Wednesday, November 14, 2007

That's Good Eatin'!





So my buddy, Eva, went on this crazed food binge this weekend which looked fantastic. Nice spots, great pics - the good life as they say.

But things here in Pursitland, well they ain't so bad either friends. Of course, we're not out and around dining with our sophisticated friends, but we do manage pretty well. Pretty, pretty well. Sunday was no exception. For whatever reason I was feeling inspired, and Mrs. P's declaration that "I feel like some fish" was all it took to put the culinary gears in motion!

Off to the store I went in search of something to cook. Upon arrival at the fish counter I saw my initial plans were out the window. I had been thinking we'd go with some Halibut, but at 20 smakeroos a pound for a decidedly gray pasty slab of flesh, I new adjustment was in order. That was when I spotted the striped bass. Oh, it looked wonderful. Fresh, gleaming and at only 11.95 (American) a pound I was sold. I also picked up some potatoes, Brussels sprouts, Nueske bacon and assorted other items.

Upon arrival at home, the Bears game was in progress so I sat down to watch the hapless dolts and used the first quarter to core the sprouts. Towards the end of the first half I peeled the potatoes, pre-heated the oven and set a pot to boil.

Half-time was a flurry of activity! I par boiled the sprouts, started the potatoes on the stove and then tossed them in the oven to roast. With my initial work done I mixed a martini, set out some shrimp cocktail and enjoyed the second half.

Timing is critical in these things and as with most things, luck plays an important role as well. The taters were finished towards the middle of the fourth quarter, so I removed them from the oven and put them in the warmer. Martini number two was then served.

Miraculously, the once and future world champions found a way to win the game, but there was no time to savour sweet victory; dinner was calling my name. Off to the kitchen, I diced and sauted the Nueske's, separated the individual leaves of the sprouts and added them to the saute once the bacon was nearly done. 3 minutes and the sprouts were removed to the warmer. The fish was easy, a quick sear in the pan 4 minutes in the oven and then, you guessed it, a quick stay in the warmer while I made the sage cream sauce in the roasting pan.

Within 45 minutes from the completion of the game dinner was plated and served with a delightful French Chablis. My goodness, it was a fantastic meal! Pictures are above, and frankly they don't do the meal justice, but in the interest of full discloser I posted them anyway.

I think the moral of the story is that cooking on two martinis = good food. Picture taking is an entirely different story!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Wow! That Global Warmin is Really Bad!

Click for a complete list of all the bad stuff caused by global warming.

Personally, I'm buying sunblock futures like Algore buys chalupas.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Truth About Intergalactic Warming

I can't believe it is happening so fast, but it is and dammit I'm worried. Intergalactic warming is on the march, and people, not even Algore is hectoring us yet!

It's true. Comet 17P/Holmes, discovered in 1892, forgotten and then rediscovered in the 1960's is breaking up before our very eyes. Not alarming you say? Ha! This is yet another sign that our galaxy is warming to unprecedented levels. Oh, sure read the article and you'll find a scientific community in denial. They claim to not understand why the comet, WHICH IS MADE OF ICE, is breaking up. The speculate that it is spinning too fast or some such nonsense, but it seems clear to me that more is at work here.

The darn thing is obviously melting!

I mean really, combine this information with the hysterical reports of global warming. Then add in the findings of Martian warming, Pluto warming and Uranus warming and it isn't long before you begin to discern a trend!

The solution is obvious. Aliens need to stop driving SUVs right away!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Sidney Lumet Daughter Watch

We've raised the Lumet daughter watch to Defcon III with the debut of the esteemed Mr. Lumet's latest movie, "Before the Devil Knows Your Dead". Critics say it's quite good and may even have Oscar potential!

Oscar fans, and readers of my friend Eva's old blog will remember the young (that being a relative term) Ms. Lumet's buoyant celebration of her father's honorary Oscar a few years ago.

Will history repeat?

Disney Stars Gone Bad

I can see it now. Agent calls rising young star, says "kid things are going well". "You did the Transformers, Holes, got the Daytime Emmy and now you've been selected to be Indiana Jones' kid. Fantastic!"

"But here's the deal. You're too clean cut!" You want to get some action roles, work into more heavy drama, realize your Oscar potential".

"Never gonna happen unless you rough up that image a bit kid". "Go out have some drinks, start a fight, pay some local heavy a couple bucks to make it look like you rolled him."

So what does the kid do? Gets kicked out of a local drug store for being drunk.

The police said he was real polite. Some kids never learn!

Friday, November 2, 2007

C&K, Not My Kind of Thing

Well we arrived in St. Louis tonight around 8pm. I dropped PD1 at the Adam's Mark so that she could link up with her team, and I went off in search of que.

My sojourn tonight took me to a seedier side of St. Louis. Not a bad area, I think, but definitely and underdeveloped neighborhood. I found C&K exactly where google maps said it was, parked the car and went inside.

C&K is a hole in wall, carry-out only operation. When you enter the place two thoughts strike you immediately; "Gosh the place ain't real clean", and "where the hell is the window to order". Neither of these things really stops you - I mean what good bbq place is clean? - but it is momentarily disorienting if for no other reason than there are cars in the lot, but nobody in the store. Casting these unimportant thoughts aside, I found the window and placed my order for a pork steak and some middle cut country ribs.

While I waited for my order I looked around the joint. 6 signs requesting that customers have their money ready when ordering, one sign informing us that our order will not be taken while we're on our phones, and most incongruously, a framed copy of the "St. Louis best article proclaiming C&K one of St. Louis' best. As I waited (what was the dude doing back there?) several people came in, ordered and then went out to their cars to wait. Mystery solved!

After about 10 minutes, my order came and I loaded it into the car and drove back to the Hotel. Sadly, the food wasn't really worth the trek. Oh, it was good, but to be honest, my ribs are better, and most of the ribs that we had on our tour this summer were far better. C&K serves country ribs, which are fine, but they had virtually no smoke flavor and were covered in a fairly pedestrian sauce. I understand that C&K sells sauce locally but I really wonder why. It's ok, but the locally produced Maull's is better.

Oh, the pork steak? Not bad actually. I think it is basically a grilled slice of pork shoulder with sauce on it. If you've ever had a grilled pork chop, you pretty much get this. Except a grilled pork chop, properly cooked is better.

So, I wasn't impressed. Perhaps Texas spoiled me. Maybe I'm just not a St. Louis kind of guy. Who knows? What I do know is that I'm quite happy I had the presence of mind to pack a 2001 les Caves de la Columbe Chateanueuf Du Pape. I found this in a close out bin last week, and it is pretty good. So all is not lost. Tomorrow we'll seek salvation for the St. Louis rep at Phils. I think I'll go for lunch, and then perhaps talk some of the parents into a Ruth's Chris for dinner. I hope they have one here. Mmmmmm, martinis and beef.

St. Louis BBQ

Next stop on the Pursuit national BBQ tour: St. Louis - The city that built a monument honoring those with the gumption to leave!

This weekend, PD1 will be competing in the Metro Fall Classic Soccer Tourney, and I will use it as an excuse to sample another of our country's fine regional ques. Tonight, sometime around 10p.m. I expect to pull into C&K BBQ and pick up some ribs and a pork steak. Tomorrow I'm driving over to Phil's.

Unfortunately, I gave the camera to Mrs. P who is vacationing in Door County with PD2 and Dr. Codopolis this weekend, so no pics. But I will report back on the smoky goodness.

What does it say.....

...when your wife is missing (your third wife was found a few years earlier drowned in the bathtub) and you choose to appear before the media in an American flag scarf and the iconic NYPD hat?

Just wondering

Eeeeeew! Men!

Note to Hillary:

I have to admit I was pretty amazed in 2000 when you pulled off the whole predatory man charge on poor Rick Lazio. I mean, he was only trying to get you to sign an agreement to not take soft money donations, which you know, should have been something that was easy to do. But this is why I don't run for office.

You actually calculated that your friends in the media would help promote the charge that he was "ominously invading your personal space" while simultaneously ignoring that you'd been married to the country's most famous victimizer for over two decades! Brilliant really....especially so since poor Lazio was a pretty boy who couldn't hurt a flea. The kid was out of his league and he found out that night. Nobody's seen him since.

So, you're up to it again, but this time on a bigger stage. Got to tell ya Hill, I'm not sure it's gonna work this time. First of all, you're running for president, not the Senatorial representative of the hand wringer club. So, if elected, you're going to have to deal with and win against a whole bunch of icky boys. See, they run most of the world's countries and all of the world's leading terrorist outfits and a lot of them mean us harm.

Secondly, and it's nothing personal dear - just a fact, people simply don't like you. Really. You're an unattractive, loathsome scold who's only chance to win is founded in your opposition's near historic level of incompetency. I know, it hurts, so just don't think about it. You've been able to ignore so much, this is just one more thing you know. But you do have to deal with it because folks are pretty much looking for you to give them a reason to take a leap of faith on the other guys. This could be just that moment.

So I'd tread carefully here. Just my advice.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Kindly Mr. Buffet's Wild Tale

It's happened again, this time with the "Oracle of Omaha". What is "it"? Why we're talking old guys who get rich, and then upon developing a Messiah Complex, deem it appropriate to tell the rest of us what is good for us.

To Warren, as with all these other self important boobs I say, stop. Please.

Warren's version of this all too common phenomena apparently has to do with our tax system in the United States. According to the Oracle, it simply isn't a fair system. How has he come to this great decision? Why he has determined that he isn't paying enough in taxes, or more specifically, that he isn't paying as high a percentage as his staff.

Admittedly, on first blush this sounds unfair. The Oracle is paid around $7.5 million in federal taxes on his $43 million in income, but this only represented 17.5% whereas his secretary ponied up a cool 30% of his/her $60,000 income. Can this be correct?

Well, yes I suppose (we'll get to that secretary's dubious 30% figure in a moment) but we really need to look behind the numbers to understand what is going on here. Mr. Buffet, the kindly investor from Omaha, who just happened to amass a $50B fortune without ever hurting a flea, pays a lower tax rate for a reason. You see his income, because he is an investor, is primarily made up of dividends and long-term capital gains. Because taxes are a significant inefficiency in the capital markets our tax policy is designed to limit their impact on individual's buy/sell decisions, so that market activity more closely relates to the underlying economics thereby pricing securities based on their financial fundamentals. In other words taxing capital market activity at lower rates is generally regarded as sound economic policy

Of course this policy when discussed in regard to billionaire financiers sounds a bit unfair, but if we're to look at individuals and the tax rate's broad impact we need to expand our view a bit further down the food chain. For every billionaire that kindly Mr. Buffet can point to, I can identify 1,000 or more retirees who live off of the income from their investment portfolios. I'm not going to claim these folks are poor, but their portfolios represent a lifetime of prudent financial management and provide a means of living for them that keeps their financial security separate from governmental support. Tax these folks more and they'll have less to pay for health care and day to day living expenses. Without this self funded safety net, many more will become reliant on the creaking finances of Medicare, Medicaid, and the Social Security System.

Still, I suppose Mr. Buffet's conscience must be assuaged.

And this is where I get a little hacked off. First, Mr. Buffet is comparing his investment driven income with his secretary's (nice anachronistic title there Mr. Buffet!) wage driven income. Why? Because, quite obviously, Mr. Buffet has not seen to providing this person with a similarly lucrative investment portfolio that would earn money and be taxed at the lower rates! Why he can't peel off one billion of his fifty two billion dollars in assets and spread it around the office is beyond me. Heck, I bet these folks would agree to work for the investment income they'd earn and give up their wages if it would encourage Mr. Buffet to share a bit!

Of course it's possible that Mr. Buffet has done this in the form of tax deferred 401k's and just neglected to mention this fact. If this is the case then these folks won't have to pay any tax on their investment earnings for as long as they don't liquidate the funds. Wouldn't a fair analysis of applicable tax rates include this tax deferred income in their effective tax rate? Of course it would.

And what of that 30% tax on $60k. To be candid, I'm a bit dubious. I looked up the federal tax schedules for 2006 and found the following:

Schedule X — Single

If taxable income is over-- But not over-- The tax is:
$0 $7,550 10% of the amount over $0
$7,550 $30,650 $755 plus 15% of the amount over 7,550
$30,650 $74,200 $4,220.00 plus 25% of the amount over 30,650
$74,200 $154,800 $15,107.50 plus 28% of the amount over 74,200
$154,800 $336,550 $37,675.50 plus 33% of the amount over 154,800
$336,550 no limit $97,653.00 plus 35% of the amount over 336,550

Now, if I follow these instructions (like kindly Mr. Buffet I'm not using an accountant here) I get a tax on $60k of income of $11,557.5 which represents an effective tax rate of 19%, not the 30% claimed by Mr. Buffet. Remember too, that the $60,000 in income did not get netted by any deductions for home mortgages, real estate tax or even the standard deductions. Had we considered these items, that secretary might have had a lower rate than her billionaire boss.

So Mr. Buffet has a problem, and I don't just mean with the facts. The problem is that he thinks he ought to be paying more tax. One question Mr. Buffet: If you really mean it, why not write the check?

Monday, October 29, 2007

Swiss Pics




Well, I promised to post a few pics of my 2 day jaunt to Zurich, but when I tried to upload at the hotel, I realized I left the connecto thingy back home. So here we are two weeks later, ok, three, and I've got 'em ready.

The first photo? Some dude fishing. The second, a nice little lake scene, and the last was my hotel, the Storchen. Enjoy.

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Mofo's Photos

Am I wrong, or is this man not a great American? Note, the link is NOT safe for work, because you work for a bunch of unevolved prudes.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

All Hail Your New God

Hey, if you want to voluntarily follow this goof ball's prescriptions for a better life I'm totally cool with it. But I gotta tell ya, I'm beginning to feel like the last sane man in America.

Do you think the Goreacle will even notice that his award was not for science? Interesting, no?

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Greetings From Switzerland!

The Pursuit week of travel continues with a stop today and tomorrow in lovely Zurich Switzerland. Man, I love this city. During a spot in the 90's I worked for one of the local financial institutions and found myself traveling to Zurich (and later, Basel) fairly frequently. The truth is that I was here so much that I actually wound up in the background of the "Welcome to Zurich" video that American used to show prior to landing. Might still be there, I don't know.

Anyway, I sort of fell in love with this place. It's not very cosmopolitan, but this to me was its allure. Zurich is just a terrifically civilized, extremely livable place. People who live here can commute to work, in under 30 minutes, get to the slopes in 40 minutes, and enjoy a real outdoor lifestyle.

Times are changing a bit though. When I first started coming to Zurich in '92 every Thursday was known as "late shopping night"; literally the night that shops stayed open so that folks could pick things up after work. When I mentioned this to my hosts tonight, they all laughed and talked about how shops now stayed open later every night. "We just had a vote to allow shops to open on Sunday and voted it down though", they told me. It’s not very anti-regulation of me, but I hope this continues. It’s nice to come to a country where every day isn’t a 24 hour binge of consumption and people understand that quality of life is more important than quantity. As other countries have learned, once the magic is lost, it is gone forever.

Today was a great day. The weather - sunny 60 degrees - was perfect. I went for a run along the Limat and down the Bahnhoff Strasse (were I was rocking to Guerrilla Radio, followed by Rasta Holliday) and then had a lunch of veal bratwurst and pommes frittes in Schnitzel Park. After some quick study this afternoon, I met our hosts for dinner and will spend the day with them tomorrow. I brought my camera, so if I get out early I'll try to post some pics.

Gruetsi Mittenand!

Friday, October 5, 2007

I Savant

I'm like a savant I tell ya. My uncanny ability to literally stumble on wonderfully unexpected food moments is almost a little bit scary. Today was no exception.

Allow me to back up a bit. I'm in Washington DC with PD1 this weekend as she and her soccer team will be competing in the WAGS tournament. There are some pretty high powered teams out here, so I have no idea how they will do, but none-the-less, it promises to be an exciting weekend of soccer for us.

Earlier today, I ventured out to find some last minute items; sunblock, black electrical tape (to hold up socks and shin guards), water and a few other items. I was on my way back to the hotel when I momentarily glanced to my left and saw a sign that read, "Red Hot & Blue Express". Well, given that it was both 11:45 in the morning and my blueberry muffin breakfast was a bit insufficient on the sustanence side following my Olympian like performance on the elyptical, one thought ran through my malnourished brain.

"Lunch!"

Clearly, this was too good to be true; a real honest to goodness BBQ joint in Falls Church Virginia. But my stomach was empty and my hopes were high so I strode through the front doors of the place ready for whatever the fates had in store. As I approached the counter a nice young man came over and asked if I would like to order. I glanced at his name tag.

"Ahmed"

Not a good sign, no sireee. Of course I personally have nothing against our fine fellow citizens of middle eastern descent, it's just that you don't see a lot of guys manning the BBQ pit who don't have names like Smitty, or Hoyt, or Bubba. Not that Ahmed couldn't be a great pit man, I'm just sayin' its unlikely.

None-the less, I perserveered. I ordered a pulled pork sandwich, some fries and a coke to go. I thought about eating in, but my rental has Sirrus radio and I had been listening to the blues channel when I pulled up to the joint. They were midway through a three set comparison of Muddy Waters', Jeff Beck/Rod Stewart's and Led Zeppelin's versions of "You Shook Me" and I wanted to get back and hear the rest. For the record, I liked Zep's version best, which surprised me a bit.

Anyway, back in the car I dug into my lunch. The pork was served between two halves of a bun, which I discarded. "Not bad" I thought as I began eating the meat without any of the sauce. It was very tender, moist and mildly smoky. In short, Ahmed was putting out some decent stuff - take that all you profilers!

After I finished the meat I tried the fries. Not so good here. Do you remember those ads in the back of magazines when we were kids? You know, the ones next to the "X-Ray Specs" ads for "Tricky Joke Buzzers". The basic premise was that you'd offer to shake your friend's hand after secretly putting the buzzer in your palm, and when the foolish dupe would take you up on your offer of friedship ZAPPPP - he'd bet buzzed! Good yuks for you, pain for him! Apparently somebody thought this was the basis for a lasting friendship.

I bring this up because there are those, and my dear friend Ahmed appears to be one of them, who do the same thing with french fries. Not content to leave well enough alone, they sprinkle some reddish powder over them in a doomed quest to "make them better than before". Of course, any decent American realizes that fries need only salt and katsup, and eating the doctored version of fries is like getting zapped with the buzzer in comparison. All the anticipation of fresh cut potatoes, cooked in oil and lightly salted comes crashing down in a painful rejection of this most American of foods.

Still, the pork was good.

So, undeterred by the marring of the fries I re-entered the restaurant.

"Is something wrong" Amed said, clearly thinking I was on to him about the tricky joke fries.

"Yes, there is. It seems I didn't order any brisket and that was a mistake" I said.

"You want the combo meal again?", a greatly relieved Ahmed said.

"Not a fan of those fries Ahmed, just give me the sandwich. Oh, and hold the bun" I said

"No bun?"

"No, no bun"?

"You just want meat?"

"Brisket, to be specific"

Well Ahmed hustled in back and brought me a to go plate. As I started the car again, Albert Collins - "The Iceman" was playing, "I Ain't Drunk, I'm Just Drinkin'" on the radio. Listening, I began to eat the brisket. This too was good - an unexpected pleasure in the middle of Virginia. Now, don't get me wrong, it was nowhere near the quality of some of the stuff I had in Texas, but it was quite good. There was a curious aspect to the beef that I did find a bit off putting though. It seems that after they slice it, they lightly dust it with some sort of orangey powder and crumbled bay leaves. I'm not saying this tasted bad, - it didn't - but it did detract from the pure smoky goodness of the meat. A minor quibble.

All in all, my new buddy Ahmed is doing ok with the que. I plan to return for the ribs tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Great Moments In Urban Commuting


I take the train to Chicago just about every day to get to work. Typically I wouldn't mention this rather mundane slice of life, except that I do encounter a few characters along the way. There's "Clouseau", a man who is a wicked weed fiend and who happens to look quite a bit like the famous Peter Sellers role, when he was in a bad disguise. Every morning he is there sucking on a cig until the very last moment, dark moustache, beady eyes and a ridiculous hat that is a cross between a fedora, and Elaine's legendary "Urban Sombrero". I know, sounds a bit confusing, but believe me, if you saw him you'd agree.

There is also this one guy who is always late. Another odd dresser, he typically wears suit pants, a white shirt, cheap wire rim glasses, rumpled trench coat and a seemingly endless series of baseball hats. Every day the guy barrels into the lot at the last minute and sometimes has to kind of run to get to the train. I always think, "I wonder if he ever considered leaving the house two minutes earlier? Life would be so much easier." This is the man I want to tell you about today.


Today, this man, this short, nerdy overweight man man delivered a very impressive performance. This guy who is always, and I mean always, late. This guy left me speechless.


As the train was coming to a stop today, my fellow commuter, who is even later than he normally is suddenly roars off the road, and cuts a tire screeching hard right into the parking lot. I was walking up to the train door and just shook my head thinking, "well, the dude's just pushed the needle too far this time".

As I looked back towards the lot from the vestibule of the train, I saw a streak of white and kacki between the evergreens. Had this been Wisconsin, I would have just assumed it was yet another deer sighting. He moved with such speed! Such grace!

Well, at this point I had to see how our impromptu little morning drama would play out. "Come on dude, come on!" I rooted for the guy as he raced towards the door. I'm telling you this guy was on fire! If ever there is a lawyer Olympics my money is on "Short, Baseball Hat Nerdy Man From Nearby Town". But did he have enough time!?

Closer, closer with every step you could see it in his eyes; "I just might make it"! And he did! With the great leap of a man who might have once run hurdles - he didn't even break stride - our friend, and my new personal hero, launched his middle-aged body, a briefcase, and a shopping bag full of newspapers, into the train. Amazing!

As he climbed the two steps up into the vestibule he looked up at me. I was standing there, staring at him with a look of slack-jawed amazement.

"Well done." I said

"Thanks", he huffed

And with that, we started our day.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

What A Ride!

Well, it's all over except for the FC Dallas soccer game tonight. This has been an extraordinary trip in so many ways. 8 days, 6 states, over 2,300 miles in the car, 7 hotels, and 11 BBQ joints later I think I can say that for both of us this has been an experience that we will never forget.

PD1 and I have always had a pretty good relationship, but all bets are off, I think, when you put a dad and teenage daughter in the car and hotels for an extended time. Despite the potential for disaster, we managed to have a terrific time, and learn a little bit more about each other. There is so much going through her head right now, so many things that she'll have to deal with over the next few years, that I am grateful for having this time together.

No matter what we did on this trip, it was a partnership. I got to watch "What Not To Wear" and she witnessed the subtle genius that is "Best in Show". She had to listen in on my conference calls with work, and I got to hear her gab about her friend's most recent encounter with some boy. We learned about ex-presidents, saw the OK City bombing memorial, visited 3 college campuses (remind me to blog about that sometime), played name that tune with our IPod, and watched (I listened) 3 "Monk" episodes over and over as we drove ("Bleach! The White God! Dias Blanco!)

And we ate some great BBQ.

Today, on the last stop of our journey we dined at Baker's Ribs in Dallas. Scott recommended this joint in the comments, and again he steered us right. Baker's has about four locations in Dallas, so I was a bit skeptical going in. A chain, I thought would not deliver. Wrong.

Baker's is a bit different than the other places we went to in that they use hickory logs to smoke their meat, while most of the other Texas joints we went to use oak or mesquite. While I thing that no other smoke does pork as well as hickory smoke, Baker's use of hickory on beef is a violation of my cardinal rule that these two simply do not go together. In my experience, something happens that causes the beef to pick up a slightly acrid taste when hickory is used and again today I found this to be the case.

Baker's brisket as a result was good, but not as good as other Texas stops along the way. Besides the acrid undertone, the meat was also a bit dry and just didn't work for me. The pork however, was quite a different story. Unbelievably moist, full of flavor, and perfectly smoked Baker's pork ribs were the best of the trip and some of the best ribs I have ever had.

One interesting aspect of Baker's ribs was the tenderness of the meat. While so many places mistakenly go for the "fall off the bone" quality of tender and end up producing mushy que, Baker's achieved almost the perfect texture. As you bite into a Baker rib, there is at first a small explosion of juice into your mouth that releases a meaty smokiness onto your tongue. As you pull the bone away from your mouth, there is a slight tug, and then the bone gives up its bounty, cleanly and without a huge piece of meat completely falling off the bone creating a slopping mess. As you chew, a distinct taste of salt, pepper, smoke and meat floods your mouth and leaves you looking for more in your next bite. I'm getting hungry just thinking about those delicious ribs.

Complimenting a Baker's meal are the hot links and potato salad. We thought the hot links were good, but Leo's in Oklahoma were far better in terms of both texture and taste. Baker's potato salad was excellent. The potatoes were chopped very fine and enveloped in a creamy dressing that tasted of dill and other spices. The peach cobbler that finished the meal was ok, but probably not worthy of the extra calories.

So our trip is nearly over and now I think we can extend the following Pursuit BBQ World Tour Awards of Excellence:

Best Brisket: Smitty's
Best Pork Ribs: Baker's
Best Pulled Pork: Leatha's
Best Hot Links: Leo's
Best Potato Salad: Bakers
Best Baked Beans: Leo's
Best Dessert: Leo's
Best Hospitality: Leatha's

And finally, the best state BBQ overall:

Texas

A final thought. Despite the awards above, I would recommend any of the places that we went except for Corky's in Memphis. It is hard to list the best because each had its on special appeal. Perhaps the place that deserves the most mention that did not "win" an award is Green Mesquite in Austin. The taste of that BBQ is like a recurring dream in mind, I can taste that meal as I sit here just as well as I did in our booth on the first night. Actually, I'm reminded of one more award that Green Mesquite can win: Best Sauce. We didn't really use much sauce on this trip, preferring to focus on the efforts of the pit men, but when we did, Green Mesquite's stood out.

One final thing that I learned on this trip: I'm a darn good smoker! Admittedly I am biased, but when I due my shoulder, although my meat is not quite as tender as some of the pulled pork on this trip, I think that the texture is better, and I know I'm getting better flavor due to my rub and copious use of hickory and cherry. My ribs are very similar to Baker's in that I get good bone release, without having the entire rib of meat fall off the minute I take a bite. So, I guess I better get smoking when I get home! Gotta work on my brisket, which is decidedly sub par.

That is all for now. Thanks to Scott for his recommendations on Texas joints and to my loyal three readers for their comments. I hope to return to blogging on a more regular basis, as this trip has taught me that I due miss it.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Back In Texas

Whew, it has been a busy couple of days! Today we passed the 2,000 mile mark and returned to Texas where our journey began. Instead of Austin though, we are in Dallas tonight. To celebrate the end our our journey we had...

Sushi! Nice change of pace, huh? I'm a little worried that our bodies may go into shock so stand ready to alert the authorities if you don't here from us! Our dinner tonight was at Oishii a little place around the Highland Park area on Wycliff blvd. PD1 ordered a Spider roll and a Volcano roll, and I had sushi which PD1 shared a couple pieces of . All was quite good. The spider roll came with eel sauce, which I generally consider a foul substance, but was forced to admit that this version was lite and tasty. The volcano roll was a concoction of scallops, some sauce, rice and roe. The sauce was spicy and the scallops fresh. Quite tasty. The sushi itself was very good; Sweet shrimp, salmon, sea bass, tuna, flounder and yellow tail.

So what have we been up to the past 48 hours? Well on Monday we bid a happy fair well to Memphis, a tiding they are in desperate need of, and headed for Little Rock and the Clinton Library. I was quite surprised by Little Rock; a great, busy and (note to Memphis) reasonably clean town. The Clinton library, unlike the LBJ library, was an exercise in self written hagiography. No talk of impeachment, Monica, White Water, the convictions of friends and advisers or of the other negatives we remember of the Clinton years. LBJ by contrast was a much more balanced presentation of the administration where there was at least passing mention of the LBJ failures. The end result, I think, was that the LBJ library seemed like a more authentic experience, with a greater sense of historical heft. Clinton's effort just seemed to try a little hard. I mean really, did we need to spend several minutes of a 16 minute film showing various leaders of foreign countries talking about how much they respected Bill?

After Little Rock we drove to Tulsa and dined at Oklahoma Style Bar Be Que. Wonderful place, situated in a dilapidated strip mall on the outskirts of Tulsa. The smell of smoke pervaded the smallish restaurant, and the people seemed very happy to have us drop in. We dined on brisket and smoked bologna, a Oklahoma specialty, and found both to be good. The brisket, was to a bit dry, but still had a nice smoked flavor. No rub seemed to be used which was fine with us. The smoked bologna was a fun treat, and quite tasty, but when you're after fine BBQ, it seems like a bit of a distraction.

Next we drove to Oklahoma City and had our second dinner at Leo's BBQ. This is a great place. At Leo's we enjoyed Pork Ribs (country ribs), chopped brisket, hot links, and of course, smoked bologna. Again the brisket was a bit dry. As I enjoyed Leo's brisket, I found myself wondering if they use a slightly different cut in Oklahoma than in Texas since even the grain of the meat seemed a bit different. The pork ribs at Leo's were excellent. Unlike our Memphis experience, Leo's ribs maintained a certain toothsomeness that provided a superior taste, texture and overall experience than ribs that "fall off the bone". I also found Leo's hot links to be the best sausage of the trip, with great meat flavor, and a little spice to remind you that you're alive and well! Finally, Leo's meal came with a complimentary slice of strawberry cake. Wow! Light, sweet and oh so tasty it was the perfect finish to our meal.

I also would like to add a word about hospitality. Leo's, Leathas, and Oklahoma Style BBQ, establishments all run by black families were, by far, the friendliest places we went to. At Leatha's, Bonnie took great care of PD1 when she entered the restaurant by herself. At Oklahoma Style, we spent our time eating BBQ and watching "Who Wants To Be a Millionaire" with another customer. At Leo's our waiter and I had a wonderful time discussing our deep admiration for the art of the Reverend Al Green ("It's a gift from God I tell you"). Hands down it was this hospitality that made leaving each place a little bittersweet. We will return if we every get back to their respective cities.

Also a word about Oklahoma City. Very Impressive. I have never seen a cleaner, more scenic little downtown than I did here. After our dinner at Leo's we went over to the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial at the site of the former Murra building. A beautiful, understated place that captures the dignity of those lost lives. To this day, people that visit leave little mementos outside the park to commemorate their visit. I think this is a tribute to the power the memorial has on visitors. Outside there is a sign expressing hope that people will understand the devastation of violence and find ways to live in peace. I guess I failed that test, because I just felt happy that McVeigh is dead.

Tomorrow, we will visit SMU and go to the FC Dallas soccer game. More later!

Sunday, July 8, 2007

A Dirty Little Town

I've decided to be nice.

Not out of any sense of decorum, and certainly not because Memphis deserves it, but simply because I don't have the energy to waste on this squalid little town.

Oh, I had the post in my head as I drove through the desolate streets of downtown Memphis. I was going to write about garbage thay rolls through the streets like tumble weeds. Then maybe I'd go into the deer in headlights look of young professionals who have invested in downtown condos - certainly a pathetic attempt to capture the authentic urban chic experience they might have achieved in all the other cities that they really wanted to live in. Instead they wander alone, in a semi-lucid state wondering what in God's name went wrong.

Well, if I had the energy, I'd tell them. What went wrong is that their city is broken. Areas populated by the city's poor, black population appear to lack even basic services. Of course I did see a billboard warning that those convicted of felonies do the full time. Nice, that.

Then there is the downtown. Looks like it could be a decent place except the whole place is shut down on Sunday afternoon! My goodness, when else are people expected to visit if not on one of their two days off! Even the folks who run Memphis' one tourist attraction, Graceland understand that folks might want to stop by and visit on a Sunday.

Then, of course, there is Graceland. The bloom, she is off the rose folks.

I really didn't know what to expect at Graceland. Not being an Elvis fan, I was basically in it for the laughs, and surely there were many to be had. Elvis' fan's as usual are overly sincere in their love for this man, and Graceland, in its role as Elvis' legacy, is a temple of mid '70's bad decorating kitsch; mirrors and carpet on the ceilings, badly carved furniture in the jungle room, and a torn pool table are just a few of the things that might evoke a snicker in us sophisticates.

But here's the thing. The folks at Graceland have - unwittingly, to be sure - built a museum of all that went wrong in Elvis' life. The man at the end was trapped by the myth, and this is at the core of the Graceland experience, which makes for a very sad day. We see the mansion that the star built. We see the room that the boy gave his parents as the fulfillment of his promise to "give them a better life". We see the three TV's that the man watched because he heard LBJ did the same thing. And we see the high living that the victim fell prey to when all that he had was not enough to satisfy the soul.

And when I left, I just didn't want to know anymore, because you see, there is one redeeming part of the Graceland tour. It is the "Trophy Room". This is the room where we see the gold records, the charity work, the military years, the romance and marriage. It is the room where we see the TV appearance where Ed Sullivan eased the Elvis the Pelvis controversy when he told America that here was a "good and decent young man". The trophy room is the one place where Elvis the man is exhibited with his extraordinary talent. He was free when he created his music, and nowhere else is the beauty and the tragedy of Elvis more apparent.

After Graceland we needed fortification. Once again Memphis let us down.

Bozos? Closed
Leonard's? Closed
BBQ Shop? Closed

So we ended up at Corky's. Not a very impressive place. Oh the ribs are good I suppose. Unlike Texas, the rub and the sauce are much more in play here, and Corky's ribs come with a nice rub. The thing is, there is an undertone of burned flavor that is off putting as you bite into the ribs. I don't know, but my guess is that Cork's is running the ribs over an open flame at some point charring the outside of the ribs, instead of building up a nice black crust over time in the smoker. Of course I could be wrong about that, but either way it did detract from the flavor. As for the pulled pork, we were under whelmed. No burn't bits and frankly a very bland flavor that got lost in the sandwich. As most know the big deal in Memphis is to serve the sandwich with slaw piled on top of the pork. This, I think, is a capital idea as long as you have tasty pork. Sadly, Corky's doesn't.

Tomorrow it's the Bill Clinton Library, Tulsa and Oklahoma City! Promise springs eternal!

Saturday, July 7, 2007

600 Miles to Heaven

Let's see it's Saturday so that means that it is Hattiesburg Mississippi tonight. Last night we ended up watching "What Not To Wear" until midnight. You know this show, cute girl and tall slightly effeminate man help misguided girl friends from across the U.S. find their true fashion self. I don't know why but I'm strangely attracted to this show. Maybe it's the transformation angle; last night's theme was helping a woman lose her "skankyness" and find her true beautiful self. Or maybe, God forbid, I actually am interested. Whatever the case I learned several things last night:
  1. Skankyness is a real term
  2. "Boobs" are referred to as "Girlfriends" in sophisticated company
  3. Slightly Effeminate Man is 6'4' according to PD1..
  4. ....and he just loves to break up suits! Yay!

Anyway, all this is to say that we were up until midnight and then rose at 5:30 to begin our 600 mile sojourn to the Mecca of Mississippi BBQ (blasphemous, I know). Amazingly, we made the trip in just about 9 hours which included a stop at our new, favorite breakfast place; "Waffle House".

Not "The Waffle House" or "House of Waffles" or "Bob's Waffle House", just plain old Waffle House spelled out in yellow block letters. Amazing places, these Waffle Houses. Each one has a MacDonald's like consistency to them right down to the glass windows with the curiously steamed windows in them. I say curiously, but I probably should say invitingly steamed windows because, and I know this is bizarre, but those windows speak to me. True fact, they're saying "come in , yes come in, our waffles are so moist and wonderful that our window just done steamed up".

And so we did, just outside of Lake Charles Louisiana. Oh boy these babies were good. Great buttermilk flavor; PD1's were augmented by the choice requisite for all 15 year olds, chocolate chips. Another critic might say they were too heavy and cakey, an that critic might be right, but sitting there in that wonderful little shop, with the steamed windows and the pony tailed manager with the gauged ears, they were as good as any in America my friends. And did I mention the hash browns? Fried to perfection, they were with cheese (American of course) onions and ham mixed in. After we finished, we sent our waitress off for another order.

Our destination, Hattiesburg, appeared in the distance around 3:30 this afternoon. We exited, stopped for a Starbucks and then checked into our hotel, the local Holiday Inn. A quick half hour in the gym, and we were ready for some que. Tonight we set our sites on two of Hattiesburg's finest, Leatha's and Strick's.

Leatha's was our first stop, and to be honest the only one we should have made tonight. Initially we had a little trouble finding it. You see, we could see the Leatha's sign, but all that we could see was new RV's! "Maybe it's out of business" PD1 suggested. I gave her a stern look and muttered, "enough with the negative waves, man" and we pressed on. You see, behind those RV's is a ramshackle sort of building, and yes, the scent of smoke. Whatever that primitive sense is that BBQ touches in man, lit up like flare on the fourth of July I tell you, Leatha's appeared to be everything we hoped for.

As we entered, I realized I had forgotten may camera and told PD1 to wait inside while I returned to the car. "What should I do?" she asked. "Just stand there, I'll be right back" I said. When I returned PD1 had a big smile on her face and led me to our table. It turns out, Bonnie, one of the family had come right over welcomed her to Leathas and made her feel right at home.

This was to be the subtext for our entire stay. You see, Leathas is run by a family and each and everyone of them works to make sure you're having an enjoyable stay. During our dinner, we must have been approached by no less than 6 of the family and either welcomed our asked if we were enjoying ourselves.

And enjoy ourselves we did. Was it the best BBQ I've ever had? No. The ribs were too tender for my taste, and I prefer a heavier smoke on my meat. But don't get me wrong folks, this is some mighty fine stuff. PD1 was in heaven over the pulled pork, and I really thought that Leathas has a way with beef ribs; tender meat, smokey crust and a latent texture that pleases the mouth in a way that few meats ever do. One note for Leatha: Make some real Baked beans, we were certain that what we got was Bush's from a can. None-the-less, we left Leathas content, happy and committed to returning again someday. Our friend Syd, is lucky to be so close to this wonderful, welcoming place.

As for Stricks (I'm always tempted to call it Snickett's; a sign?), not much to report except that if Leatha's is closed you might want to think about other cousines. 8pm on Saturday night and the place was empty, our pulled pork was over cooked (and here's a trick - oddly fuzzy!) and the fried okra both over cooked and tasteless.

So that's all from Mississippi. Hard to believe our sojourn is nearing the halfway point already. Tomorrow it's Memphis, Elvis, Bozo's, Corky's and Leonards.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Of Smoked Meat, Dead Presidents and Famous Gangsters

What a day! Last night we crashed watching American Chopper. Lots of yelling, cool bikes, but ultimately not enough to keep us awake to see the new bikes they were building.

We woke this morning, and I wisely headed down to the gym and spent some quality time with the Stairmaster. A couple cups of coffee later our metabolisms were in high rev and it was off to Jim Bob's for breakfast tacos. What to say about Jim Bobs, hmm.......

Well, first the tacos were pretty good. The place, nothing more than a hole in the wall is a little hard to spot from the road due to construction, but once in we were ready to go. Interesting fact about this tour so far; everywhere we go, we're charged by the amount of stuff we get. For example all the que places charge by weight, number of meats number of sides, etc. and Jim Bob's was no different. You want a taco with one filling you pay X. Two fillings is X + Y and so on.

I went with Chorizo, Brisket Cheese and Onions. PD1 went with Eggs, Cheese, Ham and Peppers. A few moments later are tacos were ready. This is when we encountered the "sighers". As we moved over to the benches there was a couple behind who were quite...well lets just say they were rustics. Most folks in place were enjoying breakfast on their own, but not the rustics. Oh no. These two were quite the active eaters!

"Chomp, slurp sigh."

"Ugh God"

"Chomp. slurp sigh"

"Ugh God"

Needless to say, this was kind of distracting not to mention completely unappetising.

"Ugh God"

And it wasn't even like an ugh god that one might utter during pleasurable activities. Nope, more like "Ugh God, I'm in pain"!

I tell you, it took all I had not to turn around and and yell, "PUT DOWN THE TACO AND JUST WALK AWAY"! Eventually, the rustics finished their workout, and left and we were able to enjoy the remainder of our breakfast while watching Fox broadcast a low speed car chase from California.

America!

Anyway lets get to the que. Today we began with lunch in Taylor TX. As you drive into Taylor, you get the impression that this town has seen better days. It's a little tired, there are a lot of empty store fronts, and its not much of an exaggeration to say that Taylor has three operating businesses; a grain supply company and two que joints.

We ate at both!

The first was at Rudy Mikeskas. As you walk in to Rudy's the first thing that hits you is the 14 deer heads that are mounted on the walls around the room. The second is the smell of smoke, and the third is Rudy, a big man, in at the start of the cafeteria line in the back of the restaurant. We ordered brisket and sausage and sat down to enjoy them with two Dr. Peppers. Rudy's brisket is good stuff. The guys at Smoque in Chicago recommended the joint and they didn't steer us wrong. Lightly smoked, and accompanied by a little sauce ("Just a taste" Rudy said) the brisket was tender and tasty. Rudy didn't ask us if we wanted fat or lean, we just got the fat side, and that was fine with me.

As we were exiting Rudy's we saw the other joint, Louie Millers. I looked at PD1 and we silently agreed that this was our next stop. Louie's que is totally different. The smell of smoke hits you long before you enter the restaurant, and the interior is dark and smokey. Like Rudy's you order at the back of the restaurant and then carry your stuff to the table. Louie's brisket is black as night on the outside and strongly smoked. The interior of the brisket is tender and juicy and has a nice meaty flavor. I preferred Louies over Mikeskas.

After we left Taylor we took a brief respite at the LBJ museum and then took a tour of the University of Texas. Great places, both.

We finished our Austin stop in Lockhart TX at Smitty's. Folks this is the best place we were at. When you enter the building you walk right into the smoking room. It's hotter than hell in there, and since the oak fire is burning out in the open, it is also very smoky. Smitty may have some long term black lung issues with employees!

We ordered brisket and sausage. Our meat was served on red butcher paper with two knives. Notice anything missing there? Correct! No forks! You eat the cue with your hands at Smittys. Another difference was that there was no sauce. Just you, your fingers and the best darn smoked meat in Texas. Oh the meat, what a treat this was! Very smoky and extremely tender, Smitty asks whether you want it wet (fat side) or dry (lean side). We ordered wet and got to work. The sausage received a split vote from us. Too weird was PD1's opinion, but I liked the difference that a clearly homemade sausage made and thought this was our best sausage of the stay.

We wanted to hit Kruetz tonight as well but something else cam up; Bonnie & Clyde. The Paramount Theatre in downtown Austin (which by the way is an absolute treasure) was showing the 1967 classic starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway and I absolutely wanted the chance to see it on the big screen. What an experience! Anyone who has seen this movie remembers two things. The first is the way the movie mixes extreme violence (for the time) with comedic relief. The other is the superbly edited final scene where the doomed couple meet their end. Seeing it bigger than life was an extraordinary treat.

Thats all for now. We're driving 600 miles to Hattiesburg Mississippi tomorrow where we'll enjoy dinner at Leatha's BBQ.

More later.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

We're Smokin!!!!!!!

Pursuit BBQ World Tour Day One Report

Folks we hit the ground running today, and what a way to go. I began the day with a conference call at 730am, with compadres in London and Hong Kong; I remain amazed at how small our world has become. "I have a hard stop at 8:30 folks" I announced when we kicked off. What I didn't mention was that the reason for my hard stop was that I was hopping on my Harley with a pal and riding to Kenosha for breakfast at Franks Diner! Great biscuts and gravey.

Then it was off to O'hare and a 1:55 flight to Austin. Landing on time at 415, PD1 and I picked up our car and drove to the hotel. "Oh you're here for bbq?" our checkin' guy said. "Well, I send everybody to County Line"

"Dad, lets go there" a surprisingly suggestible PD1 said.

I, of course, had other plans. Unfortunately they were a bit stalled since Smitty's was closed. So we changed course and headed to Green Mesquite BBQ suggested by Scott.

Whoa.

This place is awfully good. PD1 and I each ordered a two meat combo; she had the sausage and pulled pork, I had the brisket and pork ribs. The ribs were fine, but nothing to write home about. But the brisket was something else. Lightly smoked, tender as all get out I splashed on a dab of the house sauce (vinegar and molasses as far as I could tell) and was in heaven.

"Dad, you've got to try the sausage". She was right, a light smoke, with that typical mesquite sweetness, we rated it the second best of the night. As for the pulled pork, it came in three, as it had a nice combo of meat and charred bits adding flavor. All in all we gave the Green Mesquite a 7 out of ten, subject to revision as our experience grows.

Next we went over to County Line. Nice place for a graduation party, retirement or for lunch with the gang from the office, but it has no place on the world tour. When you walk in you don't smell smoke, you don't smell meat. Nope, what assaults your olfactory senses is the smell of a liberally applied tomatoey sauce that accompanies all plates put in front of diners.

When we left Green Mesquite we could smell our the smoke on our shirts.

Still can.

'Nouff said.

Over and out until tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

We're Off!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Pursuit World Tour of BBQ

Begins in Austin Texas July 5, 2007. We arrive in Austin at 4:15 pm and will stay there through Friday. We plan to visit Smitty's, Kruetz (sorry but it's like mandatory), Green Mesquite BBQ, JimBob's BBQ and Mikesca BBQ. Then its off to Hattiesburg Mississippi for some of that fine stuff Leatha has been smokin. Next is Memphis where we'll hit Carl's Perfect Pig, and Bozo's Hot Pit BBQ followed (or preceded, one never can tell) by a 1:30 tour of Graceland. Monday we're in Tulsa to dine at Leo's BBQ and Oklahoma Style BBQ and Tuesday will be Oklahoma city for . Wednesday we're in Dallas or there abouts and Thursday we fly home.

The only open question is that we really have a spare day in here, so we may divert north on Monday and hit Kansas City, followed by Tulsa Tuesday and Oklahoma City on Wednesday with a flight out of Dallas on Thursday. The only problem is that everyone seems to think KC BBQ has gotten too commercialized. Is this true? Do tell.

Schedule subject to change as they say. Updates will be daily from the road.

Queery: Does anyone know the exact location of the Cross Roads?

UPDATE: Nevermind, found it. Looks like PD1 and I will be having a beer in Rosedale Miss near the intersection of Highway 8 and Highway 1.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Smoque


"Hey. Hey wait a second"

Engaged in conversation we turned around wondering who could be yelling at us to stop. The neighborhood, basically Pulaski and Addison, was fine so it was unlikely some fiend was after us, but just the same one never knows.

"Hey, I hear you're doing a bar be que tour!" the voice said as it caught up to us.

For this, we turned around to see none other than one of the partners of Smoque, a newish bar be que joint located on Chicago's northside.

"Yup, not sure when I'm leaving, but we're definitely going" I said.

"And get this", one of my dining companions piped in, "his daughter actually requested the trip!"

"Unbelievable, you're a lucky man".

And so, there on the sidewalk on Chicago's north side, four aficionados of the art of smoking meat spent the next 20 minutes trading stories, bar be que thoughts, and most importantly for me, recommended stops in Texas for the best in beef brisket.

Such is the passion, of the proprietors of Smoque. Despite more than one request by the staff to come back inside and help serve the crowd, our new found friend stayed with us, because when it comes to bar be que, fellow travelers take care of each other.

You can read it all in the four page manifesto on Smoque's website of course, but even then you only get a taste of the passion these boys have for their art. I was particularly interested in their Texas recommendations because, like them, I for a long time did not "get" beef brisket. And like the boys at Smoque, I dedicated myself to exploring this exotic side of bar be que because, I figured, if an entire state is dedicated to the dish, well then, there must be something there. While I limited my investigation to the repetitive smoking of countless briskets, the boys at Smoque did me one better.

They went to the motherland and ate. To hear them tell the story one gets the sense that this must have been some kind of trip. "We drove thirty miles one way for brisket and then sixty miles back the other way for more!" I'm told. Over the course of 3 days, 15 to 16 joynts were visited. When I ask for some must stops I'm told to "go to Austin", and then once there try Mikeska Bar be Que in Taylor, and Louie Muellers'. "Kruez, which we've all heard so much about, isn't all that good" is another thought.

So between my buddy Scott, and the boys at Smoque, I think I"m beginning to zero in on some very nice Texas based targets for the Pursuit Bar be Que Tour.

But what about the que at Smoque?

In a word, it is very good. Ok, that is two words but you get the idea.

The trip to Smoque began like any other. I left the office about 6pm and drove down Pulaski looking for the place. Oddly, in spite of the fact that I was looking at odd numbers (Smoque is at 3800 North Pulaski) it never registered that I was watching the wrong side of the street! For most restaurants this might have caused me to zoom right by, but of course this wasn't the case with Smoque. As I drove within a block or two of the place, the scent of burning wood began to play on my senses and I knew that I was in the right area. Realizing I was looking at the wrong side of the street, I turned my head and saw Smoque; a smallish brick building next too an auto repair place. I pulled into the lot (there was also plenty of street parking) and went inside.

The restaurant is small - no more than 20 tables. The way the deal works is that you go up to the counter place your order and then pick out a table. On the night we were there, there was a small line to the counter and all the tables were full. Happily, one of Smoque's partners was out front and came over to take our name.

"Nice bottle of wine you have there" he said noticing our 2003 Ridge Lytton Springs. "I'll take your name and then when a table opens get you seated before your order is up". True to his word, our table was ready in about 5 minutes. "Stem ware is over by the pop machine" he said pointing to the soda cups that other diners were loading with ice and pop. We all had a chuckle and took our seats. Our order was ready in about 3 more minutes.

When our que arrived, it was just as we had ordered; Pulled pork, sliced brisket, a half slab of baby back ribs, and a half slab of St. Louis ribs - each served with a different sauce. Our sides were some fabulous baked beans, corn bread, and mac cheese.

The pulled pork was very good. The smoke was just right and the pork was very tender. The good folks at Smoque paid attention to detail as well, making sure that my order contained a well balanced mix of crusty outside meat, and moist inside meat. The combination melted in my mouth, providing a sensory experience that every bar be que fan has come to know and love. Looking for a quibble, I might say the pork was a tad mushy, but this, as I said is just a quibble. After our meal was done, I went back and ordered a second batch.

Oddly, the brisket, which Smoque's manifesto says was the last addition to their repertoire, was in my view, their best dish. Unbelievably tender, with excellent smoke and a wonderful sauce, I really enjoyed the brisket and thought about ordering another batch of that as well. One of my pieces was a tad on the fatty side, but all of it was so tender - it parted at the sight of my fork - and so flavorful that I highly recommend you order it if you have a chance to go.

The ribs we quite good too. A nice rub was present on the crust, and the meat, while coming of the bone with minimal effort, had lost none of its flavor or texture. Inferior joynts never seem to learn this important lesson and do awful, criminal things to meat in order to achieve the over rated "falling off the bone status". Make no mistake, the boys at Smoque have not fallen for this ruse, and I would bet that they would agree that such people should be locked up for their crimes.

The sides were generally good. Cornbread was tasty and the mac cheese had a terrific cheddar flavor, but suffered a bit from being too grainy. The beans, however, were out of this world. Cooked in the smoker, at first taste they reveal a very sweet flavor that is then overtaken by a nice smoke and vinegar taste that leaves you wanting another spoonful immediately.

All in all I recommend Smoque as one of Chicago's finest. Knowledgeable diners will know that such a recommendation can be viewed as a sort of best hockey player in Ecuador kind of rating, since truly fine que is difficult to find in our wunnerful city. I intend no such slight, so allow me to be clear.

Go to Smoque. It is a very good example of the wonders that passionate pit masters can do when they set out to combine meat, smoke and spice with the added ingredient of patience in the pit.

Go now.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Announcing The Pursuit World BBQ Tour


Readers here will know a couple things about me. I love my wife, I love my two daughters, I just got a new Harley (perma-smile) well in place, I like to shoot guns, I fashion myself as some sort of wine sophisticate, and I am an original movement conservative.

I also love Bar-be-que.

Mad about it actually. So much so, that during my involuntary sabbatical a couple of years ago I ordered a couple 50 gallon steel drums, borrowed my brother in law's killer saw (I think he calls it a Saws-All), and proceeded to cut, punch, and screw until one drum was horizontally in place above the other drum with a big ole chimney coming out of the top. World's greatest smoker people, and its called the Big Baby.

So anyway, this year my 15 year old daughter is not going to camp and somewhere along the way I suggested a Dad and Daughter vacation while her sister is a way. Didn't really have anything planned, just kind of figured we'd put something together that would be fun. And I ended up looking at some pretty cool trips; Hiking in Utah, a dude ranch in Wyoming where we could ride, shoot and eat, Fishing in Alaska are just a few of the things we considered.

Yet none of this stuff seemed right. I mean it would have been fun, but I just didn't think a structured sort of "we ride at 8am to a chuck wagon breakfast" was really my sort of thing, and frankly PD1 (Pursuit Daughter 1), didn't seem into it either. So we talked and came up with all sorts of ideas, but nothing clicked. Nothing, that is until PD1 uttered the magic words.

"Dad, what about the BBQ tour".

For years, you see, I've been promising (threatening?) to take the family on a road trip that hit all the major BBQ spots in the US. Starting in Chicago we'd travel south to St. Louis for the famous pork steak, over to Kansas City where they do magical things to ribs with smoke and sauce, down to Texas for beef brisket and hot links, and then up to Memphis for the chopped sandwich. The cool thing about this trip is not only the food, but the side benefits. We can hit Graceland, go to the crossroads and share a beer (she is 15 after all) where Robert Johnson supposedly sold his soul and became the world's greatest bluesman. Speaking of the blues we can hear some great blues in Memphis and damn, if we plan it right, we could even stop by Dollywood for a hoot.

Sounds great eh? Of course it does. And the fact that my daughter thought it would sound cool to be in the car with her old man for a week of BBQ, blues and good yuks makes it a fantastic way to sample some of the best of Americana!

Here's where you come in. I need names. I must have the names of the best BBQ joints each of these locations has to offer. No spot is too seedy, out of the way or obscure for this tour. In fact the more obscure, the better. The only thing that counts is that the que must be among the best there is.

But get me this info pronto people, because like any good road trip we haven't planned the dates. We will leave at a moment's notice and hit the highway for our great adventure!

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Hmmm...Now I Wonder What Ethnicity These Guys Are?


Doesn't seem to be mentioned in the story...

Friday, June 1, 2007

Sweet


As I mentioned over in the comments section at The Functional Ambivalent, I have purchased a new vehicle. For years I have wanted a Harley. Bikes would pass me on the street, and I'd oogle just as other men might leer at some young thang walking down the street. I'd see bikers give each other the cool biker wave and I'd just drive on in my Volvo 240, a Harley guy wannabe.


Those days have come to an end people, for I am the proud new owner of a 2007 Heritage Softtail (click pic for full impact cool). Smooth, sweet, and so very, very powerful. This is a lovely machine. I've had it for two weeks and already I've logged 300 miles.


Today I woke at 5:30 and by 6:00 a.m. I was out the door. I cruised down Sheridan road, onto Lake Shore Drive and into the city. At 4:00 I left a bit early and did the reverse route. Sheridan road, which runs along the west side (coast?) of Lake Michigan is truly one of the great drives in America, and I was able to enjoy it in all its splendor from the seat of my Softtail.


Behold!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

A New Face

I've been a bad blogger of late, and for that I am deeply apologetic. I could blame pretty much anything; work, family obligations, etc.... but the truth is I just couldn't get with it. Lost my interest.

I think I know why this has happened. The obligation to blog just took over. It was all about the post, and not about the writing. Of course some would argue that it was never about the writing based on what I was putting up here, but that is an argument for a different time.


It all hit me today on the train home. This thing that I've done here for three years isn't about my obligation to post or even to entertain my readers. This thing is about what I'm thinking, what happens in my life and what makes life worth living. So I'm not going to feel guilty about not posting. Hell, I take back that apology!


Anyway today I had kind of a cool experience.


I've been riding the Chicago North....check that, Metra - they called it the Chicago Northwestern when my dad rode it - for years. One of the things that has not changed is that in this automated world we still have conductors on our trains. Not only do we have conductors, but the guys we have are lifers. Conducting is their career, and every day the same familiar face is there to say hello and take our tickets.


Today we had a new conductor on the train. To non-commuters this probably doesn't seem like a big deal. Guy comes into the car and announces "Tickets!" and then leaves. Perhaps we have a quick chat with him at the stop while he opens the door, but our relationship isn't really all that deep.


None-the-less these guys, and yes they're almost all men, become a daily part of our lives and we all develop a certain familiarity with each other. I remember back when my dad rode the train to between Chicago and Arlington Heights, that I was always so impressed with the conductors. They wore neat, clean uniforms, had good haircuts and went about their duties in the most professional of manners. It is no different today. In a world where male fashion generally starts with an announcement of some sort of team or brand loyalty, the Metra conductors are an important link to the past when men were men, and working an 8 hour shift was honorable duty.


And so these men have our respect and to some degree our friendship. Today, when we had a new conductor it was a moment for pause. Although he was a new guy, he obviously was from conductor central casting. Clean cut, sharply pressed white short sleeve shirt, blue pants and conductor's hat. He took our tickets quickly, unobtrusively and allowed us to continue with whatever we were doing with a minimum of disruption. When we got to our stop, he opened the door, reminded us to "watch our step" and wished us all a good night. We returned the sentiment.


As I sat there a thought hit me. I'm middle age. In 20 years, hopefully less, I'll be retiring and my years on Metra will come to an end. Hopefully, if all goes well, I may just have met the conductor that will caution me to watch my step, and instead of wishing me goodnight will say, "enjoy the rest of your life". He'll board the train, close the door and the cycle will continue.


I should probably get to know his name, don't you think?

Friday, April 6, 2007

Caption This

"Yes, let me try to explain thees one more time Meeess Nancy"

"You have theese two wires. One ees red and one ees green. Eeet ees very, very important to press at thee same time"

"At the same time Mr. Assad? Or do you mean one first and the other second"

"No Meees Nancy. Same time! You must press SAME TIME!"

"And should I have my unseasonable falling leaf scarf over my head, or fashionably draped over my shoulders, Mr Assad?"

"Who do I look like to you Mees Nancy?! I am not that Karl Lagerfeld man! I am Bakshir! Optomitrist and (alleged) murderer of Amir Taheri! You must press theee buttons Meees Nancy! Press them hard....at theee same time!"

"And tell me again what happens when I press the buttons...I seem to have forgotten"

"Ahhh, sacre bleau! You press theee buttons when you get close to Booosh. Then we will have regime change"

"Oh they're magic buttons then! Ooooh I so like magic buttons. They remind my of my coed days in the all girl dorm. Why there was this lovely young lass - talk about a magic button - who joined our floor when I was a senior. She was very impressionable, and I sort of took her under my...."

"Enough! I can't take anymore of thees. Just poosh thee buttons Mees Nancy!"

"She was blonde, and eager to learn....."

"Ahhhh why can we not find a man to do theees work?! Does anyone have John Kerry's cell number!"

"An Extra Visible Inch on My Pe***s"

How many times have you heard those words spoken in a product endorsement? Well ok, a lot, but that is just because you're spending too much time listening to under billing sports radio stations.

Check out this link to Amazon. Pretty good yucks.

Friday Morning Wine Blogging?

My intentions were good, and that is all that matters these days, right? I mean how many times do we hear people saying things like, "well yes, he robbed the bank, but he did it to feed his family", or "I wanted to help 42M people who don't have insurance with my healthcare plan, so the fact that it was a disaster means little in view of my glorious intentions"?

Or something like that.

The point is, I was going to fire up the wine blog last night and return to that practice previously popular here of Thursday Night Wine Blogging. And the fact is, I did pretty well; nice bottle of wine, Riedel glass, and over the course of two hours our so, I drank the whole thing.

So what went wrong? I was so busy doing some other stuff I didn't have time to write my impressions down. Lucky for you folks, my taste memory is nothing short of legendary and so this morning I shall fill you in on last night's enjoyment.

Bottom Line: Saint Gregory Pinot Noir 2005 is a heck of a good value.

The story behind this little baby is that some dude out in Mendecino inherited vineyards that his grandfather planted almost one hundred years ago. The dude, who's name is Greg Graziano, has now established 4 labels under which he produces 30 - 40 wines. How he does so with any consistent quality is beyond me, and I hold out the possibilty that the rest of his production is a complete nightmare. As for St. Gregs Pinot, I'm totally there.

The bottle cost me around $18 bucks. I'll admit going in that, despite the back label's claims of a "traditional burgundian winemaking method", I thought this was going to be another Cali fruit bomb as most of that state's production in this price range seems to be. As it turns out this really wasn't the case. Oh, I'll admit the wine was a bit more explosive than one might find produced in France, but the truth is that it demonstrated nice fruit, solid earthiness typical of European approaches and a subtle oaking that made the whole thing come together nicely in the mouth.

This is not a sophisticated wine for aging in the seller, nor is it richly textured. At $18 bucks though, it is a solid choice that can be paired with any hearty meal.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Global Warming = China Syndrome

Oh no! Look at the cute little bears! Why they're in trouble...their home is...it's....it's......


MEEEEELLLLLLTTTTTTIIIIINNNNNGGG!!!

And all because you prefer to motor your way through life, belching carbon, smog and God knows what else into our precious ecosystem! Bad person! Very bad, bad person!

But wait what is THIS.

Well, apparently it's a friggin' lie folks, fed to the fawning media by that bloated wonder Al "The Goreacle" Gore. Read the story. I don't want to spoil anything for you, but it turns out that ice tends to melt in August, and that polar bears can swim. My guess is they'd find Al's bloated carcass pretty tasty too, which would do nature more net good than his ridiculous crusade.

I can't say that any one thing convinced me that the global warming "crisis" was a load of crap, because it was really the sum total of all the goofiness that surrounds the crusade. It's the campaign for government dollars to finance studies, the call by poor countries (read dirty polluters) to put economic constraints on rich countries, and of course, the enforced group think around the global warming elite.

But how did I decide that Global Warming was this decade's China Syndrome? It was when this song, this awful, awful song won an Oscar award. Can anyone listen to this nightmare of a tune and tell me what Oscar winning song in the history of the Oscars was worse? Of course not, because a worse song simply does not exist.

I mean really look at these lyrics:

And as a child
I danced like it was 1999
My dreams were wild
The promise of this new world
Would be mine
Now I am throwing off the carelessness of youth
To listen to an inconvenient truth


"As a child I danced like it was 1999?" What the hell does that mean! "Now I'm throwing off the carelessness of youth to listen to an inconvenient truth"? This is the stuff of Oscar winning songs? My bet is that the only person who listens to this song is Al Gore while he preens in the mirror and says all those comforting words that the shrink gave to him to get over "The Loss".

Oh this song has it all preachy lyrics, hopelessly ridiculous rhymes, and of course the natural presumption that if one doesn't agree then one is either stupid, asleep or evil. Most likely all three.

What this world needs is not another folk singer, croaking out a song about environmental science that she can't possibly begin to understand, nor do we need a bloated ex-veep with too much time on his hands. Nope what we need is a good cold snap so that these folks can go back to worrying about THIS.