Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Breaking in the smoker with 9 pounds of butt

My latest grilling, NAY!, barbecue post is up at DC Foodies.
This week, it's all about the barbecue. Nine and a half pounds of slow cooked, smoked pork butt to be exact. I've been waiting months for the time and opportunity to break in the new smoker, a Chargrill barrel grill and smoker. For the most part, things went well, but there's definitely work to be done.
For one thing, the smoker ran a little too hot, which was my fault. I've smoked with wood before, but never for this long of a time. With my old Weber bullet, I used a combination of wood chips and charcoal. I'm more comfortable with this mixture and may use more charcoal next time. It burns longer and is a little easier to control. The wood worked out OK, but it burns hotter and faster than I expected.
All this is to say, my pork was a little drier than I like. It got 23 hours in the smoker, but could have come out after 20. That said, the meat was still delicious and the sauce helped tremendously. But when I opened that smoker at 9 a.m. the morning of the barbecue gathering I was throwing for my visiting brother and niece I was scared. The bark was much more charred than I expected. Then I pealed the butt off the grill. The heat had seared some of the meat to the grate, which tore off when I pulled. What was left behind was the most beautiful of sights: succulent pork, glistening with rendered fat in the morning sun. I picked and pulled a few pieces off and popped them in my mouth to check the doneness. Immediately I realized that the outside of the pork was too done, but inside all was right. Crisis averted.
For the beer pairing this time, I went with Great Divide's incredibly good Titan IPA. I'm a big fan of a lot of IPAs, but I was forced to pick one recently for the profile Washingtonian magazine did of the DC Foodies. The more I thought about all the great IPAs out there, the more I kept coming back to Titan. Pound for pound, it really is one of the best out there. Besides, I've had a chance to talk to Bryan Baltzell, Great Divide's head brewer, a few times, and he's a great guy who knows how to brew.
As I mentioned in my last post, we just started running my new best beer bars series on the DC Foodies site. For the inaugural post, I profiled Birreria Paradiso and declared it to be the best in the city, which it is. However, it's a little weird now. I went there a few days ago with my brother, niece and the missues, and now I'm not just the beer geek customer, but the local blogger who said the place is the best in town. Everyone, including Greg the bar manager, was super nice, but it's always odd being recognized. To top it off, the Birreria is framing and mounting my review in the bar. Of course, none of this will keep me away from the place. In fact, I plan to bring Greg a bottle of Cigar City (Tampa's first microbrewery!) after I get back from Tampa in September. That will be a trip of beer and football, as the missus and I get to check out our new field level seats in the Bucs' stadium and Cigar City's beers. Can't wait.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Let the beer bar series begin!

I've rolled out my first beer bar profile, Birreria Paradiso. The bar really is the best beer bar in the D.C. area. As miserable as Georgetown is -- and it is -- the basement bar's 16 taps, 200 bottles, complete lack of Bud products and the pizzeria that houses it are worth dealing with the people, traffic and the other headaches that come with that neighborhood.
As I've mentioned before, I've been itching to do this series for some time. Ever since I came across The Beer Mapping Project's beer bar listings, I figured D.C. needed someone to break down the city's great beer drinking destinations. I'll do these profiles once a month, though these places may require more than once-a-month research.
I mean, how else will I make sure my profiles and ratings are accurate?

Pizza on the grill, or how to overcomplicate things

My latest piece for D.C. Foodies is all about grilled pizzas. I'd been dragging my feet on the idea for a while. For one thing, my friend Eldora makes great grilled pizza. Secondly, everyone writes about pizza on the grill, especially when summer rolls around. So I didn't want to look like I was following the herd. But with a little insistence from Jason, the guy behind D.C. Foodies, I agreed.
Man, what a pain in the ass.
Mind you, it's not the pizzas' fault. Making the dough was pretty easy, and grilling the pizzas was criminally easy. No, where it got complicated when I decided to make three different kinds of pizzas and cook several of the ingredients from scratch. As always, I am my own worst enemy.
I will say that once football season gets started (oh, football, I miss you so), I'll bust out the grilled pizzas again. I just won't go all Julia Childs on them.
Fortunately, I know how to pick beer. In this case, I grabbed a four-pack of Oscar Blues' Gordon, the Colorado brewery's double IPA in a can (God love those people). My mom and niece were with me when I bought the four-pack, which led my mother to note that I'd get more beer with a six-pack. As I told her, this was more about quality than quantity, which is all well and good. However, would it kill the breweries to just do away with the four-pack? It is kind of a bummer to either suffice with a four-pack or shell out for two of them. Is this a law? Is someone looking into this?
Speaking of beer, I'm excited about a new series coming to D.C. Foodies. I'll be profiling the D.C. area's best beer bars. I've been itching to do this series for a long time and finally got around to pitching it. I've already got one profile in the can and shot the second. I've never been big into doing restaurant reviews, but this is right in my wheelhouse. Think about it, I'm running around to some of my favorite bars and bartenders, and talking to them about beer. What a hobby.