Queues and Barbecues

They asked me to do it again. Despite the lines — oh! the lines… — they asked me to do it again.

“Is there anything we can do about the lines?” they gingerly put forth.

Last Halloween, our children’s annual grade school Halloween carnival got an upgrade. It moved from school to the ballfield at the local community center, a live band would play, there would be a bar… And they asked me to do the food.

The Chef boogying at sunset

The chef/fairy/cow boogying at sunset

I was to cook for somewhere between 450 and 600 people. I was a week in preparation and was all set — except that the chimneys I needed for my coal were 90 minutes late. The carnival had opened at 3:30, people began queuing up for food at 4-ish. And I didn’t have anything to serve until close to 5 p.m., at which point the line had stretched from our home-plate set up well into left field. We would never catch up.

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Tanner & Ella

Around mid-August of last year, I received an email from a young woman named Ella.

“I stumbled on your Skinny Girls and Mayo site and saw that you recently catered a fundraiser at The 1909 in Topanga,” she said. “It just so happens we are getting married at The 1909 next May, and I would love to talk to you.”

A heart-shaped tri tip for Tanner & Ella

A heart-shaped tri tip for Tanner & Ella

She and her fiancé, Tanner, were having no luck finding a caterer they liked — they wanted something sophisticated and “foodie,” yet casual and relaxed. But all the leads they were getting in their price range were disappointing buffets. More

Sonoma Summer

Summer is a wonderful time in Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley. The days are long and the nights warm, the river languid and inviting.

Relaxing on the river

Relaxing on the river

We typically spend time in the late fall at my mom’s house near the river — hunting mushrooms, sitting by fires and exchanging early Christmas gifts. But when my mom and her partner, Bruce, asked me to come cook for an event at our family winery, I saw the perfect opportunity to extend a one-day event into a nine-day family vacation! More

Happy Tri-th of July

To give you a sense of how thoroughly ingrained in the collective California consciousness the tri tip is, I need tell a story.

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The 4th of July was approaching, I was at the market, and tri tip was on sale. I figured that would be the perfect thing to grill for a few friends who were coming by, so I bought a nice three pounder, brought it home, sprinkled it with salt, wrapped it in paper towels and put it in the fridge to cure for a few days. More

The Secrets of Santa Maria (and The World’s Best Sandwich)

This is all I got, folks. My greatest sandwich. And I give it to you. I give and I give and I give…

But to get there we must first take a side trip on a long country road. Midwesterners and Southerners may boast of having the best barbecue. But we in California have our own claim to grilling fame. I’m talking about Santa Maria-style, and in particular the tri-tip. We’re not tiptoeing our way around a dainty rack of candied baby back ribs, people. The tri-tip is a wonderful cut that gives you rare and well-done in the same piece of meat. (If you don’t have anyone who wants well-done, you can save the tip and chop it up for tacos the next day!) Akin to Texas barbecue, this is meat at its most elemental. A beefy tri-tip, our own fragrant coastal oak and fire. More