Pork ribs (three wet, three dry) have become my standard order here, and splitting among three people is ideal. These were slightly steamier than usual, but still good, with moist inner meat and a dry rub that was dry like it was supposed to be.
We split the Oklahoma beef rib, which was served as a single bar of meat with the clean bone beside it as a garnish. This presentation allows the meat to be sliced and shared easily, and it's tender enough to cut with the plastic knife. It was my fourth tasting of this item at Daisy May's, and I'd probably rank this one fourth. True to form, the inner meat was slightly pink and flavorful, but the outer surface had no crust. If there was a crust, it wilted under the sauce. One friend noticed that this was an extremely lean piece of meat, with marbling but not the usual ripples of fat that need to be discarded.
Chopped beef is a relatively new item at Daisy May's that I observed on a neighbor's plate during a previous visit. It looked very good, so I was eager to try it Friday. The chunks of beef were tender within, ever so slightly crisp at the edges (I'd prefer crisper) and generously coated with sweet sauce. I'm not a fan of sweet sauces with beef or of oversaucing beef, so while this was a nice item, I probably wouldn't get it again as a plate (the sandwich offers complementary flavors and textures that make it work much better). As I observed the first time I tried their brisket sandwich, there's also great similarity between this and the chili, so why not just get the outstanding chili.
According to the people behind the counter, Adam Perry Lang is still an owner of Daisy May's despite his collaboration with Jamie Oliver on a barbecue project in England and despite rumors that he is no longer involved. I was told that Perry Lang is taking a two year hiatus from the restaurant but will be making monthly visits.
Joints Directory Madness
Here's the latest batch of barbecue Joints directory activity, spanning three states. This time there's one new joint, one closing, one contraction of a mini-chain and one new website.
The Cookhouse Cafe (East Hartford CT) closed on New Year's day, contracting the Cookhouse mini-chain down to just two locations (at one time there were four). Thanks to Eric for the tip. www.thecookhouse.com
Smokey Joe's (Stamford CT) now has its own website: www.smokeyjoesribs.com
Southbound BBQ (Valhalla NY) is now closed. So much for what I said last time about the dense cluster of New York barbecue joints north of the city and east of the Hudson. Thanks to Paul for the tip.
JT's BBQ (Newark NJ) is a Louisiana style barbecue joint that is the second location of a joint from Tacoma WA run by a native Louisianan, with a menu that's heavy on sausages, catfish and po' boy sandwiches. According to the Star-Ledger, one of the owner's daughters married the drummer for Wynton Marsalis, so much of the family moved east along with her. Thanks to Robert for the lead. www.jtsbbq.com
New York BBQ: New York Magazine's Where To Eat Issue Leans Heavily on Haute BBQ
The latest New York magazine features Adam Platt's Where To Eat roundup of a hundred restaurants, and a whole section is dedicated to "Haute BBQ." Receiving mentions are Bar Q, Fette Sau, Hill Country, Mogridder's ("the city's best smoked chicken") and Wildwood.
Even Fatty 'Cue, the Zak Pelaccio joint that hasn't opened yet, gets a mention, as does "the city's resident Texas brisket genius, Robbie Richter."
Joints Directory Madness
Here's the latest batch of BBQ Joints directory activity, spanning four states. This time there are two new joints, two closings, one move and one change of ownership.
Big Lou Rib House (Revere MA) has sent the pink pig that once graced its roof to that big rib house in the sky, because they're now closed. Signage out front announces that it will re-open soon as the 338 Grille. Whether they'll be featuring barbecue, "barbecue" or neither remains to be seen.
United BBQ (Providence RI) is a new barbecue joint that offers the usual assortment of smokey staples along with some Mexican and a surprisingly strong roster of vegetarian items, including a vegetarian chili and a "seitan" (wheat gluten) sandwich. Featured recently in a Providence Journal article, United BBQ is a unique addition to the Providence BBQ scene. Thanks to both Robert and Sledneck for the lead. www.unitedbbq.com
Barnacle BBQ (Mamaroneck NY) is yet another addition to the already dense cluster of New York barbecue joints north of the city and east of the Hudson. As the name would imply, the menu features both barbecue and "fish shack specialties." The smoker is a Cookshack. Thanks to Sledneck for the lead. www.barnaclebbq.com
BT Lane's (Griswold CT or Jewett City CT) is indeed moving their operation, as reported here previously. They've updated their website to announce that the new location is just down the street, that they hope to re-open in March and that they're still available for catering. www.btlanesbbq.com
Outlaw BBQ (Foxborough MA), despite their location a stone's throw from Gillette Stadium, is now closed. Thanks to Mark for the info.
The Bayou Smokehouse (Westerly, RI) has only been in the directory a month, but a routine check revealed that their website was down and their phone—though working—ddidn't get answered during stated business hours. It turns out that the business was sold and temporarily closed. The Bayou re-opened under new ownership on Tuesday, with most of the menu inact. Thanks to Mike of the former ownership and to the random clerk who picked up the phone at neighboring Cumberland Farms for answering my questions. www.thebayousmokehouse.com
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