KC Masterpiece Ain’t Kosher

Yet another reason to avoid KC Masterpiece and other store-bought mega brands: a kashrut alert from the Orthodox Union.

KASHRUTH ALERT

August 5, 2011 KC Masterpiece – Buffalo Marinade
Brand: KC Masterpiece
Product: Buffalo Marinade
Company: HV Food Products – Oakland, CA
Issue: Not certified
This product bears an unauthorized OU symbol.  It is not certified by the Orthodox Union and contains dairy.  Corrective measures are being implemented.

I am intrigued by the “corrective measures… being implemented.” I am picturing Orthodox ninjas crashing through the ceiling at KC Masterpiece’s headquarters in Kansas City… er… Oakland, California… to put a bloody end to the tainted marinade.  Whatever the punishment, it is yet another reason to avoid products made in California that have Kansas City in the name.  So, BBQ Jews, keep your sauce local and you can be assured your pork will be kosher and your conscience clear.

ALO: Strange Brew Redo

A little over a month ago I posted an article about the strange press releases I receive due to my BBQ blogging. In that post, I poked fun at a drink called ALO, an aloe-based beverage.  At the time, I wrote:

Well, I guess my first question would be what the heck does this drink have to do with barbecue?  I honestly can’t think of a drink I’d be less likely to consume while tucking into a plate of BBQ than aloe vera juice… unless I burned  my tongue on a rib. That said, I am duly impressed that ALO Drink is the “#1  ready-to-drink aloe vera beverage in the U.S.”: I mean, there is more than one such drink?  No wonder people think the end times are near…

Well, the company promoting ALO called my bluff and shipped me a case of the stuff.  Now that’s good PR.  So I tried it. The drink, with chunks of aloe suspended in it and unusual flavor combinations like aloe/mangosteen/mango and aloe/pomelo/pink grapefruit/lemon, is a bit different to say the least.  My first sips were not enjoyable, but before long I acquired the taste and was sucking down ALOs like so many bottles of Cheerwine.

The relevant question, of course, is would ALO pair well with barbecue?  The answer: never talk about “pairing” and barbecue in the same sentence or I may have to smack you.  Oh, and yes.  ALO would work fine with barbecue. It’s on the sweet side and the flavors (aside from wheat grass, which goes well with nothing except the drain) would complement pork fairly well.  Still, don’t tell anyone if you do it. I’m not sure how the barbecue gods would react to such an affront, but if you close your eyes and imagine you are drinking iced tea they might forgive you… I will.

 

Porky’s Pulpit: Dickey’s to the Rescue? No thanks.

As loyal readers may have noticed, I am not the world’s biggest fan of Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, though I am a member of The Yellow Cup Club for research purposes.  So when I saw this press release from the Media Machine that is Dickey’s, I threw up a little bit in my mouth (ironically, it tasted a bit like Dickey’s pulled pork… I jest).  According to the release, “In the past 8 months, Dickey’s Barbecue Pit launched 34 new stores in cities across the country, fueling employment growth in each community… bring[ing] employment opportunities to struggling communities. With each new franchise that opens we bring dozens of jobs and, while unemployment numbers remain at historic levels, we are looking to expand these efforts.  As our franchise expands from coast to coast, we are constantly looking to employ people locally,’ President of Dickey’s Barbecue Restaurants, Inc. Roland Dickey, Jr. said.”

I am pleased that Dickey’s is “constantly looking to employ people locally,” since it would be a poor business model to open a restaurant that employs people who don’t work there.   Still, I can’t help but feel like rooting for Dickey’s to grow is like rooting for Wal-Mart, Starbucks or any other number of mega-chains that have taken over for the mom and pop five-and-dimes and the local coffee shops of the country. Worse yet, whereas even the old time five-and-dimes sell the same crap made in China, and coffee is a fairly universal language, barbecue is/should be hyper local.  Part of what makes barbecue so appealing to me is its particular heritage, its local flavor (figuratively and literally), and the multi-generational pride in regional, and even town to town, differences between meats, sauces, rubs, and the like.

In short, a barbecue chain is antithetical to everything barbecue is about.  Chain barbecue, whether “good” or “bad” in taste, is by definition universal and designed for mass appeal, meaning it is anti-local.  That may work for hamburgers, or coffee, or cheap t-shirts, but not for barbecue.  I don’t want to be able to eat the same brisket in Cheyenne, Wyoming as I eat in Lockhart, Texas. If I did, I’d eat every meal at Applebees (baby back ribs, anyone?!).

Aside from my philosophical objections to franchising barbecue, I have serious reservations about Dickey’s overall impact on employment.  Does each new Dickey’s franchise simply add local jobs, or is the truth a little more complicated?  Are there one-of-a-kind local restaurants, whether serving barbecue or otherwise, that lose customers to Dickey’s?  Will your favorite local BBQ joint survive Dickey’s aggressive expansion plans?  Will the pitmaster who spent his adult life tending the coals at your favorite joint be eager to reheat meat in Dickey’s kitchen?

I know, I know, this is life in a capitalist economy and one can make a similar argument about virtually any chain.  And life without chains would have drawbacks too (I own some of those cheap t-shirts and have a Big Mac from time to time).  I don’t begrudge Dickey’s for doing what they do well, but I sure hope I’m not the only one who steers clear of The Big Yellow Cup That Could in favor of local joints that show pride in their uniqueness.  The barbecue served by chains is something less than, while the barbecue served at your local joint is, well, barbecue.

Carolina Barbecue in Northeast Ohio?

When I think of northeast Ohio, my first thought is not, “the Carolina BBQ capital of the rust belt.”  Rather, it is, “there’s a northeast Ohio?”  Indeed, apparently there is a northeast Ohio and it may very well be the Carolina BBQ capital of the rust belt.  The Old Carolina Barbecue Company has four locations in northeast Ohio–Akron, Canton (2), Massillon–and a fifth location is set to open soon.  I have frequently wondered about the lack of Carolina-style barbecue joints across the country compared to places serving brisket, ribs and the like.  Thus, it is particularly amazing that a restaurant in a part of the country known primarily for Goodyear tires and the Pro Football Hall of Fame would be a hotbed for Carolina barbecue.

The owners of the Old Carolina Barbecue Company seems serious about their commitment to Carolina traditions.  According to their website, “Traveling across the country opened our eyes to a great style of food not widely represented in our home state. While Texas, Kansas City and Memphis all have their own claim to the best barbecue, it was the “True Q” of the Carolinas that we appreciated the most.”  Old Carolina claims to cook their ‘cue “over hickory wood” (presumably on an electronic cooker with hickory added, but I’ll check into that).  They say they also serve brisket and chicken, “to keep the yankees happy,” but their focus is pork.

The pork is served unadorned with sauce, a good sign for a BBQ restaurant, and comes with five sauce choices for seasoning at the table.  While NC BBQ fundamentalists (and I am one in most cases) would shudder at the thought of serving more than one sauce, this is Ohio so I recognize it is probably a wise business decision. Vinegar and hot pepper aren’t for everyone.  Put another way, not everyone is sophisticated enough to appreciate the vinegar and hot pepper aesthetic.  Among the sauces offered are variations on Lexington- and Eastern-style sauces, as well as South Carolina mustard-based sauce and a couple of sauces that pander to non-Carolinians.

The rest of Old Carolina’s menu is pretty typical for a BBQ joint inside or outside of the Carolinas, except that it serves brisket, chicken, ribs, and turkey as well as “pulled pork.”  Sides include hush puppies, Brunswick stew, slaw (creamy mayo and vinegar variations offered, notably), french fries and more.  Banana pudding is offered for dessert, and sweet tea is available alongside yankee tea.  Did I mention they offer Cheerwine too?  Huzzah!

If I ever make it to northeast Ohio, I will definitely check this place out. Honestly, I fear that it aspires to be the next Dickey’s, given that franchise opportunities available and they have a virtual stack of slick marketing materials online, but I am holding out hope that it is simply a humble business with an appreciation for Carolina barbecue.  Until I make it to the greater Akron/Canton area (a destination that wasn’t previously on my bucket list), I’ll have to rely on reports from loyal readers.  I will also be in touch with the owners to see if they are available for a BBQ&A… stay tuned.