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Eat or Die

"Eating well, however simply, is part of a life fully lived" -Jim Harrison

Updated: 2018-04-22T03:20:31.655-07:00


Three outta four ain't bad


Texas Monthly just released their list of the top 50 BBQ joints in the state of Texas. This list is only updated every five years and needless to say they take this selection pretty damn seriously.
On the heels of of TM hiring an Daniel Vaughn as BBQ editor (see how serious they take bbq in texas), they released this list.
When my son and I went to Texas last summer we visited 18 spots and of those, 12 were on this years list of the top 50. To further up the ante TM singled out the four top spots. That short list included Franklin BBQ, Snow's, Louie Mueller and Pecan Lodge. 
As I have written before, this type of BBQ (Central Texas) completely captivates my soul. I love the history and the regional components that put this type of cooking into play.  The minimalist approach to cooking due to lack of resources actually makes this food so much more that the sum of its parts. Meat, salt, pepper and wood smoke come together in a synergistic way  that makes this food rival any other native cuisine on the planet.
I want to give a tip of the hat to the below pitmasters that my son and I had a chance to not only meet, but to eat their food. I can only say that I am thankful that these people are keeping this tradition alive.

Franklin BBQ  with Aaron Franklin

 Snow's with Tootsie Tomanetz (78 years old!) & Kerry Bexley

Louie Mueller with Wayne Mueller

Louie Mueller


Louie Mueller-Taylor, TxWell, it took us a week and a half to hit 18 BBQ joints in and around Austin, Texas. We drove over 800 miles and we hit some of the finest BBQ that Central Texas had to offer. What did we learn? Well, here is a small list.1. Don't judge a book by its cover (some of the best places are literal dives).2.  Hill Country is hauntingly beautiful.3. The BBQ in this area is unique to America. This style of cooking is an American treasure.4. We are coming back soon (real soon).Brisket, Sausage, Ribs & a Big RedIt was only fitting that the last stop of the trip was to Louie Mueller in Taylor, Tx. (on the way to catch our flight home). This place is family owned and is run by the grandson of the founder. Louie Mueller was my inspiration for the trip to start with. I had been there in 2010 and it opened my eyes as to what Central Texas BBQ is all about. This trip we had the works. The line was crazy long at lunch, especially for a Tuesday afternoon. We had the brisket, pork ribs, beef ribs and a sausage. I had heard that Wayne Mueller had a couple of new guys assisting him. The rumor was that they had fine dining experience and were "interning" to learn BBQ. Well, I have to say that the food quality was a notch above where it was a couple of years ago. The brisket was as good as anything we had on the trip. The sausage may have actually been my favorite of the trip and the beef ribs were the best we came across. The only lacking component was the pork ribs and while tasty, they just needed a bit more time on the smoker.Full Custom Gospel BBQ just upgraded Louie Mueller to 6 stars-Personally, I would go 5+stars (just because of the ribs).My son and I had a great trip to Texas and I would highly recommend a road trip like this to any Father or Son. If I am lucky maybe I will get to do this trip again with my son's son.[...]



How serious was this little father and son BBQ Pilgrimage? How about serious enough to drive 2 hours one way to a tiny shack to experience what FCG BBQ called ****** worthy.

Roasted Chicken
Brisket & Sausage

So, was the food worth a 2 hour drive. Hell yes! We ordered the first chicken of the trip just because it looked so good. The brisket and sausage were up to par with anything we had eaten the previous 5 days too. To me the best part of this trip was the "windshield time" I got to spend with my son while we traversed Central Texas in search of these little hidden and off the beaten path gems.

The Epicenter of Central Texas BBQ


One of the big highlights of this BBQ Pilgrimage was learning fair bit about Texas history and how the area around Austin developed.Of course the Czechs and Germans played a huge roll and when you start looking at the BBQ culture in Central Texas it really comes down to cooking locally. This area is the start of the Chisom Trail and there is also an amazing amount of Post Oak, Pecan and Mesquite wood. Basically the mathematical equation is:  Beef + wood smoking = Central Texas BBQ.So, where is the epicenter of Central Texas BBQ? If you ask me, it has to be just south of Austin in the communities of Lockhart, Luling and Gonzales.  We set out on a Tuesday (this is a great way to beat the crowds-think I am kidding? These BBQ joints are known to sell product upwards of over a 1000 lbs per day) and first hit City Market in Luling. From my previous post you can see that this place has gotten (literally) world wide recognition.  The next stop was to Gonzales and Gonzales Food Market.  Daniel Vaughn at Full Custom Gospel BBQ has a terrific story about Gonzales Food Market.  Gonzales Food Market is a modest little family run enterprise. This was the only place we had a chance to sample lamb ribs (killer!) and the sausage was terrific. Pickles, white bread and sweet tea and you have lunch. Gonzales Food MarketI would say that the other incredible thing about touring through Texas was the discovery of all of the historic courthouses.Texas is divided up into 254 counties and nearly all of them have a  historic architectural gem of a courthouse. Check this link for a comprehensive list of all the historic courthouses in Texas.Gonzales County Courthouse-Gonzales, TexasAfter Gonzales we headed up to Lockhart and hit the Holy Trinity of Smitty's, Black BBQ and Kreuz Market. All three of these establishments are enshrined in Texas BBQ lore. We sampled brisket, ribs and sausage at all three spots and of the three, our favorite was Kreuz Market.  Schoen Boy's at Kreuz MarketKreuz Market-Brisket & SausageThe brisket is apparently hot smoked and so the cooking time is decreased. The smoke ring and bark on the brisket was something I hadn't seen elsewhere and if this hadn't been the last of five stops we would have gone back for seconds.Since Lockhart is so small, do take time to walk the historic downtown. Lockhart is also home to Caldwell County and another beautiful courthouse.Caldwell County Courthouse-Lockhart, TexasGonzales on Dwellable[...]

City Market Luling


City Market-Luling, Tx When you see an article in Newsweek magazine that lists the worlds greatest restaurants I think it brings visions of Thomas Keller's French Laundry,  Ferran Adrià's El Bulli or some other white table cloth temple of fine dining. We landed in Central Texas the same week that City Market was named as one of the 101 destination restaurants in the world (not the county, not the state, but the world!). If you are looking for a maitre' d, white table clothes or fine china.....then  this isn't the place for you.If you are looking for perfectly smoked brisket, house made sausage, perfect ribs  and a Big Red (cherry red soda pop that tastes like a red gumball-big favorite with the locals and perfect for BBQ), then this is your place.City Market is small, worn, smokey and a slice of Americana that is quickly disappearing from our landscape. The food was off the hook good and this little place is on our list of places to hit again when we are back in the area. Pit Room-City Market-Luling, TxBrisket, Sausage, RibsFine DiningCity Market-Luling, Tx[...]

Opie's-Spicewood, Tx


Opie's -Spicewood, Tx

Our trip to Central Texas would have been amiss if we hadn't made the trip out to Hill Country. Once you are about 30 minutes west of Austin you are in the "boonies", but that said you will see some of the most hauntingly stark and beautiful landscape I have ever had the privilege to see. From Austin we headed west on Texas-71and it   took us about 90 minutes to get to Spicewood. 
My son and I got to Opie's right at noon and we dove into a big helping of Brisket, Ribs and Sausage. The brisket had a great dark bark and a subtle smokey edge. The pork ribs we had were as good as anything we had on this trip-well rendered with just a hint of texture left-almost perfect. The sausage was a course grind mix that was hot, juicy and mouthwateringly good. 
BBQ Trinity of Brisket, Sausage and Pork Ribs

If you are headed that way you best keep your eyes peeled because Spicewood is pretty much a gas station and this killer BBQ joint.  
Hill Country is a beautiful place to travel through and you could do much worse than to have Opie's picked out as a lunch stop.

Franklin Barbecue


 Franklin BarbecueWhat is the "hottest" Barbecue venue we visited on our pilgrimage to Texas? The answer to that would be Franklin Barbecue just east of downtown Austin.  We showed up  at 8:30am (they open at 11:00am) and we were still 4 & 5th in line. We stood around, we chatted up the folks in line and by the time we got in for food I felt like we had experienced a shared rite of passage. Was the wait worth it? Hell yeah! Just a suggestion, if you are planning on a visit to Franklin Barbecue go ahead and show up early. Bring a cooler with sodas and beer or your favorite adult beverage. The atmosphere of the line is similar to what you might experience tailgating for a big football game.  Share your beverages and your stories and don't even think about taking cuts in line.From Franklin's website:With the encouragement of friends, Aaron and his wife Stacy debuted Franklin BBQ in late 2009 on an East Austin parking lot. From the walk-up window of a travel trailer turned brisket stand, patrons quickly noticed the Franklins were selling the best barbecue around. By spring, the line of admirers snaked around the block, and the press followed. In less than two years, the duo could count contributors from The Washington Post, Texas Monthly, and Cooking Channel among a growing chorus hailing Franklin among America’s BBQ elite—mentioned in the breath as Smitty’s, Kreuz’s, and other stalwart temples to the holy craft of smoked meat that line the Central Texas brisket belt. In the summer of 2010, Bon Appetit hailed Franklin BBQ as the best in America.Aaron and Stacy quickly outgrew their trailer, and moved their operation to a brick and mortar location in March of 2011. And despite the new digs and every reasonable effort to increase production, Franklin BBQ’s line is as long as ever, and the restaurant has sold out of brisket every day of its existence.My "new" buddy Johnnie gave me a Lone Star...gotta love that!Doesn't look so bad?Damn! 10:30am and looking at a 3 hour wait for foodSchoen's & Aaron FranklinSome of the best BBQ in the freaking world!We ordered brisket, sausage, and some pork ribs. The brisket had a tremendous bark (I ordered from the fat end) and the intramuscular fat and collagen had been perfectly rendered. Daniel Vaughn at Full Custom Gospel BBQ has called this the best brisket anywhere (you won't get any argument from me).Tender, juicy, smokey and as good a brisket as we had on the trip (remember we hit 18 places so that statement might carry a bit more weight). The ribs were great but I thought they needed just a little more time...just my opinion. The sausage was house made and was up to par with the rest of the lineup here. The natural casing and the course ground meat is typical of this part of Texas. The snap of the casing and the juiciness of the sausage were perfect.  Franklin's is definitely on our list for our return visit to Austin.Austin on Dwellable[...]

Snow's BBQ


Kerry, Ms. Tootsie & The Schoen boysThe first (real) BBQ restaurant my son and I visited was Snow's in Lexington, Tx. We had visited Lambert's in Austin the night before and while the food was crazy good, the whole reason we had traveled to Central Texas was to hit these small town BBQ joints.Lexington is about 90 minutes east of Austin and there isn't much to draw anyone to this town with a population of 1182. From the looks of things this area is all about farming, ranching and dang good BBQ.Snow's-Lexington, TexasSnow's BBQ is only open on Saturdays and not only did we get a chance to eat this amazing food, but we also had a chance to chat with Kerry and Ms. Tootsie. Ms Tootsie told me they cook about 1100 lbs of product (they sell out of food every weekend) and that she had gotten up at 2:00 am to work the pits. We ordered pork ribs, brisket and a jalapeno sausage. The brisket was tender and the smoke ring was about 1/2" deep. The ribs were perfect, great texture, moist and they gave me a glimpse of my first "sugar cookie" (crisp perfectly rendered fat). The sausage had great texture and a touch of heat to go along with the snap of the natural casing. We had 17 more places to hit over a 7 day period, but you know what? Snow's was the pick of the BBQ litter and a place we will both get back to.Ribs with a "sugar cookie"From Snow's website: Kerry Bexley, owner of Snow’s BBQ, knew there was a demand for good BBQ in the small town of Lexington with a population of only 1100 people. Lexington has always been known for its Saturday BBQ. It’s just a tradition! Kerry and Ms. Tootsie Tomanetz, pit boss, discussed the possibilities in the late 90’s of opening a BBQ joint, but took no action until several years later.In November of 2002, Kerry stopped to visit with Ms. Tootsie, kicked the ashes around, and discussed again the opening of this joint. She told Kerry that if he was serious, they better sit down and have a real "heart to heart". They did just that, and Kerry immediately started building the BBQ pits. March 1, 2003, was the first day of business… and Kerry’s intuition was right. Good BBQ, good service, and friendly people has helped to keep the fire burning, maintaining a steady and consistent business for the last five years. Along with Ms. Tootsie and Kerry, his daughters help out each Saturday morning learning the importance of responsibility and dealing with the public.The fire almost got out of control in May 2008 when Texas Monthlymagazine named Snow’s BBQ as the best in Texas! (Read Article) Since that time, the entire staff at Snow’s BBQ has been doing everything possible to keep up with the demand and most important, maintain the quality. It looks like a long road ahead, but it is a challenge everyone is ready for.[...]




The first BBQ we ate on our trip to Texas turned out the be the only place we visited that had silverware and linen napkins.
Lamberts is in the heart of downtown Austin and it has a great modern/rustic/artisan thing going on. Great drinks, upscale beer list and a menu that showed these guys really care about food.

Homemade BBQ Sauces
You know what else? These guys also turn out some kick ass BBQ too. Terrific brisket, succulent ribs, amazing sides (in fact, these were the best side dishes we ate on the entire trip).  As amazing as the meat is in the little out of the way places we visited throughout Central Texas, the quality of the side dishes border on pathetic. Lamberts served up an amazing apple/cabbage cole slaw, a great potato salad and they even did a fresh riff on the ubiquitous pickle component that is seemingly always served up with BBQ. Lamberts had pickled carrots, cauliflower and they we fantastic!
If you are heading to Austin and BBQ country you really need to make a stop at Lamberts. 
Congress Avenue Bridge
Another note of interest is that Lamberts is just blocks from the Congress Avenue Bridge (home to the largest urban bat colony in the USA). These bats take flight at dusk and you really need to witness the sight of 1.5 million bats taking off.

Central Texas BBQ Pilgrimage


 Franklin BBQ-Austin, Tx. I was in Central Texas two years ago on business and had  the chance to see this amazing part of the county and also experience my first taste of the BBQ that this part of Texas is known for. At that time I decided I needed to make a trip back for a real "BBQ pilgrimage". For my son's 16th birthday I told him my present to him was going to be a road trip to Austin and the surrounds for a weeks worth of the Travel Channel and Food Network hotspots.Central Texas and Hill Country were settled by Germans and Czech's in the mid 1800's and those immigrants brought old world butchering skills  with them. Central Texas also happens to be the beginning of the Chisom Trail and as you might imagine the BBQ in this area leans heavily towards the beef side of the equation.BBQ sauce is a rarity  and the meat is often seasoned with just salt and pepper (Dalmatian rub). Hardwood is  used to smoke this meat with (post oak). What I love about this type of cooking is that it takes simple and inexpensive ingredients like brisket, salt, pepper and local wood (post oak, pecan) and elevates it to a level to where a small town local BBQ cafe called City Market in Luling was recently named by Newsweek magazine as one world's 101 best places to eat....(un-freaking-believable!) The hot beds of Central Texas BBQ are in the small towns in and around Austin. Luling, Gonzales, Llano and Lockhart (the holy grail) will be names familiar to people serious about Central Texas BBQ.Over a 7 day stretch we hit 18 of the areas best BBQ spots.  Below are the spots we selected from a bit of research via the Food Network, The Travel Channel and from a bit of back and forth with Daniel Vaughn at Full Custom Gospel BBQ.All of these places come highly recommended and my son and I will write about the 7 standouts of the all star lineup.FridayLamberts Downtown Barbeque-AustinSaturdaySnows-LexingtonSon’s of Hermann Hall-Deanville City Meat Market-GiddingsPrause Meat Market-La GrangeZimmerhanzel's Bar-B-Que-SmithvilleSouthside Market-ElginSundayFranklin Barbeque-AustinSalt Lick, DriftwoodMondayOpie’s BBQ-SpicewoodCooper's Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que-LlanoFredericksburg-Becker Vineyards, Pedernales CellarsTuesdayCity Market-LulingGonzales Food Market-GonzalesKreuz Market-LockhartBlacks Barbecue-LockhartSmitty’s-LockhartWednesdayFargo’s Pit BBQ-BryanMondayLouie Mueller- Taylor[...]

Cacio e Pepe


Cacio e Pepe

In the decade that was my 30's I cooked almost exclusively Italian food. Northern, Southern, Peasant, etc. Last night I tried a recipe I had seen on a Travel Channel episode. Oddly enough, I had never cooked this recipe before. After inhaling this amazing dish I will add that the only other Italian dish that punches this much above it's weight is Aglio e Olio. I blogged about the Aglio e Olio recipe a few years ago and if you haven't seen that recipe you might want to check it out. My version has enough garlic to ward off any lurking vampires that might be coming around in anticipation of Halloween.
Cacio e Pepe is Roman staple and this dish can be ready in the amount of time it takes to boil noodles. Try out this version from Bon Appetit (you might want to add a touch of olive oil too).
Open a Chianti or a Barbera and revel in how great something so simple can be.

Zankou's Garlic Sauce Clone


Grilled Game Hen w/Garlic SauceI had come across a news story about an Armenian-Lebanese restaurant called Zankou Chicken. This Armenian-Lebanese rotisserie chicken restaurant with a store in Anaheim, California (home of Disneyland) Little Arabia, is widely known for its white garlic sauce.  At first I was thinking "how good could this possibly be"? After a little more reading I figured that a tiny shop that nets over $1 million annually must be doing something right. As good as the chicken is supposed to be, this sauce defines what they do.Last night I did a simple grilled game hen that I cooked with just salt, pepper over hardwood charcoal that I added a couple of sticks of applewood to. This chicken was moist and juicy and the Zankou Garlic sauced absolutely killed.Before you break this out for a special date please keep in mind that this recipe calls for an entire head of raw garlic.Zankou Garlic Sauce Clone1 large, peeled russet potatoes1 whole head of garlic, peeled1/3 cup fresh lemon juice, reserve half1/2 tablespoon salt1/2 cup canola oilZankou Garlic Sauce Make sure the potatoes are completely peeled, with any green or brown discoloration is removed.Boil the potatoes in salted water until soft, then mash to a smooth consistency. Allow to cool.Pour the oil into a measuring cup with a spout to allow for easy administering.Place the peeled garlic cloves, salt and half of the lemon juice in a blender. Be sure to secure the lid.Turn the blender on high, and slowly stream the oil through the hole in the lid until the mixture combines into a smooth consistency.Pour out the garlic "mayo" into a bowlAdd the mashed potatoes to the mixture 2 tablespoons at a time, stirring with a wooden spoon until it's the consistency of loose, mashed potatoes. Add the remaining lemon juice a little at a time until the tartness tastes balanced to you.Cover the bowl, and chill the sauce completely.Temperature will affect how salty foods taste. Adjust the salt after the sauce has cooled.This sauce had the consistency of frosting. The starch from the potato when pureed gets a pasty texture and next time I might not use a ricer to mash the potato. The sauce keeps its texture when cooled and the flavor is out of this world. This could easily become a "go to" for sandwiches or just about any other protein dish you want to give a garlic kick to.Anaheim Hills on Dwellable[...]

Whole Bowl


The Whole BowlThere is a small restaurant (that started as a food cart) here in Portland called: "Whole Bowl".The ingredients are basically a burrito, but without the tortilla wrap.Brown rice, red and black beans, cheddar cheese, avocado, onion, cilantro, salsa, sour cream and and addictive mustard yellow sauce they call: Tali Sauce. Locals also call this sauce "Crack" sauce as it is something you just want to keep eating.I did some digging around on the interwebs and came up with a recipe that is close to the original. If you are going to the trouble to put this sauce together go ahead and scale it up.....this stuff seems to disappear way too fast.(Almost) Tali Sauce1/4 cup almonds1/4 cup olive oil1/2 cup garbanzo beans3 garlic cloves1/4 cup large flake nutritional yeast1/4 cup water1 TBS whole grain Dijon mustard1/4 cup lemon juiceBlend all the ingredients in a food processor and then add 1 tsp each of:curry powderonion powderturmericchili powdercayenneBlend again until combined and serve with your bowl ingredients.[...]

Sex in a Bowl


Sex in a Bowl

This time of year when it is cold and wet in Portland (every day) I love to make comfort food. I had a friend over for dinner and we started some short ribs and then went out for drinks while they braised for 3 hours.
These are simple enough that you don't really need a recipe-brown some beef short ribs that have been seasoned with salt and pepper and dredged in flour, Cook a mirepoix of carrots, celery and onion. A bit of tomato paste and 2 cups of canned roma tomatoes, a bottle of wine and 2 cups of beef stock and let it cook for 3 hours. Remove the ribs and keep warm. Strain the remaining braising liquid and then reduce in a sauce pan by half. Serve over Creamy Cheddar Polenta and top with the sauce and Horseradish Gremolata and pour a "big" Zinfandel (Turley if you have it). The result as my friend said is: "Sex in a Bowl".

Boeuf Bourguignon


This Christmas I received a copy of Julia Child's "My Life In France". Seeing the movie "Julie & Julia had made me want to find out more about Julia Child. Yeah, I had known who she was forever, but I had never really watched her cooking shows on PBS and the only cookbook of hers that I had was "The Way To Cook" (which is fabulous).
Anyway, after reading "My Life In France" I decided I had to have a copy of Julia's seminal work "Mastering the Art of French Cooking. This first cookbook took Julia and her co-authors a little over 10 years to write and get published. The love of France and attention to cooking detail is all over this book. Julia loved good food, but she really loved to share meals with her husband Paul and her many friends. Cooking became an outlet for her feelings for her family and friends. I have to admit that I had no idea how much time and effort this book had been. I also knew by Julia's description of the work she had done that this book is truly a classic and that anything in it is going to turn out well.
What was my first recipe cooked out of the book? Why, of course it was Boeuf Bourguignon. This was the recipe that Julia's editor (Judith Jones) used as a test. This is hands down the best wine based beef stew you will ever have.
(image) Boeuf Bourguignon

My friend Joan told me a story of seeing TV food celebrity Alton Brown at a lecture. Someone asked him: "If you could have anyone in the world cook for you who would you choose"? Apparently he answered immediately with: "My wife". Alton said that no one cooks for you like someone who loves you. I don't know about you, but I love that story. Valentine's Day is around the corner and you could do worse than to make this meal for someone special.

Pâté de Campagne (Country Pâté)


(image) Pâté de Campagne

The wine group I belong to had an event this past Sunday. Almost every month this group get together and does a "theme" tasting. These are social events, but they are also educational as well (if you pay attention). This month we contrasted four Washington Syrah's against four Syrah based wines from the Northern Rhone.

I love what Washington is doing with wine, but in this tasting they were like bringing a knife to a gun fight. The Northern Rhone defines that grape and it came thorough (for me) like the champ that it is.
We typically have a pot luck meal after our events and what better to take than a Country Pâté? I spotted this recipe in Bon Appetit and I need to give Molly Wizenberg credit for this recipe. The only deviations were that I used a smoked hog jowl bacon mixed with the pork and I used a French Ham for the center layer..........oh, yeah, I also substituted nutmeg for the allspice. The sign above says Pork, Pork, Pork. I forgot to add another item....Pork (Jowl bacon)
Bon Appetit!



(image) Red Pozole

I have been cooking for over 40 years and I still come across classic dishes that I have never tasted or cooked. A few weeks ago my friends Heather (Voodoo & Sauce blog), Scott and their adorable son Zephyr had us over for dinner. Heather served a red chicken Pozole and it was fantastic. This was only the second time I had ever eaten Pozole. The first was at the Cochon 555. At that event the Posole dish that Jason Barwikowski served was the best thing I ate in 2010.

This dish has roots back to the Aztecs and was used in rituals for special occasions. The conjunction of corn (usually whole hominy kernels) and meat in a single dish is of particular interest to scholars because the ancient Mexicans believed the gods made humans out of cornmeal dough. There is also mention of human sacrifice and something about pork tasting a lot like human flesh (Hmmm, I will take their word on that one) on the wikipedia link.

Our dish was simply Pasilla chiles, hominy, onions, garlic, cumin, oregano, chicken and chicken stock. This is a no-brainer to make ahead several days ahead of time. I warmed it back up tonight and garnished with fresh cabbage, cilantro, scallions, radishes and some lime juice.
The soup/stew is very complex, and has a depth of flavor that belies the few ingredients actually used. The chiles used are what I am guessing gives this dish religious significance and the spice mix warms your body and your soul.

Pozole is going into permanent rotation at our home.

Father's Day


(image) Father & Son

Before my son left for an exchange in France (Bordeaux) we had a final meal together. Since it was Father's Day it only seemed fitting that some kind of protein get grilled. I have been playing with some of the lesser cuts of meat of late. You know, they are the ones you see on a restaurant list. Basically things like Pork Shoulder, Flap Steak (Bavette Steak), Hanger Steak, Flat Iron Steak, etc. These cuts are fairly inexpensive and with some care you can elevate them to great heights.
I started with half a Pork Shoulder and just de-boned, butterflied and then stuffed with garlic and rosemary then rolled into a roast. The roast was about 6-7 lbs and all I did was sear on a medium hot grill then move the roast completely off the flame. I banked the coals to one side and tried to keep the temperature around 250 degrees. The first time you try this make sure you get this going early as it can take 6-8 hours to cook. This roast you should pull at 185 degrees and let rest for 30 minutes. At that temperature you can still slice the roast. If you cook another 10 degrees you are going to wind up with pulled pork (delicious, but not what we are going for).
This roast goes well with a vegetable that you can add some acid to. Brussel Sprouts sauteed with bacon and some lemon juice are killer. Grilled Asparagus with salt, pepper, olive oil and lemon are a gimme too.

(image) Smoke Roasted Pork Shoulder
w/Sauteed Brussel Sprouts & Grilled Asparagus

Harmon Killebrew


Harmon Killebrew dies at 74; Hall of Famer was one of baseball's premier home-run hittersThe above headline made me sit up and think about getting older. I grew up the same small Idaho town (Payette) as Harmon did and heard stories about his exploits as soon as I was able to put on a baseball glove. I will tell you this, that small town absolutely adored Harmon. The one time I met him in person was when he spoke at my little league football banquet in 1970. As I recall they invited 3 or 4 teams in the area to a dinner held at Maudie Owen's cafe and he spoke of his own football days, signed autographs and hung out with a bunch of star-struck 11 and 12 year olds (adults too). This seemed like a big deal then. As time has passed it seems like an even bigger event. In 1969 Harmon was the AL MVP. Imagine getting A-Rod to show up in Payette, Idaho to speak to a bunch of 11 and 12 year old pee-wee football players.When I heard Harmon was sick a few weeks ago I sent him a personal note and I thanked him for speaking at my football banquet over 40 years ago. His passing makes me realize that life is short and we should all count our blessings. Harmon was a kind gentle man who lead by example and who made a very small town in Idaho very proud. I will miss him.Harmon Killebrew, known for his towering drives, hit 573 homers in 22 seasons that included an American League pennant with the Minnesota Twins in 1965 and a most valuable player award in 1969. One manager said he could hit the ball out of any park, 'including Yellowstone.'Harmon Killebrew, a Hall of Fame slugger who became one of baseball's premier home-run hitters with the Minnesota Twins, has died. He was 74.Killebrew died Tuesday of cancer at his home in Scottsdale, Ariz., the Twins announced. He said in December that he was undergoing treatment for esophageal cancer and last week said he had entered hospice care.He hit 573 home runs during 22 seasons with the Washington Senators, Twins and Kansas City Royals, including eight seasons in which he hit at least 40 home runs. Killebrew helped the Twins reach the World Series in 1965, where they lost to the Dodgers, and he was named the American League's most valuable player in 1969.A 13-time All-Star, Killebrew was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1984."This is a sad day for all of baseball and even harder for those of us who were fortunate enough to be a friend of Harmon's," Hall of Famer and former Killebrew teammate Rod Carew said in a statement. "He was a consummate professional who treated everyone from the brashest of rookies to the groundskeepers to the ushers in the stadium with the utmost of respect. I would not be the person I am today if it weren't for Harmon Killebrew."At 5 feet 11 and about 210 pounds, Killebrew was a stocky first and third baseman, outfielder and designated hitter who was particularly known for his ability to hit memorably long home runs."He hit a ball in Minnesota that went over 500 feet and broke two chairs," former Twins Manager Cal Ermer told the Chattanooga (Tenn.) Times Free Press in 2002.Paul Richards, then manager of the Baltimore Orioles, said during Killebrew's breakout season in 1959: "Killebrew can knock the ball out of any park — including Yellowstone."Killebrew hit 42 home runs that season for the Washington Senators, who moved to Minnesota in 1961 and became the Twins.Killebrew credited his power to growing up in Idaho. "When I was 14, and for the next four years, I was lifting and hauling 10-gallon milk cans full of milk," he told the Washington Post in 1984. "That will put muscles on you even if[...]

David Abreu


(image) Abreu winemaker-Brad Grimes

The first "big time" winery we hit in Napa was Abreu. My buddy Sam is on their mailing list.
David Abreu is perhaps one of the hottest vineyard manager in the Napa Valley. He has a great reputation and he has a long list of clients who are willing to spend as much as it takes the produce high end wine.
David Abreu also makes wine under his own name as well. His Madronna Ranch Cabernet wines are highly sought after and are as expensive($500-600/bottle) as they are rare.
Abreu has a small, discrete winery
 located in a cave. The facility is small, very tidy and the place has the feel of a monestary.
Cave tour

We had a chance to meet and spend a couple of hours with Abreu winemaker Brad Grimes. Keep in mind that Abreu doesn't have a tasting room and they rarely see visitors. For us to get the opportunity to spend a morning with Brad was akin to being a fan of U2 and getting to spend a couple of hours with Bono.
Brad Grimes may be one of the best (and least known) winemakers anywhere. While we heard over and over this weekend that "wine is made in the vineyard", I couldn't help but take away from this winery visit that the winemaker's personality does show through. Brad comes across as someone who "thinks and feels" in his wine making.
I didn't get the sense that this guy spends much time getting caught up in wine science. He came across as a serious artist who "guides" vs. "makes" wine


What an awesome morning and the beginning of an amazing group of winery tours.

Milk Braised Pork Shoulder


Milk Braised Pork ShoulderI think it may have been the weather that made do this. Early this month the weather in Portland, Oregon had been creeping into BBQ territory. Even though I probably grill 100+ days a year outside there are times when I don't feel like getting soaked while trying to coax some wet hardwood charcoal (yeah, I am a total Luddite) to light.So, the weather is cold and wet and I was surfing some cooking sites when something nudged me to do a google search on "Milk Braised Pork". This is a technique that an Italian Grandmother developed and I wish I could say that it was an old family recipe, alas it isn't. I tell you this though, if you cook this, your family will remember it and they will tell the story of their Mother or Father who cooked this succulent pork dish.Milk Braised Pork ShoulderIngredients:4-5lb Pork Shoulder (boned and tied)Kosher SaltBlack PepperOlive Oil2 Onions (chopped)4 Shallots (chopped)1 qt. Whole MilkFresh Thyme-2-3 big sprigsInstructions:Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.Season the Pork Shoulder with salt and pepper and add to a enamel lined cast iron pot with some olive oil. Brown all sides and remove. To the pot add the onions and shallot and cook until soft, add the milk and the pork and bring to a simmer then add the thyme. Add the pot to the oven and cook the pork for two hours (keep the lid to the pot slightly open). After two hours transfer the pork to a warm dish to rest for 20 minutes. Place the pot with the milk mixture on a medium burner and reduce this mixture for 15 minutes. The mixture will look a bit gnarly.....the milk will curdle, but if you hang in there and reduce and then puree with an immersion blender you will have the silkiest, most savory gravy you have ever tasted.Season the gravy to taste, slice the pork and plate with a side vegetable. This gravy would be awesome on mashed potatoes as well.Heads up, the remaining gravy and a couple of handfuls of left over pork (chopped) make a pasta dish that is worth going to the trouble to make by itself. Buon Appetito![...]

David Arthur


..........................David Arthur Vineyards.................................................................. Barrel Room ....................... ....................Sam Sundeleaf & Tyson Ducker.............................................. Conception Oak Tree .......................I was in the Napa Valley last week for 5 days. Myself and 5 other serious food/wine friends flew down and we rented a house together. Keep in mind this isn't just a casual group of wine drinkers who would be happy hop scotching up and down Hwy 29. This group is either in the wine trade, has a wine collection or both. We are all on some exclusive mailing lists and we called in every favor we could.The first "big" stop of the week was at David Arthur. This was my first real foray east of the Silverado Trail into an area known as Pritchard Hill. The valley floor in Napa is somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 feet in elevation. David Arthur is at about 1200 feet. The winery produces about 3000 cases of wine which makes this basically a "cult" winery (re: expensive and hard to get). The winery is open to visitors with an appointment and if you are on the mailing list (like my buddy Sam) you can get a grand VIP tour (like we did). We had a chance to taste through the entire lineup of wines that David Arthur produces which for the 2008 vintage includes:ChardonnaySauvignon BlancMeritaggio (California take on a Super Tuscan)Cabernet FrancCabernet Sauvignon (actually a Bordeaux blend)Elevation 1147 (100% Cabernet)View from above the winery looking WestDavid Arthur VineyardThinking that things couldn't get any better (trust me, they did)We had a fantastic afternoon tasting the wines and talking about vineyard practice, barrel management and philosophy of making wine from these hillside vineyards.This was to be the 1st of a series of great winery visits we had on our trip. Great day, great friends, great wine-cheers to David Arthur Vineyards![...]

The French Laundry


(image) Champagne at the French Laundry

I just got back into town on Sunday after a five day trip to the Napa Valley. Six of us were there to celebrate my buddy Tom's 40th birthday. If you know anything about wine, then my telling you we spent time at Abreu, Continum, David Arthur, Dunn, Karl Lawrence & Rudd (I will do a post of this later) might strike a chord. If you are more in tune with food then I could say that the above wineries are to wine what The French Laundry is to food. Speaking of The French Laundry, the group of us decided over a month ago to bite the bullet and see if we could get a reservation. Long story short, we did and we went (blog post to come later.......c'mon, with 15 courses this may take a while).



My birthday was a week ago and I got the one gift I really wanted

(image) Thanks Mom & Dad

I am not a religious person, so in my world this is about as "Biblical" as I want to get.
The Silver Spoon is considered to be the Italian equivalent of "The Joy of Cooking".
I might second that sentiment if "The Joy of Cooking" had been written by Thomas Keller. I am looking forward to Italian meals that provide a religious experience.

Meat, Cheese, Vegetable


Friday a wine group I belong to celebrated the event we call "The Feast of St. Vincent".If you are really interested you can click the link and get a quick run down of who St. Vincent was and also some info on our group (Confrerie de Vignerons des St. Vincent de Macon).We hosted our dinner at the Oregon Culinary Institute and what a great dinner it was. OCI is a teaching restaurant and with a group of our size we can have their restaurant space reserved as a private event. A four course seasonal dinner is $18.00 + gratuity (a phenomenal bargain).In the past OCI had done appetizers for our group, but due to a change of policy we weren't able to make that happen this year.So what do you do when life gives you a lemon? You make lemonade. I decided as the outgoing Chanclier (President) of the group to take our budget and see what I could pull together. I knew that with our budget we couldn't realistically pull in another caterer and the thought of a Champagne reception with a Fred Meyer veggie/lunch meat tray gave me the motivation to step up and prepare appetizer platters for 40 people.Charcuterie PlatterCheese PlatterVegetable PlatterCold Smoked Salmon CrostiniThe three platters turned out wonderful and was really pleased with the presentation.I even got cocky and did some individual Salmon appetizers as well.Prep for these four platters + some nuts, olives and condiments took about 3 hours. This little exercise gave me a huge appreciation for what a caterer does. A big shout out goes to Chop of Portland for their pate, smoked duck and house made charcuterie.I got nice compliments all night about the appetizers, but the biggest pat on the back came from the chefs at the restaurant when I was pulling these out of my car and setting up. When they asked "who did your appetizers, those are awesome"! and I could look them in the eye and say: " I did them".[...]