Archive - May 2010
Long Island BBQ: Competition Champion To Teach Hands On BBQ Seminar
Long Island BBQ champion and BBQ Brethren founder Phil Rizzardi is conducting an all day 'BBQ 101' seminar on Saturday, June 12 in Bohemia NY.
Participants will be led through a hands-on, day-long seminar that will provide instruction on how to make smoked ribs, pulled pork, brisket and chicken. Also covered will be sauces, appetizers and desserts made on your grill. All meats are included in the cost of the class; you'll eat what you cook.
This is an ideal Father's Day present that could help your dad become the King of the Backyard. For details, check out www.bbq101-LI.com.
Boston BBQ: A Trip Report from Lester's
On the last day of 2009 I had a pretty good lunch visit, especially considering the low volume due to the holiday and the weather. A few weeks ago, I stopped into Lester's Roadside BBQ (Burlington MA) for a Sunday dinner for two (and yes, there were two of us, not just me). Here's the run-down:
Ribs: Smallish St Louis cut ribs had a thorough crust yet still gave way easily to the bite. These were quite smoky and had a substantial coating of rub as well. There wasn't as much of an underlying porkiness as I've encountered with other recent ribs, but these still had a very nice overall flavor with smoke a big part of that.
Pork: A few different readers have commented over the years that Lester's pork was bathed in liquid pork fat, which I never had a problem with, but this time the pork had a slight dryness to it. With a little of Lester's vinegar sauce mixed in, it wound up being just fine (so much so that I had a hard time making sure that I got to eat some of the pork before it disappeared onto another plate). There was an above average bark content, a little bite left to the meat and a very assertive smoke presence that didn't suffocate the meat's pleasant natural flavor. All things considered, this was an excellent serving of pork even though Lester's has at least a few times served me even better batches.
Brisket: Crisp edges, fork tenderness, textbook smoke ring, a smoke level that matched the pork and a good overall flavor combined to make this yet another good serving of brisket. If I wanted to nitpick, I could point to its droopiness that might have been a sign of being overcooked, but this was good stuff (and droopy beats tough any day). After years of mostly futility at Eastern New England BBQ joints, it seems like I'm on a pretty good streak lately with brisket.
Chicken: The key disappointment of the visit, this item was lacking in both texture (extremely dry) and flavor (extremely lacking). This is unusual for Lester's, which typically has some of the juicier and more highly rubbed birds in the region.
Sides: Dirty rice was basically rice plus baked beans, and not all that inspiring. Collard greens, on the other hand, were once again full of meat, full of brothy flavor (not too much spice, not too much vinegar) and cooked to just the right doneness.
With some ups (pork, brisket) and downs (chicken, rice), the overall scorecard fared well for Lester's that night (no, there's no actual scorecard, nor do I keep an actual score). Lester's is an interesting little place. There's no cool music blaring on the sound system. There aren't any signature cocktails or hot food challenges. There aren't any pierced or tattooed hipsters in the kitchen or at the counter. But the food generally holds its own and then some, even if it does so completely under the radar.
Boston BBQ: Good News and Bad News for Jake's Dixie Roadhouse
This is more like great news, horrible news for Jake's Dixie Roadhouse (Waltham MA). The great news is that they've been named one of the top "Buzzworthy BBQ" joints in the country for a segment on TLC's Best Food Ever, narrated by John Goodman (a barbecue physique if there ever was one). This segment has already been filmed and is slated to air on June 20 at 9:00PM.
The horrible news: Jake's will be shutting its doors on May 31. The promotion for Jake's benefit for the Jimmy Fund last month mentioned that "Jake's family has been rocked by cancer." That rocking has led to a decision to sell the business to focus on more important matters.
Over the years Jake's has had its share of ups and downs, but the one iron clad constant was the creativity, experimentation and sense of fun with the menu. Any joint that can offer deep fried bacon, fatties and bacon ice cream is sure to be missed.
Hard to "Handle"
Most of the posters on Chowhound.com have much more clever handles than what I use (GaryLovesFood, created way before PigTrip was even on the radar). If I were to start from scratch, I might pick one of the following handles I dreamed up over the years. It's mostly an assortment of bad puns, blasphemy, obscure references and put downs. Yes, there are probably a few groaners in here, but hopefully there's a nugget or two that will strike your fancy. As with my million dollar business ideas I posted in the past, feel free to use anything you like.
Buffet Worse than Death
Small Plates Big Appetite
Suitcase Full of Pork
Eeep Op Pork Ah Ah
The King of All Meatier
Al A. Cuisine
Menage A Trough
Prince of Peas
Pho / Cue
Cheeses of Nazareth
Ichiro Suzuki (and stay away from mine)
Yellow Matter Custard
Let's Plate Two
It's Schlay Singer
If Yan Can Cook Why Can't Todd
Enough With the Balsamic Already
What Sully Sez
You Can't Say "Chipolte" and Be My Friend
New Hampshire BBQ: A Trip Report From KC's Rib Shack in Manchester
After my previous visit to KC's Rib Shack (Manchester NH) a few months ago, I vowed to return with reinforcements and to try the brisket that I'd heard good reports about. I did just that about a week and a half ago; here's the complete rundown.
Graceland Burger: This was just one of many creative burgers on the menu. Ordered medium well (one member of our group can't handle medium rare), this burger was cooked to spec and had that rare (no pun intended) combination of a crusty char grilled exterior and an extremely juicy interior. The peanut butter was melty/gooey, blending beautifully with the meat. Mayo remained obediently in the background. Bacon was crisp but a little less voluminous and assertive than I hoped. A simple bun was extremely fresh and just the right size. Bananas should have been in the mix somewhere (fried would have been perfect) to keep the Elvis theme, but as constituted both the design and execution of this burger were more than adequate. Overall, this was a very good burger, and the quality of the meat itself far exceeded the memory of my last pretty good one at KC's a few years back.
Onion rings: These straddled the territory between the thin crunchy style and the thick puffy style, and they held their own quite nicely. Salt on the table was sea salt, a perfect match for this batter.
Haddock sticks: Mrs. Paul's got a serious upgrade here. The fish might have been reconstituted, but the texture didn't seem commercial at all; the batter (slightly thinner and crispier than the rings) was homemade and good.
Jerk wings: Not smoked but tasty, these were also cooked to a doneness that yielded a crisp exterior and a tender, juicy interior. There wasn't as much debris on the surface as in other jerk wing renditions, but the flavor was strong, with a steady, unobtrusive heat. Less liquid coating than on most wings allowed the natural chicken flavor to shine through. Crushed pineapple was served alongside as a dipping sauce. I'd love to see a cooked pineapple condiment with more jerk flavoring and more heat.
Pladdas: Before I go into a meat-by-meat breakdown, I have to say that all three of the 3-meat pladdas overflowed with food, supplying at least a pound and a half of meat. Pladdas with ribs included three bones per plate; those with brisket had about a half dozen slices (from the flat) and another half dozen large chunks (from the point); those with pork supplied more than enough for a hearty sandwich.
Spare Ribs: Just as on every previous visit to KC's Rib Shack, these behemoths were dazzlingly voluminous. Coloring was just about perfect, with a maroon/brick tint to the crust created (I'm guessing) through repeated but restrained sauce bastings. This provided a faint crunch and a pleasing hint of sweetness that yielded the stage to the porkiness of the meat. Rub and smoke were both very light, as has been the case for the last couple of years. There was a little bit of steaminess but overall the texture was good, with the meat giving way ever so slightly while allowing a clean bite. Even though I prefer the higher rub and smoke levels attained at KC's circa 2006, I still rank these pork ribs among my favorites.
Pork: This was the one weak part of my pladda. I'd trade half my humongous mound to have my other half be less steamy (the pork was much steamier than the ribs), more barky and not so mushy. I liked the flavor of the meat, which, like the ribs, had a natural porkiness bumped up ever so slightly by the complementary flavors. But the texture made this pork only so-so.
Brisket: This was what I'd come to try that night, because I'd heard from a few different moles that the brisket at KC's was much improved since they first introduced it a couple of years ago. Based on what I had that night, calling the brisket "improved" was an understatement, because mine was fantastic. Maybe I'm beating a dead horse with the interior/exterior thing, but KC's got it right again (burger: check; wings: check; ribs: close; pork: nope; brisket: check). The edges of all the slices were both very crisp and chock full of flavorful spice rub; inside, the meat was just slightly tender but tore easily. Flavor permeated deeply, suggesting an injection. Whatever it was, the meat had a fragrance to it that was borderline sweet (aside from the sauce; I should have requested unsauced) but still managed to complement the meat perfectly. The chunks weren't so crispy outside but were far more tender inside. A fair tradeoff, but it was those slices that made the trip worthwhile.
Sides: Cornbread was tall, slightly gingerbreadlike in both flavor and consistency, and very fresh. All of the other sides were okay, but nothing special.
Brisket was the star; ribs, wings and burger were solid; pork was the lone dissenter but far from a disaster. Overall, the meal was a hit. It was always a guarantee that I order the ribs at each KC's visit. Now I can also guarantee that I won't wait another year and change to hit that brisket again.
New Hampshire BBQ: KC's Rib Shack Named to Top Ten Restaurants in Hippo Press Poll
More readers poll results, this time from Manchester's Hippo Press, who announced its top 50 vote getters for the category of "best overall restaurant" from its Best of 2010 poll. KC's Rib Shack (Manchester NH) not only made the top 50 but received the number 8 slot. KC's also received honors for best ribs (can't disagree), best sandwich (the "Cardiac Sam")(still need to try it) and hottest bartender (Leah Bunka)(yes, that's really a category and no, I can't disagree). I'll post about my most recent KC's visit in a few days.
view complete Top 50 results in Hippo Press
view complete Best of 2010 (categories) results in Hippo Press
Worcester BBQ: West Side Steak & BBQ Named Worcester's Best in Readers Poll
Worcester Magazine a few weeks ago published its readers poll results for its 2010 Best of Worcester issue, and West Side Steak & BBQ (Worcester MA) was named the city's best barbecue joint for the third consecutive year. The runner-up was BT's Smokehouse (Sturbridge MA). In a separate ribs category, West Side finished second to Texas Roadhouse (Worcester MA).
view complete results in Worcester Magazine
Catching Up On Some Recent Eats
BT's Smokehouse, Sturbridge MA
A few different friends who've wanted to make the pilgrimage have made this a much-visited joint over the past month or so. I'll be doing a revised review for BT's that incorporates the new location, expanded menu and improved execution (the equipment here is a big step up from what was on the trailer in Brimfield), so I'll save the details for later. But I'll re-emphasize what I've said previously: beef is truly the thing here, done at a level that rivals any barbecue joint in New England. I like the pork (pulled, dry ribs, wet rib tips) and I like the wings (plump, smoky and a steal at $1 per whole wing), but I'm in love with the smoked brisket (salty, spicy, fatty, juicy) and the brisket/bison burger (full spectrum of gushy to crispy texture, with flavor overload). A new cut of beef shortrib rounds out the trio that—much like the BT's logo, with a steer mounting a pig—shows who dominates this kitchen.
SoulFire, Allston MA
A simple visit for a quick ribs-and-wings combo plus a fish-and-chicken combo, shared two ways. Everything was solid as usual, and the lightly battered fried catfish was cooked to perfect doneness, but the things that stood out were an increased smoke level on the rib and a larger than usual chicken portion on the 2-meat combo. Pitmaster Jason Tremblay mentioned that he's now including a half chicken on all combo plates. He had been reading some of my old reviews and stumbled upon one (for Goody Cole's in New Hampshire, probably) that gushed about the inclusion of a half chicken, and decided to do likewise. The other new thing at SoulFire is the completion of the soul-inspired mural behind the counter. This was still in progress on my previous visit and completed the night before this one.
Firefly's, Marlborough MA
This was another ribs and wings survey, starting with an order of 5 jumbo smoked-then-grilled wings. In a world where 5 "wings" usually means 5 "pieces" (read: half wings), it's refreshing to get 5 whole wings, yielding 5 wingettes and 5 drummettes. As is typical for Firefly's, these had an instantly recognizable but not overpowering smokiness, a slightly more assertive grilling component, really nice moistness and a close-but-no-cigar crispness. Flavor went beyond just the heat and fuel sources, with a nice balance of sweet, heat and tangy from the marinade and light coating of sauce. Babybacks with Dixie Kiss sauce delivered more smoke, a nice smoke ring and good moisture even aside from the signature sweet/heat saucing that was completely different from and more intense than the wings. Unsauced St Louis cut ribs had a little less moisture but were cooked to the right tenderness (meat pulled off the bone without falling off on its own) and had an equally strong flavor from rub and smoke. I've mentioned in the past that Firefly's has its off nights and its good nights, and on this Saturday night it was a good one.
Jerry Remy's, Boston MA
A Saturday afternoon visit to Jerry Remy's capped a four-stop burger crawl with two friends. Whether it was because it came on the heels of a fantastic visit to Eastern Standard (the clear "winner" of the burger crawl), because it was a lunch visit (well before a Sox home game later that night) or because of a possible downhill trend, this trip to Remy's was a noticeable step down from the previous three that were documented in my review.
Buffalo wings weren't smoked but weren't bad; in fact, these wings were exactly what I think of as a middle-of-the-road wing that's competently done without being noteworthy: the meat was just tender enough; the skin wasn't crisp but wasn't limp; size was okay; saucing was light and moderately flavorful but fairly tame.
Onion rings were an impressive stack but arrived cold; the replacement order had different sauces from the first batch (the outstanding "Green Goddess" accompaniment from the first batch was much missed on round 2). The onions were thick cut and near-wilted, with batter that reminded me of a donut crust in its sweetness and texture.
The Remy burger, ordered medium rare, came out well past medium (that's twice now in three attempts), with a fried dough bun that was slightly stiff instead of pillowy. The overcooked meat had a bouncy texture and not much beef flavor, especially considering that it's touted as Angus. On a friend's burger with fried egg, the meat was cooked to temperature but the overcooked egg had no runny yolk to speak of, defeating the purpose of ordering a burger with egg in the first place.
The curing aspect of the St Louis ribs wasn't as much of a hit with my companions on this visit as with those on previous visits, but these ribs were also a little steamier and not as fresh tasting as those from the previous night visits that seemed to come directly from the smoker. Aside from the steaminess, the texture was good, and the flavor was as pleasing as on the earlier visits. Sauce was again served hot and again almost exclusively molasses, maybe with some lubricant to thin it out a little.
I equate this visit to a day/night doubleheader where we got the number 5 starter in the first game and missed the ace that might have dazzled us in the nightcap. I'm still a fan of Remy's, but with more qualifications and a few remaining questions. The one thing I can say with certainty after this visit is that the Remy burger, which I had once envisioned as a possible "destination item" and a sure fire inclusion in the top half of a future "Best BBQ Joint Burger" list, is merely good, not outstanding.
Po's Ribs and Barbecue, Acton MA
This isn't your daddy's barbecue, unless your daddy used to run a Chinese restaurant. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. Details will follow in an upcoming review.
KC's Rib Shack, Manchester NH
I'll document this solid visit from last week in a separate post.
Joints Directory Madness
Here's the latest batch of barbecue Joints directory activity, spanning five states. This time there are seven new joints, one joint that returned with a new concept, one joint that moved with a new concept, one new chain outpost, one new website, one seasonal opening and two closings.
Uncle Brothas' BBQ (Modena NY) is a log cabin on wheels set up roadside on Route 44 (which is also Route 55 on that stretch), not too far off I-87. The Friday-through-Monday operation sells until 7pm or the meat ruins out, whichever comes first. Thanks to an anonymous "pig lover" for the tip.
Jerry Remy's Sports Bar & Grill (Boston MA), as already mentioned (and already reviewed), opened right behind Fenway Park on Boylston Street a few weeks before baseball's opening day. The signature burger is served on fried dough; the barbecue is a unique mix of curing and smoking that's sure to cause as much debate as whether it's the Yankees or Red Sox who suck. While I wouldn't want this style for my everday barbecue, I'm all for the change of pace. The execution 3 out of 4 times has been good, and the prices are nowhere near what they could be charging given the location and name recognition. Thanks to David for the early intel. www.jerryremys.com
Big Apple Barbecue (Glen Cove NY), as reported earlier, opened earlier this month as the return of Rick Anselmi, the Long Island BBQ pioneer who previously helmed the pits at Poppa Rick's in Syossett. According to two Long Island BBQ fans I trust, the 'cue is already among the best in the area. Thanks to Eric and Sledneck for the early intel on this joint. www.bigapplebar-b-quecompany.com
Doc's BBQ (Norwich CT) has a compact barbecue menu with a revolving roster of sides that sometimes includes deviled eggs and crawdaddies. It's also the "home of the whole chicken challenge," which I'm tracking dopwn without much luck. Thanks to Ted for not only having the scoop, but sharing. www.docsbarbecue.org
Holy Smokes BBQ Delicatessen (Turner's Falls MA) marks another return, this time for the Holy Smokes BBQ whose original West Hatfield location burned down in 2007. After two years operating as a catering outfit Papa Lou and company have regrouped and are now serving take-out 'cue and other smoked goodies from a fixed retail location. www.holysmokesbbq.com
Smokehouse Cafe (Newport RI) is now open for the season: Saturdays and Sundays for now, 7-days a week after Memorial Day. www.smokehousecafe.com
Dickey's BBQ Pit (Oceanside NY) isn't in the directory at this time because it's part of a national chain, but you might want to check it out. Thanks to Chuck and Robert for the lead; Newsday's Joan Reminick had mixed opinion.
A Taste of Soul (Everett MA) is a rib joint that, according to tipster Tim, boils the ribs then reheats them on the grill with a "homemade and fabulous" sauce that's "the only saving grace."
Po's Ribs and Barbecue (Acton MA) is a small sports bar owned by the former owners of the now-closed Chinese restaurant Ginger Court, so the resulting 'cue is an interesting fusion. Pulled chicken is accented with pine nuts and stuffed in lettuce cups; smoked babybacks are infused with ginger and scallion notes. Thanks to Melville for the lead.
Hilltop BBQ (Moodus CT) is a new joint summed up by tipster Mike as follows: "Nice atmosphere, good sized bar, cute waitresses, reasonably sized menu."
Smoke and Spice (Derry NH) is closed. The year-round operation was take-out only, so maybe their target audience thought they were seasonal. Regardless, they've shut down before the season was about to begin. Thanks to Jeff and Sean for tracking down the info.
Mo Gridder (da Bronx) has closed not one, but both of its locations. It's been a while since I composed a "Most Wanted" list of as-yet-unvisited places to try, but this one would have been near the top. The Mo Gridder barbecue trailer made famous on a few different food TV shows is now for sale (mention my name and the $90K might get dropped to $89K). Thanks to Robert and Sledneck for the lead on this unfortunate news. www.mogridder.com
Roundabout Diner (Portsmouth NH) is the new location of the now closed Muddy River Marketplace (Eliot ME). Their new concept includes a lounge, diner and homestyle comfort food specialties, breakfast and (oh yeah) barbecue. (Meanwhile, the Muddy River Smokehouse is still serving barbecue, so the changeover to seafood hasn't eliminated it yet.) www.roundaboutdiner.com
River View BBQ (Seymour CT) now has a working website. www.riverviewbbq.com
Phil's Old Fashioned BBQ (Milford NH) is a roadside trailer operating Tuesday through Saturday, 11:30 to 6:30, rain or shine, across from the Pine Valley Mills. There's no website, but they advertise on CraigsList. Thanks again to Jeff for the find. http://nh.craigslist.org/com/1705935164.html
Boston BBQ: Free Appetizers at Redbones for Today's Kentucky Derby
Redbones (Somerville MA) will be offering free appetizers from 5:00PM until race time in the upstairs bar to accompany your mint julep, the traditional drink of the Kentucky Derby.
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