Thanks to you and my buddy KC in San Francisco, I have a new obssession to add to my list. Football season's right around the corner, and between the obssession with football, grilling, and pairing a fine cigar with the right whiskey, it's given a whole new meaning to Sundays for me. My girlfriend won't be too happy but, as long as she gives me one day a week and I don't start calling her my "grill"friend instead of my "girl"friend, everything should be OK.
I'd recently traveled across country by car, stopping at the Salt Lick BBQ in Driftwood, TX, Ruby's BBQ in Austin, TX, and Neely's Bar-B-Que Restaurant in Memphis, TN. It was at these places that the seeds of my obssession were sown, not just from the amazing food I'd had the priviledge of eating, but from the kindness of the people at the restaurants, who were nice enough to let me see their pits. The Salt Lick let me walk right through the kitchen to take pictures and ask questions. At Ruby's, I met Luke Zimmermann, President of the Central Texas BBQ Association, who was equally as hospitable.
Then, after I decided I would try my hand at smoked brisket and pulled pork, my boy KC recommended your How to Grill book to me, and my obssession blossomed, as it were. He's been grilling for years, and he even consults the book to this day. Anyway, as my ambition occasionally outweighs my abilities, I went ahead and plunked down some cash on a Charbroil barrel smoker, determined to get into this thing called barbecue and share some wisdom with my family for 4th of July weekend, as they'd never really had true barbecue before.
So, as we were to be eating for 2pm, I got up at 3am, had brisket on the grill by 4am, pork shoulder on the grill by 5, and everything was (thankfully) done on time. To make a long story less long, I used your recipes for the brisket and pork, plus I made your baked bean recipe, Texas BBQ sauce, and the white BBQ sauce from your book, with a couple of minor tweaks in some of the recipes (my father makes some grappa-based coffee liquer, which I added to the Texas BBQ sauce for an extra kick - awesome!). My guests, who all thought I was completely insane for getting up at 3am to start cooking, didn't seem to mind it when they scarfed up everything I had leaving no leftovers, except for a small amount of the baked beans. Everything seemed to come out great, and I must say I was pretty pleased with myself, considering it was my first solo smoking venture.
I probably won't be getting up so early again to cook in the near future, but honestly, there was a certain serene joy in being alone with the grill, getting up in the pitch black of night, getting the grill going, watching the sunrise, and having my folks wake up to the smell of hickory-smoked goodness. My friends and family think I'm crazy? They have no idea, and we all have you to thank/blame. Let me know if you're ever in Brooklyn, and I'll nake you taste some of that coffee liquer. Take care.
Joe in Brooklyn