Saturday, January 31, 2009

Ted's Montana Grill - Eco Friendly Restaurants

I just finished reading Call Me Ted, the autobiography about Ted Turner. Besides being the man behind the successful launches of TBS, TNT, CNN, and Headline News on cable television, he is also the owner of the Atlanta Braves and remains the largest private land owner in the U.S.

A few years ago, Ted Turner got into the restaurant business as one of the co-founders/owners of Ted's Montana Grill.

The closest location to me is in Bonita Springs, FL, so I haven't eaten there yet, but it's worth noting that Ted's has helped launch an awareness in the restaurant industry that is helping restauranteurs focus more on sustainability and eco-friendly practices. Ted's uses paper straws and bio-degradable materials for their plates, to go boxes, etc. providing a lesson for us all.

You may or may not be a reader of books, but if you are....Call Me Ted is a worthy read. Not knowing much about him before reading the book, it changed my impressions 100%.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Honey for Barbecue

More and more bbq enthusiasts are using honey in their barbecue sauces and in various glazes they use to "finish" their barbecue meats just before serving.

All honey is not created equal. Honey in the grocery store and honey purchased from a local producer are potentially very different. Commercial honey production and importation is difficult to regulate.

There are regulations administered by EPA regarding chemical usage and pollution and also regulations enforced by the FDA that regulate contamination of honey by illegal or unapproved chemicals, along with various state agencies that administer their own food safety programs. In my personal opinion, purchasing honey from a commercial producer incurs more risk that from a local producer.

Know your beekeeper--

If possible, perform a visual inspection of the honey bee-hives and make note of their location, proximity to industrial manufacturing plants, proximity to fresh water, etc.

It stands to reason that honey from a local producer whose hives are located in a rural area near fresh water streams, with fresh vegetation and lots of blossoms is of higher quality than honey from hives located near a chemical plant that spills various polutants into the atmosphere.

At the same time all local producers are not created equal either. Are the hives located next to a crop that is routinely sprayed with insecticides? Does your beekeeper observe commonsense when preparing honey for bottling? How is his or her cleanliness during this process? Under what conditions is this process performed?

These are just some considerations that should be made when making the decision to purchase honey from a local producer versus an unknown entity overseas.

I don't know about you, but I feel more comfortable dealing with a local source.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

J & R Manufacturing

Like many bbq enthusiasts, I've spent the last few years dreaming, thinking, and researching different types of equipment to use in a future bbq restaurant. I've always thought Ole Hickory to be the gold standard as far as bbq restaurant equipment goes, but the more I explore the offerings from J & R Manufacturing, the more I think I might change my mind.

They make three types of bbq smoker ovens:

The Little Red Smokehouse
The Oyler Pit
The Smokemaster Convection Oven

The pits are wood fired with electric assist available to add consistency, predictability, and to reduce costs. According to their website, the electric assist also will not taint the taste of food like a gas assist pit will.

The pits are NSF and UL listed. And, they also have an impressive listing of professional chefs and bbq restaurants that use their wood fired pits.

I've not seen one up close yet, but I want to. I see that Jimbo's Pit Barbecue in Lakeland, FL uses one. I might have to make a road trip soon.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Eat BBQ and Get College Credit

Some students at Birmingham-Southern College in Alabama have figured out a way to get college credit for eating bbq. The Southern BBQ Boys are going to spend 17 days eating bbq and studying pork bbq in the southeast.

Their creativity has generated a lot of media coverage for the project. They are documenting everything via videos published on their bbq blog. Fox 5 in Atlanta, Birmingham Weekly, Lexington Dispatch, and Tennesean have featured the boys in recent stories/articles.

Monday, January 19, 2009

BBQ Tour: Columbus, GA que restaurants

We traveled to Columbus, GA this weekend. Sunday afternoon we made up our own informal tour of bbq joints in the area.

We stopped by Chester's BBQ, Hog Rock BBQ , Fat Freddy's, and Thorton's BBQ to name a few. I'm not quite sure where the folks of Columbus eat bbq on Sundays, because most of the joints were not open for business, but that turned out perfectly to snap a few pictures.

Chester's Bar-B-Q with locations on Veteran's Parkway and Northstar drive has a storied business history in Columbus dating back to 1939. The restaurant is previous People's Choice Award winner as the favorite bbq joint in town. (See more pictures here.)

Here's a view of the front door at Fat Freddie's Bar-B-Q on Hamilton Road.

Hog Rock BBQ, on the 280 by-pass in Phenix City, AL, across the river from Columbus gets my vote for the best bbq logo and paint scheme.

Mike & Ed's on Crawford Road in Phenix City looked busy on Saturday afternoon, but they were closed when we stopped by on Sunday.

Next to Kansas City or Memphis, I've never seen more bbq restaurants in a single community. I'd be willing to wager that Columbus, GA might hold the record for Most BBQ Restaurants Per Capita compared to most any medium to large sized city in America.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Learning the BBQ Culture

The secrets to juicy and tender barbecue have been closely guarded for many, many years and the art of barbecue has been handed down from father to son and treated as family heirlooms. The rising popularity of the Internet during the past decade has changed the culture of barbecue forever.

In the southeastern region of the country, barbecue usually referred to whole hogs cooked slowly over a fire of coals. Families often had their own recipes for rubs and sauces to go along with their favorite woods for smoking. Gaining access to these secrets wasn’t always easy. Good barbecue recipes were a source of family pride.

When I moved to Dickson, TN from Missouri in 1992, I was invited to help out with a family barbecue. I arrived at about 6 p.m. on Friday evening to find a hog roasting on chicken wire stretched over a metal bed frame. The cooks took turns roasting various meats including ducks, rabbits, and chickens throughout most of the night. There was a lot of conversation, some beer drinking, and a lot of work tending the fire. Periodically they would dab a vinegar marinade mixture on the hog.

After relocating to Florida in 2001, I rediscovered barbecue again. While searching the Internet for grilling tips and a recipe for pulled pork, I found and These websites reopened my eyes and ears to barbecue. About this same time, Food Network started airing various programs featuring barbecue restaurants, festivals, and contests.

A couple of years later, I discovered and met up with Kevin. After a sharing a few e-mails and a couple of cell phone conversations, I drove to Kevin’s to help him break in a brand new Lang reverse flow offset smoker. I attended KCBS events with Kevin and Clara in Brooksville and Lakeland, FL and a few FBA events including the big contest in Sebring, FL. I struck out on my own at the Okeechobee, FL contest and got my first category win at the FBA event in Arcadia, FL in the chicken category. I’ve been preparing my own style of barbecue ever since.

I’ve cooked in KCBS events in Florida, Tennessee, Michigan, and Indiana since those early contest days and I’ve have competed against some of the best teams in the country holding my own with consistent top five overall finishes and several category wins. I’ve started my own web blog about barbecue to help others get started in the hobby and started selling my own spice rub on my personal web site.

Before the Internet Age, my learning curve would have been much, much steeper. However, for those seeking how-to barbecue information these days, championship recipes and techniques are only a few mouse clicks away. For about $240, you can order a Weber Smokey Mountain from and have it delivered to your door step. You can spend some time reading the articles and forums and watching videos at or and learn how to use it effectively. There are numerous discussion groups and Forums that will answer any questions you have about specific cuts of meat or specific recipes you want to try out. is just another example of the vast amount of information provided on the World Wide Web for those that seek it out.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Bullet Smoker Comparison

This video from the Illinois BBQ Society on takes you through the in's and out's of the WSM and the ProQ Excel. For those that wish to reduce the cooking time for the pork butts, wrap them in a double thickness of foil after they reach 170 degrees internal temperature and it will save you several hours of time. In my WSM, I can cook two pork butts in less than 9-10 hours by foiling in this manner.

For any type of cold weather, the less you open the bullet smoker, the easier it is to maintain a consistent 225 - 250 degree cooker temperature. With an uninsulated cooker, this becomes more important in cold weather. You'll also use less charcoal.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

History of BBQ features written articles and oral histories for some popular Alabama, North Carolina, and Texas bbq restaurants. The site provides maps to help you plan a short driving vacation to sample some the state's unique bbq destinations.

Links to some of oral histories:

Archibald's Bar-B-Q in Northport, AL

Big Bob Gibson's in Decatur, AL

Ben's Long Branch in Austin, TX

Thursday, January 08, 2009

First BBQ Contest of 2009 Season

The Florida Barbecue Association is sanctioning the Central Florida BBQ Festival January 9-10, 2009 in Sebring, FL. I might take a drive over on Saturday afternoon and snap a few pictures. With the Swamp Boys winning FBA TOTY and winning the recent FBA Triple Crown Championship in Perry, FL, the Sebring event is shaping up nicely and should be extremely competitive

Linda and I were there several years ago. For Florida, it was cold enough that we had to keep the propane heater on and the sides of the King Canopy tent up the entire weekend.

If you are going to compete in cold weather and don't have an RV or trailer to cook out of, the King Canopy is a good choice. It's best if you have several people to help you put it up and take it down. Two people can manage it o.k. if needed. Linda and I competed with the King Canopy for a year and a half with little trouble. But, it's a bear to take down when it's raining. At the Lakeland Pig Fest we stood in 6 inches of water while packing up. If it's not below 45 degrees, a Caravan or EZ-up works just as well. And they are much, much easier to take down.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Martin's BBQ Joint

Brian and Linda

We visited Martin's BBQ Joint in Nolensville, TN on the Tuesday during Christmas week. For those that haven't followed posts about Martin's on my bbq blog, you can read more about Pat Martin's step-by-step progress from planning, opening, marketing, and daily operation of a bbq restaurant on Martin's Bar-B-Q Blog.

Nine of us converged on Martin's at 11 a.m. just prior to the lunch rush. I had the ribs, my sister-in-law had the Red Neck Tacos, and most everyone else had pulled pork sandwiches.

After finishing my rib basket, I introduced myself at the counter and asked to speak to Pat. I'd never met him before in person, but I've been reading his blog for many months. He was nice enough to take a few minutes to talk about his experience opening and operating his bbq joint.

He showed me the kitchen layout and the Old Hickory smoker out back. Pat also mentioned that he was invited to speak at the 2009 NBBQA conference in Austin, TX in February. It sounded like Pat is planning a "no holds barred" presentation to ensure that those thinking about opening a restaurant do it with their eyes wide open. If you're at the conference and get a chance, I highly recommend you make a point to listen to his presentation.

Toward the end of our conversation, Pat introduced me to the publisher of ULIKA Food Blog, Rob Marlowe, who was also at Martin's eating lunch. If you haven't visited his food blog, I recommend you stop by for a visit. Rob has a lot of pictures of Nashville area bbq restaurants and some valuable insight into all things bbq. He also competes in KCBS bbq contests.

2009 NBBQA Conference

The NBBQA Conference is scheduled for Feb 17 - 21, 2009 in Austin, TX. The bbq conference includes a trade show, educational seminars, tours of local bbq restaurants, ServeSafe training, and a masters round table discussion. It sounds like a full week of bbq.

Speakers include bbq restuarant owners (from large to small), bbq authors, and contest competitors from MBN, KCBS, and the rib festival circuit.

Wish I could attend.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Black-eyed Peas and Collard Greens

We had our customary black-eyed peas for New Years Day. I seasoned them up with The BBQ Guy's Southern Rub. Pretty tasty for sure. Now all I need is some prosperity.

We cooked up a mess of collard greens too.

Collard Greens
  • Chop a bunch of collards
  • Heat a skillet with a little olive oil
  • Add minced garlic to taste

Cook for five minutes.

  • Add 1/4 cup of chicken broth

Cook for three minutes.

  • Add a 1/4 cup of red wine

Continue cooking until tender.

Come to think of it, collards and black-eyed peas go really well with all types of bbq too. In our house, they're definitely not just for New Year's Day anymore.