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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The All American BBQ Festival - Warren PA

This past weekend, the Three Dogs BBQ road show packed up and headed to Pittsfield, PA for The All American BBQ Festival.  Here is a recap of the weekend.

First, it was nice to show up and set up in sunny weather.  More on how that turned out later...


We really liked the venue.  Shaded lots, dedicated electric and water, and lots of room to spread out.  A great venue for a competition if you ask me.  Unfortunately, there was a 4H horse competition tied to the event as well.  I had to keep a short leash on Hope so that things would get done around the trailer.


Preparation went smoothly.  Since Pittsfield is only about two hours away, we were done early in the afternoon and had some time to mingle with our friends.


After the outstanding potluck that was organized by Melissa and John (Rikk, that Mac and Cheese rocks.  You need to turn that in sometime!), we fired up the smokers and got down to cooking.


It was a great evening up until about 3 am.  The first drops of rain started to fall at that point.  From then on, the rain kept getting heavier and steadier, resulting in some muddy conditions.  Just look at this action photo of Che saucing his ribs in the mud.  Walking to the turn in tent was an exercise in not slipping with your box.


The situation brightened a bit with the 10 am shot.  Thanks to Red Valley and Pig Iron BBQ for organizing.  This was definitely needed on this cold and rainy morning.



So, after our liquid pep rally, onto the scores.  First up, chicken.


This box placed 4th out of 21 teams.  Chicken is our strongest category and we were not disappointed.  Unfortunately, we fell off a cliff after this turn-in...


Our ribs came in 17th place.  We received four good scores and two sets of scores that did not match with the other four.  But, I can understand.  They were a bit underdone.  I have found that spares can tend to not be uniform in meatiness.  This leads to over done and under done racks.  We are seriously thinking about a switch to baby backs for our next competition.  They tend to be a bit more uniform.


Our pork came in 19th.  I have no idea what went wrong.  It was perhaps a bit over sauced.  We will have to work on this a bit before our next competition.

As for brisket, it was looking so good at one point...


But, upon slicing, the flat was overdone.  Therefore, the thick slices.


The burnt ends were spot on.  The brisket was way over done.  Just need to keep an eye on cook times the next time around.  This brisket came in 20th overall.

When you tally everything up, we ended up 18th out of 21 teams.  A great way to waste a good chicken score.

But, as always, we had a great weekend and met new friends.  Mort's Meat Mafia were our neighbors and first time competitors.  They were great to be around and finished 13th for the weekend.  Great showing for your first time out.  Keep it up!

Thanks also go out to Melissa and John for organizing a great event, especially a great pot luck and ice cream after turn ins.

Congrats also go out to Low and Slo BBQ on their Grand Championship and to Red Valley BBQ on their RGC.  Sean from Red Valley said it was the best brisket they have ever cooked, so Red Valley BBQ also walked with a 1st place brisket.  Very nice.  Finally, Pig Iron BBQ gets a call out for a great  showing.  Their best score ever if I am remembering correctly.  A great job from one of the friendliest teams out there.

So, next up, Hudson Valley in August.  It is a long trip to New Paltz.  But, well worth the drive.  We can't wait.

Thanks for stopping by,

Bill

Monday, July 21, 2014

Rick Bayless Tortas Frontera - Chicago O'Hare, Terminal B

With the amount of traveling I do, I connect a lot through O'Hare in Chicago.  Usually the offerings are quite boring.  But, when I flew through O'Hare this week, I was greeted with a new offering from Rick Bayless, Torta Frontera.

The new restaurant in in Terminal B, right by B12 to be exact.  On their menu, they offer homemade tortas (basically a Mexican style sandwich) and salads.  Everything is made to order right in front of you.  No heat lamps here.  They also have craft beer on tap.  Finally, all of their ingredients are sourced locally, a plus in my eyes.


I ordered the Chorizo Torta.  Perfectly cooked chorizo sausage on a fresh torta roll.  The roll is stacked with black olive spread, pickled red onions, sautéed green chili, and finally covered with Chihuahua cheese.  The sandwich is toasted until the roll is crispy and the cheese melts.  The sandwich is served with a side of chile verde, my new Mexican favorite, for dipping.  This sandwich was one of the best I have ever had.  Spicy sausage, salty olives and cheese, all brought together with the onions and peppers.  The chile verde made it even better.

To top everything off, they put your sandwich in a nice, small shopping bag with handles.  This allows you to walk the terminal with your rollaboard, carry on, torta, and a drink without dropping anything.  It is the small details that count.

Since everything is made to order, it takes about 10-15 minutes to get your order.  But, it is worth every minute.  Next time you are in O'Hare, give Torta Frontera a try.  I would even walk over from the C gates.  Overall grade, A+.

Thanks for stopping by,

Bill

Friday, July 18, 2014

La Casa Garcia - Anaheim, CA

My travels this past week took me to the West Coast.  Anaheim, CA to be exact.  When I checked into my room I fired up Google Maps and looked for something close to my hotel that was not a chain.  Lucky for me, only one block away was a local Mexican restaurant by the name of La Casa Garcia.  So, after a quick conformation that the place was good by the front desk, I set out on my little Mexican adventure.

After scanning the menu, I decided to go outside my little box and have Chile Verde for the first time.    Chilebrown over at Mad Meat Genius is always on a quest to find the perfect Chile Verde, so it has to be good.  Right?  Well lets see.

First, I was brought my obligatory bowl of chips and salsa.


The chips were excellent.  Not too greasy, as restaurant chips can be, and a hint of salt.  The salsa was flavorful.  Not overloaded with cilantro and packing a nice kick at the end.  Good start to the evening.

Each dish came with a soup or salad.  So, I decided upon another first, a bowl of Albondigas Soup.


Albondigas Soup is a traditional Mexican meatball soup.  It is usually a chicken stock base with beef meatballs.  One bite and I was hooked.  This broth was some of the best restaurant soup I had ever had.  The meatball was tender, juicy, and perfectly seasoned with a touch of cumin.  Not overcooked at all.  The vegetables were nice and tender crisp as well.  Round two, success.

Next up, the main course.


Chile Verde is a sauce of tomatillos, jalapeños, garlic with chunks of slow cooked pork.  This sauce even had chunks of fresh tomato added in for good measure.  It was outstanding.  The pork was perfect.  I grabbed a fresh tortilla and scooped some of this bounty inside.  I was expecting a spicer sauce.  But, I was not disappointed.  A hint of spice, this sauce was bursting with flavor.  When I ran out of tortilla and meat, I started scooping up the sauce with my tortilla chips.  Why haven't I tried this before?  The refried beans were excellent, but the Mexican rice was a bit bland and under seasoned.  It didn't matter to me.  Just starchy filler in my mind.

For an encore, I totally wrecked my diet and ordered some churros.



Again, very good.  Any churro that I have ever had was overcooked and dry.  Not these.  Crispy and lightly sugared on the outside, soft and pillowy on the inside.  My only wish was that they had served them with honey and not ice cream.

This was a great experience.  Now I see why Chilebrown is on a never ending quest for the perfect Chile Verde.  I just may join him in his quest.

If you are in the Garden Grove district of Anaheim and in the mood for Mexican food, La Casa Garcia has my recommendation. Grade: A.

Thanks for stopping by,

Bill

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Grilled Polenta

Our favorite Italian restaurant is Combine Brothers up in Sharon, PA.  It is a bit of a drive for us.  But, the time is worth it for all of their scratch made Italian dishes.  But, that is a post for another day.    I mention them because on their menu you can order homemade polenta topped with any of their sauces or al a carte toppings.  One of their most popular combinations is polenta with sautéed greens. I prepared that dish at home one evening, but had lots of left over polenta.  After some reading, I found that you can slice the cooled down polenta and pan fry tip crisp.  So, why pan fry, when you have a grill?

The recipe I used to prepare my polenta was Alton Brown's.  I was very happy with the result.  Rich and creamy.  It paired well with the greens.  When I was done with dinner, I put the leftovers in a plastic container that had some surface area.  I also sprayed the inside of the container with cooking spray so that my solidified polenta would slide right out.


The next day, I was making some London broil and grilled tomatoes for dinner, so I thought the polenta would go great on the grill.  So, I removed the polenta from the container and sliced into dinner sized servings
.
I brushed each side with olive oil, then placed on the grill when I started grilling my tomatoes.


I flipped when I started getting grill marks on the first side.


I then served along side my sliced tomato and London broil.

The grilled polenta was pretty good.  The char and caramelization from grilling added a nice flavor that you do not usually have with standard polenta in a bowl.  This was only my first time around working with polenta of any type.  You might be seeing more of this dish once our fresh greens can be picked from our garden.

Thanks for stopping by,

Bill