Monday, March 31, 2014
It was time to broaden our judging credentials. We had the opportunity to become certified judges for the 'International Chili Society' This society if famous for the 'World Championship Chili Contest' held in Teralingua, Texas. David Hipskind past 'World Championship Chili Chief Judge" was our instructor for this intensive chili judging tutorial. We had to travel to the Grange Hall located in Elk Grove, California for our instructions. We were prepared to step into this new food judging arena.
We learned about chili history, styles and judging rules in this fascinating class. We had a hands on chili tasting to demonstrate judging rules and techniques. The rules are similar to bbq judging but have their own unique facets that are new to us. We finally had to recite an oath pledging our allegiance to fair and proper chili judging. We are now "Certified Chili Judges". We are looking forward to this new chapter of judging that has opened for us.
International Chili Society
Saturday, March 29, 2014
The much anticipated ‘Grand Opening’ has arrived for the ‘Smoking Pig BBQ’ in Freemont California. This opening had the social media abuzz with excitement. Last week was a soft opening and we arrived for the official christening this week. It was a rare ‘Dark & Stormy” day that raised the yellow caution flag on our journey over rain slick tracks in the ‘Racing Honda”. We arrived safely just in the nick of time. Our arrival time was at 11:45 am. We were seated immediately to a large empty restaurant. With in 1/2 an hour the place was full and quiet loud. I can imagine it was the excitement of the Freemont bbq enthusiasts in this new opening.
The vibration and feeling of this restaurant is of a casual sports bar. There are booths, tables and a television surrounded bar area. We cozied into a booth and surveyed the menu. Buffalo Turds immediately caught our attention and had to be ordered. Since we were some of the first customers they arrived instantly. Spicy jalapenos with a sausage & cheese filling all wrapped up in crispy bacon and smoked was perfect to start our bbq journey.
Each table was equipped with a container of house made bbq sauces. The ‘California Honey’ was sweet with a healthy dose of garlic goodness. The ‘Kansas City Hot’ might have been warm for the chile challenged but was a very decent mild tomato based sauce. ‘Carolina Saucy’ was mustardly good and the ‘Hog Wash’ would be perfect to dress that pulled pork sandwich with its sweet vinegar magic. Overall this was a very good offering of sauces.
The main attraction was ribs and brisket today. This was a considered a two way combo and came with one side and a corn muffin. I opted for a second side of beans to accompany my Cole slaw. This was a good looking platter. The brisket had beautiful smoke markings. The ribs were colored mahogany with a red sheen from its generous spice rub. The ribs were cooked to a competition level tenderness. The spice complimented the meat well but I still enjoyed mixing and matching the different sauces offered. The brisket was tender with good smoke flavor. These two meats were a very decent offering that were devoured by this off duty ‘Master Judge’. Let’s move on to the sides.
Ms. Goofy had a burger with fries. The fries were limp and greasy. We told the waitress about the fries and asked if we could have some Mac & cheese instead. She said yes and within seconds returned with the replacement. (We were charged for another side). Ms. Goofy loved this creamy and rich offering of cheese and macaroni. My sides of Cole Slaw and bbq beans were very pedestrian. My guess is the can-opener was the only skill involved in these legumes.
Our overall impression of ‘Smoking Pig BBQ’ was very positive. The service was good. The meats and sauces delivered a satisfying bbq lunch. The sides needed to be aside but dare I say “Buffalo Turds’ evened out this score. The restaurant has music in the evening and looks like a fun place. There are local micro-beers offered for libation pleasures. There still are a few opening jitter bugs that need to be worked out. We enjoyed our meal and plan to return.
Smoking Pig BBQ
Thursday, March 27, 2014
When I cook with kumquats you will see a smile on my face. The movie scene from "Its a Gift" with W.C. Fields and the blind & deaf hotel detective Mr. Muckle comes to mind. We have a kumquat tree in our backyard that is very prolific. Kumquats are a citrus fruit that resembles a mini orange. They are sweet/tart citrus flavor bombs that makes a wonderful snack. They are eaten whole, peel and all. When they are mature they will have one or two seeds. My mother used to make a kumquat fruitcake that I would like to share with you. The recipe originally comes from the Sunset magazine. Of course, I have added a couple of Chilebrown variations. This fruit cake is very special.
Click image to enlarge
One change in this recipe is that I use fresh kumquats instead of canned. I take a pound of kumquats, wash, split, remove seeds and boil briefly in some sugared water. The mixture is cooled and added to the recipe. I also add dried fruits and organic almonds that are acquired from the farmers market. The biggest change to this recipe is the addition of Grand Marnier to the final cake. Once the cake is cooked and cooled it is soaked in this extravagant orange flavored liquor.I have been told this cake gets better with age. The only problem is it never seems to lasts very long.
My mothers recipe (pictured above) is stored in a plastic sheath and is faded and stained from years of use. This recipe is special to me for several reasons. A recipe from my mom is priceless with nostalgia. I get a chuckle just saying kumquats and plus the antics of Fields and Mr. Muckle. We have a huge amount of kumquats from our backyard tree to make plenty of cakes. I think one of the most important reasons that I love this cake is that it decadently delicious. Give it a try."What about my Kumquats?"
Tuesday, March 25, 2014
No vampires were harmed in this review. We take a look at a garlic habanero hot sauce from Honest Ember in our latest review. Garlic and habanero peppers are combined for a potent elixir. This sauce was the perfect addition to some asparagus soup.
Sunday, March 23, 2014
Was it because; "great taste...naturally" or 'Maple Bacon" printed on this package of kettle chips that caught my attention? Maybe it was the Non Gmo Project Verified endorsement that swayed my purchase decision. It may because of my love of kettle chips. Most likely bacon was the culprit. After said purchase the ingredients unfortunately were read. Yes, you guessed correctly. There is no bacon listed on this list. They still tasted very good and I almost ate the whole bag in one sitting.
Friday, March 21, 2014
This is not an official review but I would like to share a special bbq sauce with you. This bbq sauce was won in a contest. I actually got to chose my prize from an extensive list of sauces. This sauce caught my eye for several reasons. It is in a cute honey badger container. It is made with honey and habanero peppers. The cost was 15 dollars a bottle for this limited edition bottle. This is a lot of money for a bbq sauce. Since it was not my dime I chose 'Honey Badger Triple Hot"
Straight out of the bottle this sauce rocks with honey and habanero flavor. It is sweet with a tomato base. This sauce is not for the chile pepper challenged. I would rate it two stars out of five on the heat meter. Using triple hot on the label may be a little exaggerated. It does pack a punch but does not punish. We tried the sauce on our go to bbq sauce testing meat of chicken wings. I brought the wings to our local dart tournament. Everybody raved about these wings. They loved the balance of sweet to heat. Granted their faces were flushed and some broke out is sweat. Ms. Goofy and I enjoyed this sauce. This sauce was very good but I would not purchase it with the 15 dollar price tag.
Wednesday, March 19, 2014
Snake River Farms produces and sells 'American Kobe' style beef. This meat has fat marbling that makes me want to cry. Our local Costco carried a supply of corned beef from Snake River Farms this St Patrick's holiday time.. 'American Kobe' beef is a luxury item that has a lofty price tag that reinforces this notion. We were surprised at the 6.50/pound sticker and bought several. Traditionally brisket is used for corned beef purposes. According to my butcher friend Angelo Iblerto this cut was the Bottom Round. It was a beautiful sight to see with its fat marbling and deep red color. It was packaged in a bring solution and came with a seasoning package. We will transform this corned beef into pastrami.
The brining process leaves the beef too salty for our tastes. This is easily remedied by soaking the beef in water to remove excess salt. After several rinses we were ready to season. We used a seasoning rub to prepare our roast for the smoker. Approximately four hours at 270 degrees brought the internal temperature to 170 degrees. The aroma and appearance was heavenly. We let the roast rest for 1/2 an hour. This was just enough time to steam asparagus and heirloom potatoes.
'Snake River Farms American Kobe Corned Beef' was a hands down, flavorful, tender, smokey winner. The best part about it will be the sandwiches today.
Monday, March 17, 2014
My sister is a quilt-maker extraordinaire. This quilt is entitled "Letters from Home". It is a collage of letters and pictures of my Dad from World War II. One leter from my grandfather is a kick; "Dear Boy, Had turnips for dinner. They always make me think of you. Dad (6-10-44). The quilt will be shown at the Craneway Pavilion next week and later be displayed at the Rosie the Riveter Museum
The quilt is one of thirty in a WW11 Home Front Quilt Challenge. The quilts depict a variety of activities that occurred on the homefront during WW11. They can be seen, along with a couple of hundred other quilts, at the East Bay Heritage Quilt Show this weekend (Mar 22-23) at the Craneway Pavillion (which is right next to the Rosie the Riveter WW11 Homefront National Historical Park).
After the show the Homefront Quilts can be see at the Richmond History Museum from Arpil 5-June 6
Rosie the Riveter Museum
Saturday, March 15, 2014
This image was taken at Beaver Creek Smokehouse. It is corned beef that is slowly being smoked and transformed into pastrami. This pedigreed, pampered and expensive Kobe beef is from Snake River Farms. Rob Z was gracious enough to reveal his source. This was all the inspiration I needed. Stay tuned.
Thursday, March 13, 2014
Do I really need another kitchen gadget? Apparently so if it has to do with bacon. The 'Bacon Bowl' set was strategically placed on the impulse buying section very near the 'Bacon Pringles' aisle. It was only a sawbuck and in the name of bacon research the purchase was made. The box did say; "Everything Tastes Better in a Bacon Bowl". In the name of science I also purchased a pound of generic bacon.
The bacon bowl uses are only limited by your imagination. Our initial filling was a green salad. This was accompanied by two beautiful 'Porterhouse' pork chops from the Fatted Calf. I will have to agree that everything does taste better in a 'Bacon Bowl'. This new utensil will go straight to a special spot in its proper drawer.
Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Sunday, March 9, 2014
The parking karma still works because; we found a parking spot half a block away from the ‘Beaver Creek Smokehouse’ in Martinez, California. Once we exited the vehicle a beautiful intoxicating smoke aroma that I know so well greeted our bbq sensors. We walked to our destination to take our place in line with the customers already waiting for the 11:30am opening. The opening bell sounded and it was time to have some great competition worthy barbeque.
Beaver Creek Smokehouse is operated and owned by Rob Z (Zavatero). We know him from bbq competitions. He is a champion and darn tootin nice guy. Beaver Creek Smokehouse has only been open for six months and I am kicking myself for not coming sooner. Rob makes everything from scratch. He uses the best meats available in our area such as; Niman Ranch, Homestead Natural, Certified Angus Beef and Mary’s air chilled chicken. All the sides and sauces are made from scratch. I want to try everything. They do have a “5 way” sampler that will fill this bill for now.
This was one pretty platter of meat. I devoured every single morsel on that tray. The smoke was perfect. The tenderness was excellent. The chicken was so juicy it gave me a squirt of love when I bit into it. At each table three different house made sauces are available. I enjoyed my meal so much; I did not even try the sauces. (A first). It is rare to have all meats done to such competition worthy perfection. The Cole slaw was bright and fresh with a vinegar tang. The beans were studded with brisket. This was more than just beans; it was like an award winning chili.
Rob offers local micro-beers for your pleasure. There is a nice beer garden in back that will be a summer destination. Why? Why did I wait so long to try Beaver Creek Smokehouse? We shall return. I definitely want some more of that brisket.
Beaver Creek Smokehouse
601 Main St.
Martinez, Ca. 94553
Friday, March 7, 2014
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Kitchen tools can make mundane cooking chores fun, easy and simple. Do you ever get frustrated and tired constantly chopping garlic? Fear no more, the "garliczoom" may be just the utensil for you. My birthday was last week and Ms. Goofy gifted me this special tool because she believes it is cute. It does look like a little space creature. Let's go chop some garlic.
The instructions are simple: "load, roll, remove blade, empty". The chopping chamber is fairly small. You can fit one large clove or several small ones. I rolled it against the counter with ease. It was time to empty. I skipped the remove blade instruction because I have big sausages as fingers and I could not figure that part out. I just opened the lid and shook. Ms. Goofy had to show me the correct way to empty this contraption. The garliczoom did chop the garlic easily and I guess it was kind of fun. I already have a special spot in the back of the gadget drawer to store the garliczoom.
Monday, March 3, 2014
"Summer breeze makes me feel fine
Blowin' through the jasmine in my mind"
The aroma of fresh strawberries reminds me of a summer breeze. "Honest Ember' has created a 'Strawberry Kiwi Habanero Hot Sauce' that has bottled that summer feeling in my mind. Come take a look.
Saturday, March 1, 2014
We celebrate our anniversary on my birthday. It is convenient and I never forget the date. This very special day we like to dress up and ‘kick up one’s heels’ at a fine dining establishment. Steak Houses are our favorite dinning destination. McNamara’s Steak & Chophouse in San Ramon is a place we want to explore. Come along on this roller coaster dinner ride and experience the highs and lows with us.
McNamara’s is located in Dublin California. The outside is large and looks like a huge house. There is outside seating with a landscaped patio. We enter the restaurant to a dimly lit steakhouse den. When our eyes adjust we are treated to a warm and cozy steakhouse like palace. The décor and theme gives an old school steak house charm. We are a couple of minutes early and cozy up to the showcase bar. Martini’s are on order to start this special celebration. Pomegranate and Stolichnaya are shaken but not stirred for two very tasty libations. Our reservation is at six and on the dot the lights are dimmed a little more.
Once at our table our pleasant and perfunctory waitress greeted us. Our orders are taken. Let’s start out with the highlights of this meal. The steaks were cooked to perfection. Perfectly medium rare was my rib eye and Ms. Goofy’s filet. This beef was flavorful and rich with beef flavor. The horseradish mashed potatoes were creamy and studded with yummy spikes of horseradish. The vegetables were also cooked to a perfect texture. The side of sherry mushrooms was decadent and rich. The roller coaster was at the peak before it plummeted to its abyss.
The Chop House salad sounded great on the menu. Blue cheese, bacon, roasted peppers, greens, caramelized onions and did I mention bacon? This salad was so overdressed all the components were overpowered by dressing. Crab cakes are Ms. Goofy’s favorite. They arrived at our table with a very dark color. When I turned one over it was burnt on the bottom. Needless to day we did not finish them. Our waitress was no were to be found. The busboy came and asked us why we did not finish our crab cakes. We told him our concerns and our complaint fell on deaf ears. We will not even mention how the waitress forgot our wine order.
This was a very special evening for us. When we made reservations, we indicated that this was a birthday/anniversary celebration. The host and the waitress never even acknowledged our special day even though it was clearly stated on the reservation. Our waitress was pleasant enough but we could have used just the slightest more attention. The steaks and potatoes were great but the salad and crab cake appetizer not. When we spend a couple of large bills on dinners we have some expectations. This dinner could have been perfect with just a couple of easily correctable events. We all vote with our dinning dollars. McNamara’s will not receive our vote again.