Chilebrown at home

Saturday, October 29, 2016


Firebrand Artisan Breads in Oakland California sells a bacon fougasse bread. The fougasse bread is a simple flat bread that is typically leaf shaped and embellished with cheese, herbs , nuts or anchovies.  This version is rich and decadent with a very special ingredient of Berkshire bacon from Belcampo Meat . I heard of this bread and immediately commandeered the Racing Honda to procure this bacony treat.

Parking Karma once again was on my side by the parking spot right in front with time on the meter. (Eat your heart out Great White Hunter). Firebrand is located on the outskirts of the revitalized downtown Oakland. Firebrand is also one of two bakeries located on the same block. I believe Hipster's need multiple bakery choices. This bakery specializes in artisan breads naturally leavened with sourdough yeast, baked in wood fire ovens. The entrance is very plain and I actually wondered if this was the right place. Once in the doors my apprehension was transformed into wonderment.

The inside was huge and cavernous. An open kitchen was a feast for inquisitive eyes. This was a busy hub of bread making activities. The display of breads was very impressive. I was on a mision to buy bacon fougasse today. I made my purchase and left with time to spare on the meter. The smell of fresh bread in the car was intoxicating. It took a lot of will power to not sneak a little piece of bacon off of this creation. Once home it was time to taste. This bread has so many levels of flavor. The sourdough is an earthy, tangy contribution to the profile. The bacon is on top and throughout that adds a savory richness. Belcampos berkshire bacon is a treat with its almost beefy like bacon flavor. The bread has a chew that has one noshing in bread appreciation. I had to use restraint to not eat the whole loaf in one sitting. Oh my, did we love this bread! I even love the name; fougasse. I am already planning a return trip to Firbrand Artisan Breads.

Firebrand Artisan Breads

Wednesday, October 26, 2016


Our local Wally World held a sale selling pound packages of ‘American Style’ ‘Kobe Beef’ for five dollars. We could not resist. This sounded too good to be true and raised some red flags. True certified Kobe Wagyu steaks from Japan sells at Alexanders Steak House for around 120 dollars per entrĂ©e. We will start with the conclusion of how they tasted. They were fantastic. These burgers were rich and deep with beef flavor. There was a luscious mouth feel from the rich fat in our burger patties. They were excellent. This spiked my curiosity of what we were actually eating. Was this the prized beef from Japan? We were on a mission to find the origin of American Style Kobe Beef.

The logical first step was to ask the butcher at Wally World. As W. C. Fields would say; “If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.” This was our Wally Worlds butchers response; “It is a brand name”. Yeah right. It was not worth the air to argue with the Wally World hired help. I called the 800 number listed on the back of the package. I was directed to an answering machine with no reply.  American BBQ Company the company listed on the package also had an 800 number which also directed me to a non-replying answering machine. I contacted corporate Wally World by e-mail. Four days later I received a reply. I asked the wrong question;” What does Kobe Beef mean?”  Wally World corporate went to Wikipedia and cut and pasted the definition of Kobe Beef. I should have asked what does ‘AMERICAN STYLE Kobe Beef mean.  I was frustrated. Finally a manager from Wally World called and provided some partial clarification of this product.  “American Style” refers to the cattle that is actually from the states and is a cross of Japanese and American breeds. This meat has lots of luscious rich fat as the prized Kobe Wagyu from Japan. This explanation makes sense and will have to do for now. This was a lesson in frustration. Am I the only one who wants to know what I am buying? It did taste fantastic and if it ever goes on sale again we will surely buy it, for research of course.

Sunday, October 23, 2016


It was our last KCBS bbq contest of the year. We looked forward to it but on the other hand we were a little sad that the San Francisco BBQ Festival would end this year’s competitive bbq season. This was an event that will go down in the history books. Today we were situated in the City by the bay.  We were in the shadows and parking facilities  of the San Francisco Giants stadium The San Francisco BBQ Festival ended the season with an explosion of activity that included a protest, cornhole competition, music, beer, mustard and most important of all; a four meat bbq competition. Of course, we would like to share a few images with you. Fasten your seat-belt  because this will be a wild exciting ride.

What is cornhole? I do not recommend a Google search because you may be a little shocked or not at the results. Cornhole /Corntoss is a game that consists of tossing a bean bag (bag of dried corn) an exact distance towards a target hole in an elevated wooden ramp. I would compare this toss and game to horseshoes. There is an actual organization that governs and promotes this game; American Cornhole Association. At today’s festival a cornhole tournament was held. Several dozen cornhole lanes were set up on the grounds for this contest. It seemed to be very popular among the participants.

The festive crowd had plenty of activities to be amused. A large selection of craft beers was available to wash down all the tasty bbq. A live band entertained this hungry crowd. My favorite ‘Brown Dog Mustard’ vendor was in the house. Local business had booths promoting their causes. We were in San Francisco and there is just an electrical vibration about. We were joined by a contingent of passionate people that had an agenda they wanted to share.

The protest has to be mentioned. I am not sure what group they represented(or care). I will say they were entertaining. I did notice a few protesters wearing Vegan shirts. They stormed the gates and paraded the grounds. They chanted. “It’s not food, it’s Violence”. They milled around and entertained us carnivores with their chants until they were escorted off the premise by security. Outside they were greeted by S.F. police who allowed them to continue their nonsense. Are you ready for this? They staged a mock animal slaying. A protestor dressed in white was put on a table and slaughtered by a plastic cleaver. The protestor screamed in agony while fake blood squirted everywhere. This was exciting. Only in San Francisco can you expect entertainment like this.

This was a barbeque contest. Ms. Goofy and I got to sample and judge some spectacular meat entries. Thirty eight teams were on the playing field today. Our friends Scott & Pam from the team “Too Ashamed to Name” won Reserve Grand Champion. Congratulations to ‘Ridge Route Boys’ bbq team for winning the Grand Championship. What a day. This was the icing on the cake for the 2016 KCBS competitive season. 

Friday, October 21, 2016


As you may know we are on a journey to find the “Gold Standard” of my favorite Mexican dish; Chileverde. We have traveled near and far to find the best dish of cubed pork bathed in gravy of green chile and spices.  What a pleasant surprise when we found Judy’s place located in Crockett California. Crockett is our adjoining town situated on the scenic Carquinez Straits. You might even say Judy’s is “Right under Our Nose”.

Downtown Crockett is all of three blocks long. Judy’s is located at the end of downtown across from the High School. It is a tiny little establishment that at one time was a Foster Freeze. It is family run and owned. We were greeted by Judy and her husband like we were old friends. Inside there is a counter with a menu board. You place your order and choose one of three tables inside or a couple that are outside. The menu is predominately Mexican food but also has El Salvador and Guatemalan influences. We ordered our standard items of Chileverde and Ms. Goofy a pork burrito.

I took high school Spanish and am frequently exposed to the language. I can understand basic sentences but do not even try to speak the language. I mention this because Judy spoke Spanish to her helper explaining the ingredients that went into Chileverede. She instructed her cook to take jalapenos, onions and cilantro and put them in the blender. I was a little concerned at this point. Not to worry I was pleasantly surprised.

The plate of Chileverde looked pretty as a picture. It was served with black beans and white rice a Central American influence. The pork was shredded and tender. It was seasoned nicely. The freshly made chileverde sauce was flavorful with a playful kick from the jalapenos.. Ms. Goofy really loved her burrito. It was huge with the same meat filling that I was served.  We plan to return to explore more of Judy’s menu items. Papusa’s, different mole dishes and for the high school kids; burgers are part of this Latin fusion menu. Did I mention the prices? Judy’s place is more than reasonable that delivers home-style Latin dishes that are prepared to order. Was this the “Gold Standard” for Chileverde? No but Judy’s Place is a local gem that we definitely will return to soon.

Judy’s Place
1207 Pomona Street, Crockett  
  (510) 787-7768

Tuesday, October 18, 2016


The beanie wearing bonafide hipster butcher said they are well known in the meat cutters world. We are talking about the 'Spider' steak. They also may be known as the "Oyster' or the 'Pope's Eye' steak. We are at the Clove & Hoof Butchery/Restaurant to explore a cut of meat that usually ends up ground up into hamburger. The Spider steak is located inside the hip on the Aitch bone, It is a little semi-circle of meat that is weaved with a web of intramuscular fat. I asked the butcher for cooking suggestions. He replied, this cut should be cooked similar to a flank steak. I paid dearly for this Mad Meat Genius experiment with a sticker shock of 25 dollars/pound.

This steak is on the small size weighing approximately 7 ounces. Our butcher verified the smallness and said they are usually bigger. We were on a mission and really only wanted to taste this Spider steak. The seasoning will be simple with a dusting of salt & pepper. The fire will be smoking hot for a quick sear on both sides. A five minute rest and we are ready to sample.

We slice the Spider steak against the grain into strips. Oh my! This was a flavor bomb in beefiness. The texture is similar to a flank steak but our specimen was oh so tender. Ms. Goofy exclaimed how much flavor this richly marbled cut has. I pined for more. This little Spider steak was small but huge on luscious beef flavor. What a shame this cut usually ends up ground into hamburger. If it were not for the twenty five dollar/pound sticker this would be a go-to cut of beef. Yummy!!!!!!

Sunday, October 16, 2016


A little rain did not damper the spirits of thirty eight professional bbq competition teams. In fact the rain let up for the judging and most important of all; beer festival. All this activity was to benefit the 'Sacramento Artists Council'. This event was held in a scenic riverside park in our state capital; Sacramento. Ms. Goofy and I had the privilege to judge and partake of the festivities. Put your raincoat away and come enjoy some images.

 The contest was held at a riverfront park. Fisherman and pleasure boats would occasionally pass by the festival grounds. I do have to mention the weather because it was a factor. The competitors had to brave a steady rain that greeted them Friday afternoon. Canopies, tarps, and motor-homes protected these hardy warriors. The rain did break early Saturday morning just in time for the judges arrival. Mother nature would hold back her wrath till the evening to let the festival goers have semi-dry good time.

 This was a beer and bbq festival. Twenty four micro-breweries were represented today. I liked this image that gave a new meaning to pumpkin beer. Needless to say the festival goer's were in a jovial mood with all this liquid libation. They also got to sample competitive bbq and vote for the 'Peoples Choice' winner. A local wholesaler donated this meat which the competitors cooked for the public.

 We took our spots in the judging tent. We were dry and ready to judge some of the best barbeque in the nation. We were not disappointed. This was a KCBS four meat competition. We sampled and scored; chicken, ribs, pork and brisket. Barbeque at this level is fantastic. It raises the bar and inspires me to cook better.

This competition team insisted that I take a shot of their Alabama university flag. I wanted to oblige; 'Go Alabama'. Congratulations to the team of 'Smokey Luv' for winning the Grand Championship. Smokey Luv also received a perfect score of 180 points in the chicken category. This is no easy feat. Each and every one of the six judges at the table scored all 9's for this entry. Wow. This was a fun day. Mother nature showed a brief reprieve that benefited us all. BBQ and Beer all for a good cause; Good times.

Thursday, October 13, 2016


Rob Ryan of ‘Rob’s Smokin Rub’ has created and released a new bbq rub to add to his ‘Award Winning” lineup of bbq sauces and rubs. Rob’s tagline is;” Rub It With Rob's or Don't Rub It At All”  ‘Rob’s Savory Chipotle Rub is a new flavor which boast to be a Competition Blend Sauce. We know Rob from barbeque competitions. He is a colorful fixture with his bright neon “Frog Sauce” shirts at many events. This new rub is comprised of many fresh ingredients such as; sugar, salt, brown sugar, chili powder spices, ground chipotle powder and natural hickory flavor. Chipotle is a smoked dried jalapeno which will add both a heat and smoky component to this rub. We purchased a bottle and decided to give it a test run on some ribs.

The convenient combination pour slash shake top was opened to reveal an inviting aroma of smoky fresh spices. I dipped a finger in to taste and revealed a sweet and savory type flavor. My first impression was of salt and brown sugar with a hint of smoke. It finished with a slight heat from the chipotle. This flavor combination was pleasing from the get go. To be fair, rubs should be sampled on a protein with heat applied. We liberally dusted some St. Lois style cut pork ribs. A fire was stoked in our smoker. The ribs took a sauna at 240 degrees for three and one half hours.

Look how beautiful they turned out. The sugars had caramelized with magical seasoning properties. I tried a rib before the finishing sauce. The rub ingredients transformed these ribs into savory treats. I thought the all-important balance of heat to sweet was perfect. We did finish these ribs with a bourbon bbq sauce. With the proper cooking technique Rob’s Savory Chipotle Rub very well could win a competition. They sure won at our dinner table.

Rob’s Savory Chipotle Rub.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016


Tropical Zing’s title entices and evokes a fun, tasty sauce offered by the Australian based company; Cobra Chilli. This sauce gets it tropical flair with ginger & pineapple and its Zing from the earthy jalapeno pepper. This sounds like a great combination. Heat Hot Sauce shop is the United States sole distributor and have asked us to try this product.  Come visit the tropics with us via Cobra Chilli.


Fresh pineapple sugar syrup, cider vinegar, lime juice, fresh green jalapeno chilli, ginger, turmeric, salt and pepper are the listed ingredients.

Aroma & Texture;

It took me a couple of seconds to identify, but ginger was the smell that wafted out the open container.  The aroma also has sweetness to it. The texture is thin and fluid.


My first impression is of a sweet sharp earthy flavor with a pineapple finish. The sharpness is from the ginger that is backed up with very gentle warmth from the jalapenos. The pineapple adds a sweetness that rounds out this flavor. This is an interesting flavor. All the flavors of pineapple, ginger, vinegar, jalapeno and ginger can be identified separately with tasting but in the same sentence meld together to form a unique and “Zingy” flavor.


This sauce is mild and will receive one star out of five on the heat meter.


We fired up the barbeque to cook some New York strip steak. A salad and Dutch oven potatoes was the accompaniment. I found myself mixing the salad and Dutch oven scalloped potato with sauce to create a fun and tasty combination. The sweetness from the pineapple and the zesty bite from the ginger added a pleasing and fun food combination. Tropical Zing worked well pairing with these two food items.


We are having a lot of fun trying the Cobra Chilli lineup of sauces. Tropical Zing lives up to its name by delivering a unique and fun sauce. Dare I call it Zingy? Sure. This sauce has a zing with a playful ginger bite and pineapple sweetness. We paired this with salad and potatoes to create tasty accompaniments to our steak dinner. We like it.  You can find Cobra Chilli sauces at Heat Hot Sauce Shop. Heat Hot Sauce shop has very reasonable shipping rates and an awesome ‘Hot Sauce of the Month Club”.

Heat Hot Sauce Shop    (510) 849-1048

Sunday, October 9, 2016


It was time to break out the black iron for the Fall D.O.G. gathering hosted by Rich & Linda Pitts of Richmond, California. Those of you who are not in the know, D.O.G. is the acronym for Dutch Oven Gathering. What a gathering it was. This article is being written from my semi-permanent office on the couch. My prone position is caused by massive food consumption. When one attends a D.O.G. one must, experience, enjoy and to fully appreciate and celebrate dutch oven cooking, sample each and every dish prepared. We would like to share a couple of images with you.

The 'Dam Dog Society' which is the 'Northern California International Dutch Oven Society' chapter, started preparing for this event several months ago. We met at the local Elks club to draw numbered charcoals to determine what dish each member would bring. The categories were broken down into; Main dish, Starch, and Dessert. We passed around a box with charcoals which had a number painted on. Yours truly drew starch. I ended up making a potato dish that consisted of Yukon golds, russets, red onions that were topped with a bread crumb and Parmesan topping.

Rich & Linda have a lovely backyard which we set up camp. There is a huge metal table that is transported to each D.O.G gathering. This custom metal table is perfect to accept lit charcoals and heavy dutch ovens with out catastrophic damage to the backyard. Several pop-up tents were erected to provide shade. Today was very warm with the temperatures in the 80's. With all the black iron being heated by burning charcoal this arena was very toasty. Lot's of snacks and beverages were available to prepare for the feast. Ms. Goofy said she overdid the snacks because this was her first official D.O.G. She did not realize how much food was to come.

The dinner bell was planned to ring at 4:00 o'clock. With all the different dishes being prepared this was a challenge. Shortly after four Mark started the feeding frenzy by announcing several club business items. The serving was very informal. We grabbed a plate and went to town. I will not do justice to all the descriptions of the dishes but will give a brief list. Pulled pork, deep fried Indian bread for tacos, several varieties of baked potatoes, a marinated German beef dish, several cobblers, lava cake, sweet potatoes, rice melody, stuffed bell pepers, bacon wrapped asparagus, beans, chili,beef stew, and so much more. All I can truly say is WOW

What a great day. Whenever a group of like minded people gather, socialize and eat, makes for a special and fun time. To fully appreciate a D.O.G. over indulgence may be a hazard. Oh the price we pay for having a fantastic time. We cannot wait for the next event.