Sunday, June 10, 2007

Big Apple Barbecue Block Party - Hill Country Barbecue and Market

Amazingly my favorite food at the BABBP this year came not from some storied Texas institution but from local newcomer to the barbecue scene Hill County. The just opened establishment on 26th Street served up scrumptious beef ribs and for the lucky few they previewed a few smoked prime ribs from their regular menu.

Big Lou's pride and joy

Smoked over Post Oak the Flintstone sized beef ribs were spectacular.

The rib roast was succulent and delicious. I wouldn't smoke a USDA prime Dry aged rib but for a cheaper, less marbled roast smoking is a good way of insuring a juicy cut. The prime rib is a regular feature on the menu at Hill Country.

Manna from heaven - Hill Country beef ribs.

Although there was some excellent Cue over all at the BABBP 2007 my favorite was definitely Hill Country. The fact that an establishment that only opened its doors on the eve of the BABBP had such a strong showing is a good sign. Beef Aficionado will be visiting Hill Country ASAP.

Hill Country Barbecue and Market

Big Apple Barbecue Block Party - Salt Lick BBQ

Another favorite from years past the Salt Lick had a lengthy line even with a the Bubba pass for their brisket and hot links.

The sausage was excellent although I preferred the Southside "Hot Guts"
The brisket was disappointingly dry this year.

Salt Lick BBQ

Big Apple Barbecue Block Party - Southside Market

A perennial favorite at the BABBP Southside Market has in years past produced some of the tastiest brisket and sausage around and this year was no exception. The recipe for the Southside sausage dates back 123 years and it shows. The so called "Elgin Hot Guts" have a wonderful peppery hotness along with deep beef flavor encased in a crunchy skin; they literally explode with barbecue goodness when bitten.

Southside served their brisket and sausage with onions, pickles, bread, American cheese and their own sauce.

The brisket is usually no slouch alas it was disappointingly dry on the first day, a return visit, warranted by the sausage alone, yielded far better results. The brisket on day two was moist and flavorful with hearty smoke flavor, a great compliment to the sausage.

Another strong showing for Southside. Too bad they are so far away, but fortunately they offers their sausages via mail order so we won't have to wait until next year to satisfy our Hot Gut graving.

Southside Market Website

Big Apple Barbecue Block Party - Baker's Ribs

Hailing from Dallas Texas Baker's Ribs offered up hickory smoked brisket and beans at their concession at the BABBP. Baker's Ribs has 6 locations in Texas and a lone outpost in Minneapolis, MN. but judging from their website they also do a lot of catering and parties.

While other pits offered a variety of meats with an assortment of side dishes Baker's kept it simple offering just brisket and beans.

Unfortunately despite some great hickory flavor and a lovely smoke ring on the brisket it was a bit dry and tough. I noticed that this year their was a lot of local help hired to man the registers and serve the food, perhaps their inexperience led to the brisket sitting around longer than it should have. Potentially a delicious piece of beef but it fell just short of the mark today.

Bakers Ribs Website

Big Apple Barbecue Block Party 2007

For the fifth straight year the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party (BABBP) rolled into town this weekend and hungry New Yorkers were treated to some tasty barbecue from some of the nations leading pit masters. And while there was some disappointment's, such as the absents of local hero Adam Perry Lang of Daisy May USA and the fact the Blue Smoke decided to cook chicken , there was also some high points including the emergence of a promising new comer to the NYC BBQ scene.

For the uninitiated the BABBP takes place in and around Madison Square Park. Pitmasters set up their rigs along Madison Avenue and across 26th street and long lines form in the street as hungry patrons wait for their 'Cue. Food is served on simple plates for $8 and usually includes meat and a side or two along with bread. Just as with past years a "Bubba fast pass" was available that allowed one to skip the long lines. For $100 the Bubba pass grants you $84 worth of food but the savings in time make it worth so much more.

While there was certainly a lot of pork in the form of shoulder, ribs and even whole hog there was also more than enough to beef for the aficionado, while most pits concentrated on brisket there were also some excellent beef ribs and even prime rib to be found! To keep things tidy I will post on each pit separately.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Boa Steakhouse

Located in the Grafton Hotel on Sunset in West Hollywood Boa is a thoroughly modern interpretation of the steakhouse; dimly lit with an inventive decor and a low droning soundtrack, and despite an expansive facade the actual dining room is quite intimate with a low ceiling and closely clustered tables. Unfortunately being seated next to a party of 10 or so giddy advertising executives in a room with a low ceiling does not make for a salubrious dining experience. A more experienced staff would have understood this and not booked such large party in such a confined space, but to their credit the staff was quick to accommodate a re-seating request.

However, all did not go smoothly even after the move to a quieter table. Although the BLT salad was excellent the 9oz of Japanese Wagyu, that was ordered medium rare along with creamed spinach and hash browns, did not exactly make it intact. What was delivered was 6oz of beautifully cooked, delectable looking Wagyu along with 3oz of completely over cooked strips of meat that the waiter claimed was also Wagyu but looked like Carne Asada. Apparently something had gone wrong with the order, the over cooked beef went back and a new one ordered along with the hash brown potatoes that were cold. The steak mishap was a costly mistake for the restaurant at $16 an ounce. It was too bad because the food that was served was excellent. The steak was succulent and deeply flavorful. Not quite the equal of Cut's rib eye in terms of marbling and sheer buttery texture but it trumped the latter in terms of traditional beef flavor.

Japanese Wagyu NY cut strip steak

The creamed spinach was tasty and had a touch of basil that was a nice addition to the normal fare. Unfortunately the potatoes never reappeared although an additional 3oz of beef did materialize albeit slightly under cooked. Despite the missteps Boa was an enjoyable meal, the beef was excellent, the sides credible and the atmosphere, once removed from the large party, was intimate. I am willing to grant that they had an off night, and while I absolutely preferred the dinner I had at Cut earlier in the week, I would give Boa another try.

Boa Steakhouse
Grafton Hotel
8462 W. Sunset Blvd.
(La Cienega Blvd.)
West Hollywood, CA 90069

Pacific Dining Car

New York needs a Pacific Dining Car. It's not that there are not enough steakhouses in NYC, quite the opposite in fact, we actually have way too many tired old places churning out carbon copies of the Peter Luger porterhouse, often served by "former Peter Luger staffers." What Pacific Dining Car offers, aside from a storied history dating back to 1921, a very quaint interior and delicious dry aged prime cooked over Mesquite is that they are open 24 hours a day. Imagine that.

In NYC, ostensibly the City that doesn't sleep, you cannot get a decent steak past 2AM when Wollensky's Grill shutters its doors or before 11.30AM when restaurants open for lunch. In downtown LA you can roll into Pacific Dining Car at any hour and get a masterful and quite unique steak experience. Pacific Dining Car also serves a great breakfast but the regular menu is always available.

As the name implies the restaurant is built around a dining carriage although it is only recognizable on the inside these days. The PDC grew along with the City of Los Angeles itself and just as the architecture downtown is an eclectic amalgam of differing styles, the buildings that sprang up to expand the dining car also look rather hodgepodge. But no matter, the interior is quaint, the service is excellent and the food superb.

The Rib Eye steak with Potato Au Gratin

The beef is USDA Prime steer dry aged for 21 days in house and then cooked of Mesquite hardwood charcoal. I must admit that before I ate here that I was a bit apprehensive about the method of preparation, I assumed that the charcoal would flavor the meat too much but I needn't have worried. While the Mesquite adds a smoky sweetness to the steak it is subtle, not over-powering and it actually compliments the beef flavor wonderfully.

Mesquite hardwood charcoal.

T-bone with creamed spinach

Along with the fairly standard cuts - T bone, NY strip and rib eye steaks PDC also offers a top sirloin steak and a bone in Fillet Mignon. Apart from the steaks the sides and salads are all superb. The creamed spinach is rich and hearty, the potatoes Au Gratin to die for and the Blue cheese salad comes with an incredibly generous helping of Roquefort. The scallops in Lobster sauce were also quite delectable.

Blue Cheese wedge, or in this case a disc.

Roast Beef Hash.

NY Strip with Roquefort Cheese

Scallops sauteed with Lobster sauce

Although there is also a PDC outpost in Santa Monica I have not eaten there, however it too is open 24 hours a day and if it comes even close to the original it is worth a trip. But for a real sense of history the downtown LA location is a must visit. PDC is a classic restaurant with truly great food. This is absolutely one of my favorite steakhouses, if only we had one in NYC.

Pacific Dining Car
1310 West 6th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90017
(213) 483-6000

Coles P.E.

A few days ago I visited Philippe's where they claim to be the originator of the French Dip sandwich. Yet there is. or perhaps was, another claimant to the throne. Coles P.E., located on East 6th in Downtown LA, also originated in 1908 and also lays claim title "inventor" of the French Dip. Unfortunately the restaurant is under renovation "until further notice" so a head to head comparison was not possible. I will be back in LA in the fall and hopefully Coles will have reopened.

Under construction

Cole's P.E. Buffet, 118 E. 6th St., (213) 622-4090

Hope For Firefighters BBQ

After digesting some tasty Tacos from Ye Olde Taco House #1 I made my way up the hill to the Museum of Contemporary Art on Grand Street for a little culture. While I spent some time at the MOCA it was not nearly enough to build up an appetite for what was awaiting me on the route back to my hotel. At first I thought I must be dreaming when I smelt the unmistakable aroma of barbecue, but as I approached Hope street I noticed some fire engines an a large plume of smoke billowing heavenwards, my interest thoroughly piqued I went against instinct and headed towards the fire engines and smoke. And lucky I did as I inadvertently stumbled upon the tenth annual Hope for Firefighters charity event benefiting the Los Angeles Fire Department Widows and Orphans and Disabled Firemens Fund which featured live music and a lot of food. There was some serious grilling and barbecuing going on and all for a worthy cause:

The crown was enormous, and enormously hungry.

Fortunately there was plenty of food for all.

Carne Asada.

Ye Olde Taco House

Ye Olde Taco House #1

Located in the shadow of Bunker Hill underneath the towering offices of the downtown LA financial district is Ye Olde Taco House. Going strong since 1962 the building looks as if it might have once had a roof but now only two large inverted V's remain but no matter the tacos are delicious.

Taco House #1
340 South Hills St
LA CA 90013
Tel# 213 625 2700

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Hamburger Los Angeles: Marty's and Irv's

Hamburger guru George Motz turned me on to a couple of prime Los Angeles burger spots that will be featured in his forthcoming opus Hamburger America -The Book. The first one was Marty's Hamburger Stand on West Pico Blvd. They do a classic California burger and a mean hot dog as well as the "combo" a burger with chili, cheese and a hot dog on top. I decided against ordering the latter being a bit of a purist but the burger and dog I had both tasted great.

Now open Sundays

A well seasoned grill top.

Classic burger.

Dynamic Duo
Marty's Hamburger Stand
10558 W Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA
Phone: (310) 836-6944

Next I headed over to Irv's Burgers for some very friendly hospitality and a tasty burger. The place has been around since 1950 and is a historically protected landmark. Check out their website for a complete history. Link.

Irv's Burgers
8289 Santa Monica Blvd
West Hollywood CA 90046