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Archive for October, 2010

Local Review: Floyd’s Place

A dancing pig and cow. Should be good, right?

If you’ve ever been down to Seattle Center, you’ve probably noticed Floyd’s Place. It’s the sports pub and barbecue with a pig and cow doing the do-si-do out front.  It simply has to be good, right?

I finally got my chance to find out.

A rainy Sunday, an important football game on the TV, and nothing but time on my hands. Does it get any better? Everything about the experience was perfect except for one thing: Everything.

Where do I start?   How about the clot of repugnant jackasses crowding the doorway while they chainsmoke, so one can get a good noseful of nausea before stepping inside?  Hey Floyd, you might want to get yourself one of these: http://farm1.static.flickr.com/54/146786168_d8b06af34b.jpg 

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m no stranger to sports bars.  I like a good rowdy crowd. I’m strongly in favor of yelling at the TV, and in fact, I named my fantasy football league “Yell at the TV” in honor of such things.  I even have a certain amount of tolerance for ugly drunks, as long as they don’t get REALLY close to me when speaking.    Oy, I hate that.

But Floyd’s might want to check their liquor control board guidelines on when to cut people off.  By halftime, I was drowning in bad breath and earsplitting voices, and decided to move to a different table. One drunken woman was so shrill, I think she shattered the ice in my Diet Coke.  And the bar was maybe only half full.  I shudder to think how unpleasant that place must be when it’s full.

Let’s get to what’s important: The barbecue.  I ordered the happy hour special, which was slow cooked, barbecue brisket sliders.  Who cares about atmosphere?  I was excited for good barbecue.

The sliders looked fantastic.  The thin-sliced brisket was sliding out from the sides of those miniature white buns.  It smelled great, and the sauce had a really nice dark, molasses look about it.  The curb appeal was excellent. Unfortunately, I decided to eat it.

The meat was cooked well enough. But imagine Chinese-style sweet and sour sauce, loaded up with a Costco-sized batch of chili powder, and that’s what they seemed to be using for barbecue sauce.   Rather than sweet meets spicy, it was more like artificial maple syrup meets a tongue piercing.

I kept re-sampling the sauce hoping it would get better, and I just laughed.   But the joke was on me.  The spiciness wouldn’t let go, and it took a large beer and three glasses of ice water to shake the unpleasant burn.  Granted, I’m not a huge fan of spicy barbecue.  But I still can tell good spicy from bad spicy.  My food-loving friends who enjoy a hot barbecue probably would’ve hated the sliders even more than me.

Assuming that Floyd’s cares — which given the horrible service, I’m not so sure — they need to put more flavor and less heat in their sauce.  And they should probably use less of it, too.  I think under the glaze of horror, there was some pretty good brisket.

So, lesson learned: Floyd’s Place is just plain bad. What a waste of space.

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Why not always use shallots?

I’m starting to wonder if any BBQ recipe that calls for onions isn’t as good or better using shallots instead.

We made my “cheeseburgers that don’t fall apart” last night using a pile of shallots instead of onions, and I was blown away.  Sweeter for certain, and maybe I just imagined it, but the texture seemed to be better, too.  And, by the way, I didn’t lose a scrap of burger through the grate.  The single flip technique still works perfectly for me.

I’ve decided that I’m going to challenge my recipes going forward, and see if shallots aren’t always better.  I love their flavor.

By the way, a random note for anybody who is the slightest bit curious.  My posting on “Cheesburgers that don’t fall apart” has been the most searched for, most viewed, and most commented on posting on the Blue State BBQ blog.   It’s really interesting to me that so many barbecuers have this same problem.  Nice to know I can be of some help.

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Identifying Chow Chow

A food rule I had growing up: It’s ok not to like something, but it’s not ok not to try something.  So, with this in mind, I bought a jar of Chow Chow.

I was at my butcher, waiting in line, and saw homemade jars of the stuff sitting on the shelves. I had no idea what it was other than it looked like yellowish green sauerkraut.

“I’ve never had it,” I confessed.  And the butcher tells me that Chow Chow is big in the South, it’s sweet and spicy, and it’s delicious. I would later learn that this particular recipe was his mother’s. Granted, I was probably going to buy it anyway, but when this wise-looking elderly woman who looked like she personally gave birth to the South started giving me an insisting nod (with a little bit of  the crazy eye), well, that sealed it. I had to try it.

“Big in the South,” is definitely not an automatic for me.  Chicory coffee is big in the south too, and how anyone drinks that stuff is a mystery to me. Nauseating.  Plus, I absolutely love sauerkraut, and I didn’t want Chow Chow to just be a less good version of that.

So, we had some friends over for some apricot chicken wings, corn bread and potato salad, and brought the Chow Chow out.  “Could be terrible,” I warned. 

But it wasn’t.  We unanimously loved  Chow Chow.   (BTW: The Chow Chow we ate looked significantly less slimy than the Chow Chow in the picture I’ve included here.)

It is indeed a little like a kraut, but it’s notably sweeter, has some kick to it, and is definitely mushier. It has more of a sauce-like quality than sauerkraut.  It would be fantastic on a bratwurst.  I almost want to make some brats just to use the Chow Chow on it.

We also unanimously agreed that Chow Chow is a terrible name for something edible, unless you are a dog or cat.

What I don’t know, having never tried any other Chow Chow in my life, is whether if Bob’s wife’s Chow Chow was good, bad or average.  Seemed pretty great, but what do I know?  I guess I’ll just have to try some more.

Also, obviously, I’ve never made any Chow Chow myself, so I can’t endorse any cooking tips at this point.  I’ll see what I can do. Meanwhile, here’s a  little more info on Chow Chow

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chow-chow

http://yesiamsouthern.wordpress.com/2010/09/11/chow-chow-a-southern-or-so-i-thought-institution/

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Fat side up: It’s better

You may recall in my recipe for barbecued pork butt: My position on whether to cook your pork butt fat side up or down has been ‘neutral.’  This is partially because I wasn’t really sure if one way was really better than the other, but mostly because I thought engaging in this argument just would make me too much of a loser-nerd.

That said, I now recognize that keeping a barbecue blog at all pretty much makes me a ‘loser-nerd.’ So, on both issues, I now officially surrender.  I’m a dweeb, and pork butts should be cooked fat side up.

The last two pork shoulders I’ve cooked were the best, most tender, most flavorful butts I’ve had. And both of them were fat side up.  Both were notably juicier, and more thoroughly tender than my past, fat-side-down efforts.  And both pulled a heck of a lot easier.

So, I’m sold.

One down side: Occasionally I’d get a bite so gratuitously fatty, it was a bit of an embarrassment to keep chewing.  “Human beings probably shouldn’t eat this.”   Oh, but they do.

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Tied pork shoulders

I added a “Questions & Requests” page to this blog, and frankly, I keep forgetting to check the mailbag.  Sorry about that.

I opened the Blue State BBQ inbox last night to discover this question asked by three separate people.  Do you have to tie your pork butt? (And one person also asked how.)

I’ve cooked a lot of butts, both tied and untied. And put simply, it just depends.

I have purchased shoulders that were big, small, free range, organic, trimmed, untrimmed, bone in, bone out  – you name it.  And the fact is, the firmness or frailty of each cut has been different every time.  For example, I blogged about a pork butt some time ago that was as firm as a football. There was no way it needed to be tied. 

But I’ve cooked others that were so floppy and dog-eared that if they weren’t tied, they would have come off the grill looking like a blackened stew meat.  

So my advice is to examine your pork shoulder for fissures or flaps of fat, and if you see anything notable, tie the whole thing up.  Or, you could do what I do, and simply decide to always tie your butt – it sometimes helps, but it never hurts.

I typically just ask the butcher to do it for me. But if you want to do it yourself, this video shows an easy method: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VbWMw6lT3uY

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"Famous!"

Review: Virgil’s BBQ in the heart of New York City.

My work took me to New York City this week.  And while some people think Broadway, Central Park, or the Statue of Liberty,  not me.  There has to be good barbecue somewhere in New York, right?

Well, right around the corner from a hideous Planet Hollywood, an overflowing McDonald’s and the world’s biggest, brightest and most annoying Bank of America sign (yes,  we’re taking Times Square) is Virgil’s BBQ. 

Virgil’s  was recommended by a very trustworthy friend of mine. But I have to admit, I found it a bit hard to believe that anything near to that many tourists could be any good.  Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely love New York.  But this was like hoping to find good barbecue in Disney’s Frontier Land.  

Still, a guy’s gotta eat, right?  So it might as well be Virgil’s.

Except for my love of a good sandwich, I had a bad attitude going in.  I admit it.  It’s me, Virgils, not you.

They were breaking so many of my unwritten commandments of BBQ.  For example, the phrase “Famous BBQ” was everywhere.  Oh please.   Even worse, the incessant drone of intolerable pop country music, as if I had walked into a medley recap of the CMAs.  The place was so gratuitously down home, I seriously almost lost my apetite. Say what you will about Seattle BBQ, but you won’t see me wearing a “Howdy” bandana, and talkin’ like I jus finished rustlin’ up the hogs personally.  Anyway, I could go on.  But I won’t.

I was encouraged a bit, though, when the waiter handed me a towel, not a napkin.  Ah! Good sign.

Then I ordered a St Louis style ribs sandwich. I was glad to get the sandwich when I did, because there was some song playing about a soldier who got hisself  a new American flag on the way back from church, er, or something like that.  And I’m not sure how much more I could take.

I did what I always do, and removed the bread.  In this case it was a sliced baguette.  It had a couple of thin pickles squished into the soft side, that didn’t look very appetizing compared to the stack of thick pickle chips that came on the side.

My waiter.

Then I tasted the ribs, and my bad attitude went riding into the sunset. The ribs were smokey, perfect texture, warm and delicious. Really, really good.  I was very surprised, given the hokey atmosphere.  I immediately wished the sandwich had 3 times more meat, but was forced to savor.

I ate half the sandwich before trying it with sauce.  Please take my advice and SKIP the sauce.  Watery, too much vinegar and an ingredients list longer than my forearm.   Fortunately, I didn’t destroy my whole sandwich with the sauce. I suffered through a few mouthfuls with the sauce, and gratefully got back to the sauceless ribs.

I ate most of the second half of the sandwich with the bread, and was thankful the baguette wasn’t too thick or crusty.  It wasn’t as soft and complementary as a good hoagie bun might have been, but it definitely worked, including the anemic pickle slice.

So the bottom line is Virgil’s is really good, in spite of an atmosphere created by the same people who brought you the Country Bear Jamboree.  In a city as big as New York, I’m 100% sure there must be 100 other amazing places, too.  But nice work Virgil’s. I’ll be back.

p.s. Did I mention I did this for breakfast?

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I do try to keep this blog just about the barbecue. But tonight was about my youngest daugher.

This kid, who is in first grade, is the world’s pickiest eater.  Her life’s menu includes plain noodles, rice, salt and butter. Well, and cotton candy, but I’m not counting that.

So, when she says “Dad, I really want steak,” I urgently oblige.  That kid needs some protein. But every meal with this kid is a risk.  You never quite know when she’ll take a bite of something, declare it yucky, and never eat it again. That’s why I always try to make the few things she asks for (that aren’t frozen custard and marshmallows) especially good. When tonight’s steak request came in, I headed for the dry aged beef, again.   

Thick cut, dry aged, rib eye steak.

As you know, we tried dry aged New York Strip steaks a few weeks back, and had mixed results.  Tonight we decided to try again, but with the following differences.

  • First, we went with Rib Eye steaks.  I bought two steaks, cut thick.  As before, I used a little salt and pepper to prep for the cook. But I also brushed on some olive oil.
  • Second, I cooked the steaks at nearly 600 degrees. A super fast cook
  • Third, on some (but not all) of the steak, I basted the finished steak with some garlic and minced shallot heated up in butter.

This was by far a much more successful approach to the steak from last time. Not a little better. A lot better.

But I have reached the same conclusion.  As delicious as it was, I’m just not convinced it’s worth triple the cost.  Am I alone on this?

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