Thursday, April 30, 2009
North Carolina Smoked Barbecue Shoulder
Yehaw! We're having a barbecue cook off right in my back yard - or practically. Salisbury is hosting a Cultural Arts Festival over the weekend, and tomorrow (Friday May 1, 2009) includes the pig cooking contest.
It's quite possible that Salisbury, North Carolina is the birthplace of Lexington-style pork barbecue, although I'm sure folks from over in Lexington will be glad to argue that.
The basic story is that Sid Weaver set up shop with a barbecue tent near the courthouse in Lexington in 1909, but John Blackwelder had been serving his chopped pork over in Salisbury from his taxi cab stand starting the year prior. Blackwelder was near Spencer Shops (the state railway hub), and he picked up a lot of business with people passing through on the trains.
Of course, people in the area had been slow cooking pork over wood before there were any places selling barbecue. Barbecue was a popular choice for church dinners and political events. It generally had to be a special occasion, because it takes a long time to smoke good pork, and you've got a lot of meat when you're done.
In any case, Lexington got the credit for the Carolina cue as reflected in the name. Lexington-style BBQ is the piedmont (or western barbecue) in contrast to eastern barbeque which is whole hog and with no red in the thin vinegar sauce. Piedmont pitmasters typically smoke down shoulders and add catsup or tomato sauce/paste to the vinegar sauce which is tangy with hot peppers and occasionally other spices.
If you want to get a heated debate going in North Carolina, just bring up barbecue. You will get an ear full and a lot of suggestions about which style is better and which specific restaurant serves the very best NC barbecue.
For a flavor of the South, the festival will feature several barbecue masters ranging from 2 Men and a Grill to the Holy Pig team.
If you want to sample all the different barbecues, you can get a sample card for $10. Try out all the pork and vote for your favorite. They'll have a people's choice winner as well as having a panel of judges who will blind taste test the entries.
There's also an option to try a single sample for $2, a sandwich for $4 and full plates are available after 5 p.m. for $8.
If you miss the festival, there are several great barbecue joints in the Salisbury area. One of my favorites is Richard's Barbecue at 522 North Main Street. My Dad always loved to go there, and the owners and servers are very friendly.
If you’re looking for some good outdoor cooking, make plans to attend Hava NaGrilla at Willow Grove Day Camp in Hatboro, PA (outside of Philadephia).
There are very few kosher barbecue events across the nation, and this is the first time for Hava NaGrilla. Organizers heard about an Orthodox Synagogue in Memphis, Tennessee holding a similar event as an alternative to Memphis in May. It seemed like a good idea to try it in the Philadelphia area even though folks in the northeast generally don’t get as wound up about barbecue as folks in other parts of the country.
Actually, the categories are beans, briskets, chicken, ribs, so barbecue aficionados in some parts of the country would argue that it’s a grill competition rather than a barbecue blow out. But, hey, it’s all good. If northerners want to call anything off the grill “barbecue,” that’s fine by me especially if it’s tasty.
The Kansas City Barbecue Association is not so flexible. As Howard Levin, Chief Rib-bi, notes, “The biggest issue is our inability to be sanctioned by KCBS because we do not have a ‘pork’ category.” OK. I give the thumbs up and say, “Pass the barbecue beans.” I’m in pork barbecue country too, but I would gladly join Levin with a big plate of beef ribs (his favorite).
The 1st annual Hava NaGrilla is open to anyone who’d like to check it out. Tickets are $5 per person and $20 for families. It’s a great way to learn about another culture (if you’re not Jewish) and have a fun day to boot.
In addition to all the barbecue (or grilled) food, they have contests and activities for everyone. You can watch a kosher grilling demonstration by Chef Thomas Macrina, exectuvie chef of the Desmond Hotel, enter the kosher pickle eating contest, or try your hand at the rubber chicken toss. There’s also a raffle for a mini Cooper. Sweet.
You don’t have to be Jewish to enter, but you do need to follow the rules of Kashrut. When you’re talking about the culture, heritage, and religious beliefs of a community, you better get it right. If you think that kosher pickles were blessed by the Pope in Rome, then you’ve got a lot of research to do and would learn more and have more fun just attending and leaving the food up to the experts.
Levin says that they are working really hard to get everything together and to get the word out. The first time is always the hardest, but it can be the most fun too. Grill Girl would love to take a road trip, but that’s a long haul to Philadelphia. Hopefully folks will check in and let me know how it goes.
Best of luck on the brand new barbecue competition!
Sunday, April 26, 2009
This was not a good night for grilling as anyone can see, but my son did have a great time playing around with my Canon PowerShot camera. I showed him a few tricks, and he spent about an hour outside capturing the storm. He got a number of great photos, and you can too - without splurging for a $1000 camera.
Tips for Making Good Family Memory Photos with a Point-and-Shoot Camera
Friends sometimes tell that they wish they had a nice camera so they could take terrific pictures at family gatherings. It really is great to capture the memories. I know I enjoy looking back through the blog here and seeing all the food and fun.
Most of the Barbecue Master photos are actually made on an inexpensive Canon Powershot camera. That’s a basic point-and-shoot digital camera and not a high end camera. I have access to the Canon Rebel (a digital SLR), but I generally go with the grab-and-go camera for quick pictures.
A digital SLR is wonderful, but it takes much more effort to get really high quality photos. If you’re in auto mode, then you won’t see much difference between the expensive camera and the point-and-shoot. So, if you don’t want to read the instructions and play around with the settings, then the $800 and up camera wouldn’t be the best pick.
Also, the high end cameras are much heavier if you’re carrying them around your neck instead of tucking them in a pocket, purse, or backpack like a point-and-shoot.
With point-and-shoot digital cameras, there are a few little tricks to getting decent photos . . .
First, it really does help to have a stabilizer built into the camera which is why I went with the PowerShot Canon. Yes. You can find point-and-shoot cameras cheaper, but you need a steady hand, unless you like blurry photos.
Learn the menu. You can get by with the auto mode most of the time, but there are situations where little tweaks will make all the difference. I adjust for lighting under florescent lights, so people do not look yellow. I also turn off the flash for some shots. If it’s dark outside, you have to be really close for the flash to actually work. Otherwise, you have bad photos as I can attest. With the low lighting, you need to hold very steady. You can also get a mini tripod which helps for those kinds of photos.
The main tip I would give is to take LOTS of photos. It’s not film. You don’t have to pay to have the pictures developed. So, shoot away. That increases the likelihood that you’ll have a nice collection of good pictures. If you’re just glancing at the review screen, you will miss focus issues, red eyes, and eyes closed. So, always take way more shots than you plan to edit at the end.
Speaking of photo editing, that’s a grand idea. It does make a difference. Allow extra space around the subject your photographing. Then, you have some wiggle room on cropping. Many sins can be corrected with a photo editing program.
I’m not a professional photographer though have sold some of my best pictures with magazine articles. So, these are just the kinds of things that the typical person would need to know about taking nice family party pictures.
For some more advanced tips (but still quite easy to understand), check out Making Party Photos by Bob Kovacs. He’s coached me for a couple of years and is the one who suggested the Canon PowerShot camera which I love.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Visiting from Jugtown to make up a big pot of chili.
Fancy meeting you up here. I'll bet my Daddy can walk faster than yours. Oh yeah. Well, mine is taller. OK. So, let's just be buddies. Catch you back on the ground.
The Asheboro police officers were out and keeping an eye on things. They found a little shade here on a hot day. It was a little noisy right next to the speakers for the band, but it was a laid back crowd with everyone from Grandmas to infants. And, everyone was playing nice. I guess chili just brings out the best in everyone. And, I hope the officers got some too. With 20 to 30 thousand in town, they had a busy day.
Hey. I know this man. He's Joel Burger. No. Not really. He is Joel, but his last name is not burger. I just think of him as Joel Burger, because he has a blog about his burger with pimento cheese that is served in Winston. I have that on my road trip map for soon.
Can you eat chili and walk? It's kind of like chewing gum and walking. Some can. Some can't. Looks like these festival visitors had it down.
It wasn't all chili at the festival. Light up grills, and you're going to have a whole lot of meat sizzling. Now, I'm hungry again and sure wish I had a piece of that grilled chicken. I did score steak at the Fresh Cuts booth (the local butcher's booth). They not only rocked that steak, they also won the Chili contest. Now, that's a meat man you can trust.
I hope they do make the Chili Cook Out an annual NC event. I guess folks need to let Bryan who owns the Bagel Shop in town know that, because he came up with the idea and made it happen. Thumbs up to him and everyone who worked really hard to see to it that everyone felt like family in Asheboro.
Welcome to the Pepsi generation. Pepsi is a North Carolina soft drink or soda as it's often called in these parts. Head further toward the mountains, and it's pop. In any case, the kids love it. Great on a hot day - if not so very healthy. But, it was a Chili Cook Off after all.
Next year, someone needs to put this fellow in charge of something. He danced for an hour or more solid I think, and he didn't even break a sweat. Must have waited until after to test out the chili.
They don't use those kiddie leashes in Asheboro. Nope. It's more the village system. Several little ones made a break for the stage and a couple even managed to hit it a couple of times. No big deal. That's what kids do. Made me think of the Sawyer Brown song - "The Race is On." The band didn't play that, but they did some other great country favorites.
The call can wait. Here, have a bite. Oh well. Just slurp it down and keep on talking. Got ya. It's a hot one. No. Not really. But, that could be a fun trick for those who are cell phone addicted.
Now, this is what I call having a big time. Crank that music up a little louder, and we're going to rock this town all night long (or until 10 p.m.)
Saturday, April 18, 2009
Fun Time at the Asheboro, NC Chili Cook Off for All Ages
Chili Cooking and Smelling Like Heaven
Cowboy Dances and Dances - Might Want to Sign Him Up for the Band
Cooks Were Working Hard but Having a Great Time at the Asheboro Chili Cook Off
Turn Out the Lights - The Party's Over - Until Next Year - We Hope!
It's always fun but kind of hectic to be part of a FIRST ANNUAL anything. I was honored to be invited to judge at the first ever Asheboro, North Carolina Chili Cook Off.
Bryan, who owns the bagel shop in town where you will get the real deal, came up with this idea to have a Chili Cook Off. I doubt he knew what he was getting in to, because I've planned a big shebang, and it's a whale of a lot more work than anyone can imagine.
The chili cooks showed up way before I did, and I was early on at this party. I always allow a little time to get lost, since my internal compass is messed up. They told us North was ahead in school, so I have this idea that I'm always headed north which can complicate getting places - other than up north.
When I got to Asheboro, Southbound 49 was playing, and they were real crowd pleasers. The sound was country rock, and everyone from Grandma to the little ones were clapping or dancing.
All the chili cooks were sharing samples. With some competitions, you don't get that kind of atmosphere. It's more about winning and less about everyone having fun. In Asheboro, it was about a good time.
As a judge, I got to hang out in Bryan's Bagel Shop and meet the mayor and other local celebrities as well as getting to try all the chili dishes. That was not good for my diet but was a good time - for sure.
I sure hope they continue to has this small town festival. It was definately fun.
This is NOT a police line up. Really. We are the chili contest judges in Asheboro, NC after eating a whale of a lot of chili. From left to right: Asheboro Mayor David H. Jarrell, Grill Girl, Moses Howard, and Chris from Chris and Chris on the radio.
There was some serious deliberation going on at the judging counter. The mayor and Moses ponder on what makes the perfect chili.
The owner of Fresh Cuts Butcher and Seafood hot foots it to the front when he's named the winner of the first annual Chili Cook Off in Asheboro.
Bryan Vaughan and Chris congratulate Kevin Hill who owns Fresh Cuts Meat & Seafood of Asheboro on having the best darn chili in North Carolina.
Don't you wish you local butcher looked this cute and also could make award winning chili?
Everyone should judge a chili contest once. I can tell you that it's quite and experience.
Today, I drove out to Asheboro to help pick the best chili of the day. I took an Imodium beforehand to be on the safe side and packed Tums, crackers, and water.
This was the first year for the Chili Cook Off, and Bryan who owns the local bagel shop put the event together along with my friend Greta who works in promotions.
I arrived early, so I could wander around and enjoy the street festival and shoot a few pictures. Then, I went to the bagal shop to get down to business.
The mayor of Asheboro who was absolutely delightful and Moses Howard (the original rhythm and blues comic) were already checking out the various chilis. I grabbed my pen and paper and began checking out the different cups of chili. Moses (I think it was) said, "Are you supposed to take notes at these things?" I said, "Well, I don't think I can remember all of them without notes."
There were numbers on the cups, so we didn't have a clue who had turned in which chili. We just wrote down numbers and notes including marking down favorites.
We each had a spoon. Yes. We were double dipping. Someone mentioned later about getting a fresh spoon so as not to double dip. Oops. Too late. I confirmed a visual inspection and found the guys to be a healthy, strapping bunch. So, maybe we traded a little spit, but oh well. Life goes on. All that hot sauce probably sanitized everything anyway.
This tasting of the chili was more art than science. We each marked down favorites without comparing notes and then tallied up at the end. There were only 7 or 8 contenders by vote. The ones with three votes went to the top of the chart. That narrowed the pool.
We all agreed on the number one chili. That really was just: Which one was your top pick? We had all tagged the same one for that spot. It stood out.
Likewise with the second place chili. Not much discussion there.
Slot three was more difficult. We went back to tasting and then marking down which ones we liked. We got that down to two bowls. The vote split even - two for one bowl and two for the other. We had to grab a tie breaker judge and went with the chili that she picked out of those last two.
I can't speak for all the judges, but I looked at appearance, aroma, and mainly taste.
In terms of trends, the favorites were mostly classic North Carolina chilis with meat and beans. Folks out in Texas will freak on that. They disqualify chilis with beans out there. And, they aren't much on ground beef chili, although that was the style with most of the North Carolina chilis. In Asheboro, there's an expectation that you're going to have a ground beef base and beans of some type.
Vegetarian chili was interesting and especially the unidenified chunks which were probably tofu. Adding vegetables to the standard chili scored fine with one winner including corn. Mushrooms in there was more like spaghetti sauce, while skimpy on the beans was considered rather like hot dog chili (with no weiners or buns).
Judges tended to be heat freaks for the most part - especially Moses who wore a hot pepper shirt which is a good clue. The mayor and I scored the mild by number 13 top, and I cried on the hot 13 while the mayor did not. I suppose you could say that he kicked my butt on that. Go Mayor Jarrell. In any case, we all loved 13 which is supposed to be the unlucky number but certainly was not today.
The guys cut out after we picked the winners by number, and I stuck around to talk to Greta and to buy a real bagel for my son (who was blown away with it when I got home). Actually, they were not selling bagels, and some nice guy at the bagel shop gave me one, and I will have to take 64 going up to Raleigh soon, so I can buy more. Bryan's homemade bagels really were ALL THAT.
Since I was still in the shop, I got to hear about the winners before they announced that at 5 p.m. It turned out that a local won the contest. That was Fresh Cuts. They don't usually cook. They hand cut meat and have fresh seafood. That's what I'm talking about. We used to have a local butcher but don't now - a shame. Maybe the butcher should open up a restaurant as well, because he sure did make some great chili. That call wasn't even close. We knew first place was number 13. We just didn't know who was number 13. Make mine mild though, because that had plenty of heat. My nose is still running from the hot 13.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
My boys like to cook outdoors in the Dutch Oven. That's how they like to make chili, but I think they're doing chicken and dumplings in this shot.
Everything tastes better cooked outdoors and that includes chili. The good folks in Asheboro, NC know that, so they are having a huge chili cook off this Saturday (April 18, 2009).
It's too late to enter this year, but that's fine. You can drop by and enjoy the fun street festival with lots of music and good food.
I'm very pumped up about the festival, because I get to help judge the chili entries. Talk about a sweet or HOT job. I am definately wearing loose pants, because the last I heard, they have 40 entries. That's a lot of chili to check out.
I am a chili fanatic and love to make and eat all kinds of chili. About the only chili I don't like is stuff named "chili sauce" in a can. What is that? It looks and tastes like dog food. No go on canned chili sauce.
If you've never made chili or don't live close enough to get to Asheboro this weekend, I have a very easy starter chili recipe. It's called Taco Soup, but it's really just a variation of chili with a little Mexican flavor. The flavor is mild, so it works out for groups where you may have folks who just don't "get" hot chili.
If you can get out to Asheboro, it's going to be a blast. They are calling for wonderful weather, and everyone is getting excited. If you see me there, tell me "hi." I enjoy meeting folks who check out my barbecue blog and web sites. I should be in the judging area around 3 p.m. Otherwise, I'll be wandering around enjoying the Asheboro festival.
Thursday, April 09, 2009
I've sent snacks, but those just aren't sticking to his bones too well. So, now we've loaded up a Char-Broil gas grill to take to his fraternity Zeta Beta Tau (ZBT) at Carolina.
Whew! After we managed to run into the dog trolley and jerk the side board off the garage and then get that back up and the dog set, it was time to load the grill. The Char-Broil Quantum actually was not as heavy as expected or as heavy as it looks. I can say that, of course, since I was taking the pictures instead of giving the heave ho.
In any case, the college kid's brother and Dad got that grill hefted up in the truck.
The kayak racks came in handy for stabalizing the gas grill, With bungie cords and a little creative looping, the grill passed my shake test. If it blows out down the highway, then I will document that and rethink the kayak rack and bungie thing.
Saturday, April 04, 2009
They did have NC barbecue slaw today at the Catawba College spring fun day. That is put on the bun with the barbecue meat. The above is the most typical slaw - a red slaw that has some vinegar and is kind of spicy. Some places serve a mayo based slaw - more like traditional slaw. I am, to be honest, not a big slaw fan. I might eat it on the side, but I do not like my bun to get soggy. So, I usually hold the slaw, unless I can get it really on the side.
Justin has taken several of my classes. He's one of our majors in Communication Arts. He took a break from helping out with the visiting bands.
I'm just back from Catawbapoolza at Catawba College, and it was a really wonderful day of food and fun. I always enjoy Catawbapoolza, but this was the sunniest and warmest one I remember.
The students do a lot of the planning and work for this yearly spring event at the college. I must also give a shout out to Jan Gillean of, the Director the Student Center, who helps coordinate this and other campus student events. I'll bet she will be wiped out tonight.
If you ever have to plan a big party event, you will find that you need a lot of hands. Our college spring party just couldn't happen without so many students pitching in. Different clubs on campus take turns with various booths and also with the grilling. The Philomatheans always take care of cooking the burgers and hot dogs. Other groups on campus help with the sign in tent, games, and other food booths. I took the time to thank a couple of students today. They told me that they enjoy helping out.
The college students also do volunteer work in the community ranging from helping at the homeless shelter to pitching in with Special Olympics.
If you work with a non-profit agency or need help in your community, check with your local college. Our young people have loads of energy and can make a huge difference. They are funny, creative, and they can light up events with big smiles and can-do attitudes.
OK. Now that I have bragged on our college kids (who may be reading this), remember to do your homework and get those newspaper articles in on time. Your teacher is proud of you but expects the same excellence on Monday in the classroom (-:
Swimmers just never get the glory, unless it Olympic time. Here are members of the swim team at Catawba College. My boys are swimmers too, so I say God Bless swimmers. I also say they sure eat more than you would expect. Throw on some extra burgers. They are also supposed to draw straws and send me a reporter from the team next year for newspaper. No. I wasn't kidding guys.
Today was our annual Catawbapoolza at Catawba College. It usually rains on the big spring party, so it was terrific that this year was sunny and warm. In fact, it felt like summer. That's always a great start to a day of grilled food and fun.
The festivities kicked off about 2 p.m. following the Blue and White football game and an Open House for students thinking about attending Catawba College. The Girl Scouts also had an event going on, so it was a very busy Saturday on campus.
I began the day at Open House but stuck around for Catawbapoolza. I've not missed a one since they started having them. That's been several years now. My boys always come with me, but this year my oldest is off at UNC Chapel Hill, and the younger one had a camping trip. I went kid-less, but that was fine. At a small college, I know most of our students, so I can bop around and visit with the college kids in a social setting for a change.
Catawbapoolza is kind of like a small town carnival. There are a variety of rides plus face painting and other fun activities. There's also plenty of food. In addition to the grill tent, they had pretzels, nacho chips, ice cream, and Frost Bites (a local favorite of shaved ice and various flavors) this year.
Various groups on campus pull this big event together. Student Government plays a key role, but other clubs also pitch in. On my end, I always take pictures. I advise for the student newspaper. Student staff photographers also get photos of Catawbapoolza, but I enjoy taking some as well. We like to showcase Catawbapoolza in the final newspaper each year.
Catawbapoolza was great this year. I need to be mowing my yard, but I think that can wait until tomorrow. Sometimes it's good to let your hair down and enjoy a beautiful day. This was a really nice one.