Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Review: Ranch A Go Go BBQ Food Truck

Me: "So do you really serve authentic, low and slow BBQ here?"

Truck: "Yup. So what looks good on the menu for you?"

Me: "I'm a big fan of brisket. What kind of wood do you use to smoke your brisket?"

Truck: "Combination of hickory and apple, but for competitions we use some pecan. But pecan is more expensive."

Me: "Okay, I'll try the brisket sliders."

That was the short conversation I had after walking up to the Ranch A Go Go BBQ food truck during lunch. I've heard of them before, and read some of the Yelp reviews -- but this was my first attempt at eating BBQ from a food truck. Naturally, I was a bit skeptical. I've been consistently smoking my own BBQ since the inception of this blog, so I know the amount of time required for legit low and slow BBQ.

Trying to translate that love and care into a brick-and-mortar restaurant to serve to the masses -- we all know how difficult that can be. But to do it out of a mobile kitchen, aka food truck, is a different story altogether. After a few minutes of wait time, my order was ready.

Two of the "Texas Beef Brisket Sliders" were $7, and they sure don't skimp on the meat. But as the cliche goes -- it's not all about the quantity, but the quality. Ideally, you want to have both. With my first bite, I could definitely taste how tender the brisket was. They were cut into thick pieces, and I could tell that most of the fat in between the fibers of the meat had been rendered off. At this point, this is where most people who aren't BBQ enthusiasts (or even foodies), would tout this as the best BBQ they've ever had and happily throw up 5 stars on their Yelp review.

As I kept eating, it was evident that this brisket lacked any smoke flavor. I tried to find any microscopic indication of a smoke ring and it was just not there. If they really did smoke their meats, I couldn't find any evidence of it. While the meat was tender in most parts, a small portion of it was tough to chew. Overall, the brisket lacked flavor and seasoning. It desperately needed the BBQ sauce to provide the flavor. The brisket tasted like it was pressure cooked or braised, and needed to be sliced more thinly. As if it mattered, the roll was cold and needed to be toasted.

So was it horrible and inedible? Of course not. As a hungry, corporate office worker, it tied me over until dinner. The person who took my order was friendly and provided good service. Just like any other food truck out there, I applaud them. It's not easy. At the end of the day, it's a business and they need to make money to survive. If that means cutting corners, then so be it. For me, the real issue here is the sign on the side of their truck, claiming to have "Real, authentic, low and slow BBQ." I have to call them out on that one.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Redneck BBQ In Baker, CA

On a recent trip back from Vegas, I decided to make a stop at Baker, CA -- who's claim to fame is the world's biggest thermometer. The city is a popular stop before Barstow, with its variety of chain restaurants and gas stations.

Several months ago, I noticed a giant billboard advertising a new BBQ restaurant, right next to Alien Beef Jerky. So this time around, on a Sunday around noon, I stopped by to see what their BBQ was all about. Did they smoke their own meats? Did they offer my favorite brisket? I was curious to find out.

Dead and deserted in... the desert.

Well, it was none of the above. The parking lot was empty and there were massive chain locks on the front door. Obviously, the place was closed. On one of the windows, they proudly advertised their fried bologna in colorful blue and orange colors. Searching on my Yelp app, it looks like one guy tried their food about a year ago and gave them an okay review.

So were they a victim of the down economy? Did they quickly discover that nobody really stops for BBQ in Baker, CA, except for BBQ enthusiasts and bloggers? Did they even serve quality BBQ at all? Or were they too lazy to open up because they were really, ahem, lazy rednecks? I guess I will never know.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Certified BBQ Judge? I Like The Sound of That!

Yup, I'm still here. I know it's been a while since I've posted on this blog, but honestly there just hasn't been anything interesting to write about. I'm not one to babble just for the sake of babbling. But I do want to give a huge thanks to those who have ordered from my little catering business on the side. You know how there's a lady that sells tamales at work? Well, I'm the dude that sells brisket at work. I've sold pulled pork, ribs, and chicken, but the brisket has been the hot seller by a landslide. Thus far, I've done about 30 orders and it's been a blast.

I drool every time I look at this picture
Dirty Smoke BBQ brisket is always a favorite

If you've been a reader of this BBQ blog, you'll know that I'm constantly trying to learn new things. There are so many great BBQ websites out there that give you how-to instructions, videos, and all types of info. Of course, that isn't my goal here. Although, I don't want to be seen as a BBQ expert, I'll still share my experiences (good or bad). As we kick off the new year, I want to make an effort to chronicle more BBQ experiences outside of the backyard -- whether it's writing about restaurants, products, or events.

So what's first up this year? Back in June '11, I wrote about wanting to attend a certified BBQ class. Well, that time has arrived. I just signed up for not just one, but TWO certified BBQ judging classes on February 25 in San Diego. It's part of a BBQ convention organized by the NBBQA (National BBQ Association). If you're new to the BBQ world, there are quite a few acronym-loving BBQ organizations out there. It can be hard to remember and keep track of them all. One of the classes is by the MBN (Memphis BBQ Network) and other is by KCBS (Kansas City BBQ Society).

So what's the difference between the 2 classes? Well, they both judge different meat categories. KCBS is the most popular one that sanctions a lot of competitions and probably most people know about -- they judge ribs, chicken, pork shoulder, and brisket. The MBN judges whole hog and pork shoulder only. I could write more, but Professor Salt from the Grill Marks blog over at OC Weekly explains it in more detail. Of course, all this BBQ fun doesn't come cheap. Each class costs $90. But once I become certified, hopefully I'll more than make up for it by eating lots of "free" BBQ at competitions. Oh and yeah, that BBQ competition knowledge will help too.