Archive - October 2009
Rhode Island BBQ: Celebrate Halloween With Bacardi at Rick's Roadhouse
There's probably no barbecue-related tie-in, but Rick's Roadhouse (Providence RI) is celebrating Halloween with a Bacardi event tonight starting at 10:00PM. The Bacardi Girls will be on hand with giveaways and cash prizes will be awarded for the best Halloween costumes.
Long Island BBQ: Vote for Your Favorite
The Long Island Press has selected twelve barbecue joint nominees and thirteen ribs nominees for their annual "Best of Long Island" awards issue, so it's time to rock the vote. Reader's polls are held all over, and in every area you could make a case for a couple of worthy contenders. But for me the choice for best Long Island barbecue joint is more clear-cut than for any other area: Swingbelly's in Long Beach. Now I'm not telling you who to vote for, just who'd get my vote.
Vote in the Long Island Press Best of L.I. Reader's Poll
New York City BBQ: Green Apple BBQ Gets Reviewed in Today's New York Times
There's not much intel floating around about Green Apple BBQ (Harlem/NYC), so today's review (more of a profile) in the New York Times is a must-read. It seems like there's some spice and interesting Mexican influences in their barbecue. If only the Times took better photos of the food instead of the customers.
Read the New York Times review of Green Apple BBQ
Long Island BBQ: Smoking Sloe's Is Takin' It (A New Lang Smoker) to the Streets
Smoking Sloe's (Northport LI) has beefed up its arsenal with a new Lang smoker. Owner Roger Montague can be seen puttering with his new toy outside the restaurant on most weekends, starting as early as 9:00PM to have meats ready for dinner service. "This adds a second smoker to our Cookshack inside the restaurant," noted Montague. "But it's also very valuable at outdoor festivals and carnivals."
Additionally, Montague is looking at conducting outdoor smoking classes and experimenting with barbecue specials using the new cooker. The Smoking Sloe's all-you-can-eat barbecue buffet is now available four nights a week, running Thursday through Sunday. www.smokingsloes.com
Photo courtesy Guy Cottone. Used with permission.
Long Island BBQ: Free Barbecue Is Just One More Reason to Root Against the Yankees
This just in, courtesy of Joan Reminick at Newsday: owner Smokin’ Al Horowitz of Smokin’ Al's Famous BBQ Joint (Bay Shore and Massapequa Park) is so certain his Yankees will win the World Series, he's willing to not charge you for your $200 catering order if they don't. Book your order by Wednesday October 28 and you can qualify for a free hoedown.
Details at Newsday's Feed Me blog
Joints Directory Madness
Here's the latest batch of barbecue Joints directory activity, spanning three states. This time there are three new joints, one closing, one future expansion and one website change.
Fatty Beltbuckles (Rocky Point NY) nearly went under a year ago but now is
poised to open a second location in Farmingdale. They also changed the URL of
their website: www.fattybeltbucklesbbqrestaurant.com/
Gran'daddy's Smokehouse and BBQ (Putnam CT) is a joint that's been in my radar literally for years, since it's a catering outfit. Now it has a full-time retail location. The menu looks promising and the website even has detailed reheating instructions for the leftovers. www.grandaddyssmokehouseandbbq.com
Smokin' Barbecue (W. Cornwall CT) is a proper restaurant with a full bar,
pinball machines and entertainment on weekends. The barbecue roster includes smoked turkey, and you can even get it (or pulled pork or brisket) on a pizza. http://www.smokincornwall.com
Sweet Potata's (Bloomfield CT) entered the directory not too long ago, piquing the interest of regular reader who decided to check it out only to find it closed and "abandoned looking." A quick phone call yielded a "tempoarily out of order" message, so until I hear otherwise, I'm considering this one closed.
302 West Smokehouse & Tavern (Fryeburg ME) is not too far from the New Hampshire border, making it a handy destination in tandem with late foliage viewing or early Christmas shopping. In addition to the usual barbecue fare, there's sliders, wings, Mexican and a half pound burger. www.302west.com
Boston BBQ: Turkey Smoking Workshop at Lester's, November 7
Lester's Roadside BBQ (Burlington MA) is offering a hands-on turkey brining and smoking workshop on Saturday, November 7 at 10:00AM. Stephen Eastridge and Scott Procko from the "Meat At Slim's" barbecue team
will have several smokers on hand to demonstrate how really easy it is to smoke-roast the perfect bird for your holiday table. The class will run about 5 to 6 hours with plenty of hands on instruction. Topics will include recipes for brining the bird, recipes for rubs and glazes, cooking times and temperatures as well as what types of woods give the best flavor. You'll also have time to ask any barbecue-related questions, get a "behind the scenes" tour of Lester's and be able to enjoy the turkey prepared during the workshop.
The cost of this workshop is $69, but a special pre-registration price of $49 is available if you sign up before October 28. To register, call Lester's at (781) 221-7427 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Boston BBQ: Incendiary Dining Party at Jake's Dixie Roadhouse, October 29
This Thursday at 7:00PM, Jake's Dixie Roadhouse (Waltham MA) is presenting a special night of "incendiary eating" (that's hotter than hot), with spicy dishes such as Possible Side Effects Shrimp, Final Rights Chicken and Sacrificial Lamb. There'll also be a hot wings eating contest with prizes, and Mad Dog's David Ashley will be on hand showcasing some of his hottest products.
Overrated and Underrated
Fig Newtons are not only one of the most underrated items in the cookie aisle (even though they're really "little cakes") but also one of my all time favorite foods. The unique thing about Fig Newtons is that they're spectacular when you first open the box and dig into a super fresh Newton, and equally spectacular after they become stale and both the cake and filling firm up.
The Oreo just might be not only the most overrated cookie of all time but the most overrated food of all time. That said, there's something about the filling that's actually underrated. I'm not talking about flavor—I think it detracts rather than adds to the equation—but about texture, and indirectly at that. The real value of the Oreo filling is in its role as a spacer for the two cookies. The thickness is perfect, separating the cookies just enough to allow the delayed reaction of crunching into the second cookie a split second after the first, like a karate chop splitting boards sequentially. Remember folks, you heard it here first.
The vastly underrated 2-boned chicken wingette has been unfairly relegated to second fiddle status behind the chicken wing drummette, but that's fine by me. The drummettes are superior for dipping, and that's my piece of choice when sampling the bleu cheese or whatever hot sauce is on hand. But for just plain good eats, you can have the drummette; I'll go for the wingette every time. The meat is far more tender, there's a higher skin-to-meat ratio and if you extract the two small bones properly, you're left with a handful of boneless deliciousness that provides the perfect flavor/texture tandem.
Usually overhyped means overrated, but not in the case of Shake Shack (NYC). Their well-chronicled burgers are ridiculously juicy even though cooked well done, and the totality of the fresh ingredients is even greater than each of its finely selected parts. While certainly not overrated, the burgers there could hardly be called underrated. But I'd call the rarely discussed dairy items there underrated. On many a summer's afternoon, the final stop of a barbecue crawl to Shake Shack to cleanse the palate (and clear the smoke) with a frozen custard is the highlight of the trip. The creative daily flavors, silky smooth textures, proper temperatures and reasonable value (we're talking New York City) all combine to make a dessert superior to any highfalutin counterpart you'd get at a sit down restaurant. A "coffee and donuts" custard last month was sublime.
Some restaurants are underrated primarily because they're overlooked, but others are simply overmaligned (a distant cousin of overhyped). Overmaligned is the word I'd assign to Virgil's Barbecue (NYC), which is regularly dismissed by barbecue snobs as less than worthy based on its touristy Midtown neighborhood, its age (it predates the glamourous young joints that have captured the hearts of the New York media and bloggers) and its lack of a "name" pitmaster. But you know what? The 'cue at Virgil's, while nowhere near as good as at my top tier favorites there, is superior to far more New York City barbecue joints than you'd think. At Virgil's you're more likely to find tourists, families and barbecue neophytes than tattood hipsters with designer eyewear. But you'll also find some of the heftiest, fat-moistened spare ribs and one of the best constructed pulled pork sandwiches in the city. Ed Levine's recent "it's-not-as-bad-as-you'd-think" post on Serious Eats about Dallas BBQ should have been about Virgil's. (Barbecue-wise, Dallas is every bit as bad as you'd think.)
Bread and butter is overrated. Bread and olive oil is underrated.
Overrated and underrated sometimes exist under the same roof, and that's the case with the two brisket varieties at Hill Country. The moist brisket (from the fattier "point" or "deckle"), though often mind-numbingly fantastic, is overrated. I've heard the hosannas constantly since Hill Country opened, but the moist brisket for me lives up to the hype (and does it ever) only about once every three tries. At its worst (when it's still very good and still better than 90% of the brisket at other joints) it can be gelatenous or blubbery. And at $22 per pound there shouldn't be such a high percentage of fat that needs to be discarded. On the other hand, the "lean" brisket (from the brisket "flat") has plenty of moisture, a superior texture, no discard, more flavor thanks to its higher bark ratio and a lower price tag. Since day one, it's been my gold standard for sliced brisket flat and it hasn't let me down yet.
I've said this already, but I think it bears repeating. Oyster crackers by themselves: underrated. Oyster crackers in chowder: overrated.
Long Island BBQ: Oktoberfest at Swingbelly's, October 24
On Saturday October 24, Swingbelly's (Long Beach NY) is presenting their annual Oktoberfest from 12:00 noon to 6:00PM. The $40 event features an open bar with German beers and an all you can eat German buffet.
Hartford BBQ: Cigar Dinner at Black-eyed Sally's, October 27
On Tuesday October 27, Black-eyed Sally's (Hartford CT) will host a cigar dinner featuring J. Fuego cigars and a buffet dinner. The evening kicks off at 6:00PM with cocktails, cigars and specially priced Guinness, Bass and Smithwick's. At 7:00PM the buffet will include Sally's chopped salad with blue cheese and toasted pecans, sweet Corn and chicken chowder, grilled Andouille sausage over beer braised onions, smoked prime rib carving station, pulled chicken and wild mushroom penne, two potato and bacon hash, sautéed garlic green beans, homemade cornbread and honey butter. The $60 cost (must be prepaid by this Wednesday, October 21) includes dinner, tax, tip and four cigars.
Massachusetts BBQ: Holiday Cooking Classes at Firefly's
Firefly's Bodacious Bar-B-Que (three Massachusetts locations) will host holiday cooking classes with chef/owner Steve Uliss on successive Wednesdays at their Quincy MA location on October 28 and November 4. The menu will include hot jalapeno crab dip, pomegranate molasses turkey, pumpkin stuffing, cranberry-apricot sweet potatoes, black-eyed pea and beet salad, mashed potatoes with sage and white cheddar cheese and gravy, roasted root vegetables and Dutch apple pie. The $50 classes start at 6:30PM and last 90 minutes. Contact Elizabeth price at (508) 357-6393 to reserve.
Boston BBQ: SoulFire's 3-in-a-row is No Typo
You may have noticed that my last three barbecue meals documented in the Recent Eats column are all from SoulFire (Allston MA). Ordinarily, such repetition might suggest another of my increasingly-frequent typos, but that's not the case here. For the first time in the history of this site, three consecutive barbecue meals took place at a single joint. What can I say? I'm digging the food, service and vibe more so now than even before, so SoulFire has become my go-to joint lately. They're in a serious groove now, turning out some of the freshest, juiciest, smokiest 'cue to be had within a 200 mile radius of Boston. My last few batches each of ribs and pork there have have been superb, ranking with anyone's—I'm including even the joints in New York City when I say this—and their fried chicken is equally up to par. Lately they've added some new desserts (more on that later) and the baked beans on my last visit partied like it was 2006, overflowing with nuggets of bacony goodness. I'd be shocked if another visit wasn't in store before month's end.
A Rooting Interest
Now that the Red Sox have been eliminated from the playoffs, I'm not sure which team I'll be rooting for, though I know which one I'll be rooting against: the Yankees. It's not like there's a real reason to hate them these days. A-Rod is certainly a lightning rod for criticism, but the rest of the team consists of mostly good guys you'd love to have on your team, and just for the record I'm including Johnny Damon in that group. Jeter? Absolutely, I'd take a team of nine Jeters any day. But it's just not possible to be a Red Sox fan and root for the Yankees. It just can't be done.
With barbecue—or any restaurants for that matter—I feel completely comfortable having multiple favorites. I can love SoulFire and Blue Ribbon without having to say one's great and the other sucks. And I can like Firefly's and also Redbones, or Jake's and also East Coast Grill. And High Street Grill and Route 7 Grill. In New York I can love RUB and Hill Country at the same time, and I don't have to feel like Greg Brady forced to pick a cheerleading captain among his sister and his girlfriend. And I can like Wildwood and still like Daisy May's, or Dinosaur and also like Fette Sau. And I root for all of them, whether it's to receive some annual "best of' award, a magazine feature, a good review from a valued source or simply enough business to stay in business.
As much as I root for sports teams, I root for restaurants. For more than a decade, whenever the new Zagat Boston came out, I'd race furiously to the listing for East Coast Grill to see how they did. Many people screamed at Grady Little when he failed to remove Pedro Martinez from that fateful 2003 playoff game. Me? I scream at Zagat when a favorite such as an East Coast Grill or any restaurant run by Lydia Shire doesn't score high enough. And I pump my fist when another favorite such as an Olio (RIP 2005) or a Sweet Basil gets a 27 or higher.
When I go to a new barbecue joint to review it, I'm rooting for it to do well. I'm hoping it's the best barbecue I've ever had and I'm hoping I can write about it to let everyone know. There are plenty of reasons why I'm rooting for greatness, some of them purely selfish. Good barbecue usually translates into good photographs, and good photographs on the site attract more viewers than bad ones do. And there's that feeling of discovery: though I never claim credit or even hint that I deserve credit for "discovering" a great new restaurant (I'll leave that game to the New York bloggers), there is something satisfying about being a leader rather than a follower. But the primary rooting interest is taste: I've had so much bad barbecue by visiting every joint out there that I crave that rare great barbecue meal. I do confess that if I'm not going to have a good-to-great barbecue meal, I actually prefer a horrible meal to a just-okay one. Bad reviews are much more fun to write than a middle-of-the-road, could-be-good, could-be-bad one, plus there's a similar satisfaction in the knowledge that I'm helping readers save money and avoid disaster.
I don't just root for new joints to be good and for my favorites to get good pub. I actually root for joints I've disliked (or have been luke warm about) to turn things around and get better. Some of them have. My most recent visit to Bison County in Waltham wasn't transcendant but it was a pleasant surprise, with some real rub and smoke flavor in the meat. And as I've mentioned before, my three most recent visits to Tennessee's have all been positive. Who knows, maybe Smoken Joe's or Brother Jimmy's can finally get it together.
So go ahead, root for the Yankees or the Dodgers or the Angels or the Phillies. Now you know where my rooting interests are.
Boston BBQ: Kalua Pork, Hawaiian Style, at Jake's Dixie Roadhouse
All this month Jake's Dixie Roadhouse (Waltham MA) is offering pork in every variety in their Hogtoberfest celebration, and the Boston Herald's Kerry Byrne covered the Kalua pork in yesterday's edition.
read the article, with recipe
Rhode Island BBQ: Newport Storm Dinner at Smokehouse Cafe, October 17
This Saturday, Smokehouse Cafe (Newport RI) will host the final dinner in the series that they're calling "the perfect marriage of BBQ and beer." This time the menu has an Octoberfest feel (beet and carrot salad, bratwurst, weisswurst, sauerbraten, black forest cake), with each course paired with a different Newport Storm beer. The event starts with a cocktail reception at 6:30PM and dinner at 7:30PM. The cost is $42 and reservations are strongly suggested.
Long Island BBQ: Longhorns Reviewed
After a 3-day weekend with no posting, here's another post and yet another barbecue joint review. Longhorns Saloon & Barbeque (not affiliated with the national chain with a similar name) in Rockville Centre is the site's 168th barbecue joint review. Check it out via the link above, the Reviews page or the red icons in the Joints directory.
Connecticut BBQ: Smokey O' Grady's Reviewed
In many ways this is the logical bookend to my most recent review of Big Daddy's in Maine. It's more of a pub than a barbecue joint and the wings are more prominently featured than the 'cue, which may or may not be smoked. Smokey O' Grady's is the site's 167th barbecue joint review. Check it out via the link above, the Reviews page or the red icons in the Joints directory.
Brooklyn BBQ: Fatty 'Cue Preview on Always Hungry New York
On Sunday, Fatty 'Cue, the much awaited Zak Pelaccio-Robbie Richter collaboration, conducted a pre-opening tasting event, and the Always Hungry New York blog documented some of the offerings for posterity. All of the photos look fantastic, even the non-barbecue items and even the vegetables. Thanks to Robbie and Robert for both forwarding the link.
See the Fatty Cue preview on Always Hungry
Maine BBQ: Big Daddy's BBQ Reviewed
Big Daddy's, the second major stop on the Maine BBQ mini crawl of a few weekends ago after Shaw's Ridge Farm BBQ Barn, is the subject of the site's 166th barbecue joint review. Check it out via the link above, the Reviews page or the red icons in the Joints directory.
Joints Directory Madness
Here's the latest batch of barbecue Joints directory activity, spanning three states. This time there are two new joints, two closings and one temporary closing with an impending move.
Smokehouse Cafe and Deli (Stafford Springs CT) has been open for seven weeks, offering smoked barbecue as well as an assortment of deli sandwiches, breakfast sandwiches (they open at 7:00AM) and steamed hamburgers (that Connecticut delicacy pioneered by Ted's in Meriden and also served at Uncle Willie's BBQ).
Poppa B's (Mattapan MA), as reported here earlier, has closed its dining room and is preparing for a rebirth as a takeout-only operation in new digs. Very unfortunate, as their signature fried chicken was meant to be eaten there, not packed and transported elsewhere.
City Flame Smokehouse (Manchester NH), also as reported here earlier, has sadly closed. I would have thought its location just a block from the main drag and right across from a police station would ensure both high traffic and high confidence, but I might have been alone on this one. The 'cue was good while it lasted.
Outlaw BBQ (Foxboro MA), a joint that I once previously reported as closed only to have it reopen after dealing with some much-whispered-about tax problems, has closed once again. Thanks to an anonymous reader for the info.
Hillbilly's Southern BBQ (N. Conway NH) is located, according to its website, "smack dab in the middle of the North Conway Strip." That would make it an ideal stop and a possible salvaging element if you're sentenced to a (gasp) New Hampshire foliage tour. Thanks to Steve for spotting it last week and passing along the info. www.hillbillyssouthernbbq.com
Boston BBQ: New Menu at Firefly's Includes Nachos, Tacos and Sausage Trio
Within the last few weeks Firefly's (three suburban Boston locations) made one of their major periodic menu revamps. Gone are the barbecue egg rolls (good decision), gone are the beef ribs (unfortunate decision), and still not back on the menu is the often-good, sometimes-great chili (really unfortunate decision). But there are some former menu items making a triumphant return: catfish bites and hush puppies on the appetizers menu, two kinds of po' boys on the sandwich menu. New items include a sausage sampler (beef, spiced pork, chorizo), tacos with pulled pork or chicken, chimichurri steak and a nachos appetizer. "I resisted adding nachos for so long but gave in to the constant demand," said owner Steve Uliss. There's also a special "Good Fer Ya" section offering three different lighter items inspired by Uliss's healthy grilling classes presented earlier this summer.
Beyond the additions and subtractions, the new menu offers some new flexibility. Salads are offered in half and sizes, barbecue platters are offered in 8oz and 12oz portions ($2 difference), and all barbecue combos start with one of three core permutations that can be upgraded with twelve different add-ons ranging from $2.99 to $7.49. In today's economy, that seems like a wise move.
I visited last week to give some of the new items a test drive and liked most of them. Here's some photographic evidence:
Hush puppies with a dipping sauce that's wing-worthy.
Pulled pork n achos wth grilled corn, queso blanco cheese, serrano peppers, house-made
roasted tomato and chipotle salsa and avocado cream sauce.
Three sausages: Southern style beef, spiced pork and chorizo, served with whole grain, honey and Creole mustards.
Tacos with shredded lettuce, pico de gallo, queso blanco, jalapenos and avocado sour
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