Monday, August 10, 2015

60 years of traditional Carolina BBQ

Lexington is the self proclaimed BBQ capitol of North Carolina. With BBQ shacks like Speedy’s, Stamey’s, Lexington BBQ and The BBQ Center lining the streets it’s not hard to see why. If anything this town at least has the most traditional BBQ for Eastern North Carolina standards. This region is known for pit smoked whole hog with vinegar BBQ sauce, red slaw and hushpuppies. The BBQ Center, which celebrated it’s 60 year anniversary this year, is the perfect example if you want to see what this style of BBQ is all about.

The pit was happily smoking away when we pulled up to The BBQ Center’s massive parking lot. The 60 year old plus building has all the tell tale signs of generations of success. Multiple old signs (they probably get a new one every 15 years or so), old vintage ice box outside, a covered portion of the parking lot reserved for curb side service that reminds you of roller-skating waitresses and doo wop 50’s music and an ancient looking brick and cast iron smoke house out back (that would never in a million years be up to code in San Francisco).

When you walk inside there is a lively buzz. Every seat is filled, swarms of waitresses circle the dining room offering way too much sweet tea, the well lit walls are lined with BBQ festival posters, enormous banana splits are being built at the long diner style counter, massive plates of BBQ are flying out of the kitchen and everyone looks happy.

The BBQ – BBQ in NC generally means one thing. Smoked whole hog. You can get it fine chopped, course chopped, sliced or pulled. We ordered fine chopped and course chopped. Both came with vinegar BBQ sauce drizzled over the top. Although there wasn’t a huge smokiness to the pork the flavor was still good and the meat was moist. Their dark meat BBQ chicken was excellent. Chunks of perfectly moist meat pulling effortlessly off the bone with a hint of black pepper.

The Sides – The BBQ Center offers white or red slaw but since we were in red slaw country we opted for the latter. It was just as I remembered; small diced cabbage tossed in vinegar BBQ sauce with a hint of horseradish, an excellent contrast to the fatty pork. Hushpuppies (fried cornmeal batter) were of course brought out on the side and added a crunchy, salty and sweet addition to the meal. Also offered on the menu are  crinkle cut french fries, baked beans that tasted like they were out of a can and fried okra which was nice and crunchy with a fresh pure okra flavor.

Desserts – The restaurant’s famous Banana split is older than the BBQ Center is (originally named The Dairy Center the restaurant was an ice-cream house before it was a BBQ house). I think I counted 9 scoops of ice-cream and then watched as the waitress proceeded to load on “wet nuts” (walnuts in syrup), whipped cream, chocolate syrup and a maraschino cherry. The sugary monstrosity was carried over to a table where 5 people dug in with spoons and devoured it. Also offered are apple pie, pecan pie and a variety of ice-cream and frozen yogurt flavors. I opted for the traditional BBQ shack staple banana pudding. Which (also traditional) was most likely the recipe off the side of a Nilla wafers box.

Having no regrets we stumbled out of there full and happy and in seek of a cold beer to wash it all down with. If you want to learn what Eastern North Carolina BBQ is all about, The BBQCenter has definitely got you covered.

900 N. Main st.
Lexington, NC 27292

Closed Sundays (like all BBQ joints in the south)

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Bottling S&S brand BBQ sauce - This is how we do it!

Ever walk around a grocery store and wonder what goes into the manufacturing of food products? Unless you're looking at groceries in a farmers market or a boutique food shop the manufacturing process looks a lot like semi trucks, large warehouses and enormous bottling lines.

My company S&S brand still bottles our BBQ sauces by hand. We thought it would be fun to show you what it takes to make our product with a step by step break down. The entire process takes a couple weeks. So here it is....

Monday - Sarah checks current inventory and makes a shopping list of ingredients and supplies we need. She emails orders in for jars and organic ketchup.

Wednesday - Sarah drives to the east bay and picks up jars.

Thursday - Sarah drives down to the peninsula and picks up organic ketchup.

Saturday - Sarah picks up the rest of the ingredients needed at Restaurant depot in San Francisco. Spencer preps all of the chopped fresh garlic and ginger needed.

Sunday - Bottling day.

10am - Spencer and Sarah load up jars and ingredients and bring them over to their commissary kitchen.

11 am - Spencer starts sanitizing pots, cooking and bottling utensils and jars. He also sets up trash and recycle bins, cutting boards and turns on ovens. Sarah sets up a work station and starts making the BBQ sauces. 

12:30 pm - Sauces are made and now need to simmer until they come up to proper temperature. While thats happening we have our "union" break. 

1:30 pm - Our bottling crew arrives and we start bottling sauce. There are two teams of two people. One ladles hot sauce into the jars, the other wipes down the jars and screws on plastisol lids. The lids heat up from the hot sauce and create a tight seal. The jars of sauce get placed upside down (which sanitizes the lid) back into their boxes and the boxes get labeled. 

2:30 pm - The bottling crew helps load up boxes of sauce. Sarah cleans the kitchen, takes inventory of leftover ingredients and puts them away. Spencer does dishes and takes out trash & recycling. 

3 pm - Sauces get put away to cool overnight. Over the next week they will be labeled, dated and shrink banded. And then they are ready to sell! 

S&S brand BBQ sauces are available for purchase at

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Barbecue so ono on Oahu

On this year's Hawaii trip to Oahu we discovered some new really great BBQ spots as well as did some grillin' of our own.

We are HUGE fans of Huli Huli chicken so when I heard about Mike's Huli Huli chicken stand on the east side I was stoked. He grills his chicken over kiawe wood  right on the side of the road like it should be. The chicken was so moist and tender. Great for gnawing right off the bone. No sauce needed you won't want to cover up the beautiful flavor of that smoke. I wish I had some right now it was so good! If you would like to trying grilling your own Huli Huli chicken at home try our S&S brand Hawaiian style BBQ sauce, inspired after this dish.

Back at the house we were staying at we decided to make another Hawaiian staple, Pulehu ribs. Kalbi style short ribs marinated with soy sauce, sake, brown sugar, ketchup, ginger and garlic and then grilled over kiawe wood. So ono! Try our recipe. 

Another food obsession of ours is Jerk chicken. Tucked away in tiny shopping center in Honolulu is Jawaiian Irie Jerk Restaurant. They treat you like family there and the only thing better than their delicious jerk chicken is their goat curry. Both dishes are packed with flavorful spices and cooked to perfection. Their sides are also outstanding here. Especially the vegetable stew which our server informed us Bob Marley grew up on. In addition to the entrees we also had an appetizer of smoked local fish spread with crispy fried sweet potato chips. Stick to your ribs food. Great after the morning of stand up paddle boarding we had!

After having that meal we were still craving jerk chicken so we made our smoked jerk chicken wings at the house. Chicken wings rubbed down with our S&S brand Jerk rub and then grilled with kiawe smoke. It was a great snack along with some fresh local pineapple and cold beer. 

Mucho Aloha!

Mike's Huli Huli Chicken
47-525 Kamehameha hwy
Kaneohe, HI 96744
(808) 277-6720

Jawaiian Irie Jerk Restaurant
1137 11th ave.
Honolulu, HI 96816
(808) 388-2917

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

BBQ de Pura Vida

Pork Chop & Hambone

"Now lets celebrate and have the biggest barbecue this town has ever seen! Ready....GO!" 
- Dustin Beall

This post is dedicated to Dustin Beall for without him procuring these two beauties we would of indeed never had the biggest barbecue San Vito, Costa Rica had ever seen. 

On my very first trip to Costa Rica I was honored to be given the opportunity to help prepare a feast for the town of San Vito. The guests of honor, two pigs lovingly named Pork Chop and Hambone, were slaughtered just days before my arrival. 

Knowing I wouldn't be arriving until the morning of the party I sent down some of our S&S brand BBQ spice rub ahead of time so that the meat could be rubbed down the day before. The day of the party I made a batch of our S&S brand Carolina BBQ sauce and coleslaw so that I would be ready for my contribution pork dish,  Carolina style BBQ. 

Carolina style pulled pork

Everyone in town contributed to the preparation of the local pigs. Butts were sent to a local hotel owner to slow cook overnight in his oven. My mother then sat and pulled all of the meat apart for the Carolina style BBQ. Pork chops and ribs were portioned & pork kabobs with pineapple and onion were made to throw on the grill, manned all day by a local coffee farmer. Scraps were sent off to a local restaurant to return to the party as chicharrones. The girls and I made fresh salsa, guacamole and pickled plantains and set out bread, rice and tortillas to accompany all of the different pork dishes. Later on in the day a big batch of chicken legs hit the grill and we had feast part 2. 

The party lasted almost 10 hours. Friends, family, live music, food cooked with love and all the beer you could drink :) Kids kicked around soccer balls, people swung in hammocks, new friendships were made and old ones deepened. It was truly a BBQ Pura Vida and no doubt the biggest celebration the town had ever seen. 

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Jamaican jerk shack in ritzy Menlo Park

I am a big fan of Jamaican jerk. I learned of Back A Yard Caribbean American Grill while watching Check, Please! one day. Since I work down on the peninsula most of the week I decided to pay them a visit for lunch one day before work.

The first thing I liked about this place when I pulled up was it's "shacky" appearance. When it comes to ethnic food or BBQ the "shackier" the better! (It usually means the place is family owned and authentic) It's a small joint, just a few tables both inside and outside, so the bulk of their business comes in "to-go" or catering form.

There are three major categories of the menu, Jamaican jerk meals, BBQ meals and seafood meals. The rest of the menu is compiled of a la cart items, sandwiches and salads all incorporating the jerk, BBQ and seafood items. Jamaican jerk meals all come with rice and beans, fried plantains, salad (with ranch dressing) and jerk sauce. Jerk items include dark and white meat chicken, pork shoulder, salmon, NY steak and tofu. BBQ meals are done more American style and come with a side of fries, warm bread and coleslaw. BBQ items include dark and white meat chicken, pork spareribs and Louisiana hot links. Seafood meals come with the same sides as the BBQ and include snapper, catfish and shrimp, all fried. 

I opted for the dark chicken and pork combo Jamaican jerk meal. Both meats were very tender and moist and had beautiful smoke and nice jerk flavor. Because of the spiciness of the meats I didn't need the jerk sauce which to me was a little oily anyway. The rice and beans were cooked with sweet spices and coconut milk and were a nice palate cleanser to the spicy meat. Fried plantains were spiced nicely and sweet but were not very crispy. There is also a very basic green salad that comes along side with commercial ranch dressing.  All of this for $11.95. Great value and bold caribbean flavors. Just wished they had a beer and wine license so I could have washed it all down with a Red Stripe!

Closed Sundays
1189 Willow rd.
Menlo Park, CA 94025
(650) 323-4244

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Great view and respectable BBQ at The Pub

If you're a San Francisco local you tend to stay away from Fisherman's wharf like it's the plague. But what I bet you didn't realize is that there is a hidden gem called The Pub down at Ghirardelli square right smack in front of you in clear view.

After a much needed remodel, The Pub is back open after being closed for 3 weeks. They have brightened the place up by removing the red paint and dark wood and replacing it with much lighter reclaimed wood, white plantation shutters and grey trim.

The backbar is completely made up of mirrors and glass now giving you a perfect view of the bay behind you. The Pub is a great place to come down and watch sports or enjoy some good BBQ while playing tourist. It also serves food until 1:30 in the morning everyday making it a great industry spot or midnight munchie haven.

The Food

On my last visit I was able to try a good sampling of some of the dishes they have to offer on the very extensive menu.

The first thing I had and the last thing I remember was their house-made jalapeño poppers. Let me just preface by saying I do not order poppers, I do not eat poppers and I do not care about poppers. Except for these ones. These balls of gooey, cheesy, spicy deliciousness were so damn addictive I could have put down the entire order myself, made myself sick and not even cared. They basically roast fresh jalapeños, mix them with 3 different cheeses, form them into a ball, bread them with panko and egg wash and deep fry them. They are then served with a garlic aioli that is flavored with pickled jalapeños. Freiken brilliant.

Another app I tried were the very innovative teriyaki pork short ribs. They are basically pork spareribs that have been cut across 3 times to yield these little 2 inch riblets. The Pub braises them and then tosses them in a sweet teriyaki sauce flavored with garlic, ginger and lemongrass.

In the BBQ department I had some legit smoked brisket that was super tender, had nice fat content and was brushed with a citrusy house-made BBQ sauce. I also tried one of their house-made (see a trend here?) hot link sliders topped with pimiento cheese and chow chow. And back in the innovative department, an "american" cassoulet full of smoked brisket, pork and hot links, chicken confit and cannellini beans all tied together with a splash of their BBQ sauce and fresh herbs.

To lighten up the meal a little bit I threw a beet salad into the mix. It was a refreshing break from the meat. Besides the beets the salad included shaved fennel, julienned carrots, arugula, goat cheese and red wine vinaigrette.

So next time your in the mood for some good BBQ and one of the best views in the city outside of The Cliff house restaurant, push your way through the hoards of fanny pack around the waist and cameras around the neck sightseers and visit The Pub. It's worth crossing the city for.

Mon-Fri 11:30am-1:30am
Sat & Sun 10am-1:30am

851 Beach St. 
San Francisco, CA