Chilebrown at home

Friday, January 30, 2015


The urge to dine on some green chile stew usually referred to as chileverde, was tugging at my chile peper deprived diet. I have driven by ‘Chile Jalapeno Taqueria’ for several years never slowing down. The building is bright and eye catching as you pass by on this busy thoroughfare in Oakland California. I dinned here a decade ago and the restaurant has changed hands numerous times since. It was time to whet my appetite once again on my never ending quest to find the ultimate chileverde.

Parking karma is in limbo because of the convenient parking lot behind the restaurant. Once inside you will come to a colorfully painted counter area. There is a signboard with the menu choices. I scanned the menu briefly only looking for my dish of passion. Chileverde was listed, but it was called ‘Chileverde Carnitas’. This also came with a choice of chicken or pork. I was game and ordered the pork variation. Once paid, you selected a place to dine. The choices were several tables inside or a very nice outdoor patio in the back.

I was issued some complimentary chips and salsa. The salsa was an interesting tomato puree. The tomato’s probably had been roasted and then pureed with oil and spices. There was a slight mild heat that was faint. I could not identify the pepper used. The texture was soupy. In my experience, the salsa is a good indicator of the meal to come. This salsa did not excite this chilehead.

The plate of chileverde carnitas was brought to my table. It looked very appealing. The pork was shredded. There was a nice little salad to accompany my pretty plate. Several wrapped corn tortillas also arrived. I wanted to love this plate of chileverde but alas the pork was under whelming. It lacked seasoning (salt). The meat had a texture like it had been boiled. I have never had carnitas in this form. The green sauce that I love was also a disappointment. Pepper flavor, heat and once again seasoning was lacking. The beans and rice needed some seasoning love. This good looking plate failed in so many ways.
   To be fair, Chile Jalapeno Tacqueria has a big menu that I did not really explore. The place looks fun and appealing. The back patio seemed very nice for that summer day. Unfortunately if the chileverde carnitas or any indicator of the rest of the menu, that is enough for me. The quest will continue but I will still pass by Chile Jalapeno on this busy thoroughfare.

Chile Jalapeno Tacqueria
6706 San Pablo Ave
OaklandCA 94608

Tuesday, January 27, 2015


Canned bacon? Why not? Yoder's makes a canned bacon. I believe it is sold as stock for your pantry in case of an apocalypse or a bacon disaster. In any case my bbq friend Jon gave me a heads up on this must have product. When my canned bacon arrived the first thing I noticed was the camouflage packaging. I believe that is very prudent to hide your precious stash from zombies or intruders in the final hours. It is time to try some canned bacon. Ms. Goofy could only shrug her head in canine disbelief for my bacon obsession..

It was very difficult to remove said bacon from the can. Both ends of the can had to be opened with a can-opener. The tightly wound bacon roll was forced through the cylinder to reveal a greasy parchment paper cache of cooked bacon. It had a smoky bacon like smell. It looked like bacon. (It is bacon). Ms. Goofy and I both tried a slice. It was salty but passable as your garden variety store bought bacon. It was not bad. There were probably fifty slices crammed into this little can. The texture was limp and not very desirable

To change the texture and add a little crispness we broke out the trusty black iron. A quick searing and good texture was achieved. This also rendered a little bacon love left in the pan. The light bulb went off and cornbread came to mind. Bacon cornbread of course. We used a standard corn bread recipe and used our pre-seasoned pan we crisped the bacon in. Oh my did it smell heavenly while baking.

Yoder's canned bacon is not that bad. Our bacon cornbread was a success. I am not sure my pantry is, or will be stocked for the Zombie Apocalypses but if I do Yoder's canned bacon is a must have item. Thank Jon for the heads up.

Friday, January 23, 2015


Bacon cream cheese may be the best thing since sliced bread. How about making it spreadable? Oh my! I did peak at the ingredient list and it claims to have 2 percent real honest to goodness cooked bacon bits. Needless to say you do not want to know the rest of the long list of ingredients. It is creamy, smooth, rich, decadent and has a slight bacon flavor. It is most excellent in my book. Maybe I can talk Ms. Goofy into making a cheesecake.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015


Be forewarned some of the following images are not suitable for vegetarians, faint of heart, and people who are not prepared to see pigs heads in various stages of undress. To begin our journey we start at the Farmer's market. It is Sunday morning and the 'True Grass Farm' (notice my restraint) vendor has a signboard advertising; 'Pig Head for Sale". I did a double take before the hook drew me in. This was no ordinary pigs head it was a cross of Black and Berkshire breed. This head had the credentials to make any hipster proud. I am no stranger to cooking a pigs head. Read Here. This was a no-brainer purchase as far as I was concerned. Would Ms. Goofy understand and be tolerant of this very special acquisition?

The last time I cooked a pigs head, I waited for Ms. Goofy to leave town to visit her sister Shastina. Ms. Goofy was visiting her sister again when I made this purchase. The only problem was she was returning in the afternoon. I prepped my heads by a good scrubbing in the sink. I then dried them. A layer of vegetable oil and a dusting of salt would be next. I wrapped my cabeza'a in garbage bags for their overnight rest in the ice cave. Ms. Goofy returned and I greeted her. She knew something was up because I was hovering in front of the ice cave door. "Don't open the door", I pleaded. She guessed right away. "You bought pigs head again?".

The two heads were cooked in the Weber Smoky Mountain cooker at 250 degrees. I used hickory wood for the smoke component. These heads smoked for almost five hours. I took several temperature readings and decided to pull the meat at 165 degrees. They were placed in a service pan and covered with foil. I let them rest for 2 hours. When I began to pull the meat it was still warm. It smelled fantastic of smoke and pork.

Today, I was only interested in the cheek meat. My goal was to have Ms. Goofy try some. There was no way she would try the brain pictured above. It has a scrambled egg sort of texture. I did not think it had a lot of flavor. Below is the cheek cavity pulled away from the head. This meat is very tender. The cheek is surrounded by a ton of fat. I have my fingers crossed that Ms.Goofy will like this.

Below is the tongue. It has a slight beefy taste with a mineral nuance. The texture is firm. The meat is dark in color. It is not pretty looking but would make some good taco filling

I save the best for last. Eyeball tacos were not on the menu today. I did try them the last time and it was a texture thing. I chopped the cheek meat. It was warmed in a pan. I seasoned it with salt & pepper before I doused it in some bbq sauce. This mixture was put into a very flavorful sandwich. Did Ms. Goofy like it? Well, sort off. She took the tiniest nibble and proclaimed it tasted like bacon. She tried it sort of, so my pig head adventure was not a total loss. Did I mention that we are having too much fun. Talk to you soon.

Saturday, January 17, 2015


Lucille's Smokehouse Bar-B-Que has been on the bucket list for quit some time now. Ms. Goofy left me with an empty ice cave on her excursion field trip with her sister Shastina. It was time to experience this national chain barbeque restaurant. Without the Racing Honda it took 20 minutes to arrive in Concord California to my destination. (Ms. Goofy would of made it in 10 minutes) The parking karma does not apply today because Lucille's is located on the perimeter of a large shopping mall. Upon arrival, I was greeted with a cheerful scripted welcome. It was the lunch hour and I was seated immediately.

The interior is fun and festive. I would compare it to another national bbq chain which will remain nameless. (F.D.).The walls are adorned with kitschy bbq items. The bar area is full of televisions and looks like a fun place to watch a sporting event. A huge smoker is located in the middle of the restaurant. It has a name; Smokestack Lightnin. I am not sure if is in use or just for show.My waitress is prompt and polite. She goes though her rehearsed greeting and welcomes me. I order the combination platter which comprises of three meats and one side.

The table has three bottled sauces with the Lucille's logo. The 'Original' has ketchup listed as its first ingredient. Now that is not necessarily a bad thing. It has a  strong molasses bite with a prevalent kiss of liquid smoke. There is a hot version offered too. These two sauces did not ring my bell. The third offering of a mustard based sauce did. It was sweet and tangy with mustard and vinegar. If you are so inclined these sauces are offered for sale at the hostess station.

Before my entree arrives a complimentary basket of bisquits arrive. They are flaky and warm. A sweet whipped butter accompanied. I could not identify the sweetness and spice until I asked the waitress. It was apples and cinnamon. I like the bisquits but not the butter. My platter arrives faster than you can say "Grass-fed hipster conspiracy'. It looks like a painting. It is beautiful. I forgot to ask for sauce on the side but it is used in restraint and actually enhances the appearance. My meat choices were; St. Lois ribs, pulled pork and brisket burnt ends. Let's start with the good.

The pulled pork was tender and juicy. It had good smoke and with the drizzle of mustard sauce on a warm bsquit was wonderful. The brisket burnt ends were tender with good smoke too. They had a great beef taste. I am a little perplexed about calling this offering of brisket burnt ends. Burnt ends are usually from the point end of the packer. It has a marbling of fat that has rendered and the outer edges have caramelized with spices and sauce. These cut were tender but very lean. I have a feeling that they were cubed pieces of the brisket flat. This is only a technicality because they did taste good

The St. Lois ribs were some of the smallest ribs I have every seen. Did they come from some small pygmy breed of pig. I even asked the waitress if they were the St. Lois ribs. She verified. The bones were very flat. They were overdone to competition standards. They were a little chewy. They did have a ton of great flavor, smoke and I cleaned these bones. The Cole slaw was fairly standard faire.

My dinning experience at Lucille's was very good. There were a couple of little technical bumps with the ribs and burnt ends. Overall flavor won out. This Mad Meat Genus cleaned his plate and rewarded himself with a piece of brownie cheesecake for dessert. Lucille's Smokehouse Bar-B-Que does a great job for a chain restaurant. Great service, fun atmosphere and very decent bbq. It is not competition bbq but I do not expect that. That is not entirely true. The bbq judge is part of my D.N.A. now. I did enjoy my meal at Lucille's.

Lucille's Smokehouse Bar-B-Que

Thursday, January 15, 2015


This beautiful Black Angus sirloin roast was the star of our meal last night. It will be only a teaser to grab your attention to share a just as glamorous side of Romanesco cauliflower. Romanesco cauliflower is plentiful at our local farmers market. Roasting this Dr. Seuss looking vegetable will bring out the natural sugars. Even an hour of roasting this vegetable will still have a slight crunchy texture with a nut like flavor. With the addition of smoke we have a vegetable that rocks. The beets were not bad too.

Sunday, January 11, 2015


It is the dawning of the 2015 competitive bbq season. These few months of incremental weather we have not abandoned our passion of barbeque judging. We love to barbeque year around and Ms. Goofy hones her judging skills by the score card she keeps on my cooks. An all day teaching seminar was offered on the subject; "Advanced Judging Class" by the California BBQ Association. (CBBQA}. We participate in numerous activities of the CBBQA during the year. This just seemed like a perfect way to spend a Saturday. Not only would we gain new knowledge but would be able to reconnect with our barbeque community friends. This event was held in Alameda California in a beautiful old 'Elks Lodge".

It is early Saturday morning and Ms. Goofy let me drive the Racing Honda. I think I fouled a couple of spark plugs because of my light touch on the throttle. We made it to our destination without the usual whiteness of the knuckles. The Elks Lodge is huge and we had to search for our classroom. Once found we were greeted by approximately 50 like minded bbq judges. The setting was informal with table seating. I loaded up on beverages and snacks to prepare for the onslaught of knowledge.

The session was split into eleven modules. Each module was taught by experienced people in the bbq community. These people consisted of bbq celebrities, bbq representatives, promoters, cooks, and Master Judges. These also were our friends that we have gotten to know over the years. We were very comfortable and excited to start the day. Here is an outline of the modules.

Module 1    Roles and Responsibilities
             2    History
             3.   Advancement
             4.   Contest Organizers
             5.   Anatomy
             6.   Ranch to Table
             7.   Regional Taste Profiles
             8.   Appearance
             9.   Taste
            10.  Tenderness & Texture
            11   Judging Myths  (Panel Discussion)

We absorbed a wealth of knowledge in the morning. The history was an extensively researched presentation. Did you know that bbq may or may not have some origins in cannibalism? The sessions flew by with Ben finishing the morning by sharing his expertise as as a promoter. A welcome break for a catered lunch was held. Surprising it was not a barbeque lunch. It was most likely because of the hall full of bbq critics. Chicken, sausage, salads, rolls and various sides of vegetables and rice made for a nice lunch break It was time for the afternoon sessions.

The afternoon was another barrage of learning bbq knowledge. The last section was my favorite. It also involved a panel discussion with a celebrity panel. Harry Soo (Pittmaster, Celebrity), Donna Fong (Master Judge and reigning Oakland Grand Champion) Scott Simpson, (Master Judge) Amber Stipecevich (Cook & Judge) Ben Lobestien (Organizer), Aaron Staines (pending Master Judge) with Kelly Mcintosh (KCBS Representative) as moderator was our all star panel. This lead to discussion that was informative and a highlight of our day.

It was a long wonderful day of learning. Knowledge is a wonderful thing. We hope to be the best bbq judges we can be. This was a wonderful day in our journey. If you are interested in taking this class, it will be offered again in Southern California.  Thanks to the organizers and instructors. We cannot wait for the new bbq season to start.

Advanced Judging Class

Friday, January 9, 2015


The late great Huell Howser had a corn-pone friendly style of delivery and style that made the ordinary seem spectacular. Case in point' sauerkraut. Sauerkraut is not something I get excited about. I can take it or leave it. There have been some great new sauerkraut renditions being sold at the farmers markets. The sauerkraut I remember was stinky and not very appealing. It was something my father liked. I normally would pass this condiment by until now. Seeing Huell Howser tour the Kruegermamn's sauerkraut plant spiked my curiosity to revisit this old fashioned sour condiment. Kruegermann's sauerkraut was found at a roadside produce stand in Northern California. I could not resist.

There were no surprises when the top was removed from the jar. It stunk of that familiar fermented cabbage aroma. We, I mean just I because Ms. Goofy wanted no part of this tasting, tried a spoonful. Slightly sour with a slight crunch with a salty type finish was my impression. My opinion of the flavor was neutral. I neither liked it or disliked. Maybe with some sausage this condiment would shine. Sausage, mustard and a freshly baked roll would be the vehicle to eat some more Kruegermamns. I enjoyed it. Did I love it? Well let just say P. T. Barnum was right. "There's a sucker born every minute". I still enjoy watching Huell Howser.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015


The dialogue continues on grass-fed beef. This time corporate American has joined the conversation. Carl’s Jr. the burger chain is offering a grass-fed burger called the “All Natural Burger’. This burger is made from beef that is from Australia. The beef is from cattle that is grass-fed, free range with no antibiotics, steroids or added hormones. They call it ‘All Natural’. What is ‘All Natural’? There is no legal definition of this term. It does sound warm and fuzzy when you say ‘All Natural”. In the name of research we purchased this fast food burger.
   With tax the ‘All Natural’ set me back 5.98. The regular cheese burger was almost half this price. My burger was cooked to order. I am not sure if this is standard procedure but it was still warm and fresh when I got it home. I enjoyed this burger. It was nicely seasoned. (teetering on being too salty). The toppings of lettuce, cheese, red onions, tomato,pickles, mayo and ketchup mustard all on freshly baked buns made for a very decent burger. How did the beef taste? It had a charbroiled sort of flavor. It was a tad dry, but are not all fast food burgers dry? I have to admit that I am not a fast food burger enthusiast. This burger tasted fine to me. Unless somebody told me, I would have no clue this beef was grass-fed.
   Carl’s Jr. has jumped on the grass-fed bandwagon. If you feel better about yourself for ordering grass-fed beef, than so be it. I will not be ordering it again only because fast food is not my cup of tea. The conversation continues.

Monday, January 5, 2015


We return to main street U.S.A; Petaluma, California. The Petaluma Pie Shop is our destination today. This is was one of those places you have driven by forever and always wanted to stop. Who doesn't love pie? Parking karma was present today in a backwards sort of way. Petaluma Pie shop is located in a little shopping cove located on the main drag.Parking was no where to be found. We circled the block and found a spot directly behind the shopping cove. There was a convenient little alley that delivered us to our intention. A colorful neon sign inviting us to 'Eat Pie" greeted us.

So many choices was our predicament. Pecan, apple, Pennsylvania Shoo Fly, German chocolate coconut  are just a few sweet selections. Savory pies in all sizes were available. Some smaller pies called hand pies sounded fantastic. Bacon & egg, cheeseburger, cornish pasty and a traditional chicken pot pie. This pie was made with "Mary's Organic" chicken. There was even a pulled pork pie. Petaluma Pie Company is another business that embraces the concept of 'farm to table'. All ingredients are sourced from local farms and farmers markets. The ingredients are organic, the pork is pasture raised and of course the beef is grass fed. We choose a chicken pot pie and a small pecan apple pie for our purchase. This was no easy task because everything looked so very good.

The chicken pie was frozen. It only took a brief trip to the oven and a egg wash for the crust to prepare our dinner. This pie was chock full of chicken and vegetables. There was a predominate herbal hit of tarragon and thyme. The vegetables were cooked to perfection. They still had a pleasant little bite. The chicken was tender and plentiful. You know it is all about the gravy. (mang). This was gravy that had me licking the plate.

The pecan apple pie was the perfect dessert. I love pie!!!!. I will not have the dilemma of so many choices next time because I all ready have the pulled pork pie on my mind. Another added bonus of this shop is the location across the street from Thistle Meats. So many 'Meat Adventures" so little time.

Petaluma Pie Company
125 Petaluma Blvd. N
. Petaluma, CA 94952

Saturday, January 3, 2015


Sometimes we find new butchers by accident or leads from a local residents. We have discovered Thistle Meats in Petaluma California by a combination of being in the neighborhood and a lead from a local pie shop purveyor. More about the pie shop another day so we can concentrate on Thistle Meats. Let's start out with the mission statement of Thistle; "Welcome to Thistle Meats, a whole animal butcher shop serving our community ethically-raised and locally-sourced meats in downtown Petaluma. We believe that good food, especially quality meat, should be celebrated and easily available as a genuine, custom-cut experience. "

Thistle is located on the main drag of Petaluma town U.S.A. This is your all American town that even boasts being in the move American Graffiti. We knew we had arrived by the pig and signboard situated out front. Once inside this small shop we could see a butcher hard at work cutting some meat. Several refrigerated cases displayed their numerous cuts and offerings of various meats. One thing Thistle is proud to showcase is meat from local farms. These farms also specialize in pasture raised animals. The beef is grass fed from nearby Potter Valley or Tomales. The cases also had house made charcuterie, sausage and freshly made stocks. They embrace the concept of 'Nose to tail" in their meat offerings

Lot's of locally sourced and handcrafted products are for sale at Thistle Meats. Cheeses, eggs, juices, produce and bread. This is your one stop shop for local Petaluma products. We tasted some of the most fantastic house made pickles. We loaded up our cart with pickles, olives, hamburger and a couple of marinated kabobs of flank steak. They were out of bacon to guarantee our return. We actually settled on hamburger because we had a form of 'meat hangover' from our recent prime rib roast from our Christmas feast. The Racing Honda sped home to sample our bounty.

The grill was fired up to cook our burgers and skewers from Thistle Meats. I enjoyed the burger as a whole. This may be cause I seasoned it well and loaded it up with bacon and condiments. Ms. Goofy said it lacked of true beef flavor. The skewers of flank steak were tough and chewy. I tried to keep it on the rare side. I am not sure if the shoe leather texture was because of the cooking or because the fact that this was grass fed beef. Thistle Meats is a great source to find meats and products from locally sourced farms.  We will return to try the bacon. It would be worth the trip just to buy more house made pickles. I have not closed the door on grass fed beef but that door is sure darn heavy.

Thistle Meats
160 Petaluma Blvd,
North, Petaluma, CA 94952

Thursday, January 1, 2015


Writing hot sauce & product reviews for 'Peppers & More' may be the best job in the world. I get to sample some of the best and not so best hot new sauces for the market. Peppers & More asked me to pick my five favorite review from last year. Here they are. Happy New Year!