What’s Your Region: a VIP Blogger Roundtable
February 10, 2011
Just because we aren’t next door neighbors doesn’t mean we can’t share our love for all things grilling. Take, for example, our VIP bloggers. Each comes from a different part of the country and each brings their unique regional twists to the ongoing series of recipes and commentary they provide here. Today, we get up close and personal with three of our VIPs, exploring what it is that makes grilling in their “neck of the woods” so special. And be sure to stay tuned next week for another group of bloggers.
First of all, would you mind providing a brief description of you and your blog?
Larry Gaian, The BBQ Grail: I started the BBQ Grail Blog, in 2007, as a way to keep track of my outdoor cooking experiences as I searched for the perfect BBQ experience. An experience that has eluded me so far. My passion is combining non-traditional BBQ ingredients with traditional American old school BBQ and grilling techniques. This year I will be emphasizing the fusion of Asian flavor profiles with my normal BBQ flavor profiles.
I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints where I enjoy cooking for any church function they allow me burn some meat. In 2008 I needed an additional appetizer for a friend’s wedding. I came up with what would become an internet BBQ sensation the MOINK Ball. An all beef meatball, wrapped in Bacon. A little bit of MOO and a little bit of OINK. The MOINK Ball.
Chris Grove, Nibble Me This: I’m a 40-something guy that just enjoys cooking outdoors for my family. My blog Nibble Me This (www.nibblemethis.com) is just my way of recording the fun I have cooking on my grills and smokers. I enjoy doing traditional BBQ such as pulled pork, ribs, chicken and brisket. I also like grilling the classics like burgers, kabobs, and chicken. But my focus is primarily on our fun lifestyle of spending 4-5 nights a week cooking outside, year round. That means finding new dishes for the grill, experimenting with unfamiliar ingredients, and trying to adapt indoor recipes to live fire cooking.
Dave DeWitt, Fiery Foods: Dave DeWitt, “The Pope of Peppers” here. We have the huge Fiery Foods & Barbecue super site, and Dave’s Fiery Front Page is the blog portion of it for the latest news, articles, events, and happenings based chilies, fiery foods, & BBQ.
What part of the country do you reside in?
The BBQ Grail: I call Rocklin, California home. It’s a great place to live. Close to the mountains where camping and dutch oven cooking is an option and close to the ocean where fresh seafood is abundant. Northern California has everything an outdoor cooking enthusiast could want.
Nibble Me This: We live in Knoxville, Tennessee, in eyesight of the Great Smoky Mountains. It is a beautiful region. I spent my entire life until my early thirties on the beaches of Florida but when we moved here, I felt “home.”
Fiery Foods: We are located in Albuquerque, New Mexico where chilies in all their variations are the primary spice–and food, in some cases–of both Southwestern cuisines and now, barbecue all over the world.
Regions play such an important role in barbecue and grilling. What techniques, ingredients or flavor profiles would you say set your neck of the woods apart from the crowd?
The BBQ Grail: California really is a great fusion of all flavors and techniques from all across the US and the World. Living so close to San Francisco provides me the opportunity to experience the Asian flavors and cultures that I strive to incorporate into my cooking. There isn’t one over-riding cooking technique or flavor that stands out for California. Not only is California a melting pot for people, it’s a melting pot for their food too.
Nibble Me This: When people think of Tennessee BBQ, naturally they think about Memphis style with its dry rub ribs and sweet sauces. But we are on the border of North Carolina and are equally influenced by the East North Carolina and Piedmont styles too. In fact, I’d say Knoxville is closer to North Carolina style than Memphis style. Here you can get ribs and chicken (and even brisket at select locations) but it seems to me that in East Tennessee, “BBQ” means pulled pork.
Moving to Knoxville did get me to start eating slaw on top of my pulled pork sandwiches. Hickory also seems to be the default wood around here.
Fiery Foods: We are heavily influenced by Mexican cuisines and our readers rate that as their favorite.
Any signature regional dishes in your bag of grilling tricks?
The BBQ Grail: I offer up the MOINK Ball. Not so much for it’s regionality, but because of the simplicity and ease of preparation it provides. This year I’ll be developing Asian flavor recipes that use American BBQ techniques.
Nibble Me This: My favorite finishing sauce for pulled pork is one my grandmother in North Carolina gave me before she died. It’s kind of a cross between East Carolina and Piedmont style. I like to toss my pulled pork in a LIGHT amount of it and folks around here love it, even the ones that say they only like thick sweet sauces and hate vinegar based ones.
Fiery Foods: Chile rubbed and mesquite grilled ribeyes is one of my favorites that we’ll be featuring.
Are there any other regional tastes you tend to rely heavily on or are considered your favorites?
The BBQ Grail: I don’t really rely on one regional flavors. One of the things I enjoy about writing The BBQ Grail is using as many different techniques or flavors as I can. Whether it’s coming up with a Miso Smoke Braised Pork Belly or a Chicken Gizzard Monkey Bread I love to try wild and crazy stuff.
Nibble Me This: My other “regional” dish is using Alabama white sauce as a grilling sauce (yeah, I know the Gibson’s and Chris Lilly don’t use it that way) for chicken that we call “dip and flip chicken.” That kind of proves the point about Knoxville and East Tennessee, we are kind of BBQ mutts. We take after a little bit of all the regions around us (Memphis, North Carolina, and Alabama).
Finally, are there any regions or particular specialties you’ve always wanted to try in person or perhaps even try your own hand at making?
The BBQ Grail: I’ve always wanted to cook a whole hog. And this summer I hope to accomplish that goal. I’d love to come up with some American BBQ Sushi. It’s been done before, but always with Asian flavor profiles. I want to use Asian techniques with American BBQ flavors. Come on, admit it, a sushi roll that tasted just like a Pulled Pork sandwich with coleslaw, or a Reuben sandwich would be something you’d want to try?
Nibble Me This: The two types that I want to try first hand in the next year or two are true Texas BBQ and a West coast tri-tip cooked on a Santa Maria cooker.
- Clint Cantwell, Guest Editor