Join me this weekend at the 2nd annual Big Red Barn Burner BBQ competition with Team Hogshack!

bbq2This weekend if you head on out to Chilliwack for the Big Red Barn Burner BBQ competition you you can enjoy amazing BBQ from some of the top competition BBQ teams in Canada! Along with great southern slow cooked BBQ you might just meet the handsome dudes from Team Hog Shack! (Not the guy in the suit, fyi)

Hot dudes, tasty meat.
Hot dudes, tasty meat.

There’s 5 categories at this years comp, Chef’s Choice, Pork, Brisket, Chicken, and Ribs. The judges get the best looking bits but the rest is up for grabs if you happen to be in the crowd! Chef’s Choice is 2 pm on Saturday and the rest of the action happens on Sunday between 11 am and 4 pm. Hog Shack Cookhouse co-owner and head chef (aka BBQ savant) John Lim Hing and I plan to improve on our one lonely ribbon for the single competition we entered last year. Wish us luck!

As always you can follow along on Twitter @WFLBC for all the fun times and late night sleeping bag ghost stories you can handle.

GO TEAM HOG SHACK!!

Scott.

 

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Hog Shack Cook House, WFLBC BBQ Challenge stop #5

The BBQ Challenge keeps chugging along, arriving at stop number 5, Hog Shack Cook House in Richmond’s historic and beautiful Steveston neighborhood. I know what you’re thinking, BBQ in Richmond? Yes, and it’s good. My co-pilot on this occasion was my daughter Hayley who behaved like a perfect little angel but wasn’t in it for the right reasons, she’s a little young for BBQ after all…

Hog Shack is a nice room with lots of flat screens for game nights and a ridiculous list of craft beers that I can honestly say will not be beat and I think I should just give them the title of best tap list right now, but I won’t, they have to wait like everyone else! The blues music is fitting but a little played out. We get it BBQ restaurants, your food is southern! Chef John was kind enough to make me a sampler of BBQ items for the purposes of my challenge with smallish potions of  7 dishes and 3 sides with a couple of house made pickles for good luck. 

First was the sliced beef brisket, one of my favorite BBQ meats. It was very tender with a buttery fat cap and tangy BBQ sauce, house made, and melted in your mouth. The BBQ style at Hog Shack seems to be a combo of Texas style rubs and Kansas City BBQ sauce, and it works very well. Some BBQ purists would be horrified but lets face it, we’re in Canada and this fusion works.

The pulled pork was juicy and tender with the same rich and tangy sauce. The meat had great flavor on its own and has obviously benefited from a healthy rub prior to being smoked. Pulled pork is what started my love affair with BBQ but has since become an after thought due to the caliber of other dishes, such as meat number 3, Dino Bones aka beef ribs. Dino Bones is a fitting name for beef ribs as they dwarf Pork ribs by at least 2 to 1. The beef ribs at Hog Shack are meatier than most and have the same rub/sauce combo found in the other dishes. Beef is my kryptonite and beef ribs have that amazing flavor that only comes from meat cooked on the bone. The ribs were tender and full of flavor, but weren’t as juicy as I expected given the amount of meat on them.

Meat number 4 was a quarter chicken, leg and thigh, prepared in the rub/sauce fusion. This chicken was the juiciest I have ever had at a restaurant. When I cut into the meat in almost squirted me. The chicken was cooked perfectly and the flavor of the sauce really matched well with chicken. Meat numbers 4 and 5 were both pork ribs, one was baby back and the other was St. Louis style side ribs. The baby back ribs fell right off the bone and had that awesome fatty/buttery texture that baby backs should. The side ribs were a bit of a miss though, good flavour with less sauce and more rub but the meat was a little tough which is typical of side ribs.

The sides were good, all house made including mini loaves of cornbread. The baked beans were nice and sweet/smoky and the coleslaw was light and had a distinct apple cider vinegar flavor. The best item though isn’t actually on the menu. They are called Burnt Ends and are my new favorite food. Burnt Ends are made from the “point” of  a beef brisket, the point is removed after the brisket is finished smoking and is returned to the smoker for more cooking as it takes longer for the fat to render out and the meat to become tender. The taste starts out like a burnt marshmallow, very sweet with a hint of charcoal, and when you chew it the flavor of the rendered fat, beef, sauce and seasoned crust all swirl together in a money shot of BBQ goodness. I’m in love and I don’t care who knows it. There’s no picture because I ate them too fast but if you click on the picture of the whole platter they’re right in front of the corn bread.

The Hog Shack Cook House is located at #160-3900 Bayview street in Steveston (Richmond). Follow them on Twitter so you know when they have Burnt Ends or click on their logo at the top of the page to see their website.

Wow, longest blog post ever… The BBQ Challenge is getting good, lots of great places with amazing food!!! Still a long way to go though, it’s tough work but someone has to do it.

Scott.

Bob’s BBQ, Whistler Creekside

Stop number four on the WFLBC BBQ challenge is Bob’s BBQ, aka Roland’s Creekside Pub, located at 2129 Lake Placid Road, Creekside, Whistler next door to Nita Lake Lodge. A little off the beaten path for most visitors to Whistler, Bob’s/Roland’s is (according to their website) a favorite for locals and is known for its hospitality.

My weapon of choice for this round of the BBQ Challenge was the K K “Pocket Kings” sandwich. Named after a poker hand, as all menu items at Bob’s, it is a Texas style beef brisket sandwich on a toasted roll with mayo and crispy onions. I opted for onion rings as a side because you can never have too much deep-fried onion. Just to clarify something before I continue, if you go to Bob’s before 4pm during the week you will find locked doors but don’t panic as their whole menu is available at Roland’s.

The presentation of the sandwich was impressive with crispy onion straws piled high atop tender beef. The chopped brisket was good, tender and juicy with a nice rub on the outside and a rich smoky BBQ sauce covering it but to be honest the meat was a little lost under the onions. The onions were great but they really overpowered the taste and texture of the whole sandwich, I had to take a piece of beef out of the sandwich to get a good taste of it. The bun was nice and fresh and perfectly toasted. The onion rings were good but were very obviously fried in day old oil, which is very common as most restaurants use fresh oil for fries only and deep fry everything else in day old oil. This oil was perhaps a little older than recommended though.

Over all I was a little underwhelmed by Bob’s BBQ, although they are a couple of easy tweaks away from making a really good sandwich. Round four in the books, as Jay-Z would say it’s on to the next one.

Scott

What’s For Lunch BC BBQ Challenge 2011 – Update

Hello all, just wanted to give a quick rundown of where we stand on the BBQ Challenge schedule. Well to be honest there isn’t one, I’m just trying to go as often as my schedule allows. So far I have been to The Campfire Grill…Smokin’ BBQ, The Re-up BBQ and Embers BBQ house.

There are still many more to go, I will try to list them all for you and free to let me know if I’m missing any.

And people wonder why I do all this work for free!! Looking forward to traveling all over town in the search for great BBQ. Stay Tuned!

Scott.

Embers BBQ House

The WFLBC BBQ challenge is in full swing with visits to The Campfire Grill in Squamish and The Re-up BBQ on the streets of Vancouver already in the books. The third restaurant in this meat fueled challenge is Embers BBQ House in Mission which was brought to my attention by fellow blogger and all around cool guy Dylan Redekop. If you like good music and don’t read Dylan’s blog shame on you! Check it out at http://morethanafeelingmusic.wordpress.com/ and you’re welcome Dylan…

Embers is located at #107 32559 Logan Avenue in Mission just across the Mission-Abbotsford bridge at the end of a dead end street. It is a cool little place with great atmosphere with the smell of delicious food filling the air as you walk towards the door. Embers makes nearly everything from scratch including their bread which is baked daily in their stone oven and their wraps which are rolled out and baked to order.

The pictures I have don’t represent the normal presentation at Embers as         co-owner Joanne was kind enough to assemble a sampling of menu items suited to the challenge. There will be some nice shots in the wrap-up article later in the year. In all we sampled 6 items, listed and described as follows. The Heidi Baked, a sandwich with chicken, pickled asparagus, Swiss cheese and mayo. The Marco Spanelli, a wrap with chicken, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and sauce. Chicken breast grilled with tarragon sauce. Sweet garlic chicken wings. The BBQ Pork sandwich with Brad-slaw and purple onions and Pork ribs smothered in Embers BBQ sauce.

Everything was really good, The ribs were fantastic and fall off the bone tender with a rich, thick and smoky BBQ sauce. The chicken breast was juicy and not overdone and the tarragon sauce was very subtle but nice. The Heidi Baked was awesome, the bun was super fresh and the pickled asparagus added a tangy kick. The wings were saucy and not to crispy, very good. The BBQ pork sandwich was awesome too, this category is going to be a hard one to judge, everyone’s has been so good! The Marco Spanelli was good and the fresh baked wrap was the best wrap I’ve ever had. The fries were great too!

If you live near Mission, Maple Ridge or Abbotsford you are pretty lucky to have Embers BBQ House close by. If you live a little further away it’s definitely worth the drive. So far I have not been disappointed by any BBQ restaurant I’ve tried and I hope the streak continues. Thanks again to Dylan and his lovely wife and to Joanne and the whole Embers team for their hospitality and great food! Click on the picture of Embers logo to visit their website and follow Embers on Twitter at http://twitter.com/EmbersBBQHouse

Scott.

How to ensure your restaurant fails

Pardon me for needing to vent a little but I have a giant pet peeve when it comes to restaurants and their websites. On my much publicized (by me) recent trip to Whistler I had lunch at Merlin’s Bar at the base of Blackcomb Mountain and noticed that they had a pulled pork sandwich on the menu, the Pork Barbacoa Sandwich. I thought perfect, I can add this to the WFLBC BBQ Challenge 2011. It sounded great on the menu, sourdough bun with citrus jicama slaw on the side, boy was I wrong.

The meat was flavorless and dry, the bun dry and a little bit stale and the fries were lukewarm and greasy. The biggest disappointment however was the jicama slaw, it tasted like dirt, like actual dirt. Jicama is a root vegetable that is sweet and happens to be one of my favorite treats that my local farmers market carries on a regular basis. The slaw was not fresh and the jicama had obviously not been prepared or washed properly. So with their entrance in the BBQ Challenge quickly becoming improbable I thought that I would have a look at their website just to see if I could formulate a reason for this awful dish.

There in lies my “peeve”, there is no website. To have a good restaurant you need 3 things, good food, good service and a way for your current or potential customers to find you and find out about you. So with the food part of their business not being up to par it came down to the  other 2 categories. The service was good, not great, nothing to worry about but their web presence consists of a Facebook page, that’s it. This isn’t a huge deal as a Facebook page can be just as effective as a website if it has 3 key ingredients, location, menu and hours of operation. Merlin’s page has their location and hours but no menu.

Let me say this very clearly, if you have a restaurant and use the internet then you need a website. Your website, at the very least, should have your location so customers can find you, your menu so customers know what you serve and your hours of operation so customers know when you’re open. Without these 3 things potential customers will go elsewhere.

In the end I think that Merlin’s has little to worry about as they’re mostly known as a place to drink until you’re sick and repeat as needed. The menu is of little concern to their customers which explains the food. Websites are easy, making money as a restauranteur is hard, give yourself a fighting chance with good food and use the internet to spread the love.

Scott.

The Campfire Grill – Smokin’ Barbecue

The WFLBC BBQ Challenge has officially begun, first stop Squamish!! Squamish? Yes, Squamish, I recently spent a week in Whistler for work and did a lot of eating all around town and I now have a stockpile of restaurants to reviews for this blog and for the Vancouver Observer.  On the way home I wanted to stop at a BBQ place I had heard about via Twitter called The Campfire Grill – Smokin’ BBQ. I had no idea what I was in for.

I don’t know what I was expecting but this certainly was not it, and what a nice surprise! Located at the Eagle Vista Resort and Campground at 1940 Centennial Way in Squamish it’s about as inconspicuous as it gets, it’s actually in the campground! Thinking that the GPS had led me astray I finally noticed the trailer and assorted small structures around it and headed over to say hello. Chef Mike McCrea and his wife Inger, aka the boss, greeted me with a smile and gave me a tour of the truly unique and pretty awesome setup they have. You really have to see it to appreciate it but it is very cool with gas heaters in a outbuilding filled with picnic tables, a fire pit surrounded by benches and an ordering area with another heater and a nicely done menu board along with very professional brochures and business cards.

Mike was kind enough to make me up a one man sample plate for the purposes of my BBQ Challenge that consisted of pulled pork, pork ribs, beef blade, chicken, and a stuffed burger. The pork was juicy and well seasoned, the beef was fantastic and savory and the chicken, dark meat by request, was cooked perfectly with the skin on. The ribs, which I ate before I remembered to take a picture, had a nice smoky crust and were tender and juicy as well.  The stuffed burger which is only available on Friday is made with locally sourced organic beef stuffed with pickles, banana peppers, cheddar and Monterey jack cheese. Great texture and flavor from the beef and the stuffing was awesome, plus it was cooked a nice medium, perfect. Over all this is some of the best food, let alone BBQ, I have ever eaten.

Then there are the sauces, oh my god the sauces! All made by Chef Mike they are a foursome of mouth watering accouterments to go with the fantastic meat. There is a trio of BBQ sauces, bourbon, apricot and chipotle and a honey mustard sauce. The Honey mustard goes great with everything but pairs best with the chicken. The apricot paired best with the pulled pork and the bourbon went great with the ribs. The chipotle was my favorite and went great with everything, especially the beef. I also tried Chef Mike’s home made pecan tarts cooked on the grill and they were fantastic!

So BBQ challenge 2011 has it’s first official entry and if this food is a sign of things to come I’m in for a great ride! If you’re passing through or visiting Squamish, or if you just want to go somewhere incredibly cool to eat you need to make a stop here. Based on my BBQ experience this place may be hard to beat. I may have to rearrange my categories a little but I think the WFLBC BBQ Challenge is going to be a big hit!!

Scott.