Fun, Food and Fund Raising

Steven Raichlen and I at the Showcase Dinner.

Steven Raichlen and I at the Showcase Dinner.

The SARA, San Antonio Restaurant Association, Showcase Dinner was a huge success once again this year. This years guest chef was Steven Raichlen and he helped to make the evening at the historic Pearl Stables just north of the down town, fantastic. The evening started with drinks and hors d’oeuvre that were prepared by Chef Johnny Hernandez and True Flavors Catering. Chef Hernandez and his people did an excellent job preparing the foods that Mr. Raichlen had chosen for the evening. Upon arriving I met my friend Ruben Sepulveda and his lovely wife Cheryl, who had graciously invited my wife and I to be their guest. My first tasting was Steve’s Buffla-Q Shrimp, I could have just continued with them and been so happy. Next I tried some Finger Burner Lamb Chops and then some Bacon-Grilled Dates, along with some Gentleman Jack to wash them down.

 The meal started with a Grilled Caesar Salad, and we were able to enjoy it while Steven was on stage showing us how to make the shrimp hors d’oeuvres and each of the other courses as we enjoyed them. The main course was a grilled New York Strip with Jack Daniels/Dr. Pepper BBQ Sauce and Hell Fire Peppers, it was served with  a Smoked Stuffed Potato, Pimenton Grilled Asparagus and a Oaxacan Grilled Corn Flan. The dessert was an excellent Grilled Pound Cake with Fresh Berry Salsa and Tequila Whipped Cream.

 I had a chance to meet Mr. Raichlen during the meal and again the next day at the CIA. It was a true pleasure, he was a very nice man and was sincerely seeing that you enjoyed your evening and his meal. I was able to pick up an autographed copy of his new book BBQ Planet to go along with his other books that are in my library of cookbooks.

Thanks Mr. Raichlen for a wonderful evening and to SARA for the hard work they put into this scholarship fund-raising event for the culinary students of San Antonio.

Categories: Appetizers, BBQ, Dessert, Entrees, Grilling, Hors d'Oeuvres, Side Dishes, Texas Style Cuisine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Smitty’s BBQ Brownwood Texas

What a great treat to stop into Smitty’s BBQ in Brownwood Texas and find Smitty himself there still cooking the Q. While spending my college time at HPU Smitty’s was an institution for us college kids. I first met Smitty lifting weights at Young’s World a gym owned by world champion power lifter Doug Young. Smitty was always nice to us young guys and always inviting us down to his BBQ restaurant for some good eating. So for the next four years we did just that. Now fast forward 30 years and I find myself having a daughter going to HPU. Now you know I had BBQ in my mind when we hit town for parents weekend. We hit town early and took Hailey to. Doctors appointment she had then headed to Smitty’s for lunch. Let me tell you I was excited to see Smitty sitting behind the counter. His daughter was running the counter and taking orders and his son was in the back running the pit. The Q was great like it always had been, moist, tender and tasteful. As I visited with Smitty he looks at me and says “trying to figure out how old I am aren’t you” I grinned and said yes sir I am “85 he says”. Wow 85 years young still in uniform and running the business he started in 1972. To all alumni make sure you stop in while passing through town and to all the new students make sure you drop in for some of the best BBQ you will have a chance to eat. Now make sure you say hi to Smitty and his family.




Categories: BBQ, Entrees, Texas Style Cuisine, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

BBQ Spaghetti?

My mad dash to Tennessee was short one item, spaghetti.
I had always heard about it and wanted to try it while in Memphis, the the opportunity to try it never arose. So the other night I decided to give it a try. My wife thought I had lost my mind, but I talked her into trying it. Of course I had to promise to fix her something else if she did not like it, shock she was certain she would not. Well I must say she was wrong, it was a huge hit. The sauce was a deep red savory sensation that I used the left over pork butt that I smoked last weekend. I served it over some al dente spaghetti noodles , with a side salad. This is a recipe that will be used again and I hope y’all enjoy it.

BBQ Spaghetti
2 lbs Spaghetti noodles cooked al dente
1/2 stick Butter
1 Onion diced
2 Garlic cloves minced
1 12oz can Petite dice tomatoes
1 6oz can Tomato paste
1 4oz can Tomato sauce
1 1/2 cup BBQ sauce (I used my chipotle sauce)
1/2 cup Water
2 tsp Basil
2 tsp Oregano
1 1/2 tsp Salt
3 cups Pulled pork (left over from the weekend)

Sautéed onions in the butter
Add garlic the last minute of sautéing
Add tomato sauce and diced tomatoes
Stir in tomato paste
Add the seasonings
Add the BBQ sauce and water
Bring to a simmer
Add pulled pork and return to a simmer
Spoon the sauce over spaghetti and top with cheese if desired


Categories: BBQ, Entrees, Texas Style Cuisine | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Ribs, BBQ, Ribs, BBQ, Ribs and Ribs

Libby and I with her family at Allendale

Libby and I with her family at Allendale

I guess you can see we had plenty of BBQ on our trip to Tennessee. Actually we did not have Q every day, but some days we did have it twice. We started off early Thursday and headed north. The first day me made it to Little Rock and met part of Libby’s family for dinner and then we were up Friday and headed to Clarksville Tennessee. Saturday found us heading to the families plantation, for the family reunion.

The plantation, Allendale, has been in operation since the 1700s raising tobacco as its main crop. Upon our arrival we were greeted by the family patriarch, William Bailey Allen and his son Bailey.  All the family were great and made me feel at home for my first visit. William Bailey’s tour of the home was fantastic but the old brick BBQ pit in the yard is what really caught my attention. This old pit had a gentle flume of smoke rising from it and I knew I had to see what was inside. Bailey was smoking spare ribs using the families vinegar sop. Now I had to find out what was in this sop and where the recipe came from. Well this sop has been used in the family for 3 or 4 generations, so I will give it to John when he gets home nest week and he can be the 4th or 5th generation to use it. Sorry I would love to share it with you, I might get kicked out of the family for posting it on the web. Now these were some excellent ribs, I would consider them a dry rib and they were very good. Bailey shared them as an appetizer prior to our meal and many people including myself added them to the excellent pulled pork that was catered by Red Top BBQ from Tiny Town TN. Red Top had some great sides to go with the Q and their service was fantastic.

After a couple of days at the family reunion we headed down to Franklin. Libby’s cousin Craig lives there, so we met with her Aunts and Uncles there for a few days of touring. The first night Craig took us to Famous Dave’s for a night of Q and fellowship. Dave’s serves their BBQ Feast on a trash can lid and we got two of them. The ten of us had more Q and sides then we could eat. Each lid had three sides placed in the center of the lid and a variety of smoked goodness around the outside. The sides we got were corn on the cob, coleslaw, potato salad, baked beans, and fries. The outer edge of the garbage lids contained brisket, ribs, chicken and pulled pork. I thought for a chain restaurant the Q was very exceptional. The only thing that I would say was under par was the sauce on the ribs a little burnt. Looks like the sauced them to soon, but they were good.

Touring the Civil War sites and plantations around Franklin was fun and then we headed to Lynchburg for a tour of the Jack Daniel’s distillery. The tour was excellent and afterwards we went to Miss Mary BoBo’s for lunch. Now Miss Mary’s is not BBQ but it is some fantastic down home cooking, served family style. I would recommend this as part of any trip to Lynchburg, just remember to get reservations way in advance.

Once we finished lunch, we loaded into the truck and headed to Memphis. Now this is the BBQ city I had been waiting for. Our first day there we headed straight to Sun Records and then to the Rock and Roll and Blues Museum. For lunch we headed to Corky’s. Corky’s had been selling ribs since 1984. I ordered a rack of ribs half wet and half dry, Libby got a half chicken and her parents got chopped chicken and chopped beef sandwiches. Everyone loved their  meal and the service was excellent. Now my wet ribs were some of the best, but I can’t say that about the dry side. I thought the dry was way over seasoned. It seemed they had just dumped the rub on top of the wet so it would stick. The sides were all delicious and so was the variety of sauces they had, we left full and happy.

Now Corky’s gave us some advice on local favorites, so we stopped at Topps BBQ for supper. Libby and her parents got burgers and I got ribs and pulled pork. They loved the burgers, mom said it was the best burger she’d had in years. Now I can’t say that about the Q. The pulled pork was good but the dry ribs were just ok. Tuesday was capped off with a night for Libby and I on Beale St. Wednesday is Bikes on Beale, and let me tell you the bikes were there. We wandered up and down Beale looked at some beautiful bikes and listened to some excellent music. Before the night was finished we wound up at BB King’s and enjoyed some live music played by the Blake Ryan Band.

Thursday started at Graceland, then the Peabody Hotel to watch the ducks make their entry. We had a quick-lunch then we toured Mud island and had a river boat ride. For dinner it was Charlie Vergo’s Rendezvous. Now advice on going to Rendezvous was mixed, but I figured I was going to find out for myself, boy am I glad we did. The dry ribs were great and so was the sauces they had to put on them. Libby once again got chicken and her parents got chopped sandwiches. Libby thought that Rendezvous had chicken a little better the Corky’s, but my in-laws gave Corky’s the nod for chopped. The sides were good also, everyone loved the potato salad and the coleslaw opinions were mixed. Service now that is where other places stood out. Our server was more interested in watching the baseball game on one of the TVs, placed around the restaurant for the guest then taking care of us.

Now having an early dinner meant I could squeeze in a late night run to Central BBQ. This was an excellent decision, even though I had to go by myself. Upon arrival I had to wait outside before I could get inside to order. I tried ribs once again and they were excellent. The ribs came out as a dry rib but were nice and moist. They have four sauces for you to use their regular sauce, hot, vinegar and mustard. I tried them all and they were excellent. This is where the locals were and I could see why, excellent Q and fantastic service. This is an excellent way to end out last night in Memphis.

Friday morning we were up early and heading to Vicksburg for a little touring. When we entered Mississippi we stopped at the Tunica visitors center for some information and maps. Then it was back in the truck heading south to Vicksburg. We hit the little town of Clarksdale about lunch time so we got off the highway and looked for a place to eat. I was hunting BBQ and my passengers were looking for something else. I found an excellent little place called Abe’s. Abe’s claims to have been serving BBQ and Blues since 1924. I believe it, the baby back ribs I got there were excellent. Now I am not going to mention where everyone else ate, I ate my Q in the truck then joined them inside while they finished their meal. Its back into the truck and headed to Vicksburg for out tour, then on to Shreveport for the night.

Saturday we are up and going, heading to Texas and home. I stop in antique shop so the girls let me have BBQ for lunch. Libby googled BBQ in Palestine and finds four locations, one has bad reviews, so we look at the other three and wind up at Bishop’s Brisket House. Now on first look I was not impressed. Bishops is in a mall, not a place I would look for good Q. Well I was wrong this Q was excellent. Being back in Texas I needed brisket, so it was brisket and ribs. Libby once again got chicken, mom got turkey and dad got ribs. We were al impressed with the meats and the sides. The service was great and everyone in the restaurant seemed happy. With a full belly we climbed back into the truck and headed home.

Now this was a great trip, ten days, nine BBQ meals over eight days. Libby’s family reunion was excellent the touring was fun and educating. Surely a trip to be remembered.

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Craig, Libby and I at Famous Dave’s

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Bailey’s pit at Allendale

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Libby and her parents at Corky’s

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Carnton Plantation in Franklin

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Libby and I at Sun Records

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Libby at the Peabody Hotel with their famous ducks

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Libby and I with Jack Daniel’s

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Libby and her mom with the King of Rock and Roll

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Abe’s is near the crossroad where it is claimed Robert Johnson traded his soul to the Devil to learn to play the guitar

Categories: Appetizers, BBQ, Entrees, Grilling, Side Dishes, Texas Style Cuisine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tony Luke’s Make Things Right

Now when I was leaving their original store the other evening about 8:03 I was not thinking so. I was in Philly for one day and wanted a famed Tony Luke’s Philly Cheese Steak. I let the time get away from me and i got there just before closing. Not realizing the time was so close to 8:00 I stood and looked at the menu carefully decided what I would have for my first time to try this classic sandwich.  I moved toward the counter and a man hurried past me and stepped to the window to order. A young man  pulls open the window and with an accent that I would expect from a guy from South Philly estates we are closed. My heart sunk I looked at the man then my watch it was 8:02. Now the other patron did not take we are close to well. He told the guy at the window that it was not yet 8:00. Once again in his gangsterish voice he states, “by our clock it’s 8:02 so we are closed. With my head hung low I slowly walk to the car to let the family know after all the hunting to find the original and dragging them to a place they had never heard of there would be no sandwiches for our supper.  Now my wife being protective of me like she is and knowing how I was looking forward to this sandwich h was ready to go fight.  Everyone in the car apologized for dragging their feet and is not getting there in time. I pulled the car back onto the road and headed back to Lancaster county for the last few days of our trip.  Shortly after getting on the interstate my wife announces she is on their website and what do I want to say.  Now she knows me and she is usually not fond of me letting people know if I do not have a gold experience at their establishment, but this time she is like a mother lion protecting her family.  So I dictate a letter and before we are out of the. city and email is on its way to management. Early the next morning we are in the card for another day of touring, destination of the day Intercourse. For you unknowing people, that is a small town in Lancaster County Pennsylvania, right in the middle of the Amish country.  Early in the morning I receive and email for a nice young lady named Cindy, from Tony Luke’s, she is very apologetic and ask for some details of my ordeal at Tony Luke’s and gets my contact information. In no time at all I get a phone call, it is Tony Luke Sr. I cod not believe that he had personally called me. He is apologizing for the service and wanting to know if I am still in the city so he can make things right. I was sorry to  that I had left the city and was not returning at least not this trip. Tony was a pleasure to visit with, his accent was fantastic. He truly felt bad and was ready to make things right. He let me know that he was shipping me the fixings for some cheese steaks along with instructions on how to prep rare them so I could have the Tony Luke’s experience when I got back home to South Texas. Now that folks is taking care of the customer. Shortly after hanging up with Tony Sr my cell rings again and it’s Tony Jr. He is just as nice as the dad although he sounds a little more shall we say pissed off. He also apologizes and lets me know that in no way is this the way Tony Luke’s operates.  Tony Jr understands the service industry just like his dad and wants people to be happy when they leave one of their restaurants. He also lets me know that he is personally headed to the original  location to have a talk with the young man who was not portraying customer service that they expect. I don’t think I would want to be in that young mans shoes right now. Before hanging up Tony Jr invites me to have lunch with him if I am ever back in Philly and I extend the offer to him if he ever ventures to San Antonio.  Now I can’t wait to get home and cook up some cheese steaks, now I know they won’t match up to the ones made in-house at Tony Luke’s, but I know I will taste the love in them.  If anyone is in Philly make sure you stop into one of the Tony Luke’s  for your Philly Steak Sandwich.  Missing out on a steak sandwich may have been worth getting to visit with the men that created a Philadelphia icon. I hope I can get back up here to meet them in person some day. They both seem like class acts.

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Virginia BBQ

Well the second stop for some excellent Q while traveling in and around Virginia and Pennsylvania was a great. We stopped in at Pork Barrel BBQ and it was a treat.  I tried a little of each type of Q they had. The brisket was very tender and flavorful although a little dry. The chicken and ribs were excellent, pulled pork was good and the sausage had to much sage for my taste. The table had three different sauces their regular, mustard and a sweet, I tried and I enjoyed all of them. For the sides we tried the Texas Caviar which is a black eyed peas with peppers and onions, we also tried their mac and cheese, baked beans and potato salad. The mac was to die for, being seasoned with jalapeño and chipotle peppers it made me feel at home. After the meal  I could see why they have trophy’s on display that they have won BBQing. If you find yourself around DC take the short trip to Alexandria and give the Pork Barrel a try.

I will try to get some pictures up when possible.

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BBQ of the East

Well I am not going to have a long post tonight partly because it is late and also because I am typing with my thumbs on the iPhone. We got DC  Friday and started our tour everything has fun and exciting from the tours in and around DC and today’s running down to Lexington.  Tonight we stopped to try some of the local BBQ. Not a good idea. We had below average Q in a small town called Bueno Vista. I won’t mention the name to protect the innocent.  Now last night the food was fantastic. A We had reservations and stopped at the Old Ebbitt Grill I say it is a must stop in DC. Now on the 4th we are celebration in Harrisonburg Virginia and guess what, they are having a cookoff I will post up the results of the samples we are able to try Thursday. Have a great 4th and I will update y’all then.

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Roasted Chili Cheesey Grits


One thing would never grow up was grits. Well these are not my mama’s grits. They are surely upscale and full of flavor that your normal grits can only hope to be. One reason for the great flavor is because I use chicken broth and cream to make the grits instead of water. Then I add fire  roasted poblano peppers, fresh garlic and sweet onions. These grits were  a great accompaniment with some sautéed shrimp and a grilled rib eye. Try these grits, especially if you think you don’t like grits. They will change your mind.

  • 1 cup         quick grits
  • 2 cups       chicken broth
  • 2 cups       heavy cream
  • 1 cup         diced onion
  • 2                poblano peppers roasted and diced
  • 1 tbsp        minced garlic
  • 4oz            cheddar cheese
  • 4oz            monterey jack cheese
  • TT             salt pepper and Tony Chachere”s
  1. Saute onions in butter, add peppers and garlic about midway of the onions becoming translucent.
  2. Add chicken broth and cream and bring to a simmer.
  3. Gradually whisk in the grits and seasonings.
  4. After grits thicken stir in the cheese.

I served the grits with sautéed shrimp, that were cooked with slivers of onion and Anaheim chilies. the entrée was a grilled rib eye. The grits were and excellent addition to this surf and turf meal.

Categories: Appetizers, BBQ, Entrees, Grilling, Side Dishes, Texas Style Cuisine, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Clarify Butter

A little different kind of post, but one thing that can make a huge difference in your cooking. Everyone loves the taste of butter but butter burns rather easily. In fact about 250º, which is not hot enough to saute’. By clarifying your butter you raise the the smoking point to about 350º. Now you can cook without the fear of burning  butter. The reason for the high temperature before burning is that you have taken out the ingredients that will burn and left the oil. What burns is the sugar, milk solids and water. Once removing these items you are cooking with oil. You can save the part you remove and use it for seasoning on items such as popcorn. So here is the process.

  1. Heat sticks of butter, I usually clarify at least one pound at a time.
  2. Remove items that are floating on the top and pour off the middle, which you will keep.
  3. The oil can now be stored at room temp with out the worry of the butter turning rancid.

Melting the butter



Pouring melted butter into a clear pitcher.


The butter starting to separate and layer up.


After removing the top pour off the oil being careful not to get the bottom portion.


Just the oil left


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Selling My Pit

I am down sizing on my BBQ pit. I am going to be using two smaller pits that will cook about what my big reverse flow will. I just plan on selling the pit but is someone is interested I will sell the entire trailer. My pit will cook about 30 briskets or 240 leg quarters. The cooking chamber is 9′ long and 36″ diameter, it has three doors and the fire-box is insulated with 1″ of ceramic insulation. The trailer has a rack for 4 folding tables and 4 18″X 24″ cutting boards. I have a water tank and a stainless steel sink. Let me know if you are interested in it or let you friends know and maybe they will be.

I am asking $7500 for the pit.

The whole trailer is $15000.

I will consider all offers.

The new trailer

Looking good and ready to come off

Looking good and ready to come off the pit


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