My BBQ Heave of Desperation

In order to take some steps toward my BBQ goal, all it took was a heave of desperation!

all set up and ready for fire

all set up and ready for fire

Life happened last year and I thought that I would get back into cooking BBQ when things calmed down. As my friend Jon Acuff shared, “Enough time is a myth, just get going”–simple, yet profound!

BBQ is one of the most uplifting, therapeutic things that I do. The “getting going” for me was simply buying some meat, and starting up the smoker. Just like anything that we want to accomplish–getting back into shape, changing careers, traveling–the thinking and subsequent procrastination, are far worse than the actual effort involved. Once you take that step to get back in the game, there is immediate relief.

Anthony spritzing ribs

Anthony spritzing the ribs

For almost 5 years now, I have been smoking meat. The past couple of years have felt stagnant–partly for “life” as I mentioned, and partly because I hadn’t learned anything knew in my craft. I know how to do ribs, chicken and pulled pork; at least I know how to do them my way. Taking things to the next level, would require getting out of my comfort zone. Now just what would that next level be?

Rick working the sauce

Rick working the sauce

It would be finding a mentor–somebody who creates master-level BBQ and who cooks on the competition circuit. My friend and coach Allan Dubon encouraged me to join some online BBQ groups. I didn’t know why at the time yet saw the wisdom later. The “heave of desperation” that I mentioned was placing the following ad on the Utah BBQ Association’s Facebook Page: “I’m looking to work with a BBQ team to help in anyway that I can. I have been doing backyard BBQ for 5 years now and want to take things to the next level. Will work long hours for little or no pay.”

Have you ever applied for a job where you didn’t feel qualified; they require a Master’s Degree and you technically have one? It takes really stretching your skills so they appear to fit the criteria. It also helps omitting some information–like the fact that you obtained said Master’s Degree in two hours time last evening while watching Fixer Upper. It cost you $128 and was from a supposed institution called the Advanced Learning University of East Timor. Sure you helped fund a rebel-led coup against that country’s government, but you have that piece of paper.

The other option is to simply be honest and pray for a mercy opportunity from someone. What do they have to lose? The latter was my plan, especially knowing that most people on that forum were seasoned and competed on the BBQ circuit. “I guess he could clean my dishes as long as he stays out of my way” they likely thought.

A day or so went by and I started to think that no one cared. And then I got one message back. It simply stated, “I can teach you how to scrape chicken.” Okay, I do need to learn how to do that better only having learned it once. From there, we exchanged messages and arranged a time and place. He was preparing for a competition that next weekend. My coming to his house would simply be an extension of his preparation.

I showed up to his house on a Friday night. We started about 8:00pm and the doctorate program in BBQ began. I have learned a lot over the years, but it was all the extra little things he did that made me so impressed with his BBQ. It was smoked to a quality I had never known. He cooked with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind.

From that initial chicken-scraping lesson, came another opportunity to prep pork butt, brisket and ribs. I have cooked all of these meats before, but never to this level. And from that came an opportunity to intern with his team at a BBQ Competition. The stakes were now raised.

The Competition was the Mark Miller BBQ Showdown in Salt Lake City; sanctioned by the Utah BBQ Association. I showed up after 7:00pm on Friday night. We had dinner, then went over a game plan. Some prep happened that night and it was time for a little rest around 1:30am. That rest wasn’t long as we were back at it early.

They're simply beautiful

They’re simply beautiful

I cannot begin to describe the level of intensity, fun and even exhaustion. Turn in happens on Saturday at 12:00pm, 12:30pm 1:00pm and 1:30pm respectively; it’s like the amazing race. When it’s over, and you are waiting for the awards ceremony, you almost forget your own name. That is either because of the lack of sleep, or the near delirium from an intense BBQ aroma (not a pleasant one) now deeply infused in your skin.

In the days following the competition, I received many texts and FB messages asking about the event. My answer was the same each time: “I loved it and knew that I had to participate to take things to the next level. I knew that I would always regret not getting into the game.”

Chicken turn-in time

Chicken turn-in time

Last year I shared in a post how I have sold real estate for a decade longer than I have cooked BBQ; yet more people know me for BBQ than home sales. In those 5 years of smoking meat, many have asked me to teach them as they claim that they have always wanted to learn. I have kept an open invite. Do you know how many of those invitees have showed up over the years–just one!

The 11th hour delirium setting in

The 11th hour delirium setting in

This is not a condemnation of people who have feigned interest in something and then not attended when the opportunity arrived–I have been that person more than once in my life. The thought of not attending the BBQ competition even crossed my mind–“I know enough,” “it will be a late night,” “life is busy already” were temptations that I had to face. BUT I knew that when this opportunity came–from the one person who replied to my heave of desperation–that I best show-up, smile and get to work.

Where does the road of life take you–to unknown joy, but you will only find that once you start the car. Stay hungry my friends.

Special thanks to Anthony and Rick with Smoke Ain’t No Joke BBQ. Your tutelage is a gift that I treasure. To many more times of good food, BBQ competitions and watching baseball.

Awards presentation. Our name was not called but the education could not have been better.

Awards presentation. Our name was not called but the education could not have been better.

 

RoDizio–The Return!

Can I pile this higher?

Can I pile this higher?

A number of years ago, I found a good way to make the budget all get spent before the end of the year. Let me clarify: I wasn’t committing white collar crime. I was in the leadership of the youth ministry of my church. We had a budget each year for activities. Whatever was left over by years end was deducted from next years budget. You really didn’t need it if there was some left over right? As practical as that may be, who wants to live with less?

That thinking led me taking the youth, right around December 28th, two years in a row to RoDizio. Fun get together, enjoy each other’s company and talk about the good times right? Well yeah but we are forgetting the most important part–food! It was all you can eat and these kids were ravenous. I told them to be careful at the salad bar as more meat will be coming to the table than they can handle.

Well that was years ago, I am no longer in that position, life gets busy and I had honestly forgotten a little about RoDizio. I was invited there to try their 2nd annual RoDizo BBQ Fest–their wonderful Brazilian grilled meat items along with some American BBQ classics. I went last year and I couldn’t resist again.

I mentioned in last year’s post about being part of the Kansas City Barbeque Society: judging events and talking classes from grand champions. I felt weird as most people at last year’s dinner loved the ribs; I didn’t. I also didn’t want to prejudge them this time. I was grateful to try a couple and RoDizio really made them well. That and some BBQ chicken, along with the traditional Brazilian favorites and you have yourselves a meal and a wonderful evening.

I told him to pace himself

I told him to pace himself

Restaurants come and go. I am a little embarrassed to admit that many of the places I wrote about for City Weekly are now closed. You want them to succeed and many don’t.

Even places that stay around for many years often lose their popularity. Getting good isn’t hard; it’s staying there. Places have to change things up, appeal to new tastes and keep the regulars coming back and new customers coming to. RoDizio has done just that. I was worried that when they introduced American BBQ that it was all dying; that this was a desperate attempt to stay in the game.

Oh no, the classics are still there. Honestly, the new BBQ options aren’t many and you won’t even recognize anything has been replaced. RoDizio has been wonderful, is wonderful and will continue to be for the coming years. It’s with the trip and is much more than just a meal.

Back to my story earlier of taking the Youth here: it was not only a contest (between themselves) of how much food they could eat, but how much Guarana they could drink. They asked the server not to take away the empty cans. There were over 20 on or table when they were finished.

Somehow I found room for this

Somehow I found room for this

If you think that turning in a receipt for over $300 for a youth activity isn’t awkward, it is. Yet the food, drink and time together we’re all worth it–just like my visit there last week.

#rodiziobbqfest

Thank you RoDizio and Happy Eating.

And so I BBQ

 

Ribs N' Brisket

You know that feeling of not knowing what to do? You get introduced to someone and have no idea what to say. You commit to something and have no plan how you will make it happen. You want to break an old habit–or start a new one–and don’t know where to begin. It’s easy to get lost in the research. We can always wait for the perfect time–when the stars are just aligned. I even hesitate hitting the publish button on this blog at times thinking it’s not quite ready. I heard the story from Dan Miller of a guy he knew who took a job at a bank until he figured out what he really wanted to do with his life. 17 years later, he was still at the bank.

Well, my wife may never accuse me of doing too much research on something to pull the trigger. To take another line from Dan, I am a “ready, fire, aim” kind of guy. It may drive her crazy, yet we now know how to play to each other strengths–she researches and I pull the trigger.

This isn’t a column about the intricacies of how my wife and I communicate. If it were, I’m sure you would have already clicked off the page. It’s about taking a step even if you don’t know where that step will lead.

It has been a relatively short amount of time (29 months) that I have owned a smoker. That very first day I threw on a slab of beef ribs given to us from my in-laws. I don’t even know if I put rub on it. It was turn the heat on, throw them on the smoker, and hope that I would know when they were done. A few hours later they were done alright; and they were nasty! Was it a bad herd of grain-fed cows–sure! Was it also that I had no idea what to do–you bet! Here I had this beautiful smoker and I wasn’t even sure how to really make it sing & dance.

A few months after that first slab of ribs, I joined the Kansas City Barbeque Society; even taking classes on how to judge BBQ competitions. Wait a minute? I was learning how to judge the taste, appearance and tenderness of meat that I didn’t know how to cook myself? Well yes! They say that those who don’t know how–teach; and those who don’t know how to teach–write books for those teachers to use. All these years after college and that line finally makes sense.

Yes I felt hypocritical as I was being trusted with judging people’s competition turn-ins; people who put their whole heart, souls and money into this. But what I was really doing was finding out was fabulous meat looked and tasted like. I was blown away at that first competition. Wow, these BBQ contestants made some stuff that paled in comparison to any restaurant meat that I had ever tasted. From there I knew that I had to learn the fundamentals. It can taste good, but how? I never could have imagined what a process it could be.

From that very first judging class at the Casablanca resort in Mesquite, NV, a door opened. Casinos are built like labryinths to confuse and disorient. That way you spend more money. While looking for the ballroom where the class was to be held, I met a couple who were obviously looking for the same class. We struck up a conversation and ended up sitting next to each other inside. That turned out to be Ira Pupko of Hog Heaven BBQ Co. in Temecula, CA. His help with my ribs and pork shoulder would become invaluable.

The spring after becoming a certified BBQ judge (again, the irony had not left me by this point), I was judging the KCBS Sam’s Club Invitational and heard someone at the table next to me say that Pat from Pat’s BBQ was there. The very next week I was eating lunch at Pat’s, saw him in the hall and 15 minutes into conversation later we had a tentative agreement to BBQ together. He really is an institution around Salt Lake and I learned some valuable insights from him.

For my birthday in summer 2014, my wife got me one of the greatest presents ever–a competition BBQ class. Rub Bagby from Swamp Boys BBQ in Winter Haven, FL was coming to Salt Lake for a competition and he was bringing his Q school with him. Yes it was over 100 degrees (thankfully we were in a covered picnic area) but here was a guy who has won the Jack Daniel’s National–a big deal in the BBQ community. I was the novice there as everyone was part of a team–a team that competed. At first they seemed a little confused as to why I was there; I shared their confusion. By the end of that second day, they were teaching me so much that I could keep up. Now I have standing initiations to come and be part of their BBQ team during competitions. No better way to learn.

I love Rub’s humility. He is a school teacher in Florida and could not buy his way into BBQ like so many try–all the meat, equipment and travel is expensive. If you have loads of money, why not just spend some serious cash and get famous that way? That approach rarely works in life. Rub took a few extra bucks each month, bought meat and practicing cooking. He joined forums–getting involved with like minded individuals. The single best thing he taught me was this: “how bad do you want it?” You can do anything if you want it bad enough. He went to competitions and got his butt kicked for years before his BBQ career really took off.

How many of us are afraid to jump in the ring because we are afraid we will lose or not be perfect? You learn more by getting in the game than you do by researching the same game. I have been guilty of “I’m not quite ready yet” or “I just need more time.” You know what you want, just go for it–you will be delighted at what you will find!

 

I Write for Fun, and for FOOD!

Belgian Waffle Inn Breakfast

The Title of this article might sound a little arrogant or self-serving. That is far from my intent. When I began this journey in 2011, it was to keep an online journal of recipes. From there it morphed into reviewing restaurants. Not for pay but for fun. I remember the looks the waitresses gave me when I would pull out my camera and snap a picture. One even said, “are you trying to make someone jealous.” My reply: “you have no idea.” I was trying to make everyone jealous. Isn’t that the point of social media?

It was when Siam Orchid first contacted me to come in and review their food that I felt the reach of the platform. When I wouldn’t post for a few days, I would get messages wondering where my next review was. And then came City Weekly. What a great experience to write a column for them almost weekly for 2 years. Not every good thing lasts but every good thing does open new doors, it’s just up to us to walk through them.

What I did love about writing for a well-known newspaper in the Salt Lake area, was that I had near instant credibility. When I would contact a restaurant, it was typically a warm welcome, a chance to eat a few entrees, and to hear the owner’s story–oh how I love this–not just writing about the taste and quality of the food, but the journey. Some restaurants never returned my call–I wrote anyway. Some contacted me and thanked me after the column was published. Some even told me the reaction to the article: how one place sold out of food for the few days following the publication (thank you Charlotte Rose’s Carolina BBQ); another had a noticeable uptick in business for 2 months after the article came out (thank you Alice’s Restaurant); another contacted me and said that I must have a lot of followers because they didn’t know where the business was coming from–until someone showed them the article (thank you Bosna); another offered to have me work there for a few days or weeks if I wanted to write a much more in-depth feature (thank you Fiana Bistro).

The highs in life don’t always stay that way forever. It was sad to me when driving through downtown Salt Lake last week that Good Dog was closed. I loved their gourmet hot dogs and getting to know the owner, Josh. In late summer, another personal favorite closed, Charlotte Rose’s Carolina BBQ. Maybe it was road construction, maybe it was a tough location. Maybe it was part of the large percentage of restaurants that don’t stay open for even a year. Whatever the reason, it’s hard to see Trae not have his place anymore.

I love pulling for them, for the little guy, for the food, for the passion. It’s difficult to watch some not make it. I admire that they tried and hope to see their next place again soon. Until then, it’s always interesting to drive with me–i’m always looking around around saying, “what restaurant is that,” or “hey, that place looks good.”

Smokin Chicken N' Ribs

On that note, time to get the brisket and ribs prepped for my growing infatuation with BBQ.

Happy Eating

 

My Love of Smoking!

Nearly 8 pounds of Brisket at 7:45am. Not a bad start to the day.

Nearly 8 pounds of Brisket at 7:45am. Not a bad start to the day.

In June 2012, my wife got me a smoker for my birthday. I definitely loved BBQ and smoked meat–hence the reason for the gift. Did I know how to cook it myself at the time, not so much! We had a rack of beef ribs from my in-laws. They had bought a half cow of meat so beef was a plenty. I don’t even think that I put a rub on it. I simply placed it on the smoker and when I felt it was done, took it off. Those ribs were nasty. It could have been the quality of the meat, but my process, or lack thereof, didn’t help.

Now it’s almost 2 years later and there is so much you can do with a smoker. You can make good to great; and great to better. That first Thanksgiving since getting the smoker, it was my job along with Sous Chefs Sam & Jesse to cook the turkey. We brined them for 3 days and smoked them Thanksgiving morning. Wow! The culinary scale had been raised. Lately it was been a weekly event of cooking either ribs, chicken, pork shoulder, brisket; or a combination. My wife never thought that she liked BBQ, but she is now a convert.

It has also been a great experience to find some places around Salt Lake where they are almost deity in the smoking world. Here are just 3:

Pat’s BBQ: Pat is a legend around these parts. For 28 years now, he has been smoking meat. He started on the street by towing his Oklahoma Joe’s trailer around and catering for people. He then got a just a small space in his current location where people could walk up and order food. Now you can enjoy live music and any number of great smoked delights. Try the smoked meatloaf. I have cooked with Pat and the man has a PHD in BBQ.

Charlotte Rose’s Carolina BBQ: When I wrote this article, a couple of people gave me some grief. They went there and weren’t impressed. This reminds me of a lesson my wife taught me. Last summer I was working with 10 real estate clients. 8 were moving forward and 2 were not; yet those 2 were taking all my time. I wanted to throw it all away. She told me to get rid of the 2 and keep the 8. Don’t get rid of all because just a small portion are not moving along. I did just that.

Same idea applies to Charlotte Rose’s Carolina BBQ. Far more people love this than not. Trae makes some delicious food, much of it with copious amounts of butter and sugar. You can’t just get out of here with a meal, you will have a new friend.

Pig Out BBQ: This was a recent article that I wrote for City Weekly. Meeting the owner, Toko, was a wonderful experience. He has had a lifelong passion for food and only after an injury in his previous profession, did he turn to cooking full time. They make some delicious Island and Southern BBQ at Pig Out. They also have one of the most addictive sauces around.

Looking for things to smoke may have a bad connotation, but I do it daily. Seeking out those who have smoked for years, only encourages me more. As they say, “once is one too many, and one more is never enough” may also apply to meat.

Here is to the next mouth-watering creation.

Happy Eating.

Pig Out BBQ on Urbanspoon

 

Sweet Carolina: Charlotte Rose Carolina BBQ

Carolina Rose's Sign 2

A highway drive through South Carolina’s Low Country isn’t just the means to a destination; the journey itself is an experience. You’ll pass shops, eateries and peach-cider stands. Nothing, however, stands out more than the barbecue. They know how to make it.

My nostalgia for the South is ever-present, and coming across a Carolina barbecue joint in Salt Lake City really took me back.

Charlotte Rose’s Carolina BBQ was opened in October 2013 by Trae Eller, a 20-year veteran of the restaurant industry. You can order barbecue pulled pork or pulled chicken as a sandwich or a platter. You get your choice of two sides, but I’d recommend getting them all and then calling your cardiologist. There’s sweet-potato casserole, cornbread, red rice, green beans, baked beans and mac & cheese. For dessert, you can try housemade peach cobbler or a brownie. There are no apologies for the fact that everything is cooked with copious amounts of butter, salt, sugar, milk and fat. It all tastes great as a result.

Click to keep reading

Happy Eating

Charlotte-Rose's Carolina BBQ on Urbanspoon

Texas Smoked Brisket with Red Sauce

Nearly 8 pounds of Brisket at 7:45am. Not a bad start to the day.

Nearly 8 pounds of Brisket at 7:45am. Not a bad start to the day.

At a recent Kansas City Barbeque Society Event, I was introduced to Troy Black. He was the host of the competition and is quite the legend in the industry himself. Winning 1st place in over 100 of 400 competitions will codify your status.

Troy has a book, “All Fired Up” that I thought I would use as a reference to smoke my first ever beef brisket. One neighbor arrogantly stated, “anyone can smoke a pork shoulder, but only a few can make a good brisket.” Okay, I was a little nervous; Especially since there would be a gathering at our home where I would be serving this first ever brisket.

While Troy even makes his own rub, I went with the Whiskey Steak rub from Cabela’s. From there it was on to the smoker.

Rachel gave me a great birthday present in June. It’s a meat thermometer with a remote transmitter so you can spend your Saturday afternoon watching baseball, not having to move to check on the meat. It took about 9 hours but the internal meat temperature finally read “190 degrees.”

The Eight Wonder of the World

The Eight Wonder of the World

We let it stand for 30 minutes then cut it across the grain into thin slices. Now what to serve for sauce? I was planning to serve it with Aus Jus and also needed a good BBQ Sauce. Troy doesn’t lack for sauces either and I found a “Brisket Red Sauce” in his book.

Brisket Red Sauce

1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper

Whisk together all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring until butter melts and mixture reduces. Remove from heat; serve warm. 

What did I learn: that the brisket came out wonderful. It was moist and tender with a great applewood smoked flavor. It’s easy to dry out a brisket and I was happy that this one was not dry. I also learned that when you place a drip pan to gather Aus Jus drippings, to take that out after a few hours. Just after the three hour mark, the pan had some good juice in it. When you leave that same pan in there for 6 additional hours, there is no juice left.

Also, Troy is from the South and has a strong toleration for spicy, hot foods. His Brisket Red Sauce was a sinus cleaner. Really, all you had to do was walk in the house when we were making the sauce, and your sinuses would be cleaned. It was like tear gas. I added another 3 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of brown sugar to “mellow” it out. If you are going to make this, also cut back on the cumin. We made it tolerable.

Brisket is a delectable treat and I am grateful to learn from some Masters.

Happy Eating

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