Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Holy Smokes!

Went skiing up at Stratton in Vermont this past weekend. Had a great time, slopes were super crowded in the morning but conditions were great, especially once most of the people left after lunch. On the way home, we stopped in Hatfield, Massachusetts and met my friend Av Harris at Holy Smokes, a BBQ place in a former church.

Having read about Holy Smokes on Gary Goldblatt's BBQ site Pigtrip.net, I was really excited to try their beef rib. I was definately not disappointed.

We didn't go to Holy Smokes to review it, we were really just hungry and wanted to unwind for a while. It was also good to see Av, who may be known to some of you as a reporter for NPR on Conecticut and Massachusetts stations. But I will post some thoughts.

While this was not something that is a big deal, I feel it is worth mentioning, moreso as a former restaurant manager than anything else. We entered the restaurant and told them we needed a table for 6. Someone quickly set the table, and the woman at the desk said to me "do you want to have a seat?" I said yes, and went over with my brother's girlfriend to sit at the table.

After a minute, the woman came over and said that we coulnd't sit at the table until our entire party was there! So she made me and my brother's girlfriend Kim get up from our table and sit on the bench in the front of the restaurant! It was very embarrasing to us. The place was half empty at that moment, so there was no reason to treat us like that. We certainly would have ordered drinks and probably appetizers as we waited for Av to arrive. Instead, exhausted, we had to drag ourselves up front and wait for Av to get there. It was really pointless.

Once I identified myself as a fellow BBQer to pit boss/owner Louis Ekus, aka Papalou, we were treated very well. Papalou was really friendly and more than willing to talkabout his joint, his cooking processes and philosophies about Q. We really enjoyed him. He also bought us an order of wings. They were smoked, and had a great spicy honey glaze. Definatey try the wings if you visit.

Av, Cristiaan and myself all had the beef short rib. We each got a single rib, which was more than enough meat. It had a great smoked flavor, and was perfectly cooked. I got mine with sauce on the side, but Papalou recommends that you get it with sauce, as they finish it in the wood fired oven and it becomes like a candy crust. Will try it that way next time for sure.

Kim had the two meat platter. I tried the pork, which was sauced so I couldn't get a great read on the meat flavor. But it was good.

Av's two kids each had the kids rib platter. I got to take a bite of one of their ribs. They do St. Louis cut spares. I took one bite, and I found the rib meaty with a nice smoke flavor. The sides were good too, Cristiaan really enjoyed the roaster califlower. I had fries,which were just the way I like them, dark and flavorful.

They serve three different locally brewed beers, all of which were good. I also had some sweet tea, which was excellent.

Despite the rough start, we had a really nice time at Holy Smokes. Since it is so close to Interstate-91, we will definately visit again when returning from Vermont.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

SouthernQue, Meriden CT

Just off East Main Street in Meriden, Connecticut, there’s a little slice of the south.

Don Washington has a trailer in the front yard of his home at 70 Pomeroy Street in Meriden, and operates his BBQ business called SouthernQue from there. I read about the place two years ago, and have been stopping by whenever I am in the area since. It is located very close to Interstate-91 and Route 15, ez-off, ez-on as they like to say.

The BBQ served by SouthernQue is a lot more of what you would expect from a trailer along a state road between Tuscaloosa and Huntsville, not a side road in Yankee-land. But if you’re looking for something different from most of the other northern retail BBQ offerings, you should make this one of your stops.

After years working for jet engine maker Pratt and Whitney, Don Washington fulfilled a dream and opened his BBQ trailer in his driveway. His home is zoned commercially, which allows him to run the business there. However, he was shut down for a few months last year when the city deemed that he needed a zoning variance. He got it, and is now going strong.

Don Washington

Washington has a serious Q setup. He has a Southern Yankee trailer, equipped with a full commercial kitchen and a major league smoker. The rig can cook more than 75 racks of ribs, around 500 pounds of shoulder or two whole hogs at once. It’s a rotisserie smoker, fueled completely with hickory logs.
The Trailer

The first few times I visited, I only got ribs. The ribs are definitely the star of the show at SouthernQue. They are nicely spiced, and have an extremely strong smoky flavor, as they are smoked for more than six hours. They only do spares, which are cooked untrimmed then cut down after cooking. The sauce can be served on the ribs or on the side. It’s an excellent tangy tomato vinegar sauce. I got mine on the side this time so I could really taste the meat.

My visit this past Saturday, I got a half rack of ribs, and a half pound each of pulled pork and brisket. The brisket is a relatively new menu addition.

Every time I have visited SouthernQue, the ribs have been consistently good. This time was no exception. The smoky meat and sweet tang of the sauce are a perfect compliment. These are true southern ribs. They normally come with sauce, I asked for it on the side.

The Ribs

The pulled pork is another place where Washington excels. The meat has a great smoky taste, and the sauce again is a fine compliment. I’ve had the pulled pork sandwiches here in the past, and they’re outstanding.

Pulled Pork

I tried the brisket for the first time. It was good, but some of the pieces were a little tough. I know this is the hardest of the meats to get right. There were only a few tough pieces, the rest was pretty tender and had a nice flavor.


SouthernQue also has sides, including potato salad, coleslaw and collard greens. They’re only open Thursday through Saturday, with the occasional Sunday, from 11AM to 7PM. It’s mostly take out, but there are a couple of picnic tables if you want to eat on site.

Overall, I really enjoy visiting the trailer in Meriden. Now that I have moved to the eastern part of Connecticut, I don’t have as many opportunities to visit. But every time I do stop by, I see that the lines are getting longer, the number of regulars are on the rise, and the business is starting to take off. It’s always great to see someone succeed in the business of BBQ. I tried to talk Don into competing on the circuit sometime. He would do well.

If you’re on the road, make an effort to stop by and try some of this unique BBQ. You will not find anything quite like it in the Northeast.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Daisy May's BBQ

***Note: I wrote this back in December but forgot to post it***

Last Friday, we made our annual trip to New York City for the holiday season. Every year, we make the pilgrimage into Manhattan, go fight the obnoxious crowds at the Rockefeller Center to see the tree, and usually sample one of the fine restaurants the greatest city in the world has to offer. Rather than visit Les Halles, Gramercy Tavern or Union Square Café, we decided to visit the establishment of a fellow BBQ competitor.

We have wanted to visit Daisy May’s BBQ for some time now. I first read about Adam Perry Lang in Food and Wine magazine a while back, and finally had the chance to meet him when he kicked our butts at the Hudson Valley Ribfest in New Paltz in August. I only spoke to him briefly then, and met him again at the Jack.

Adam Perry Lang

Adam is not your regular BBQ competition cook. Most of them are a lot like me: fat guys who cooked so many racks of ribs that they got it down to a science, then realized we could gather with other fat guys, cook, eat, drink, camp, eat some more, cook some more, then collect small checks and cheap plastic trophies for our efforts. (Apologies to the in shape BBQ cooks.) Adam is a real chef, CIA grad, French trained, having cooked at arguably some of the best restaurants in NYC, including Restaurant Daniel under Chef Daniel Boulud, LeCirque and Chantrelle.

Adam is not a cook. He’s a chef. A very good one.

That being said, I really wanted to try his BBQ. I made sure not to eat a lot, so I could really feast when we got to Daisy May’s, which is his joint in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood.

Talk about cross promotion!

Being it was a Friday night, I expected the place to be busy. It was surprisingly quiet, which I believe had a lot to do with the location at 11th Avenue and 46th Street. The restaurant is located in an industrial area, largely surrounded by car dealerships. I remarked to Sheila that if his place was three blocks east and had a bar, it would probably be mobbed 24/7. They probably do a pretty brisk lunch take out business though.

We missed Adam, as we arrived at 6:30 and the guy at the counter said he had left for the day.

The Counter
The layout is cafeteria style, you order in a line, then pick up your food either to go or to sit in the picnic tables located in the new dining area. The area was empty, but it appeared that they had a group coming in a little later because there were reserved signs placed on the tables while we were eating.

The Dining Area

We ordered the Kansas City sweet and sticky ribs, a brisket sandwich, chili, creamed corn and mashed potatoes.

The Ribs

Everything we had was delicious. The ribs were spares, meaty and smoky with just enough sauce. The meat was chopped on the brisket sandwich, and it was also very good. I was really blown away by the sides. The corn was the best I have ever had, and the chili was outstanding.

I wish I had tried the beef rib. I’ve read on a few other sites that it’s really good. We ate most of our food, brought some home, talked to some of the workers for a while, bought a few t-shirts and headed out.

I’m glad we made the trip. Adam's food lived up to our expectations, and then some. I highly recommend that if you're in the city, stop by and give his Q a try. You won't regret it. He also has two carts that he sends out into Midtown, 7th Avenue and 50th Street, and to 40 Wall Street in the financial district.

For more information visit www.daisymaysbbq.com