Chilebrown at home

Sunday, July 30, 2017


We knew it was the right freeway exit when we could smell garlic. We were on our away to the Gilroy Garli-Que Challenge. The garlic festival is one of the largest food themed events in the United States attracting approx 100,000 people over a 3 day period. The garlic festival was also holding a KCBS State Championship which we were privileged and honored to be judges. The Racing Honda had special privileges today because we parked in the coveted volunteer lot right next to the festival. All else had to park several miles away in a field to be bus shuttled. Let's take a look.

The festival had several area for craftsman to sell their wares. This image above is of a bacon cooker. It involved a large ceramic cup with an attached saucer which one would drape bacon over the top of the cup. You would then bake or microwave the unit until the bacon became crisp. The fat would drip into the cup and saucer with crisp bacon remaining. It sounded interesting but at 25 dollars a pop I will stick to my trusty black iron. There was also plenty of garlic themed product to choose from today. I did find some garlic hot sauces.

It was hot today and it was crowded. There were plenty of refreshments and music to cool the stinking rose perfumed crowd. There was a cooking stage for garlic dish demonstrations. Giada De Laurentis was scheduled for the next day and we were sorry to miss her. We performed our judging duties and had some fantastic bbq today. I do have to admit none of the bbq competitors braved a garlic themed sauce or rub. We did score and sample championship bbq.

This is a picture of our friends Dana & Ric of the competition bbq team "Ric's Righteous Ribs" who took first place in the auxillary category entitled. "Anything Goes with Garlic". Congratulations to 'Smokin Mo's" for taking Grand Champions. We have to wait a whole week for our next bbq event. See you there.

Thursday, July 27, 2017


Volpi's Restaurant & Bar was our lunch destination after a morning Meat Adventure. The Great White Hunter and I visited several of our favorite meat markets for protein acquisition. With full ice chest we wanted also wanted to fill our souls with comforting Italian food. Volpi's is a historic and iconic destination Italian restaurant located in Petaluma California. Volpi's built in 1900 was originally a grocery store and during prohibition was reputed to be a speak-easy. Today it was our lunch destination. Parking Karma was present today but not in full force because the Great White Hunter was behind the wheel. After several attempts we parked right across the street from Volpi's.

Inside of Volpi's ones senses are bombarded with an eclectic collection of kitsch. Wine bottles, posters, statues, stuffed animal heads and a famous back room bar is this colorful establishment. The tables are adorned with tradition red checkered table cloths. The place is fairly empty for this Wednesday afternoon. Our cheerful waitress brings us a lunch menu and we decide on our options. I ask to order off the dinner menu because of my hankering for a steak. No problem. The Great White Hunter orders tripe on a bed of polenta.

At lunch you have a soup/salad option unlike dinners which include both. I opted for both and was really happy with my colorful hearty salad. The minestrone was home made, thick and full of identifiable vegetables. Our entrees arrived promptly. My rib-eye steak was tender and satisfying with beefy love. The pasta was passable and the green beans where; well they are green beans. The Great White Hunter was uncharacteristically silent during his meal. He did come up for air and proclaim the tripe had just enough barnyard flavor. Don't ask.

Volpi's was a fun and satisfying place to have a meal. The interior decoration is a little crazy but it surely adds character. The service was great and the food filled the bill. I would like to come back. This was a nice ending to our Meat Adventure

Volpi's Restaurant & Bar
124 E Washington St,
 Petaluma, CA 94952

P.S. I almost forgot the spumoni ice cream and coffee I had for dessert. It was very refreshing but I am not sure if it was true spumoni. It was more ice cream in the Neapolitan style with pistachio ice cream instead of strawberry. It was quit good.

Monday, July 24, 2017


Dinner and a show were on the menu tonight. We are going to have a gala night on the town in beautiful Antioch California. Those of you that live in Northern California may be scratching their heads with that statement. Antioch is not known for fine dining and entertainment. We had tickets for a Illusionist/mentalist Kevin Blake at the historic El Campanil Theater. The El Campanil Theater is an old vaudeville house dating back from 1928 that has been restored and revitalized. We chose to eat at the Riverview Lodge before the show mainly because it was in walking distance from the theater.
We arrive at Riverview Lodge to find blocked off streets. The Dragon Club was having a car show this evening. We walked several blocks and enjoyed the car show. The car show surrounded the restaurant and it was very crowded. We walk into the Riverview and it is packed and seemed chaotic. I find the hostess and she says it will be about a 15 minute wait. Sure enough we waited only about 15 minutes. It seems the bar was a lot more popular than the restaurant. The locals knew something we did not.

The Riverview Lodge is a very nice old school throwback to nostalgic times. There are windows overlooking the scenic Carquinez Straits and the inside has a nautical sort of theme. The menu is mainly seafood with a few steak options. Our waitress is very pleasant and prompt in the middle of all the chaos and mayhem. (There really was not mayhem but I like the sound of the word). I order a N.Y. steak but the waitress suggests the prime rib. Sure, why not? Medium rare was my choice with French fries. Ms. Goofy opts for the fish and chips.

We also order two house salads. The salads  arrive warm. Something was just not right about a warm salad. Ms. Goofy refused to eat but I was starving and braved these tepid greens. Our dinner entrees arrived in decent time. The prime rib was not medium rare but medium and my fries morphed into a baked potato. Because we were going to a show and how crowded this restaurant was I just bit my tongue ate it. The melody of vegetables reminded me of my high school cafeteria. The prime rib sat in a pool of meat juices and au jus sauce. I would venture this meat has not rested because of all the meat juices and it was also on the dry side. Ms. Goofy’s fish and chips were dry and chewy. She did like the fries.

The Riverview Lodge may have been a great restaurant a very long time ago. It is now sad and tired. The bar and car show is very popular. Oh how we wanted to love the food but it missed on so many cylinders. Our show was entertaining. This was a night out on the town in Antioch California. We will be back but will search for another place to dine.

Saturday, July 22, 2017


The Buck 110 is my favorite pocket knife and I carry one all the time. Buck Knives company released a custom knife to celebrate the 4th of July. It is called the 'Americana'. It is made as a classic folding hunter. It has nickel silver bolsters, red and blue laminate scales with finger grooves. This knife is a beauty and I am proud to add it to my collection.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017


Buy me some peanuts and Crackerjacks. It was a beautiful day to go to the ball park.and watch our Oakland A's. It has been awhile since we have attended a game. The weather was beautiful and hot. We were lucky to be sitting in the shade to soak up our baseball surroundings. Marshawn Lynch who was recently signed by our football team the 'Oakland Raiders' threw out the ceremonial first pitch. As I said it has been awhile since our last game and things have been updated since our last visit.

The music seems louder and it seems that one is constantly bombarded with lights and some sort of distracting manufactured stimulation. There are the dot races, the oversize bobblehead races, 50/50 raffles, pie eating contest and something that caught my attention was the "Bacon Inning". Some fans went home with free bacon. The scoreboard has a wealth of information telling every statistic you ever wanted to know or not. There were some new stats that I have never even heard off; B.A.B.I.P, W.A.R.., D.R.S., F.I,P. and more. Does all this add to the baseball experience? It may have helped the A's win today.

Peanuts and Crackerjacks was not enough today so we went for Pizza. Skipolini's a chain restaurant built this pie. It was thick crusted and topped with savory traditional ingredients. It was the perfect ending for our day at the ball park. 

Sunday, July 16, 2017


Clayton California warmed up to sizzling temperatures and it may have been caused by the 2017 Clayton BBQ Cook-Off. This was a KCBS sanctioned event in the Competitor Series. The Competitor series is a smaller contest in the meat department. Instead of the four meats of chicken, ribs , pork and brisket, the Competitor Series only cooks ribs and chicken. There were forty six teams competing today. This group was broken down into a pro division (18) and backyard division (28). Gentlemen start your grills.

It was hot today. The thermometer was hovering in the nineties. This team above was taking a beer break in the shade at 9:30 am. We judges were lucky to be in an air conditioned building. It was a good thing we were cool because the heat rose with all the yummy entries.

This was my favorite team name of the day. I hope it is not s sign of the future pending  KCBS rule change  allowing gas and propane as a cooking source. We will discuss this controversial rule change in the future. The grill below must be from Texas evident from the chapeau. 

We leave you today with a space ship of fun memories. Congratulations to our friends Michele and Richard of the team "Cecils" for winning the Grand Championship'. I cannot wait till next weekend for more bbq.

Friday, July 14, 2017


We travel to West Oakland California to experience ‘Crave BBQ Restaurant”  a “Pop-Up” bbq restaurant run by Rashad and Chandi Armstead. Pop-up is the new craze in the restaurant world. It takes a lot of money and dedication to open a brick and mortar restaurant and pop ups are a good way to test the water.. Crave’s temporary location is in an old converted gas station. They have to do all their food preparation in a commercial kitchen located at another site. They do have some smokers in the back to cook some of the meats. I find a parking spot right in front because you know I have parking karma. I do have only 45 minutes until my spot becomes a street sweeping zone. Let’s eat some bbq.

The inside is fairly sparse of d├ęcor except for the menu board and some very nice art work by local artists for sale on the walls. There are a couple of tables outside for an urban dining experience. You place your order from the menu board and right away the owner Rashad prepares your food. Crave BBQ does not skimp on the proportions. This was one heavy box of meat. I ordered a plate called the “MVP”. This consisted of three meats and three sides. I chose brisket, pork ribs, pulled pork, potato salad, beans, mac & cheese and two pieces of corn bread. I chose to eat outside because it was a beautiful day.

I will cut to the chase right away. This was a great bbq meal. The meats were flavorful and there was a lot of attention paid to the side dishes. I really enjoyed the side dishes. The Mac & cheese had a crust of cheese that was out of this world. The beans were sweet but savory that had me ‘Crave’ing the next bite. The potato salad with it pickle twang was the star of this side dish extravaganza. This was comfort food at its best.

Being a bbq judge I tend to be over critical of bbq meat offering. Is it fair for me to compare this to competition bbq? I do not think so. I enjoyed these meat offerings. With that said, the pulled pork had a bark that had great smoke and just the right combination of spices. The brisket slices were a little inconsistent in tenderness. One slice was tough as shoe leather but the next could have possibly won a bbq competition. The smoke did not overpower but complimented. The ribs had a good spice rub that flavored this meat perfectly. It did fall off the bone.  I asked Rashad what spice he used but would only tell me it had sugar and the rest was a secret. Fair enough.

Crave BBQ has a lot going for it. The side dishes were spectacular. You know they are home made with care and love. The meats were flavorful and I enjoyed them. There were some inconsistencies in tenderness but overall they were a hit. I ate these meats without sauce because they had plenty of flavor. House made bbq sauce was available but I passed because they were a little flat and fueled by liquid smoke. Crave is located in West Oakland which is an evolving neighborhood.. We wish Rashad and Chandi  success with Crave BBQ Restaurant.

Crave BBQ
1700 Center St
Oakland, Ca 94607

Wednesday, July 12, 2017


It has been a banner year for my knife collection. I had the opportunity to buy another Bob Kramer knife. This is almost like winning the lottery. This is a very beautiful and functional pocket knife. Some of its elite attributes are as followed; Titanium Liner Lock, AEBL Stainless Steel blade (61-62 HRC)  and Carbon fiber handle. I am one lucky knife collector.

Saturday, July 8, 2017


Our friend and fellow certified KCBS Master Judge Tracy is having some temporary health problems and was unable to attend this weekends "Wine Country Big Q Competition and Festival" She asked me to take a few pictures. This montage of photos hopefully will give Tracy a sense of today's event. This was a fun event but was just not the same with out Tracy. Let take a look.

Congratulations to the team "Sharpe Gourmet Cooking Wood' for winning Grand Champion today. I hope this cheers you up a little Tracy, because a lot of people missed you today and we all hope you will get well soon.