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Cravings Culture Features Restaurants

California Is One Of The Most Underrated BBQ Scenes In The Country

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I’ve never had the honor of trying the barbecue from Texas, the much-acclaimed cuisine around these Foodbeast hallways, only being in the state long enough to connect to my next flight. Before I set out on that adventure, I needed to take a look at my own home state and understand what kind of amazing barbecue California had to offer.

People like to hype how great Texas BBQ is, and I’m not here to disagree, but the great Golden State can definitely hold its own against the best of them when it comes to smoking meat.

As I embarked on my journey of barbecue enlightenment, I met three pitmasters along the way.

Stoked! California BBQ

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Jason Espiritu is the owner of Stoked! California BBQ. I first met him at Smorgasburg LA, a weekly food festival held in Downtown Los Angeles where social media-savvy patrons wait in line for Instagram fodder and ice cream.

Stoked! California BBQ doesn’t have a brick and mortar location, but you can find them on weekends at Smorgasburg LA.

It was blistering on Stoked’s inaugural day. The sun engulfed the long line of patrons, hungry to try the booth’s tri-tip. The heat didn’t deter them, neither did the wait. It was from Jason that I learned of Santa Maria-style BBQ.

Born in the Santa Maria Valley, Espiritu was a part of the fabric of a close-knit community. The area is known for its agriculture – primarily cattle ranches, strawberries, and a fine selection of wine. With a population of about 100,000 people, the valley holds a small town vibe, the kind where it seems like everyone pretty much knows each other.

What drew Jason to the BBQ business was, in fact, the community.

Growing up in that environment, you could look in any direction and see smoke lofting through the air. Get close enough and you smell the meat and red oak whiff around you. Get even closer and you for sure hear laughter and good times surrounding the BBQ pit. Lucky enough to be invited in for a bite? You’re guaranteed a stuffed belly and a happy heart.

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As a young man from Santa Maria, Espiritu’s story is similar to many others before him.

Every young man in Santa Maria eventually learns his way around the unique style of a Santa Maria BBQ Grill, so the story of how I got into BBQ is similar to so many others before me. You grow up eating the cuisine that your fathers and family would work together to cook. And eventually you are called on to learn how to split the wood, start the fire, stoke the coals, operate the grill grate, and figure out the proper cooking temperature… until you are finally entrusted with cooking the meat.

They key to the meat, he explains, is timing:

It’s not only about seasoning it properly, but it’s very important to NOT OVERCOOK it. Any resident of our central coast will tell you that a pink, medium rare is key.

There are four things Stoked! focuses on when it comes to their barbecue:

The wood, Red Oak, is native to California and produces a slow burn ideal for the cooking process.

The dry rub, accentuates the flavor of the meat with a simple mix of salt, pepper, and garlic salt. Jason does not use sauce.

For the cut of meat, they use tri-tip because of its particularly beefy flavor and marbling.

Finally, the smoking method utilizes a Santa Maria Style BBQ Grill. It’s an open pit with an adjustable grate that allows you to lower and raise the cooking surface so as to adjust the cooking temperature to one’s liking. When the smoke’s characteristics and flavor are absorbed, you can lower the grate and get a sear on your meat before serving.

Traditional side dishes paired with the meat are pinquito beans (a smaller cousin to the pinto bean, native to central California), garlic bread (to mop up all the meat’s juices), and a strawberry dessert of some sort (as strawberries are a major crop of the area).

To Jason, it’s purpose that drives him. His food is about sharing an experience, evoking an emotion and ultimately making people happy while staying true to the values of his home state.

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Jason doesn’t claim his BBQ brings anything different or new to the table. Rather, he wants to be an ambassador to the form of Santa Maria style BBQ that encompasses a rich tradition and history developed in California.

Stoked! California BBQ doesn’t have a brick and mortar location, but you can find them on weekends at Smorgasburg LA.

The Smoking Ribs

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Kenny Tran discovered his love of BBQ at the age of 14.

In his youth, his mother drove him to a Food4Less because beef ribs had been on sale for about 50 cents per pound. As the matron Tran went shopping for groceries, she tasked her son with grabbing the beef ribs.

Standing in the meat aisle for what seemed like forever, an elderly lady walked up to him and gave him some words of wisdom:

Oh honey, just grab any rack, boil em for 40 minutes and grill over high heat while basting your favorite BBQ sauce. That’ll get you started!

Tran said he never knew that that moment would drive his life’s passion. Though through refinement, his technique has also grown vastly from the simple boil, grill, and blast with sauce.

Because of emission laws in California, Tran can’t really duplicate BBQ from any other state. His restaurant, The Smoking Ribs, has to work with gas stick burners indoor for commercial or stand alone buildings.

Kenny reserves the traditional pit-smoking style of barbecue for catering events.

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To keep his customers engaged, however, the pitmaster does switch out the wood and flavor profiling every quarter.

What sets Kenny apart is his openness to growth, something you don’t see much of in such a traditional style of cuisine.

People in general are smart and always have great new innovative ideas to change or grow. I don’t have all the answers. It’s okay to not have all the answers. I’m still a student of the BBQ industry and business. We all have room for growth. That’s what makes our brand special.

Ray’s BBQ

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Ray Ramirez taught himself BBQ to save his life.

It’s about loving what I do and doing it to the best of my abilities.

In 2011, after being laid off from his job as a personal banker, Ramirez was worried he’d fall into depression. He picked up barbecuing as a hobby, something to do to keep him mind busy. Ramirez soon found that he had a knack for it, and started to learn as much as he could about this brave new world.

He began his barbecuing businesses smoking meat in his backyard and, after saving up enough cash, threw everything into a space in Huntington Park, CA.

While initially starting with gimmicky items like the pulled pork or macaroni and cheese burritos, they were quickly nixed to focus on traditional items like brisket and pork ribs.

What sets Ray apart from other BBQ restaurants is the quality of meats he uses. The restaurant is known for serving very high-end meats, like Duroc Pork. Considered the “Angus” of pork, Duroc is specially bred to have a redder tint and more marbling. This means that the pork stays tender and juicy as you cook it, more so than commodity pork.

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Ray takes a very hands-on approach to his restaurant, being the only one allowed to touch the pits and smoke the meat. If he’s sick, or decides to take a vacation, the restaurant closes down and you’re shit out of luck.

Ramirez can always be seen making rounds throughout his restaurant, taking the time to have genuine conversations with each of his customers.

You are not going to my shop, you are going to my house. And to me you are not a customer you are family.

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Each pitmaster taught me a few things about California BBQ that they’ve learned through their years doing what they love:

Community. Growth. Passion.

One day, I will take that trip out to Texas. There’s already a bucket list of barbecue restaurants I intend to visit and pitmasters I would love to meet. Until that day comes, however, there’s a treasure trove of smoked meat and genuine people right here in California, ready and willing to share a bit of their character, one emblematic smoke ring at a time.

I’ll proudly stand behind you, California. Just keep smoking that plump, delicious brisket.

Categories
Features

Glowing Blue Meat, Snakes Under A Fridge And The 6 Craziest Food Stories [THE KATCHUP]

It’s been a crazy week in the world of food news. If you’ve been swamped with work or personal problems and haven’t had a chance to keep updated on what’s delicious, what’s dirty, and what’s trending right now, the Foodbeast Weekly Katchup might just be your new best friend.

We’ve definitely got some pretty tasty, weird and terrifying headlines this week.

Check out our Katchup in the video above. We’re still cringing from that snake story.

1. Mozzarella Marinara Shot Glasses

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A new player in the world of cheesy food creations has entered the game. Through The Eyes Of My Belly created a deep-fried mozzarella SHOT GLASS that she fills marinara sauce. We definitely wouldn’t mind pounding a few of these.

2. Snake Under The Fridge

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An Australian woman woke up one morning to discovered there was a giant brown snake under her refrigerator. Even worse, it had laid 14 EGGS. So it looks like we’re going to be cautiously afraid of refrigerators for the rest of our lives.

3. Starbucks Barista Stealing A CC

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A video recently went viral showing a woman driving up to a Starbucks drive-thru window explaining that she had her credit card information stolen and that a barista at a Starbucks she visited was behind the theft.

The video shows the angry mother confronting the 19-year-old girl over the theft.

4. IHOP Journey AYCE Pancakes

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When one of our writers, Sean Fahmy, said he could demolish his fair share of pancakes, we told him to put his money where his mouth was. Boy, did he.

Sean hit up the local IHOP and attempted to break the restaurant’s all-you-can-eat pancake record. What happened next was a morning filled with four different kinds of syrup, sticky laptops, and a massive sugar coma.

5. Glowing Meat From China

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A man in China bought himself 92 pounds of pork. After seasoning it and leaving it overnight in a bucket, he came back and found that the meat started to GLOW BLUE.

What crazy thing could cause every-day pork to turn such a luminous color?

6. Cheetos Pipe

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Honorary Foodbeast Tym Bussinach, known for his Breakfast Sushi, and more recently the White Castle Pizza, decided to turn a Cheetos puff into a pipe. Probably his simplest recipe yet. All you really need are three ingredients.

Categories
Fast Food

Arby’s Is Giving Away Free DVDs Featuring Meat Cooking For 21 Hours

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A while back, Arby’s did a live stream of meat smoking in a cooker for more than half a day. For 13 hours, die-hard barbecue enthusiasts watched patiently as a brisket smoked itself into the Book of World Records for the longest commercial aired.

In honor of the one-year anniversary for the 13-hour smoke, the fast food chain is giving out free DVDs of the brisket cooking. Anyone interested in watching the calming effects of meat in a smoker be sure to grab one before they run out.

The DVD box set includes the original 13-hour footage of the brisket. There’s also an additional 8 hours of turkey smoking. A total of 6 DVDs chronicling 21 hours of meat cooking is available.

As of now, the first batch of the DVD collection has been sold out. However, patrons are encouraged to continue checking in every day for a new batch.

Categories
Hit-Or-Miss

Chinese City Blames Bacon, Yes, Bacon, for Severe Air Pollution

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Sure, blame the bacon. Chinese municipality Dazhou has been experiencing some pretty severe air pollution, according to the provincial environmental monitoring center. Officials from Dazhou’s environmental protection bureau, however, believe the central cause of this air pollution to be bacon.

Yep, bacon.

They believe that the smoking of bacon by local residents has contributed to the less than spectacular condition of Dazhou’s air. We talk about how much we’d love to live in a world where bacon is constantly cooking, but after a while, we’re guessing it can be overwhelming for folks.

This whole situation kind of reminds us of the Sriracha outrage of 2013.

Zheng Jian, head of Chongquing-based social service agency Bayo NPO Development Center, stated in a report that even if smoking bacon could have a negative impact on air quality, it’s unlikely that impact would be substantial.

Smoked bacon is a much-enjoyed delicacy in Sichuan cuisine.

h/t MarketWatch

Categories
Video

Guy Lights and Smokes a McDonald’s French Fry [VIDEO]

Wanting to show the world the dangers of McDonald’s food, the guy in the video smokes a McDonald’s french fry like a joint. Because logic.

The no doubt copious amounts of oil, sugar, and starch make the potato sliver an easy thing to light. Although, may we suggest a host of healthier options he smoke for next time? Apples, pears, cucumbers (hilarious), pumpkins, etc. Just nothing that gives your lungs love handles. That’s never cute.

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The point is, don’t try this at home, kids.

 

Categories
Hit-Or-Miss

London Café Invites Customers to Pair E-Cigarettes with Coffee

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London’s Shoreditch,  home to the hipster, the pinstriped nicotine cravers and the too-cool-for-school East London dwellers, is the new site for London’s first e-cigarette coffee shop.

Vape Lab, launched by French expats Pierre Durand and Jonathan Cadeilhan, opened its doors last month to sell not only e-cigarettes, but also to rent them out by the hour to caffeine fans while they enjoy their coffee.

The shop offers an extensive range of flavored ‘e-liquids’: from custard to Cuban tobacco, absinthe to bubblegum. While its products do not come cheap – reusable base units start at £ 45; 10 ml bottles of flavored solutions at £ 7 – Durand and Cadeilhan argue that a 10 ml bottle is equivalent to seven packets of normal cigarettes, making it value for money.

The founders predict this is the start of what will become a widespread trend. “Here in London, it’s a young market: you see people here with disposable cigarettes and they will switch to electronic cigarettes. In five years’ time, there will be no more tobacco,” told the Guardian. Noted.

Categories
Hit-Or-Miss

Your 12-Year-Old Cousin is Smoking Smarties on the Playground

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Because the Disney channel wasn’t enough to make you feel incredibly old (did you know they replaced Boy Meets World with Dog with a Blog? Yes, really), today’s middle schoolers are apparently crushing Smarties and smoking Fun-Dip powder, because reasons. The South Carolina school responded by banning any candy that could be powdered. So. No more candy hearts for you kids. Enjoy the rest of your sugar-free holidays.

Why, when I was their age, I’d wait ’til it got cold outside, then suck on a candy cane and exhale. That was my smoke. None of this wasteful nonsense. Kids today, amirite?

H/T + PicThx Geekologie