Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Volt Bro's Fire and Smoke Tour

I was walking around the mall over the weekend, strolled by William Sonoma, and saw a huge poster on the front window -- it was sign with the words "BBQ" and two dudes standing in front of it. After squinting for a few more seconds, those two dudes looked like the Voltaggio brothers of Top Chef fame. Interesting... and confusing at the same time. What was the point of the poster? Were they launching their own brand of BBQ tools for the store? Were they going to start doing BBQ demos? When one thinks of BBQ, William Sonoma isn't exactly the first thing that pops into mind.

So I did some research, and apparently the Voltaggio brothers did a "Fire and Smoke Tour" several months back, sponsored by... who else? William Sonoma. They went on 4-city tour sampling the country's different types of BBQ. Stops included Wilbur's in Goldsboro, North Carolina; Oklahoma Joe's in Kansas City, Kansas; Smitty's Market in Lockhart, Texas; and Cozy Corner in Memphis, Tennessee. On William Sonoma's blog, they posted some pictures of their trip, and will share more info as we get closer to summer -- prime-time BBQ season.

Not only are they great chefs, but they got paid to travel and eat BBQ at some of the best places in the country. Bastards!

Memorial Day BBQ Weekend

I was hoping that my Weber Smoky Mountain would arrive just in time for the long Memorial Day weekend, but it's scheduled to be delivered today (look for the "unboxing" post later). That's the drawback of ordering online via Amazon with free shipping -- I didn't want to fork over the extra money for 2-day shipping. I figured that's money I could use on other things like wood chips, BBQ accessories, and most of all -- MEAT!

Obviously, buying meat is expensive. Everyone knows and shops at Costco, so that's the first (and probably only) place I'll go to for my BBQ'ing meats. Brisket, pork shoulder, spare ribs, the list goes on. You're looking at least $20-$40 or more per item, depending on what you're getting. I have my eyes set on smoking the brisket first and foremost.

Since my WSM didn't arrive over Memorial Day weekend, I made the 50-minute one way trip to Phil's BBQ to bring back for lunch. I wasn't about to settle for anything less, like Costco BBQ ribs. Blech. I tried it once before, never again. It was mushy, tasteless, and the texture eerily resembled the McRib sandwich from McDonald's. I brought home the usual from Phil's -- beef ribs, baby back ribs, and even a bottle of their fantastic BBQ sauce. It's perfect combination of tangy, smoky, and spice. I can't wait to use it on my own BBQ.

$5.95 for about a 30 oz bottle

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Product Review: Trader Joe's BBQ Sauces

By Dru Chai

I've always been a fan Trader Joe's BBQ sauces. I've tried both the "Bold & Smoky Kansas City Style" the more generic sounding "All Natural Barbeque Sauce." They both taste similar -- rich, thick dark sauces with a blend of molasses and smoky flavors. They are perfect as dipping sauces for anything (I like to dip tater tots in them), as well as BBQ'ing meats.

There is a subtle sweetness to both sauces. It may remind you a bit like KC Masterpiece, but I think it has a bit more depth in flavors without being too sweet. They are both smokier. If I had to pick, I would give the edge to the Kansas City style sauce.The best thing about these Trader Joe's BBQ sauces? The price -- you're looking at no more than about $2.50-$3 for each bottle.

For me personally, I really like to taste the meat and not too much BBQ sauce. I want to savor the natural juices of the meat, instead of slathering some overpowering BBQ sauce. I like to do a light coating of BBQ sauce right before taking it off the grill or smoker. If I need more sauce, I can always dip the meat into more sauce.

Dirty Smoke rating (out of 5 stars)

Trader Joe's All Natural BBQ Sauce - 3 stars
TJ's Bold and Smoky Kansas City Style BBQ Sauce - 4 stars

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Review: Phil's BBQ in San Diego, CA

It's no secret that good BBQ is tough to come by where I live. It's part of the reason why -- okay, HUGE reason why -- that I purchased my own BBQ smoker. I've tried quite a few places in and around the LA/OC area, and my favorite thus far would have to be Phil's BBQ.

Unfortunately, they're located in San Diego. But I would have no qualms about hopping in the car for an hour just to get my Phil's fix. Looking through my past Yelp reviews, I've given them nothing but but 5-star glowing reviews. I haven't had any BBQ outside of California (though I'm looking to change that soon), so obviously I can't offer much for comparison. But for my money, I'll happily settle for Phil's BBQ in SoCal.

There's always a line during peak hours
BBQ heaven on a plate

OC BBQ Festival 2011

It may not compare to any those world-class competitions held in the midwest, but in Orange County, CA, you can find the OC BBQ Festival, one of the state's largest cook-offs. There are over 50 BBQ competitors, a rib eating contest, a car show, beer tasting, and even a Mr. BBQ Pageant contest. I'll probably check it out this year on June 11, 2011 (I should, I have a BBQ blog now!) In the meantime, check out some pictures I took from last year.

Welcome! I Wanna Be a Smoker...

A BBQ meat smoker, that is!

After reading this article, and checking out all the the great info by the online experts, I made the plunge and ordered a Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker Smoker (or, WSM for short). It's an R2D2 look-a-like BBQ smokin' machine. I can't wait for it to arrive, which is hopefully before Memorial Day weekend.

Prized possessions

Most of my BBQ experience consists of grilling on a Weber kettle grill and an indoor cast-iron griddle, cooking mostly hot dogs, burgers, steaks, and chicken. But it's about time to move up to the big boys -- briskets, ribs, and pulled pork, etc. I want to cook low and slow. I want to eat tender, juicy, melt-in-your-mouth smoke flavored meat.

I'll be blogging about my BBQ adventures along with some of my experiences eating out, home cooking, or just anything else food related. I'm no BBQ expert, pitmaster, or trained chef. I'm no stuck-up, wannabe food critic or restaurant reviewer using big words. Easy to read, and no dictionary required. I'm just a regular guy who loves to cook, eat, and talk food, especially when it comes to BBQ. Thanks for joining me on this BBQ journey, or simply just stopping by.