An Apology to Guy Fieri

I have said a lot of terrible things about Guy Fieri over the years.  Several years ago on Epic Portions I researched his family history and wrote about his name change from “Ferry” to “Fieri”.  I mocked his terrible restaurants and wrote about how stupid of an idea it is to run a Mexican/Sushi fusion restaurant.  I still stand behind the opinion that Guy Fieri makes terrible food and shouldn’t be looked to for any food guidance.

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What I will say, is Guy Fieri seems to be a pretty decent guy.  If you search really deep in the news and sort through whatever Donald Trump has done this week, you might find a story about Guy Fieri feeding 5,000 fire evacuees per day.  Fieri constructed a makeshift kitchen in Santa Rosa, CA last Thursday and has been serving meals to people displaced by the massive fires in the area.  He has brought with him several massive smokers and several other chefs from the area to cook alongside him.  Not only is he feeding evacuees, but he is also sending food to the firefighters working to battle the blazes.  The menu includes chicken, pork loin, braised cabbage, mashed potatoes and baked beans.

Here’s the part where I respect Guy Fieri the most for this.  There is not one single picture or mention of him doing this on his Twitter or Instagram.  The most he has done is set up a Classy.org site for donations, pose for a few pictures with fire fighters and give one interview to a PBS affiliate where he gave this quote:

“I’m not promoting anything. I’m just here cooking. This is feeding people. People need help, and I’m here to help. That’s it.”

So to you Guy Fieri, I apologize for ripping on your terrible food ideas and the public persona you have created to build yourself quite the successful brand.  This is pretty damn cool that you’re putting in work to help people and not asking for anything in return for it.  This is exactly what he said it is, people needing help and he’s using his success to do something positive.  You have my promise that I will not join in on the hating Guy Fieri game anytime in the future.  I hope you will do the same.

Satchel’s BBQ

I get asked a lot for my opinion on who is serving the best BBQ in the area.  When you get a pig tattooed on your arm you kind of open yourself up for these questions.  Usually people assume it’s going to be a well known joint like Slow’s or Blue Tractor.  I know this is a real “Hipster” thing to say but I’m not a big fan of either of those places.  If you’ve ever read my ode to whole hog style BBQ, you know that I’m a firm believer that great BBQ does not come from a place with an extensive menu and a bunch of different sauces. Instead, I believe that great BBQ comes from small places that someone decided to open because they loved everything that goes into smoking meats.  The mecca of greatness, Franklin BBQ, was opened up by a guy who became obsessed with smoking brisket in his back yard and now has a cult following that includes a four hour wait every morning.  The passion and detail that goes into smoking meat at home and then figuring out how offer that same taste on a large scale is what makes BBQ great.

Now I could talk about why I love BBQ for hours but the purpose of this post is to tell a story about what I think is best BBQ joint within fifty miles of where I live.  When you live in Westland, MI, which was voted least desirable city to open a restaurant in the Unite States the past two years, you have to travel these distances to find quality food. Luckily, Satchel’s BBQ has me covered with a short drive to Ann Arbor.

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Satchel’s BBQ was opened in 2010 by a guy named Hugh who worked in Finance, had zero restaurant experience and loved BBQ.  To steal a quote from the Ann Arbor News, he “likes to make BBQ and people like BBQ”.  It’s just that simple.  He opened up in a little 1500 sq. ft space that shares a building with a Verizon store to house his Southern style BBQ joint and named it after his dog.  There is no visible sign out front, just two large smokers that run throughout the day and into the night.  As you drive by on Washtenaw ave., you can smell the smokers from your car, which is probably better than any sign Hugh could have purchased.  The first time I went to Satchel’s was early 2011 when I was returning from some sort of debauchary in Ann Arbor.  The smell made me turn around in Whole Food’s parking lot and pay the place a visit.  I was BBQ rookie back then and I was shocked at the absence of sauce on the meat.  Up until this day, I had always craved different types of sauces poured all over my smoked meats.  This was different, the meat actually stood on its own.  It didn’t need some Sweet Baby Ray’s bullshit sauce to make it taste good.  It has been my favorite BBQ in Michigan since that day.

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There is absolutely nothing fancy about Satchel’s. The menu is written on the wall in chalk and offers the essentials in BBQ:  Chicken, pulled pork, beef brisket and pork ribs. There are no BBQ enchiladas, no pulled pork nachos and definitely no vegan friendly options.  You can get your meat in a sandwich and there are sides — collards, cole slaw, beans and mac and cheese.  If you want desert with your meal there is one option:  Bread pudding with whiskey sauce.  All plates are served with two pieces of dense cornbread, which could be a side item of its own. The beauty of the simplicity of this menu is everything is done well.  They have a small focus on a simple cooking process and have perfected it.  There is no reason to do anything else.  The meat and the wood do the talking.

So let’s talk get away from everything that makes this place great from the outside and just start talking about the food.  It’s fucking fantastic.  It’s smoked slowly over hardwood with what tastes like salt and pepper and that’s it.  The meat is allowed to speak for itself, instead of being complicated by any additional spices.  Still to this day the pork and brisket is served completely naked without any sweet ketchup sauces interfering with the marriage between the smoke and the meat.  People that aren’t used to naked BBQ are given more than five different sauces on the table but they really don’t need it. Everything holds up and can stand on its own.  The brisket is easily the best I have ever had.  It is served with a dark bark, created by the smoke, on the outside and if you are lucky they will include part of the fatty deckle — the holy grail of beef brisket.  It literally melts in your mouth.  The pulled pork isn’t pulverized, rather served in large chunks that fall apart under your fork.

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With the deliciousness of the meat, you would think that the sides becomes an afterthought and are overshadowed.  Well, you would be wrong.  The collards here are among the best I’ve had in the country.  They absorb the saltiness of the pork and end with a little bit of heat. If you don’t like greens, I challenge you to give these a try and tell me you haven’t changed your mind.  The beans are cooked in cast iron pots within the smoker and absorb all of the flavor trapped in the metal vessels.  I have a hard time, no matter how hungry I am, not ordering an extra side to go with my meal.

My personal recommendation:  Get the combo plate with pulled pork, brisket with collards and beans on the side.  Add a sweet tea in there and you’ve got the best BBQ that Michigan has to offer.

In summary, Satchel’s has been my favorite BBQ joint in Michigan since 2011.  If there’s one food item I feel confident to tell you that I know my shit about, it’s BBQ.   You will love Satchel’s, and if you don’t then I’m afraid I don’t respect your opinions on food and/or life in general.  Check this place out if you are looking for all of the things that makes BBQ great:  Passion, simplicity, meat and of course wood.

The Drink to End All Summer Drinks

Summer is here and of course that means it’s time to add fruity shit to our alcohol and drink it outside.  

Not so fast….

It seems like every Summer in my quest for outdoor drinking I stumble upon for a new beer and/or a new drink .  Years ago it was Oberon and some shitty liquor that probably got mixed with a shittier fruit juice.  It’s graduated over the years to better beer, better liquor but not better fruit juice (looking at you, Everfresh).   The Summer of 2017 has culminated to the best beer and the best drink of any Summer yet.  The best part of all, there’s no shitty fruit juice involved.

If you’re willing to pay a few extra dollars than you’re currently paying for your Summer drink of choice, I have the best concoction that’s ever gone into a glass during a hot summer day for sitting in a chair in your front yard while yelling at cars to slow down. Something to make older people feel young and younger people feel old.  It’s the best of all worlds.

Liquor?  Check.

Beer?  Check.

Lemonade?  Check.

Non-Alcoholic Mixer?  Nope.

Ladies and Gentlemen I give you… The Southern 75.

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The first ingredient in this incredible concoction is a beer I finally purchased after hearing people talk about it for months.  Old Nation Brewing’s M-43 IPA is making any other “Summer style beer” look absolutely silly.  It’s a New England Style IPA meaning it’s a cloudier and more full bodied version of those IPAs you were drinking while trying to discover craft beer.  It’s close to 7% alcohol and goes down smooth with a taste of oranges, lemons and grapefruits.  Seriously, if you haven’t had this stuff get off your ass. If you can’t locate M-43 or if $15 for a 4-pack is a little rich for your blood any other IPA will do.  Try to look for something smooth — not a double IPA or anything crazy like that.

The second ingredient is bourbon.  What else?  Be careful here, though.  Use a smoother bourbon — Think Makers Mark or Four Roses.  You could go with Wild Turkey 101 if you’re feeling really crazy but remember that this entire drink is alcohol.  A higher proof bourbon will only allow you 2-3 of these, depending on your drinking abilities, and no one likes a lightweight.

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Once you have acquired your ingredients, it’s time to mix.  Grab literally any glass you have available to you.  It could be a plastic cup.  It really doesn’t matter.

  1. Add 1/2 oz of simple syrup.
  2. Add 2/3 oz of lemon juice
  3. Stir, add ice.
  4. Add 2 oz of bourbon
  5. Add half a bottle of IPA
  6. Go outside and drink

How crazy you want to get with this is up to you.  If you’re into fancy cocktails put all of those ingredients in a shaker, add a few dashes of bitters and mix in a cocktail shaker. This will give you that foam effect you see in the image above that I blatantly stole from a different site. Lemon peel is completely optional.

AAAAAAND there you go.  The Southern 75 aka the best Summer drink in the history of Summer drinks. 100% alcohol mixture of beer, bourbon and Lemonade.  What could be better?  That’s a rhetorical question because the answer is nothing.

 

Tepache – An Explosive Tale

If you read my previous opost right under this one you are aware that my new interest lies within fermentation.  If you haven’t read that post do me a quick favor, scroll down and give it a read.  There are a couple of videos and things that will help this make more sense.  My first attempt in the fermentation game was Tepache — A refreshing pineapple drink that is popular with street vendors in Mexico.

The idea is pretty simple — Pineapple rind and ginger contain a lot of natural yeast.  Add sugar for the yeast organisms to feast on and they produce carbon dioxide waste which carbonates your beverage.  If you’re more of a visual learner, here it is in a nice simple picture:

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So what’s the point of drinking a fermented beverage?  Well, for me it was to just mess around with science and create a refreshing mixer for beer and dark rum.  If you’re into the health stuff, fermentation introduces bacteria to your system that helps with digestion and helps you absorb nutrients better.  You know how Jaime Lee Curtis talks about how Activia yogurt will help keep you “regular”?  Yeah, that.  Basically, fermented foods and drinks help you poop better.

So in summary you can either eat foods such as yogurt that introduce natural probiotics to your system or you can leave a bunch of fruit and sugar in a jar for a week to create a low alcohol beverage that you can mix with high alcohol alcohol beverages that makes you poop better.  Man, that was a long sentence.

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The version of Tepache I contained the following ingredients:

  • One whole pineapple, rind on
  • One piece of ginger
  • One habanero pepper without seeds
  • 1lb of brown sugar (more on this later)
  • One gallon distilled or boiled water

It then sat in a glass jar in dark area for four days while the yeast snacked on the massive amount of brown sugar I added.  Some people say you only need to do this for three but on day three I was tired from work and said F it.  On day four I had a slightly carbonated beverage that was much less sweet than when I first put it together.  I then strained the beverage through cheese cloth and into airtight glass containers to allow for further carbonation.

Here’s where this whole thing gets interesting.  I was having dinner in Ypsilanti when I get a call from my wife letting me know that something sounded like a bomb just went off in our home.  Turns out one of the glass bottles with my Tepache exploded due to carbon dioxide build up.  There was glass and Tepache everywhere.  It was an absolute mess.  Luckily, the other two bottles remained intact and produced a delicious drink that I quickly mixed with a wheat beer.  It was fantastic and I won’t go into any details about the health benefits that followed.

So here’s my only issue — either I added too sugar at the beginning or I filled my bottles up too high.  Problem is, there’s only one way to find out and that’s make more fermented beverages and see if they explode or not.  I’m up to that challenge and I am completely sure that my wife will be fine with the possibility of more glass shrapnel in our home.

NEXT UP : Fermented Ginger Beer!  Stay tuned!

Fermentation

I’ll admit, not much going on in terms of food these days.  I’m getting off three days of being sick and haven’t been outside in 48 hours.  What do I do while locked in the house for multiple days, you might ask?

I watch food and beverage shows on YouTube.  This time I around, I watched a few videos and pulled the trigger on something I have been wanting to experiment with for a long time:  Fermentation, or to make it really simple:  playing with bacteria in my food and drink.  To get me started, I have purchased single product.. a one gallon glass jar.

In this jar, I will start by making two things.  The first is Tepache, a Pineapple drink popular in Mexico that contains pineapple, brown sugar, water and cloves.  It then sits for three days while the bacteria eats the sugar and then you have a delicious bubbly, probiotic drink.  Apparently it also goes well with tequila or rum.  Or any kind of alcohol.

Side note, I urge you to watch the following video about the steps necessary to make Tepache.  Even if you have no interest, this series on Bon Appetit’s YouTube channel about cooking with bacteria is the best.

The second will be ginger ale which is done by creating a “ginger bug”, basically mixing ginger and sugar so the bacteria from the ginger feeds on the sugar and creates fermentation, then mixing with it with a homemade ginger tea.  This typically sits for a week before you have a delicious bacteria carbonated ginger ale.  I’ll be completely honest, I’m doing this because I’m curious how much better it will taste with Wild Turkey than my store bought ginger beer.  Notice a trend here?

If any of you have any experience in this field let me know.  I’m eventually going to want to make some Mead, AKA Honey Wine, and I’m sure I’ll fall into a rabbit hole after that.  I have created a new category to organize this exploration so if you’re interested, keep checking back.

Here I Go Again..

OK, so welcome to my new site.  If you aren’t familiar with me, my name is John Moors and I ran a site called Epic Portions for years.  Me and some friends of mine wrote a series of very unprofessional articles that gained a small following.  Taco Bell even flew me to California to visit their test kitchen.  Somewhere around 2010, the “foodie” craze was in full swing and I lost interest in documenting my love for food.  It seemed like anyone with a smart phone and an opinion was starting their own food blog and critiquing restaurants on Yelp as if they were some kind of expert.  I found myself reviewing different restaurants and giving my opinion as if I had any credibility at all.  Side note – I did manage to start quite a revolution against Tios Mexican Cafe, which I still stand by, but other than that I have accomplished absolutely nothing that should make you respect any opinion I have about any restaurant or food in general.

That being said, I love food and I love cooking.  I do have strong opinions which I feel more comfortable giving you now that I have admitted that I have zero credibility.  That kind of gives me that “I can say whatever I want just don’t take me seriously”thing, which is pretty much where I want this site to be — A place where you can find entertainment in food, cooking, recipes, traveling or whatever I’m into in a given week.

There will be spelling errors, there will be opinions that you probably don’t agree with and I will probably ridicule people and places that you may enjoy.  There will be bad grammar, “bad words” and I eventually plan to document the butchering of a pig.  I don’t remember anything about web design so the design and layout of this will be constantly changing.  I rarely eat vegetables, salads or desert.  These are your warnings.

I am not a professional writer, chef or food critic.  However, I do have an unhealthy love of all things food.  I welcome you to take this journey back with me and see what I come up with.  I have absolutely no plans on what this will become other than an ongoing journal of what I’m doing in the food world.  I hope you enjoy.