Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Rating the 'cue ...the 'Real' way

When I started this blog, I figured I'd do a few things with it. I'd use it to chronicle my journeys and post pics from bbq joints and festivals; post random thoughts, news articles and books on bbq, and post my thoughts/reviews on bbq ...and invite others to join in the conversation with thier pics, comments,etc.
So let me start with a basis for my bbq ratings ....which starts with a bit of a book review

I've got alot of books on barbecue. One of my favourites is "Real Barbecue: The Classic Barbecue Guide to the Best Joints Across the USA" by Vince Staten & Greg Johnson. It's an older book (published in 1988), but it's kind of the template for a lot of bbq books that have come out recently.

It covers the subject of bbq in America pretty thouroughly. Part road map with a cross country tour of 'cue joints, part cookbook of recipes, part history book with pics and 'porklore' added. It's a pretty cool book but one of the best things I liked about it was it's rating system.They don't use stars. they don't use a 1-10 rating scale, they don't use grades. Instead the use a 'conversation' scale as though you heard it from someone recommending it to you.

For example, a bbq joint that is:
- fair to middling would be rated "Pretty good"
- one step up doing a respectable job would be rated "Good"
- above that, a special place worth the drive & wait is "Real Good"
- the pinnacle of greatness is "As Good As I've Ever Had"

So, as I post my bbq reviews of joints I've tried, I'll stay true to this 'word of mouth' type rating systen as my bottom line review.

North Carolina 'cue

Nicole G used to work with me & knew how much I loved bbq, so when she went on a North Carolina road-trip & checked out a few bar-b-q joints...sent me a few pics to tease me.
Here are some pics from Pig-N-Out Barbecue in Winston-Salem, N.C

Here are some other pics she took at Hill's Lexington Barbecue in Winston-Salem, N.C

She said the pulled pork at Hill's was great, but the hushpuppies were AMAZING !!!

Van-CUE-ver, BC

In 2008, Danielle D took a visit to Memphis Blues Barbecue House in Vancouver, B.C
Below are a few cell phone pics she sent me:

I have a copy of the "Memphis Blues - Bringing Southern BBQ Home' cookbook and it's quite good.

Unfortunately,I've never had a chance to check out the restaurant yet, but hear rave reviews and it's definately on the radar.

After posting the previous story about cue in Vancouver, I pulled out some pics I was sent by Tanya V in 2009 after her visit to DIX BBQ & Brewery in Vancouver, B.C. Foodwise reviews for DIX had been up and down, most folks saying it was a better place for a beer than a meal....which is why it closed it's doors earlier this year to become a brewpub. Ah well, here are some of the pics she sent me back in 2009.

The Smell Of ....

Monday morning. August 7th, 2006. It was a hot & sunny even in the early morning hours down by the waters of Kempenfelt Bay in Barrie, Ontario.

I was up early, getting ready to take part in the 'amateur rib competition' as part of the inaugural Canadian Open BBQ Championships. A long time cue fan, I've judged a few competitions, but this was my first time ever competing at cooking...and it came about in a strange way.

I was program director for 2 radio stations in Barrie that were promoting the event. I thought it'd be fun to have each morning show have a team & compete against each other in the competition. It'd make for some fun on air banter. Both morning shows agreed, so we were set, we'd do live cut-ins from the event, it'd be a good time.Down to the wire, and one of the morning show hosts can't make it - so I step in to fill his spot.

So it was Tara & myself on the B101 Rib Ticklers team taking on Andrew & Kevin from CHAY 93.1's Ribbed for Her Pleasure team...plus 10 other amateur teams from as far away as Columbus,Ohio and Montreal,Quebec.

We had some help too ...Thankfully Tara & I had Darryl Koster of Buster Rhino's to help coach us in preparing and smoking ribs. An extra big thank you to Mike and the folks at Traeger for the loan of their equipment ...'Twister' the bull smoker.

Tara & I decided we'd have alot of fun with it, joking, mocking, teasing and poking fun at ourselves as well as the other teams. We thought, we may not win so let's at least have fun. And we did! It was a GREAT day...fun, friendly and the comaradarie of all the participants was truly amazing

So how did we do?

After poking fun at everyone, I guess it was now our turn to pay for it ..... Or was it ??????

Let's just say, it was an event holders worst nightmare! when the final count was done and the when the standings were finalized, not one both both of my radio stations placed ...with first and second place showings!!!

Was the fix in? Rest assured - with blind judging in place it definately was not.

You see how close it really was.

Here are the standings:

B101's Rib Ticklers - 442 Points
CHAY 93.1's Ribbed for Her Pleasure - 441
Double "D" Smokr's - 439
Still Smokin' - 431
Holy Smokes BBQ - 430
J7A's Succulent Saucy Slabs - 427
TNT BBQ'N - 422
The Hogtown Squealers - 409
Nuts & Cakes - 397
Smoke Damage - 393
Grillin' Qzine - 390
You Go Girls - 367

After all that we placed ...FIRST !?!?!

Ah! The smell of victory ...and bragging rights, not just for the win, but for an awesome day spent with some incredible friendly people.

The First Time

Everyone remembers thier first...Thier first taste of REAL Bar-B-Q

Sure you've had backyard barbecues with burgers and dogs, but there's something really special about that very first time you tasted that true southern low and slow smoked barbecue.

I think I was about 11 or 12 years old, sometime in the Winter of 1976 or '77.
We were on a family vacation driving from Ottawa, Ont to Hollywood Beach, Florida. Laying in the back of the station wagon listening to the radio... "Convoy" and "50 Ways To Leave Your Lover" spring to mind.

Along the way i remember passing fields of sugar cane & somewhere we stopped at a place for lunch or dinner. I remember the outside...statues of cowboys & indians, good guys & bad guys. There was boot hill and stage coaches and more. Inside was like a barn. Plain picnic tables, walls covered with old wagon wheels and barbed wire. I even remember that they would give you change in real Confederate dollars.

It was here that I believe I had my first real taste of real Bar-B-Q.

Cleaning out some old boxes, I uncovered an old plastic cow head milk creamer jug. A memento of the past. On the front of it were the words "Old South Bar-B-Q Ranch".

I did some searching " Old South Bar-B-Q Ranch" on the net.
Not much to be found other than a few pictures ...

Also found a few other items poping up for sale on Ebay ...
Some postcards of the actual restaurant...

While other postcards that were just meant to be funny...

I also found old brochures, extra long matchbooks, cowbells ...

I even found an old restaurant menu...

It was just as I had remembered it.

I searched, but I couldn't find a website or any contact info. Was it still there ???

I tried calling the phone number that I had found, but it was out of service. So I looked up the city it was located in and contacted thier Chamber Of Commerce, who got me in touch with W.H "Jimmy" McDuffie - the last succesful owner of the Ranch.

Jimmy had sold the place about 15 years ago...and it unfortunately closed down about 10 years ago...place was gutted & turned into a used car sales & parking lot. Not a sign of the Old South Bar-B-Q Ranch remains.