Tag Archives: North Carolina

Review: Country Chef Honey Grilling Sauce

I’m a firm believer in Mike Espey’s line of Country Chef Grilling Sauces.  They stand out from other sauces because they really emphasize freshness in their flavor profiles.  I’ve done a couple of reviews on this line of sauces which you can view here and here.  Today let’s check out the Country Chef Honey Grilling Sauce.

NAKED OBSERVATIONS

The sauce pours out very thick, and you immediately notice the different spices and ingredients.  This holds true to how Mike constructs his sauces, emphasizing the freshness of the ingredients.  The color is consistent with a homemade tomato sauce, which works in the context that he is presenting the sauce.

I took a taste, and this sauce holds true with the other sauces in this line that I’ve tried so far.  This is a very non-traditional sauce in terms of consistency and taste, but it is very pleasant.  Again, it tastes very FRESH!  I could taste a very faint touch of honey, but it does not overpower everything else going on in the sauce.

TO THE MEAT OF THE MATTER

Yep… it’s that blasted chicken again.  This is the third and final sauce I used in the big test cook I performed over the weekend.  I trimmed up six chicken thighs and seasoned them with chicken rub from Bandiola Spice Co.  After grilling the thighs for 10 minutes skin-side down, I flipped them and sauced them.  The thighs using the Country Chef Honey Grilling Sauce are the two to the left of the mustard.

After about 20 additional minutes on the grill, I pulled them off the Weber kettle and plated.  While they were resting, I decided to grab a quick picture.

When I took a bite of the chicken, my taste buds started dancing in my mouth and jumping for joy.  The sauce really enhanced the flavors that were already present in the chicken.  The honey was more prevalent after cooking on the chicken than when tasting alone.  All in all, an excellent sauce!

You can find Country Chef Grilling sauce on Facebook.  I’m not sure if there is a website yet for this line of sauce, but you can connect with Mike on the Facebook page.  As far as I can tell, you can purchase six jars of sauce for $35.94 shipped to anywhere in the US.  This comes out to be $3.50 per jar plus shipping, which is a great deal!

Contest Bites: Dimples BBQ Sauce + T-Shirt Giveaway

Hope everyone is enjoying their weekend!  I’ve seen this contest mentioned over the last couple of days and wanted to get the word out.  Dimples BBQ Sauce is giving away a bottle of their totally awesome BBQ Sauce (which I’ve recently reviewed) as well as a t-shirt.  The contest ends today (November 6) at 8:00pm EST.

So how do you enter?  It’s simple!  You can enter in one of two ways:

Enjoy!

Grillin’ and Chillin’ on Main in Waxhaw, NC

First off, I owe a great big thank you to my wonderful wife!  This contest fell on our wedding anniversary, and she was still okay with me going to judge.  She rocks!!

A few weeks ago, I was judging at the Sam’s Club contest in Greensboro, NC.  During the break between the judges’ meeting and the start of the judging, we were approached and asked if we wanted to judge a competition on the 9th of October in Waxhaw, NC (about 30 minutes from the Charlotte city limits).  I submitted my application, and before I know it I was in!

Sixteen teams competed in the professional division, while seven teams competed in the backyard division.  This contest was the first contest that I have experienced where there was not 100% KCBS certified judges.  The table I sat at had a 50/50 split of certified judges and non-certified judges.  It made for a very interesting dynamic.  I also had the pleasure of having George Goodyear as my table captain for this competition.  As Kevin Sandridge of BBQSmokerSite.com got to experience first hand at a competition in Salisbury, NC, George is a vast wealth of BBQ knowledge and experience and did a superb job as our table captain.

As for the event itself, it was very well organized and put together.  The venue for the contest was right in the middle of downtown Waxhaw, a very picturesque and cute downtown area.  If I wasn’t on a schedule and forced to depart early, I could’ve explored the downtown area.  The contest itself was in its second year, but this year was the first as a KCBS sanctioned contest.  It was very well organized.  So to everyone who was involved with organizing the contest, thank you!

Taking Grand Champion at Grillin’ and Chillin’ on Main was Uncle Mac’s BBQ Crue, with Palmetto Smokehouse taking Reserve Grand Champion.  The full results of the contest can be found on the KCBS website.

Below are a few pictures I was able to capture from the venue.  Hope you enjoy them!

Quick Contest: Free Dimples BBQ Sauce

This is a quick “post and run” blog post while I’m on my lunch break.  I just came across a great contest while browsing Facebook courtesy of Dimple’s BBQ Sauce.

Dimple's BBQ Sauce.

Dimple's BBQ Sauce. Image courtesy of Dimple's BBQ Sauce.

I have not had an opportunity to review this sauce yet, but my good friend Wilfred Reinke has given it a very good review!    The contest is for a free bottle of Dimple’s BBQ Sauce, and it’s super easy to enter:

  1. Like the Dimple’s BBQ Sauce page on Facebook.
  2. Suggest a new sauce flavor by posting on their wall.

Winner will be chosen on Monday by random number generation.  If you do enter, tell them that Big Wayner’s BBQ Blog sent you.  I would greatly appreciate it!

(NOTE: I’m not affiliated with the contest or sponsoring the contest in any way.)

Review: Hubba Hubba Smokehouse — Flat Rock, NC

One of my favorite blogs to follow is Kevin’s BBQ Joints.  Earlier this year, I was reading a blog post talking about the favorite BBQ joints of Amy Mills Tunnicliffe.  When I saw Hubba Hubba Smokehouse in Flat Rock, NC mentioned, my first thought was, “Hey, that’s close to my in-laws!”  Well this past weekend, my father-in-law and I decided to give it a shot.

Hubba Hubba Smokehouse

Hubba Hubba Smokehouse

If you’re not keeping your eye out as you drive, you may very well miss this joint!  It is set off the road behind a collection of shops and eateries in Flat Rock, NC.  There is no indoor seating — instead, there are multiple outdoor seats available ranging from picnic tables to covered seating areas.  Ordering is done at one window, and food is picked up from the other.  One thing that gave me encouragement was the big woodpile.  According to the website for the smokehouse, they are supposedly one of only 30 wood-fired smokehouses in the state of North Carolina.

The wood pile

The wood pile

Watch out for the chickens!

Watch out for the chickens!

Both my father-in-law and I decided to order the pork plate — I ordered mine with cole slaw and potato salad, while he ordered his with cole slaw and baked beans.

Pulled Pork with Cole Slaw and Potato Salad

Pulled Pork with Cole Slaw and Potato Salad

The pulled pork had good flavor.  It was not overly smoky, and I could actually taste the meat and not some sauce.  The one word to describe the slaw — fresh.  The slaw had very little liquid base and almost consisted entirely of veggie goodness.  The potato salad had a very interesting flavor — it was a blend of a white potato salad and a classic yellow potato salad.

While ordering, I saw a slew of sauces at the counter (try saying that 3 times fast…).  I decided to get a sample of each and give them a shot.

The Sauces

The Sauces (from L to R: original, mustard, vinegar, chipotle, tomatillo)

I was expecting the tomato sauce to be a little bit sweeter, but it tasted fine by itself.  It gave the pork a little more flavor as well.  The mustard-based sauce is your classic SC mustard sauce and would work well on a pulled pork sandwich.  The vinegar sauce holds true to the eastern Carolina style vinegar based sauce.  The chipotle had a nice smoky kick to it — not overpowering, but enough to balance out the flavors.  The tomatillo sauce was interesting — it reminded me of some grilling sauces I’ve had in the past in terms of its fresh taste.

All in all, I enjoyed the trip to Hubba Hubba Smokehouse and would not hesitate to return there again.

Hubba Hubba Smokehouse is located at 2724 Greenville Highway, Flat Rock, NC 28731.  Their website is http://www.hubbahubbasmokehouse.com/, and they can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

Best Of: Independence Day Edition

Whew!  It’s a hot one here in the Carolinas here this weekend.  Hope all of you being hit with the heat are staying cool and hydrated.  If not, take a few minutes, cool off, and check out some of these stories…

  • What are some of the great truths about BBQ?  Add yours to this blog post courtesy of Larry Gaian.  Who knows, if it’s good enough, you may get a prize…
  • My wife pointed me to this really good article on the Charlotte Observer website this morning that talks about some of the NC BBQ joints that still cook the old-fashioned way.
  • Some time back, I wrote a small piece on why members of the BBQ community should embrace social media.  Here is a great piece by Kevin Kelly outlining four different tips to maximize social media presence.
  • The crazy folks at BarBQBoozers got Gary Glen on board for a guest blog post about beef short ribs.  Now I’m getting hungry!
  • Tired of screwing up a good boneless pork chop on the grill?  Check out this easy-to-follow article from Cyndi Allison on how to grill perfect chops every time!

Review: Midwood Smokehouse — Charlotte, NC

A couple of weeks ago, I heard rumor of a new BBQ joint opening up in Charlotte.  As I read more and more about it, I started getting excited and determined that I just had to check this new place out soon.  Well that new place is Midwood Smokehouse, and I took the opportunity today to check it out before having to head in to the office.

Midwood Smokehouse

Midwood Smokehouse

Nestled in the Plaza-Midwood neighborhood of Charlotte, NC, Midwood Smokehouse is the newest restaurant opened by longtime Charlotte restauranteur Frank Scibelli.  Scibelli is the brain child behind several popular Charlotte restaurants such as Big Daddy’s Burger Bar and Paco’s Tacos and Tequila.  As noted in an interview with Charlotte Magazine, Scibelli’s restaurant fully intends to produce serious, authentic BBQ using a cooker fueled by nothing but wood (thank you for the correction regarding this).  To accomplish this goal, he traveled around North Carolina to research the state’s well-known pork barbecue joints, and he also collaborated with James Beard award winner Robb Walsh on the intricacies of Texas barbecue (read: brisket).  My task for today was to see how close he came to meeting this goal.

While the location of the restaurant may be in a trendy part of the city, the interior decor was inviting.  A mirror behind the bar stated the daily specials as well as some rather interesting one-liners:

The bar with its specials

The bar with its specials

Good Wood, Big Racks, Great Times

Good Wood, Big Racks, Great Times

Since Midwood Smokehouse has been open for less than two weeks, the menu was a little limited.  However, plenty of options were still available, ranging from Eastern Carolina style pork to brisket to sausage made on the premises.  After perusing the menu, I ordered a half-rack of ribs (St. Louis style) with a side of BBQ baked beans.  I requested that the ribs be sauced.  In addition, I ordered an additional side of bacon-wrapped jalapenos stuffed with cheese (which I lovingly refer to as ABTs, or atomic buffalo turds).  The server was very pleasant, taking her time to go through several of the menu options and offer her personal recommendations.  After about 10 minutes, my order arrived.

My order -- ribs

My order -- ribs

The first thing I notice is that the ribs were served with sauce on the side instead of being glazed on the ribs (as I expected).  The food certainly looked appetizing, and I will get to my thoughts on the food shortly.  As I was taking pictures of my food, the general manager came over to my table.  I introduced myself to him (as I emailed him a few days ago about arranging a time to see their smoker), and he immediately offered to bring me a sampling of their other menu items.  How could I possibly refuse?  As if I wasn’t already starting to feel full enough, out comes a sampling of pork, brisket, prime rib, sausage, and other goodies.

A sampling of meats

A sampling of meats

Smoked Prime Rib and Brisket

Smoked Prime Rib and Brisket

In addition, I also got to sample all of the sauces that Midwood Smokehouse offers as well as a small sample of collard greens.  Now on to the verdict…

The ribs had an excellent flavor. The meat was not too smoky, and I could actually taste the pork rather than an overabundance of rub to mask the flavor of the meat.  However, there were two things I immediately noticed:

  • The back membrane had been left on the rack when it was cooked.
  • The rib meat pulled right off the bone without any resistance, which signified that they were a bit overcooked.

The sausage was a very mild sausage.  It had a bit of a crumbly texture.  Since I’m not an expert on how authentic Texas-style sausage should taste, I won’t give an opinion on that.  The brisket was good, with a nice texture and taste.

The pork was, in short, PERFECT!  It had a perfect savory flavor, and the texture was on point (and not mushy like a lot of Eastern Carolina style pork can be).  Honestly, the pork did not need any sauce, but I decided to try it with the vinegar-based sauce.  The sauce added an extra dimension to the pork.

Finally, the prime rib…  why didn’t someone introduce me to smoked prime rib before?  Completely and totally droolworthy!  This one is definitely on my repeat list.

So would I recommend this BBQ joint?  Absolutely, with no reservations whatsoever!

The website for Midwood Smokehouse is http://www.midwoodsmokehouse.com.  You can also find them on Facebook here.  They are located at 1401 Central Ave., Charlotte, NC 28205.  

Midwood Smokehouse on Urbanspoon

Confessions of a First-Time KCBS Judge

As a lot of you probably already know, I like barbecue a little bit.  If you didn’t know that… well now you know.  In October of last year, I finally broke down and joined the Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS).  Soon after joining, I learn that there would be a judging class in November of that same year not too far from where I live.  I took the class and joined that elite society known as KCBS judges.

With my newly anointed judgedom, I set off in search of competitions to which I could apply to be a judge.  One of the first competitions I was accepted to judge for was the Firehouse BBQ Cookoff in Kings Mountain, NC.  For those who are interested in the results, you can find them here.  As the day grew closer, I started to get a little more nervous.  Even though the judging class was very thorough in covering what to expect for judging a competition, I was still not sure what to expect.

For those of you who do not know, KCBS-sanctioned competitions have four main meat categories: chicken, ribs, pork, and brisket.  These categories are judged according to set criteria.  Each individual contest may have additional ancillary categories, but they each have the four meats.

Once I walked in and was given my assigned table, it was like an episode of Cheers — where everyone knows your name.  The others at the same table as me were all very friendly and pleasant to talk to and made this newcomer feel welcome!  Once again, my perception of BBQ people being absolutely genuine held true!

Now to my opinions on the food… it was all excellent!  Each piece of chicken, rib, serving of pork, and brisket was all very tasty.  Obviously some were more tasty than others.  The one thing I did notice — especially with ribs and chicken — is that an overly sweet sauce was used as a glaze on the meat.  Now I don’t mind sauce on chicken or ribs… but the sauces seem to take away from the meat rather than enhance it.  The sauces seem to be just sweet and didn’t really have any depth to them.  I’m not sure if this is a trend in competitions nowadays.  Maybe one of the competitors can give me some insight into it.

All in all, the money and time invested in becoming a judge was absolutely worth it!  The Firehouse BBQ Cookoff was well organized and fun to judge.  I’m looking forward to future competitions and hopefully applying to judge the Firehouse BBQ Cookoff again!

Review: Jim ‘n Nick’s Bar-B-Q — Charlotte, NC

My search for the best barbecue places in the Charlotte area continued recently with a visit to Jim ‘n Nick’s Bar-B-Q in Charlotte, NC.  Jim ‘n Nick’s has 28 locations in 7 different states and prides itself in cooking its ‘que low and slow and making everything from scratch.  I’ve heard good things regarding Jim ‘n Nick’s, so I decided to give it a shot.

Jim 'n Nick's Bar-B-Q -- Charlotte, NC

Jim 'n Nick's Bar-B-Q -- Charlotte, NC

I confess that I got excited when I parked and saw a nice sized wood pile on one side of the building and a pull-behind smoker on the other side.

Pull-behind cooker at Jim 'n Nicks

Pull-behind cooker at Jim 'n Nicks

Once inside, I place my order.  The server was a touch slow to come over and take my order, especially considering that the restaurant was not busy at all.  I decided on a combination platter with spare ribs, hot links, pulled pork, and chicken.  For my sides, I picked BBQ baked beans and onion rings.  I chose the hot links as one of the meats since they were featured by the restaurant at the Big Apple BBQ Block Party.

I was a little surprised when they brought out cheese biscuits instead of hush puppies to go along with the meal.  However, the biscuits were very tasty.

Cheese Biscuits

Cheese Biscuits

After a little while, my plate comes out of the kitchen.  Wow, that’s a lot of food!

The combo plate... it's huge!

The combo plate... it's huge!

The onion rings -- even bigger!

The onion rings -- even bigger!

Before digging in, I saw there were 2 different sauces available on the table.  Why yes, I do think I’ll try them out…

BBQ Sauces

BBQ Sauces

On the right is the original BBQ sauce.  It has a little lighter color than ketchup.  A naked taste tells me that it’s not overly sweet and a little bit bold.  The sauce on the left is the hot habanero sauce.  There is more molasses present in this sauce.  It is a bit sweeter than the original sauce, and it has a good amount of heat.

On to the food…  all of the meats came out pre-sauced.  I usually prefer that it not be sauced, but this is just a personal preference.  The pulled pork was very moist and flavorful.  The sauce worked well with the pork.  However, I could not detect any hints of the meat being smoked.  The chicken was also very tender and moist.  The cut I was given was a bit unusual — I was given a breast and wing rather than a leg quarter.  Not quite bite-thru skin, but that’s okay.  It was still flavorful.

Now on to the hot links…  I could instantly see why they were the featured item.  The sausage was extremely tasty.  Perfectly cooked and just the right amount of heat…  that made for a tasty treat!  The disappointment for me was the ribs.  I could see that they were smoked.  However, they were dry and overdone.

And now to the sides: the BBQ baked beans were adequate.  They contained bits and pieces of pork shoulder.  I would have liked for them to be a little bit more bold.  The onion rings, on the other hand…  WOW!  Those were some fine onion rings.  I could’ve made a meal on them, mainly because they were so many.  They were very crispy and very large.

Overall, I was a little bit disappointed with Jim ‘n Nick’s Bar-B-Q in Charlotte.  Maybe it’s one of those places where the food is much better for dinner than for lunch, and maybe other locations are just better.  Again, some items were excellent (the hot links, for example), but I guess I just had higher expectations.

Jim ‘n Nick’s Bar-B-Q is located at 13840 Steele Creek Rd., Charlotte, NC 28278.  The website is  http://www.jimnnicks.com.

Jim 'n Nick's Barbecue on Urbanspoon

Review: Bill Spoon’s Barbecue — Charlotte, NC

For a city the size of Charlotte, there’s not much there in the way of outstanding barbecue. There are several adequate places, and there are even a couple that are good. But in the years that I’ve lived here, the only place that I have tried that I would call excellent is Mac’s Speed Shop.  However, I kept hearing about Bill Spoon’s Barbecue, so I decided to give it a shot one day for lunch.

Bill Spoon's Barbecue

Bill Spoon's Barbecue

Bill Spoon’s Barbecue is located on South Blvd. in Charlotte, NC.  They pride themselves on serving Eastern Carolina style barbecue by cooking the whole hog.  For those of you unfamiliar with the barbecue culture in North Carolina, Eastern Carolina style barbecue consists of cooking the entire hog, finely chopping the meat from the various parts of the pig, and serving it all together. The sauce is generally a very thin vinegar-based sauce.

I walk in and get seated and immediately feel at home.  The atmosphere was a very down-home comfortable atmosphere.  The tables all had yellow checkered tablecloths, and the wood paneling made me feel a bit nostalgic.

Covert shot of dining room

Covert shot of dining room

Bill Spoon’s prides itself on serving the whole hog, so I decided to order the small barbecue plate with beans as my side.  The waitress was extremely friendly.  Less than five minutes later, out comes my plate of food!

Small barbecue plate with beans

Small barbecue plate with beans

The star of this plate is the pork.  It was chopped very fine, but the texture was not mushy at all.  I could see that some sort of sauce was applied to it, but the pork was not drowned in the sauce.  It had a very nice flavor.  I added some of the Eastern Carolina style sauce to the pork, and it added a nice bite with some kick.

Pork closeup

Pork closeup -- sorry about the fuzzy picture

I forgot to mention the hush puppies…  with every barbecue dinner, they have bottomless hush puppies!  WOOHOO!!  The hush puppies were extremely fresh — nice and crunchy on the outside, and very moist on the inside.  The only drawback was that they were just a little bit on the salty side.

Hush Puppies

Hush Puppies

The slaw was something different that I had not experienced since starting my barbecue adventures — it was a mustard-based slaw.  I would normally not eat a mustard-based slaw, but it complemented the barbecue quite well.  Thus, it did exactly what it was supposed to do.  The beans, quite frankly, were bland and mostly forgettable.  But I was hungry, and I ate them anyway.

Happy barbecue plate

Happy barbecue plate

I also read somewhere that they had excellent banana pudding, so I just had to try it out when I saw it available on today’s menu.  When it came out, it was a little smaller portion than I had expected.  However, the taste of the banana pudding was very nice.  There were layers upon layers upon layers of wafers in the pudding, giving the pudding that nice crunch in addition to the pudding taste.  The pudding component was very fresh, although I kept wondering if I tasted just a faint hint of lemon in the pudding.

Banana pudding

Banana pudding

All in all, I enjoyed eating at Bill Spoon’s.  I’m not sure it quite surpasses Mac’s Speed Shop in the excellence factor, I have no qualms whatsoever in putting it in a solid 2nd place when it comes to the best barbecue in Charlotte.

Bill Spoon's Barbecue on Urbanspoon