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Archive for October, 2011

Halloween appropriate BBQ

Everyone on the tavern side of the Boneyard Bistro looked like they could beat me up, with the possible exception of the guy dressed up as Waldo for Halloween.

But given that a BBQ lunch there goes for about $30 a plate, I’m going to guess that maybe these guys weren’t living life quite as hard as their tattoos suggested. That, plus the fancy neighborhood in which you’ll find the Boneyard, I’m guessing that “Freedom” tattoo just meant freedom from high interest debt.

Anyway, I was eager to try The Boneyard after a “feh, just ok” lunch down the street last week at Mr. Cecil’s California Ribs.  Well, as I said to Waldo on the way in, “at last, I’ve found you!”  I discovered a truly great barbecue lunch, even if it was ten dollars more than it should have been.

It may not have been the best I’ve ever had, and I have many (many) more to try in L.A., but this place was excellent. Go there.

But for what?

Don’t ask the waiter. He suggested everything.  “The brisket is good. So is the pulled pork. Oh, and you should try the ribs.  Actually, you should try the other ribs, too….” and so on.  One thing I learned in waiter college:  have an opinion, for Pete’s sake. Alas, I was forced to land on a two meat sampler of brisket and ribs, with sides of collard greens and cole slaw.

Before I get to the barbecue, can I first highly recommend the collard greens? I could have eaten a bucket of that.  The greens were hot, tender and awesome, probably because they were swimming what can only be described as brown sugar juice. I ate a spoonful of the dill-heavy cole slaw and decided, forget it … I’m just eating those greens. (Full disclosure: I basically hate dill, unless it has something to do with pickles.)

Now, as for the barbecue, both the brisket and ribs were very good, and I credit the rub.

The Boneyard Bistro barbecue rub is just how I like it. Sweet, smoky and plenty of it.  You may remember when I wrote about “how much rub to rub on your ribs,” I pointed out that a lot of restaurants may be skimping on rub because the brown sugar blackens, making the food look burnt (even though it’s not).  Not an issue at Boneyard. The rub was used liberally. It blackened nicely, and tasted great.

The sauce was one of the more vinegar-y sauces I’ve ever tasted. For me, it didn’t really improve the flavor of either meat, so after a few tries, I abandoned it.

Of the two, I’m going to say the ribs were slightly better than the brisket, only because the brisket was just the slightest bit crumbly. I wouldn’t say it was too dried out, but for sure, a few bites disintegrated on my fork, and that’s a no-no.  Don’t get me wrong, I’d order the brisket again, without question. But it definitely wasn’t perfect.

Anyway, the bottom line is there’s no reason whatsoever to go to Mr. Cecil’s when Boneyard Bistro is just a block away

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Please forgive my crappy photos. Not exactly the best light in there.

For the next five weeks, the Blue State BBQ is sadly AFG (away from grill). We are, instead, living in a glorified hotel room in Los Angeles, with little other choice than to sample whatever barbecue L.A. has to offer.

Using the tried and trusted method of “driving down the street until you find a barbecue,” our first stop was Mr. Cecil’s: A well regarded barbecue with three locations in LA.
I happened to find the Sherman Oaks location, down the street from a Starbuck’s filled entirely with people who are much better looking than me.  (I like to think I was serving the vital purpose of gawking at them all, because otherwise, who were they looking so good for, exactly?)

Mr. Cecil’s is less than a block away from another barbecue restaurant, which I’ll try next week.  What I don’t understand is how there can be this much barbecue, in a location featuring so many fantastically thin and fit people. The magical properties of barbecue never cease to surprise me.

Anyway, Mr. Cecil’s looks great except for the poster in the window declaring it “The West’s Best BBQ.”  This sort of boasting is usually a sign indicating mediocrity.  Even more so is walking into a barbecue restaurant at lunch time during college football season, and discovering that you are their only customer.

“You all came in just for me,” I asked?
“Yes we did,” the bartender said. “You can sit anywhere.”

The look dried out because, yeah, they were.

Yeah, no kidding.

Because Cecil’s proclaims fame for ribs, I ordered a rib sampler with both beef and baby back ribs.  On an encouraging note, the sauces came on the side (good sign), one sweet, one spicy. The ribs arrived, pre-cut and blackened around the edges. I spent most of the meal trying to decide if I liked them.

On the one hand, the ribs were dry. Too dry. And I couldn’t understand why they were served to me like a basket of potato logs. These were already some pretty dry ribs, so to slice them up, blacken them and serve them like chicken fingers seemed like adding insult to injury. Also on the negative side, on at least three of the ribs I ate, the membranes were still on, so I had to pull at the meat like a vulture.  Blech. It’s one thing to be lazy at home and leave the membranes on, but at a restaurant, I expect the cooks to pull those skins off.

But on the other hand, I liked that the ribs were cooked simply. They didn’t hide under sauce or too much spice. The sauces were simple and tasty (and by the way, the spicy sauce isn’t spicy in the slightest).  And except for the membrane issues, the ribs were very tender. The beef ribs in particular were surprisingly tender, and I preferred them to the pork ribs, which is unusual for me.  The flavor was good, even if not the best I’ve had.  So, I can’t really condemn Mr. Cecil’s.

So, “Best of the West?”  Not a chance.  But we’ll give it a “Good enough for the skinny bodies of Sherman Oaks.”
Hopefully next week, we’ll get something better just down the street.

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No.

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Italy and Meat

Italy may be known for pasta, but it’s clearly not a safe place for pigs.  I’ve never seen so much prosciutto. And while Italy isn’t exactly a home for barbeque, it certainly was una casa per carnivori, so we here at Blue State BBQ approve.

The only barbecue I saw in Italy was slow-cooked tripe.  Those who know me know I’ll try just about anything. The thought of tripe doesn’t bother me in the slightest, and there was a street-vendor cart selling slow-cooked pulled tripe sandwiches in Florence that smelled so good, I almost caved. But alas, I passed, having just eaten a second breakfast of chocolate and coconut gelato.

Regretting that decision now. I should have sucked it up.

Anyway, here are a few meat-loving highlights from Italy for you:

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