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Good for Dinner in Temecula?

I was there on a Friday for lunch and didn't get that impression at all. Could be different on the weekends, but my impression is that if bikers are there it's the weekend warriors that wear suits during the week as opposed to chopper types. If it otherwise looks good you could go and see and just have a plan B if too many bikers. It was so good I'm trying to manufacture reasons to get down there but it's 130 miles from me. :(

Aug 12, 2013
freedy in California

Santa Maria BBQ - More Red Oak Flavor and the Science of Smoke & Nitrogen Dioxide

I think I may have found the sunset recipe for pinquito beans on their site. What I do like about it compared to the more common recipe is that it doesn't use tomato puree and uses chili powder instead of chili sauce. The Sunset recipe seems simple enough to use as a good starting point anyhow.

I knew the Righetti's were behind Susie Q but didn't know of the association with Far Western Tavern. Unfortunately, Far Western has moved and changed (ownership too I think) to a more contemporary and upscale format about a year ago. This isn't intended to be criticism at all, it's just that I personally like those old classic restaurants that have been around for the better part of a century. I haven't tried the new format so it could be good in it's own right. It appears to be an updated translation of the classic local fare so it may be worth a try.

Aug 05, 2013
freedy in Home Cooking

Santa Maria BBQ - More Red Oak Flavor and the Science of Smoke & Nitrogen Dioxide

The BBQ gets fired up for the dinner menu which starts at 4:00. And a suggestion for anyone that goes there for dinner is to request a table next to the BBQ so you can watch all the action. It's on a covered patio area adjacent to one of the two dining rooms with just windows and four feet or so separation. Hitching Post II in Buellton has a similar setup.

Aug 05, 2013
freedy in Home Cooking

Santa Maria BBQ - More Red Oak Flavor and the Science of Smoke & Nitrogen Dioxide

You can get piquinto's in bulk by the scoop for $.99/lb at many grocery stores in the Santa Maria / Lompoc area. Interesting point about the Susie Q flavor packet though as I have yet to find a halfway decent recipe online. There's a basic recipe that's posted on the "official SM BBQ" website that seems to have taken on a life of it's own and is replicated everywhere. It's way too sweet and lacks something that you get in some of the restaurants. I want to see the Sunset article that was mentioned to see if that recipe was used or if they came up with something good. I've made about three or four variations of recipes I've found online but haven't really attacked getting to the bottom of it. I'll have to try some Susie Q with the flavor packet.

Aug 05, 2013
freedy in Home Cooking

Santa Maria BBQ - More Red Oak Flavor and the Science of Smoke & Nitrogen Dioxide

I bought a half chord probably over a year ago and it stored under a roof. So it's pretty well dried out at this point. However, it was pretty fresh when I got it and my results with respect to red oak flavor weren't noticeably better then. Also, a friend got a fresh batch a couple of months ago and he's challenged in the same way I am. So I haven't ruled out how long the wood has cured but it doesn't appear to be the obvious solution.

Your question got me thinking about different species of red oak which is something I should know more about. Perhaps some red oaks are more intense than others. The guy I get my wood from says it's Coastal Live Oak from Jalama Ranch. I have no reason to doubt him because it's the familiar rough bark with the green fungus on much of it. I'm not sure if the Valley Oaks that are also common around the area are also red and if so, if there's any flavor difference. Seems to most cooks red oak is red oak and that's about all they know.

Aug 05, 2013
freedy in Home Cooking

Santa Maria BBQ - More Red Oak Flavor and the Science of Smoke & Nitrogen Dioxide

I certainly wouldn't feel any remorse in using your Traeger to mimic SM BBQ. The red oak flavor is definitely icing on the cake but a simple well cooked tri-tip is to die for red oak or not. For years I just used a gas grill and can't tell you how many people told me I made the best tri-tip they've ever had. Truth be told all I did was use Lawry's Garlic Salt and properly cook the meat.

Aug 05, 2013
freedy in Home Cooking

Good for Dinner in Temecula?

If good down home country food is of any interest I happened upon a wonderful diner there last week called Rainbow Oaks. I had the daily special which was Jambalaya and it was outstanding. Maybe not exactly what you get in New Orleans but still excellent. It had four little fried chicken wings on top taht were so good it made me wish I got fried chicken. My daughter had a tri-tip sandwich and it was loaded with freshly made medium rare beef.

This place is really one to write home about. Here's a link and check out the well deserved 4.5 stars on yelp.

http://www.rainbowoaksrestaurant.com/

Aug 04, 2013
freedy in California

Santa Maria BBQ - More Red Oak Flavor and the Science of Smoke & Nitrogen Dioxide

I live not far from the land of Santa Maria BBQ so not only do I have access to some of the best available, but I also have ready access to the red oak that's the main essential ingredient. When I go to the restaurants I like (e.g. Jocko's in Nipomo or Hitching Post II in Buellton) every one out of two or three visits my meat is brimming with red oak flavor (which is my objective) where other times it's there but not an over abundance of it. When doing SM BBQ at home my hit ratio is also random but less than the restaurants.

I've tried about everything I can think of to isolate where the magic comes from and it continues to elude me. The BBQrs that do this day in and day out have told me is: time on grill; freshness of the oak; and lots of wood and heat. Experimenting with this advice has done little in finding that magic component. Time on grill certainly has an impact and thicker cuts definitely have more flavor than thinner cuts. But even with large tri-tips that spend a lot of time on the grill it's still somewhat hit and miss.

Lately I've been looking to science for a possible answer and I think I might be on to something with what I've read about how smoke flavor is infused into meat. In particular a) the fact that nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is attracted to moisture; and b) that NO2 is a result of incomplete combustion yet needs "high temperatures" to form.

With regards to the attraction to moisture, that could speak to support the basting (garlic infused oil & vinegar) that some people do after each turn of the meat. As for what the "high" temperature is that NO2 begins to form continues to elude me because most of the data I find is far beyond my technical ability to interpret. Clearly the fire needs to be "hot enough", but in a practical sense can it be so hot that the combustion process becomes so efficient that the amount of NO2 begins to fall?

Here's a little laundry list of things that I've tried but haven't found what I'm trying to achieve. Some of these seem to make a small difference but something tells me there's a necessary condition that needs to exist along with some of these other elements. IOW it's more than one thing.

- Time on grill
- Length of seasoning of wood
- Adding bark to the fire when the meat is on the grill
- Basting the meat when it's turned
- Hot fire with lots of wood vs. cooler fire with lots of smoke
- Seasoning the meat at various times before and/or while it's on the grill (garlic salt/black pepper and sometimes a dash of cayenne).

For the record, all of the BBQ I discuss here is done open pit with no covers or lids whatsoever.

I'd sure appreciate some thoughts from the more technically minded or other experienced BBQrs. Something I want to try in Santa Maria BBQ style is bone-in prime rib (two or three ribs thick) but I'm hoping to solve this red oak flavor dilemma first.

Aug 03, 2013
freedy in Home Cooking

REAL pho eludes me!

Wow! Great addition to the discussion. A couple of things to try that are different and were bothering me. And once again, a recipe that only simmers for a few hours. Maybe there's hope that there's an alternative to boatloads of MSG after all.

Apr 09, 2013
freedy in Home Cooking

REAL pho eludes me!

Thanks for the welcome and very happy to be here. The quality and participation is even more than I hoped for.

Apr 09, 2013
freedy in Home Cooking

REAL pho eludes me!

Yes, absolutely right. Just as I pointed out in the post you replied to. :)

I do tend to take liberties and modify recipes or make hybrid recipes quite often. I think I did that in this case with simmer times and lost track of that fact. But in this case it's not working and clearly I need to go back and do it according to directions before I write the recipe off.

Apr 09, 2013
freedy in Home Cooking

REAL pho eludes me!

I have tried that recipe and I end up with the same problem. But I notice again that this recipe doesn't call for simmering the bones all day like I've been doing. I think as I and cayjoyan mentioned, maybe too much beefiness is the problem. I'm going to take another stab at it with less bones and meat as that could be destroying the balance and might even cause an off flavor. Worth a try.

Apr 09, 2013
freedy in Home Cooking

REAL pho eludes me!

Hi Adrienne,

Yes, I have done that recipe and it's kind of the foundation for my adventure. It was good to go back and read it again though because I see I'm deviating in some ways with my experimentation. One is that I've been simmering the bones for more like seven or eight hours vs. three in that recipe. That's unusual to simmer beef marrow bones for such a short time but maybe there's a reason.

When you make yours how does it turn out compared to a pho restaurant? Does it capture that magical part you describe?

Regarding where I get pho that has the magic that I refer to. The essence of what I'm referring to I find at just about any pho restaurant that I've been to which is about 10 or so, mostly in SoCal and one a couple weeks ago in San Francisco's Chinatown. That's not to say that all pho is equal. A couple things I look for are intensity and balance. I think a lot of it is also just personal preference. My favorite pho place is a fairly new one nearby called Love Pho N More (http://www.yelp.com/biz/love-phò-n-mo...). I'm not saying it's the best but is one of my favorites. Fortunately it's not difficult to find good pho in my area.

Apr 09, 2013
freedy in Home Cooking

REAL pho eludes me!

That's an interesting perspective and I've kind of been suspecting some sort of flavor enhancement in restaurants. The pork bones idea seems like a good suggestion even if for no other reason than to experiment with it.

I'm in Ventura County so I'm not too far from Little Saigon. When I first embarked on my pho adventures I took a trip down there on a Saturday to go to some real Vietnamese markets to get ingredients and have that as my point of reference. Of course I did go to a pho restaurant while I was there. I think the place we went to was Pho Quang Trung. It was very good of course but I was happy to find that there are several places near me that are very much in that league. It happened to be the weekend of the Tet Festival so I got to experience some of that. I've never seen 10,000 firecrackers go off in a big string like that before but I saw it several times that day. Also watching the people dancing in the ornate costumes was a real treat!

Apr 09, 2013
freedy in Home Cooking

REAL pho eludes me!

Yes, I've used the Viet Quoc one and it's pretty good. The sodium content is pretty scary though, I think 1550mg/cup! Seems this is the reality this discussion is heading in though.

Apr 09, 2013
freedy in Home Cooking

REAL pho eludes me!

Every pho restaurant I've asked admits to using it, yet I can't recall a pho recipe that I've seen that calls for MSG! So I've tried it a few times but think maybe I'm being too conservative and not putting enough in. I've read 1/2 tsp per quart of broth is pretty standard so that's what I've used but I don't notice much difference from not adding it at all.

Apr 08, 2013
freedy in Home Cooking

REAL pho eludes me!

Ha ha, you don't know me! I don't give up so easily. :) Often it's hard to equal something I set out to reproduce that I liked in a restaurant. But I can't think of a time I couldn't at least capture the essence of the dish but with subtleties lacking. I found a broth based clam sauce that I really liked recently and it took making it about 15 times to get what I was looking for. There are still some things I can't figure out but it's reasonably close and delicious. But this pho adventure really has me stumped. But I'll get through it with trial and error, tenacity, and maybe getting lucky and finding someone who's been where I am and recognizes what I might be doing wrong or am lacking.

Apr 08, 2013
freedy in Home Cooking

REAL pho eludes me!

What it's lacking is the catch-22. I don't think I've nailed the spices but I really don't think that's the critical factor. For the record though, I've used individual spices called out in the recipes, and then several different packaged pho blends that you can get in good asian markets. Although I may prefer one or the other it's pretty clear that spices aren't the critical factor. That said, I haven't completely figured out the fresh ginger. It seems difficult to capture a decent level of ginger flavor in the end product even though there's plenty of aroma while the broth simmers. After charring the ginger I sometimes even smash it to extract more flavor and I've even up to doubled the amount of ginger that the recipe calls out for. One thing I wonder is if I'm simmering the ginger flavor right out of the broth because the scent is so prevalent early on and then it seems to dissipate. It seems all recipes have you put the ginger in at the beginning and leave it in for the duration. That as opposed to the spices which typically call to put in toward the end and left in only for 15 - 30 minutes typically.

The chilled broth is always extremely gelatinous. I have tried using some meat, once I added a couple pounds of upper shank with all the meat still on, and another time I added a pound or two of meat but I can't recall specifically what it was. You have me thinking that maybe I'm using too much bones and meat and maybe drowning out everything else. The broth usually ends up rather brown after it's done (both chicken and beef) but the onions seem to at least contribute to that. But I'm thinking of how a demi glace has kind of an off and overwhelming flavor from all that concentrated beef until it's blended with whatever it's to be used in.

But back to your question of what's lacking, let me respond with a question. What is it about a good bowl of pho that's so magical before you put any condiments in it? I can't put that into words but if I could it would go a long way in explaining what's lacking.

Not sure that helps much in answering your questions, but you did get me thinking of the possibility that I've been using too many marrow bones.

Apr 08, 2013
freedy in Home Cooking

REAL pho eludes me!

I've tried everything I can find in my pursuit to make restaurant quality pho and I just can't figure it out. I've made numerous batches of pho bo and pho ga trying everything I possibly find.Different recipes, techniques, ingredients and it's just not happening. It's good but not anywhere close to the league of the heavenly goodness of a good pho shop.

I char the ginger and onions and I briefly dry fry the spices in a frying pan and heat them up until they excrete their personality. I've tried obscene amounts of bones an simmer them for 8 hours (for beef). I've tried fish sauce, MSG, varying quantities of salt, rock sugar, and on and on. I've followed various experts recipes to the T and it's just not happening.

Does anyone know how to make pho that's restaurant quality? Anyone worked in a pho restaurant? What the heck is the secret? Could I be doing something royally stupid?

Apr 08, 2013
freedy in Home Cooking