Chilebrown at home

Saturday, November 29, 2014


A cardinal dining sin is to go to a restaurant in the first opening weeks. This Mad Meat Genius flew solo and braved the Black Friday crowds to experience the ‘Best Lil' Porkhouse in Alameda, California. We will do this critique a little backward by starting with the conclusion. I will return. Best lil Porkhouse is a clean, modern, fun bbq restaurant. There was great service (except for minor hiccup) by the hostess’s and server. The bar has a great selection of micro-beers. There is a nice outdoor patio for summer dinning. The brisket was excellent. It was tender, had a great looking smoke ring with perfect smoke flavor and was served in generous proportions. The sides were fresh and tasty. How can you go wrong with beans studded with real bacon pieces? The baby backs were tender and flavorful. This new restaurant has a lot going for it. It should be popular with the population of Alameda. “And now for the rest of the story”

Each and every table comes equipped with a basket of non-descript squeeze bottled house made bbq sauces. These sauces were tomato based with different flavor attributes. The original flavored was similar to K.C. Masterpiece. This is not a bad thing and is a very familiar flavor. There was a sweet and hot version. The server offered me an ultra hot version called ‘Lucifer’. This was a habanero laced sauce that punished and burned so good. I loved it but would only recommend this sauce to hardcore Chileheads. I made the mistake of not asking for non-sauced meats. Both ribs and brisket came sauced from the kitchen. My bad.
  My choice of sides were beans, Cole slaw and a corn bread muffin. I loved the slightly sweet molasses based beans that had real chunks of bacon throughout. The Cole slaw was pedestrian but a welcome addition. The corn bread was fresh and hot out of the oven. It was surprisingly not offered with butter or honey. It had kernels of fresh corn in this tasty mix of cornbread.

I made a mistake of not asking for sauce on the side. The ribs had been slathered with sauce and heated on a grill. This added a char (burnt) flavor that was a little off putting. Once you got past the messy charred sauced exterior the ribs were seasoned perfectly. The baby backs were cooked to perfection. The St. Lois spareribs were a different story. These were not even true St. Lois style cut ribs. The rib tips were still attached. I do mean attached because even the ribs were not separated. A sharp heavy cleaver was needed to separate these bones. (Rib bones that are not separated will disqualify you from winning in KCBS bbq competition). With the added fact that these ribs needed more time in the smoker made these ribs a chewy mess. They were seasoned well but I had a tough time just separating and knawing the ribs. They did have good flavor but not worth the effort.

The following description was the minor hiccup in my experience at this new restaurant. My original server was very pleasant and cheerful. There was a slight problem that English was not his native language. We had a communication problem from the get go. He also did not have menu knowledge. I always order ribs and brisket the first time I go to a new bbq joint. The server wrongly asked me if I wanted the beef or pork St. Lois style ribs. I asked him is he was sure about those choices. I like beef so I said bring them both. He left and I noticed a beehive of activity at the server’s station with my server involved. Minutes later a new server introduced herself and said she would be taking over. She was the perfect waitress and I am not sure what happened to my original server. The plate arrived with St. Lois pork ribs and baby back ribs. My new server apologized and said they did not have beef ribs. She offered to return the plate to the kitchen but I had a death grip on this plate because I was starved.
   And now you know the rest of the story. There were a couple of mishaps but overall Best Lil' Porkhouse should be a success story. I know Ms. Goofy will want to come try the pulled pork and mac and cheese. Bye for now.

Best Lil' Porkhouse

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


The Racing Honda burned some rocket fuel on this journey. We sped to Willie Bird (Santa Rosa) to pick up a bird for a friend and ended up at Val’s Burgers in Castro Valley. Now, I know there is a beast called a turkey burger but it is not in our vocabulary. It just so happens that these two destinations were on our itinerary today. The Great White Hunter had ordered a coveted Willie Bird for Thanksgiving. He is temporarily sidelined and needed somebody to pick up his hipster purchase. Ms. Goofy and I rose to the occasion. We do not need an excuse to hit the drag strip commonly known as the highway. We arrived at Willie Birds to a full parking lot and a line out the door.

This is prime time for this dispensing of pampered fowl from this Sonoma County hot spot. The line moved quickly to satisfy the anxious hipster crowd. We have tried the Willie Bird in the past. It is a high quality product that is reflected in the sum demanded for purchase. This year we were only on an errand for our friend; The Great White Hunter. The bird was tucked away in our portable ice cave for delivery.

 The bird was delivered to a grateful Great White Hunter. It was time for a burger. Val’s Burgers is a famous destination restaurant in the Castro Valley area. We have been ringing the bell with nostalgic old time diners lately. Val’s is a place that has not changed in a half-century. Burgers, fries and the most ultimate milk shakes you could imagine. I forgot how good a milk shake can be. Do you remember the time when you would get a whole tall glass full of shake with the remainder in a frosty metal cup?

I had the Papa burger (1 pound) and Ms. Goofy the Mama burger. We split an order of fries but most got left on the table. They were salty, crunchy delicious but our bellies were contently filled to the brim. These burgers were meat lover’s delights. The kiss of the grill left a smoky wonderful meat crust that made our burger shine. There was plenty of compliments tableside to decorate your burger. Burger, fries and a shake, it does get any better than at Val’s. I do not think turkey burgers were on the menu. I hope not.

Val’s Burgers
2115 Kelly St,
Hayward, CA 94541
(510) 889-8257

Monday, November 24, 2014


The Great White Hunter returned from the Blue Ribbon Meat Company bearing this slab of bacon. It was cured in house. We do not have a lot of information on this belly delight. The aroma has a slight hint of smoke. The meat to fat ration is acceptable. The rind is on. (Negative points for leaving the rind on). We fried a couple of rashers in our trusty black iron pan. It crisped nicely rendering a lot of bacon love. The sugars and salt were nicely balanced. The flavor was porky good. Overall this bacon was very decent. It will be perfect for our green bean casserole this Holiday meal. Thanks greatwhite hunter, you are a beacon of bright shiny bacon love.

Saturday, November 22, 2014


 Sometimes you just want a hot cup of joe and some filling, comfort food to start your day. The little red diner located right on the side of highway 29 will fill this bill. Highway 29 Cafe may be the definition of a diner. There are no surprises here. You do have to decide on how hungry you are because they can and will make some huge platters of breakfast. Ms. Goofy and I rose early and raced in the Honda to American Canyon to partake in some breakfast staples.

Highway 29 can be very crowded because it is located right next to the flea market. We arrived early on a weekday to an almost empty restaurant. The interior is like a movie set. The counter with its view of the open kitchen, comfortable well worn booths or the corner table to people watch are your choices. The waitress that you have known all your life greets you with menus and a smile. "Do you want some coffee, Honey?' I bet you can guess every item on the menu because you have seen it a million times.

Highway 29 cafes menu offerings are categorized in three levels. The first level consists of 1 protein (steak, pork chop, ham, bacon etc.), one egg, one toast and hash browns. The second level consists of 2 proteins, 2 eggs and hash browns. If you are hungry the third level will load up your plate with three portions of everything. You can order 5 egg omelet's. If you are hungry Highway 29 will accommodate. I strayed from the set menu and ordered 2 pork chops and an order of biscuits and gravy.

We received our breakfast immediately. The biscuits & gravy was comfort that satisfied. Flaky fresh biscuits with a sausage studded gravy with the slightest hint of rosemary was yummy. The pork chops were thin but decent. The never ending cup of joe was the quality you expect in a diner. Ms. Goofy had a Denver omelet that was a little dry but still plate clearing good.
   Highway 29 is a local hangout that is a traditional diner. Friendly, fast service with more than reasonable prices are to be expected. Highway 29 cafe serves no thrills basic breakfast faire. The diner is an American experience that is nostalgic and memory filled. We definitely had our fill and then some at Highway 29 Cafe.

Highway 29 Cafe
101 Cafe Ct
American Canyon, CA 94503

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


thre rubs

 Harry Soo, pitmaster extraordinaire, is a 27 time winning grand champion and is one of the most well known names in BBQ. Winning over 80 first places awards including the 2012 Kansas City Barbeque Society Team of the Year Chicken Champion, Harry now brings his competition rubs to you in outrageous flavors. This is proudly stated on the label of our rubs for review today. Harry Soo is a well known figure in the barbeque world. To meet the man is an introduction to barbeque passion and love. Harry knows his rubs. Harry has created three new exciting rubs; Jailbird Chicken, Love Meat Tender (All Purpose) and Moola Beef Rub. We are going to have some fun and try the first two. The fire is hot so let’s all go enjoy some bbq.

  Jailbird Chicken



 Sea salt, maple sugar, granulated garlic, cane sugar, chili, paprika, citric acid, fructose, ascorbic acid, maltodextrin, guar, and xanthan gum, soy lecithin, spices, natural flavors, BHA to protect flavors, silicon dioxide (anti-caking) are the listed ingredients. I have never heard of the ingredient guar. According to the World Wide Web guar is; “ In foods and beverages, guar gum is used as a thickening, stabilizing, suspending, and binding agent.”

  Aroma & Texture:

 Chili and lots of garlic are my first impressions of the aroma. The smell is fresh and vibrant. The color is light sandy red. The ingredients are separate and do not clump. It pours easily from the two sided shaker top. The shaker top is convenient to sprinkle small quantities or pour larger amounts of the rub.


 This is a fun label of a cartoon jailed bird. Harry Soo has his image on top watching you have your bbq fun. The container is a generous 11 ounces. This is a colorful label that catches your eye. I would see this on the shelf and investigate further.


 I like to include this disclaimer that rubs straight out of the container taste a lot different when heated and cooking is applied. Salt, paprika, sugar and garlic are a big first hit. There is a slight tang from the citric acid. Those of you that are familiar with Harry’s first rub will know that a “Tang’ like flavor was a secret ingredient. It is present but not as pronounced as his original. The citric acid adds a component flavor that grabs your taste buds attention. It works in competition and will enhance your home eating experience too. The taste is fresh but the ultimate test will be with the cook.

  beer can chicken


 The chili flavor is present and adds gentle warmth that is mild. We will give this rub one star out of five on the heat meter..

  All purpose

  Love Meat Tender


 Sea salt, maple sugar, granulated garlic, cane sugar, chili, paprika, chipotle powder, black pepper, rosemary, hickory smoke, cayenne pepper, corn starch, soy lecithin, spices, natural flavors, silicone dioxide (anti-caking) are the listed ingredients.

  love meat tender

  Aroma & Texture:

The smell is similar to the Jailbreak Chicken except for the addition of a slight hint of smoke. There is chipotle powder which is a ground smoked jalapeno pepper. Hickory smoke is another ingredient. The smells are fresh and vibrant. No clumping in this container. There are tiny flakes of rosemary throughout this rub.
 This rub is mild and will give it one star out of five on the heat meter.. The chipotle and chili flavor are present and add a little welcoming warmth.



Pork ribs will be first up to the plate. These spare-ribs were trimmed in the “St. Louis” style. We coated the ribs with a heavy layer of Love Meat Tender rub. We used a heavy hand to get a good taste of the rub. The ribs were cooked low and slow for three hours. The rub turned the ribs dark reddish brown. The sugars caramelized to form a crust that look fabulous. I ate a rib before it was sauced. The sugars and salt popped to make the meat flavor shine. We noticed the slightest amount of heat. It was just enough pepper love to grab your attention but not punish. These ribs were great without sauce but we did slather them in a sweet honey based sauce. This was a marriage made in heaven. Sweet, spicy, sticky and full of pork rib love. These were not competition style ribs but what a fabulous, tasty wonderful meal. Boy do I love ribs.

  on grill

 We had a little fun with the Love Meat Tender rub by using it to season a spinach mushroom quiche. We used a tablespoon to season the eggs, cheese, mushrooms and spinach. We sprinkled a small amount over the top of the pie too. This worked with a successful fun flavor treat. We got a hint of smoke from the chipotle and hickory smoke. The sugars, salts, smoke and pepper transformed our quiche into a bbq style
meal that we enjoyed.

  Wings and a ‘Beer Can’ chicken would be our vehicles to try the ‘Jailbird Chicken” rub. The Beer Can chicken had a beautiful mahogany red crust after its cooking time in the bbq kettle. There is a good amount of sugar in this rub so you need to be careful not to use too high a heat. High heat will cause scorching. Using the proper temperature can create a crisp browned crust that will have you begging for more. This was a beautiful bird. I hate to admit it I could of just eaten the chicken skin, it was that good. All the components of this rub worked together to create a “Winner, Winner Chicken” you know the rest. My wife, Ms. Goofy said she loved the gentle warmth of the chili. The wings also showed some beautiful colors when cooked. We did sauce the wings at the end. The rub created a base that complimented the sauced wings. The citric acid, (Tang) is not prevalent but a component that is in the mix and works to grab your taste buds attention. This is one component that has helped Harry win so many competitions.

  on que


The passion and love are present in Harry’s Rubs. We felt like Grand Champions in our own back yard using Jailbird Chicken and Love Meat Tender rubs. The Love Meat Tender (all purpose) was great on ribs and fun in our spinach mushroom quiche. The quiche had a slight smoky bbq flavor from this rub mix. The ribs were finger licking good. Jailbird Chicken rub could be your foundation for becoming a bbq pitmaster. Our beer-can chicken was a masterful piece of art that also tasted fantastic.. The wings would be welcome at any tailgate. Ms. Goofy liked the slightly warming chili element. The sugars in these rubs will require attention with your cooking to prevent scorching. With the proper cooking method these sugars will caramelize to create masterpieces at your dinner table. Is it possible to have too much fun cooking with Harry Soo’s rubs? We sure are trying.

Attack of The Killer Chicken Wing

Slap Yo' Daddy BBQ Store

Harry Soo

Monday, November 17, 2014


Is it wrong to think about pork chops while looking at this cute little Berkshire piglet? We were at Johnson Farm yesterday and saw the progress of the piggy's. They are growing by leaps and bounds to their market weight. They were playing and wallowing in the mud as piggy's will do. I enjoyed watching them but could not but think about bacon & pork chops. Guilty thoughts? I do not think so.

Saturday, November 15, 2014


A new sheriff is in town. The Stateside Bakery has just opened to bring the public a blast from the past with nostalgic sweet treats. Do you remember pop-tarts, moon pies, twinkies and ho-ho’s? I had a weakness for frosted strawberry pop-tarts (a-la-mode) served with a large scoop of chocolate ice cream. Stateside Bakery has promised to recreate these old school treats but with a gourmet twist. The owner, Caseny McEacher is not trying to copy the exact flavors of the original treats. Her goal is to not make these desserts overly sweet and use the best ingredients possible. She had me at pop-tarts.

Stateside Bakery is located several blocks from the hospital, across the street from Whole Foods and right next door to Starbucks. You can only imagine how difficult parking is here. A glimmer of parking karma has returned. I scored a spot exactly on the corner across the street. I only had to cross the busy intersection to my sweet destination. The bakery is small. The locations original purpose was to house a ATM machine. The snacks were displayed behind a safety glass. It was to keep them safe from my sweet tooth cravings. I surveyed the offering and could not find my beloved pop-tarts.

The clerk explained to me that pop-tarts are only offered on the Weekends. Huh? I was not going to leave empty handed and picked some oreo cookie looking treats. They were special treats. It was not like the original but better. The frosting between the cookies was decadently rich and creamy. It is a good thing the original oreo cookies did not taste like these because the new versions were out of this world habit forming tasty.. Is that even possible? I will have to return on the weekend to experience my pop-tarts.

Stateside Bakery
3001 Telegraph Ave., Suite E, Berkeley
Open Wednesday - Saturday, 11am-6pm
Sunday, 11am-4pm

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


pizza and que

The American public on average eats 46 slices of pizzas a year. I personally may double that amount. How about combining another American favorite pastime of barbeque with pizza and we have the ‘Kettlepizza’. The Kettlepizza is a fun barbeque accessory that will transform your kettle barbeque into a quality wood fired pizza oven. This pizza oven will achieve high heats that are necessary to cook that pizzeria quality pizza pie. This unit allows you to maintain high temperatures because of the unique design of the oven opening and cooking chamber. Using a normal kettle bbq you would have to remove the lid and lose that precious heat. The Kettlepizza is proudly made in the U.S.A. The Kettlepizza promises to be a fun review for this Mad Meat Genius. Pizza & BBQ are two of my favorite pastimes.

  out of box

 When the delivery driver arrived, that tingly feeling associated with Christmas morning was experienced by this excited man-child. The box was immediately ripped open and placed on the floor. Believe it or not I actually read the instructions. It was simple enough to assemble the cooking unit. No tools were needed. It only involved screwing the handles on and tightening a couple of wing nuts. Next, I went to the computer and watched a video on how to use the Kettlepizza. This video was perfect to get the feel for the pizza fun to
come. Watch Video

before cook

 We are no strangers to making pizza. The secret to great dough is a long rise time. We made our dough the day before to achieve that wonderful sourdough like flavor. Some home made sauce was made. Several toppings of sausage, cheese, mushrooms would also be used. It is always fun to create the base of your pizza and let your guests choose their own toppings. We put cornmeal on the pizza peel to assure the dough would not stick. The pizzas were assembled on the pizza peel.

  dough   thermometer

 It is time to build the fire. A full chimney of charcoal briquettes was lit. When the coals were covered with ash and lit they were emptied on the back of the kettle grate. We placed the Kettlepizza unit on the kettle and put the lid on. We watched the thermometer rise on the side of the Kettlepizza. It heated up pretty fast. As per the video, we let it heat the pizza stone for a short while. We then removed the unit and added several pieces of wood to achieve even higher heat. The Kettlepizza was returned to the hot kettle. This oven was smoking hot around 900 degrees and it was time to cook.

  wood fire

We slid our pizza off the peal onto the stone. The pizza crust immediately began to brown and bubble. We rotated our pie several time to insure even cooking. There is a slight learning curve to the cooking that is explained in detail in the video. Our first pizza cooked like a charm. The bottom of the crust was crisp and the toppings were melted and slightly browned. The total time in the oven was a fast four minutes. Wow, that was quick.

  front view

This was some fantastic tasting pizza. The flavors and textures were just like a commercial wood fired oven. It was even better than a restaurant because we cooked it ourselves. We were not done yet. We took some vegetables and roasted them in the Kettlepizza. Carrots, beets mushrooms, and broccoli rabe were coated with olive oil, salt and pepper. They were placed in a ceramic dish. The vegetables were place in the oven and roasted for 20 minutes. This was a great way to roast our vegetables. Even this Mad Meat Genius had a smile on his face while eating his vegetables.

  pizza   roasted vegetables

 Ketlepizza is a wonderful way to combine two of my favorite pastimes. Cooking quality pizza on your barbeque could not be easier using the Kettlepizza. Turning your kettle bbq into a wood fire pizza oven can now be achieved with ease. High heat can be achieved and maintained with this specialty designed product. Pizza crust is crisped and toppings are cooked to perfection. I hate to admit it but I even liked my vegetables. How much fun did we have using this product? Too much fun for just one person, this needs to be shared. I am even thinking about bringing the Kettlepizza to our tailgate parties at sporting events. There is also the added bonus that this product is made in the U.S.A. It is that time of the year and the Kettlepizza would sure be a wonderful gift. You can order directly from Kettlepizza by following the links below.

  outside of cart


Monday, November 10, 2014


The bacon train continues to chug along the tracks of my culinary curiosity. Bacon, maple cookie mix with its companion of maple bacon frosting in a can was something this Mad Meat Genius could not resist. The cookie mix was found on the clearance isle of our local Wally World. I cannot understand why this was a discontinued item. I snatched up a handful of these mixes. I read the package of the cookie mix and it suggested to use the companion bacon, maple frosting. Well, I returned to the store in search of this special frosting. I actually went to four different stores with no luck in finding this special frosting. Luckily our friend Elaina had posted a picture on Facebook of this frosting. She graciously parted with her coveted can to further the research of Mad Meat Genius.

The actual baking of the cookies was easy enough. Mix, drop and bake. We let them cool and then frosted them with bacon frosting. The frosting came with some bacon (?} bits that was included on top of the can. Here is the million dollar question. How did they taste? They were sweet with lots of maple flavor from the frosting. Frosted cookies with a glass of ice cold milk was a treat that could not be beat. We enjoyed these frosted cookies. I am not sure why these two products use the term bacon in their labels. If I closed my eyes and wished really hard I may have tasted the slightest hint of smoke. The bacon (?) bits on top added a texture to the sweet frosting. I purposely did not read the ingredients list. Sometimes it is better not to know. I know why they used bacon in the label and it worked. We bit,hook line and sinker. Thanks Elaina for gifting us the maple, bacon frosting.

Friday, November 7, 2014


What is all the fuss about? Have you heard about the latest burger in town? We wanted to experience what everyone has been talking about. This adventure brings us to Umami Burger in downtown Oakland. Downtown was once a decaying urban center and now has become a hipster destination. Come along with us and experience Umami burgers. Bring lots of quarters to feed the meter because it is burger time.

Downtown equals parking challenges. I have temporarily lost my parking karma because it took numerous laps around the block to find a pit stop for the Racing Honda. Even when we found our parking berth we had a several block walk. I came prepared with a pocketful of quarters. Gosh darn it, the coin slot was jammed. Luckily new meters take plastic and it was a good thing. My pocketful of quarters did not even cover a down payment on our premium priced parking spot. Before you could say Umami we arrived at our lunch destination.

We were greeted by a friendly hostess. It was several minutes before the noon hour and we were seated immediately. Our timing was perfect because the noon whistle blew and hipsters and office workers filled the place quickly. The inside was modern with a cool vibration. It was like we were in a club where everybody wanted to go. The menu was filled with burgers and fixings. This was no ordinary burger & fries offering. Each burger had unique flavor combinations. The fries had numerous savory toppings. It seemed truffle oil was used a lot. It took us a short while to make our decisions because of all the unique choices.

I chose ‘The Original’. This house ground beef patty was topped with Parmesan frico, shiitake mushroom, roasted tomato, caramelized onions, and Umami house ketchup. Each and every burger had a Umami trademark kiss branded on the hamburger bun. It was a beautiful looking burger. The meat was juicy and seasoned to perfection. The house ketchup combined with sun-dried tomato provided a deep rich savory umami flavor that rocked my boat. The caramelized onions were so good. The parmesan frico was a salty crisp component that got a little lost in the shuffle. The mushroom was flavorful. It I could find any fault to this combination it would be the size of the burger. It was not very big for this Mad Meat Genius. There also was only one small mushroom and one small sun-dried tomato. I am not sure if this was intended because half the burger got only the tomato or mushroom.

Ms. Goofy had a burger called the “Queso Fundido” This burger had the signature kiss branded bun cradling the signature burger topped with queso fresco, chorizo sauce and cilantro. She enjoyed and relished this cheesy rendition of a burger. We accompanied our two burgers with a house cured pickle plate. This small platter comprised of pickled carrots, beets, mushrooms, cucumbers, red peppers and soy beans. It was decent enough and the carrots had extra pucker power from its sour/sweet brine.
      We enjoyed our lunch at Umami Burger. It is a fun hip kind of place. This is not your ordinary hamburger and fries kind of joint. Umami Burger offers many unique and interesting burger combinations. Will we return? Maybe when and if my parking karma returns, it may happen. To be honest, dropping 50 dollars on two burgers, one beer and a plate of pickles was a little sticker shock for this wannabe hipster. If you want to play you must pay. Maybe, I would have enjoyed this adventure more if I had left Umami burger with a full stomach and not still hungry.

Thursday, November 6, 2014


We have a fun hot sauce to try today. Fire Ant Juice is a pepper cocktail of habaneros, cayenne and jalapenos. This sauce is sweetned by the exotic mango fruit. Read all about our newest review by clicking the link below . Hot sauce is a great way to heat up these cooler fall days.
                                                    Fire Ant Juice Review