Thursday, 7 November 2019

Texas BBQ Trip, May 2018 - Days 3-6

With my weekend of barbecue behind me, I was working during the days on Monday through Thursday (this was the purpose of the trip after all).  Monday evening I enjoyed the take out 'cue I'd picked up from Roegels on Saturday along with some bread from the hotel's breakfast bar.  As I mentioned in my first post about this trip, the brisket and boudin were still excellent 2 days later and eaten cold alongside the Texas Caviar.

After spending Tuesday afternoon at the office in Houston, I drove north to the Atoscacita neighbourhood to check out Tin Roof Barbecue.  This is a good sized restaurant in a retail/commercial area.  They have a large covered seating area outside as well as some indoor seating.  The order line winds along the outer edge of the outdoor seating and then takes you inside to the order counter.  I ordered a two meat plate with brisket and ribs, along with mac & cheese and green beans as my sides.  The ribs I received were tasty, but a little on the tough side.  The brisket was tasty with a nice peppery bark to it.  The mac and cheese was good and creamy, but the green beans were a bit of a soggy disappointment.  I also got a slice of pecan pie to go which I enjoyed greatly later that evening!  I just can't go to Texas and not have pecan pie!

Wednesday evening was my last night in Houston and I had made plans to meet up with Andrew & Bryan, the hosts of the Tales From The Pits podcast.  Unfortunately, they both had things come up at work and weren't able to make it.  That didn't deter me and I made the 30 minute drive from my hotel to Pinkerton's BBQ in the Heights area of Houston.  Pinkerton's is located in a good sized stand alone building with an outside patio.

The interior is rustic and it is clear by the hunting trophies that owner Grant Pinkerton loves the outdoors.

It wasn't particularly busy on this Wednesday night and I was able to order right away.  There is a bar/lounge attached to the restaurant, so I was able to get a pint of a local beer to enjoy with my dinner.  I ordered the 3 meat plate with brisket, sausage and ribs along with sides of mac & cheese and jalapeno cheese rice. I opted for the ribs without the glaze and they were awesome, though I have heard great things about the glazed ribs as well.  The whole tray was excellent and worthy of Pinkerton's Texas Monthly Top 50 ranking. This visit was a great way to celebrate my final evening in Houston.

Jalapeno Cheese Sausage at Pinkerton's
Thursday was filled with more work meetings before it was time to make my way to the airport.  Just because I was leaving didn't mean I was done eating barbecue though.  Fortunately, my departure terminal was home to Q, an airport barbecue restaurant overseen by Greg Gatlin of Gatlin's BBQ in Houston.

Q actually features a glass enclosed smokehouse right in the airport which is pretty cool. It also features a well stocked bar which guests sit around and order via a computer screen system.  I opted for the brisket sandwich and fries. It wasn't the best barbecue I ate this trip, but it was pretty darned good and better than you'd expect from an airport.

After my meal, I got on my flight and rested on the trip home with dreams of brisket and sausage and carrot souffle and ribs and cheesy squash and pecan pie dancing through my head!  Until next time Texas...until next time!

Texas BBQ Trip, May 2018 - Day 2

The second day of this Texas BBQ trip was Sunday and I headed out of Houston on the now familiar to me Highway 290...only this time it was a shorter trip than on previous occasions.  My destination on this beautiful morning was Brenham, TX and the highly acclaimed Truth BBQ.

I found Truth fairly easily and parked on the dirt road behind the restaurant.  I had arrived about 30 minutes before opening and there was a line of around 15 people happily waiting out in the sun, with a few taking advantage of the cooler full of Lone Star outside the door.  Truth BBQ is located in a fairly small, older building, but they are on a good sized lot and they have built a nice big shaded patio area to eat in.

Truth Barbeque Smoker

There is a large offset smoker out front that was lit and running while we waited, the scent of oak burning adding to the ambience and increasing my hunger!  Once they opened up the line moved quickly and it wasn't long before I was able to get out of the hot Texas sun and go inside the building.  They have a handful of tables inside along with the ordering counter.  Owner and pitmaster Leonard Botello was behind the counter and you could see the care he was taking with cutting and plating every tray.  I've heard him talk before about the importance of making each tray of food 'Instagram worthy'.  When I got up to the counter I was given a delicious sample of brisket to try.  It was incredible to say the least, and brought back memories of my first visit to Louie Mueller in Taylor.

My plan had been to order brisket and sausage, but while I was in line someone on Instagram mentioned to me that their pork ribs were outstanding so I decided to go with all three.  For my sides I opted for mac & cheese and the cornbread pudding.  I had heard and read a lot about the delicious cakes they offer at Truth and they looked as good as I had imagined.  If I hadn't been travelling alone and maybe if I had a cooler with me I may have ordered a slice to would have satisfied my sweet tooth for a couple of days for sure!  The staff was very friendly and I had a nice chat with the man at the register and we swapped stickers.

I took my tray out to the covered patio and found a picnic table to sit at and enjoy my meal.  Just like the day before at Tejas, the brisket was right up there with the best I've had. Moist, perfectly cooked, melt in my mouth meaty goodness.  I would have a tough time ranking it because so much time has passed between visits to Franklin and Louie Mueller, but this was certainly in the same category.  The ribs did not disappoint and neither did the sausage.  I ordered the jalapeno cheddar sausage and it was simply excellent with a nice kick to it.  As expected from a Texas Monthly Top 10 joint, the ribs were cooked just right and delicious.  The mac & cheese was saucy and perfect while the cornbread pudding was a great alternative I haven't seen or tried elsewhere.

Also seated at my table was a group of students from Texas A&M in nearby College Station and I was able to chat with them a bit about their Truth experience.  Everyone really enjoyed their meals.

Truth is getting ready to open up a second location in Houston, and I'm looking forward to trying that out on a future trip down there.

After eating I walked around the property a little and took some pictures of the woodpile and some of the signs they had around.  This is a really neat little place and certainly worth the short drive from Houston if you're in the area and don't want to wait for their Houston location to open!

From Brenham I continued northwest on 290 towards Austin, but this time my destination was just on the north side of Austin in Georgetown, TX.  John Mueller is the grandson of Louie Mueller and has a long and storied history in Texas barbecue.  His latest incarnation is at John Mueller Black Box Barbecue, a trailer on a corner lot in Georgetown.  It was late afternoon by the time I got there and I was full from my previous stop, so I ordered light with a couple slices of brisket and John's famous cheesy squash.  The brisket was good, don't get me wrong, but it wasn't the Mueller brisket that I expected.  It may have been the late hour or maybe just a bad piece, but I found it tough.  It was still very flavourful and peppery, just not as tender as I had hoped.  The cheesy squash was great and I'll definitely be looking for a recipe to try and make it myself as a side for one of my cooks. It is simply chunks of squash in a cheese sauce, with some pepper I believe.  Simple, but delicious.

I washed my food down with a cold Lone Star out of the cooler.  The cooler at Black Box has Lone Star and Bud Light in it.  The Lone Star is for customers and the Bud Light is for John!  There is a sign on the cooler warning you to leave the Bud Light alone.  I was aware of this and stopped on my way into town and picked up a 6 pack of Bud Light for him.  John was sitting and visiting with a couple of people.  When I was done eating, I brought the Bud Light over and introduced myself.  One of the folks he was sitting with turned out to be his son.  I didn't want to bug them, so I kept it short and gave him one of my stickers.  I was thrilled a month or so later when he posted a picture on Instagram and my sticker was on the side of the trailer in the background!

This was another day of great barbecue and I embarked on the 3 hour drive back to Houston and my hotel.  I had to rest up to work the next day and for more barbecue adventures during the week!

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Texas BBQ Trip, May 2018 - Day 1

Early on a Saturday morning in May 2018, I once again found myself on a plane headed for Houston. As in the past, this was a work trip, but I had planned to go down a day early in order to get in some barbecue before my 4 days of customer meetings.  When I booked the trip, the early morning flight that got me into Houston just before lunch seemed like a great idea, but arriving at the airport at 4:00 am after a near sleepless night didn't feel like my best plan ever!

I managed to get a little shut eye on the plane and arrived in sunny, hot & humid Houston around 11:00 am.  I recovered my luggage, picked up my rental car and headed straight to my first barbecue stop, Tejas Chocolate and Barbecue in nearby Tomball.  It was about a 30 minute drive from the airport and when I arrived there was a lineup about 10 or 12 deep out the front door.

Tejas was ranked number 6 in the Texas Monthly Top 50 last year.  Last summer after the issue came out, I was able to get a copy delivered to me in Calgary which included the Top 50 Passport. 

First stamp!
I'd been hanging on the the passport for close to a year waiting to get some stamps in it and this was going to be my first one!

The line moved at a decent pace and once I'd made it onto the patio I grabbed one of the Lone Star beers they keep in a cooler outside for their customers.  I was in Texas after all and Lone Star is the National Beer of Texas!  The restaurant is located in an old house in Tomball with a large front patio.

My first Lone Star!
Once inside the doors, I was able to take stock of the decor.  They have Stewart's Soda on tap and the line takes customers past perhaps the most unique feature I've seen in any barbecue restaurant...the chocolate counter.  Tejas started out as a bean to bar chocolate craftory and when they realized that chocolate alone wasn't going to pay the bills, they decided to add barbecue to the mix.  I for one am glad they did!

So much chocolaty goodness!

It had been requested that I bring some chocolate home, so I scoped out the display while waiting to order my lunch.  I was posting to Instagram while in line and I received a reply from them inviting me to come back to the pits after I'd eaten to say hello.  Very cool!

When it was my turn I ordered some brisket (moist, of course) and a jalapeno cheddar sausage with a side order of their famous carrot souffle and a shot of the mole barbecue sauce.

You order and pay at the counter here and they give you a number.  I found a table on the covered patio outside and it was only a couple of minutes before my number was called.  I went inside to get my tray and grabbed some pickles before heading back to my table.

A tray of pure barbecue gold!
That first bite of brisket was pure heaven!  I'd been away from Texas for too long and I was so glad to be back.  The Tejas brisket easily ranks up there with the best I've had...Franklin, Louie Mueller..anywhere.  The fat on the moist brisket was perfectly rendered and the pieces of meat easily pulled apart and melted in my mouth.  The sausage was equally good.  Cheesy with just the right amount of jalapeno kick and flavour.  I had been hearing about the carrot souffle for a while and was eager to give it a taste.  The piece of souffle in a small cup appeared cake-like, with a golden orange colour and a deeper orangy-red top.  I put a forkful in my mouth and was delighted.  It was light and creamy in texture and the flavour was excellent.  Perhaps the most unique side I've experienced, and definitely a treat. The mole sauce was a nice addition as well.  They used to provide it for free, but it complex and costly sauce to make with a lot of different ingredients and they found that it was being wasted.  Now for $1.00 you can get a small cup of it.  All around, this was easily one of the finest trays of barbecue I've eaten.  Once I finished enjoying every last bite, I made my way back to the pits and was greeted by co-owner and pitmaster Scott Moore.  We chatted for a few minutes and Scott showed me their large Moberg offset smoker, Dude. 

Dude Abides
I recalled seeing pictures of it being craned into place on social media when they took delivery of it shortly after the Texas Monthly Top 50 rankings came out last year.  In an ode to The Big Lebowski, the nameplate on the firebox reads "Dude Abides".

Two dudes!
After visiting with Scott I went inside to pick out some chocolates to bring home and added another t-shirt to my growing BBQ joint collection. 

From there I headed into Houston and made my way to Roegels.  I'd had the opportunity to enjoy Roegels on my last Houston trip and it was excellent.  They are also another Top 50 joint, so that meant another stamp in my passport and it was an chance to get a couple of entries into the Tales From The Pits podcast big giveaway.  Brian & Andrew from the podcast have placed one of their stickers at 10 bbq joints around the state.  To get an entry into the contest, you need to take a selfie with yourself and the sticker in the picture, and you get a second entry if you also include a picture of your food from that restaurant.  The prize is a Yeti cooler stuffed full with t-shirts, hats, coozies, stickers and some gift cards and other swag.  I managed to get 6 out of a maximum 20 entries while I was in Texas.  The draw is at the beginning of July...fingers crossed!

Getting into the contest!
I ordered some brisket, a boudin sausage and some Texas caviar to go. 

When I was at Roegels last year, I ate lunch at the restaurant and got an order of their Bourbon Banana Pudding to go.  By the time I got around to eating it at the airport, it had warmed up and was a little runny.  This time around, I ordered my food to go and ate the banana pudding fresh and cold while I was there.  I was once again served by Bruce, one of the friendliest and most helpful barbecue people I've come across.  Once I got checked into my hotel I stashed my to go box in the fridge and when I ate it cold two days later it was still excellent!  Clearly a quality product.

After my day of travel and eating, I was done for the day.  I packed it in for the night, ready for another day of barbecue starting the next morning!

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Paddy's Barbecue & Brewery

Address: 3610 Burnsland Rd. SE, Calgary, AB
Smoker: Southern Pride
Wood: Oak, Maple & Cherry
Pit master: Paul
Head Slicer: Kevin
Instagram & Twitter: @paddysbrewbecue

A friend let me know about this relative newcomer to the Calgary BBQ scene early in February and we quickly made plans for a visit.  Before making it there though, I started following them on social media and enjoyed seeing the joint's namesake, Paddy, document his travels to some of the Texas barbecue spots I have been fortunate enough to visit.

It was a nice February afternoon when Andrew, and I visited Paddy's along with our youngest daughters and Andrew's friend Scott who was visiting from Hong Kong.  We had worked up an appetite playing laser tag and we were ready to eat!

Snow capped sign!
Paddy's is located just off Macleod Trail on the south side of downtown Calgary, in a bit of an industrial/commercial area.  Parking can be a bit tight, but once all the piles of snow are melted that should free up a few spots.  The interior is clean, modern and welcoming.  They have clothing and hats for sale that decorate the walls, along with an awesome bison (or is that buffalo?) head mounted near the entrance.

Just inside the entrance is the ordering counter where you get a numbered sign to take to your table.  The back of the restaurant houses their beer brewing area and a bar where you order your drinks.  They brew a number of their own beers here and also feature guest brews on tap.  They also feature a house made root beer for the younger crowd or those not wanting beer.  Unfortunately, besides a self serve water jug, the root beer is the only non-alcoholic option.  If you like root beer, it is worth a try for sure though!

We determined that the Family Feast was going to fit the bill for our group and ordered it up.  The feast comes with 1 lb of brisket, 1 lb of turkey and 1/2 lb of pulled pork along with 3 sides.  We opted for the baked beans, cheesy mac and fries.  They serve white bread, pickles and pickled red onion on the side.  The 3 adults ordered up a flight of 8 mini sizes glasses of an assortment of beers.

The Family Feast

A few minutes later our food arrived and toasted our laser tag accomplishments and dug in!  The meat comes out the way it should in my opinion - that is without sauce.  They have a couple of sauce options in bottles on the tables.  I found the brisket tasty with a nice peppery bark, but it was a little dry and tough and didn't pass the tear apart test.  The pulled pork was excellent.  It was nice and moist with a slightly tangy flavour.  My favourite meat on this day was the smoked turkey.  It was incredibly moist and tender with just the perfect kiss of smoke.  I haven't had a lot of smoked turkey at barbecue restaurants, but this was easily the best.

For the sides, I enjoyed the baked beans and the cheesy mac.  The fries were excellent and I liked the pickles and pickled onions.

I found myself back at Paddy's a couple of weeks later, this time with my wife and youngest daughter.  It was about 6:00 on a Saturday evening and we decided to stop in to see if they were open.  Not only were they open, but the place was packed!  A great sign!  We went for the 1/2 family feast this time around which featured brisket, ribs and a 1/4 smoked chicken with two sides.  The brisket was considerably better this time around.  It had the same excellent flavour and bark as on my previous visit, but it was far more tender.  I really enjoyed the ribs.  Like the brisket, they had great flavour and seasoning and they were cooked right to my liking.  For me, that means not quite falling off the bone, but when you bite into them and pull with your teeth, the meat comes off clean.  I had the chance to meet Paddy on this visit and he mentioned that they were tweaking their rib recipe.  I'd say they are on the right track!  The chicken was excellent and was easily my wife's favourite protein.  Much like the turkey on my earlier trip, it was moist and juicy and had just the perfect amount of smoky flavour.

Our sides were the beans and the coleslaw.  The beans were great once again and I liked the coleslaw as well.  The dressing was a little bit on the vinegary side.  I generally enjoy more of a creamy slaw dressing, but this was nice and refreshing.  The vinegar is good for balancing off the heavy meats as well.

Paddy's is an exciting addition to the growing Calgary barbecue scene and it is great to see a joint doing it right.  Get over there and support Paddy's, you won't be disappointed.

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Big Sky BBQ Pit

Address: 306016 15th St. E, Okotoks, AB
Smoker: Backwoods
Wood: White Oak, Red Maple, Apple, Cherry & Peach
Head Pitmasters: Rob Bolton & Ryan Lumbao

Imagine realizing that perhaps the best bbq joint in the area is nearly right in your own backyard and you've only been there twice in the last year.  That was the conclusion I came to recently after my second visit to Big Sky BBQ Pit in Okotoks, AB.

My first visit was just over a year earlier in January 2017 when our family was south of Calgary and we met my boss and his kids at Big Sky for lunch.  The big, spacious dining room right away reminded me of a Texas bbq restaurant, as did the communal style tables.  A good first impression!

Texas Style BBQ in Alberta

There is a counter that you place your order at, and then they call your name when your food is ready.  Next to the order counter is a self-serve table with a selection of sauces, including apple and root beer varieties.

I ordered a two meat plate with brisket and sausage, while my family opted for pulled pork sandwiches.  Our sides were cole slaw, cornbread and the signature smoked beans.  The brisket had great flavour and was pull apart tender.  The sausage was also excellent with a good spicy kick to it.  I had a taste of the pulled pork and it was also very good.  The southern slaw was good, but the beans stole the show as far as the sides went.  They were cooked in a thick, sweet sauce and complemented by chunks of smoked meats.

All of our meals were excellent and my only complaint on this visit was the fact that you paid for your food at the counter when ordering, and then paid a server separately for your drinks.

Fast forward a year and I made the trip south again to meet up with a couple of co-workers for lunch on a Sunday afternoon.  They were there when I arrived and they had ordered a Fired Up Pig Tail appetizer already.  I ordered a beer and the appetizer arrived shortly afterwards.  It was a cream cheese stuffed jalapeño wrapped in bacon and a caramel sauce.  We cut it into 3 pieces and each had a bite.  For our tastes, it was beyond spicy.  I enjoy a little heat, but this was too much in my opinion.  Our server suggested we may have got one with some of the seeds left in it which would explain the burning in our mouths!

I was pleased to see that they had fixed the ordering process that I wasn't a fan of from a year earlier.  You now order everything from a server and there is one bill for both food and drink together.  We ordered up the Piggy Chick Platter to share between the 3 of us.  The platter consists of 4 lbs of ribs, 8 chicken thighs, a tub of beans and cornbread.

The Piggy Chick Platter...a mountain of smoked meat!

Another couple that joined us ordered the Carnivore Platter with pulled pork, chicken, ribs and sausage.  It normally also comes with brisket but they were sold out when we were there.  They also ordered sides of the scalloped cheddar bacon potatoes and bacon jalapeño mac n' cheese.

The ribs were outstanding and cooked perfectly.  They serve them dry with just a rub cooked on.  I detected a bit of sweetness in the rub, maybe some brown sugar.  The meat wasn't fall off the bone, but had a great bit and pulled away with little effort.  The smoked chicken thighs were also very good, but were overshadowed by the ribs!  The bone-in chicken was juicy and tender and the skin was well seasoned and had a bit of crispness to it.  The beans were as good (or better) than I remembered from a year ago and the cornbread was also excellent.  It had a smooth, dense texture and great flavour.  Everyone at the table appreciated the fact that there were no chunks of corn as you sometimes find.  The Piggy Chick platter fed all 3 of us and left enough to take home for 2 or 3 lunches.

The friends with the carnivore platter said the pulled pork was good, but they especially enjoyed the sausage.  The server said it was a new variety they were making with maple syrup and cheddar.  The scalloped were potatoes were a hit, but they found the jalapeño mac n'cheese too spicy.

I have been back two more times since that visit in January and I continue to be impressed.  Both times I have had the Hungry Man Platter which comes with 3 meats and a side of those excellent baked beans.  My wife and daughter each went with the pulled pork sandwich with the scalloped potatoes and corn bread.  The pork was served on a delicious herb bread.

Pulled Pork sandwich, scalloped potatoes and corn bread

Between my 3 recent visits I've been able to try all of their meats with the exception of the beef ribs.  Everything has been excellent, but I did find the brisket a little dry on one of my trips, but that will happen.

The Hungry Man Platter, Texas Trinity Style

The maple & cheddar sausage is some of the best I've had anywhere and the pulled pork has great flavour to it, I particularly liked it with a touch of the root beer sauce.

Big Sky boasts a huge outdoor patio and they host a number of special and community events.  One of the things I love most about barbecue is the sense of family and community.  These guys seem to get that and embrace it.  I strongly encourage you to make the short drive from Calgary out to Okotoks to try it for yourself.  I'm certain you won't be disappointed!

Saturday, 23 December 2017

My Cooks - Smoked Turkey, December 16, 2017

Nothing says Christmas quite like turkey!  Around our house though, we generally do a prime rib for Christmas dinner, so I needed another reason to try smoking a turkey.  Well last week the opportunity presented itself when we invited some good friends over for to celebrate the season with us.  Jackpot!

I picked up about a 15 pound fresh bird at Costco on Friday and stored it in a cooler out on our back deck.  Saturday night I prepared a brine of salt water, some onion and some fresh herbs.  I had picked up a large oven roasting bag and after washing the turkey I placed it in the roasting bag with the cooled brine and it all went back out into the cooler for the night.

Turkey brining in a roasting bag
We woke up to a bit of a windy morning which had me worried about keeping the temperature stable on my Oklahoma Joe Highland, but fortunately the wind calmed down a little by the time I was ready to cook.

I got the smoker going shortly past noon with a couple of chimneys of charcoal and then added some oak and apple chunks before putting the turkey on around 1:30.

Not to toot my own horn, but I've set the bar pretty high when it comes to cooking turkey!  Our friend Keith shared a method for cooking turkey on a propane grill a few years ago and it has become the go to.  We start by peeling the skin back off the breast meat and poking some holes in the breast meat with a knife.  Fresh garlic cloves get inserted into these holes and then the breast meat gets coated with a thin layer of barbecue sauce and then slices of thick cut bacon are placed over the breast meat. You then pull the skin back into place.  We have needed to use toothpicks in the past to hold the skin back in place...just remember how many you use and make sure to get them all out afterwards!  With the skin back, a layer of yellow mustard is spread over the whole bird followed by the rub of your choice and then another layer of bacon.  We then place the turkey in a foil roasting pan with some broth or white wine in the bottom and cook it over indirect heat on the grill.

For this turkey, I had decided to spatchcock the bird to speed up the cooking process, but I figured there was no reason I couldn't prepare the turkey as usual with the all the bacony goodness!  I cut the backbone out, flattened out the bird and went to work.  For the rub, I used Cluck & Squeal.  I get it at my local Barbecues Galore store and I'm quite fond of it.

Seasoned, covered in bacon and ready to go!

Onto the smoker
I had my iGrill2 set for 165 with a probe in each breast.  With the turkey underway, I went to work on the appetizer of pork belly burnt ends.  I had done these once previously and they were great.  I made a big mistake this time when buying the pork belly though and forgot to have the butcher remove the rind.  I quickly realized this when I started cubing up the pork belly to season it for cooking.  This really added to the time it took to cut up the pork belly and hopefully this isn't a mistake I repeat in the future.  We're lucky to have a top notch butcher shop nearby in NW Calgary, Bon Ton Meat Market, and they were happy to remove the rind for me the last time.  Lesson learned!

Once I had the pork belly cubed up, I tossed it in some Cluck & Squeal and spread the pieces out on a grill pan and added them to the smoker alongside the turkey.

Pork Belly Burnt Ends - Bacon Candy! 
The wind and the cooler Alberta weather factored in, but I was able to get the smoker holding pretty steady around 250 degrees.  I added 4 or 5 chimneys of charcoal throughout the cook, along with plenty of oak splits and apple chunks.

We decided kind of last minute to add another appetizer into the mix, some prawns in a butter sauce.  I had seen a posting on Instagram earlier in the day that looked great, so when we were at the grocery store before I started cooking we had grabbed what we needed.

My wife prepared the prawns in a sauce of butter with some lemon juice and worchestershire sauce and tossed in some rosemary for good measure.  Once the pork belly came off the smoker after a couple of hours, I put the prawns on for about 45 minutes to an hour.

To finish off the burnt ends, I tossed the pork belly cubes in some sauce, put them in a foil pan and put them on the propane grill to get yummy!  The smoker was full with the turkey and prawns, and I wanted the higher heat from the grill to crisp them up a bit.

Everyone enjoyed the burnt ends and prawns while we waited for the main course.  To go along with the turkey, we had prepared some mashed potatoes, a cauliflower and broccoli au gratin and corn bread with honey butter.  After about 6 hours the bird was ready to come off.

The finished turkey

I got the turkey carved up and ready to eat, along with that deliciously crispy bacon.  The outer layer of bacon gets nice and crispy during the cook, but the inside layer under the turkey skin stays pretty soggy.

In the end, the turkey was very good, as were the two appetizers I smoked.  With the white breast meat, none of us really noticed any substantial smoke flavour, but I did notice it more on the dark meat.  It was a great meal and a good way to kick off the Christmas season with some special friends.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Skinny's Smoke House, Medicine Hat, AB - July 23, 2017

This is my first blog post about a BBQ joint in Alberta.  Now that I have finished documenting my Texas BBQ adventures, it is time to start writing about the scene closer to home.  It was a busy summer and start to fall for our family, so this post has taken a couple of months to move from draft status to published.

I had the opportunity to visit Skinny's last summer and was impressed with the BBQ, so when we were going to be there again on a Sunday afternoon it seemed like a no brainer to go back!  Our kids had been spending the week with their grandparents in Regina and we were meeting them in Medicine Hat to bring them home, so we planned to meet at Skinny's for lunch before everyone went their own ways.

Skinny's Smoke House, Medicine Hat, AB, Canada

Knowing in advance that we would be there and wanting to expand on my blogging experiences, I contacted the restaurant ahead of time to see if they would have a few minutes to talk with me while I was there.  I promptly received a reply from Jeff Brewster, one of the founders, who said he would be happy to visit.  This was going to be my first 'interview', and I'll admit to being a little anxious about it.

Skinny's is located in a small shopping strip in a largely residential neighbourhood, but it is easily accessed off of the TransCanada Highway, just 3 or 4 minutes from the highway.  My in-laws, with our kids in tow, were waiting inside when we arrived.  We joined them inside and since everyone was hungry it made sense to order and eat and then introduce myself to Jeff afterwards.  You order and pay at the counter and then they call you when your order is ready.

The décor inside Skinny's is very southern BBQ.  It isn't a big place and they have 4 large communal tables that fill the dining area.  Murals painted on the walls along with a pretty decent licence plate collection and some other knick knacks give it a casual and comfortable down home feel.

The license plate collection at Skinny's

The menu here is pretty standard BBQ joint fare; pulled pork, brisket, ribs, sausage and chicken for the meats.  Their regular sides are baked beans, potato salad and slaw and they have different daily special sides that they offer. 

The menu board

We all ordered individual meals and the pulled pork sandwich seemed to be the popular choice, with everyone except myself going that route.  I opted for the 2 meat plate with ribs and brisket, with slaw and the feature side of the day, corn bread topped with honey butter.  My order came accompanied by a dinner roll and some house-made pickles.  The ribs and brisket were served sauce free, with 3 sauce options available on the tables.  The pork rib portion of my order was 3 meaty ribs with a tasty, but not overpowering rub cooked on.  They were very good and came off the bone without too much effort, although I did think they could have used just a little more time in the smoker.  When my 11 year old saw what I had, she asked to try a rib and she also enjoyed it.

My daughter's partially eaten pulled pork sandwich with corn bread

Next up was the brisket.  The serving was two thick slices of meaty goodness.  The slices were probably double the thickness of what I've become used to getting in Texas.  My first thought was that they were trying to hide something, but after one bite I was convinced that it was just how they roll at Skinny's.  I've heard of places slicing their brisket thick when it is overcooked and too crumbly to slice thinner...not the case here.  Even with the extra thickness I was able to pull it apart with my fingers.  It was moist and delicious with a good bark on it.  The fat was nicely rendered and melted in my mouth.  A little dip of the meat in their regular sauce added to the flavour party happening!

My two meat plate with ribs and brisket

The cornbread was really good and the honey butter drizzled over top gave it an awesome sweetness. I really enjoyed the coleslaw and the house made pickles were great.

After we ate I went over and introduced myself to Jeff.  While we sat down to chat he was testing out some smoked chicken wings and offered me one to try.  It was great with a really tasty rub, a little bit of spice and also some brown sugary sweetness.  Definitely something they can consider adding to the regular menu!

Skinny's has been open in Medicine Hat since 2013 and Jeff is the co-owner along with Todd Lindsay.  At the time both men were looking for a change of scenery career wise.  Jeff was on a waterskiing trip in Florida and visited a BBQ spot in Auburndale, FL called Peebles Bar-B-Q; and that is where he caught the BBQ bug!  Soon after, he and Todd took a trip through the southern states doing research that took them through Kentucky, Tennessee, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas.  I asked Jeff if there were any stops on their trip that stood out for him.  He mentioned Q39 in Kansas City as having the best pulled pork he had tasted.  They visited LA Barbecue and Stiles Switch in Austin and Riscky's BBQ in Fort Worth.  Jeff mentioned that a couple of places in Danville, KY and Tulsa also stood out, but the names escaped him.  There is a great mural painted on one of the walls inside the restaurant depicting their journey.

Jeff & Todd's Excellent BBQ Adventure!

They cook on an Ole Hickory gas assist smoker using primarily cherry and apple wood, although Jeff mentioned that they had been experimenting with smoking some fish using mesquite.  Jeff also let me in on the fact that construction has started on a new location on the west side of Medicine Hat in a new commercial area just off the highway with a much larger capacity, between 150 and 170.  They are also selling their sauces commercially in area grocery stores.

These guys are making great BBQ out in Medicine Hat and I look forward to visiting them again and checking out the new location once it opens.  If you find yourself around Medicine Hat, definitely go and find Skinny's!  Support your local pit master and eat more BBQ!