Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Chef Paul Kirk Visits Smokin' Pete's BBQ!

As I ran out the door on Friday to pick up my son from preschool, I realized I was sans cell phone. "I can go without it for a few hours," I thought, and burned rubber to get to the school on time. Little did I know that 10 minutes after I left, the crew at our restaurant would begin calling me saying that chef Paul Kirk, aka, the Baron of Barbecue, would be coming in for lunch and wanted to meet with me.

While he and Bob Lyon, Paul's friend, co-writer and barbecue long-timer, ate lunch with my husband, I blissfully lollygagged with my son: we slurped watermelon in the sun and stopped off at the Pilling's pond duck pond. When we returned home I heard the message. Eek! I called. He was still at the restaurant, but long finished with lunch. I packed both kids in the car as fast as I could, with spit up and coffee stains on my shirt, and zoomed down to the restaurant. Though clearly a big oof on my part, they were gracious about my extreme tardiness and gave both kudos and critique of their lunch (meats were moist, the chili "sucked", though in my defense that wasn't chili, it was stew, mislabeled). I of course forgot the camera and one of chef Paul's many books for him to sign. No worries, they invited me to be a judge the next day at Kirk's School of Pit Masters Barbecue Class held at Central Market.

This time I took some photos, chatted with Kirk some more and brought my book to sign. We sat down at about 4pm to judge the "entries" from the students who began the class at 6am. I judged 12 entries of pork and chicken with 5 other judges, and then the other 6 judges rated ribs and brisket. Before each turn-in, Kirk gave a demo to his students about slicing and presenting each category. One of my co-judges was Leslie Kelly, former PI food critic now exploring whether to switch sides and join the kitchen ranks since the PI (sadly) ended. It was fun to meet a critic now in a new role. She's writing a book, blogging and apprenticing with the Tom Douglas family of restaurants.

As soon as I left I remembered her review! The Texas Toast review. Though she said lovely nice things about our food, I of course lost sleep over her one little gripe that neither did we serve up her pulled pork plate with bread, but the counter staffer didn't know what Texas Toast was when asked. That killed me when it came out because not only did I have a case of TT on hand - thick sliced white bread - but I got dinged in a review because my just-out-of-high-school counter person wasn't in the know about white bread. (No matter how much training I can give, most kids fresh out of high school are just leaving the nacho-cheese-sauce-phase of life and haven't yet awakened, culinarily speaking).

May I set the record straight, Leslie? We do know what Texas Toast is, usually have some stashed in the freezer, and well, frankly think our Essential Bakery bread is better. Folks ate their barbecue with white bread because it was cheap and available, not because it was necessarily good. You may respectfully disagree. How 'bout the rest of y'all? White bread with your barbecue or some of the better breads we now can get?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Our Yard in Bloom

Spring is here! Just wanted to share some shots from our yard. The cherry tree, crab apple tree and rosemary "tree" all give us clippings and cuttings for smoking.

A favorite reading spot. I've recently finished Joni Sensel's The Farwalker's Quest. It was great! What are you reading?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Pike Place Market BBQ Competition

On Sunday I got to judge the first Northwest barbecue competition of the year at the Pike Place Market, hosted by the PNWBA. 29 teams competed in four barbecue categories - Pork, Ribs, Chicken and Brisket. Teams loaded in the night before, set up their tents, smokers and everything they needed to be ready for their turn ins the next day.

As a judge, I sat at a table with 5 other certified barbecue judges and we scored entries "blindly"on a scale of 2-9 (1 being for disqualifications). Blind judging means we don't know which team we are scoring nor do they know who judges their entry. Every team submits 6 samples per entry for a table of 6 judges. Each entry is scored by appearance, texture, and taste. We filled out our score cards and also comment cards on each entry for the cooks.

The sun made this day just perfect (last year it snowed!) and we sampled some excellent barbecue. I had fun dissecting the nuances of each entry with judge and barbecue writer Steve Feller next to me (after everyone was done scoring at our table, of course). Tim King and the Slabtown Ribs and BBQ Team stole the day with 1st in Brisket, 1st in Pork Butt, and...

Grand Champion.

Of note Lynnae Oxley of Sugar's Bar-B-Q took Third overall. She is featured in one of the She's Smokin' side bars in She-Smoke.

What we didn't eat, we could take home, so my husband made a linguini with the leftover smoked chicken, green beans and fresh thyme for dinner. Mmm. It was devoured before I could take a picture.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Very First Post

I wanted to start this blog while writing my book She-Smoke, but decided I had to put every ounce of energy into finishing the book first. Energy that was rationed because the same week the book contract came in, so did my pregnancy test results. The book is coming out June 1st and my baby girl is now three months old.

Now I am faced with the blank white page, or in this case pink, and, like every new notebook, I feel both excited and nervous to begin. My hope is that this blog can be a meeting place for women (and men) to talk about barbecue, food, and a girl's view of the 'cue. Perhaps "girl's view" isn't right, but rather the more lofty notion of the feminine, a sort-of break-the-rules party girl Dionysus barbecue blog.

I want to cook with you, gab with you about barbecue and food cooked slowly, from scratch, and maybe even throw in some political meat from time to time. My plan is to post at least three times a week: One detailed recipe, one barbecue or food news discussion, and one post dedicated to sides, sweets and fun. I'll plan a guest chef blogger each month as well as sprinkle in book news, Smokin' Pete's BBQ news, and the occasional post about motherhood.

Since this weekend was the first barbecue event of the year in Washington - the Pike Place Market Barbecue Competition (I was one of the judges), and we finally have some spring, it's a fitting time as any to begin. I'll post pics from the competition next.