Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Love the Lexington NC Barbecue Festival - But No Love Back - Oh Well

Folks Enjoying the Great Barbecue Street Festival in Lexington, North Carolina

I've been writing and blogging on the Lexington, NC Barbecue festival for a long time now (like years). It is definately a festival to put on your list.

I'm not connected in any way. I just live about 45 minutes away and usually go to celebrate my birthday. I try to pass the word and also have a blast taking pictures of this big barbecue celebration.

Over the years I have tried to get in contact with the festival folks. It would be nice to know when the new information comes out about The Barbecue Festival. I know they have a press party and releases and such. I just have to keep an eye out and get the information on my own. Then, I go and take pictures and tell everyone about the festival.

I've emailed through the festival home page and never had a reponse. I've tried to call the phone number listed. No answer and no answering machine. I suppose I could send a letter to the snail mail address on site, but given that they've never responded to emails and I can't get them on the phone listed, I really don't feel like doing that - taking the time and using a stamp.

This year someone did send me a press release after I'd already blogged and done an article (not noticed I suppose). She asked if she could post the release on my blog - or perhaps I might even want to do that myself. Well, the only way it could go up is if I do it. Random people can not come along and just post to any old blog they want. The blogger has to do that or set up a sign in for a contributor.

I did email and explain that I've been telling folks about the festival for a long time on my own and that I'd been asking to get on the press release list. I did get a response to that one that the writer just wrote and didn't know about any lists. I did post the press release on one of my blogs as well as having written my own materials about the Lexington NC Barbecue Festival. I sent the links on the festival including the full press release link I was asked to post. I did put it on Cooking Help Web. Well, that's the last I heard on that.

Most people do appreciate some free publicity and a thumbs up on their events. I guess that Lexington gets enough publicity and that they don't need commoners spreading the word.

It does seem that since several of my online posts on The Barbecue Festival ding the top of Google for the event (across several sites) that they might want to make sure I have information to share. It might also be a good idea to say "thanks" when sending a press release and asking someone to take time to put it up and with nothing to gain for that person.

Silence is pretty deafening. I usually get a response (even from big companies) if I ask for info to share with others. When someone contacts me (as in this time), and I do take the time to write (and share the links back), then I usually get some sort of indication that it was appreciated. It's sure not like I have to write about anything online. I have a job. This is not it, or I would live in a cardboard box.

In the South, we usually go the extra mile to be helpful and to note those who help out. You'll see that hospitality if you go to the Lexington, NC Festival. Lots of great people and working really hard. That's why I always try to make sure I cover them.

The Lexington, NC Barbecue Festival is usually my birthday trip and treat. This year, I must confess . . . I'm not so sure. If they can't respond to emails and can't answer the phone and if they send me a press release and flat out ask me to post it but don't bother to thank me for doing so, then maybe I can find something else to do for my birthday.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Plans Complete for Lexington NC Barbecue Festival - 25th Year

Lexington NC Pork Barbecue Festival Sandwich with Red Slaw, Curly Pig Tail French Fries, and a Good Old NC Pepsi

Hot Grilled Corn in the Husks - Lathered With Butter After Smoked

Sitting on the Steps Enjoying the BBQ Festival, Food, and Ready for More Fun Later

The Tin Can Man - Making Airplanes Out of Aluminum Cans

I have been waiting (not so patiently) for all the details on the 25th Lexington NC Barbecue Festival. This is a milestone year, and I'm sure it's going to be extra special. So, I've watched the Barbecue Festival web page to see what all is going on this year. The new information went up this week, and also got an email from Greta who is working on getting the word out about this top rated Barbecue street party.

Lee Ann Womack - Featured Entertainer This Year

The big news this year is that Lee Ann Womack is headlining. She is probably most known for her song "I Hope You Dance" which appealed to a cross section of music fans including pop and her country music fan base.

Other stars playing for 2008 include Adam Gregory, Randy Houser, and Jamie Johnson.

There are always lots of great local groups ranging from jazz to beach music and even performers like a magician.

In addition to the main stage, there are various smaller stages set up and down the street, so it's easy to find some good music or someone telling stories.

I'd also note that Sponge Bob will be making appearances this year which will really excite a lot of the kids.

Great Food All Day and Plenty of It

You can guess the theme of the Barbecue Festival in Lexington. They serve the famous Lexington BBQ which is chopped pork on a bun. The sauce is vinegar based with a little hot pepper and has some zing but not so much that it freaks out those who can't handle hot foods. Just a nice little burst of flavor.

In the South, most people eat barbecue pork with slaw. It's a red slaw. Again, it has more zip than more traditional slaws. It also makes the buns a little soggy, so some people love and some do not. You can ask for it either way - with or without slaw.

There's more food than you can shake a stick at at the Barbecue Festival, so arrive hungry. In addition to the fabulous barbecue, you can get other Southern favorites like grilled corn on the cob, fried pork rinds, and fried apple pies.

Check Out the Booths

North Main Street in Lexington is always lined with double rows of booths. Many of these include arts and crafts. You can find cool things that you'd not find at the mall. One of my favorite booths is the Tin Can Man booth. He makes airplanes and other items like ships out of aluminum cans. He even makes them while you watch. Tell him that writer Cyndi said "hi" if you see him.

I always enjoy some of the sample booths. There are mixes you can buy. They usually have pretzels, and you can try various cheese dip mixes. I stock up every year and have those for the holidays. I also buy new hot sauces, since small vendors have different homemade sauces to sell. They also offer samples usually. Those range from the NC style with a vinegar base to tomato based to mustard (from SC).

Lexington NC Has a Great Barbecue Festival

Some small town festivals are really small town. You only have a few things to see and do. That's not the case in Lexington. It's huge - really. They expect 10,000 this year, and the town has a population of a little over 20,000.

The Barbecue Festival consistantly makes the top ten list for festivals in the southeast and has also been mentioned by USA Today and Travel & Leisure magazine.

Of course, everyone around these parts know it's a great day!

Lexington NC Festival Details

The festival is on Saturday October 25, 2008. The booths open up at 8:30 and the barbecue tents at 10 a.m. I suggest shooting for 9 a.m. or earlier, because it gets really crowded as the day goes along. And, the bus lines get long.

Since the town really is small, it works out better to park and shuttle in. We always park at the Wal-Mart Super Center off I85 (exit 91). They also have parking at Childress Vineyards on US Highway 64 and the Davidson County governmental complex on N. Main Street. The shuttles run every 15 minutes or so, and the drivers are real friendly. Bus tickets are $2 but free for kids under 12.

There's enough to keep you busy all day and lots of food to keep you going. This year, they'll close down from 6 p.m. and set up for the 25th celebration complete with fireworks to cap off the quarter century mark.

It doesn't cost a thing to get into the festival. Free for all.

Where is This Festival?

If you're not familiar with Lexington, NC, then it's 20 miles South of Winston-Salem, NC, 30 miles from Greensboro and 45 miles from Charlotte.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Little Kids and Barbecue Parties - Play it Safe

Party Time for All Ages

Family of Swingers

Time for Birthday Presents

My nieces had a joint birthday party this week. The oldest sister turned 7. The baby had turned one a little earlier in the month. Middle sister is a February baby.

The mothers got together and were talking and comparing stories as moms will do at such gatherings. A high school buddy asked what I'd been writing. When I said I'd been doing a lot on grill writing, the stories began to fly.

Most the mothers worried about grilling with little ones. It's certainly true that it can be dangerous. So is the kitchen stove. It's important to plan, set limits and watch really close.

I've grilled since the boys were born (and before), and we've only had one mishap. The phone rang. I ran in to get it. The dad person was not paying attention. He put the lighter fluid (which I don't even use now that I've shifted to a chimney starter) down on the porch. The baby who was 2 years old at the time and would eat or drink literally anything took a swig of the lighter fluid.

If a child takes a gulp of lighter fluid, you go the emergency room. In our case, he had to drink something which made him vomit. The doctor said it might be hard to get him to drink the medicine. Of course not. This is a kid who will drink the lighter fluid. He was more than happy to drink the medicine but stopped smiling about the time he started heaving and then vomiting.

First note - keep dangerous items up high.

As far as the grill, yes, it is hot. Stress that to the kids. If they're really little, it may be best to keep them inside or put the grill in a different location where the kid traffic is not likely to go. Also, remind kids repeatedly that grills are hot and watch that they don't get near the grill.

Another option with toddler aged kids and one I used was a play bed. I would put the baby outside in the folding play bed with toys where he could see me and talk, but he could not get out and get to the grill.

If you're from a two parent family or have other relatives over, an extra adult can keep a young one busy and out of danger.

My boys grew up in a grilling family. There were just a few months when they were at ages where they could walk but not really understand well that the grill could burn them or that lighter fluid is not for drinking. I just took extra precautions during those months. After that, I made sure that I spoke to the boys and drilled in safety messages.

I did cut meats small and sliced hot dogs and then cut them across for a good period of time to prevent choking. That's the most common reason little ones go the hospital ER - choking. We never had a problem with that, but I did make sure that I cut in kid sized bites and watched the shape. Round shapes can be a problem.

You can grill with kids just as you can do most things with kids if you prepare and anticipate. We had a lot of great barbecue memories going back as far as they can remember. The only accident we had was the lighter fluid, and that same son also ate a nickel, the spider plant, leaves, a rock, and probably some things I missed.

So, happy grilling - even with kids. Just keep it safe.

Barbecue Showdown in Maggie Valley, NC - Next Weekend

Don't miss the 5th annual Smokin' in the Valley barbecue championship competition in Maggie Valley Friday September 26th and Saturday 27th (2008) at the Festival Grounds.

There are over 50 barbecue teams raning from Sue E. Pigg and Two Old Men & a Grill to Bite Me BBQ and Butts Breastts. Most of the teams come from the Carolinas, but they do have groups coming in from Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama.

Hours are noon through 9 p.m. on Friday and and 10 a.m. through 7 p.m. on Saturday.

Admission is $3 for adults and free for kids under 12.

You can try out some of the team cooked barbecues for $10 per person.

In addition to top notch barbecue, they have other food vendors, bluegrass music, and games for the kids. Beer and wine is served for those who like to imbide.

Smokin' in the Valley is a pet friendly event.

The atmosphere is relaxed. You'll want to bring a stroller if you have a small child. Lawn chairs and blankets are a good idea. And, don't forget your jacket. It can get pretty nippy in Maggie Valley at the end of September.

They do play some annoying music on the web page, so turn down your volume, unless you like to listen to random music when you're surfing.

Southern Barbecue in New York City - Brother Jimmy's BBQ

If you're a Southerner in New York City or an uptown girl or guy who has never had Carolina Barbecue, get yourself over to Brother Jimmy's BBQ. There are six locations, so what are you waiting for?

Bother Jimmy's serves both Northern and Southern style barbecue, though they've made a name with their Southern BBQ, football fans who stop by to watch Duke vs. Carolina and some good old blues music.

If you're not familiar with Southerner barbecue, it's generally pork and slow cooked over wood. Jimmy's does it right - slow and over hickory wood.

You can get your barbecue served on a bun or as a tray with sides, cornbread, and pickles. They have slaw which is what most Southerners eat with chopped pork barbecue, but you can also get barbecue baked beans, black eyed peas, collard greens, mac and cheese, green beans, or even biscuits with gravy.

They have good old Southern sweet tea of course as well as lemonade, and they're just added Cheerwine to the menu. Cheerwine is a local soft drink out of Salisbury, North Carolina.

If you have any room left, you can finish off that barbecue dinner with apple pie, pecan pie, key lime pic, banana cream pie, or Mississippi Mud Cake.

You can drop in at one of the restaurant locations, or they'll even cater your event.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

County Fair Food - How to Find the Good Grub

My son is really trying hard to get this barbecue burger down the hatch.

Here, you can see the burger problem. This grilled burger is a hockey puck. It's not hot either, so the cheese didn't even melt.

I had my eye on the Ragin Cajun Bayou Grill booth at the Rowan County Fair.

The Ragin Cajun Cook was putting the shrimp on fresh to order, and that does make a huge difference.

My grilled shrimp and rice dinner was fabulous. I did ask for "easy on the cheese," so expect more cheese generally.

There is an art to getting a yummy meal at a county fair. There are some hits and some misses. It pays to walk around, keep your eyes open, and ask some questions.

In previous years, we always got our dinner at the Optimist booth at the Rowan County Fair. My (now retired) boss is an Optimist (in more ways than this), and the food was always great. Sadly, the group is now smaller and the guys are older, and they gave the county fair food booth up after many years.

I love county fairs, so I already knew how to find the good stuff. One way is to stick with what you know like the Optimists and the money going local. The other is to do a little research. Perhaps you are thinking that it's a drag to have to really think about what you're going to eat at the fair. If you get a bad meal, you may think again.

County fairs are a mixed bag. You have some of the traditional carnival vendors that travel with the show as well locals who have spaces with the money going back to the community. Everyone needs to turn a profit, so it's great when all the food is terrific and everyone comes out OK at the end of the night.

The food booths are usually grouped, and I will walk around and take a quick look. There are always a few foods that catch my eye, and then I have to narrow it down. I'd love to eat it all, but that gets expensive, and my jeans won't handle that kind of pig out.

I will look at the cooking process at the booths I'm interested in. I will look at the food carried out by those buying. I will even ask someone at a table if the food is good. I have no shame when it comes to food. I want good food - period.

This year at the Rowan County Fair they had a new booth - the Ragin Cajun Bayou Grill. This is more like fry grilling which is fine. They were just getting the food up and going when we arrived. I especially love shrimp, and they had it. The Ragin Cajun guy said shrimp went on last, so it would be fresh and not rubbery. I hear that. If you cook shrimp too long or let it sit, then it is not very good. Even though I had not seen a plate come off and could not ask anyone if the food was good, I had a good feeling on this one. I waited.

My son is not that keen on new foods, unless it's something I cook. He decided to go for a burger. Unfortunately, he could not see the burgers cooking (that was in the back), and he is not the type to watch and then ask folks if what they bought was good. He ended up with one of those gross hockey puck burgers. It was thin. It was cooked too far ahead. It wasn't even hot enough to melt the cheese. This was a $6 mistake. He was a good sport and got it down, but I sent him back to the chicken and dumpling booth where they were making good food. He was, as you can imagine, stuffed by the end of the meal. But, he did get something tasty and certainly not the burger.

My Mom also got one of the icky grilled burgers. She is not one to be critical, but she said that the cheeseburger sure made my grilled burgers look good. I really hated that she got soaked on a bad county fair dinner.

The kid and my Mom waited while I checked back with the Cajun guy. He was cooking up a storm, but it just takes a while. He gave me a taste of the steak when I checked back. Yum. That was good. I figured I made the right decision to wait. I think he was surprised that I didn't just go for something quick and ready. No. I'll wait if it's worth it.

By the time my shrimp and rice was ready with "light on the cheese," Mom and my kid were done with the burgers. The kid was enjoying the chicken and dumplings which were top notch. I tried a bite. Someone knows how to do them right. I had my Mom take some of my shrimp and rice, so she got some good food too.

You can get a great meal at a county fair. You can also get a disaster. That's why I look around and pay attention. I wouldn't complain about an awful burger when it's a local group with the money going to charity. On the other hand, I would not serve dry and cold burgers either. I'd do the burgers right or not at all - no matter where the money was going. That's why I scope things out. It really doesn't take much time. It's nice to chat with other folks - both those cooking and eating. In the end, I get a great county fair meal and no ick burgers with cold cheese.

Small Town Rowan County Fair - A Yearly Family Tradition

Rowan County Fair - Salisbury NC

I never win on these county fair games, so I just take pictures now (-:

I've outgrown the rides too. My stomach can't handle the spins. But, it's still fun to see the lights and hear the screams.

Our county is agricultural, and the farmers always bring cows and other animals.

The exhibits are fun at the county fair. Farmers bring in crops. There are canned goods, art, flowers and even hand made clothing.

If you've never been to a county fair, you should check one out. They really are a lot of fun. There are carnival rides and games but also lots of contests and exhibits. You can also find some great food at county fairs ranging from the traditional carnival food fare like funnel cakes (elephant ears) to local organizations make local favorites like chicken and dumplings.

When I was a kid and in 4-H, I always entered things in the county fair. It was fun to win ribbons and a little cash for cookies, crafts and canned goods. I was always scared of the canner, so I never did many canned goods. When the canner would start blowing off steam, I'd run and hide. I still want to do that, so I don't can. I always think it is going to blow up and cover me with hot green beans.

Local school kids get free tickets around here. Our school night was always Tuesday. For some reason, it always poured the rain on Tuesday. This year the tickets were were Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday, and we actually hit a sunny evening. I kind of missed getting soaked and plodding through the mud. Well, just a little anyway.

County fair food is always so yummy. Most of it is not healthy, but it's just one night of the year. I like to try out new foods at the fair and especially any new barbecue booths. I also love to get elephant ears right before we leave. It is a tradition in our family to arrive home covered in powdered sugar and to have to wash and vacuum the car the next day.

I used to play the games, but I was never too lucky. My boys seem to have my luck, so they learned (after a few years) that it's simply hard to win anything much. One year I did win a goldfish. I named the goldfish Lucky, so I guess I can't really say I never won anything. It was kind of hard to juggle Lucky and get her home, but she did fine and lived a couple of years.

Now that there are so many big amusement parks like Carowinds down the road, the county fairs seem to be a little smaller. Perhaps it's just that I'm bigger. In any case, I really like the small town feel and seeing people I know and not just a lot of strangers waiting in lines and looking bored. The county fair is kind of like one big local party. This year I saw my dentist and his little girl as well as a lady from work and some neighbors. I even made some new friends - like the guy with the traveling barbecue stand. Every year is different but always fun.

There are big state fairs. Those are fun too. But, I think it's hard to beat a little county fair. Everything is pretty informal, and it does not take hours and hours and loads of walking and waiting. It's just a good time and a few hours to forget about everything you ought to be doing.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Jerry's Hillbilly Deluxe Barbecue - Ya'll Gonna Love This Food with Attitude

Jerry's Hillbilly Deluxe Barbecue Stand at the Rowan County NC County Fair

Ya Think This Feller Eating Ribs Might be Willie Nelson?

I was down at the Rowan County Fair last night and met another barbecue master by the name of Jerry. Jerry is a traveling BBQ man. He hooks up his cooker and spreads the barbeque love across the state and beyond.

Jerry's traveling BBQ show is called Jerry's Hillbilly Deluxe. In addition to his big que cooker, Jerry also had his pull behind stand and even his tent out back. That's what I call eatin' and sleepin' barbecue.

Jerry was smoking up some brisket and ribs. He also does big burgers, hot dogs, chicken, turkey legs . . . well . . . most anything you'd want smoked. He can hook you up with fries, cheese sticks and even "nanner puddin'" and strawberry shortcake. I don't hardly think this is a health food menu, but we're talking some darn good downhome Southern food.

While I was chatting with Jerry I thought I'd get me a picture of some guy standing there eating ribs. He was eating faster than I could get my camera out, so you don't see much more than bones. Gives you an idea about how good these ribs taste though.

When I asked the guy if I could snap a photo, he said "sure" and that he knew why I wanted his picture. I said, "Cause you're eating ribs?" He said, "Naw. I figured you wanted my picture, cause I look like Willie Nelson." I allowed as how he did look like old Willie (one of my favorite outlaw country singers of all time) and that I'd have an even better photo than I'd thought seeing as how I could claim I'd snapped Willie (or close).

Jerry and I exchanged business cards as he was up to his elbows in sauce and stuff. I told him that I don't grill for business but do for fun and write about outdoor cooking. He said he'd check out my Grill Girl web page. I said I'd give his a look too. He said he'd had some tech problems. Tell me about that. Whew. Web pages can be a bear, and he doesn't have access to his. Has to pay a tech for every little change. Bummer.

If you get a hankering for a big barbecue blow out and are in North Carolina or close, shoot Jerry a message on his Jerrys Hillbilly Deluxe web page or call him at 336-413-8681. Tell him Grill Girl sent ya and maybe you'll get some extra "nanners" in that pudding.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Throw Your Own Barbecue Party 51baoma - Why is a BMW Focused Web Site Stealing Foodie Content?

Well, shut my mouth . . . as they say in the South when something doesn't look right.

I was surfing online and came across some interesting barbecue stuff. The articles were especially interesting, because they were mine. My name wasn't mentioned. My blog wasn't mentioned. The articles were just plunked up in full with the photos on 51baoma which is a web site about cars (BMWs specifically). What's an annual party here in my hometown with photos of the locals have to do with BMW cars, I have no idea.

To start with, I just found one of my barbecue articles stolen. After some research, I found that I could put in my URL at CopyScape and see the top ten hits with matching words. The service has an upgrade to find more stolen content.

In addition I spot checked some of my barbecue articles. I simply copied unique sentences (that's where Southern talk comes in handy) and put those in Google.

I don't know that I found everything 51baoma stole, but I did find three articles and two of them with home/family photos.

The first suggested step is to get in touch with the web site owners about such matters. They list no contact information. I looked them up and discovered they are based out of China. Hum. Perhaps I could fly over and give them a piece of my mind.

Here is the 51baoma company information online. All it takes to get that information is to put the company URL in Domain Tools Look Up. In this case, it didn't help much, since they are in China.

They did have comment sections, so I did note that the content was stolen. At least the readers of those articles will know. I've not heard from the site, so I would guess they just add comments to appear to update content and keep high Google ranks.

The next step was to fill out a Google report under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). That includes a number of items and must be mailed or faxed in rather than emailed. If the claims are not true, then you can be held responsible for legal fees. That's fine. I know it's my work. The photos are clearly mine. No one in China was snapping photos here in a town of 800 people at a community picnic.

It took me a while to wade through all this, so I will provide my research and DMCA report here for others who are dealing with stolen online content:

1. The copyrighted work at issue is the text that appears on the following blog – Barbeque Master by Cyndi Allison:

My blog:


The following posts were copied and posted without permission:

Play with Your Food and Friends at Food Buzz

Southwest Virginia – Jewel Ridge 4th of July Celebration (including the photos)

(Note: I did link this one, so readers can see that pieces are clearly copied along with the photos. See the actual post of the Jewel Ridge Virginia Fireworks for comparison. It's the same - photos and all. Please don't give them a lot of visits. That's what they want when they steal content.)

Fun for the Whole Family at Mr. Shaver’s Yearly Barbecue Picnic (stole photos too)


Search – I’m not sure how I stumbled on these, but I also went back to www.copyscape.com to double check. Then I ran lines of content and easily pulled up these articles, since they were not changed at all. They just cut and pasted the articles and put them on the BMW site (which has nothing at all to do with barbecue cooking).

The site stealing content is:


These posts are copied from my blog in full including the photos as noted.

Play with Your Food and Friends at Food Buzz

Southwest Virginia – Jewel Ridge 4th of July Celebration (stole photos too)

Fun for the Whole Family at Mr. Shaver’s Yearly Barbecue Picnic (stole photos too)

3. My contact information:

Cyndi Allison (removed this part for obvious reasons)

4. The site is based out of China. I could not find any way to get in contact on the site or by searching for company information.

I did leave messages in the comment sections letting them know that the material is copyrighted and not available for use.

5. "I have a good faith belief that use of the copyrighted materials described above as allegedly infringing is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law."

6. Include the following statement: "I swear, under penalty of perjury, that the information in the notification is accurate and that I am the copyright owner or am authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed."

7. Sign the paper.

Cyndi Allison

Here's where you send such reports to Google:

Google, Inc.
Attn: Google Legal Support, DMCA Counter Notification
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, CA 94043

OR fax to:

(650) 963-3255, Attn: Google Legal Support, DMCA Counter Notification

In addition, the offending site does use Google AdSense. Nate and Annie were kind enough to give me the Google AdSense Report Form URL.

That's very easy to fill out - much easier that the DMCA report. It's also online, so you don't have to fax or mail.

Basically you just put in the page URLS where sites are violating the terms of AdSense. Stealing the work of others clearly is a violation.

Update: I did get an auto email back from Google Adsense quick report form (don't ya just hate those). That directs me to do the DMCA which is the longer and more detailed report that must be mailed and/or faxed. So, the Adsense report may work for some issues, but if it's copyright, then you're right back at that long form that I put up as an example.

Mine is in the mail by the way.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Tailgating Decline for 2008 Season - Weber Barbecue Poll

Hey man! Where's the Tailgate Food?

I'd love to "say it ain't so," but the Weber Grill Company Tailgating Study 2008 found that only 29% nationally "hope to do some tailgating" this year compared to 37% last year.

Some people just don't go for outdoor eating. My Granny always said, "Why would anyone want to eat outside with the ants and mosquitoes when they could have a normal meal inside where it's clean and bugfree." You didn't argue with Granny. You just slipped off and ate outside anyway.

Weber ruled out the non-tailgaters (perhaps bug haters) and asked those who do tailgate (at least twice last year) what's going on. It may come as no suprise that fuel costs factored in. There's the gas to get to the game as well as the cooking fuel (if you go gas). Game and ticket prices also factored in. That was followed by rising food costs. OUCH! We're all feeling the economy and in many places but all in the wallet it seems.

On the plus side, those that do tailgate are grilling more (and more often on charcoal these days - 62%). That's up to 68% this year compared to a little over half for 2005. The increase in grilling rather than buying concessions or buying take out was contributed to better tasting food made fresh and lower costs for home cooked grill food over other options.

If you're wondering what others are tossing on the grill at tailgate parties, these are the top four according to the Weber poll:

1. hamburgers
2. brats/sausages
3. chicken
4. steak

Boy howdy, that's some heavy eating - but good stuff. Although the meats do rule, more tailgaters are putting vegetables on the grill this season. Close half of all tailgaters are juggling the foods and doing the sides on the grill instead of just buying them and bringing them along.

To wash down that great tailgate food, the favorite beverages for 2008 are:

1. beer (is that a surprise?)
2. soda (pop for other parts of the country)
3. water
4. tea
5. wine

Expect to see some bargain beer though, since the average spent on tailgating dropped from $165 last year to $109 this year. Then again, maybe folks are clipping coupons or something. A tailgate party really doesn't have to bust the budget. Nothing wrong with getting some hot dogs on two packs for one sale and cooking up some frozen hash browns. After a few beers (and Bush is quite reasonable), no one's going to complain anyway. If so, point them toward the concession stand.

Happy tailgating. If you can't afford the gas to go and the price of the tickets, then make your own party right at home. Let's just call the home gating and keep those grills fired up.

Go Panthers. OK. I had to add that. I'm from North Carolina.

Friday, September 12, 2008

New York Strip Steaks on the Barbecue Grill

Yes! The NY Strip Steaks Did Taste as Good As They Looked

My brother was coming in to fix the busted taillight on my Mom's car. Long story. I won't get into that. Since my brother doesn't get in very often, my Mom wanted to have a nice lunch. She had in mind to have grilled steaks. Since she is not a griller (gasp), I offered to man the grill. She'd cover the side dishes, and that's terrific if you're doing the outdoor cooking.

Food Lion was out of tenderloin which is what my Mom planned to get. That's a wonderful cut of steak but quite expensive. My Dad got a full loin once for my birthday and had it cut thick. The checker called for a price check when it ran around $100 for one grocery bag of high quality meat.

The other cut of steaks that my Mom was familiar with was Rib Eye steaks. She knows I generally get those. Rib eyes are large, tender with lots of flavor. Some folks call them guy steaks. Lots of meat. No bone (though are sometimes sold bone in). I have boys, so I usually go with rib eyes. It takes a lot to fill boys up, and they like lots of flavor. Well, Food Lion didn't have any nice looking rib eyes either. This rather stressed my Mom. I must introduce her to the Food Lion meat man. I ring his bell pretty often, and he enjoys helping me pick out good stuff in my budget. One tip he gave me was that I could buy Chuck Eye cheaper. That's just the ends where they cut Rib Eye. Cost per pound is lower. Pieces are smaller. I just get two per boy if I go that route.

That kind of left Mom in a bind, the steaks she knows sold out, so she bought New York Strip. Another good pick for grilling. I think maybe the package said "good for grilling" or something. New York Strips are sold under various names and are called different depending on the area. Some names that come to mind are Texas Strip and Restaurant Cut Steak. The meat is from the back area where the cow does not use the muscles much, so the meat is tender. There's usually a little sliver of bone up one side - not a t shape bone. If it's in a t-shape, that's t-bone steak. T-bones are good for grilling as well but a little less expensive (in this area anyway) and a little harder to eat with the shape of the bone.

Another solid cut is Porterhouse. It includes some loin on one side. It's kind of a cross cut steak. You get two cuts in one with a bone dividing the meat.

Some people like the extra flavor with a bone in steak. I tend to go with boneless. That's the tenderlion and rib eye usually. Both are well marbled and have plenty of flavor especially if you can find grass fed beef.

If price is an issue (and steak is costly), some of the lower priced cuts can be grilled. They are a little trickier. Sirloin is an example. It's OK on the grill, but if you overcook it with the lower fat content, it's tough. You generally need to cook it fast and hot and no more then medium.

Round steak or a London Broil (which is not an actual cut and may be various parts of the cow), look pretty in the packs. They are red and show very little fat, since they do not have much marbling. Those really need to be grilled rare and cut against the grain in thin strips. They work if you want a taco grill party but are not super served up as steak on the plate with baked potatoes and salad.

That's a quick overview of some different steak cuts on the grill. I do love tenderlion but most often go with Rib Eye at a lower price but still premium. I do NY Strip and Porterhouse from time to time. When we bust the budget I'll go with some of the cheaper cuts but usually served sliced thin and cooked less. I also marinate longer to tenderize if I do round steak or London Broil.

As far as our dinner, the New York Strips turned out great. I could have cooked them just a little less. I was on my Dad's old cast iron grill which cooks hotter and faster than my Weber. The steaks leaned to medium well. No complaints though. It is possible to ruin a steak on a grill (and I've done that a very few times), but usually you have a great meal when you go with steaks grilled over charcoal.

I hope this provides a basic overview of steaks to cook on the grill. I am working on a more comprehensive and detailed article for my web site - Yes You Can Grill. Any suggestions, comments or ideas are appreciated.

Cooking on the Old Family Cast Aluminum Grill

Dad's Old Charcoal Grill Brings Back Fond Memories

Mom wanted to grill out some steaks last weekend. I don't guess the grill had been fired up at her house in over two years. My Dad died in a wreck on I77 two summers ago, and he was the grill king. I'm not sure how far that grill goes back, but I think it must be 30 to 40 years old. Mom said he got a gas grill at some point (must have been when I was in college or something) but that he went right back to his old charcoal grill.

I can honestly say they don't make them this way any more (or I didn't think so until I did some research). There are some box style grills on the market, but this is an old and heavy grill. I worked in sheet metal during high school and college and cook in cast iron, and I was a little confused about this one. After checking around I found out that it's a cast aluminum grill for Portable Kitchen (PK Grills).

Typically I cook on a kettle shaped steel grill. I like the heat regulation on the kettle shape. With the box shape, the key is to stack the charcoal more to one side - leaving a cooler area as needed. There's some regulation with vents, but the meat is simply closer to the coals in a box shape grill. I use coals across about 2/3 or the grill with 1/3 open to rest items if the grill gets really hot or if I have flares.

Heat conduction on this grill is fabulous. Once the grill heats up, it's hot. Really hot. This means that cool spots are still cooking but just at a little slower pace. I told my Mom that the grill was really heated up and that she could cook up supper too. I was really joking, but she did. She got out some hamburger meat and grilled some burgers to eat during the week. This was a couple of hours after I'd been cooking on the grill. That gives you some idea about the cast iron and how it will absorb the heat and hold it. Not so great for tailgating. Nice at home and especially if you're grilling for a lot of people over a long period of time.

If you ever come across an old cast iron grill in a yard sale or at Good Will, it's a good investment. Dad's old grill still works great, and I'm sure it will last for many more years - maybe forever. One hinge on the lid is broken. I have to watch the lid and genrally use outdoor cooking gloves to be on the safe side. This grill is out now again by Portable Kitchen, so you can just get a new one and have a grill that will last and last.

It was kind of strange cooking on the grill that I learned to cook on when I was a kid and also to be cooking in place of my father. Mom never learned to grill. She covered the inside foods. Dad (or one of us kids) did the grilling. It's hard to be two places at once. I juggle that as a single mom so often do my sides outside too. It was nice to concentrate on the meat and walk in to the table and side dishes ready.

Thumbs up meal. Good memories - past and present.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Fun for the Whole Family at Mr. Shaver's Yearly Barbecue Picnic

Mr. Shaver's annual barbecue is a family affair. Everyone turns out from seniors to infants.

Entertainment included a bluegrass band and also this year a Mexican-American band. Our community is getting more multicultural.

Mr. Shaver's fly boy buddies always come up with something cool. This year they had guests parachute down to the party.

There were lots of neat activities at the barbecue party for the kids and even wax hands - fun for all ages.

Mr. Shaver sure knows how to throw a party. In addition to all the great barbecue, he also had live music and activities for the kids and adults too.

Since Mr. Shaver lives on a farm, he had tractors pulling hay wagons. Those were running all day and toured around his entire farm. We arrived later in the day, since I had to work, and it was raining a little. We didn't take a hay ride, but those are fun. We've done that in years past.

After we chatted with some friends and neighbors, we got some barbecue and settled down to enjoy some bluegrass. That's always a hit in this area as well as gospel music. The local diner has a gospel music night and packs the place every week. My mom enjoys that. I lean more to flat out bluegrass myself.

This is the first year I remember a mariachi band at the party. They did a great job. This is a farming area. We've always had some migrant farmers in during the growing season. Many families are now staying and calling this area home. My next door neighbors are Mexican American. They throw some pretty lively parties I must say including some strob lights. They may think our barbecues are dull over here. Perhaps I need some cool lights too.

Although Mr. Shaver does not have any little kids, he does remember them at his yearly barbecue. He rents those big blow up slides and jumping toys. He had rock climbing this year. Some kid got up there and started yelling, "Momma." That always gets my attention even now that mine are teens. The rock climbing man crawled up ther and got the kid, because I don't think his momma was too keen on scaling the wall to get the kid down. All is well that ends well.

Another new activity this year was wax hands. You put your hand in ice water, dip your hand in wax, back in the water and so on. You come out with a hollow wax hand formed from your hand.

I had to get a wax hand. One of the men at the table said, "What good're them?" I said, "Well, I think they're just for fun." And, off I went to wax my hand to save for all eternity or until we manage to knock it off the piano I guess.

The wax hand man said I could make any shape, so I thought I would do the "hang loose" hand sign. I learned that when we went to Hawaii. Well, I guess I did not learn it too well. Mom asked me what I made. I said, "Hang loose." She said, "Well, that's acutally 'I love you.'" Oops. She took sign language. I decided I better not flash my way cool purple wax hand around after she told me it was "I love you." Oh well. Next time, I'll get "hang loose" right (-:

All during the party, some of Mr. Shaver's friends who fly small airplanes went over and even dropped folks out by parachute. That is not a sight you see often in a town of 800. They were good landers and hit the strip. I kept wondering if anyone would land on one of the tents or something. Their aim was good. Thumbs up to the fly boys and the ones who literally dropped in on the party. My 15-year-old sure would have loved to do that. Maybe someday he can take lessons and parachute. He is the daredeveil.

There were a lot of pretty young girls at the barbecue party and one special one. My son caught a ride home with a friend who was staying later. Hum. I think the kid is growing up. I must say he has very good taste. The young lady who caught his eye was definately cute and seemed very nice to boot.

All in all, it was a super barbecue. Mr. Shaver had everyone covered from the youngest to the oldest. He even gave out gifts. I got a tote bag, since I get really bad hat hair. My son loved the white Shaver Products ball cap. It was white. My mom thought maybe he should get beige. A nice lady told us the trick to washing ball caps - put them in the dishwasher. So, he got the white one. One problem though. We don't own a dishwasher. Teehee. Oh well. I'll figure something out.

Shaver Wood Products Annual Barbecue

Mr. Shaver has his annual barbecue at his farm behind his sawmill business.

This year the barbecue was pork and chicken plus the fixings and even corn dogs.

Here is one of several huge tents where everyone could get together and talk and pig out on que.

Mom and some of her buddies have finished eating and are thinking about the homemade ice cream - vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, and banana.

Mr. Shaver sure knows how to throw a barbecue party. I guess he's had some practice, since he does this every year. It's kind of a company party, but he invites the whole community. I barely remember when some of the big companies around here would do nice things like that for the community. That was a long time back. Mr. Shaver is a small business owner. He has a saw mill operation, but he remembers everyone at this time of the year.

After I got off work, I picked up my son at the high school and then dropped by my mom's house to get her. Then we drove a couple of miles down the road to Shaver's for the annual barbecue.

Mr. Shaver always has pork barbecue which is a local favorite. Here in North Carolina, that's chopped pork. It's slow pit cooked to get that smoke flavor. The sacue is a thin vinegar based mixture with some hot pepper to give it a kick. Most folks eat the Carolina barbecue on a bun, but some just go at it with a fork.

There was also barbecue chicken and fried chicken - both favorites in this area. This isn't a huge chicken farm area, but some local farmers do keep chickens. From what I hear, that's a lot of work.

The sides were barbecue baked beans, red cole slaw (generally put on the bun with the chopped pork barbecue), French fries, and hush puppies. There were corn dogs as well though I don't guess you'd call those sides. The kids really liked those.

Sweet tea was the beverage, and that's just as Southern as it gets. They did have some unsweetened tea which is what I actually prefer. Shhh. Don't tell. That's very un-Southern of me. I got used to tea without sugar when I lived overseas and just never really went back to the sweet stuff. I have loads of vices, so that was a good thing.

For dessert, there was home churned ice cream. I got my favorite which is strawberry. Boxed strawberry ice cream - no thanks. That stuff is not very good. Homemade strawberry is fabulous. Everyone at the table was talking about how good the banana ice cream was, so I hate to confess, but I had to go back and get a serving of that too. Shame on me! Oh well, I didn't drink the sweet tea, so maybe it balanced out. The banana ice cream was fabulous, and I enjoyed every bite. I do, however, feel like I ate a bowling ball. Two servings of ice cream isn't a great idea - but it was at the time.

If you're looking for a great home churned ice cream recipe, I have our old family recipe up at Yes You Can Grill. It won't feed the multitudes like at Shaver's party, but it does make a big container. We've used that recipe for about 40 yrs. It's hard to beat.

I don't think I'll need to eat for a week after that party, but I'll probably be up and thinking about something good to throw on the grill tomorrow. Then again, the weather man is saying Hurricane Hannah may be giving us some rain love tomorrow. In fact, we got some rain at the party, but no one minded. It was a good time as always! Thanks Mr. Shaver!