Chilebrown at home

Saturday, March 30, 2013


Memories of the church potlucks that I used to attend when I was a juvenile Chilebrown, dance through my memory banks while dining on Asparagus Hotdish. I remember tasting and loving numerous variations of tuna casserole. Today’s dish is simple and satisfying. The green spears of spring will be showcased in a hot tub of noodles and cream of mushroom soup. Believe it or not this dish will be bacon free. Put on your finest Easter bonnet and let’s make some casserole.

I will supply the basic guidelines of this dish because I basically made it up as I cooked.

1.    1 ½ pounds asparagus chopped
2.    1 small onion chopped
3.    1 pound spaghetti noodles cooked (I used spinach chow mein noodles
4.    1 cup cheese cubed ( I used a combination of cheddar, American, parmesan)
5.    1 can cream of mushroom soup thinned with ¼ cup milk
6.     Salt & pepper to taste.

Cook your onion in a skillet with a little olive oil until translucent. Add asparagus and season with salt & pepper. Cook for only one minute and add rest of ingredients. Place all in a oiled casserole pan. Bake for approx. 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

This dish was served with some home made sausage. Simple and satisfying. Next time I will have to add some bacon. Happy Easter!!!!!!

Thursday, March 28, 2013


Harvey's Revenge is a hot sauce made with habanero peppers and fresh vegetables. Check out the latest review on 'Peppers & More'

And Now for Something Completely Different

James Brown and Led Zepplin are two of my all time favorite recording artists. They are two unique and different musical forces. Who do I like better? Who would win if there was a battle of the bands? What if we combine James Brown and Led Zepplin?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


One must dress for success. Professionals, craftsmen and barbeque competitors all wear appropriate clothes for their field. I wear a custom 'Master Judge' shirt when I perform BBQ judging duties. It was time to accessorize my judging attire. Behold the latest Chilebrown '1977 Limited Edition Kingsford Belt Buckle". This paticular buckle is numbered 282 out of only 1000 made. The next competition you will see this judge strutting in style.

Sunday, March 24, 2013


Our farmers market gave away free seed packets several months ago. We picked up a pack of cabbage seeds. We cleared a little patch of dirt and planted them. Several months later we have these huge cabbage leaves but no heads haved formed yet. This is the perfect opportunity to make some stuffed cabbage rolls. Cabbage rolls will be a Chilebrown first. Of course there will be a little Chilebrown twist. You are absolutely right! Bacon, will be an ingredient. We will be using some ‘Pink Slime Free” hamburger from Angelo. Tomato puree from last summer will be included. Pull up a hoe and let’s all go to the cabbage patch.
  We harvested about a dozen large outer leaves. They were washed before we blanched them in boiling sea salted water. They were only blanched for several minutes until the leaves were pliable. They leaves were drained and left to cool.

1. 1 pound of hamburger
2. 4 slices of bacon finely chopped
3. 1 egg
4. ¼ cup tomato sauce
5. 1 cup of cooked basmati rice
6. salt & pepper to taste

  The finely chopped bacon is my contribution to this filling. Combine all the ingredients and refrigerate until leaves are ready.
  When the leaves have cooled remove inner vein. I used half of the leaf for my wrapper. Take 1/3 cup of filling and place in center of leaf. Fold all the edges around filling to form a packet.

1. 2 cups tomato puree/sauce (I had some in the freezer from last summer)
2. 1 tablespoon honey
3. ½ teaspoon of oregano, basil, parsley
4. salt & pepper to taste

Simmer all the ingredients for 15 minutes. Reserve ¼ of sauce for your filling. Place ½ cup of sauce on bottom of baking pan. Arrange your cabbage rolls in pan and cover with remaining sauce. Bake at 350 degrees for approx 50 minutes.

Our cabbage rolls were served with asparagus. This dish was a success. The cabbage wrapping was actually a little sweet. The filling was delicious with its hint of bacon flavor. This recipe is a keeper in our household. Being able to pick the cabbage straight from the patch and using great ingredients is a formula for a fabulous dinner.

Friday, March 22, 2013

SMOKEY J’S (revisited)

It is Thursday and it is ‘Mac & Cheese’ day at Smokey J’s. We were only here seven days ago but a return trip was warranted to try other menu items. Ms. Goofy loves macaroni and cheese. On Thursdays for 10 dollars you can have a huge plate of macaroni and cheese that is filled with your choice of smoked meats. I wanted to try Joshua’s special rotisserie chicken. We arrived at high noon and took our place in line with other Smokey J’s followers. We were not the only ones that had discovered this smoky meat palace.

The rotisserie chicken is a labor of love. It is brined in sugar, salt and spices for 12 hours. A cool clear water bath for an hour removes excess salt. A 45 minute kiss of cold smoke from whiskey barrel and maple woods is another step in the process. Finally, the chickens take a two and one half hour Ferris wheel ride in the rotisserie. The final product is a chicken that is sinfully delicious. The skin tastes as it has been basted in butter to create decadent crispness.. The only seasoning is from brine and smoke, but oh what a flavor treat it is. The meat is some of the most tender and juicy chicken that I have ever had.

Ms. Goofy did her best to finish her huge plate of macaroni/ cheese and pulled pork. This dish made her very happy. We may be regulars on Thursdays. A lot of bbq restaurants have chicken as an obligatory meat item for the menu. I usually shy away from these dry offerings. At Smokey J’s, the rotisserie, brined, smoked chicken is a destination meal. It was some of the best chicken ever. We are not the only ones that know about Smokey J’s demonstrated by the noon opening line. We do feel like we have discovered BBQ Gold.

Smokey J’s
3015 Shattuck Av.
Berkeley Ca. 94705
(510) 647-8442

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


We return to Berkeley, California on a smoky tip from our good friend Kimberly. I do mean smoky literally,  at ‘Smokey J’s’ barbeque restaurant. Smokey J’s is located at the edge of the downtown area bordering residential neighborhoods. It is a tiny store front establishment on the corner. The windows are wide open displaying a beautiful brisket to entice you in. We found out later the windows and front door was wide open for different reasons. We arrived at the noon hour and were one of the first customers for a busy lunch. The inside is tiny with several communal benches. You place and pay for your order at the counter. We bought the usual ribs, brisket, and pulled pork sandwich. This is our usual go-to orders to try out new bbq joints.

We were waiting for our food and again noticed how the windows and doors were open. One customer was having a coughing fit. The back of my throat was a little dry and quickly found out why. The order taker/cook was heating up meats on the grill. Billows of smoke would float upwards towards the venting hood. Apparently this hood was not working properly because little wafts of smoke were entering the restaurant. The smoke would clear quickly because of the ventilation provided by the windows. We were right near a window so this was not really an issue.

Our food arrived and it looked delicious. Ms. Goofy’s pulled pork sandwich was huge. It pulled on all the right points. Tender, smoky, great vinegar sauce, slaw and all on a yummy roll made for Ms. Goofy’s eating pleasure. Let me expound on the slaw. It was very minimal in its presentation. Shredded cabbage with a slight dusting of salt, sugar and vinegar was all she wrote. It worked with her sandwich.

‘Baby Back’ is the only type of ribs offered and they were cooked perfectly. The ribs were a beautiful mahogany color from rub and smoke. Two tasty house made tomato based sauces, one mild the other spicy, were offered but not needed. The brisket passed the pull test with tender success. It had a beautiful smoke ring. The combination of smoke, tenderness and seasoning all added up for a beefy treat. I was lovin this offering of brisket. A skillet baked corn bread accompanied my meaty meal. It had delicious, not overly sweet corn flavor. The only fault in this meal was the bottom of this muffin was burnt. It did not stop me from slathering honey butter all over and devouring it.

We did get to meet the owner/chef Joshua Kemper. He claims to be born on a grill in Bryan Texas. He ended up spending his youth in Berkeley. At a young age he became an accomplished chef in the hotel trade. He dug way back into his Texas roots to create BBQ for the Bay Area with this restaurant. Joshua's goal is; "“Serving good, affordable, traditional food in a friendly communal atmosphere is what it’s all about." Amen! We really enjoyed the wild picture of him on the wall.

We already have plans to return to Smokey J’s. They have a ‘Mac & Cheese’ special on Thursdays that Ms. Goofy wants to experience. Macaroni and cheese is offered with the different meats. ‘The Fat Mac’ offers 'all the meats with twice the size'.  Smoky J’s has chicken that has been brined for 12 hours, smoked for an hour and finished on the rotisserie  that smelled wonderful. We are looking forward to our next visit. We will be sure to grab a seat near the window.

Smokey J's
3015 Shattuck Av.
Berkeley, Ca. 94705
510 647-8422

Monday, March 18, 2013


 Antique stores can be a great resource for food related apparatus. Our local heirloom store of bygone antiquity had this treasure of a find. You know I have a weakness for bright shiny objects especially if they have some association with knives. The ‘Carve-ette’ beckoned my attention just as the puppy in the window. This implement is used to impale your protein while you carve slices. This is something I may have always needed. The price was right ($4.99) and I  probably will actually put it to use. We did some ‘World Wide Web’ research on our ‘Carve-ette and found an ad in the “Spokane Daily Chronicle”; Tuesday December 12, 1950. It was advertised as “Gifts of Silver” and listed at a hefty price of $2.95. I highly doubt that this is made of silver but probably of some nice, shiny stainless steel.

 Our initial use of our new/old ‘Carve-ette’ will be with a smoked corned beef. This briny hunk of smoky love was St. Patrick’s gift of meat from our trusty smoker. This beef was so tender it really did not need to be carved but the demonstration continues. The Carve-ette is heavy and fits well in my hand. It made the carving a breeze. It also added a coolness factor from the shiny polished professional look of our new tool. The Carve-ette was a true find. It will proudly have a place in the Chilebrown kitchen.

Saturday, March 16, 2013


Hallelujah!  Heat Hot Sauce Shop is finally open. Dylan Keenen and Becky Gibbons have been jumping through numerous bureaucratic hoops to open their new hot sauce shop in Berkeley California. This shop marks a milestone in the hot sauce world. Chileheads, especially this one, in Northern California will finally have a store to sample and purchase new, unique, hard to find, global, and local hot sauces.

Heat Hot Sauce Shop is small in size but huge in chile sauce selections. The brightly lit shelves are stocked full to the brim. It is almost difficult to make a decision with so many choices. That is were the tasting bar steps up. Dylan will gladly offer samples. This Chilehead bellied up to this bar for quit a while. With burning lips and a smile on my face my shopping cart was filled.

Dylan and Becky also bottle three sauces of their own. They are handcrafted and organic. Chocolate Jalapeno, Aji Narania , and Pineapple Habanero are three sauces that are on my bucket list. With all these choices I will be pacing myself because I want to try them all.

When you are in Northern California be sure to visit Heat Hot Sauce Shop. Dylan & Becky have made hot sauce aficionados very happy with this new shop. They do have mail order if you cannot make it. They also have a “Hot Sauce of the Month Club” that would make a great present for all occasions. Stop on by and you will probably see Chilebrown hangin out at the chile bar.

Heat Hot Sauce Shop
1922 Martin Luther King Way
Berkeley, Ca. 94704

Thursday, March 14, 2013


This is a Chilebrown first. Home made slow risen pizza dough, marscapone cheese, lemon juice dipped Granny Smith apples slices, apple bourbon bbq sauce all layered together and cooked in a wood fire oven to create apple pizza pie. To read more about several tasty barbecue sauces from 'Sweet Heat Gourmet".

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


This weekend was spent in Fresno at the ‘Small Farm Conference’. This convention was not all squirting flowers & whoopee cushions. We heard all about small farms and relations with producers, consumers, etc. There were discussions about managing farmers markets. We toured several small farms and distribution centers. It was a great opportunity to meet and greet movers and shakers in the industry. This event was informative and fun. I did have a chance to have several great meals in the Fresno area.

 QN4U was a destination BBQ restaurant located in the suburb of Clovis. I have dined there several times. My last visit I got to talk and visit with the owner Brent Walton. Unfortunately Brent has passed and QN4U is no longer open. I drove by and it was in the process of becoming an Indian restaurant. I was a little sad until I came upon this stoplight in downtown Clovis. There was a cowboy at the intersection doing rope tricks. I fumbled with my camera and managed to grab this shot. The cowboy must of have heard the shutter because he said; “Did yawl jus take my picture?” I laughed and said; ‘No’. He laughed and did some more tricks.

The concierge at the convention hotel suggested the “Elbow Room” as one of the best steak houses in Fresno. They even had a free shuttle to this house of beef. Say no more. I put on my best squirting flower on and packed my whoopee cushion, it was time for beef.  A twenty two ounce corn fed USDA prime bone-in rib-eye to be exact. This was meat that I crave. The Elbow room did not disappoint.

Our friends at ‘Yelp’ suggested Oaxaca as a good breakfast destination. The description suggested the neighborhood was colorful and the food authentic. This was my kind of place. It was the best seven dollars including tip that I have ever spent on breakfast. Fresh home made tortillas, farm fresh eggs; all bathed in spicy chile sauce was comfort food that fueled my day. I wanted to return for lunch and try the chile verde but the conference called.

This was a fun, informative and tasty weekend. Thanks for sharing it with me.

Elbow Room
731 W San Jose Ave
 Fresno, CA 93704
(559) 227-1234

4773 E Belmont Ave
  Fresno, CA 93702
(559) 454-1614

Saturday, March 9, 2013


As some of you may know, one Friday a month I manage the Richmond Farmers Market. I am being sent to the ‘California Small Farm Conference’ in Fresno California to enhance my knowledge and skills this weekend. This should be a fun and rewarding experience. It is also an excuse to go on a couple of Meat Adventures on the way. See you next week.

California Small Farm Conference
“The California Small Farm Conference is the state's premier gathering of small farmers, agricultural students, farmers’ market managers and others involved in the small farm industry. The three day educational conference includes day-long short courses and on-farm tours; focused workshops; engaging keynote addresses and numerous networking opportunities.”

Thursday, March 7, 2013


Art & Angleo Ibieto , are two  legendary brothers creating great food in Sonoma County. They both have unique and colorful personalities. We know Angelo from being customers for many years at his butcher shop. This relationship has blossomed so we now feel like part of the family. If we call in advance Angelo will cook some of his special dishes for us. He has impressed and fed us with risotto and to die for focaccia. I have never tasted focaccia so perfect. Art is the ‘Pasta King” of Cotati, California. Art is Angelo’s older brother who creates great pasta and sauces. Art has just opened a new restaurant in Rohnert Park. Angelo has contributed his recipe and advice for his exceptional focaccia. Ms. Goofy and I jumped into the ‘Racing Honda’ and proceeded on a mission to have focaccia and lunch at Art’s Place.

Art’s Place is located in a small strip mall occupying a former ‘Sports Bar”. They just opened the doors five days ago so officially this is a “Soft Opening”.  The restaurant is clean and brightly lit. The first thing we notice is the wood fire pizza oven. We chose a booth to have a view of this pizza baking hearth. There is a bar with a television probably a remnant of the former sports bar.

The menu is a work in process. We scan the mimeographed offering of pizza, burgers, sandwiches and fresh pasta’s. When the waitress came our first uttering was foccacia. We were on a mission you know. Ms. Goofy ordered a tri-tip sandwich. Some sandwiches are served on focaccia slices, but not this one. I ordered baked chicken parmesan that was served with imported pasta and grilled vegetables. Our focaccia was served promptly.

It is hard to put into words how special it is to have Angelo serve you some fresh focaccia. Maybe it is the smile and good cheer that accompanies this olive oil brushed bread. Art’s focaccia was very good. It was not fresh but reheated in the oven. It was cut into small cubes. We enjoyed it but it just did not give us that warm fuzzy feeling when eating with Angelo.

Ms. Goofy enjoyed her tri-tip sandwich. The meat was tender with a flavorful au-jus to dip the sandwich. She really enjoyed the onion rings that accompanied. My chicken was flavorful and tender. The vegetables had a great roasted flavor. I wish that the pasta had been some of Art’s house made but it was still good.
  We shall return to Art’s Place. They are in the process of a ‘soft opening’. The menu is evolving. I won’t mention how the busboy poured water all over our table or how we were delayed leaving because the cash register froze. We noticed families ordering the wood fire baked pizza and they looked great. Next time we will be sure to order the house made pasta. I believe Art’s Place will be a success in Rohnert Park. Meanwhile, I think it is time to give Angelo a call.

Art’s Place
563 Rohnert Park Expressway
Rohnert Park California 94928
707 588 2787

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


When the moon is in the seventh house
And Jupiter aligns with Mars
Then peace will guide the planets
And love will steer the stars
This is the dawning of the age
Of a Asparagus, the age of Asparagus
Asparagus, Asparagus

We have impatiently been waiting for the beginning of the Asparagus season. False rumors, broken promises. and erratic weather have delayed this vegetable from signaling the beginning of spring. This Sunday, rays of  sunshine parted the clouds and illuminated the blue and gold tent of Zuckerman farms. Hallelujah!!!!!!! We filled our market bag with these spears of spring.

This was our first taste of spring. A ciabatta roll from the unknown baker at 'Marin Farmers Market', breakfast sausage from Angelo, farm fresh egg from 'N.Y. Eggs'(Richmond Farmers Market), Zuckerman farms asparagus, bacon from 'Willow Glen Meats' was dressed with a slather of Lowensenf mustard. This was a Chilebrown breakfast roll that would fuel me to the next serving of Asparagus. The next two months we will enjoy asparagus to the fullest. I am HAPPY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, March 3, 2013


‘When there’s smoke there’s fire’. Will “Smoke Berkeley BBQ” of Berkeley California light a fire under our taste buds? Pull up a chair, grab a rib and let’s go on a bbq journey. ‘Smoke BBQ’ is small restaurant located on a busy thoroughfare next to a car wash. This is the domain of ‘Le Cordon Bleu’ trained, ‘California Culinary Academy’ graduate Tina Ferugson-Riffe. Tina serves her Texas style barbeque with a gourmet mix of side dishes. She uses organic produce from the local farm Catalan. The bread is from the nearby Acme bakery. We walk into this small establishment and survey the chalkboard of listed menu items. Tina is there to help us with our order.

We were immediately enamored by Tina’s soft spoken enthusiasm for her food. We could sense the pride in our meal to come. You can order sandwiches or meats by the pound. You have a choice of sides and different sauces. I requested the hot bbq sauce. Tina gave me a sample to make sure it was not too hot. I thought this was a nice touch. Her sauce did have a kick but it was no match for this Chilehead. (I do eat chile daily) Our orders were placed and we chose a seat outside to watch the carwash.

Fresh squeezed lemonade was our beverage choice. This was made to order sweet lemonade made from Meyer lemons. It was very refreshing. It was perfect for Ms. Goofy’s pulled pork sandwich. This sandwich hit on all bbq cylinders. It was smoky, tender, great pork flavor and was dressed with a tangy vinegar base sauce all on a tasty Acme roll. This was accompanied by a gooey, oozy, cheesy scoop of macaroni comfort.

Rib Tips

Our friend Dylan ordered a plate of rib tips. Abracadabra and poof the rib tips had disappeared. The only thing I saw was his sparkly clean plate. I have a suspicion that he may have went over to the car wash to make this plate so clean.

My order was a four ounces of ribs and a four ounces of brisket. My plate was running over with some great beans and coleslaw. The brisket was fantastic. It had the right amount of smoke. It was tender and beefy. The cake like corn muffin was a treat. There was a lot of care in these side dishes. The beans tasted of molasses, garlic and had chunks of brisket. The Cole slaw was sweet, slightly crunchy, with tangy vinegar. This was becoming the perfect bbq meal until…………………

The ribs were huge. These ribs still had the tips attached. Usually the rib tips are removed and served separately. They were overcooked to the point of being slightly mushy. There was way too much smoke. The smoke was so powerful it left a bitter taste in your mouth. The delicious house made bbq sauce could not rescue these bones.

We had no room for dessert but knew of Tina’s baking abilities. She has won a Blue Ribbon at the Texas State Fair for her apple pie. We asked for a piece of chocolate pecan pie that had just come out of the oven to take home. Later that night we devoured a decant brownie like, pecan studded piece of heaven. Oh my!

We enjoyed our dinning experience at Smoke BBQ. We definitely will return. We never did try Tina’s signature dish of tea smoked salmon. The food reflected the skill and expertise that Tina used in making her dishes. Except for the ribs we liked everything. The lemonade, side dishes, bbq sauces and of course the meats were outstanding. Smoke is a destination alone for chocolate pecan pie. Maybe next time Ms. Goofy can go next door and wash the Racing Honda while our food is being prepared. Oh man, did I really just say that?

Smoke BBQ
2434 San Pablo Av.
Berkeley, California
510 548-8801