Tag Archives: BBQ

BBQ Joint Review Follow Up: Sugarfire Smokehouse

Fifteen years ago today I was a college sophomore, and my roommate and I (and two other guys) were initiated into our social fraternity. He and I live in STL and try to get together for lunch / dinner / beer / etc. every November 20th. Today it was a return to SugarFire Smokehouse.

Well-written menu

Well-written menu

Bright red posterboard grabbed my attention. The food description kept it.

One side? My ass. I’ll be having the Firewalker, plus the brisket chili (oh my god) AND an order of the polenta cakes with pork belly and cheddar (oh my flippin god).

Lunch

Lunch. EPIC lunch.

Brisket Chili – Wonder of wonders. I need to make this. Peppers, onions, huge chunks and shreds of brisket, thin sauce, chickpeas(?), a bunch of other great stuff.

Polenta Cakes – With cheddar and pork belly. Oodles of pork belly chunks, and well-mingled cheesiness. I love polenta, and this was awesome.

Firewalker – Pepper jack gravy is a new thing for me. So are flaming hot cheetos onion rings. All together, mushed with bread and hot sauce and, oh yeah, a load of pulled pork. It was as messy and gluttonous and epic as you might think. Not healthy. Worth every calorie.

Well played, SugarFire.

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Stuffed Smoked Wrapped Boneless Beef Short Ribs

Having not experimented with anything off the cuff recently, an affordable package of boneless beef short ribs adjacent in the store to the brisket I was planning to smoke anyway presented me with an opportunity.

Each rather large short rib, slightly smaller than my clenched fist, was lightly rolled with a rub comprising: brown sugar, paprika, garlic salt, seasoned salt, powdered sage, cayenne pepper, ground coffee, and coarse black pepper.

Those and the three medium sized brisket pieces (having received the same treatment) were put on the 55 gallon drum smoker, fat sides up, with ample hickory smoke for seven hours at about 190-200 Fahrenheit.

Big Blue back in action!

Big Blue back in action!

I've got all day to smoke these. On the grill at 8am!

I’ve got all day to smoke these. On the grill at 8am!

Hours and hours later (7, to be exact), and a few beers later (not quite 7), the ribs had smoked thoroughly.

Brisket looks pretty good, too.

Brisket looks pretty good, too.

Not even close to done, though

Not even close to done, though

A BBQ ace told me to cook beef with the fat up so as to continuously baste the meat. I never flipped them or the brisket pieces, yet each time I checked on the meat or added coals and wood, it still looked damp from the molten beef fat softening and oozing over the sides of the flesh.

Having learned from my past mistakes, I eased up on both the amount of brown sugar in the rub (by ratio) and the amount of rub total on the meat. This left less char and permitted more smoke penetration.

I pulled the short ribs to let them rest for about 10 minutes on a cutting board. Why rest? So that the hot and excited juices don’t escape and dry out the meat!

Resting. Exhausted from a long day of smoking.

Resting. Exhausted from a long day of smoking.

Once relaxed, the ribs were sliced substantially in half, leaving a hinge at the back.

Tender; smells great

Tender; smells great

I had a half carton of blue cheese left over from some steak salad I had made a few days before, and I put half of my remainder inside each short rib.

Feeling stuffed...

Feeling stuffed…

And since I like to smoke a bunch of bacon as a brisket sandwich topping, why not wrap each of these with three large thick cut slices of pork bacon. Sorry to my Hebrew readership, but this went from unkosher to exceptionally unkosher in just minutes.

Oy vey

Oy vey

Back on the UDS for two more hours of hickory smoke at about 200 degrees.

The finished product is worth the fuss.

9+ hours of effort. Will it be worth it?

9+ hours of effort. Will it be worth it?

Each short rib gave me 3 or 4 generous slices for the in-law family pre-JV football dinner.

Yes, it was worth it!

Yes, it was worth it!

The beef was incredibly tender and had solid smoke color penetration. The blue cheese was present in just the right amount. Unfortunately, the bacon didn’t quite crisp, but no one complained. My father in law said, “Simpson, you should enter this in a BBQ contest. It was great.” As I basked in this compliment, he added, “Although I do love anything with cheese in it.” I’ll take what I can get.

This was a super-simple recipe. Anyone can make this if you have all damn day to cook. Luckily I could work from home that day and I have a large upright smoker. Forgiving that, you could probably make this on a Weber kettle with a keen eye towards temperature control.  Regardless, simple technique and ingredients made a succulent experiment.

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BBQ Joint Review: Gobble Stop Smokehouse

If you take one thing away from this BBQ Joint Review, make it this: You absolutely need to go to this place and try a “Turkey Rib” (which is not really a rib, but I’ll explain that later.) Flat out the best turkey I’ve ever had, including all preparation methods. I was blown away.

Third on my hitlist of relatively new BBQ places that need reviewing, per the STL P-D, is Gobble Stop Smokehouse in St. Louis County on Olive, near Fee Fee. An unassuming facade used by a prior (unsuccessful, apparently) smokehouse, in the midst of a Korean-filled strip mall.

Somewhat inconspicuous and inauspicious

Somewhat inconspicuous and inauspicious

I phoned my father to see if he wanted to duck out of work (we’re both self-employed) to hit this poultry-only BBQ spot.

Managers usually have their hair a little better kept.

It’s hot enough for this so-called iced cream

Their menu did not have a hint of cow or pork or goat or non-winged four-legged animal. All bird – very ambitious.

As someone who BBQs often, I can tell you that making poultry well is hard. It’s lean, so it can dry out. The dark and white meats cook distinctly. Seasoning can be tough with the skin and the depth of the meat. Making good turkey or chicken on the BBQ shows skill. I’m still working on it, and it’s a goal for me.

Many options from few choices

Many options from few choices

I saw an article in the Riverfront Times that said that I needed to order the Turkey Tips, so I did. I added an unsweetened tea and side of beans (home made!). Why not toss in an a la carte turkey rib. This is not a rib, though. It’s a part of the turkey breast carved from the scapula of the bird.

Pops went with the pulled chicken sandwich, along with onion rings, iced tea, and his own turkey rib. (Again… not a rib.)

Looks great!

Looks great!

The owner served us and advised us on the lunch options. Based on the RFT recommendation, I was psyched to get the turkey tips. I’m a zealot for thigh meat (both chicken and turkey), so it seemed like a good choice. Basically it’s like pork tips but poultry. He warned me that each sauce-coated nugget was part gristle and part meat.

From a textual point of view, I wasn’t psyched about sticking a gristle-filled nugget into my mouth to chew off the tasty bits, so I tackled these one at a time with a fork and knife. One of my gripes about this place is the plastic silverware. I get it, as a former professional dishwasher, that the cutlery is nice and disposable, but the turkey tips were hard to navigate with flimsy plastic forks and knives.

With some effort, though, each nugget produced at least a bite or two of smoky, hyper-tender bird. The sauce was thick, sticky, spicy and incredibly wonderful. The meat was juicy and skillfully made. I really enjoyed it, despite the extra work. In the future, I probably pass on this one, given all the work, but I’ve never had anything quite like this before. Tasty tasty turkey.

The best choice I made, though, was getting a turkey rib. What an amazing, succulent, tender, smoky, sticky piece of turkey meat. I was shocked. Literally, though this meat had bite, but fell cleanly off the bone. Solid smoke lines, great tenderness, solid sauce, excellent texture. I was blown away by the turkey ribs, which is a low calorie low cholesterol way to down BBQ and still feel like you’re crushing ribs. A thin slab of bone was all that remained.

This looks big, but it's flat

This looks big, but it’s flat

It’s a genius move, but you still have to do it perfectly. These guys did just that. The sauce was such an awesome pairing with the tender smoked meat. Really a surprising entree. My father ordered one a la carte as well and he decided, based solely on that sample, to come back six hours later for takeout dinner for him and my mother. She told me how much she liked it, too – no shock to me.

Dad’s lunch was also wonderful. He grabbed the pulled chicken sandwich, with a side of onion rings.

Sorry for the blur

Sorry for the blur

Dad’s chicken was really good. It seemed like the chicken was more chunked pieces than shreds. Moist, tender. Hard to beat BBQ good enough to be served without any sauce (served on the side). There was a taste in the seasoning that I was struggling to pick up on… I swear it was some kind of Doritos nacho-y seasoning on the chicken. Really nice chicken, a great lunch.

Onion rings… pedestrian. Thick breading, crispy coating, but probably came from a bag. Not bad but unremarkable.

Beans were great. I got a nice pepper and cumin flavor, with a serious peppery spice aftertaste. Nice thick sauce and tender beans. Great appearance with good red pepper bits throughout. Excellent, particularly if they cooked them without any pork or beef. Getting a nice hearty flavor with no pork grease can be a trick. I’m very curious how these were made.

The place was clean and quaint, and the owner was personable and polite. What’s not to love about Gobble Stop. I tried to buy a cookie after our late lunch… he gave me a lemon sugar cookie on the house. Great cookie. Moist, without any superfluous powdered or crystallized sugar on it.

I 100% guarantee that I’m returning to Gobble Stop Smokehouse. Epic meat. Wonderful service and atmosphere. You don’t always need to eat pig or cow to get top notch BBQ, and Gobble Stop is proof.

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Ugly Drum Smoker

By far my most visited and commented blog post is how to turn a 55 gallon drum into a smoker. I made another one.

Unsightly industrial refuse

Unsightly industrial refuse

Yes, my father again presented me with a 55 gallon steel drum. It contained non-toxic, FDA-approved blue powder pigment that was used on food packaging.

This time, though, I didn’t have a spare Weber 22″ dome cover. What I did have, though, was the original flat lid. This resulted in some design changes. Go to the original post (linked above) for the specifics (bolt sizes, hole sizes, measurements, ball valves for ventilation, etc.). This post really only emphasizes my changes from that earlier design.

First, as usual, I scrubbed the holy hell out of the inside of the drum with 409 cleanser and some CLR and a bunch of brillo pads. Then it was fired out to try and clean it further. Unlike last time, I am NOT going to paint the inside of the drum with Rustoleum High Heat, since that goes against the manufacturer instructions. Instead I am going to clean it thoroughly and cure it with a long hot burn after rubbing the entire guts with vegetable oil.

Fairly clean

Fairly clean

Before we go further, it’s disclaimer time:

If your drum contained anything hazardous or you even remotely think it may have contained anything hazardous, DON’T USE IT TO COOK FOOD. Flat out, if you get some barrel that says Chernobyl or Toxic or Rat Poison on it or it mentions any type of remote health hazard and you turn it into a smoker and get sick as hell, grow a few more ears, or your genitals become inoperable, then you are at fault. Not me. Read my general Disclaimer. Don’t be stupid.

One of the first things I did, as can be seen in the above photos, was add two chimneys to the flat lid. The drum lid had two threaded holes with plugs in them. The plugs are called bungs and the holes are bung holes.

I wanted a piece of 6″ pipe to fit into my bung hole… uh, let me rephrase that… I went to a plumber supply store to buy two 6″ long pipes, one each at 3/4″ and 2″ in diameter, to screw into the threaded holes on the smoker lid. I bought a ball valve for the 3/4″ chimney for about $5 or $6. The 2″ ball valve is a whopping $45+ and that’s with a phony plumbers’ union discount they were willing to give me! No thanks – I’ll invert an old ravioli can onto the 6″ chimney.

Once cleaned, I used the steel drum drill bit to perforate the hull of my new smoker for all the hardware I planned to bolt on, including on the lid.

Specialty tools cost $$$!

Specialty tools cost $$$!

Burrs

Burrs

The drilling left jagged steel burrs on the interior of the drum. I have big washers that I plan to bolt over these, so no need to remove them. You could get a Dremel tool and cut them off, but I didn’t bother.

Once all the holes were drilled, I painted the entire exterior with Safety Red paint from Rustoleum.

Painted!

Painted!

It took a few coats using a foam roller, but the whole thing took less than a quart of paint. Once dry (and it took a little while), I bolted on all the hardware.

A new feature this time was my fancypants bottle opener.

Practical

Practical

In hindsight, it might be dangerous to try and open a chilled bottled beer on a hot metal opener like this. I’ll keep you posted if I injure myself. It’s highly likely.

Having a flat lid meant less clearance between the grill surface and the inner portion of the grill lid. That meant lowering the grill support bolt holes several inches to allow larger meats (like a couple pork shoulders or a turkey) to be smoked.

Grill grate

Grill grate

This means the food is closer to the fire and the fire / smoke needs to be managed more carefully.

The lid received a metal handle, and I painted the chimneys (but for the ball valve).

Completed lid

Completed lid

The rest of the assembly is nearly identical to the earlier Big Blue model. The interior coal cage is pretty much the same.

Coal Cage

Coal Cage

I like the red color. It’s distinct and makes it visible to thieves in the country house where we left it. There’s nothing ugly about this Ugly Drum Smoker (UDS).

Home

Home

Once completed, I lubed the entire inside as well as the coal cage and grill grates with vegetable oil and lit a hot fire to cure the whole thing. I’m probably cooking something on it this weekend. The next UDS will be a little different… something my kid’s been asking me about for a while. Stay tuned.

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Fire Safety Tip

Oh the horrible things you find in a dusty college photo album.

I have no memory of this

I have no memory of this

That’s definitely me and it was about 15 years ago that I apparently started a massive BBQ fire on the front porch of a very old rental house in a sketchy neighborhood adjacent to Rockhurst University. Who can spot the safety / BBQ fails here?

1. Squirting shitloads of fluid onto the coals. I guess I didn’t know about coal chimneys. At least it wasn’t lit.

2. BBQ on a narrow (maybe 6′ deep) porch… with a rotted wooden porch roof above it. Super not safe.

3. BBQ directly adjacent to an old outside couch? That couch is certainly dried out and full of mice nests and spilled hard liquor. Extreme fire hazard.

4. Looks like I’m treating a smoker as if it was meant to be a 500 degrees inferno. That’s probably good for killing the germs on our cheap-o unsafe discount meat for college age idiots that are drinking beers… but not so good in hindsight.

5. You can’t see it, but I was probably drinking really bad beer

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BBQ Joint Review: Sugarfire Smokehouse

When the STL Post-Dispatch published a list of the 5 new BBQ joints that need visiting, I treated that as a checklist. I’ve selflessly hit up and reviewed Hendrick’s and took an off-the-list detour to PM BBQ. The third BBQ Joint on my agenda is Sugarfire Smokehouse.

Quite a bit of hype to live up to under this sign

Quite a bit of hype to live up to under this sign

Apparently this place is owned by the same people who own Cyrano’s, the site (when on Big Bend near Clayton) of many many high school dates and more recently the site (now in Webster Groves) of many many after hours drinks with my wife.

I’ve come by here with my father a couple times to see a line out the door and nowhere to park, so we would just go across the street to Chevy’s. Not today! I’ve brought with me two very discerning and distinct palates: Mike, a zealot for Texas BBQ who has been unimpressed with STL BBQ to date, and Randy, a Reform Jewish guy who keeps fairly kosher.

We got to the front door and didn’t move much further. The sign says 15 minute wait from here.

Looks like a bunch of happy customers

Looks like a bunch of happy customers

iPhone in hand, I followed the Sugarfire Twitter accounts…

... and you can follow me at @dtsjr

… and you can follow me at @dtsjr

On the way to our cafeteria-style BBQ line, I noticed the soda fountain is stocked only with Excel Bottling beverages, including the southern Illinois treat Ski.

Made with pure can sugar

Made with pure can sugar

I’m an unsweetened tea man, myself, so I passed on this pure cane sugar goodness. Apparently Ski and bourbon is a specialty drink in SW IL.

Just past the ice cold sodies? Beer.

More frosty beverages... too bad this is a business-y lunch

More frosty beverages… too bad this is a business-y lunch

Maybe it’s all the time I spent there in law school instead of studying (hence my shitty grades), but Morgan Street Brewery has a special place in my heart. And now they can beer. YES.

On to the cafeteria line of meaty godliness.

I got the stink eye from a line server as I clicked away

I got the stink eye from a line server as I clicked away

More truly uninteresting photos

More truly uninteresting photos

I realize now that these photos add nothing to this blog post. Oh well. It’s cafeteria style. You get your drinks, then walk up and tell the guy what meat you want, then the next guy your sides. Pretty simple. Pickled peppers, pickles, onions, etc. is waiting at the end of the line. Sauce on the table.

More beers!

More beers!

Hey, they serve cans of Stag?! More win from this place. Everyone’s grandpa or great grandpa drank Stag, but no one you know drinks it today. I’ve bought it for a fishing trip, but that’s about it.

On to the actual food.

What is this a picture of, exactly?

What is this a picture of, exactly?

This primo blurtastic picture of brisket was intended to reveal that the fat cap is left on the beef while smoked and cooked, and you would see a nice modest smoke ring. My kosher friend LOVED the brisket, and he’s been raised on Kohn’s brisket. He added the only non-cheezy non-pork sides of fries and green beans. He was quite satisfied.

My other dining companion got something called the Big Muddy:

The Big Muddy

The Big Muddy

This testament to gluttony comprised smoked brisket and sausage piled high on a bun with slaw and sauce. He added some fried artichokes as an appetizer. As a Texas resident for 10+ years, he said that Sugarfire was finally a BBQ place worthy of his admiration, and he said is was far better than Hendricks. Woah… that’s quite the assessment. He phoned his wife soon thereafter to plan a family trip back to Sugarfire, and he lives in Wildwood!

I kept it simple. Half slab baby back ribs, beans, slaw, iced tea… something called crack pie.

Amazeballs

Amazeballs

The 1/2 slab comes with two sides and a fountain drink for $14. I decided to spring for the crack pie (we’ll get to that later) for a whopping $5. Better be worth it.

Smoked goodness

Smoked goodness

Ribs: These are fairly lean-looking for babyback ribs, but looks can be deceiving. They are just as succulent as baby backs are supposed to be. As hoped, they are tender but with a nice bite. I’d say slightly less tender than Hendrick’s (having just eaten there last week, I can say that with some certainty), but they come cleanly off the bone as eaten. You get the nice bite mark and pull when you gnash into a good hunk of rib meat.

In order, I pick up salt then pepper then sugar. There is a deep smoke ring, much further into the meat cross-section than other places I’ve tried recently. That adds to the very rich smoky flavor.

Literally, these are finger-licking ribs. There’s a sticky but not moist rub on the exterior of the ribs. It’s fairly salty but has a nice spicy finish and really adds a nice unique profile to the meat. It’s a bold move for sure – you are adding intense flavors to smoked meat that took lots of time and energy and skill to produce, but it works well. Watch out beard and mustache owners (like me). This will hang around your facial hair.

Beans: Mild spice, good tenderness. Great rich sauce with a good pepper flavor instead of pepper heat. They were restrained on the onion. I didn’t see any pork bits, so these are stand alone beans worthy of another order in the future.

Slaw: Very rich sauce but not thick. Good creaminess, but there’s nothing distinct about it besides the richness of the sauce and the crispiness of the veggies. No salt or pepper or celery seed, at least not in appreciable levels. Still quite delicious, but not wildly distinctive. A good accompaniment to the ribs.

Sauce: Didn’t even touch it. The labels said Coffee, Black Cherry, TX47 (wtf?), and other notations, but these ribs needed zero sauce. That would have been an abomination to put sauce on them. Solid ribs.

Crack Pie: Though Tyrone Biggums might have been disappointed with what he got after placing his order, but he would have liked this pie. Imagine a gooey butter pie made with molasses and a thick crumbly crust. I found it to be a little too sweet for me, and not worth the $5, but it was still pretty doggone good. The Texas BBQ lover messily devoured his with zeal.

This was a very successful business lunch. I’m going to deduct my bill, and I finally managed to sample this BBQ. Absolutely worth a return trip, and the ribs were outstanding. I’d venture to say that these might be the best ribs in town, but I need to return to Pappy’s soon to confirm. I strongly recommend you get to Sugarfire Smokehouse.

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Alaskan Moron’s Wildlife Guide

Who doesn’t love BBQ, beers, and a gentle bike ride through nature?

What better way to spend your Saturday than communing with one of Gob’s snuggly creatures and sharing some delicious BBQ.

Cuddles the Love Bear (Source: Flikr, via Wikipedia. Photographer: HBarrison. Reproduced under Creative Commons)

Alaskan Moron’s Wildlife Guide:

1. Drink beers (probably the more the better)

2. Bike ride into wilderness with BBQ in your pocket (or a satchel)

3. Confront bear and offer to share said BBQ

4. Get mauled by bear

Apparently step 5 is getting charged by wildlife officials with illegally feeding animals.

No word on whether this person completed step 6, which is removing yourself from the gene pool via the mauling. This guy is expected to survive.

Edited to add: How did I overlook this totally obvious pun? Don’t baste your BBQ – Maull it! (even if their sauce is thin dreck)

(Source: Wikipedia)

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Happy Fathers’ Day: Stay Safe

Another wonderful Fathers’ Day is upon us. It’s a great day for quality time with family.

1980, when men were men

1980, when men were men

I’ll be smoking pork ribs and having my dad come over for meat and beers, and distributing some sausages. All the while, I’ll have my own three monsters kiddos at my side.

Fathers’ Day is, at least in my family, a great excuse to drink a beer and get the smoker going. Stay safe, America. The BBQ is fraught with peril; Just ask my own dad.

Note my sister wisely fleeing into the basement for shelter

Note my sister wisely fleeing into the basement for shelter

Say, Pop, did you marinade those veggies in a bunch of olive oil? Huh, that sounds good. You aren’t going to pour that over the open flame coals, are you? I see… is this how you lost your hair? My hair loss was law school stress, but yours was FIRE IN THE HOLE!

Note the lack of protective eyewear

Note the lack of protective eyewear

Pro Tip: Don’t dump combustible foodstuffs over any open flame while you are looking down on and standing adjacent to said flame.

Stay safe this Fathers’ Day.

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Tubed Meat Review: Swiss Meat & Sausage Co.

En route to the Gasconade River for drinkin’ in a boat fishing with my family, we pass right by Swiss Meat & Sausage Co. in the eponymous boomtown of Swiss, Missouri , just south of Hermann. I enjoy frequent hot beef injections, especially from competition-tested award winning meat makers.

Pleasant surprise? Buy four, get the fifth free. So of course I got five:

That's a lot of calories. Delicious, delicious calories.

That’s a lot of calories. Delicious, delicious calories.

If you can’t see it in the photo, my five choices were Boudin, Buffalo Italian Sausage, Chicken Bacon Ranch, Jalapeno and Swiss Cheese Bratwurst, and Best of Show Bratwurst.

I also snagged some impulse buys, because my saturated fat levels felt a little low:

Exotic treats

Exotic treats

The Elk Snack Stix didn’t make it very far from the store. It was spicy and delicious, but not that greasy. The Buffalo Summer Sausage was cut up for snacking later that day. It had the gamey savory flavor of summer sausage but included the distinct flavors of buffalo. Another winner.

Over the next couple weeks we found excuses to cook each of the sausages, and even managed a return tip to load up on some favorites and buy some extras for my parents.

Someone loves their parents (me)

Someone loves their parents (me)

I don’t know about you, but if my adult son showed up with award winning tubed meat, I’d be thrilled.

Having sampled the braunschweiger in the store, I can tell you it’s awesome. What is the stuff? Pork liver sausage. If you can get past that description, you might enjoy it. The sausage is loosely packed and spreadable, but I only remember eating it in big slices on wheat bread and saltines with processed American cheese and deli mustard. It’s a serious childhood taste… I felt a flood of memories come back with that greasy, savory sample. Not quite Anton Ego eating Ratatouille at Gusteau’s, but close.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve sampled (and re-sampled!) each of the aforementioned meats, always grilled.

Happy moments before dinner

Happy moments before dinner

Boudin

Without seeing Duck Dynasty, I’d have never heard of Boudin. When I went to check out, I only had four packs of sausage in my cart. The clerk told me I got a fifth free, and I made that fifth the Boudin.

Each tube is loaded with pork, onion, rice, milk and spices. It was tender and savory, each bite full of onion flavor. My kids weren’t very interested in sampling the Boudin, which probably prejudiced their bites. I, on the other hand, enjoyed it quite a bit. I’m no poet so I can only tell you it’s a flavor profile unlike anything I’ve ever had before – one that was quite delicious. My only gripe, if it can be called that, was that the sausage casing was particularly thick and didn’t cut cleanly unless I had a very sharp or serrated knife, and even then it was prone to tearing when sliced. No sauce of any kind was needed on this, or any other Swiss meat for that matter.

Buffalo Italian Sausage

This was, besides the Best in Show, the #1 kid favorite. Buffalo, being so lean, is mixed with pork and spices to create a gamey, tender sausage. Bites contained very little grease, despite the presence of the pork. I’d imagine that making a quality sausage out of buffalo that doesn’t dry out or lose flavor takes skill, and Swiss seems to have mastered this skill.

I’m surprised and thrilled that this is one of the sausages that my kids have requested the most. We’ve made a return trip to seek out (at least in my son’s mind) this specific meat.

Chicken Bacon Ranch

The only disappointment for me, but it turns out my wife loved it. I thought the sausage was quite dry and too heavy on the dill, with very little bacon to speak of. It wasn’t my thing, either from a texture point of view or taste-wise. I thought this needed something else, but it’s hard to say what. Again, it’s totally subjective because my wife thought it was superior to the Buffalo Italian Sausage.

Jalapeno and Swiss Cheese Bratwurst

Everyone loved this sausage. It’s my wife’s favorite, I think it’s amazing, and even my very picky children tried and liked it. My seven year old son had two, a spectacular feat because the jalapeno bits were visible green chunks! The key to the success of this sausage, as agreed by the adults that sampled it, is the perfect size and selection of the cheese. Each bite of meat included a tongue-enveloping morsel of semi-molten cheese, well seasoned and proportioned. These are clear winners in a strong field.

Best in Show Bratwurst

When I first ate these, I remarked without hyperbole that these might be the best bratwurst I had ever eaten. I think to well-known commercial bratwurst (such as Johnsonville), baseball stadium brats from Busch III, and even hand-crafted bratwurst from local stores (Schnuck’s and Sam’s Club, notably) and there’s no comparison. Swiss brats somehow had zero superfluous grease. They were tender, well-seasoned, perfect tubes of pork.

When you buy “Best in Show” bratwurst, you expect some really tasty meat. I was genuinely surprised at just how good these bratwurst were. I’d buy these again in an instant.

In sum, my trips to Swiss turned out to be well worth the detour. Certainly as long as my family is fishing on the Gasconade River, our route will pass through or near Swiss. Besides, we only bought a few different varieties. There’s several dozen other kinds of bratwurst alone for the sampling… many of which I’ll be eating this summer.

If you love tubed meat like I do, take the trip to Swiss. If you can’t make it, they ship nationwide, so you have zero excuse.

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BBQ Joint Follow Up: PM BBQ

When you have solid BBQ, a return trip is in order. PM BBQ boasted championship chicken, but I got the brisket last time. I want that chicken.

1/2 chicken and all the fixin's

1/2 chicken and all the fixin’s

What great chicken! Half a bird, well smoked. The skin was barely crispy and peeled back easily, revealing uber-moist and succulent meat. It was well-flavored and the smoke came through wonderfully. My dad got the same thing and we didn’t put a drop of BBQ sauce on it. It was that good.

I’ve smoked chicken before with success. It usually turns out really good and everyone likes it, but mine is not this good. The white meat and the dark were evenly moist and tender, and that includes the wings. Every time I cook a chicken on the Weber, the wings get dry. I really don’t know how they did such a great job – this chicken shows great skill.

I was told by someone in the know that I made the mistake last time of not getting the sweet corn spoonbread side. It was good, but a little dense. The beans were much better. The slaw was a basic light cream slaw – nothing amazing but not bad. It pairs well with chicken.

We also split the small order (that’s a small? does the large come in a bucket?!) of fried pickle chips. I can’t put my finger on it, but it’s a batter I’ve definitely had before. They were a good treat to split.

The chicken is worth a return trip, as is the brisket. PM BBQ is a solid BBQ Joint option.

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