Wicked Good Barbecue – Book Review

Wicked Good Barbecue – Book Review

Wicked Good Barbecue

For Father’s Day I received a copy of Chris Hart and Andy Husbands barbecue book, “Wicked Good Barbecue” from my son Liam.  This book has been on my wish list for a while and I was quite pleased that as a 6 month old he remembered. Smart Kid!  I have been reading it for a while now and realized that it is so good that I need to do a review of it on my blog.

A little background.  Chris Hart and Andy Husbands are professional barbecuers who won the Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational Barbecue Competition with their team IQUE.  I have competed against Chris Hart a couple of times and he knows what is up.  Most recently I competed against Chris Hart at the Sam’s Club Qualifier out on Long Island, NY.  I had him over to my bbq camp and he was gracious enough to sign my book.  I picked his brain a bit and I must say that these guys know what is up.  These guys have the credential and their book did hold up to the hype.

Usually when you get a barbecue book you get a watered down boring book that has a rub recipe.  This book puts all prior barbecue books to shame. Not only did they include the recipe for their rub and sauce, they included their method of cooking competition chicken.  All 25 steps.  As a competitor I was amazed that they actually gave all of the steps.  You could follow the recipe and place in the top ten at any contest with the recipe in the book.  This is amazing!

The one recipe that totally threw me was the Seven-Layer Dip of Disbelief.  We are talking about a dip with the following layers.

  1. Old Bay Shredded Beef Short Ribs
  2. Crab Remoulade
  3. Beef Tartare
  4. Smoked Salmon Spread
  5. Creamed Spinach
  6. Celery Root Puree
  7. Blue Cheese Crumble
  8. Then they threw in another layer of bread crumbs for good measure.
That is the most insane dip ever.  When I ran into Chris I had to ask if he actually made the dip.  It seemed to crazy for anyone to try.  He said that he did indeed try it and that it is great, and each component is great on its own.  With one recipe he got in 8 total recipes.  Genius!
Overall this is a great book.  It covers all of the basic KCBS categories.  The rib recipe is the recipe he used to win the Jack.  Can’t beat that.  I totally recommend this book.  You can pick it up at your favorite bookseller or online at Amazon.


Book Review: Weber’s Charcoal Grilling

Book Review: Weber’s Charcoal Grilling

Jamie Purviance has done it again. Weber’s Charcoal Grilling is the perfect book for the summer.  This book has all of the basics for the beginner and over a hundred recipes that even an expert would love.  This is the best book I have come across for the charcoal lover.

When Weber puts their name on something it has to be quality. From the Grills to the Grill tools to the Cookbooks. When they say step-by-step they really mean step-by-step. They include photos on how to prepare the grill, prepare the meat and vegetables and proper ways to cook the meat and vegetables. I love this book as each recipe is written in a similar way to my blog posts. Straight forward, step-by-step photos with a little character thrown in for a little extra pizazz.

As soon as I opened this book I started planning meals.  The first recipe that I tried was the BLT salad.  With charred bread croutons and fire roasted tomatoes, this was a salad for men and women alike.  Heck, the main ingredient is bacon.  Who could not love this salad.  After making it, I declare, All salads made by me must have fire roasted tomatoes on them.  It was one of the most delicious salads I have ever eaten.

Overall this is my new favorite cookbook ever.  Just like Weber’s/Purviance’s other book, It takes the mystery out of grilling.  It is a single resource that includes everything a griller would need to know.  If you know a person that just picked up a grill or a long time griller that could use a few new tricks to spice up the summer barbecue, you should get them this book.  I consider myself a pretty experienced griller and this book has taught me a few new tricks.

On a side note – If you are Jamie Purviance and you ever find yourself in Richmond, VA email me.  I would love to share some recipes and grill.

Weber’s Charcoal Grilling is available wherever books are sold and is available on Amazon here.

Columbia Firehouse

109 South Saint Asaph Street
Alexandria, VA 22314-3119
(703) 683-1776

Columbia Firehouse is located in Old Town Alexandria in the same space as the old Bookbinder Steakhouse.  Walking in I thought I was still in Bookbinders.  If you didn’t see the name out front, you wouldn’t know walking into the restaurant. Almost as if they did not even change anything at all.

The building is nice. It is full of rich woodwork, stained glass and even has a atrium dining room. I was seated in the atrium dining room for my meal. It nice but rather noisy. The service was a little slow and the server had to be asked about the specials (pet peeve). I originally went to Columbia Firehouse with Ryan and Melissa for Restaurant Week, but after glancing over the menu we decided to order off the menu.  There was only one entree that could be combined with one appetizer on the whole menu that could add up with dessert to be $35.09.  To make matters worse, neither of those options were available on the Restaurant Week menu.

Read more

Book Review: The Scandinavian Cookbook

Every Wednesday I review a cookbook to help weed out the good the bad and the ugly. This week I am reviewing The Scandinavian Cookbook by Trina Hahnemann.  When I saw this book I had to have it.  Being Scandinavian in descent, I wanted to learn more about traditional Scandinavian cooking.  Yes, I am Swedish.  Hej – (“hello”).  This book covers recipes from all over Scandinavia, from Denmark to Norway and yes Sweden.

This cookbook is organized very differently than most. Actually, it is organized in a unique and extremely cool way. It is organized by month of the year, and the different types of food that you would eat during each month. Not just comfort food, but by the types of food that are in season. Seasonal cooking is a great to way to help the environment. Fresh corn shouldn’t be available in the winter. If it is, it has been shipped from halfway around the globe to your table. There is a lot of energy wasted in shipping food. Enough of me preaching, back to the book.

The cookbook starts out in January and goes through the months all the way to December. Along with the recipes there are a ton of great photographs of the food and seasonal pictures from all around Scandinavia. The photographs are amazing. Lars Renek is the man behind the beautiful photographs in this book. Bravo, Lars! Bravo! Even if I couldn’t read, this book would be amazing because of the photographs.

The recipes are equally amazing. A lot of the recipes are for Smørrebrød which are Danish open faced sandwiches.  They are preferably made with rye bread and are served with aquavit and beer.  They had me at sandwich and only sweetened the deal with the aquavit and beer.  The Smørrebrød come in all different types.  From flounder and shrimp with basil dressing to chicken and lovage salad.  I must admit, I had no idea what lovage was.  Lovage is a perrenial plant that resembles celery.  My favorite Smørrebrød that was in the book had to be the smoked cheese salad on rye.  Wow, a cheese salad.  The cheese used in the book is rygeost which is a soft smoked cheese from Denmark, but they say you can substitute smoked ricotta.  Along with cheese it uses a lot of the same ingredients that you would put into a tuna or chicken salad, but you substitute cheese for protein.  Amazing!  Why didn’t I think of this.  Scandinavian people are awesome!

The book also covers seasonal drinks.  From hot chocolate in the winter to red currant and strawberry smoothies in the summer.  Not all of the drinks are alcohol free.  Take for instance the elderflower cordial that utilizes fresh elderflowers picked when they bloom in June.  The elderflower cordial is diluted with champagne for a fresh taste of summer.

Being a Scandinavian cookbook there are plenty of seafood recipes.  There are recipes for almost every type of seafood.  From flounder to salmon to mussels to lumpfish roe.  I love seafood and usually find myself preparing most of it the same way.  For some reason when it comes to seafood, I am not creative.  This book has sparked my interest.  There is a recipe in here for cauliflower soup with grilled scallops.  The creamy cauliflower soup with the smokey grilled scallops topped with lemon, sounds delicious.  I am totally going to make this and post about it.

In all, I loved this book.  I love that it is organized by month and by what is in season.  It totally takes the guess work out of what to cook.  Open the book, turn to the current month, and make something amazing.  Although the cauliflower soup is listed in November, all of the ingredients are in season here in Washington, D.C.  It is my lucky day.  I would totally recommend picking up this book.  The recipes, pictures and stories are worth it.   Trina Hahnemann has written a great book.

The Scandinavian Cookbook is available wherever books are sold and is available on Amazon here.

Book Review: 1001 Foods To Die For

Every Wednesday I review a cookbook to help weed out the good the bad and the ugly. This week I am reviewing 1001 Foods To Die For with Introduction by Corby Kummer. I have never been so excited to read a book.  I saw the name of this cookbook and I had to read it.  1001 foods that you must eat before you die, is that a statement or a challenge.  Either way, I am in. I love food and a book that introduces me to new cuisines and foods is exactly what I am looking for.

Read more

Book Review – 25 Essential Techniques for Grilling


Every wednesday I review a cookbook to help weed out the good the bad and the ugly. This week I am reviewing 25 essential techniques for grilling by Ardie A. Davis. I love barbecuing and grilling and this book is right up my alley.

Ardie A. Davis

Ardie is an award winning expert with his own barbecue university. Artie founded the Greasehouse University. The degree program at the Greasehouse University is is a doctor of barbecue philosophy and is overseen by the Kasas City Barbecue Society. Artie is now a famed judge on the barbecue circuit. Story short, Ardie knows barbecue.Artie starts the book off like every good barbecue book going over the basics of smoking. He goes over the tools required, the methods needed and basics of starting to smoke. His essentials include the basics of choosing wood. As you know the wood gives the unique flavor of each dish. Ardie suggests wood for each meat and further goes on to suggest woods to stay away from. For instance, mesquite on chicken would be too bitter and alder on beef would be too mild. As a barbecue expert you may already know this and brush it off, but as a newbie, this information is awesome.At first look one would think that this book is a beginner picture book as it has a hard cover and does not have the the thickness of many other cookbooks. But this book is a great reference book for both experts and beginners. Ardie Davis covers everything from starting the grill to glazing the food after you take it off the fire. The recipes that are included in this book are great and are far from beginner.

Ardie start the book by listing the three main ways for flavoring grilled foods. Before grilling, during grilling and after grilling. Before you add seasoning and marinades. During grilling there is the carmelization of the sugars from the food itself. There is also the different flavors from the charcoal and wood. There is also the sweet, sour and spicy flavors from barbecue sauce. Lastly there are the flavors from after grilling from finishing sauces, butters and chutneys.

Ardie lists some of the tastiest recipes that I have read in a cookbook. My favorite is the grilled chickenwing drums with billy’s mumbo rub and sauce. This may be because I am fascinated with wings right now as I am preparing for the wingtacular, but the recipe and pictures look amazing. The sugary glaze produces a carmelized wing that without tasting sounds amazing.

The other recipe that amazes me is the dirty steak recipe. I have never heard of this before reading it in this book but you can grill a steak directly on the coals. Using basic seasoning the steaks are placed directly on the white hot coals and grilled for 2-3 minutes on each side. This method made famous by Ike Eisenhower and told by Ardie Davis is fascinating.

The third recipe that excited me was the lime and chile grilled corn on the cob two ways. Two ways you ask? Well you can grill corn shucked or unshucked. One produced great grill marks and the other gives you a more tender and moist product. Grilled corn is awesome. I have always pondered if you should grill corn with or without shucking it. Ardie solved my questions by saying that it is perfect to do it either way.

This book is awesome and answered many of the questions that I have had about grilling. This book is written excellently and the pictures are awesome. No matter if you are a just beginning to grill or have been grilling for 35 years, this book is for you. The book discusses the basics of grilling and further discusses recipes that even an experienced griller would love. This book is rather inexpensive and would be a great addition to any bookshelf.

Restaurant Review – Pienza Italian Market

Pienza Italian Market – 3 stars

My parents came to town this last weekend and since it was Mother’s Day I made brunch reservations at Pienza Italian Market.  Pienza Italian Market is located in the Gaylord National Hotel at the National Harbor.  They have a large outdoor dining area that is located underneath the giant atrium in the hotel.  That way no matter what you always have good weather. 

When we arrived they took us through the buffet and described each section.  The buffet stretched a couple hundred feet and included everything that one could think of.  Fresh fruits, salads, bread, italian fare, breakfast food and desserts.  The breakfast food included omlets made to order, fresh made waffles and bacon.  The bacon was glorious.  It was thick cut and cooked till crispy.  MMM. 

After walking through the buffet they sat us down at our table that was situated in the outdoor setting underneath the atrium.  The views were grand as they included the whole atrium and views of the potomac river.  Once seated we waited for out waiter to take our drink order.  By waited I mean we waited 10 minutes to talk to the waiter.  I should have known that this would have been and common theme throughout the meal.  We were at the buffet for an hour and saw our waiter 5 times.  Remember the only way to get drinks at this buffet is through your waiter.  Needless to say our glasses were empty for most of the meal.  At times we had to flag down other waitstaff to fill our drinks. 

Not all of the staff was as bad as the waitstaff.  The chefs were friendly and schmoozed with the diners.  The waffle chef stopped what he was doing to go find my mother a clean plate.  This was nice as this wasn’t his job but he wanted us to have a great experience.  The omlet chef was kind and took my request to add ingredients in my omlet that were not in front of him.  I brought over some smoked salmon to add to my cheese, spinach and mushroom omlet. 

The selection of fresh fruits, salads, and italian anti-pasta was excellent.  They offered a variety of breakfast foods including eggs benedict.   A sign of a good breakfast place is if they can make an eggs benedict.  They made it, although mediocre and no made to order it was pretty darn tasty.  They also offered a pretty good selection of italian dishes including meatballs, lasagna, white sauced pasta and various other meat dishes.  The carved meat station included ham and turkey.  They noted that the meat selection and italian dishes vary from day to day.  They are based on what ingredients are fresh and not on a set menu.

The desserts were amazing.  They had an ice cream bar with fresh Hagan Daz ice cream.  They also had tea cakes, cheesecake, tres leches cake, layered chocolate cakes and various vanilla cakes layered with fruit.  The tres leches cake was amazing.

If it wasn’t for the waitstaff this restaurant would have recieved a better score.  At times we wondered if our waiter had quit as we could not find him.  At the end of the meal he was right on time with giving us our check though.  I guess he was eager to get a tip. 

Overall the food was fantastic, the cooking staff was excellent and despite the waitstaff, I will be going back.  The buffet is one of the best, if not the best in the DC area.  I recommend that you give it a try. 

Pienza Italian Market – $42 per person for brunch

For Reservations call  (301) 965-2000 – 201 Waterfront Street, National Harbor, MD 20745.

What to do in DC this weekend (May 8-10)

Every friday I try to compile a list of food related events to go to in the DC area.  This week is no exception.

Meet Bravo’s Top Chefs

Carla Hall and Spike Mendelsohn will be in Adams Morgan @ 18th Street and Wyoming Avenue with the Top Chef Tour.  They will have cooking demonstrations, autographs and you can purchase Top Chef Gear.   They will have three shows at 10:30 am, 12:00 pm and 1:30 pm.  Pre-registration is full but they will have tickets available at the event. This is first come, first serve, so be early.  I love Carla, if you guys go tell her hi for me!!!

Eat Where Obama Eats

Obama was spotted at Rays Hell Burger this week.  It is the new hot spot for burgers.  Check out my review of Rays Hell Burger.  The burgers are tasty, not too expensive, and the atmosphere is pretty cool.  Expect long lines.

Read more

Sunday “Easter” Brunch

With the upcoming holiday weekend I wanted to post about what to do this weekend in Washington, DC.  But after realizing that it is Easter weekend, there is only one thing came to mind.  Sunday Brunch!!! and… Mimosas.

Sunday Brunch is a ritual for a lot of people, but where to go is always a chore.  I know that every single restaurant these days has brunch and it is hard to decide where to go.  I wanted to write up a list of great places that I have gone for brunch, to make your lives easier.  Plus, a lot of these places are not that well known and will allow you to call today for reservations. 

Read more


405 8th Street NW
Washington, DC 20004
(202) 393-0812

I said it in the Cafe Atlantico post, I would return.  I did and it was a whole lot better than the first time.

Ahh minibar. When visiting cafe atlantico on the second floor sits a small counter with just six stools. Many without knowing think it is just a small bar sitting area for the one tops, but no, the lucky few that get to sit at those six seats each night are the luckiest people in the restaurant.

With just six seats and two servings each night it is hard to get just one of those hallowed seats. But how do you get a seat at minibar? My only answer is to call, call a lot. Reservations for minibar open up every day when the restaurant opens. But remember when you call you are calling for a reservation exactly one month from the day that you call. So if I call today March 30th, it would be for a reservation on April 30th. Sounds easy right? Nope. One more caviat. They start taking reservations at 10 am and  are regularly booked by 10:01 am.

So what are a few tips for snagging a reservation.

Read more

Ray’s Butcher Burger

1713 Wilson Blvd.
Arlington, VA 22209
(703) 841-0001

Butcher Burger, or Hellburger as it’s known locally, makes some damn good burgers.  Which is not totally unexpected, since it is owned by the same man who runs Rays the Steaks, located just a few storefronts away.  Whether it is worth the money and the time, that’s for you to decide.  Having just opened on July 1st, a few kinks are expected, but the ambience is decidedly chaotic. The outside of the restaurant is unassuming, no sign as of yet, just a small piece of paper posted up on the storefront window and the long line of waiting customers hinting at what’s inside. There are only a few sit down tables and a couple more stand up tables scattered around a movie poster dotted, cafeteria-esque room, and they are all packed. If you have any sense, go with a friend, if not only to have them be the designated table nabber.  Use your time in line wisely, deciding what you want before you get to the ordering counter is essential since the staff still seems somewhat unorganized and frantic. They only take cash, but the good thing is they have an in-house ATM just past the meat station. There is a variety of different styles of burger and toppings and every burger comes topped with lettuce and a fat slice of ruby red tomato. 

A must if you go by and there is no line, otherwise expect to wait a little.

Reviewed 9/2/08

Flying Fish – The Recap

815 King St
Alexandria, VA 22314

The yellow and purple Chi-chi-esque decor, out of place with the younger, hipster patrons who frequent this otherwise stylishly furnished sushi bar/restaurant, is only a foreshadowing of the gastronomical delights in store for those who eat here. Our server was a bubbly, personality-laden red-head who swore, wrongly, that she’d waited on us before. Lots of people say that about us, for some reason. She was fun and knowledgeable about the menu, giving us certain inside pointers about what was good and what was not. She leaned us towards two entrees: a broiled (psst! actually grilled, our waitress whispered confidentially) seafood platter for him, and toasted-rice crusted escolar (a Chef’s Thunder special) for her.

Escolar, aka “white tuna”, we were familiar with from numerous ecstastic visits to Bonsai Grill (the great local sushi bar near my old apartment in crystal city). As sashimi it is a tender, buttery, luxurious melt-in-your-mouth-good white fish. We were so excited to see it on the menu that we didn’t think twice about ordering it. In fact, we also ordered two pieces of escolar nigiri to whet our white tuna loving appetites. The bread basket was delightful: doughy, pleasantly chewy breadsticks, glazed with butter and garlic, with a flavorful wasabi-white-bean hummus dip. The nigiri was delicious, as was expected, but left us feening for more.

The seafood platter consisted of three large shrimp, two scallops, three calamari and a large hunk of a white fish of undetermined species. Everything had beautiful appealing criss-cross grill marks, but unfortunately much of the platter was over-cooked and stringy. The toasted-rice crusted escolar came in a huge, forearm sized slab that was agreeably seasoned and had just enough of that rich, buttery flavor to recognize it as white tuna. For sides, we both chose the vegetable du jour (buttered broccoli and carrots) and bleu potato dumplings. The vegetables were average, but the bleu potato dumplings blew us away. Crisp, lightly fried balls of savory whipped potato in a golden brown coating of bread crumbs with a bold, tangy blue cheese nugget tucked in the center. Unfortunately, you only get three.

Our waitress was very attentive, keeping our diet colas filled and checking on us every few minutes to chat and ensure we were happy. She was dryly sarcastic too, quipping “Wow, it looked like you didn’t like it,” in reference to our empty, crumb-licked plates. For dessert, we decided on the key lime tart, which came out in a crumbly, sweet graham crackery crust with the hint of coconut and topped with a gooey drippy meringue that made us think the pastry chef should start lifting weights because they needed to be whipped a few minutes more. The lime filling was refreshingly tart and paired well with the sweet crust and sweet sweet topping. It was a good deal for being five bucks and generously portioned. And it was fat free!

The price at the end was a little steep, around $60 sans tip, but we felt we had a decent meal and good service. We were still raving about the escolar a few days later, when we started blowing it out our nether regions. His was yellow/orange, mine was yellow/green, but it was the same. Oily, floaty and insistent, our love for escolar came back with a vengeance. Scared that we had been food poisoned, we turned to our only reliable source: Wikipedia. There we found our beloved escolar was a fake. Frequently used as a cheap substitute for actual white tuna, aka albacore tuna, escolar contains indigestible oils that cause gastric distress in the form of crazy, unexpected diarrhea. Without going into details, over the course of two days, our love of white tuna was suddenly turned into loathing; cursing at that dumb, delectable irresistible fish while draped on the toilet at cursing at ourselves for being duped into making ourselves superby regular. But, during our frantic search for what the hell was wrong with us, we ran into some very amusing sites, namely Escolar Evil or Not, which if you look at the link title, pretty much says it all. We were not alone.

Knowing what we know now, would we go back? There’s a chance we might. As long as you don’t get the escolar, Flying Fish is a fun, friendly, hip place to spend your good money on some good seafood and service.  

Visited: 3/31/07