Tuesday, July 28, 2009

South Carolina Barbeque Association

We are officially members of this fantastic state organization of barbeque enthusiasts. I was lucky enough to attend the annual meeting in Columbia, SC and meet some great people, learn more than I thought possible about judging barbeque, events, sauces, and even eat some great Columbia BBQ. The SCBA is the only barbeque association in the country that has an annual meeting for members. Lake High, Jr is the current President and Charter Member of the organization (I recognized him from the No Reservations piece that took Anthony Bourdain to Sweatman's BBQ in Holly Hill, SC) and he kept the meeting lively with stories, jokes, and news from the state of barbeque. The SCBA is generally called upon by SC communities that are interested in adding a BBQ Cook-Off to the annual festival or, in some cases, adding a BBQ event all alone. Lake negotiates with the event planners on dates and details. SCBA Members that have been trained as official judges are gathered to judge the event and other members serve as runners, Marshalls, and calculators. These jobs are all equally important to ensure a smooth event and a great outcome for all the BBQ competitors.
Some of the members of the SCBA are restauranteurs, business owners, competition cookers, and all lovers of barbeque. Most have been through the Jugding Seminar offered twice a year (we will attend in January) and work to become Master Judges.
I particularly enjoyed the sauce tasting that we did. I only wish we had done the mustard sauces first. As Lake said, "sauces will give you mouth fatigue the quickest." Lunch was provided by Belly's BBQ from Lexington, SC. It was fantastic. I didn't even put sauce on most of what I ate. The squash casserole was some of the best I have ever eaten. They also had BBQ chicken on the buffet that everyone commented was very good. I just figured it would take up room from the pork! While I met lots of great people, my highlight was getting Jack Waiboer's autograph.
If you saw the spot on SCETV's The Big Picture, then you know Jack Waiboer. They went into this man's backyard where he showed off his collection of smokers. Jack also is an instructor in the Carolina Pitmasters class. He is genuine and warm and was a little embarrased that I asked for his autograph!
All in all it was a great way to spend a Saturday. I look forward to attending more SCBA events and getting involved with this organization.

South Carolina Barbeque Association

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Greenwood Festival of Discovery

April: The Food Network was actually set up on Main Street in downtown Greenwood, SC for this festival. I couldn't believe it. This festival made The Food Network??!! It sure did and for good reason...fantastic BBQ as much as the world's widest main street would hold. Of 77 competitors in the Kansas City Barbeque Society sanctioned event, 28 participated in the Taster's Choice Cook-off. For $1, you could sample each groups BBQ, hash, ribs, and/or sauce. This was the best deal ever. With my mom and dad as co-accomplices we worked our way through 24. By this point, the temperature has climbed to a balmy 95 degrees and the crowd had swelled to over 1,000. All that mixed with a belly full of BBQ meant a quick departure to home and central air conditioning. Below is a listing of some of our favorites, some worth a mention, and the few that were barely worth the $1 sample price. Check out the festival link for the official winners and see how our reviews stack up to the "pro" judging.

1) Papa Eddie & The Hoggy Bottom Boys, Plum Branch, SC: These guys had some of the best smoked pork that I tasted all day. Almost every bite had a nice taste of the "bark" carmelization that was smoky, sweet, and salty. The meat had just the right amount of moisture and was not chopped too fine. Great extra: they added a mini-brownie to their sample tasting tray. 2) Backyard Barbeque Boys: Not only did these folks have some excellent chopped pork, they pitched a sauce infused with chocolate. Now, before you turn up your nose, let me say that it was excellent. It was so good together that I gave them one of my votes for the Taster's Choice! 3) Catchafire for Q, Fort Mill, SC: We were pleased to see a competition team from so close to our Rock Hill home. These folks allowed us to sample a rib. It was salty yet moist and sported a tasty dry rub. I could have eaten a whole 1/2 rack of these ribs. Ken Ramaley can be reached at catchafire4q@yahoo.com for any of your catering needs.
I found that it was possible to taste bad BBQ at this festival. Palmetto Moonlight Smokers somehow managed to serve cold pork that was absolutely tasteless. Carolina Grub also produced a pork sample that was extremely greasy and oily. Thankfully the good stuff outweighed the bad.

Lane: I had a fantastic time, even when I got an eye full of smoke that blinded me for a good 7 minutes. I was still able to enjoy the carnival like atmosphere and the splendor of small town South Carolina. The Greenwood, SC Festival of Discovery is everything good about South Carolina. Sure we have Mark Sanford and his shenanigans but for these particular few hours, South Carolina was the best spot on Earth for the best example of what it means to enjoy southern culture on a hot summer day. I enjoyed my cue immensely by washing it down with a Cheerwine. So, without further adieu, my picks for the top three:

(1)Pigture Perfect BBQ from Tallahassee, Florida was one of my favorites. It had a great sauce and a really spicy rub on the ribs. It gave their ribs a delicious flavor and texture. It was one of the few samples that was salty or at least tasted saltier then the rest. After tasting this sample April and I looked at each other and said "WOW!" (2)Beer, Beans, and Bar-B-Crew Newberry, SC. Their cue had an amazing smoky flavor and taste. This is my pick for who should open a restaurant and if they did I would keep coming. And my last pick for the day was (3)Rubbing Butts BBQ They served their samples as mini pulled-pork sandwiches. Their pork was tasty and delicious and it didn't need sauce but there was some nearby (a standard peppery red sauce). Visiting the Festival of Discovery was a unique opportunity for this barbecue enthusiast. It was truly exciting to be around the smoke, the noise, the heat, and the sense of good cheer and fellowship of the crowd. The competition between the professionals however was a completely different situation altogether. Competition barbecue is a 20 hr work day commitment. Waking up at 2, 4, and 6 am to add wood to the smoker is not uncommon. You have the stress of tending, basting, turning, checking, chopping, and serving then waiting for the judges all the while making sure your crew and equipment are working correctly. I do not envy the competitors but I do envy their wares.

Distance from home: 96.63 miles

Stamey's Old Fashioned BBQ

April: On a recent trip to the outer edges of Vance County to Lake Gaston, NC for an Anderson family reunion (Lane's paternal grandmother), we decided to stop in Greensboro and meet a friend for some Lexington style BBQ. Stamey's restaurant (located across from the Greensboro Coliseum) was our choice. It was easy to find being not too far off I-85 and not too crowded on a summer Saturday evening. The restaurant is warm and inviting and is surprisingly seat yourself. After ordering pulled pork plates all around, we sat back for some good conversation to wait for the food. Imagine our surprise when it arrived on the table before I had my straw unwrapped! The pork was fantastic. Great smokey flavors, nice bark on some pieces, and a vinegar based sauce that was out of this world. I am usually more partial to the hot sauces, but what this one lacked in heat it made up for in true taste and a great addition to the pork. The slaw and hushpuppies were OK. The tea was sweet and my cup was never empty. I might also mention that this was some of the best priced pork we have eaten in a while. Our meal with tip was only $20! I had money left over to buy some of there great whole bean coffee that they roast on-site to give to our dogsitter. This restuarant was a fantastic find in Greensboro and one at which will continue to stop.

Lane: Stamey's Barbecue is great and that's the most important thing to remember! I enjoyed everything about the experience except the desert. What seemed on first appearance to be a delicious blackberry cobbler with ice cream instead turned out to be a gritty and tasteless experience. I just couldn't finish it which is weird for me. Stamey's is an old fashioned barbecue joint nestled between an industrial park and the Greensboro Coliseum. The exterior reminds me of a Carry Hilliard's or a Steak and Ale with its brick exterior and black wrought-iron railings around the steps. The inside is all dark wood beams and a delightful blend of barbecue and coffee (Yes, apparently Stamey's roasts and grinds its own brand of coffee which is fantastic!)

Stamey's Old Fashioned BBQ 2206 High Point Road
Greensboro, NC 27403 (336) 299-9888
Distance from home: 114.75 miles

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Burk's BBQ

April: Burk's BBQ proudly displays "Voted #1 BBQ" on their front window. This is a lofty advertisement in Rock Hill, SC. I will say that after my last visit, I do not disagree.
When the restaurant first opened a few years ago we were immediately patrons for their affordable lunch special (chopped pork sandwich, hushpuppies, and drink for $5.50). I found the chopped pork very dry and in need of some serious taste. The hushpuppies are very good and the tea is almost as good as my mom's. Unfortunately, the pork was a little disappointing. When I lamented to a friend my dislike of the pork, he/she immediately said that what I needed to try was the ribs. I am not a huge fan of ribs and they are a lot more expensive than the $5.50 special! On our last visit, I decided to go for the rib plate. I was NOT disappointed in this pork! The ribs were meaty, smoky, great flavor, and downright fantastic. My only complaint is that you have to wait a little longer for the ribs after you order and all the while sit and smell them cooking! I think it just enhanced the final tasting experience. Burk's has two sauces; a tomato vingear base and a mustard base. While I am also not a fan of mustard base sauces, Burk's has a really good one. I think it has a touch of honey in it that gives it a special flavor. The ribs did not need any additional sauce, but the chopped pork is still very dry - makes a good vehicle for the tasty mustard sauce.
The restaurant itself is functional. I like the large rolls of paper towels on the tables for self dispensing. The walls are covered with stills from old TV shows. Lane and I really enjoyed quizzing each other on character names, actors, favorite episodes, etc while we waited for the food. While Burk's may not be my all time #1 favorite, it is a close second.
Lane: Since we started 100 Mile Smoke numerous people have insisted we try Burk's. I so want our loyal readers to know that we have been to Burk's many times before but there was always a newer place that warrented our perview first. I enjoyed Burk's ribs but in disagreement with April, I found their chopped pork to be very, very good. An excellent palette for their mustard sauce. The sides were your basic BBQ staple; hushpuppies and fries. Here is my theory on sides: sweet sides like your basic salads (pasta salad, potato salad, and coleslaw) work well to counter the vinegar bitter and the smoky salty tastes of the cue, but your starchy sides, (your hushpuppies and French Fries) can sometimes over load your salty taste buds. Besides, if you eat too much then it fills you up quicker sometimes before you can really enjoy your cue. This trip to Burk's, although enjoyable, left me feeling fundamentally unsatisfied. Certainly I was full of hush puppie goodness but truly too full to enjoy my main entree; the chopped pork. I recommend Burk's as your basic enjoyable BBQ restaurant loczted right smack in the middle of good old Rock Hill.

Burk's BBQ 2012 Cherry Road, Rock Hill, SC 29732 (803) 980-4444
Distance from Home: 2.7 miles

Monday, July 6, 2009

So where should we go next?

People keep suggesting great new places for us to visit so from time to time we are going to run a post where we would like you to comment on your favorites.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Tarheel Q

April: We really just happened upon this place as we were driving into Lexington, NC from Statesville. It is a diner style restaurant that does a steady business of pick up orders. We enjoyed some true Lexington style barbeque. I ordered what was referred to as “course chopped” pork. It was served as almost large cubes. The pork had been mixed with the vinegar based sauce and spices, (a usual no no in my book) but this made it just that much more delicious. The pork lacked a heavy smoke flavor, but the sauce more than made up for it. The side of slaw was OK, nothing special. The presentation is not what this place is known for using cardboard boxes and wax paper, but the sheer quantity of food and the deliciousness of it is all that matters. I never expected to eat such good BBQ twice in one weekend as we had not planned to stop at this place, but I am so glad that we decided that it was worth trying out.

Lane: Both of my parents are from North Carolina and because of this I have always felt like the Tarheel state is a natural extension of what I consider home. I liked being here and I liked listening to the old farmers sitting around and talking about things old farmers talk about. I like that Tarheel Q is a pit stop for fathers and sons on their way to go fishing; a place for them to pick up moon pies and Mountain Dews. I like seeing the JV girls and boys who work the restaurant as a part time job, maybe to help out an aunt or a step parent who works there full time. That reminds me of my youth. I like the humidity and the swell of black flies that follow you around in the summer. That reminds me that sometimes life can be difficult but its truly the little things that make it bearable. I like the huge plume of smoke you can see coming over the ridge before you even know there is a restaurant. I love North Carolina and the short period of time we spent here reminded me of why that is. I broke away from my normal vitals to enjoy their barbecue chicken special. A leg and thy combination with slaw and fries and topped off with a delicious sweet tea. We shared the fried pickles which were considerably better than some we recently had at a place called Luke's in Rock Hill, SC.

Interesting note: This restaurant is only about 7-10 miles from Childress Vineyard right outside of Lexington, NC. We made the mistake of going to Childress on the Saturday of race weekend. For all non-NASCAR folks, that means the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte on Memorial Day Saturday. Needless to say, the Childress Vineyard (as in Richard Childress Racing) was packed with people. While we enjoyed the winery and tasting I was very glad to get away from the crowd of people. The Yadkin River Valley of NC is growing to be one of the premier locations for US vineyards. The climate and soil seem to produce very dry red wines and very sweet white ones. If you are ever in this area, take a moment to stop and taste the wines produced by any of the 78 (and growing) wineries along the way.

Tarheel Q 6835 West Highway US 64 Lexington, NC 27295
Distance from Home: 87.55 miles

Have a Happy Independence Day!

April and I wish everyone a happy and safe Independence Day! We should all take a moment to consider where we are right now in the history of our great country. Sure there have been challenges but there have also been monumental triumphs. So take the time to consider everyone who fought and struggled to ensure our freedoms that make the triumphs all the more worth it. We hope you get a chance to enjoy some food cooked over an open flame, some great fire works, and good times with loved ones.

Lane and April Lovegrove, 100 Mile Smoke