Barbecue Bros Book Club: “Smoked” by Ed Randolph

Not that we’re anywhere close to being qualified enough to evaluate books but more so as a public service announcement we will periodically discuss barbecue and barbecue-related books.

On May 7th of last year, Smoked was released as well as several other notable barbecue books: Whole Hog BBQ: The Gospel of Carolina Barbecue with Recipes from Skylight Inn and Sam Jones BBQ by Sam Jones, Southern Smoke by Matthew Register’, and Myron Mixon’s BBQ&A with Myron Mixon. Of those authors, I knew the least about Ed Randolph, who is a Hudson Valley, NY-based competition cook and caterer who has announced his intentions to open his restaurant Handsome Devil BBQ in the town of Newburgh this summer.

As for this book Smoked is equal parts travelogue, recipes, and barbecue 101. He has chapters with recipes from the notable pitmasters you might expect – Sam Jones, Elliot Moss, Billy Durney, Carey Bringle, Pat Martin to name a few – but to me the best part of the book are the chapters on the less heralded or more up-and-coming pitmasters. Being a northeastern-based pitmaster, Randolph spotlights several pitmasters from states not normally known as barbecue hot beds. States such as Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. While it may be due to a function of Ed being able to travel to those restaurants more easily, it is nice to see some variety in pitmasters and restaurants in a barbecue book.

That’s not to say that Randolph only focused on the part of the country where he’s from, as he traveled from California to Texas and throughout the southeast to meet with pitmasters and get recipes, as noted by the map at the front of the book.

As for the recipes, there’s good variety in the types of meats that are represented – not just your typical brisket or pork butt – in addition to recipes for sides, sauces, and desserts. The book might be worth its price alone just for the chicken bog recipe from Elliott Moss of Buxton Hall.

Smoked is an easy read from an up and coming name in the barbecue world who followed up this book last year with a Traeger recipe book in April. Also of note is the beautiful photography from Ken Goodman and the foreword by Sean Ludwig of NYC BBQ and The Smoke Sheet.

Available at Amazon or wherever you buy books

Barbecue Bros Book Club: The 100 Best Barbecue Restaurants in America by Johnny Fugitt

IMG_2306

Not that we’re anywhere close to being qualified enough to evaluate books but more so as a public service announcement we will periodically discuss barbecue and barbecue-related books.

IMG_2319

Monk: From October 2013 to October 2014, barbecue writer Johnny Fugitt ate at 365+ barbecue restaurants across the lower 48 United States and compiled his own rankings into a book, The 100 Best Barbecue Restaurants in America. His rankings were not based on marketing or TV exposure or from compiling previous lists together into one mega list (as many barbecue lists tend to be), but by one man driving across the US in a Subaru judging barbecue through his own palate.

Speedy and I met up with Johnny last year in Charlotte and was able to get a private tour of the commissary kitchen of Boone’s Bar-B-Que Kitchen where they smoke their meat and do their prep work for the food truck. We’ve continued to keep in touch with him via email and Twitter and consider him a friend of the blog. Full disclosure and all that: Johnny was kind enough to provide complimentary signed copies of his book to both Speedy and me. Though Speedy forgot and bought another one from Amazon anyways (never a bad thing to support a writer, however).

Speedy: That’s right, Monk. I was being supportive, not forgetful. Anyway, in terms of the book itself, I really like the way Johnny went about it. There’s so much subjectivity to these lists that Johnny made sure to tell the story behind why he did this in the first place, his methodology, and a little bit about each trip he took. He was very specific about both what he liked and didn’t like at each place.

Monk: As for the list itself, it’s broken up between ranking his top 25 and then the remaining 75 restaurants are unranked and listed by state. While there are some of the usual suspects on the list, there are some glaring omissions that he wasn’t able to get to (Scott’s Bar-B-Que, La Barbecue, or Killen’s Barbecue) or some that folks might scratch their head at (a non-Franklin or La Barbecue Austin pick for #1 overall, a Florida joint in the top 5, etc). But that’s ok, because that was the whole point of the book.

For NC and specifically Charlotte, I was happy to see some of our favorites represented on the list. We covered this in a previous post, but Midwood Smokehouse and Boone’s Bar-B-Que Kitchen were both decently represented in the book – both in terms of the restaurants themselves on the unranked list of 75 but also particular dishes (brisket for Midwood and brunswick stew and sauce for Boone’s). Speedy, what were your thoughts on the list?

Speedy: As I mentioned above, I like the way Johnny went about it, but of course, I don’t agree with the rankings 100%. I think it’s a little Texas heavy and anything that doesn’t have Lexington BBQ in the top 25 (it does make the top 100), doesn’t line up with my taste completely. However, I think that’s the point. What I do like is that anywhere in the continental 48 I go, I know someone has been there before me to figure out if there’s anywhere worth trying. That alone is worth the price of admission.

Monk: Agreed. If I had any minor complaints, I would have liked to have seen full color photos, but I’m assuming that came down to a budget issue. In any case, while I may not agree completely with how the rankings shook out, I can’t fault Johnny’s hustle. Definitely a worthy read.

Barbecue Bros Book Club: Barbecue Crossroads by Robb Walsh and O. Rufus Lovett

IMG_2306

Not that I’m anywhere close to being qualified enough to evaluate books but more so as a public service announcement we will periodically discuss barbecue and barbecue-related books.

IMG_2326

Barbecue Crossroads: Notes & Recipes from a Southern Odyssey, written by multi James Beard Award-winning author Robb Walsh (who I had the pleasure of meeting earlier this year) with photographs by O. Rufus Lovett, is exactly the type of book I’d love to research and write some  day. The two take a roadtrip from Texas to the Carolinas and back, discovering and investigating the traditions and regional styles of barbecue in the American South. Its a travelogue that doesn’t just focus on the restaurants the two visit but also the community barbecues that don’t often get covered in the typical barbecue book. It also contains recipes and some of the most vivid color photography of barbecue culture – seriously, with enough practice in maybe a few decades I’ll be able to take photos half as good as Lovett.

Texas, Memphis, and North Carolina are well represented in the book but Grant of Marie, Let’s Eat! was a little miffed that they only devoted 5 pages to Georgia barbecue due to a perceived lack of effort or trying. This did not bother me as much as it did him, but then again thats easy to say for someone from North Carolina. Who knows what the reasons may be, but I can understand that time and resources are limited and they may have wanted to focus in predestined locations known. In any case, I really enjoyed this book and blew right through it in a matter of  a few days and would recommend it to any barbecue blogger.

Monk

Congrats to Johnny Fugitt on his new book, The 100 Best Barbecue Restaurants in America!

front cover

Congrats to our friend Johnny Fugitt (aka Barbecue Rankings) on today’s release of his book, The 100 Best Barbecue Restaurants in America. Speedy and I were fortunate enough to meet up with Johnny last year on his way through Charlotte and we couldn’t have met a nicer person (or one more passionate about barbecue). I can’t wait to get my hands on the book to see all  of his rankings and where some of my favorites (both NC and beyond) landed on the list (or not, as the case may be).

Order from Amazon today

In one year, barbecue critic Johnny Fugitt visited 365 barbecue restaurants across 48 states. The 100 Best Barbecue Restaurants in America chronicles the journey, shares secrets of barbecue legends and points you to America’s best plates of barbecue. Educational, humorous and hunger-inducing, this book raises the bar for investigative food journalism. Caution: Side effects of this book may include late night cravings, spontaneous road trips and the meat sweats. Not all material may be appropriate for vegetarians. Carnivore discretion is advised.

Monk