Tuesday, July 26, 2016
Last Sunday we were in the nearby community of Crockett California for the 'Sugar City Festival". It is a fun, small local event that brings out the townfolk. Crockett at one time was a booming company town run by C&H Sugar. C&H Sugar is still there but the town is now inhabited by bohemians and artists. Crockett is located right on the Carquinez Strait and has has million dollar views of this waterway. The festival was only a couple of blocks long. It showcased local musical talent, artists and local business. It also was nice to have a small break from judging duties. This cleansed our bbq palettes to get ready for this following weekends judging duties at the Gilroy Garlic Festival. Stay tuned.
Wednesday, July 20, 2016
Two Fridays a month I manage the Richmond’s Certified Farmers Market. One of the perks of working at this market is I get to eat some of the freshest fruit and vegetables available. I needed a specialized knife to cut and sample the produce. My buddy Rex Foreman from ‘The Shaver & Cutlery Shop" located in Oakland showed me the “Farmers Market Knife”. It actually is called a fruit knife but whatever its title is, I am hooked.
This stainless steel serrated edge blade knife has a special addition of a fork. Its open length is approx. 10 ¼ inches and folds down to a tidy 4 ¾ inches for easy pocket storage. The stainless steel will make for easy cleanup when covered with sticky vine ripe peach juice. The razor sharp blade makes quick work of any slicing duties. The fork is a very handy accessory to have when sampling. This knife is very inexpensive and can be found by contacting Rex at The Shaver & Cutlery Shop. Thanks Rex.
2874 Telegraph Ave.Oakland, CA 94609
Sunday, July 17, 2016
The equation of bbq, chili, cars, trucks, fun and sun equals another great weekend to enjoy. This weekend we were in Dixon, California to participate in the 'Dixon's Grilling & Chillin Car & Truck Show. It was a warm one today. The mercury was pushing the 90 degree mark. This made for a hot time in downtown Dixon. Old time cars lined the sidewalks. A lot of spit and polish made these classic beauties shine. This Amphicar caught my attention. It was spitting water at passerby's that got to close. Ms.Goofy and I were there to judge bbq today. We had a couple of unique experiences this week and this event was no exception. Sit on back, we are going to stroll downtown Dixon.
This was a chili contest too. The chili hungry crowd were the judges today. They purchased tasting tickets to sample the various different chili. They then voted for their favorite. Take a gander at this custom bbq pitt below. It is a type of barrel cooker with a exterior fire box. The cook volunteered to open the lid for an interior shot. When he opened the lid a vortex of hot air rose that included small pieces of ash. I am not sure if this was a desirable attribute.(Click the second image below to see a close up of the vortex).
This image above tickles my fancy. I am not sure the promoters condoned this activity but there was a "Learn to Ride" exhibit right in front of Luke's Lounge. I hope the two were not related. Below a whole pig on the spit impressed.
I mentioned this was a unique experience. What made this contest stand out was our judging duties were held in a tattoo parlor. Now, I am not complaining because it was spacious and air conditioned. I just had a little hard time watching this women get some sort of tattoo on her face. (eyebrows?) She was in that chair for several hours; ouch!. There were 22 teams today. We love our job of tasting an scoring fantastic bbq. What a wonderful day. I cannot wait till next weekend.
Thursday, July 14, 2016
It was not really a top secret rib competition but they did not allow me to bring a camera on to the complex. In fact we had to get security clearance and wear identification. Ms. Goofy and I just finished judging a rib & chicken cook-off at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. You may ask what is the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory?. This is their mission statement from their website:
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has a mission of strengthening the United States' security by developing and applying world-class science, technology and engineering that:
- Enhances the nation's defense.
- Reduces the global threat from terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.
- Responds with vision, quality, integrity and technical excellence to scientific issues of national importance.
The call was put out for KCBS certified judges and we just so happen to own a couple of shiny badges. The rules were loosely based around KCBS rules but decoration and garnish were the stars today. We saw a lots of grilled vegetables, pineapple, peppers and anything colorful to grab the judges attention. A few entries included corn bread, beans and slaw. As judges we were impressed. The chicken entries consisted of boneless chicken thighs. All meats were provided to the teams. We did our best to pick the best and believe it or not the overall winning teams name was "The Best". What a fun day. After our judging duties were done we were treated to more bbq in a catered lunch.
BBQ competition has opened many unique and fun opportunities. It is not everyday you get to judge a contest at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratoy. The image above is one of my stock photos because security would not let me use a camera. The day was over and we were instructed to return our security badges. We were informed that within 24 hours they would self destruct. I believe them.
Sunday, July 10, 2016
A new venue but the same fantastic event was Wine Country Big Q. This was a fundraiser for a special organization; Sonoma County Vet Connect. This organizations purpose is; " Veterans helping Veterans Group formed to assist veterans in locating the services they have earned during their military service.". The bbq community is participating with a Kansas City Barbecue Society sanctioned competition. We were privileged to judge this event. The event this year was held at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds. We would like to share a couple of images with you.
The public purchased tasting tickets to sample competition style bbq. There also was bacon theme desserts available throughout the event. How could I resist this cream filled, chocolate cupcake with caramel icing, caramel glaze and topped with candied bacon. I have to admit they did add a little extra candied bacon for this Mad Meat Genius.
The weather was very pleasant with slight winds and the thermometer dancing in the 70's. This beautiful day was perfect to enjoy bbq and stroll the grounds. Local vendors were selling mustard (Brown Dog Mustard a personnel favorite), rubs, hot sauces, and crafts. You have to take a gander at the 'Wheel of Meat" pictured below.
Congratulations to our good friends the Galiste's of the competition team 'Son of Smoke' for winning the Grand Champion of the day. It was wonderful participating in Wine Country Q. We had a great time and were able to help the Veterans. It does not get any better than this. I leave you with this clip from a Jimi Hendrix tribute band that performed at the festival. Good times!
Monday, July 4, 2016
In competition bbq you want every advantage possible. A lot of competitors have been using Snake River Farms beef briskets with good results. There is a slight drawback with this strategy because of a 200 dollar plus shipping price tag. Lately competitors have been switching to Brandt beef briskets. They are quality premium prime grade corn fed natural beef with no added hormones. They also demand half the price of SRF. Ms. Goofy gifted me a Brandt brisket for my birthday. Boy, does she spoil me. Grab a plate because we are going to cook some brisket.
The brisket arrived by carrier housed in a styrofoam insulated box. This was a fresh, not frozen hunk of beef. At first I was not overly impressed by this shape and size of flat and the point of this particular brisket. I started to trim fat before seasoning. There was a lot of fat to trim. I reserved this fat for future sausage making endeavors. We seasoned the brisket with a beef centric rub. It was time for a 10 hour trip to the smoker. Six hours into this smoky sauna we wrapped our brisket in foil. Wrapping the brisket helps tenderize the final product. The brisket was done and after an hour rest we separated the point from the flat. We reserved the flat and made burnt ends from the point.
It was time to eat. Ms. Goofy made some fantastic jalapeno mac & cheese to accompany our beef. We also had some fresh yellow corn from the farmers market. The brisket turned out great especially the burnt ends. I like to think of the burn ends as meat candy. The bark is caramelized to a sugary/savory treat. The inside of the burnt end are moist and decadently savory. The slices from the point end had a wonderful beefy flavor. This could win any competition.
I can see why competitors are switching to Brandt brand beef briskets. With the proper cooking technique one can make award winning brisket. This brisket had deep rich corn fed beef flavor. This is a flavor we crave. In fact I am going to make a sandwich once we are done. This was one of the best birthday presents ever. Ms. Goofy you are the best.
Friday, July 1, 2016
We really want to love ‘Famous Dave’s”. We could not wait for this franchise to come to Northern California. It arrived and we had some very good meals. Dave Anderson the founder sold out to a large corporation and like all huge franchises the quality suffered in the name of the all-mighty dollar. Dave Anderson has returned to the fold and a new branch of Famous Dave’s opened in Alameda California. We decided to play the role of the prodigal son and give this new restaurant a chance.
This is week two of the new opening of this location. It is modern. It is missing the bbq kitsch that is associated with this chain. We walked through the doors to a sleek, industrial style dining area. It was minimalistic. It even had a new smell. There was a bar area with plenty of seating throughout. There were televisions scattered throughout the restaurant showcasing sporting events. Our waiter who was also the bartender introduced himself as “Famous Mathew”. I asked him why he was famous and his reply; I am famous because I am awesome. “All righty now”; we placed our orders.
If you click and enlarge the above image you will notice a smudge in the lower right corner of the menu. I thought this was a little gross. It turns out that this is imprinted into the menu to mimic a sauce smudge. There are several other smudges imprinted throughout the menu. Cute or tacky? We noticed several tables getting complimentary kettle chips. I guess we were not on this V.I.P list because we felt a little left out. Our food came promptly. Let me say, Famous Dave’s makes one pretty plates. The food looked fantastic. Ms. Goofy ordered wings with a side of mac & cheese. Ms. Goofy likes her blue cheese dipping sauce and requested extra. The server promised to return with more but must have got lost on her non-return. Unforatanetly the wings were over cooked. They were dry and a little chewy. Ms. Goofy did like her jalapeno studded mac & cheese.
Ribs and burnt ends was my choice today. I do admit I enjoyed both of my choices. The ribs were not competition caliper but if you saw the stripped bones on my bare plate you might wonder. The burnt ends were nice little cubes of meat candy. The sides of Cole slaw and beans were both cloying sweet and not so pleasant. My meal was supposed to come with corn bread but another server/kitchen mistake occurred. The server offered to give me a corn bread to go but I declined.
We really want to love Famous Dave’s. The little server mishaps might be forgivable. Did the ribs and burnt ends make up for overcooked wings? We are glad Dave Anderson is back but I am not sure if we will return. There are lots of other barbeque restaurants to explore and Famous Dave’s will be put at the very end of the que for now.