Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Barbecue War!

I just flipped past the Travel Channel's show Food Wars and caught the last few minutes of an episode on barbecue. In the segment I watched, the producers pitted (no pun intended) the four major barbeque regions in the United States against each other. They had a group of Californian "cowboys" (and cowgirls) taste 'que from Texas, Kansas City, Memphis, and North Carolina. It was supposed to be like the Olympics, and they had to rank the types of 'que from 1 to 4. The maximum number of points possible was 70.

Readers, a terrible travesty occurred! These tasteless cowpokes not only ranked Carolina 'que last, but they gave NC 'que a total of only 15 points! This is made only slightly less shocking by the fact that the "winner," Memphis barbeque, got only 45 points. Texas came in second with 30 points, and Kansas City followed closely behind with 27.

I protest! Clearly, these Californians don't know good 'que when they taste it. Just working with cows doesn't make you a good barbeque judge.



Saturday, August 12, 2006

Cooper's Mail Order

'Que Fans,

I don't remember if I mentioned it before, but my mother-in-law sent Lars and I a mail order package from Cooper's BBQ in Llano, Texas. She didn't just send us a brisket or a couple pork chops. She sent us the Texas Spread Gift Pack:

Approx. weight - 11 to 12 lbs

4 lbs. of mouth-watering BBQ Beef Brisket is just the beginning of this spread. Add 2 of our World Famous "Big Chops", a rack of the President's Favorite BBQ Pork Ribs (2 1/2 - 3 lbs), 1 lb. of Smoked Sausage, 1 1/2 lbs. of Jalapeno Cheese Summer Sausage and two 15 oz. bottles of our dipping sauce. This is a true feast of our best sellers. Make a wonderful impression on someone special with this fabulous selection of meats. Corporate and Holiday gift giving discounts available. Please call us at 877-533-5553 for details.

You read that correctly--that was 11 to 12 pounds of meat ready for our freezer.

Always the generous couple, ready to share, we invited Sarah and David over for some of the brisket. All we had to do was defrost and reheat the meat and serve with a side of sauce. With a little Texas Toast, some onions and pickles, strawberries and ice cream for dessert, we were set for dinner.

From the freezer, reheated in our oven, this brisket was still far, far better than any brisket I've had since my actual dinner at Cooper's. The live version, fresh off the flame, was better. The frozen brisket was a little too salty for all of us at dinner. Okay, it was a lot too salty. But, the meat was still extreemly tender and juicy. The sauce is wonderfully flavorful and aa good compliment to the rich, fatty meat.

If you can't make it to Llano ever in your life, but still want to experience great Texas 'Que, you can't go wrong with Cooper's Mail Order.

My rating--


Alton Disappointment

On Episode 2 of Alton Brown's new Food Network show, Feasting on Asphalt, he stops by the Carolina Smokehouse in Cashiers, NC. This is one of two stops he made in North Carolina, but the other was a hamburger place in Charlotte (in Episode 1), and therefore unrelated to 'que.

I have to say that I was disappointed by Alton's treatment of 'que. I know this is not a barbeque show, but the segment felt very short and nothing profound was said. I'm a fan of Alton's other show, Good Eats, and I like the Feasting premise, but the show has not been up to Alton's usual standards. Still, it was good to hear Alton sing the praises of Boston butt!


Sunday, July 02, 2006

Texas 'Que

Readers, Jennifer and I are so sorry that this blog is beginning to look like it has been abandoned. The truth is, we haven't been eating as much 'que as before, and well, life got complicated for awhile there. But I am pleased to report that I recently had some 'que at a place in Austin, TX, called Iron Works. This place was recommended by my friend Dan, a foodie who has been living in Austin for a few years. I had limited time to try 'que and had been thinking of trying Stubb's, but Dan thought Iron Works would provide a better experience.

Not being able to decide which kind of meat to try for my one bbq meal in Austin--this is never a problem in NC, of course!--I ordered the sampler. This comes with brisket, sausage, a beef rib, bread (not Texas toast), baked beans, onion, and pickle slices. I washed the eats down with a Shiner Bock, which I had been drinking throughout my visit. (It's a Texas-brewed beer that is cheap and good and available in most states.)

I was really glad I got the sampler, because I loved the sausage--a bit spicy, juicy, and just a tad greasy--and loved the rib. It was definitely the tastiest, meatiest beef rib I've had in years. The brisket, on the other hand, had decent flavor but was rather dry, even when squirted with some bbq sauce. I would have ordered the brisket alone if I hadn't decided to go for the BIG plate, and then I would have been disappointed. But the truth is, I don't really like bbq brisket very much. I've tried it several times, and the only time I've liked it was when I tried some sent to Jennifer from Texas classic Cooper's. Jennifer probably didn't heat it up as dry as it's usually served.

I went to Iron Works, which is housed in (surprise!) an old ironworks near a pretty dry creek (Austin is HOT!), with some people who had eaten at Stubb's the day before, and they liked the brisket at Iron Works better. But if you're in Austin, you still might give Stubb's a try, particularly if they have a good band playing that night--Sonic Youth was playing the week I was there. Another option I didn't have time to try is Kreuz Market. This place, which is in Lockhart, about 40 minutes from Austin, features an "authentic" experience that involves no forks, sauce, or plates (the meat is wrapped in paper and handed to you). I'd love to try it next time I'm in Texas.


P.S. We will be trying some new 'que and posting within the next few weeks! Promise!

Monday, May 08, 2006

Eeep! We are really behind!

'Que fans,

Sarah and I really apologize for being so behind on our posting. We've got some reviews coming out soon, including one for readers in Chicago. Keep checking and we'll be back soon.


Monday, March 27, 2006

Mmm....Beer (oh and 'que at the Brewery)

As Sarah wrote in her post, we have been working diligently on our master's papers, trying to get jobs, and fitting 'que into the time cracks. We went to the Carolina Brewery on Saturday for dinner on the advice Sarah had gotten from some random English PhD candidate that it was the best in Chapel Hill.

I ordered the 'que plate, which came with 'que, slaw, hushpuppies, and stew. Lars ordered the Tarheel burger.

For my 'que--ditto what Sarah said.

The sauce was tomatoey, sweet, and not "authentic" Carolina 'que (East or West, there just wasn't enough vinager). The slaw had too much mayo and not enough vinager, so it couldn't cut the richness of the pork. The meat was decent. Not the best, but not the worst. It was okay, a little fatty but it did have some outside brown. The stew was actually pretty tasty, rich with big peices of corn. The hushpuppies were pretty good. They had sugar in them, so you anti-sugar puppy eaters, stay away.

I want to describe a Tarheel/Carolina burger for those who have never had such a thing. It is a burger with yellow mustard, chili, slaw on it. It might sound kind of nasty, but it is really tasty. The combination of creamy, tart, spicy, and meaty is practically perfect. You can even get a hot dog made up with the same fixin's at some restaurants. That is even more tasty and I recommend that any Carolina visitor try one. Don't get the Tarheel burger at Wendy's--go local.

The beer at the Brewery was quite good. I had the Altbier, a style I don't think I've ever had before. I think it was served colder than it should have been, but it was still refreshing. Lars had their IPA.

Loyal readers will know I usually inflate the rating of a 'que place that serves beer, but the Brewery doesn't qualify for that. They are a brewery that serves 'que. If I had a beer blog (what a good idea!), they would probably get a better rating for having 'que, but it doesn't work the other way around.



Saturday, March 25, 2006

Carolina Brewery

I haven't posted in a long time, largely because I haven't eaten 'que in a long time. The reason for that can be stated succinctly: school. Jennifer and I are less than two months from graduation, and our master's papers are due on April 12. So, between that and looking for a job, I've been pretty busy!

Tonight, however, the 'que drought ended. Jennifer, Lars, and I went to the Carolina Brewery, conveniently located on West Franklin St. I've been there before, but long before the 'Que Quest was underway. Jennifer and Lars hadn't had barbeque at the Brewery either, so since we are pressed for time these days and can't afford to drive far for our 'que fixes, we figured it was high time to review this place.

My good friend Susanna got me this shirt as a present. Thanks, Sue!

I ordered the 'que sandwich, mostly because I didn't want the Brunswick stew that came with the plate. As you can see, my sandwich was large, and it came on a kaiser roll as promised. Now, normally I'm fine with a kaiser roll, but this time it just didn't seem to suit the sandwich. It's an interesting thing about 'que sandwiches...they're popular and common, but I've heard a lot of grumbling about the bread they come on. Kaiser rolls are not the traditional choice; instead, it's usually some kind of very soft roll. I didn't think I loved how those went with 'que, but I realize now that they are a better match than the kaiser.

Anyway, along with a generous portion of meat, my sandwich came with a large slathering of slaw, which was unfortunately rather too mayo-ey to be legitimate Eastern NC slaw. A small cup of sweet, tomato-ey sauce came on the side. The sauce contained a lot of onions, and was definitely more tomato-ey than barbequey. Not smoky in flavor.

Instead of hushpuppies, which came with the 'que plate, I had a large portion of thin French fries. These were, in fact, probably the best part of the meal--very tasty. As for the sandwich, I discarded the bread to focus on the meat, which was passable, but not easy to appreciate because of the slaw. All in all, I'd say that despite what someone told me (can't remember who), Carolina Brewery is not the best place to eat 'que in Chapel Hill. On the other hand, for burgers, fries, and beer--and to watch the game, if that's your thing--it's a good option.

My rating:

Bonus: A friend and I went to the Duke Gardens a couple of weekends ago to usher in the spring. I took a few photos I'd like to share--I know they're not 'que-related, but they're pretty!


Foreign 'Querrespondent--Tiki Hawaiian BBQ

Imagine this scene if you will:

We are driving to my mom's house in Salt Lake City from the airport, having just entered a cold, snowy world after leaving the warm, sunny North Carolina. I am contemplating where I will find 'que, Lars is contemplating not dying on his 5th day of skiing (or 6th, or 7th, or 8th, or 9th). We are deep in thought when we spy

Awck! Crisis.

So far, Sarah and I have concentrated on Southern 'que and all of it's delights. It's even in our blog intro, "the biggest culinary challenge the South has to offer." What do I do with 'que that is not from the South?

But, the more I though about it, Hawaiian 'que was the perfect 'que to eat in Salt Lake. SLC is a white, white city, but one of it's largest minority groups is Hawaiian and other Pacific Islanders at 1.89%. If that doesn't sound very big, it's as large as the African-American population. There are probably more Pacific Islanders in SLC than Southerners, so Hawaiian 'que is more native to SLC than southern 'que. Plus, where in North Carolina would I find Hawaiin food?

Whew. Crisis solved.

You may be skeptic about the existence of Hawaiian 'que, but it is luau food. When Lars and I were on our honeymoon on the Big Island (awesome!), eating our kalua pig, we commented on how, with a little vinager sauce, this would be North Carolina 'que. Kalua pig is traditionally slow cooked in the earth, which makes it 'que.

Lars, my mothe,r and I walked in, ahead of two Pacific Islander women and gazed at the menu. My mother had no idea what to order, so she started talking with the two women to see what was good. Lars and I just revelled in a menu that brought us pack to our honeymoon. There was kalua pig, lomi salmon, and laulau. Lars nearly giggled when he spied Moco Loco on the menu. The only thing missing was poi, and I didn't think I'd miss it.

Lars ordered the Moco Loco, my mom ordered laulau and some chicken, and I ordered a two meat combination, kaluha pig and ribs, plus a little lomi salmon on the side.

Mmmmmm. It was pretty good stuff. Lars didn't let me try any of his Moco Loco (he guards his food with a fork), but mom let me try her laulau and chicken. Both were very tasty. The sauce for the chicken had the right mix of sweet and savory to set off the nicely fried chicken. The laulau was a little eggy, compared to what I remember from Hawaii, but good nontheless.

The lomi salmon was very, very good. For those who don't know, lomi salmon is a raw salmon salad. This was a little salty, but the salmon was rich on the toungue, set off nicely by the onions. My ribs were very, very good. They were Asian style ribs, so not the whole rib you get in a southern 'que place but rather a slice of the whole rib cage. They had a sweet teriyaki sauce on them and nice texture, not overcooked, but no tough.

Onto the main dish, for me--the kaluha pig. My scoop of pig was a little fatty (oily) for my tasty, not as smokey as I'd hoped, and very salty. That said, it was very good. I think the thing about pork 'que (besides ribs, which are a little different) is it is so rich, it needs something to cut the fat. For the luau Lars and I had on the Big Island, this was the poi and the lomi salmon. Here, I only had the lomi salmon, which was also very rich. So, I actually missed the poi. There was rice, but the flaverless goo of poi works better.

We also tried dessert--macadamia nut cookies. These cookies were a bargin at 2 for $1. They were fabulous. There's not much else to say about them other than, "if you go to Tiki Hawaiian BBQ, you must have some cookies."

All in all, Tiki Hawaiian BBQ is `ono.

One more photo before I go, this lovely woman took our order at the counter and was very gracious when my mom insisted I take her photo for my blog.

My rating---



Thursday, March 23, 2006


I was shopping at my local King's Red & White grocery store (it's the best grocery store in the Triangle--don't let any of the Weaver Dairy Co-op folks tell you any different) when I spied this delicious treat:


Would you have been able to pass up the butt nuts?

I didn't think so.