Friday, April 22, 2016

Robert Sierra on Jimmy Kimmel Live!!!

My BBQ Brother Robert Sierra on Jimmy Kimmel!


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

West Coast Blues Visits Twangtown

Tommy Castro and the Painkillers
West Coast Blues/Rocker Tommy Castro and his band “The Painkillers” visited Twangtown last evening at the City Winery.  This was my first time seeing TC live and I was not disappointed.  Castro is Jimmy Hall, Delbert McClinton, Johnny Winter, and James Brown all rolled into one!  He can articulate the “Blues” with the finesse of a seasoned performer and the energy and rawness of a “Rock & Roll” bar band and then slap you with some soulful R&B. The results made the audience (as witnessed be me last evening) “dance like no one’s watching”.  Tommy addressed the audience frequently sharing stories of his song’s inspiration, co-writers, & life on the road. You could tell he had been around the block a time or two but still had that youthful enthusiasm that great MUSIC generates within us.  Tommy began playing guitar at age 10 & was influenced by Blues-Legends Eric Clapton, Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Freddy King, Buddy Guy, Elmore James, as well as soul icons James Brown, Wilson Picket, & Ray Charles.  Tommy quickly took to playing with several “Blues” & “Soul R&B” bands in and around San Francisco.  After 50 years playing the Bay area Tommy has a huge following & consistently sells out dates way in advance.  The “Painkillers” consist of Randy McDonald of Harrisburg, PA on bass, Mike Emerson of San Francisco. CA on keyboards, & Bowen Brown of Palo Alto, CA on drums all are seasoned contributors & have deep roots in the SF blues scene. 
Tommy and his Gibson Firebird V reissue.

To wrap it up in one word….FUN!  To quote Tommy "the blues makes you feel better" and I would agree! I had a fun evening listening to some kick ass musicians & performers playing their music with “smiles” on their faces.  I only wish they had played longer & I didn’t have to get up the next morning to go to work!  I can’t wait to see them again….SOON!  
Autographed set list!

Monday, February 23, 2015

DoRag Does Memphis Part 2

Friday - 
As I left Twangtown Friday afternoon I inserted an unmarked CD into the player.  When the first note played I knew it was a sign… The unmistakable sound of Richard Johnston & his electric cigar box guitar playing the Memphis Delta Blues.  When I think of Memphis I think of the Blues, Elvis, & Memphis BBQ!  My drive was filled with bad-ass guitar licks, & the anticipation of tasting some great BBQ, but most of all spending time with my BBQ Friends & Family. The plan was to get to the hotel, freshen up, & have a few drinks before rendezvousing with the group at the Rendezvous for dinner.  Friends & BBQ Judges Jan & Jon Ewing from Kentucky had already checked in & were out seeing the sights & planning on meeting at the Rendezvous.  Judge & Competition Cook Randy Calk from Tennessee & BBQ Media personality (Pit-Tootsie) Vernee Green-Myers driving over from Georgia were planning on meeting up at the hotel & riding over together.  About half way to Memphis while listening to a rousing rendition of Richard Johnston’s version of RL Burnside’s “Shake ‘em On Down” I get a call from “V” saying she was stopping at Big Bob Gibson’s to pick up a pie & did I want here to get one for me?  Does Dolly Parton sleep on her back? Well HELL YES!  Coconut Please!  Feeling even more excited I laid the hammer down & continued on my way to Graceland! 

I arrived about 6PM, got checked in & fired up the laptop to answer some emails.  V was still a ways out & Randy was resting before the nights activities.  Our reservations were at 8PM & you know how I hate to be late so I had me a snort of “Jack” & tried to relax.  V called and was still about an hour out…ETA 8 PM…took another snort!  Received a text from one of the “locals” who just happens to be a 4 time WORLD FRICKEN BBQ CHAMPION Mark Lambert!  They were at the Rendezvous waiting on us & the count was 15!  V arrived & we quickly stashed the pie & jumped in Randy’s truck to head downtown.  We finally got parked in a deep dungeon like garage in the bowels of some building & began walking through building & lobby's finally arriving on S. 2nd Street.  I now know how Moses felt…it seemed like we were just wanderin around when BAM….there is was…down the alley of lost bones…..The Rendezvous! 

Dude at the door said “you must be the one’s they are a waiting for”…I said “ yep..that be us”.  Wow what a group!  Jan & John Ewing from Kentucky, Jason & Julie Perrigin from Dickson, TN, Phil Wingo from Chicago, Shane Draper & Mike Owings from Cunningham, KY, Luke Ray from Cape Girardeau, MO, Mark Lambert from Olive Branch, MS, Danny Green from Hernando, MS,  Local Memphians Bev Hibbing, Chris Birmingham, Bryan Jackson from Barlett, TN, along with Randy, V, & yours truly!  The Rendezvous began cooking ribs in 1948 and is still going strong.  Presidents, Movie Stars, Rock Stars, & people from all walks of life have all tasted the famous Rendezvous ribs.

Randy ordered a Cheese & Sausage plate while I poured a beer from someone’s pitcher.  After I downed the first one I remember thinking this was pretty cool…that a group of BBQ “Enthusiasts” from various parts of the country could come together in a city know for BBQ, in a restaurant know from BBQ. & enjoy friendship & fellowship…. I almost shed a tear…not because of that thought…because I was out of BEER!  The Sausage Cheese plate was the standard sliced sausage, cheddar cheese chunks, pickle spears, banana peppers, sprinkled with rub, & a side of sauce & saltines!  What I call “Redneck hors d'oeuvres”! 

I ordered a ½ slab of ribs which comes with a small side of beans & slaw.  The service was fast!  Once we ordered we had our food within 5 minutes.  My ½ rack came with a 5 bone slab & a single bone.  They were served dry.  As I understand they cook the ribs in the smoker & when done they remove the ribs & mop them with a mixture of water & vinegar followed by the family recipe seasoning.  They came with a side of beans & slaw.  There is sauce on the table, regular & Hot.  I bit into the single bone first & immediately knew it was tough & undercooked.  Not what I expected but I finished it off none the less.  The 5 bone ½ slab was more to my likin…over-cooked!  Almost fall off the bone over cooked! That’s what I expected!  The rub had a distinct Greek like taste with a hint of heat.   The sides were above average but nothing sparks my memory of them.  While not worthy of “competition” ribs I have to say I did enjoy them.  The real star of this “BBQ  Shrine” is the people & the ambiance.  First the entrance is in an alley!  It has character & displays all types of memorabilia & memento's.  You could spend a whole day just looking at the display cases, pictures, & artifacts hangin on the walls & from the ceiling.  The “Staff” like the ribs are well seasoned.  Some like Big Jack & Robert Sr. have been there 40+ years!  Henry the Pitmaster on duty let us check out the pit & cut up with us a bit. 

All in all I enjoyed my Rendezvous experience.  The atmosphere was funky cool, the service was spot on, the beer was cold, & the food was enjoyable.  If you are expecting “life changing” ribs…you will most likely be disappointed.  If you are expecting a good rib…you prolly be be sasafied!  

Here is my scorecard:
Charlie Vergos’ The Rendezvous
Type: Restaurant
Signature Dish: Ribs
Rating (KCBS Scoring 2-9)
Ribs  - 7
Sides – 6
Service – 9
Appearance – 8

Overall – 7.5 Avg

Stay tuned for DoRag Does Memphis Part 3.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

DoRag Does Memphis Part 1

How It Started….
I was having a few adult beverages (nothing new there) & watching Diners, Drive-Ins, & Dives reruns when the Memphis BBQ Tour episode aired.  I had caught it before (season 3 episode 9) but it sparked an idea.  I realized that I had only eaten Memphis BBQ once back in the early 80’s at the Rendezvous.  With Memphis just a little over 3 hours West I decided I was gonna take my own Memphis BBQ Tour.  Naturally I posted my idea on Facebook…I have been told I’m an “over-poster” but hey…we all have our issues right?  Soon after my post several FB Friends commented they wanted to go too!  So faster than green grass through a goose….. the DoRag Does Memphis BBQ Tour was born! 

The DDD episode included Leonard's Pit Barbecue, Marlowe's Ribs, Tom's Bar-B-Q . Cozy Corner, Central BBQ,  & the Germantown Commissary.  I also added my friend & fellow Competition Cook Melissa Cookston’s restaurant The Memphis BBQ Company.  After all Melissa is a multi-time World Champion!  I checked my “social calendar” & came up with a date that did not conflict with any BBQ events in the area February 7-8.  My next move was to contact each of the restaurants & discuss our visit.  I was wanting to give them a heads up on us coming & arrange to meet the Owner, Manager, or Pitmaster.  I wanted to understand more about their history, cooking techniques, & philosophies & hopefully score a tour of the “Pit”.  I sent out emails to each restaurant introducing the group & our purpose.  Being it was Thanksgiving week I did not get any immediate responses until the first of December.  Over the next few weeks I received email replies & even a few phone calls welcoming us to pay them a visit.  Sadly Cozy Corner informed me they had a bad fire & were not sure when they were going to reopen.  It became apparent that some peeps would arrive on Friday so I added a Friday night stop at….wait for it….yes the Rendezvous!  Hey…you gotta pay respect!  I then looked at the logistics to plan out the schedule & route.  With the help of several locals here’s what I came up with:

11:00AM Leonard's Barbecue
1:30PM Tom's BBQ
4:00PM Marlow's BBQ
8:00PM Memphis BBQ Co.
11:00PM Gibson's Donuts  (added during another “drankin & watchin Food Porn” night!)

11:00AM The Commissary
1:30PM Central BBQ
4:00PM Morris Grocery

A base hotel was chosen, reservations were made.... all we had to do was wait until February!  Stay tuned for Part 2.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

WOW... 2014 SUCKED (kinda)!

Watching TV today a Psychologist was discussing the emotional impact the holidays can have on some people.  He suggested people should take inventory of the past years positive events and experiences and reflect on them.  His theory was the list would provide a springboard for how you approach 2015 and in doing so you would feel good about yourself.  Ok...maybe I can buy that but if your gonna inventory the good things shouldn't you inventory the bad shit? And with some people wouldn't the bad shit offset the good shit and result in even more depression?  I could debate this further but I am not a Physiologist just a GOBRT..."Good Ole Boy with Redneck Tendencies" however I did like the idea of making a list of the good shit!  So despite Lawyers, Judges, Courtrooms, a bad wreck, rib disqualification in Cookeville, & other life changing bad mojo there have been some incredible events, experiences, & PEOPLE in my life this past year!  Here's my list....

Music has always been an important part of my life. I began playing trumpet in 3rd grade & guitar in 4th. My favorite instrument to play is the stereo/radio but nothing can compare to LIVE MUSIC! Here are a few artist & bands I had the pleasure of seeing & hearing (in no particular order)  Sturgill Simpson, Blackberry Smoke, Holly Williams, Byron Hill, Wil Nance, Roxie Dean, Will Hogue, Billy Joe Shaver, Jason Isbell, Lucinda Williams, Shawn Mullins, Chuck Cannon, Emmylou Harris, Jamey Johnson, Ricky Scaggs, Jeff Hanna, Martraca Berg, Keith Anderson, Kaycey Smith, John England & The Western Swingers, Larry Hamilton & The Palace Band, 50 Shades of Hay, Eileen Rose & Silver Threads, Wendy Newcomer, 2Country4Nashville, Pork McElhinny, David Petersen, Skipper Grace, Drake White & The Big Fire, Clare Dunn, Brian Collins, Donica Knight, Todd Snider, Buddy Miller, Robert Ellis, Chas Sandford & a few others that I am sure I missed.

Next are some things I did, attended, or visited starting with competing in 4 BBQ contests (Winchester, Lewisburg, Cookeville, & Mt. Pleasant) of which the Tony Stone Cookeville contest is my favorite, Studio A catering event, the KCBS Banquet in Nashville, spending time in the "Holler" in Kentucky, the Watertown Yard Sale, Jeff & Luann's Birthday/Anniversary party,  Brandt & Mandy Snedeker Catering event, The Jack, spending weekends poolside at Hooperville, assisting Donny Bray at WCPC BBQ Classes, lightening of the Jack Daniels Barrel Christmas Tree, July 4th Party at Hooperville, weekends in Mullberry, Jack week at the Butt-Ranch, and Orange Beach Vacation! I am sure I am leaving out something but my memory is fading as I finish a bottle of Winter-Jack! 

Contrary to what Facebook says you can never have enough friends! So I made some new ones in 2014. Colleen Martin, Rodney Crowell, Angie Leathers, Andy Williams, Mayco & Marianne Van Galen, Phil Wingo, Donette & John Van Cleve, The Meat Sweats, Flaming Pig BBQ, Chip Chapman, Melissa Pyne, Bob Williams, Andy Sawran, Edz wings, De Filous, Dale Watson, Braai-B-Que, Damon & Michelle Austin, Todd Sessa, Chef Sara, Mike Wolf, Johnny Love, Rick Morris, all entered my life in 2014. I also re-connected with Joe Beckham, Leroy Groves, Patricia Rhodes, & Dan Watson. Thank you for allowing me into you "Circle of Friends" & I am so thankful that you are in mine. Please forgive me as I am sure I have left many off this list. Winter Jack is now down to 1/4th.  

 I could not have gotten through 2014 with the help of several special people in my life.  Lee McWright, Jeff & Luann Edwards, Misty Tinch, Richard & the entire Finley family, Joe Luffman, Jeff McPherson, Buck, Lou, Phyllis, Christy & David Baker, Jan & Randy Minchey, Tonya Alexander, Donny & the entire Bray family, Byron Chism, Darryl Sage, Penny & Chip Hooper, & Lu Ann & Mark Walker. You have all been there for me to lean on, give an encouraging word, a listening ear, & a soft place to land. I can't thank you enough.  You make my life better & I am so thankful for each of you.  2014 would not be possible without the support of my family.  I don't know where I would be if it wasn't for them.  My brothers Shane and Tim are always there when I need them. I am so proud of them!  My "Silver Lining" in 2014 is the time that I have gotten to spend with "Momma DoRag"!  She is my ROCK.  I can always count on her to cheer me up no matter what.  She is the most caring, giving, & loving person you could ever meet.  We have had fun cookin, eating, exploring, laughing, crying, arguing, & makin the best of 2014.

 As I sit here finishing the last drop of Winter Jack I guess the Psychologist "list idea" worked for me.  I did have a really great 2014 after all & I am so excited to see what 2015 has in store for me.  Guess I will have to make a list as I go!  Hope I am on your list! Hopefully not your shit-list!

Have a safe & Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

DoRag's Review: Chauhan Ale & Masala House 

Decided to try “Indian” food for the first time after hearing several good reviews of the Chauhan Ale & Masala House.  One of the dinner groups that I am a member of arranged reservations so the idea of new Peeps & new food was just what I was needing.  Chauhan is located @ the corner of Grundy & 12th Ave North in the former “Roosters BBQ” “Judge Roy Beans BBQ” location.  The exterior has undergone some changes & the interior has a new “warm & cozy” look & feel.  I expected the sounds & smells that my “Un-refined Redneck Ass” had visioned but to my surprise it was very pleasant & not a scent of incense to be found!  I met my group, none of which I had previously met.  They were congregated in the bar area but none had drinks.  After some introductions I confessed “I ain’t ever eaten any Indian food”.  It was like the whole dang place heard me…everything got really quiet until some Dude said “no worries we’ll help you”!  Then he commenced to rattle off for 10 minutes about the whole Indian food flavor profile none of which made sense to me.  Hell by then all I wanted was a beer!  Finally the rest of the group (13 in all) arrived and we were seated.  The exposed brick walls served as screens for several overhead projectors showing pictures of the food & various other subjects.  Made for a swanky look!  Our waitress brought us water out of a fancy bottle & menus.  Reading the menu was a chore being it was dark & the print was a bit small but I managed to find the drink list.  Only a couple in the group ordered drinks so after several minutes of deep thought, I ordered a beer.  I continued praoozin the menu when something caught my eye in the Appetizer section…”Garam Masala Pork Belly”!!!  Now there’s something I know about!  So when the waitress returned I ordered one up.  Again I felt a bit out of place because only one other at the table ordered an appetizer!  Guess I got some learnin to do about these “Dinner Clubs”.  The small talk continued….the Lady across from me was from the area & seemed to be a historian of sorts.  The Dude next to her had lived in Austin for a bit & both had traveled around the world.  They were in a “deep” conversation & I thought it best for this ole boy to stay in the shallow end!  Finally the beer showed up & I immediately ordered another.  The nice Lady next to me worked for the State of Tennessee & lived in the Donelson/Hermitage area.  It was her first time at the Masala House but was familure with Indian food & was very helpful with the menu.  I played it safe & went with Chicken and Tikka Masala (tomato cream sauce).  By this time beer #2 arrived with the Pork Belly Appetizer.  The small plate contained 5 cubed pieces of pork that had been deep fried & laid on top of some greens & slivers of apple.  Quite “un-impressive” & at $2 a chunk I was expecting a little more!  They did have nice crispiness & flavor but by the time I shared with my new found friends all I got was a bite!  I ordered another beer!  
Garam Masala Pork Belly
More chit-chat until the waitress returns with our entrees.  My Chicken Tikka Masala arrived accompanied by bowl of rice.  The chicken was submerged in a orange colored sauce & it was suggested that I spoon it over the rice which I did.  My first bite to my delight was good!  Tender chicken in a creamy sauce with a hint of heat & spices.  The more I ate, the more I liked it!  The others had more traditional Indian dishes like Chicken Saag, Lamb Korma, & Shrimp Moilee but I was happy with my “safe” choice.  These people eat fast & before I knew it the waitress was back asking for desert orders of which there were none!  I excused myself for a short trip to the “facility” & upon my return most of the Peeps were gone!  Puzzled, I ordered another beer!

It would be a stretch to say I “like Indian food” but I can say I liked what I ate.  I will leave it to you to debate whether Chicken Tikka Masala  is traditional Indian or a UK dish as I learned the British lay claim to this dish & it is very popular in the United Kingdom.  In the end I had a pleasant yet somewhat puzzling experience so I may return to eat another day.  The Chauhan Ale & Masala House is a nice, beautifully decorated, cozy, dimly lit, possibly romantic restaurant which provided great service & above average food. Just remember that is coming from a “Un-refined Redneck” so pay them a visit & decide for yourself!  Waitress...another beer please!!!!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Salsa de Mesa (Table Salsa)

Made some Salsa today to use on Brisket Tacos. I usually make more like a Pico de Gallo which is more chunky. I found this recipe on The Hispanic Kitchen website while looking for a recipe that would have a longer "shelf life" than I had been getting with the Pico. As you can see it made about 2 cups and has quite a bite due to the Jalapenos! You may want to start with 1 pepper and go from there! As for "shelf-life" will keep you posted! Pretty easy to make...give it a try! Enjoy!

6 Roma tomatoes
1/4 white onion
 2 to 3 serrano or jalapeƱo peppers
1 to 2 cloves of garlic, sliced
Juice of ½ lime or 1 key lime
Pinch of crushed Mexican oregano
¼ cup chopped cilantro (optional)

Combine the tomatoes, onion and chili peppers in a microwave-safe dish. Cover with a paper towel and cook in the microwave for 7 to 8 minutes. You could most certainly cook it on the stove top as well by covering tomato, onion and peppers with water and simmering for 20 minutes. Drain all the water before blending. Remove from microwave and let cool slightly. Transfer to a blender, adding lime juice, garlic, oregano, cilantro (if using) and salt, to taste. Start by pulsing, then quickly blend for a few seconds. Taste for salt. Serve warm or at room temperature. Cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

Check out the Hispanic Kitchen for more great recipes!    The Hispanic Kitchen