Big Green Egging Brisket and Sausage

I grew up in the greatest republic in the entire world!  Texas is truely the best place to grow up, live, eat, and be patriotic.  There is nothing wrong with it and everybody needs to know that.

Other than me, the greatest gift Texas has given the world is sliced (SLICED!) brisket barbecue served with sausage.  Now you are probably surprised to hear that I have very little experience making these two delicacies.  And that is because I would always go to our church picnic and eat styrofoam trays full of brisket and sausage that somebody else made.  I had it easy, everything I ever needed was given to me.

But times have changed.  I have left Texas in search for new areas to colonize and I no longer have the luxury of getting brisket and sausage made for me.  But I’m resilient and I can adapt, damnit!  So I need to make my own.

Here’s what I did.  I loosely followed Adam Perry Lang’s recipe for “Get a book Brisket”.  First step was to wrap the meat with a mixture of beef base paste, mustard, and chili powder.  The coat everything with a dry rub.  Any dry rub you like will work, top serious.

Beef, it's what's for dinner!

I then prepared the Big Green Egg for inderect heat set to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.  Right before placing the meat on the grill I threw down a bunch of soaked hickory chips to create a large amount of smoke and steam.  I let the meat get to around 165 (actually, since I was sleeping, it got to 180) before I wrapped the slab in foil with a mixture of honey, brown sugar, and butter.

I love the sight of the Big Green Egg puffing out smoke. God Bless America!

Aww yeah!

From that point I let the meat braze for another 6 or so hours until I was ready to eat.  For the last hour, I put the meat in the oven to sit and stay insulated.  It really stayed hot.  I then put the kielbasa sausage on the Egg at 300 degrees for an hour and some change.

By now I was hungry, really hungry.  I started to slice the brisket and was a little disappoint to see the meat just fall apart.  This was quickly becoming chopped brisket.  It was clear to me that I over cooked the brisket.  I should have been a little more dilligent checking the internal temp and tuning it to 195.  But the flavors were there and, it all got gobbled up!  The sausage on the other hand came out PERFECT!!  There was a great smoke ring and were incredibly juicy.  Be careful not to over cook and pop the casing of the sausage.

Kielbasa sausage is so easy to make on the BGE. And they come out amazing!

A delicious spread of beef and pork!

Even though the brisket didnt come out how I anticipated, I learned a lot.  And I had a lot of fun because with long grilling sessions, come long beer drinking sessions.  Life is all good!

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Restaurant Review: Alpine Bakery

Alpine Bakery has been around a while making desserts for tons of people around Atlanta.  Even if you havent been to there, there is a good chance you have had one of their dessert because they sell a lot to many restaurants in the area.

Last year they moved a block up the street into the Cilos shopping center and opened up a new dining area.  In their previous location they sold a lot of pizzas and calzones for take out orders.  The new restaurant, in addition to their fabulous desserts, features an extensive menu of italian dishes.  What you will not see on the menu are their pizzas and calzones (which you can still order).

If you follow me on twitter, you will know that I love getting dessert from Alpine, so this is a review of their restaurant.  The two entities must be separated as you will find out.  So we decided to go to Alpine Bakery for dinner on a Thursday night(6pm).  Even going early there was a 10 minute wait.  So while we waited we strolled around the dessert displays and marveled and daydreamed about which ones we would shove into our bellies.

Once seated in our waitress brought us some waters and a small loaf of fresh baked bread.  The bread is amazing!!  You would expect nothing less from a bakery, amiright??  While we waited for our waitress to return to take our order we took the time to look around.  First we noticed a packed house.  Second we noticed quite a few waiters and waitresses zipping from table to table.  We just wondered why they came to our table so infrequently.  Whatever.

We chose to order off the menu and get the calzone.  The calzones come in two sizes: Small (which is actually large) and Large (which is actually ginormous!).  The small feeds two people who eat normal amounts of food, or one teenager.  The Large, we were told, will feed a family of four, or one teenager.

ABout 15 minutes later we received our calzone.  And for those of you who dont know, a calzone is basically two pieces of pizza sandwiched together and filled with cheese.  Im not sure if it’s an American invention or an Italian invention.  But the levels of cheese volume lead me to believe its American (USA!! USA!!).  At first glance, the dish is beautiful.  Great looking curst and everything.  So Laura and I cut it in half and shovel each’s portion to our respective plates.  A few bites in I notice something.  The ricotta cheese is cold; like really cold.  Then Laura speaks up, “Uhhh is your calzone cold??”.  It was so weird because the the dough was cooked, the cheese was melty, but everything in the calzone, pepperonis, ham, mushrooms, ricotta cheese was ice cold.  Even the maranara dipping sauce was cold.  Damnit, now I have to speak up and say something.

This is where the slow wait staff cripples a dining experience.  It took a some time to flag down our waitress.  Once we did, told her the issue, she happily took the cold-zone and went to get us a new, hotter one.  Oh crap, I just remembered, it took a long time for us to get the first one.  And that one wasnt cooked long enough!  This was going to take forever…..

and it did….

Just as this post drags on and on, so did our meal, or shall I say, the wait for our meal.  Finally, we got the new calzone.  Much better, and all in all, a really good calzone.  Alpine Bakery certainly doesnt skimp on the toppings (or stuffings) or cheese.  If you like calzones and you are willing to wait, I mean really willing to wait, get the Alpine Bakery calzone.  As for me, I’ll probably get the pizza next time.  But I’m not eager to get back there.

Before we left the restaurant, the manager took the action to comp a dessert.  A very nice guesture on their part, and since we are no fools, we got the strawberry swiss roll.  You see, we have eaten so many desserts from that place we don’t even have to look at the displays.  We know what we want.  And once we got home, that strawberry swiss roll didnt stand a chance.

We opened the box and gazed upon it like two hungry tigers looking at wounded gazel.  <Insert montage of me ripping apart the cake with my bare teeth>  It, as always, was phenomenal.

To summarize: Alpine Bakery is a great bakery, not a great restaurant.  They need to work out the kinks of the restaurant operations.  But what they do best is bake.  Breads, desserts, they are all wonderful!
Alpine Bakery and Trattoria on Urbanspoon

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Restaurant Review: Mambo Jambo

Another review for a restaurant on Windward Parkway.  I think I could write for years about all the places on this stretch.  But here comes another one.

Mambo Jambo is a somewhat new cuban style restaurant located in the same shopping center (more like restaurant center) as Nahm, Ichiban, Sushi Nami, the Red Hen, and Xian China Bistro.  A lot to chose from in this square.

The menu at Mambo Jambo is pretty large.  There are a lot things to choose from ranging from quesadillas, to cuban sandwiches, to tacos, and much more.  Price for lunch will set you back anywhere between 10-20 bucks depending on what you get and if you get drink(s) or not.  So for many lunchers this could be a little much.  Dinner will cost two people about 30 to 50 bucks.  Again if you get drinks or appetizers that will affect your range.

For lunch I got the steak sandwich and subbed yucca fries for the chips.  Well I found out that it meant 3 yucca fries.  Not so generous, but they were excellent with the Mambo Jambo mayo sauce.  The steak sandwich is like a cuban but with, yeah you got it, steak.  The bread is really good and the meat is nice and tender.  I really enjoyed it.

Steak sandwich with trio of yucca fries. Everything was delicious!

For dinner I tried the shrimp empanadas and the wild mushroom empanadas.  THe crust was fantastic and dipping sauces nice as well.  Personally I liked the shrimp filled empanadas the best, but both were really good.  For the main course Laura and I split the paella with all kinds of seafood, chicken, and sausage.  There was plenty of food for two people.  And every bit was great!  Our favorite of the seafood were the scallops that were large, sweet, and not gummy.

Empanadas with dipping sauces.

Paella packed with all sorts of goodies!

I have heard from friends that mambo Jambo can get slow with their service and at times can take a while for the food to come out.  We didn’t have those issues, but that is the one complaint I hear.  Overall it was a very positive experience, and we are looking forward to getting back there.
Mambo Jambo - A Nuevo Latino Seafood Cafe on Urbanspoon

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Trip to San Francisco and Napa: Day 5

It was our final day in California and since Laura was smart, she booked us on the red eye that night.  This gave us the full day in Napa to do even more eating, and do even more drinking, ahem, i mean tasting.

Our morning started off with a breakfast at the Model Bakery (short review to follow).  There is another location of this bakery in St. Helena.  There we go some breakfast sandwiches to create a nice foundation in our tummies.  This was all in preparation for our first activity of the day.  The Del Dotto Cave Tour and Barrel Tasting.

Deep inside the Del Dotto facility.

Del Dotto is a small winery with very little to zero distribution.  How did we hear about them, you might ask?  Tripadvisor.  Love that site!  The tour itself was 40 bucks, and as you will read, well worth the money.  We were greeted with a glass of sauvignon blanc by our personal tour guide, Ed.  He explained to us that the tour we were going on would showcase how the barreling process imparts flavor, aroma, and mouthfeel into the different wines.  For the next 45 minutes we went barrel to barrel in the Del Dotto cave trying wines that hadn’t even been bottled yet.  Understanding the inputs into each particular wine, grape type, how toasted the barrels were, and where the barrels came from gave Laura and I a much better idea of how and why wine tastes the way it does.  On top of that, we got to try 7 or 8 exquisite wines!!  At the end of our tour we were given a sample of the Del Dotto port.  When we paired it with some rich milk chocolate, the port took on a much softer silkier quality that was out of this world delicious.  For my money, this was the best tour we went on all trip!!  You get the most to drink and you learn so much about why wines taste the way they do.  This is a must see winery!!

Unfortunately we couldn't carry on that big ass bottle of wine.

After Del Dotto we zipped over to Yountville to hit up the Bouchon Bakery, again.  There we ate outside in the sun.  We enjoyed another nutter butter as well as an almond scone.  Damn, I wish there was one of these bakeries on my street.  This was a great way to relax in the early afternoon.

A little courtyard in Yountville

Some of the selection from the Bouchon Bakery

Finally, for our final meal in California we went to the famous french restaurant, Bouchon.  This Thomas Keller restaurant epitomizes the cuisine of Napa Valley.  Fine food, fresh and beautiful ingredients, and gorgeous presentations.  It was a fantastic way to conclude our adventure.

The Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena

Outside of Bouchon. A fantastic way to say goodbye to Northern California!

To summarize our trip to San Francisco and Napa would be impossible in a single sentence.  It was sensational, informative, tranquil, and memorable.  The sites we saw were awesome, and the dishes we ate were inspiring.  We will for sure be back to the area at some point.  If you are into wonderful food, there is something there for all palates.  We loved it!!

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Restaurant Review: The Brickstore Pub

The list of restaurants I need to hit has had a leader for quite some time now.  But last weekend that all ended as I attended the Brickstore Pub with my brother and parents who were visiting from Houston.

The Birckstore is pretty much accepted as the best place in the greater Atlanta to get hard to find craft beers.  Honestly, other than their beer selection, and my Mom raving about their fish and chips, I didn’t know a lot about the place.

Walking into the downtown Decatur establishment, my first thoughts were how the place was lit up nicely with natural light.  The dark walls looked really cool by the skylights.  The food menu is not super exciting.  There are sandwiches and other classical pub foods.  Nothing is expensive which is nice because what you really want to do is spend your hard earned dollars on beer.

Cool looking bar in the middle of the Brickstore

Let’s get the food talk out of the way.  I got the roast beef sandwich.  Not special, prolly should have ordered something different.  I really could have made the sandwich myself.  My brother got the rueben sandwich.  I tried a bite and it was much better than the roast beef sandwich.  My dad got the bratwurst.  He said it was good, but the sauerkraut seemed to dry out probably because of all the juices going into the bun.  Finally, my mom got the fish and chips, which as I mention before, she loved!

Roast Beef Sandwich

Rueben Sandwich

Bratwurst

Fish and Chips

Ok, as for beers, I tried the Wells Brombardier.  It was a delicious english style ale.  I really loved it.  And the price was reasonable for the draft (something like 5 bucks). I was going to write about more of the beers we tried but I cant remember their names.  Like I said, they had a lot of hard to find beers.  Some of which I have never heard of before.  An interesting aspect of the beer service was that each beer we tried came in a different glass.  Tall fluted galls, pint glass, and even a mason jar.  Everything was very interesting.

yum

Our trip to the Brickstore Pub was a great success.  Unfortunately for me, it is a long way to journey for a couple beers in order to just go back home.  And the food is just allright.  Nothing was remarkable.  If I lived near the joint, I could definitely see myself going there on a nice (or any) afternoon, enjoying three or four new beers, and having a relaxing afternoon.  The vibe and beer is what I, and you should, go for.
Brick Store Pub on Urbanspoon

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Eating in Napa: The Bounty Hunter

When Laura and I trip plan, we start with where we want to eat.  And while planning our trip to Napa, Laura found this barbecue restaurant that had received some great online reviews.  Normally I wouldn’t go to someplace like California and get barbecue because I’m pretty sure they cant do it like we do it in the south.  But what made this place interesting was their use of wine pairings with all their dishes.  I loved the idea, so we decided to check it out.

The Bounty Hunter (awesome name btw) is stationed right along the Napa River and when you walk in you will realize it’s a popular place.  The ambiance is similar to hunting lodge with splendid displays of taxedermy all over the walls.  If you like stuffed animals, kiddos, you will like this place!  We had a 30 minute wait to be seated which was no big deal.  There is the option of going to the bar, which was also crowded, or walking around the town.  We chose the latter.

Unassuming storefront.

Seating at the Bounty Hunter is a mixture of hightop tables, and community style dining.  That is, odds are you will be eating with people you don’t know.  I’m a pretty outgoing guy, I can talk to strangers, but I much prefer regular seating.  It’s tough to have a conversation when strangers are right across the table.

The first thing we ordered was the cheese plate that came with a couple different hard and soft cheeses as well as a jam and some nuts.  We paired that with a flight of their sweet wines (per their recommendation).  Everything was delicious!  I liked trying the different wines, and Laura for sure liked them as well.  She loves the sweeter quaffs.  The cheese and nuts went very well with the wine pairings!

Delicious plate of cheeses. There was very low light in the restaurant, so sorry about blurry picture.

Flight of three sweet wines. Nice colors for sure!

Normally we like to order different entrees and split so we can try as much as possible, but they were running a BBQ sampler special that night.  We couldn’t pass on it.  It came with ribs, brisket, pulled pork, a side, and bread.  Laura got the cole slaw, I got potato salad.  I love the hell out some potato salad.

Tearing into our plates we quickly discovered that the ribs were our favorite.  They were insanely tender and full of delicious porky flavor.  The brisket was our next favorite.  We were served a combo of sliced and chopped.  I, of course being from the Mecca of brisket, preferred the sliced.  Laura, being a BBQ n00b, liked the chopped.  Either way, we were both happy.  THe pulled pork was also good, but there wasn’t anything incredible about it.

Barbecue sampler plate. More than enough food for a single person. Very good!

All things considered, our experience at the Bounty Hunter was very good!  THe food, wine and service were all above expectations.  THe only thing I would change is the communal eating (or shall I say, feeding) tables.  Not a huge fan of those.  No offense, strangers.
Bounty Hunter Wine Bar & Smokin' BBQ on Urbanspoon

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Trip to San Francisco and Napa: Day 4

This morning we had to wake up a little on the early side so we could make it to Yountville for our vineyard bike tour.  Along the way we stopped at the whole foods to get some breakfast.  However, we weren’t loving their breakfast selection so we just got a sandwich.  It hit the spot, and had enough protein to get us through the morning.

Originally we had planned to do the bike tour yesterday but decided to move it in hopes of better weather.  And boy did that pay off!  There were hardly any clouds in the sky!  The temperature was a nice 65 degrees.  Everything was perfect!  We soon met our tour guide, Paul, who fitted us with super stylish helmets and bikes.  It had been about 10 years since I rode a bike and even longer since for Laura.  So starting out we looked like Bambi on the frozen lake.  But after a few blocks we got the hang of it and were rolling like pros.

I loved that helmet so much!!

Our first stop along the way was a Bulgari (I think thats how you spell it).  Hopping off our bikes ever so gracefully, we were greeted with glasses of wine.  If all bike rides are like this, I will definitely be buying a bike!  We then toured the facility a little bit.  Admired their large cave where they keep their barrels, and tried a few more of their wines.  A nice first stop.  Next we took off on the 3 or 4 mile ride to Regussi.  This winery was very pretty.  The driveway was lined with olive trees and walnut trees.  Their wine tasting was also very good!  I especially liked their cabernet/merlot blends.  Our final stop on the tour was at Monticello.  Started by a former government higher-up (I think he worked in security), the campus looked a lot like Jefferson’s Monticello.   Again, the wines we tried were very nice.

A great view from our ride along the Silverado Trail.

At last it was time for us to head back to Yountville.  We were the only ones in the group doing the half day tour, so we had to find our way back alone.  It wasn’t bad at all, just a long stretch of riding.  All told, and after google mapping our path, we biked 16 miles.  Not a bad day’s work!  By now it was about 1:00 and we were getting hungry.  Good thing we were in the heart of Yountville.  Since it was so nice outside we thought it would be fun to get some sandwiches at a bakery and eat outside.  And that’s exactly what we did.  But along the way to the sandwich shop, we were sucked into Bouchon Bakery.  If you don’t know about Bouchon Bakery, it is one of the best bakeries and pastry shops in the country.  There we got a cheese danish (terrific!) and a nutter butter cookie.  The nutter butter cookie is about the diameter of a softball.  Two super buttery peanut butter cookies filled with sweet and smooth peanut butter.  Out of this world good!!  Eating out lunch and desserts on a bench in the shade was wonderful.  This was the life!

The red and yellow tulips (I'm not sure if these are tulips though) were in full bloom. This was a nice place to eat an outdoor picnic lunch.

To make life even better at that point, we thought it a good idea to go back to the hotel for a couple hours and take nap.  But along the way we stopped at Domaine Chandon, a sparkling wine winery.  You can see Chandon wines in many stores across the country.  There we split a tasting and soaked in the California sun.  By the end of the tasting, we were ready for that nap.  Bellies full of sandwiches, desserts, and wine, getting in some afternoon R&R would be no trouble!

My artsy-fartsy picture of the Chandon wine glass. You can get those sunbeams by closing your aperture (I think this was at f.22).

For dinner that night we walked into downtown Napa from our hotel to eat at The Bounty Hunter (follow-up post to come).  While waiting for our table to be ready we walked around the town a bit.  There was an event being held across the street that seemed to be attracting a lot of people.  So we checked it out and it was a Tri Tip Cooking contest.  There were several teams boasting about their version of the tri-tip while drinking tons of beer and wine.  It was a fun crowd for sure!  We walked around and tried a few team’s entries.  All were really good!!

Contestants cutting their tri-tip entry. Note the wine in the background. Plenty of wine and beer to go around.

Tri-tip sandwiches.

More tri-tip. I'm thinking I might have to make this sometime!

View of Napa and the Napa River.

After dinner we were pretty well exhausted.  A great day full of adventure, exercise, food, and fun.  Tomorrow is our last day of the trip, but luckily we are taking the red eye home so we can make it a full day.

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