Friday Find: Interview with Daniel Vaughn, BBQ snob and editor of TMBBQ

Twitter user @KevinsBBQJoints (Kevin Kelly) has been interviewing various barbecue personalities and posting videos for the past half-year, but I just stumbled upon his YouTube page. Here’s his video interview of Daniel Vaughn, but he’s got many more with Jess Pryles, Nick Solares, Amy Mills, J.C. Reid, and more.

My interview with Texas Monthly Magazine Barbecue Editor Daniel Vaughn discussing a variety of topics including how he got into BBQ, why he started his blog Full Custom Gospel BBQ, how he landed a book deal with Anthony Bourdain’s imprint Ecco Press, how he got his job as Barbecue Editor, his favorite BBQ books, favorite BBQ joints and more.

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Linkdown: 12/13/17

– Sad news as Midwood Smokeshack has closed in Matthews. However, there is some good news in that the employees will keep their jobs at other Midwood Smokehouse locations and FS Food Groupd will be looking to build a full service Midwood Smokehouse in the Matthews area at some point.

– D.G. Martin’s list of last minute book gifts includes one of my all-time favorite barbecue books which was just re-issued on paperback, “Holy Smoke: The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue” by John Shelton Reed, Dale Volberg Reed, and William McKinney

– Charlotte Agenda: “Noble Smoke could give Charlotte a true barbecue flagship”

– However, one recently-elected city councilwoman will not be patronizing Noble Smoke when it does open due to his support of HB2 in 2015

– Carolina Smokehouse brings western NC barbecue to Carolina Beach’s boardwalk

– Congrats to B’s Cracklin’ BBQ!

Cook’s BBQ – Lexington, NC

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Name
: Cook’s BBQ
Date: 11/25/17
Address: 366 Valiant Dr, Lexington, NC 27292
Order: Monk: Three meat combo plate (chopped pork, sausage, ribs) with red slaw, hush puppies, fries, and Cheerwine; Speedy: Three meat combo plate (coarse chopped pork, brisket, ribs) with red slaw, hush puppies, tater tots, and Cheerwine (link to menu)
Price: ~$17 each

Speedy: Monk and I were both embarking on a post-Thanksgiving drive from High Point to Charlotte (albeit in different vehicles), so we planned on a noon rendezvous at Cook’s BBQ in Lexington. As I was driving up, I thought that I might be entering a scene from Deliverance, and that possibly Monk was trying to kill me. Good news – he wasn’t, and Cook’s BBQ is real.

Monk: It is a bit of a weird location for a barbecue restaurant but I would never “Deliverance” you, Speedy. Off of 85, you go drive down Highway 8 south of Lexington proper and take a few turns on country roads. Then you drive past a few houses before happening on Cook’s in a dead-end at the end of a residential street.

The restaurant has been around since 1969 (though the current owners took over in 1984) so they must be doing something right, even if I feel it’s hardly ever mentioned along with the other Lexington joints. To add to its bona fides, it was also included along with Lexington Barbecue, Skylight Inn, Allen & Son’s, and other NC barbecue heavy hitters in this 2012 Washington Post primer on NC barbecue ahead of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. I had been wanting to stop in for years, particularly once I realized they were open on Sundays – a rarity for most family-owned barbecue joints.

Speedy: One thing that’s a little different about Cook’s from most Lexington style joints is the variety of meats. In addition to pork, they have brisket, ribs, and sausage. As Monk and I do when we see lots of meat, we ordered it all. I opted to go with coarse chopped pork (for a change of pace), the ribs, and the brisket. Monk had the same order, but subbed sausage instead of brisket. We both had red slaw and some form of fried potatoes (tots or fries).

Monk: The table agreed that the sausage was the best meat that we tasted that day, though I don’t know where Cook’s gets its sausage from or whether its house made (I suspect its not). In any case, it’s good.

Speedy: Agree, and I will order it should I go back. The brisket surprised me. NC brisket is generally plain bad (I’ve sworn it off a time or two myself), but this stuff was decent. Not on par with anything I’ve had in Texas, but it was definitely passable.

Monk: I did read afterwards that its one of only two places in Lexington that even serves brisket, so its definitely an anomaly. The ribs were a bit overcooked and fell apart as soon as I attempted to pick up the rack. Not to mention they were overly slathered in a thick, sweet sauce. I would avoid.

Speedy: I didn’t care for the coarse pork. It was a mistake to order it that way. Monk enjoyed the fine chopped better. The sides were all good – particularly the hush puppies.

Monk: I had higher hopes for Cook’s being a hidden gem that might sneak into my personal best of NC list but perhaps my expectations were too high. While Speedy and I agreed that the meats were mostly above average, I don’t know that either of us will be going out of our way to make a special trip out to Cook’s Barbecue anytime soon, threat of Deliverance or not.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 3 hogs
Pork – 3.5 hogs
Brisket – 3 hogs
Sausage – 4 hogs
Ribs – 2.5 hogs
Sides – 3.5 hogs
Overall – 3.5 hogs
Cook's Barbecue Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday Find: Eater visits Pecan Lodge

I’ve still yet to go to Pecan Lodge (Rudy liked it a lot) but when I do go I plan to bring some friends and get The Trough.

Ask a Texan what their favorite smokehouse is and the answers will span the state. Ask someone from Dallas, and chances are you’ll hear the name Pecan Lodge thrown around. With the help and desire of their following, Pecan Lodge owners Justin and Diane Fourton turned their brisket out of a truck business into a brick and mortar restaurant that’s hard to miss thanks to a constant line out the door.

Linkdown: 12/6/17

– A review of Sam Jones BBQ from The Daily Reflector

– J.C. Reid’s latest barbecue article reflects on pork belly

– A Minnesota Chef thinks he’s figured out the secret to perfect barbecue…and it’s resting?!?!

The restaurant pays special attention to one crucial aspect of preparing barbeque—the resting process—which he also thinks is the secret to making truly epic barbecue.

To achieve that level of pure deliciousness,  “We use a customized cabinet that specifies the humidity and holding temperature,” the chef says. “It’s insane.”

– Apparently Sarasota’s got a “smokin’ hot” barbecue scene

– Saucy:

Rodney Scott on passing of pitmaster Douglas Oliver: It’s like a legend left us

– Texas politics don’t mess around when it comes to barbecue

 
– Great use of video in this tweet right here:

Hill’s Lexington Barbecue – Winston-Salem, NC

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Name
: Hill’s Lexington Barbecue
Date: 11/24/17
Address: 4005 Patterson Ave, Winston-Salem, NC 27105
Order: Monk and Speedy: Chopped plate with red slaw, hush puppies, fries, and Cheerwine (link to menu)
Price: $30 (for two)

Monk: When Speedy and I stopped in at Hill’s Lexington Barbecue the day after Thanksgiving, we didn’t know we were stepping into a little bit of controversy – we just wanted to try a new barbecue joint. As should be well-known to longtime readers of the blog, Lexington-style barbecue is the favorite style of the bros (or at least I think that’s still the case for the Texan, Rudy). Well, Hill’s claims to be the first barbecue restaurant to be branded as “Lexington barbecue” and has done so since 1951. According to Jim Early in The Best Tar Heel Barbecue: Manteo to Murphy, “[a]t the time they opened there were a few small side street barbecues in Lexington operated by Stamey, Beck and Swicegood. But none called their barbecue place ‘Lexington Barbecue’.”

Speedy: Let’s first start with how we ended up at Hill’s. We used the excellent Great NC BBQ Map to find a joint that uses only wood coals close to our hometown of High Point that neither of us had ever been to. After a quick 25 minute drive in the Monk-mobile, we were walking into an old-timey joint that looks like it hasn’t much changed since the aforementioned 1951 date.

We quickly ordered and had our food within 3 minutes.

Monk: And we aren’t talking figuratively here, folks. We literally mean we had food within 3 minutes of ordering.

Speedy: The plate looked great – finely chopped pork, red slaw, and crinkle fries. We might as well have been in heaven. Digging in, I was treated to that nice smokey Lexington flavor I love (and miss in Tennessee). The pork was solid, though I think the ratio of ketchup to vinegar in the dip favored the ketchup a little too much. The pork was served with dip, and no extra was needed.

Monk: I agree that the dip was a little too much on the sweet side, but that’s a minor complaint. In hindsight, I wouldn’t have added more of the table side dip to the meat and just sprinkled it with Texas Pete.

Speedy liked the hush puppies more than me – they were a little more on the savory side of the spectrum – but again, not a huge negative. The red slaw was a classic example of a Lexington barbecue slaw and as is the best that can be hoped for, the fries were fries and didn’t ruin the meal.

Speedy: Similar to the meat, I thought the slaw was a little too sweet, but overall, that’s nitpicking the meal. This was definitely a classic Lexington-style meal. And while neither Monk nor I liked it as much as Lexington #1 or Stamey’s we both left Hill’s Lexington Barbecue feeling full and satisfied. I’m not sure what more you can ask for.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 3 hogs
Pork – 4 hogs
Sides – 4 hogs
Overall – 4 hogs
Hill's Lexington Barbecue Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Photo Gallery: Rough Draft Brewing Beer Dinner at Midwood Smokehouse Park Road

IMG_1057 (2)This past Wednesday night, I was invited by Sarah from Midwood Smokehouse (shouts to Sarah!) to a beer dinner featuring some California-inspired dishes which incorporated smoke in various ways paired with four beers from Rough Draft Brewing Company out of San Diego. I hadn’t previously had the pleasure of trying any beers from Rough Draft and the courses for this dinner were different from the usual barbecue beer dinner fare, so this would be a night of new experiences for me. Here’s the highlights:

Appetizers: Rock Shrimp Tostada, Bacon Wrapped Jalapenos, Jalapeno-Jack Cornbread paired with Weekday Session IPA

Now this was a great start to the dinner. My first bite of the evening was a good one – the crunch of the freshly fried corn tostada contrasted well with the acidity of the rock shrimp and ceviche. I had two of these. The bacon-wrapped jalapeno is a normal offering on the menu but this version featured a “queso Chihuahua”. Lastly, the cornbread topped with pulled pork and pico was good but ranked third in my passed app hierarchy (patent pending). The Weekday Session IPA was a smart move to not come out of the gate too hot.

First Course: San Diego Pier Taco paired with Grapefruit Weekday IPA
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A southern California classic – the fish taco. The grouper was fried in a beer batter made with the Grapefruit Weekday IPA mixed with ground corn into a maseca but was still light enough for a first course. The Grapefruit Weekday IPA is made from the same recipe as the session IPA but as the name implies, is infused with grapefruit. This tied in nicely with the grapefruit-avocado crema that topped the taco and the smoke in the dish came from the smoked tomato salsa. I could have had at least 2 more of these, but thankfully they weren’t didn’t allow that because I would have been too full for…

Second Course: Ancho Rubbed Tri-tip paired with Hop Therapy Double IPA
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My first taste of tri-tip. I don’t know this preparation compares to classic Santa Maria tri-tip (Midwood smoked over hickory as they do with all meats), but I do know that I really liked it and in particular the ancho rub. Midwood Smokehouse has previously featured it as a Barbecue Month special in years past and if its on the menu next May I may have to make a special trip out. As good as the tri-tip was, the sweet potato tamale was every bit its equal. Made from sweet potatoes from a Barbee Farms out of Concord, the use of sweet potato in a classic tamale presentation blew my mind. This course paired with the Hop Therapy Double IPA which was a more malt-forward double clocking in at 9%. Thankfully, they weren’t serving more than about a half pour because this guy was dangerously drinkable and I could see it sneaking up on me.

Third Course: Key Lime Rye Cake paired with Sea State Blackberry Rye Ale
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FS Food Group (the restaurant group owned by Frank Scibelli that owns Midwood Smokehouse among other concepts) recently hired a full-time pastry chef and while I unfortunately can’t recall her name, this rye cake with smoked blackberry sauce was her topper to the dinner. It paired nicely with the Sea State Blackberry Rye Ale.

Linkdown: 11/29/17

– A tiny new joint in the mountains of NC called The Tin Shed has opened on a farm in the tiny town of Spruce Pines

– RIP Douglas Oliver, longtime pitmaster at Sweatman’s Bar-B-Que

– Dino Philyaw, a former University of Oregon and Carolina Panthers football player originally from Dudley, NC, has brought (among other things) Eastern Carolina barbecue to Eugene

Dino Philyaw cooks all kinds of barbecue but he is partial to the type of vinegar and pepper sauce-based barbecue from eastern North Carolina, where he’s from.

– How our differences show our similarities

Even before I was old enough to be given my first rifle, I was aware of the difference between eastern and western N.C. barbecue. Eastern BBQ, strangely enough, was almost considered a foreign dish. More than one elder statesman from the Piedmont informed me that the sauce was indeed different — it could be “downright bitter!” Adding ketchup to slaw, furthermore, was just what one did. It complemented the sliced or chopped pork shoulder. With my provincial yet well-informed definition of barbecue and sides, I kept chomping away, whenever there was an opportunity to do so.

– A few long-but-not-forgotten barbecue restaurants get a brief mention in this Charlotte Five article on most missed Charlotte restaurants – Old Hickory House, Olde Original BBQ, Ol’ Smokehouse, Rogers Barbecue

– HECK YES:

Friday Find: Southerners Try NY BBQ

A different twist on the “Foreigners Try American BBQ” video concept. A recently transplanted Texan gets a mini barbecue tour of Texas joints in NYC: Fette Sau in Brooklyn and Hill Country and Blue Smoke in Manhattan.

Gotta say – why didn’t they try Hometown Bar-B-Que in Red Hook though? I can only assume because it isn’t a strictly Texas joint despite it having both brisket and beef ribs.

Linkdown: 11/22/27

– Big news!

More coverage on Noble Smoke from the Charlotte Business Journal

– The LA Times has an easy guide to pairing beer with barbecue

– Re-opened yesterday

– A Texas man is the first pitmaster to make Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list

– More coverage from TMBBQ on Grant Pinkerton

– An Austin rag “takes the temperature” of the barbecue scene in Brooklyn and with one exception finds that it doesn’t quite add up to Austin

– Everyone has a dark past, and NC barbecue is certainly no different; it had a beef phase