Archives - February 2009
Massachusetts BBQ: Memphis Roadhouse Rumored Closed
This is sad news, because at one time I considered Memphis Roadhouse (South Attleboro MA, and not to be confused with Texas Roadhouse) one of my favorite barbecue restaurants. The place assaulted the senses, starting with the smell of real burning wood in the parking lot and a combination of barbecue and steak aromas inside. You could hear the sizzle of a live fire and watch briskets being taken out of the smoker and sliced. The steak display case put the raw meats right out front for inspection. The ribs were available wet or dry. The music fit in without drowning out conversation. The sauces arrived in warmed bottles. The texture of the 'cue was usually spot on. Things started slipping a bit over the last year or two, but even on an off day, I'd put Memphis Roadhouse up there in the top 20-25% percent of barbecue joints within New England. I'm still not sure if they are closed or what the circumstances are, but I received word last night from a reliable source, and the restaurant was not answering the phone for most of the evening. If Memphis Roadhouse is gone, I will miss it. www.memphisroadhouse.com
Massachusetts BBQ: Outlaw BBQ Has Reopened
I won't get into the reasons for the temporary closing, but Outlaw BBQ (Foxboro MA) has opened once again, albeit with different hours. The weekday lunch buffet is no more; in fact, lunch is only offered Friday through Sunday. www.outlawbbq.com
New York City BBQ: Johnny Utah's Still Open, Barbecue Off the Menu
Johnny Utah's, the joint more famous for its mechanical bull than for its food, no longer offers barbecue, at least for now. Pulled pork, brisket and ribs are off the menu, and the chicken wings are no longer billed as smoked. Director of Special Events Stephanie Kinney hinted that the change might only be temporary: "We did a menu change for the season and wanted to put a little different twist on it. Hopefully some items will return." She also confirmed that executive chef Marlon Manty, formerly of Blue Smoke and Mesa Grill, is still at the helm: www.johnnyutahs.com
Massachusetts BBQ: Firefly's Loses A Catering Manager, Adds Sweet Tea Vodka
More news from the Firefly's camp (three MA locations). Catering manager Henry Woodworth, who had been with the company since its inception and was a familiar face regulars at Marlborough and Framingham, has handed in his apron to "retire" to a new career in Florida, where the waters are warmer and the fishing livelier. At the farewell bash Monday evening, competition luminaries such as Dr. Frank 'n' Swine were on hand to offer warm wishes, bust balls, collect on old debts and work the buffet.
(l-r) Henry Woodworth (with fishing rod), Amy Uliss, Steve Uliss.
Firefly's loss is the South's gain, but last week saw Firefly's take something in return from the South: Sweet Tea Vodka from the Firefly Distillery (no relation) in Frankfort KY. It has all the characteristics of a thick, syrupy Southern sweet tea, but with a little something extra. It's already being used in the Loaded Arnold Palmer that's on the Firefly's revamped drink menu.
Read My Lips: No New (Meal) Taxes
I’m hearing rumblings of proposed emergency legislation being championed by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick to close a $1.1 billion midyear budget gap. The plan is to increase the state meals tax to 6%, with local cities and towns optionally able to add an additional 1%. Ouch.
From a practical standpoint, an extra 1% or 2% isn't going to affect me. I'm not going to go to restaurants any less frequently, and I'm not going to tip any less. But that 1% or 2% can be the final straw for some less passionate folks who might not be able to eat out as often. More importantly, it would be yet another blow for restaurant employees, who comprise nearly 10% of the state's workforce. Servers who depend on tips for their livelihood have already felt the sagging economy hit them three ways: fewer customers, lower check totals and lower tip percentages on those totals. The extra tax will probably enrage all three heads of that monster. And the restaurant owners? They’ve got enough problems already.
Why single out restaurants and the people who like to go to them? One obvious response—and one that I can understand, if not agree with—is that dining at restaurants is a luxury, so if you can afford that luxury, you can afford the extra tax. That sounds good, but different people have different passions, different vices and different “luxuries” in this case. My thing is going out to restaurants. I'm often asked, "How can you afford to eat out so much?" The answer is simple. I drive an inexpensive car, wear generally inexpensive clothes, rarely see movies in the theater (nearly as expensive as restaurants), and rarely attend concerts or watch sporting events in person (way more expensive than restaurants). I don't own a boat or a second home. My television is a 19" dinosaur from the 1990s. If your luxury is a Mercedes or a closet full of Armani suits or a boat or a second home or a high-def entertainment system with a 60" flat panel screen, more power to you. Just don't expect me to pay more taxes than you because I choose high tops over high-def.
Ideally, taxes shouldn't be raised at all. But if they are, why not introduce a 0.25% or a 0.50% sales tax increase across the board rather than focusing on one luxury and one industry? Let’s let the well-dressed and the well-fed feed the system equally.
Boston BBQ: Jake Jacobs is the New Pitmaster at Roadhouse Craft Beer and Barbecue
This news just came in from David Ciccolo, owner of the Roadhouse (Brookline MA). Details are still forthcoming, but according to Ciccolo, Kenton "Jake" Jacobs (formerly of Jake's Boss BBQ and a familiar face on the festival circuit) will be manning the pits at the brew-focused eatery. I'm looking forward to seeing—and tasting— how this development unfolds. Stay tuned.
Jake Jacobs, the man Chris Schlesinger calls the "Living Legend of BBQ."
Joints Directory Madness
Here's the latest batch of barbecue Joints directory activity, spanning three states. This time there are three new joints, one likely closing, four new websites and a new phone number.
Smokin' Q (New York City) had already closed its dining room a few months back, focusing on delivery only while they supposedly looked for a new location. Now the website is down and the phone, while still connected, goes unanswered. www.smokinqnyc.com (dead)
BBQ In Harlem (NYC) is an uptown joint that, like the erstwhile Smokin' Q, offers only delivery for now.
Doc's Ribs (NYC) is another new Harlem joint with an interesting pedigree: Chef Carl Redding is best known for building up and then selling off the legendary Amy Ruth's. www.docsharlemrestaurant.com
Ol' West BBQ (Annandale NJ) is a new find from the not-often-heard-about New Jersey barbecue scene. Thanks to Sledneck for the info. http://www.olwestbbq31.com
Beefside (Concord NH) had the website included in my recent review, but when it first entered the directory months earlier, I didn't have that information. Thanks to Eric for the follow-up. www.beefsiderestaurant.com
Tennessee Jed's (Wantagh NY) now has a website. Actually four web addresses, all leading to the same site. Thanks to Sledneck for the info. www.tennesseejeds.LI www.Jeds.LI www.Barbeque.LI www.Barbecue.LI
Barbeque Bill's (Greenport NY) now has a website, with just one address. Thanks again to Sledneck. www.bbqbillsrestaurant.com
Maple Tree BBQ (Riverhead NY) now has a website, ferreted out by Sledneck. www.mapletreebbq.com
Brooklyn Ice House (Brooklyn NY) now has a phone, whose number is listed in the directory thanks to (you guessed it) Sledneck. When I called to verify, I asked if they had a website or online menu. The person who answered the phone said, "Sorry, no, but just think good food!" I hope she's right.
Boston: Pork Menu at Tremont 647 permalink
I'm writing this at 4:00AM, because in my sleep I just figured out the culinary pun (I'll get to that later) from last night's dessert at Tremont 647, whose pork tasting menu runs through February. I've learned to always expect the unexpected whenever I'm at Tremont 647: a dish I wouldn't usually order turning out to be the biggest hit of the night, or a background component of a dish upstaging the other ingredients and leaving the biggest impression. Last night was no different.
Pork is often referred to as a blank canvas, ready to take on whatever flavors the chef imparts. I also like to use an art analogy when I think of different chefs and their approaches to food, and chef Andy Husbands is acrylics all the way: bold strokes, bold colors, bold flavors. I was expecting the trademark layers and layers of flavors, but last night he took a more painterly approach, using watercolor strokes to incorporate the supporting flavors while allowing the pork itself do the talking. Unexpected, but it worked really well.
The changing pork menu is now in a Thai phase, and the current appetizer is a crispy pork belly with a sweet and spicy glaze. The layers and layers this time were textural, from the crispy exterior to the chewy meat below to the soft underbelly of the belly. The flavor? Pure pig, with the glaze accentuating rather than overpowering the porky goodness that was already there. Next up was curry pork loin, each slice pink, surprisingly delicate and served on the same plate as pho (dipping is optional) with slippery rice noodles; you can't get any more texturally diverse than that. The lychee tapioca with candied bacon brittle dessert echoed the first course in both its sweet/savory pairing and its chewy/crispy mouthfeel tandem. I made sure to eat the pearls before swine.
Boston BBQ: Blue Ribbon To Unveil Stout Braised Short Rib Special Tomorrow Night
Tomorrow night Blue Ribbon (W. Newton MA, Arlington MA) will run a special at both locations featuring Stout Braised Short Ribs with two sides for $14.99. Owner Geoff Janowski recommends the Creole stewed tomato and hominy bake. www.blueribbonbbq.com
Photo courtesy Geoff Janowski, Blue Ribbon BBQ. Used with permission.
New York BBQ: Mets Fans Rejoice—Blue Smoke, Shake Shack to Expand to Citi Field
This is old news, but it slipped through the cracks on this site until now. I knew there'd be another outpost of Danny Meyer's popular Shake Shack burger joint at the Mets new ballpark when it opens this April, but The Feed Bag yesterday reported that there will also be another Blue Smoke, the barbecue restaurant also owned by Meyer and the Union Square Hospitality Group. Blue Smoke can justifiably claim credit for igniting the barbecue renaissance in New York City, and Shake Shack has arguably the best burger in the Northeast. Both eateries will be a part of the outfield concurse that will be available to all Mets ticket holders.
read The Feed Bag story on Blue Smoke at Citi Field
Massachusetts BBQ: Firefly's To Offer a Week's Worth of Fat Tuesday Menu Specials
Next Tuesday is Fat Tuesday (the literal translation of "Mardi Gras"), but the menu specials at Firefly's (Marlborough MA, Framingham MA, Quincy MA) will run from Saturday to Saturday. For the barbecue fan, the highlight should be the Mardi Gras Ribs: "a rack of sweet and spicy dry rubbed St. Louis ribs basted with a blackberry, satsuma Bayou sauce." Owner Steve Uliss notes that the satsuma is an organge indigenous to the New Orleans area and calls it "the Meyer lemon of oranges." Other Mardi Gras menu specials include:
14-ounce chili rubbed rib eye with andouille and poblano hash
Crazy Roo's Jambalaya with creole ham, smoked chicken and andouille
Fried oysters with all the fixins including fried jalapenos and a creole remoulade
Creole shrimp, chile crusted and pan seared and served atop a cilantro dressing and chile lime field greens
White chocolate bread pudding
Randazzle King Cakes flown in from New Orleans
Massachusetts BBQ: BT's Smokehouse Offers Late Night BBQ Sandwiches at the Trailside Diner and Introduces the "Pig Trip Platter"
It's been a busy few months for Brian Treitman and BT's Smokehouse (Brimfield MA): a newborn child, a few Bourbon pairing menus, a new satellite "Snack Shack" location in Sturbridge, a beef jerky consignment for Doctor Gonzo's, a whole smoked pig at Pioneer Brewery this Sunday (scroll down a few days for details).
But the activity continues: BT's chili, pulled pork sandwiches and brisket sandwiches are now available at the Trailside Diner at the 12 Crane building in Southbridge MA. The late night menu is available Thursday through Saturday nights from 11:00PM to 3:00AM.
At the original BT's location in Brimfield, the week-old Pig Trip Platter supplies a 1/2 rack of pork ribs, a giant beef short rib, pulled pork, brisket and all four sides (potato salad, cole slaw, beans and cornbread mini-loaf) for $25. I know a few barbecue restaurants that charge $25 for just a short rib, so this is a cost-effective combo that's sure to leave some leftovers (that plus an extra quart of the addictive cole slaw lasted three meals for me). The "Go the extra mile" option adds chicken and chili for an extra $7.
Also new to the Brimfield menu is smoked, deli-sliced turkey. And if you didn't already know, house-cured bacon and smoked salmon have been available for months.
Long Island BBQ: All You Can Eat Barbecue Buffet Starts Tomorrow at Smoking Sloe's, Thursdays Through Saturdays
Usually all-you-can-eat offers get assigned to the early end of the week, like Monday or Tuesday nights, but Smoking Sloe's (Northport NY) is going straight to prime time. The barbecue buffet starts tomorrow night (February 19) and will run every Thursday through Saturday at dinner for the forseeable future.
"I'm putting almost the entire menu out there on the buffet, and the only reason I don't put everything out is I don't have the room," announced owner Roger Montague. The buffet offerings will include soup (with a barbecue flair), pork ribs, pulled pork, smoked chicken, brisket, eight different sides and rolls to make sandwiches. The cost is $14.95 for adults, $6.95 for children under 12.
New Hampshire BBQ: Beefside Reviewed
The site's 155th review and the third review in as many weeks is now available for Beefside in Concord NH, proving that expectation has much to do with your enjoyment of a new place. Check it out via the Reviews page or link to reviews using the red icons in the Joints directory.
NYC BBQ: Nick Solares Calls Wildwood's Burger the Most Compelling Item on the Menu
Nick Solares (aka Beef Aficionado), who adeptly covers the New York City burger beat for A Hamburger Today, weighs in today on the burger at Wildwood (New York NY).
The good news: "this is a fantastic burger."
The bad news: "the burger is the most compelling item on the Wildwood menu."
read the full review of Wildwood's burger at A Hamburger Today
Boston BBQ: Andy Husbands is a James Beard Award Semi-Finalist
Last Friday the James Beard Foundation released its 2009 list of semi-finalists for the prestigious James Beard food, chef and restaurant awards. Andy Husbands of Tremont 647 (Boston MA) is among the 20 semi-finalists for Best Chef, Northeast. The finalists will be announced March 23 and the awards will be announced May 3-4.
read the list of all semi-finalists
NYC BBQ: Georgia's Eastside Adds Beer
More news from last week, this time from Time Out New York, who on The Feed reported that Georgia's Eastside BBQ (New York NY) now has a custom cooler with a wide assortment of beers.
read The Feed post on Georgia's Eastside BBQ
Massachusetts BBQ: Brian Treitman of BT's Going Whole Hog at Pioneer Brewing, Feb 22
Brian Treitman of BT's Smokehouse (Brimfield MA, Sturbridge MA) will be smoking a
whole 100-lb pig at Pioneer Brewing Company (Fiskdale MA) on Sunday, February 22. The event runs from noon to 5:00PM and includes sides and rolls from Pioneer Brewing, musical entertainment from Burn Pile, all the smoked pig you can eat and Pioneer beers available for purchase. Tickets (only 100 available) are $10.00 and may be purchased at Pioneer's Stein Hall or by phone at (508) 347-7500.
Boston BBQ: Redbones to Open 18 Kegs From Brooklyn's Sixhpoint Craft Ales, Feb 18
Redbones (Somerville MA) has a well-deserved reputation for being a destination for both beer and barbecue, so this Wednesday's no-reservations event fits right in. They're opening 18 kegs from Brooklyn's Sixpoint Craft Ales, plus two cask-conditioned beers. From 5:00PM to 7:00PM, you can taste 20 different beers and chat with representatives from Southpoint. Order a beer and you can enjoy some free appetizers.
NYC BBQ: Southern Hospitality Unveils New Weekly Specials Starting With Tonight's All You Can Eat Shrimp
It was only last week that I said for the umpteenth time that the focus should be on the food, not the (alleged) owner, so let's focus on this: Southern Hospitality (New York NY) kicks off a new set of weekly specials tonight with all you can eat "peel your own" shrimp for $15.95. On Tuesdays it's a 1-lb lobster for $19.95; on Wednesdays it's a pound of smoked prime rib for $14.95. See the chalkboard below for the rest of the deals that run 7 days a week. www.southernhospitalitybbq.com
Connecticut BBQ: A Few Quick Thoughts After Watching the Wilson's Segment on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives
The DVR is a wonderful thing. Thanks to that, I just watched Ed Wilson and Wilson's Holy Smoke Barbeque (Fairfield CT) on last Monday's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives series with Guy Fieri. Some quick reaction:
The show captured the across-the-board high quality the meats can achieve while correctly leaning to the pulled pork as the specialty.
Even though much time was spent on the barbecue sauce, they failed to mention the fact that it won the NBBQA's award of excellence.
What do you call that thing, a meard or a bustache?
Vacation Tips for Next Week's Lucky Ones
With President's Day next Monday and school vacation all next week, many will be taking real vacations in warmer climes than the Pigtrip region can offer right now. Here are some travel tips that might help you get the most out of your vacation:
Plan, plan, plan. Not to the point where your vacation has to be so regimented that the fun is gone, but why miss anything?
A trip that overlaps a major holiday like Thanksgiving or Christmas may cost you a little more, but you may make that up with the savings from not burning a couple of your precious vacation days. And if that avoids a weekend at the in-laws, even better!
For dinners, I like a good mix of fine dining and simple local fare. It's always best to save the latter for "beach days" when you don't have to worry about getting back to the hotel, changing and getting to a reservation on time.
For casual lunches (stands, street vendors, over-the-counter joints), plan for two per day. My wife thinks eating two lunches is crazy, but who said you have to eat two lunches? Order the plate lunch or hot dog or pulled pork sammy or chicken enchilada at two different joints, eat half of each and call it a day. You'll eat better, eat less and spend less than going to the local Applebee's. And you might strike gold, making a discovery you can return to later in the week that you might not have known about if you lunched just once.
Dinners seem to stick to the schedule much more easily than lunches, which can get derailed if you pass through a specific location a few hours earlier or later than originally planned. That's why it's good—even if you don't believe in the doubling-up tip—to have about twice as many lunch candidates as you think you need.
Never trust one source. Use Zagat for leads, then follow up with Chowhound. Or take advantage of blogs like Pigtrip that supply not only opinion but also photos that allow you to form your own opinion even before you walk in the door.
Avoid chains, as you should even when you're at home, but there are a few exceptions. If you have a chance to try a regional chain, such as a Krystal's or a Sonic or a Carl's Jr., go for it (but as a snack, not as a waste of a full fledged meal). And sometimes even a McDonald's is worth a look to see what local spin is available, like tropical shakes in the Bahamas or taro fruit pies in Honolulu.
Equally important as restaurants are the supermarkets. I always check them out to see what regional candies, snacks, sodas, beers, hot sauces and condiments are available. Those leftover bottles and wrappers sometimes make some of the best souvenirs of the trip, especially if the graphics are done well.
For Hawaiian vacations, never pick up your rental car at the airport. After 12 to 13 hours of flying, you want to get your vacation started as soon as possible and have it be as relaxing as possible, so avoid schlepping your suitcases to the car rental office and standing for hours in the heat. Instead, take a taxi to the hotel, enjoy a quick cocktail or a dip in the water and rent your car from the local agency the next morning. You'll still be on East Coast time anyway, so it'll give you something to do. Return your car on the second to last day of your vacation and take a taxi back to the airport, relaxing to the very end.
I like to return home armed with a suitcase full of T-shirts as well as the aforementioned hot sauces and bottles, but I never have to worry about overcrowded suitcases or having to ship my swag from the post office. That's because I throw out clothing before I leave the hotel to make room. Those grungy T-shirts I wore to the pool? Gone. My 1986 Patriots-Bears "Jambalaya" Super Bowl T-shirt that I wore to the hotel's fitness center? Gone. A dozen pair of underwear that were due to be replaced anyway? Gone. Buying new underwear back home is a lot easier and a lot cheaper than taking a break from your vacation to ship a package to yourself.
Not BBQ: Doctor Gonzo Opens Emporium in Worcester for Pepper Mashes, Condiments
If you've attended New England's major barbecue competitions and veered into the vendor area, chances are you've enjoyed the tasting booth run by Doctor Gonzo's Uncommon Condiments. The good doctor's tasting demonstrations are often one of the highlights of the day, with the "medicine show" verbal stylings matched only by the chile kick of his pepper mashes. As of New Year's Eve, Doctor Gonzo front man J. Stuart Esty opened a storefront on Main Street in Worcester MA, where the full array of condiments—many of which have found their way into award-winning entries at barbecue and chili contests—can be sampled and purchased.
Called Dr. Gonzo's All Natural Mega Spicy Comestible Emporium, the space is very much what you'd expect, with the signage and vintage piano lending a turn-of-the-century feel. The focal point is the tasting counter, where you can sample the pepper mashes, sauces, full flavored mustards and a few other products that defy category, such as the Wazoo Juice made with ginger root and lime juice.
Doctor Gonzo's latest product offering is the Drunk Stunt Mustard, made with amber ale from the Pioneer Brewing Company (Fiskdale MA). It's a condiment that's light on the heat but still intensely flavored with the beer and a 70/30 blend of whole yellow and brown mustard seeds.
Coming soon is beef jerky prepared by Brian Treitman of BT's Smokehouse (Brimfield MA and Sturbridge MA), made using Doctor Gonzo's Super Mash and One Hump Dry Rub.
One noticeable drawback to the storefront operation is the lack of beverages for sale, and unlike at the barbecue festivals, you can't just walk up with beer in hand. Sample some of the pepper mashes and you'll wish you had something cold to wash it down. Fortunately, the Armsby Abbey—one of the area's best pubs—is only a few steps away, and their new farmhouse menu features Doctor Gonzo's mustards on two of their cheese boards and on their spicy Cuban sandwich.
Dr. Gonzo's All Natural Mega Spicy Comestible Emporium
122 Main Street
Worcester, MA 01608
Long Island BBQ: Ruby's Famous BBQ Joint in East Meadow Reviewed
The site's 154th review is now available for Ruby's Famous BBQ Joint in East Meadow NY. Check it out via the Reviews page or link to reviews using the red icons in the Joints directory.
NYC BBQ: Enough With the Timberlake Already
It's uncanny. New York Magazine ran an item last week about the possible expansion of Justin Timberlake's New York City barbecue restaurant Southern Hospitality to a second location some 50 blocks south. If it happens, it happens, but let's not get too crazy.
Today People Magazine is reporting a denial from Timberlake—not about the validity of the expansion rumor, but about Timberlake's very involvement (or non-involvement, according to his statement) in the restaurant. The statement from Timberlake's people claims that buddy Eytan Sugarman is the owner, with friends Timberlake and Trace Ayala "actively involved in all elements of design, menu offerings, and musical format" but "they are not investors, owners or partners."
Interesting. If that's the case, why does the About Southern Hospitality page on the restaurant's website include Timberlake and Ayala? Not only that, but it says, "And it's all the vision of one gentleman dedicated to bringing sexy back -
Justin Timberlake, along with partners Eytan Sugarman and Trace Ayala."
I could give this story the Mike Wallace treatment, but in the end does it really matter? As I've been saying for more than a year now, who gives a rat's ass who owns the place? The more important question: is the food any good? At one point it wasn't, but lately it has been. Maybe someday it'll be very good on a regular basis, or possibly even great. Isn't that why you go to a restaurant?
With that said, Southern Hospitality can't have it both ways. If Timberlake is the owner, say so. If he's not the owner, don't trick people into believing that he is. Either way, focus on the restaurant, not who the owner is or what celebrities visit. Although there's still room for improvement, the 'cue's gotten at least good enough that the other stuff should be irrelevant. Now that Timberlake has distanced himself from Southern Hospitality, maybe it's time for Southern Hospitality to distance itself from Timberlake.
Connecticut BBQ: Cookhouse Darien Closed
File this one under O, for "Oh, how the mighty have fallen." The Cookhouse (New Milford CT), who at one time had satellite locations throughout Connecticut in Darien, Branford and East Hartford, has contracted its empire yet again to now include only its flagship location. The closing of the Darien outpost comes on the heels of earlier closings over the last year, with Branford closing first and East Hartford closing on New Year's day. The exact date of the Darien Cookhouse closing is not known.
Ironically, I have never visited the New Milford Cookhouse but have visited all three of the closed locations. The 'cue, the food overall and the service fluctuated wildly from visit to visit, so if you just came back from a Cookhouse and said you hated it, I wouldn't be surprised; if you said you loved it, I wouldn't be surprised either. Maybe the contraction will be a chance to get a handle on the consistency so they can spread the love again.
Cookhouse Darien reviews on Yelp
Connecticut BBQ: Wilson's Barbeque on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives Tonight
Ed Wilson and Wilson's Holy Smoke Barbeque (Fairfield CT) will be featured on the Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives series with Guy Fieri, tonight at 10:00PM. Check it out!
Boston BBQ: Some Specials and Some Tweaks at SoulFire
Continuing last week's theme of barbecue restaurants and menu changes, let's take a look at Boston's SoulFire, a joint that's made a number of changes to their offerings, preparations and services over the last few months.
First up is the Pit Boss BBQ Sampler for two ($39.95) a recent special that features babyback ribs, spare ribs, pulled pork, chopped brisket, a hot link, spicy honey wings, Southern fried wings, cole slaw, mac and cheese, baked beans, collard greens, potato salad and cornbread. None of the items are new, but it's a great way to get a little of everything and no-hassle, good-value shortcut to a quick survey of the entire menu even for a group of four to six. Then you can order more of whatever you liked best afterward.
Owner Wyeth Lynch has been relentless in his experimentation with new ways to prepare and hold products. Last year it was the brisket, which is now made in smaller batches and offered in limted supply; when it's out, it's out.
This year's tweaking has found its way to the pulled pork, now held using a new method that preserves the moisture in the meat, creating what Lynch calls "an almost buttery consistency." The North Carolina sauce has morphed into a lighter version that leans more toward cider vinegar. "I wanted to get away from that 'Buffalo wing' flavor that our first North Carolina sauce had. I think this one complements the meat much better."
Also changed is the fried chicken, which now includes a half bird as fried wing, breast, thigh and leg pieces.
As for the services, SoulFire is one of the few barbecue joints in the area (with Somerville's Redbones being the other) that offers delivery. Keep an eye out for barbecue classes to be held onsite.
For specials, tonight and every Monday night presents all you can eat smoked wings ($6.99), featuring the #5 entry from These Are A Few Of My Favorite Wings, plus two additional flavors not available the rest of the week. Something tells me Lynch is probably already working on the next round of tweaks and specials..
Brooklyn Events: Brooklyn Chili Takedown Takes Place Tomorrow
It's not barbecue, but the worlds of barbecue and chili have an overlap that's undeniable, so Brooklyn BBQ fans who haven't yet delved into that overlap may find Sunday's Brooklyn Chili Takedown an event worth taking in. For $10, you can sample chili from a wide range of competitors who take their chili seriously. Competition slots are booked, but for eating the event is first-come, first-served. For details, see the poster or www.chili-takedown.com.
Image courtesy Brooklyn Chili Takedown. Used with permission.
Massachusetts BBQ: Some Subtle Changes at High Street Grill
Over the last few days I've discussed some of the major menu changes at KC's Rib Shack (Manchester NH) and Firefly’s Bodacious Bar-B-Q (Marlborough MA, Framingham MA and Quincy MA), but sometimes you can make huge changes without a single addition or deletion. At High Street Grill (N. Andover MA), many of the more significant changes have to do with the "how" and the "who" rather than the "what." This is common for a restaurant that's only four months old. Here's what I've noticed over my visits from October through earlier this week:
The opening chef in October was John Porreca, formerly of Sasso. By the time the Boston Globe reviewed HSG in January, the chef was identified as Paul Callahan, formerly of the Butcher Shop.
On my first two visits, the ribs were St Louis cut. On my last two visits, the ribs were spares.
On my first visit, the chili was topped with cornbread cubes and yogurt. On my last visit, the yogurt was swapped out for sour cream. Presumably, the dairy component in both renditions is to mitigate the heat, but neither was any spicier than Gerber baby food. The beans in the recent batch are fewer and smaller, which is a plus.
On my first two visits, the barbecue trio platter arrived with one barbecue sauce (dark, intensely sweet, good complement of noticeable vinegar and heat in the background). My most recent trio supplied two sauces: a not-as-tangy, not-as-spicy version of the first one, and an almost auburn-colored mustardy, tangy, sweet and spicy sauce intended for the pulled pork.
Early cornbread was huge and molasses-flavored. Recent cornbread has been equally huge, closer to traditional cornbread, oddly slick of texture and not nearly as sweet as most cakey cornbreads you normally encounter.
Saucing levels vary from visit to visit.
Boston BBQ: Firefly's Streamlines Its Menu
Another new menu, this time from Firefly’s Bodacious Bar-B-Q (Marlborough MA, Framingham MA and Quincy MA), who turned theirs over on January 26. Owner Steve UIiss is known for shaking up the menu periodically, but this time the emphasis is more toward concentration than new dishes.
Physically, the menu is very different too. It’s a laminated two-sided sheet that’s easier to navigate, and the streamlined menu format goes hand in hand with the streamlined menu content. Gone are the fried green tomatoes—one of the most popular appetizers on the menu—because they were too difficult to source. Gone are the po’ boy sandwiches. Gone are the catfish and the mahi-mahi.
But the most surprising change was the chili, which Uliss struck from the menu because he wasn't satisfied with the day-to-day consistency of the product. "We'd turn out a perfect bowl of chili one day and another day, if it sat too long, the chili would wind up being something very different. We're removing it from just one turn of the menu but we'll have a new chili soon that we can reproduce more consistently across the operation."
The one new appetizer is BBQ spring rolls stuffed with pulled pork, roasted red peppers and smoked mozzarella cheese. Two new burgers now grace the menu: the Memphis Bleu is topped with bleu cheese dip and fried onion straws; the Burger Bliss has fried pickles, jack cheese and spicy remoulade.
Memphis Bleu burger
Chili Lime Chicken rollup
A new sandwich that's easy on the waistline is the chile lime chicken rollup, with grilled chicken breast, greens, grilled asparagus,
roasted red peppers and chile lime vinaigrette. It uses the same flatbread that serves as the base for the cracklin' bread.
The beer lineup got a shuffle, with Pork Slap Ale—popular in many New York BBQ joints—one of the highlights.
A new dessert that’s sure to be popular is the line of shooters (mini ice cream Sundaes) available in three different varieties: key lime, chocolate peanut butter or banana creme with caramel sauce. "It’s a nice size for when you want a little something sweet but not the commitment of the Rachel and Carly Sundae,” said Uliss. “I like to think of it as a palate cleanser between courses.”
Shooters: (L-R) chocolate peanut butter, key lime, banana creme
Long Island BBQ: A Review of B-B-Q Inc. in Rockville Centre
The site's 153rd review is now available for B-B-Q Inc. in Rockville Centre NY. Check it out via the Reviews page or link to reviews using the red icons in the Joints directory.
Boston BBQ: Boston Magazine's Winter Survival Guide Has a Tip From SoulFire's Wyeth Lynch
The February issue of Boston Magazine is on the stands now with "50+ ways to put a little fun in your February." For me, February wouldn't be fun without a little barbecue, so it's a good thing one of those fun things is a 36-hour barbecue project. SoulFire owner Wyeth Lynch provides instructions for preparing a bone-in pork butt using a combination of outdoor and indoor equipment.
see the feature in Boston magazine
New Hampshire BBQ: KC's Rib Shack Revamps Its Menu With Brisket, Wings and More
After a recent vacation in Jamaica, owner Kevin Cornish made major changes to the menu at KC's Rib Shack (Manchester NH). The jerk chicken he enjoyed down there inspired him to duplicate those flavors at the Rib Shack, using spices shipped directly from Jamaica.
The first area of impact, as you might expect, was the wings, which are now billed as hickory smoked and include Jamaican Jerk as well as six other varieties: Buffalo, Chipotle BBQ, Kansas City BBQ, Garlic Parmesan, Honey Garlic and the super-hot 357 Diablo. Four friends from the competition circuit joined me at KC's Rib Shack last week to investigate the new wings and some other new menu items. Our group tried four different wing options and all were good, with the jerk and the especially-succulent Garlic Parmesan the consensus standouts. Crispness was achieved, wing size varied greatly and smoke levels were low, with the various flavor choices taking the forefront. I'm guessing the Buffalo and the Garlic Parmesan were deep fried, the Jamaican Jerk and Chipotle BBQ grilled.
The most notable change to the KC's Rib Shack menu is the brisket, which was previously unattempted to keep the menu limited to just a few core items that could be done really well every time. It's served sliced and topped with a light drizzle of barbecue sauce. The slices we sampled succeeded more in the flavor department than the tenderness department, but we were all generally pleased with the outcome and delighted to see the addition.
The brisket is also available in a French Dip sandwich; a similar take is the smoked pastrami sandwich. Cornish beefed up the burger section of the menu to include a dozen different choices, with the jerk seasonings instrumental in the "Rastifari" burger that's topped with lettuce, pineapple and jerk mayo.
New appetizers now include Brunswick stew (also available as a side, as is the chili) and a BBQ Sundae with beans, slaw, pork, one rib and a pickle.
"Pimp My Salad" has ten different options for pairings/toppings with assorted meats: smoked chicken, jerk chicken, chicken salad, the new brisket, "Belligerent Shrimp," pulled pork, steak tips, sausage and even ribs.
Fortunately the previous stars of the menu have remained intact. The rack of ribs we shared was a notable step up from my last few visits, with the meat as juicy and tender as I remembered from my earliest and best visits to KC's.
NYC BBQ: Hill Country Offers All You Can Eat BBQ Tonight and Every Monday in February
If the snacks at your Super Bowl party were as disappointing as the game itself, you can make up for it with an all-you-can-eat spread at Hill Country. One step toward better value for today's economy is tonight's all-you-can-eat deal that includes unlimited lean brisket, pork ribs, chicken and sides for $25. There are a two restrictions, but they seem pretty reasonable: everyone at your table must take part in the deal, and inclusion of chili, mac and cheese or campfire beans is an extra $2 each. The deal will be available every Monday night in February. Other recession specials include an all-you-can-drink deal on Tuesday nights from 9:00PM to midnight and fixed pitmaster plates www.hillcountryny.com
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