Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Curious Case of the Mandy Tree

Because it's Halloween today, I'm breaking routine. Instead of my regular Wednesday hot sauce post, I thought I'd share a spooky story with you.

The story comes courtesy of Brother Dave, who found online a version of a local legend we grew up with in Madisonville, Kentucky. It's the tale of the Mandy Tree. The tree was long gone before I was born, but I remember family drives out West Broadway to take a look where the tree once stood, and someone would tell the creepy tale of the tree.

Somehow I wound up with a photo of the tree that I've kept for years in a scrapbook. I hadn't thought about it for years until Dave found the following write up on Linda Linn's Kentucky Home and Ghost Stories site (sorry, the link no longer exists). Here's her item about the tree.

The Mandy Tree

Besides being a good wife and mother who dispatched her husband and kids each day with overflowing lunch pails, Mandy Holloman of Madisonville, Ky., was a gardener who loved to work in her yard. Shortly before she was found mysteriously shot to death in her home in the 1920s, she had planted a tiny oak tree in her back yard.

Around 1940 the plain oak on West Broadway suddenly burst into something townsfolk found extraordinary, maybe even supernatural, said Jeanetta Traylor, a Madisonville storyteller. The tree's foliage took on the shape of Mandy's profile.

"It was written up in 'Ripley's Believe It Or Not,' " recalled Ms. Traylor, noting the tree kept the features several years.

Although the tree later died, photographs exist of a phenomenon sometimes called the "haunting" of West Broadway.

Have a safe and fun Halloween!

(NOTE: See an updated post about the Mandy Tree)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

BBTuesday - Chicago

I've spent nearly 20 years of my life living in Chicago. I first moved there in the 1970s when I was in high school and then spent several college summers living and working there. In the mid '80s, the Remarkable Marcy and I moved to Chicago from Ohio and lived there for more than a decade.

It's my kind of town. A toddlin' town, whatever that means. Poet Carl Sandburg called Chicago, "Hog butcher for the world." With a rep like that to uphold, it's no wonder that BBQ figures mightily into the Windy City's food spectrum.

When it comes to BBQ, Chicago is a ribs town. Chicago ribs are distinctive in that they don't feature much in the way of rubs, and in most cases, sauce goes on before they're smoked, rather than near the end of the process. That requires a very slow cooking process, sometimes at temperatures below 200 degrees.

The most notable rib joint in town is Carson's. The restaurant has only been around since the late '70s, but has established itself as rib central. The pre-sauced ribs are smoked, slowly, over a hickory fire. More of Carson's syrupy, tangy barbecue sauce goes on near the end of the cooking to give the meat a reddish glaze.

When Marcy and I moved to town in 1986, we settled in Oak Park, birthplace of Ernest Hemingway, home of Frank Lloyd Wright and where you'll find Robinson's #1 Ribs. Charlie Robinson grew up in Mississippi and started making a name for himself in the 1980s. In 1982 Robinson won the first annual Ribfest organized by the late, great columnist Mike Royko. Robinson won further acclaim on the competition circuit in the '80s. Robinson marinates his ribs in a blend of sauce and seasoning, then refrigerates them overnight before they're slowly hickory smoked. Make sure you finish them off with lots of the sweet and peppery sauce.

For pure BBQ kitsch, it's hard to beat Russell's Barbecue in west suburban Elmwood Park. Russell's opened in the 1930s and the building at the right, from a photo taken around 1950, still stands on Thatcher Avenue, a beautiful shady road that cuts up along the Des Plaines River, giving you a respite from the ugly urban sprawl that's grown up around it. Russell's ribs and sandwiches were okay, but it was the atmosphere of the place, more than the food, that drew me back for return visits. Dark, wood-paneled walls, picnic-style tables and benches - it's what a BBQ joint should look like.

There are many, many more great 'Q stops in Chicago, but these three are the ones I can personally recommend. And this time of year, when the first chilly breezes are starting to blow in off Lake Michigan, any place serving a hot slab of ribs is worth a stop.

BBTune

Buddy Guy may be the greatest blues guitarist of all time and an adopted son of Chicago. Here he is with the one of the many musical tributes to the city, "Sweet Home, Chicago." Not a bad cast of sidemen on this either. Keep and eye and ear out for Eric Clapton, Robert Cray, Jimmie Vaughan and others.



Enjoy!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Oct. 29, 2007, In the News


The baseball season came to a clunking end last night as the Boston Red Sox swept the Colorado Rockies in the World Series. No offense to any Rockies fans out there, but the only suspense in this series was seeing how many records the Red Sox would set before it was over. Congrats to Red Sox Nation. That's two titles in four years. That means you're ineligible to use the term "long-suffering" ever again.

The results of the lAtest micro-poll show A is cleArly everyone's fAvorite vowel. A wAs the overwhelming fAvorite, pulling As mAny votes As All other vowels combined. As of yesterdAy Afternoon, the ArrogAnt And overrAted e hAd been shut out in the voting. But A lAte sympAthy vote cAst by someone who might hAve been my wife, pulled e into A four-wAy tie for runner up.

The new poll is up. Thanksgiving is approaching and you can vote for your favorite side dish. Between now and Thanksgiving, my weekly Mailbag post will give way to Side Dish Saturday starting this coming weekend. Feel free to share your favorite recipes, especially if you vote for the "Something Else" category.

And now, the news:


Koreans are spicing up their lives. An item on Dave DeWitt's Fiery-Foods site reports that a study found that the amount of capsaicin in kimchi has doubled in the past five years.

He must reeeeeally like that sauce. A Rhode Island man is sentenced for breaking the door of a fast-food restaurant when they forgot to include the "zesty sauce" with his order.

That may be the least disgusting thing in a processed sausage. Australian food maker recalls BBQ sausages after finding bits of rubber mixed with the meat.

Unusual recipe of the week:

Halloween is a couple of days away. While I don't recommend handing the following out to the neighborhood kiddies who come trick-or-treating at your house, it might be fun to munch some of this Hot Pepper Candy on your own. From the Pepper Fool site.

Have a great week everyone!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Food for the Soul, Oct. 28, 2007

Fire and smoke mean something different to this BBQ blogger this week as I've watched along with you the devastation in Southern California. The photo above was taken by a NASA satellite earlier this week and clearly shows the plumes of smoke extending high into the atmosphere.

Nearly a half million acres of earth have been scorched. More than 1,800 homes were destroyed. No fewer than five lives have been lost. And millions of others have been uprooted and had their lives pitched into unimaginable chaos.

Some have likened this disaster to Hurricane Katrina, but I'm not sure that such comparisons are fair or necessary. It's bad. Really bad. Sadly, at least one of the fires may have been deliberately set.

I'm sure that some will play politics with this, and that, too, is sad. I don't think the timing or scale of a response should be calculated or judged by what the political implications will be.

If you're looking for something you can do to help, here is a link to a government site with information on volunteering and assistance. There is also helpful information for fire victims.

For those of us who've been watching these events from a safe distance, take some time this week to step outside your troubles. Focus on the blessings in your life. And take a few moments to send some positive thoughts and prayers to those who need them.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Mailbag, Oct. 27, 2007


So, the World Series has (finally) started and none of our teams are in it. Neither, it appears, are the Colorado Rockies. Maybe they'll show up tonight in Coors Field. I hope they win at least one of the next two games. There are few things sadder than the baseball season coming to an end on a Sunday night.

Even as the series winds its way to a close, there are big baseball questions still unanswered. Who will replace Joe Torre? Will A-Rod be a Yankee next year? Is there a difference between Stadium Mustard and Ball Park Mustard?

I can't help you with the first two, but we should soon have the definitive answer on the third. As mentioned last Saturday, Rich the Killer Cameraman sent us a bottle of Ball Park Mustard. This weekend, my colleague Ron is in Cleveland, where he promises to pick up a bottle (or two, or three, or...) of Stadium Mustard. We've scheduled a side-by-side taste test and will report on it sometime this week. Stay tuned...

Speaking of Rich the Killer Cameraman, he wrote with a clarification to Monday's post about Dreamland Bar-B-Que. He says that while the satellite locations offer various side dishes, the original location in Tuscaloosa still only offers slices of Sunbeam bread and banana pudding.

Take My Word For It

Here are a few favorite posts this week from my Good Friends and Cool Places links.

Sweet Loretta's Ragtime Pie (The Chef From Hell)

Spicy Sweet Soy Sauce Marinated Chicken
(Jason's BBQ Adventures)

Fact: Beer, Elephants and Electricity Do Not Mix (A Good Beer Blog)

Enjoy your weekend!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Friday Fun, Oct. 26, 2007 - Ghost Story

Twenty-three years ago this week I experienced the closest thing I have to a personal ghost story.

Matt, a classmate at Ohio State, had told me of some strange things that happened to him when he worked at the Buxton Inn, the state's oldest continuously operated inn, located in Granville, Ohio, about 30 miles east of Columbus. Matt attributed these things to the Buxton's resident ghost, known as the Lady in Blue.

I mentioned that I'd like to do a story about the place, so Matt contacted the inn's owner, Orville Orr. Orville agreed to give us the run of the place one weekday afternoon. During the week, there weren't many guests staying in the inn, but people did come to the Buxton in the evenings to eat in the restaurant. Orville said we were welcome to prowl around until the dinnertime crowd arrived.

It was a typical late October day in Central Ohio - cool and cloudy with darkness moving in early. We arrived around 4 o'clock in the afternoon and started walking the hallways. After about a half an hour of nothing out of the ordinary, we went into the empty restaurant and sat down. Matt was telling me another of his stories when just over his shoulder, I noticed a swinging door move slightly. Matt saw me looking past him and he turned. Then we saw the door slowly open as a woman in a Colonial-style blue dress entered the room. It was a lady in blue! Yes, a lady in blue, but not the Lady in Blue. It was an early-arriving waitress, bringing a tray of silverware into the dining room to begin setting the tables. We composed ourselves, apologized for scaring her more than she scared us, and returned to roaming the hallways.

I was walking down a second-floor corridor a few feet ahead of Matt when I heard him shout, "Did you see that?" I spun and noticed that a fire door between us had closed after I had passed through. I opened it and rejoined Matt. He said that a large ceramic pot that had been propping the door open had moved, allowing the door to close. I hadn't seen it, and was frankly pretty skeptical about his observation. I slid the pot back in front of the door to prop it open again.

The second time, I saw it.

The pot moved. About four to six inches. Across a carpet. And the door closed.

A couple of minutes later, down in the bar, while we nervously sipped our drinks, Orville explained that the Lady in Blue is a gentle spirit and a bit of a show off. "She likes to perform," he said, noting that many feel she was an actress in life. He said our experience was much like what others reported, although some actually have seen her.

I can't say that I've seen a ghost. But, I can say I saw a 10-lb pot scoot across a carpet to allow a heavy metal door swing shut.

Here's another link to information about the haunting of the Buxton Inn.

And, if you want a fun way to waste hours of time, here's a link to a list of ghost cams set up at other reported haunted spots. This site also links to places where you can buy your own ghost-detection equipment if you want to go out and find your own spook.

This isn't what we drank in the bar that night, but it's in the spirit of the season. This concoction comes from the BarMeister site.

Ghostbuster

2 oz Vodka
1 oz Blue Curacao

Fill glass(es) Orange Juice


Add vodka, curacao, then orange juice.


Have a great weekend!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Martha White


Goodness gracious, good 'n light, Martha White.

Anyone who grew up within earshot of radio broadcasts of the Grand Ole Opry knows well the Martha White song. The self-rising flour sponsored the Opry for years with the catchy bluegrass jingle sung by Flatt & Scruggs. "For the finest biscuits ever was..."

Brother Dave sent me a note yesterday saying he'd spent some time browsing the Martha White Website. Not only do they have downloadable versions of the song, there's also a page about the company's long association with the Opry, Tennessee Ernie Ford's role as company spokesman, and more.

And there are recipes. Cakes, pies, cookies, cobbler, and of course, biscuits. How does a batch of blood-sludging Cheesy Country Ham Biscuit Bites sound?

The site is a treasure trove of comfort foods for the body, mind and ears.

We'll take it out today with the aforementioned Flatt & Scruggs picking the "Randy Lynn Rag" from their classic TV show.



Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Hot Sauce and Health


I'm going to take a bit of a blogger's holiday, but I thought you might find interesting this post on the Sweat 'N Spice site about the health benefits of hot sauce and spicy foods.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

BBTuesday - Sauce Off Results

The results are in and they were close. The winner of the first annual Sullicom Sauce Off is the mole barbecue sauce submitted by Chef JP, aka The Chef From Hell.

Jason of Jason's BBQ Adventures came in a very close second with his mustard entry for lemonade chicken.

But it was the blend of BBQ and Tex-Mex flavors in the mole sauce that had me slathering the stuff atop everything from chicken to ham to burritos, then making sure I licked every drop off spoons, bowls and plates.

Coming in third was my own entry, the Kentucky BBQ Dip. I still love the stuff, but the opportunity to enjoy the other new entries outweighed the familiarity of our family favorite.

The sauce off started out as an attempt to answer the question, "Which type of sauce is best - tomato, mustard or vinegar?" I learned that there is no answer to the question. All sauces are good. There are regional preferences and personal favorites. But if you limit yourself to just one kind of sauce, you're doing yourself a great disservice.

Congrats to Chef JP and to Jason. Both are genuine BBQ pros whose sites are loaded with tasty recipes, helpful instruction and other valuable and entertaining information.

BBTune

Keeping in the spirit of the competition, I give you "The Barbeque Sauce Song." I'm not sure who the artist is, but he's got an impressive grill.



Enjoy!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Oct. 22, 2007, In the News

Damn goat. Oh, wait. Wrong team.

With the Red Sox taking their third straight game from the Indians last night, our interest in the rest of the baseball season has rolled right off the edge of the table. There were four inches of snow in Denver yesterday. Even winter has decided not to wait until the end of the season to get going.

Enough with the sour grapes.

The results are in from the most recent micro poll and Treat beat out Trick by a single vote. To tell you the truth, I was a little surprised. If asked, I would have guessed that you readers were a little more mischievous than this. I suppose deep down you're a good-hearted lot.

The new poll is up. Vote for your favorite vowel. Will the overrated e continue its domination, or will i or u sneak in to win?

Eat Here

I thought I'd break form a little bit today. From time to time I want to feature one of the nation's great restaurants serving bbq or comfort food.

Today we start with Dreamland Bar-B-Que of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. This recommendation comes from Rich the Killer Cameraman, who's no doubt in a post-baseball funk today and could use a little Dreamland bbq to cheer him up.

Rich visited the 'bama institution a few years back and remembers it not only for its great ribs, but for the "No Beans. No Slaw... Don't Ask!" slogan. He said the only sides he remembers the restaurant offering were slices of bread and banana pudding.

Checking Dreamland's Website, the place does now offer beans, slaw, potato salad and some other sides. Much of its main fare, ribs, sausage, pulled pork, chicken and sauce can be ordered online, along with hats and t-shirts with the "Don't Ask!" slogan.

Mr. John "Big Daddy" Bishop opened the first Dreamland back in 1958 in Jerusalem Heights, just south of Tuscaloosa. Today there are eight Dreamland locations.

For a place that uses a slogan pegged to not having any side dishes, the Website has a recipe page that mostly features, ironically, side dishes. There are a couple of soups (white gazpacho, beef and barley), some salads (layered cornbread salad, veggie pasta salad, sweet and sour salad with barbecue vinaigrette) , shrimp cocktail, chicken wings and more.

If any of you have dined at Dreamland, let me know what you think. Or if you have suggestions for other classic restaurants, let me know that, too, and I'll try to work them into future posts.

Have a great week!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Food for the Soul, Oct. 21, 2007

Fall seems to be in no hurry to get here this year. The days are still warm and the leaves are just starting to show some color. But a couple of mornings ago, it was foggy and dewy and for the first time this season the day evoked memories of burgoo.

When I was growing up in Kentucky, fall was the time for burgoo parties. They'd start early in the morning - often cool, foggy, dewy mornings that sparked the memory above. And, they'd go late.

The parties I most remember were hosted by Harry and Mada Lee Boyd. They lived on the outskirts of town in a house that had a long, gently sloping backyard segued into the woods. I recall that Harry had a .22 caliber rifle he kept by the back door for use when rabbits or squirrels dared trespass from the woods into his yard.

The burgoo events would start early on a Saturday. There was a wood fire over which was hung a big black kettle. The kettle was loaded with all sorts of ingredients - tomatoes, corn, lima beans, meats of all sorts - quite possibly including some of the trespassing rabbits and squirrels. The men took turns throughout the day stirring the kettle with a boat paddle.

By mid- to late-afternoon, the burgoo was ready. It was ladled into bowls, topped with a few shakes of Tabasco Sauce and served with crackers and cornbread. There was plenty of sweet tea, as well as bourbon and beer. The parties often outlasted me. My parents would tuck me into a bed in the Boyd's guest room and I'd fall asleep listening to the comforting sound of voices and laughter.

I didn't realize that burgoo was a regional dish until I moved away from Kentucky during my teens. It was years before I had it again, when I made it myself - sans party - from the following recipe in James Beard's "American Cookery" book. You can see from the portions in the list of ingredients why there's usually a party involved. There are no rabbits or squirrels in this recipe, which frankly was and still is okay by me.

Burgoo

7 pounds shin of beef or 4 pounds chuck
1 stewing hen, 5 to 6 pounds
Salt
6 medium potatoes cut into large cubes
8 carrots cut into thick slices
6 medium turnips cut into large cubes
1 large head celery cut into 1-inch pieces
4 medium onions, sliced
1 1/2 quarts canned tomatoes
2 pounds green beans cut into 1-inch pieces
3 pounds peas, shelled
2 pounds butter beans, shelled
12 ears corn, cut from the cob
1 head cabbage, shredded
1 pound okra cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup chopped parsley
10 small red peppers
1 bell pepper cut into strips
1 tablespoon thyme
Freshly ground pepper

Put the beef and fowl into enough cold water to more than cover them, and add one tablespoon salt for each quart of water. You will need a pot for all this that holds 12 to 15 quarts, or two 8-quart ones. Bring to a boil and cook 5 minutes, skimming off any scum that forms at the top. Cover and simmer until the beef and fowl are extremely tender. Remove them from the broth, and when cool enough to handle, cut into bite-size pieces. Return to the broth, bring to a boil, and add the vegetables in the order given. When the mixture comes to a full rolling boil, add the thyme and pepper, and simmer until the vegetables are cooked - about 45 minutes. Add salt if needed after tasting.

The Chef From Hell recently posted another recipe for burgoo on his site if you'd like an alternate, smaller-portioned version.

If you want to try some without going to the effort of making it yourself, the Moonlight Bar-B-Q Inn in Owensboro, Kentucky has it available on their site for shipping.

There's also a great piece on NPR's site about burgoo, authored by another native of the commonwealth offering his own memories. Good sound clips from him and others about this terrific regional dish.

Enjoy!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Mailbag, Oct. 20, 2007


The American League Championship Series drags on with the Remarkable Marcy's Indians holding a 3-2 edge going into tonight's game against the Red Sox in Boston.

Meanwhile, I'm still getting incoming comments, photos and swag on the Cleveland mustard postings from last week. Rich the Killer Cameraman took the photo at the left during last Monday night's game at the Jake, then sent us the featured bottle of Ball Park Mustard. I've also heard from a couple of other native Clevelanders who have promised to share their opinions on the issue at some point.

Take My Word For It

Here are a few favorite posts this week from my Good Friends and Cool Places links.

Cranberry Meringue Pie (Tummy Treasure)

A Food Blogger's Daydream
(The Chef From Hell)

Simple Salmon
(Barbecue Bachelor)

Comfort me with banana pudding (Homesick Texan)

Enjoy your weekend!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Friday Fun, Oct. 19, 2007 - Pez

In the movie "Stand By Me" one of the characters declared that if he could have only one food the rest of his life it would be Pez.

Who can argue? Not only are the little brick-shaped candies delightfully flavorful, the dispensers are just way cool.

The image at the right is from a gallery of modified Pez dispensers at Sweet World Pez. If you elect to visit the site (and I highly recommend it), you'll find customized Pez poppers that range from amusing to blasphemous.

The video below features a woman named Kellie who likes Pez maybe a little too much. I kept wanting to see what would happen if she tilted her head back.



Have a great weekend!


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Beer Haiku


Canned beer makes me burp.
So I drink from a bottle.
I'm a beer baby.

I'm so proud to claim that little nugget of verse as my very own. It's one of two haikus I've published to date on this blog. There is a site, though, that I've recently discovered that is dedicated to publishing a beer-related haiku each and every day. In fact, the name of the blog is Beer Haiku Daily.

The blogger, who goes by the name Captain Hops, writes most of the verse himself, but also takes submissions if the muse moves you. Each day's post begins with the haiku, then crisply links off to some relevant beery info or has a short, digestible item of relevance. Among my favorites of late is his October 12 post with the following 5-7-5 effort:

Here’s a candidate
that we all can get behind.
Beer for President!

Gets my vote.

Closing today with a jump from haiku to music, here's, Todd Snider's "Beer Run".



Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Harissa Hot Sauce

In my recent travels around the World Wide Web, I stumbled across a few references to harissa, a pasty hot sauce with roots in Algiers, Libya and Tunisia in North Africa.

Harissa blends combinations of chiles, garlic, spices (most often coriander), salt and olive oil. Preparation appears to be very simple and the anecdotal reports are that the resulting mixture is deliciously addictive. Amy Scattergood, who wrote about harissa for the Los Angeles Times, notes that the sauce she made is so good, it has replaced her ketchup, salsa and Louisiana hot sauce.

Amy's recipe follows below.

Basic Harissa


Makes 1 cup. You can grind the spices in a spice grinder, a coffee grinder or with a mortar and pestle.


4 ounces dried chiles (equal amounts of New Mexico, guajillo and chipotle chiles)

5 cloves garlic, peeled

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 1/2 teaspoons caraway seeds, freshly ground

1 1/2 teaspoons coriander seeds, freshly ground

2 tablespoons best-quality olive oil, plus extra for storage


Place the chiles in a large bowl and cover with boiling water. Let rest until softened, about 30 minutes. Drain, then remove the seeds and stems from the chiles. Wear latex or rubber gloves when you do this to avoid irritating your skin.


Place seeded, stemmed chiles into the bowl of a food processor with the garlic and pulse a couple of times. Add the salt, caraway and coriander. Process until smooth, pouring olive oil into the feeding tube on top as you blend. Add a little water if necessary to achieve the right consistency: The harissa should be a thick paste. To store, top with a thin layer of olive oil and refrigerate.


Enjoy!




Tuesday, October 16, 2007

BBTuesday - Sauce Off, Week 5


It's judgement week here at the Sullicom world headquarters as the pig and I tally votes to see who comes out on top in the first annual sauce off.

To refresh your memory, the aim of this competition is to introduce you to the best there is in tomato, mustard and vinegar sauces. The three that your blogger personally tested did not disappoint.

In the tomato category, Chef JP, aka The Chef From Hell, submitted a mole barbecue sauce that featured a creative blend of smoky Tex-Mex flavors. It was a great topping for chicken breasts that were the highlights of our weekend fiesta.

That was followed by Jason of Jason's BBQ Adventures, whose lemonade chicken, an interesting twist on beer-can chicken, was our mustard entry and a favorite among the kids.

And we wrapped up last week with our vinegar-based sauce, my family's very own Kentucky BBQ Dip. I mopped the dip on a Boston Butt that ultimately became some of the best pulled pork I've ever smoked.

In this sort of competition, there are no losers, only winners. Especially the judges who get to sample each entry. We'll let you know next Tuesday which sauce takes the prestigious Sullicom Sauce Off title.

BBTune

Today's tune features scenes from the 2007 Founder's Day Barbecue Cookoff in Dripping Springs, Texas, set to Lone Star favorite son, Robert Earl Keen's "Barbecue."



Enjoy!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Oct. 15, 2007, In the News


The results of the World Series micro-poll is in and the Cleveland Indians appear to be the people's choice. No surprise, I guess, since my posts of late seem to attract Tribe fans - or at least Cleveland mustard fans. Runners up were the Boston Red Sox and Colorado Rockies. All I can say is that with the Arizona Diamondbacks down 3-0, it's looking like we may see snow in this World Series before it's over.

New poll: What's your Halloween preference?

Site Spotlight: Chef JP turned me on to ChoppedOnion.com. The site says, "If you crave a good hotdog or slawdog, pit-cooked barbeque, juicy hamburgers, steaks, real milkshakes or buttermilk pancakes, this is where you'll find them."

What you'll find are reviews and great photos of drive-ins, hole-in-the-wall joints or haunts only the natives know. Most of the places are concentrated in the east - Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia. But also represented are Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Tennessee, Missouri, Texas, Oklahoma and Utah. There's also a special section dedicated to classic Dairy Queens. It's a lot of fun, and whether or not you've ever been to any of the featured eateries, you've certainly been to enough places like them that this will shake loose lots of memories.

And now, the news:

People behaving badly, part 1. I wonder what set her off?

People behaving badly, part 2. Maybe this had something to do with it.

Carolina 'q poll. The battle between the North and South.

Unusual recipe of the week:

There's something a little creepy about recipes from a taxidermy site, but I guess it's a case of waste not, want not. Here's your guide for barbecued squirrel.

Have a great week!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Food for the Soul, Oct. 14, 2007


I cede today's post to the eloquence of a former co-worker. Carol and her husband, Marsh, have started a blog called An Interesting Adventure, about the family's experience dealing with Marsh's battle against b-cell non-Hodgkins-lymphoma. In addition to sharing their experiences, thoughts and feelings, they are also posting relevant information about genetic counseling and resources they've discovered.

Another former co-worker, Rich the Killer Cameraman, sent me a link to a recent post made by Carol, titled "The Healing Power of Barbeque." It's a great read.

Take some time today to put aside your troubles and be thankful for the good things in life - health, family, plenty, barbecue and all other blessings. And then send out some positive thoughts for those less fortunate. It will get your week off to a terrific start.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Mailbag, Oct. 13, 2007


The mustard debate continues. Last night, even though the Indians were in Boston getting it handed to them by the Red Sox, Cleveland Jeff was at a party in Jacobs Field. He still swears Stadium Mustard and Ball Park Mustard are one and the same. He sent the photos at the right, which show Bertman's atop a dog which he forced himself to eat in the name of research. But I still think there are two brands, both good, one having been the team's spread of choice back in old Municipal Stadium and Bertman's riding in when the move was made to the Jake back in '94. Another authority, Rich the Killer Cameraman, came late to the debate, but he has also offered to do some on-site experimentation when he's working the games next week.

If you have an opinion on this, let me know.

I heard from a few new friends this week including another bbq blogger, yankeebbq, who does the Barbecue Odyssey site. It would seem odd for someone with "yankee" in their screenname to give a shout out to the Red Sox, but he did, and that's okay. Anyone who likes bbq and baseball is okay by me. Also had first time visits from carolshmarol (great name), who writes The Bible Thumper's Soapbox, a thoughtful personal reflection on Christianity. Peteej from Me and My GPS Camera Phone Blog was drawn in by last week's Banana Pudding post and its reference to Southern Culture on the Skids. Pete's blog is pretty terrific - great photos illustrating, among other things, that you can do more with less. I'm glad all of you stopped by and I'm looking forward to spending more time on your blogs, too.

Take My Word for It

Here are a few favorite posts this week from my Good Friends and Cool Places links.

Breakfast Around the World (Tummy Treasure)

White Chili
(White Trash BBQ)

Gulf Coast Spaghetti Pie (The Chef From Hell)

Enjoy your weekend!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Cleveland Indians Mustard


With my Cubs out of contention, I am bound by marital contract to root for the Remarkable Marcy's hometown team, the Cleveland Indians. The Tribe opens the American League Championship Series tonight at Fenway Park against the Boston Red Sox.

It's debatable whether Clevelanders are as passionate about the Indians as Cubs and Red Sox fans are about their teams. But here's an indisputable fact: Tribe fans are unsurpassed in their allegiance to their mustard.

The sweet and spicy brown mustard served in the old Municipal Stadium and now at Jacobs Field is unlike mustard you can find anywhere else. It really is out-of-this-world good. But there's a little controversy that goes along with it. There are actually two different mustards that have been served in the Cleveland ballparks, both claiming to be the original.

One goes by the name, "Stadium Mustard." The other, made by a company called Bertman, is called "Ball Park Mustard." Some fans think they're one and the same. Some, while acknowledging they're two distinct products, say they're pretty indistinguishable. Yet others swear by one or the other.

To clear up the mystery, I sent out an URGENT QUESTION yesterday to some of my Cleveland friends - Jeff, Jeff and Ron (aka Jeff). I asked them if there was a difference and if so, what is it.

Here are the answers I received.

Ron, a work colleague: "I have never had Bertman's Ball Park Mustard because I swear by the Stadium Mustard. When I go back to Cleveland, I pick up a supply so I have it. There is at least one in the fridge and one in the pantry at all times. I always thought Stadium Mustard was an original."

Jeff, a frat brother from Ohio State: "Many have pondered this and few agree, however the mustard connoisseur in me and a user of both say no. NO. They are pretty much one in the same."

Jeff, a friend from Columbus who now lives in Chicago: "Huge difference. They are different products from different companies. Stadium Mustard was shut out when the Tribe moved to Jacobs Field and got new vendors. I think it also was shut out of the Cleveland Browns Stadium, too. I recall a fair amount of fan fuss when this occurred, but it was muted and short-lived because the Indians were so successful and Jacobs was such an improvement over Municipal Stadium."

The research I've been able to dig up bears out Chicago Jeff's answer. Two companies, two mustards, the point of differentiation came with the 1994 move from the old park to the new one.

I've had both and quite honestly, I couldn't tell you if there is a difference without a side-by-side comparison. Both are delicious and indigenous to Cleveland. But they're available online and worth the purchase price. Slather some on top of dogs, sausages or burgers. They're also good on crackers and/or cheese.

I'll end with a musical tribute to the Indians. Here's a fuzzy-looking YouTube offering with photos set to Randy Newman's "Burn On."



Go Tribe!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Kim's Award-Winning Recipe


A couple of weeks ago my friend Elizabeth Large, who does the Dining@Large blog for The Baltimore Sun, copied me on some sort of e-mail chain to see how many recipes it would generate. The deal was you send a recipe of your choice - preferably a favorite you could recite off the top of your head - to the person who's name was first on the list. Then you move the second name to the top, add your name and send the original e-mail to 20 more people. If the math worked out, I think you could get as many as a billion recipes (I'm a writer, not a mathematician, okay).

I decided to play along and here are a few of the things I discovered by doing so. First, sending chain e-mails to friends is a good way to make them your ex-friends. Second, some people make some pretty nasty things to eat. Third, a handful of people are surprisingly talented when it comes to cooking.

I was most surprised by our friend Kim, who is one of the dearest people we met when we lived in Texas back in the '90s. I knew she had a creative streak in her, but I didn't realize that it carried over into the kitchen.

Kim submitted a recipe that was chosen among the top 10 out of 20,000 entries in a Better Homes & Gardens contest and was published in the magazine. I was very impressed and especially delighted that she chose to share it with me. And now, I'm going to share it with you.

Sopapilla Cheesecake

2 pkgs. Philly Cream Cheese (8oz.) each.
1 cup sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

2 pkg. Pillsbury Crescent Rolls

1 cup melted butter

1/2 cup cinnamon and sugar (mixed together)


Mix cream cheese, sugar and vanilla.
In a 9x13 glass pan, spread 1 package of crescent rolls. Spread cream cheese mixture on top evenly. Spread second package of crescent rolls on top of mixture. Pour melted butter on top and sprinkle cinnamon/sugar on top.

Bake in 350 preheated oven for 35-40 min.

You can eat warm or cold.

Sounds great! Thanks, Kim!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

New Beer Blog

The world can never have too many beer blogs. Today my colleague Rob Kasper launched his, called "Kasper On Tap."

He's looking for ideas, so feel free to drop by and offer your suggestions.

Tough life, getting paid to drink beer.

Cheech's Hot Sauces

This is part 2 of my review of celebrity hot sauces. Last week I told you about the surprisingly good Boneyard Brew from Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry.

This week we tried out the trio of sauces from comedian/actor, Cheech Marin, of Cheech & Chong fame.

Although the listed ingredients were all natural, each of the sauces had a sort of slimy consistency, almost like there was some type of emulsifier added.

Mojo Mango was incredibly sweet, with only a slight flicker of heat. It was almost more of a syrup than a hot sauce and would work well as a marinade or a mix-in for salad dressings. Among the ingredients were mangoes, carrots, sugar, cane vinegar, lemon juice, habaneros, onions and tomato paste.

Gnarly Garlic Habanero was slightly sweet with more than a hint of garlic. This sauce had the sparsest list of ingredients of the three, and I consider that a good thing. Sometimes less is more. Here you have carrots, habaneros, onions, vinegar, lime juice, garlic and salt. The spiciness of the habaneros took a back seat to the other flavors - particularly the garlic. I kept thinking that this sauce would be a good compliment to a nice salmon steak or other fish dishes.

Smokin' Chipotle Habanero was my favorite of the three. In addition to the signature smokiness of chipotle, it had a four-pepper combo that provided a decent, but not overpowering kick. In addition to the habaneros, there were jalapenos, tabascos and cayennes. Toss in some carrots and onions, then lots of sweet stuff (cane vinegar, molasses, lime juice, papaya, passion fruit juice and even a splash of rum) and a few other odds and ends and Cheech comes up with a serviceable topping. I added a few shakes to one of the pulled pork sandwiches I had over the weekend and was pleased with the result.

Would I buy them again? Ummm, I won't hesitate to finish off what I've got, but I'm not sure I'd go out of my way to replace them anytime soon. The chipotle sauce wasn't bad, but didn't offer anything that I couldn't find in more readily available sauces. All in all, I expected more from someone who glorified getting the munchies.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

BBTuesday - Sauce Off, Week 4

It was time to give due diligence to vinegar sauces, so I pulled out old faithful, our family recipe for Kentucky BBQ Dip.

This is the moppin' sauce I was raised on, slathered over ribs, chicken, pulled pork and mutton. Every time I make this, it flashes me back to rich memories of Western Kentucky summers, with the backyard bbq pit smoking away, eating dinner on the screened-in porch and trying to fall asleep on hot, humid nights with a way-too-full belly.

For this sauce, I decided to do up some pulled pork and pulled chicken.

The sauce is very easy to pull together, with prep taking only about 10 minutes and then a slow simmer of about an hour.

I smoked a smallish (2 lbs) chunk of Boston Butt, mopping on the sauce about every 20 minutes during the roughly two hour grilling period. After removing the pork from the grill, I tossed on some chicken breasts for about 10 minutes, mopping when they first when on and when I flipped them halfway through.

When the meats were done, I went in and started pulling everything apart. I put each pulled meat in a separate bowl and poured some of the sauce on top. We served the bbq on a bun with and onion slice and pickles, and sides of homemade cole slaw and baked beans.

It's tough for me to be objective about this sauce. It's what defines bbq for me. The Remarkable Marcy opted for the pulled chicken, pouring additional sauce on the sandwich before eating it. Flannery, our Peach, came back for seconds on the chicken, a definite rave revue from a finicky eater. MoJo, who generally likes spicy foods, was oddly unenthusiastic, though. She tried the pulled chicken, but then opted for one of the plain chicken breasts we had left over, dipped in ketchup (whose kid is this!?).

BBTune

I've been on a Southern Culture on the Skids kick of late. The first song I ever heard from SCOTS was "Too Much Pork for Just One Fork," off their "Ditch Diggin'" CD. It's a fitting companion to this pulled-pork post.

Southern Culture on the SkidsToo Much Pork for Just One Fork

Enjoy!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Oct. 8, 2007, In the News

The baseball season continues its slow wind down and I've got a new poll up to let you pick your choice for the World Series winner. Now that my Cubs are out of it, my allegiance has shifted to the Cleveland Indians, the hometown club of the Remarkable Marcy. Take a moment and let me know who you think will be this year's world champs.

A quick recap on my last micro poll, the so-called "Nathan Hale Poll." It was a unanimous 9 votes for Liberty over Death. I was relieved at the outcome. Death would have been bad for pageviews.

Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving to all our Canadian friends. Just curious - is tomorrow the biggest shopping day of the year up there?

And now, the news:

But who gets to keep the smoker? One of the more amusing custody cases I can recall.

The secret's in the sauce. Unfortunately, it was illegal.

Another reason to keep the grill clean. Everybody loves bbq.

Now that's what I call hot sauce! Londoners run for their lives from spicy Thai sauce.

Unusual recipe of the week:

While I was flipping through last weekend's college football games, I caught a scene from some tailgaters before the Florida-LSU game who had an alligator rotating on a spit. I wasn't able to find a recipe for grilling up an entire gator, but here's one for barbecued alligator tails.

Have a great week!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Food for the Soul, Oct. 7, 2007


Damn goat. Ugh.

The Cubs
went three and out in the first round of the playoffs. Frankly, it was a merciful show on their part. I was fully prepared for them to go up two games, come within one or two outs of making it into the World Series, and then collapse.

Next season marks the centennial celebration of their last World Series title.

I'm hopelessly addicted to this team, even though I don't much like them anymore. I saw my first major league game at Wrigley Field in 1967, a Cardinals-Cubs game. I still remember my first glimpse of the field, with both teams on it during warm ups. The colors - green, red, blue, white - were so brilliant that they seemed unreal.

That Cubs team of the late '60s and early '70s had great players - Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, Billy Williams (my favorite), Don Kessinger, Glenn Beckert, Randy Hundley, Fergie Jenkins. They should have had a couple of championships. But they were the Cubs, and they gave me my first real lessons about life, disappointment and foolhardy optimism. The term "June Swoon" was invented for this team.

For better or worse, I've dragged my family into my obsession. The Remarkable Marcy, a Clevelander beset by her own sports woes, understands my sickness. Our son, Courtland, was barely five weeks old when he attended his first Wrigley Field game. His first complete sentence was, "Mets are bums." His painful lesson was learned during Game 6 of the 2003 National League Championship Series, when the Cubs were a mere five outs away from going to the World Series. It wasn't the Steve Bartman interference play, but the subsequent bobble of a routine ground ball by shortstop Alex S. Gonzalez, that led me to put my arm around my son and explain, "This is what being a Cubs' fan is all about. I'm sorry I've done this to you."

The late Steve Goodman knew the pain, too. The Chicago folksinger was a tremendous Cubs fan, who wrote at least a couple of songs about the team, including "Go, Cubs, Go" and the depressingly funny, "A Dying Cub Fan's Last Request," which follows below.



And now, about that goat. Maybe I should have offered this earlier.

BBQ Goat (courtesy of the Food Network)

4 guijillo chiles
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 teaspoon ground cloves

10 allspice berries

1/3 cup Mexican oregano

12 sprigs fresh thyme

6 garlic cloves

1 Spanish onion, roughly chopped

1/3 cup cider vinegar

1 (12-pound) goat, quartered or 1 (6 to 8-pound) lamb shoulder

Salt and pepper

1 (2-pound) package dried avocado leaves

Toast chiles, cover with boiling water in a deep bowl, and set aside for 20 minutes. Grind cumin, cloves, allspice, and oregano in coffee grinder. Drain soaked chiles, puree in blender the chiles, ground spices, thyme, garlic, onion, vinegar, and 1/2 cup of water. Process until smooth Push mixture through a sieve, season goat with salt and pepper. Rub paste all over the meat. Arrange in a bowl and allow to marinate for 4 hours, refrigerated.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.


In a deep roaster pan scatter half of the avocado leaves on the bottom, place meat on top of the avocado leaves and scatter the remaining leaves over the meat. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil. Cook the goat 6 to 7 hours until meat is falling off the bone. If using lamb shoulder cook for 4 hours.


***Fresh avocado leaves are toxic, they must be dried to be used for cooking.


Thanks for sharing my pain. Wait until next year!

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Out to Lunch


Taking a blogger's holiday. Back soon.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Sehr Kühl!


Von gestern Pfosten wird in Deutschen übersetzt!

Friday Fun, Oct. 5, 2007 - Banana Pudding


When Brother Dave sent me his BBQ and Soul Food Tour post, we spent some time reminiscing about our mother's banana pudding. It was pretty basic stuff - vanilla wafers, vanilla pudding, ripe bananas and meringue.

Dave made the observation that not only can't you find banana pudding in many restaurants these days, but when you do, they often top it with a glop of Cool Whip or some other sawdust and paste concoction instead of the meringue.

It's truly worth the effort to treat yourself to the real deal and I found this terrific recipe on the Texas Cooking Website. Not only does it use meringue, it also uses real pudding instead of the boxed stuff.

While you're throwing the recipe together, grab a copy of Southern Culture on the Skids' "Double Wide and Live" CD and play their song "Banana Pudding" over and over and over.

And now, it's the weekend and all this talk about bananas has me feeling like Carmen Miranda! Bailemos!



Have a great weekend of your own!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Dave and Jan Sullivans' BBQ and Soul Food Tour

I welcome a special guest reviewer to the blog today. My big bro Dave and his wife Jan recently took a trip south for a little R&R. While there, he scouted out the local scene for good BBQ and other comfort foods and offered this report on sweet spots and smart tips.

Dave and Jan Sullivan's 2007 BBQ and Soul Food Tour, South Carolina and Georgia

Highly Recommended: Bubba-Cue's Bar-B-Cue House, Ravenel, SC. A great $7.95 lunch buffet: pulled pork, fried chicken, catfish, mac & cheese, fried okra, hush puppies, lots of veggies and more. A curious notation on the menu blackboard: "50 cents extra for left side of the hog." The nice lady who ran the place explained that pigs, like people, are mostly right-handed or inclined. "When they run in circles, they almost always turn to the right, so the left is more tender. At least that's what they say." Your choice of mustard or vinegar sauce with a kick for the BBQ. I preferred the vinegar. Mustard doesn't belong on BBQ, but it would have been great on a brat.


Tips for Finding Great BBQ: We pulled a quick u-turn when we spotted Bubba-Cue's. Liked the name, but the real tip-off was the parking lot crowed with a lot of working men's trucks. Blue-collar guys know where to get a lot of great food for the right price.

Always Great: The Wilkes House in Savannah, GA. Went on Wednesday, because that is the only day they have meatloaf and BBQ on the menu, in addition to fried chicken and beef stew. A classic grandma-style family feast not to be missed. I miss the late Mrs. Wilkes. When I last saw her, I said, "You and this place remind me of my grandmother." She answered, "Lord, honey, I'm not that old!"

One for Next Time: Recommended by a fellow guest on Hilton Head Island: Nita's Soul Food in Savannah. He said it was a hole-in-the-wall place in downtown Savannah with the best fried chicken he had ever tasted.

Best Banana Pudding: Spartina's Southern Kitchen, Hilton Head Island, SC. Not included with the buffet, but worth the extra, as was the Krispy Kreme bread pudding.

One Last Tip: Don't order calamari south of the Mason-Dixon Line. They don't know how to cook it.

Thanks for the info, bro!

To close out today's post, here's a much-too-short clip of the Red Stick Ramblers with one of the great musical tributes to Southern food, "That's What I Like About the South."



Enjoy!