Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Reser's Fine Foods and Pellet Envy partner for 2012 season

‘Que season is officially underway and Reser’s, makers of America’s #1 potato salad, announced today it is sponsoring three competitive barbecue teams: Representing the West Coast is Meat, Inc., winner of numerous People’s Choice awards, the Midwest features Pellet Envy, the 2009 KCBS Team of the Year, and serving as the East Coast representative is Pork Barrel BBQ, creator of the barbecue sauce Men’s Health magazine named the best BBQ sauce in America. 
“In addition to sponsoring the Kansas City Barbecue Society’s (KCBS) national BBQ tour, we are joining forces with three top barbecue teams across the country,” says Teresa Carter, category manager.  “Barbecue lovers will be able to taste our salads and ‘slaw right alongside mouthwatering barbecue.”
Meat, Inc.
Meat, Inc. is a professional BBQ Team competing primarily in Southern California and Arizona.  Finishing a successful 2011 season, Meat, Inc. ranked in the top five percent in chicken and pork rib categories and top 10 percent overall - out of more than 9,000 teams in the country.  For more information, visit
Aaron Black, pitmaster, states, “BBQ makes you think of family and friends - just like Reser's famous potato salad and cole slaw.  We look forward to sharing the Reser's story with barbecue fans around the country this year."
Pellet Envy
It is only natural that one of the country’s top barbecue competitors hails from Kansas City – a city known for its barbecue.  Competing since 2001, Rod Gray, pitmaster has participated in more than 350 events from coast to coast. To date, Pellet Envy has won seventy-seven championships and has ended ten straight seasons as a top nationally ranked team. For more information visit
Rod Gray states, “There is no star without a great supporting cast.  For Pellet Envy, great salads and side dishes from Reser's are the perfect pairing for our award-winning barbecue. “ 
Pork Barrel BBQ
Pork Barrel BBQ founders, Heath Hall and Brett Thompson, started the company out of the basement of their houses, selling their award winning BBQ sauce one bottle at a time. Today, their barbecue sauces and spice rub is carried in over 3,000 stores in 40 states. Throughout their journey, they have stayed true to their mission – to unite the nation through the great tradition of BBQ, and bring bipartisan flavor to your next meal.  For more information visit
"Reser's Fine Foods is as synonymous to the American Dream as potato salad is to a barbecue," said Heath Hall, president and pitmaster. "We are honored to have Reser's as a sponsor of the Pork Barrel BBQ competition barbecue team because they helped pave the road for aspiring entrepreneurs who, like them, started in their home with the hope of attaining a piece of the American Dream.”
About Reser’s  
Oregon-based Reser’s is the leading North American provider of deli salads, fresh salads, side dishes and prepared foods. Founded in 1950 by Earl and Mildred Reser, the company remains privately owned and operated and committed to providing delicious foods for the supermarket and food service industries. Reser’s employs more than 4,000 people in nearly 20 facilities in the U.S. and Mexico.  For more information, visit

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

I Like Pie. A short story.

So, this e-mail arrives offering a free pie.  Not just any pie, but a "very special" pecan pie.  Delete.  Why?  Because I know it's just spam, and even if it isn't, ultimately the sender wants something. But then something odd happened, another e-mail.  I was a surprised.  Typically, those "send you something to try" e-mails are one and done.  Again, I delete it. To my shock, there's a third e-mail.  This time I scrutinized it.  Not only did it look legit, it actually looked like a personal message from the sender.  I figure anybody persistent enough to send three e-mails must be confident in their product? So I respond, acknowledging that I'll try the pie. After all, I like pie.  And if I didn't like this one, I just wouldn't write anything, right (spoiler alert)?

Fast forward a couple weeks.  Getting ready to have a house full for a celebration, any thought of a complimentary pie had long since been forgotten.  Pulling in the driveway from yet another trip of hunting and gathering, I spied a package on my front step.  It was a medium size box, not tall enough to be a shoe box, but wider.  I wasn't
expecting any deliveries.  So I retrieve it and discover it's decently heavy considering the size.  Then I read the shipping label.  Hell,it's that Goode Company Brazos Bottom Pecan Pie just as promised.

I carried it into the kitchen, opened the box, and found this very
cool branded wooden box proudly proclaiming that it's contents were
made in Texas.  When I slid back the lid, I discovered a pecan pie.
Not just any pecan pie mind you, but a beautiful 9" specimen with the
most perfect pecans displayed on top.  Those pecans had to be hand
picked and placed. There's no way that many perfect nuts end up on a
pie by accident.  What can I say?  First impressions are very
important and so far this pie was pretty impressive.  Thinking back,
I'm still amazed that a pie could be shipped part way across the
country and arrive in such perfect condition, but it did.  Now, I am a skeptic, and it takes more than just looks to win me over, let alone motivate me to write a glowing product review.  What
did I do?  Well, I tried the pie right then and there.  Wouldn't you?

Plain and simple folks, the Goode Company Brazos Bottom Pecan Pie
rocks.  I know a thing or two about eating pie.  My mother made pecan
pies.  Folks raved about them.  Her recipe was straight off the Karo
syrup bottle, but that was our little secret.  My grandmother is the
serious pie maker of the family.  Like giving two people halves of a
$100 bill, she taught my wife to make the crust and me to make the
filling.  We've gone on to win many awards with those pies.
Specifically, what I liked about this pecan pie was it's balance.  (I
know, I know.  I might stop reading a pie review if the writer dropped
the idea of balance in pies, but hang in there).  You know how some
people will kill you with kindness, using over the top sappiness to
get on your good side?  Pie makers often do the same thing with
sweetness.  Too often pies are over the top sweet, with no substance
or flavor.  Not so with this pie.  As sweet as most pecan pies are
these days, people eat them without any topping.  As good as this pie
was alone, it would be great with a dollop of fresh whipped cream, or
even better, a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream along side. Don't get
me wrong, I can't imagine anybody complaining about a nice slice of
this pecan pie.  It's the perfect finish to any barbecue meal.

Make it a little easier on yourself this year for the holidays.  Order
a pecan pie from the Goode Company.  It'll mean one less thing to do,
allowing you to focus your attention on smoking the perfect bird and
creating the perfect sides.  Or better yet, send one to someone this
holiday. From a guy who spent twenty years in an industry making sure to never use the phrase "I promise", this pie will be the hit of yourdessert table or the gift they won't soon forget.  I promise.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Another Pellet Envy class in the books

This past weekend Pellet Envy hosted 40 students at our cooking class in Overland Park, Kansas, a suburb of Kansas City.  Folks from several states attended and while the class typically averages attendees from about fifteen states, this class was unusually loaded with people from Kansas and Missouri.

In addition to many obsessed barbecue fans, the class included Mike Williams from Clinton, Missouri.  Mike had just returned from his tour of duty in the Middle East.  While serving in Kuwait, Mike met Johnny Trigg of Smokin' Triggers, Tuffy Stone of Cool Smoke, and Jamie Geer of, all part of a group that went to give our troops a little taste of home while they served their country in a far away land.  While in Kuwait, Johnny, Tuffy, and Jamie fed over 3,000 soldiers on two different bases in a very short period of time.  During this time, they met Mike who struct up a conversation about learning how to cook championship quality barbecue and in the end, Mike sent me an e-mail while serving, saying that when he got home he planned to attend a Pellet Envy class.  We were honored to have Mike as part of this class.  He was thoroughly engaging and enthusiastic to learn our style of barbecue.

Next up, the Old School versus High Tech class rolls into Yorktown, Virginia on March 18 & 19, 2011. With seats still available,  Johnny Trigg and I will be teaching our two unique styles of barbecue as guests of Mark Breen, proprietor of the County Grill and Smokehouse.  Pellet Envy will schedule one or two more class dates in 2011.  Receiving requests daily, we're compiling a list of interested folks.  If you'd like to get in on a future class, please contact or get in touch with us through the Pellet Envy website.

It's getting to be the time of year to get some smoke in the air.  Sheri and I look forward to seeing you all on the barbecue trail soon.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

All Things Barbecue named a best barbecue blog

That's right readers, this blog has been named one of the fifty best blogs on barbecue by the Culinary Schools Guide.  Listed among a very distinguished list of bloggers, this humble little self promoting gem rubs elbows with some of the best and most active barbecue bloggers on the planet.  "It's a great honor to be recognized among the best barbecue blogs in the universe.  It's definitely a surprise and honestly, I'm rendered virtually speechless." said Rod Gray when asked about the award (man that was weird, since I'm the one typing this).  Anyway, check out the other bloggers at

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Going to Kansas City. Kansas City here I come!

So you’re coming to Kansas City for the KCBS annual banquet. Beyond the various meetings, trade show and the Saturday evening festivities, you’re probably wondering what to do and where to go while you’re here. Kansas City is the city of fountains, although I imagine that all the fountains will be shut down or frozen solid when you get here. Do not despair. A lot of people have probably forgotten more about Kansas City then I’ll ever know, but let’s see if we can’t find something to do while you’re here.

The coolest thing about this year’s banquet in Kansas City is the location that Kelly Cain, Manager of Special Projects and Bullsheet Editor for the KCBS, has picked for you. The Hyatt has some amazing dining. During your stay, I recommend you take the elevator up to Skies to at least have a drink. Skies is a revolving restaurant at the top of the Hyatt and has a remarkable view of the city. Also, the Peppercorn Duck Club is famous for their chocolate bar. If you are a chocolate lover, this is one you shouldn’t miss and they offer it as a stand alone option for $12 if you decide to eat dinner elsewhere and just partake in their dessert.  No, it's  not cheap, but how many times do you get the chance to feast on a chocolate bar in a fine dining establishment?  Yeah, I thought so . . . . .

Despite the cold winters here in the midwest, another very cool thing (pun intended) about your hotel is the ability to leave the building utilizing the catwalk system and not even don your coat. The glass walkway takes you to the award winning Westin Crown Center, yet another high-rise hotel that also houses some great dining, live theaters and cinema, plus over 80 shops. Finally, this suspended indoor sidewalk system connects to Union Station. Built in 1914 and renovated at the turn of this century, this grand historic landmark has unique exhibits plus specialty shops and fine dining like Pierpont’s, owned by the Hereford House folks.

Beyond the immediate area of your hotel, there are some really great things to do. Consider the National World War I Museum at the Liberty Memorial. Just a few short blocks away, this is the said to be the only federally funded tribute to the first world war. Also, check out the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, located a short drive from the hotel. With hundreds of artifacts and photographs, plus multi-media displays, and more, this place is not to be missed for the die hard sports fan. Looking to add a little culture to your diet? Travel south a bit to the Nelson-Adkins Museum of Art. Just look for the larger than life shuttle cock on the lawn. Finally, if you’re in the mood for a movie, head for the AMC Mainstreet 6. This new state of the art theater concept is just minutes from the Hyatt and offers a swank lounge, self service fountain beverage bar, a topping bar for your popcorn and even the ultimate movie going experience, Cinema Suites, where you sit in full size rumble seat recliners and enjoy in-theater dining with serve at your seat. If you’ve never seen a movie this way, you have to got to try it.

Honestly, I’ve barely scratched the surface of things to do in Kansas City. But, all this talk about places to go and things to see has surely made you hungry, right? Don’t fear, Kansas City is sort of a foodie town. Right around your hotel, there are tons of options, from The American, the Westin’s crown jewel with James Beard award winning Executive Chef Debbie Gold, to The Cashew, big sister to The Peanut and a bit more of an upscale establishment ; it’s the perfect choice for happy hour on Friday or just about any time. Just looking for a quick bite? My hidden gem in Kansas City is Kitty’s Cafe and although a bit non-traditional, this carry-out serves the best pork tenderloin sandwich in town. Get it just the way it comes. You won't regret it.  Their hours are limited and they are not open in the evenings, so be sure to check before you go. If that’s a bit too far off the beaten path, check out Grinders. Featured on one of the first Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and owned by a guy named Stretch, this place is the real deal with great pizza and sandwiches. Be careful which door you enter though. Grinders West is a whole different restaurant, and while I’ve never eaten there, I’d say it’s the calmer cousin to the original.

Beyond the immediate area, there is plenty of dining experiences to please just about every palate. Need plenty of choices in a small area? Consider the Kansas City Power & Light District. Situated across the street from our new indoor arena the Sprint Center and a short drive north from your hotel, this is Kansas City’s newest dining and night life area. With over 50 restaurants, bars, shops, etc., P&L is the new place to see and be seen in KC. Or, just a little farther and to the south, the Country Club Plaza , established in 1922, has something for everyone. Take in the holiday lights, or just walk about this 15 block district with over 150 premier shops and some of Kansas City’s best restaurants. This is first shopping center in the world designed to accommodate shoppers arriving by automobile, modeled after Seville, Spain, and the shopping mecca of Kansas City. If you’ve never experienced The Plaza, I recommend you make your way down, if only for a short visit and to see the Christmas lights in person before they go dark for the year. Finally, there’s the Crossroads District. It’s a bit more spread out than the first two and a lot more eclectic. The businesses in this area are very unique.

If you’re like me though, you like to try local favorites over national chains. In that case, this cowtown has plenty of home grown establishments. For fine dining, consider Michael Smith, Bluestem, and Le Fou Frog or drive a little further north and try Justus Drug Store in Smithville. All of these will require reservations or at least a call ahead. There are tons of great steakhouses in Kansas City, but for the quintessential Kansas City steakhouse experience, make your way to the Plaza III, Johnny Trigg’s personal favorite when in town. If you’re in the mood for something a little more casual, consider these restaurants:

Peanut - best buffalo wings and BLT’s in Kansas City, 50th & Main is the original but 8th & Broadway is closer to the Hyatt
Blanc Burgers and Bottles - Great burgers, tons of bottled sodas, plus ice cream w/liquor
Lidia’s - Italian cuisine in the Freight House, just across the tracks from Union Station
Grunauer - German/Austrian cuisine in the Freight House
d’Bronx - New York style pizza and deli, in the Crown Center shops
Spin Pizza - Hand tossed, stone fired pizzas and creative salads on the Plaza
Happy Gillis Cafe’ & Hangout - Started out as soup delivery, great breakfast, not far
You Say Tomato - Great place to grab breakfast not far from the hotel
Houstons - on the Plaza, my only chain restaurant recommendation, fabulous food and service
Manny’s - Mexican
Panzon’s - Mexican
La Bodega - Spanish tapas
Christopher Elbow - Kansas City’s finest chocolatier, try the hot chocolate with house made marshmallows
Glace’ - Christopher Elbow’s take on artisan ice cream. Check out the very unique flavors online.
These are just a few of the great choices in Kansas City and all of them are reasonably close to the hotel, although many are not within walking distance. Check out the Kansas City Urban Spoon page for more great recommendations.  Also, check on The Pitch online.  It's Kansas City's entertainment newspaper and it's available for free all over town and offers "the best of Kansas City 2010" for a lot of great dining and shopping recommendations or a rockin' food blog called Fat City.  The Pitch is never wrong in their selections.  Don't believe me?  Well, just check out the Best Competition Barbecue Team in their Best Of feature. (I know, a little shameless self promotion, but it's my blog after all).

Now, notice that I didn’t give any barbecue restaurant recommendations? Know why? You’re barbecue people. I have my favorites, but that’s not to say they would be your favorites. Kansas City is steeped in barbecue heritage and culture. You’re on your own when deciding where to get your que fix. If you don’t pick a favorite the first time, don’t despair. There’s another slow smokin’ establishment just around the corner for your dining pleasure.

As for nightlife in Kansas City, consider the Power & Light District, the Country Club Plaza, the Crossroads District, or the Westport area. Just be careful, don’t drink and drive, and DO NOT stop to play any three-card Monte or shell games if given the opportunity. Jeff Stith has planned an after party right in the hotel. It’s a mere $10 at the door to cover the cost of the room with all proceeds to benefit Harvesters and He’s planning a cash bar and all the fun you can carry home. Stop in before you wander out into the cold Kansas City streets on Saturday. It’s for a good cause and I’ll bet you’ll see lots of friendly faces.

Let's talk transportation.  Although this post focuses on things to do after you get to your hotel, there is a shuttle service from the airport to the Hyatt Regency Crown Center.  The cost is $17 per person and it runs from 5:50AM to 11:25PM.  The hotel concierge will have all the details. Kansas City has taxi service, although it's not extensive.  The area of your hotel probably has the largest and most active group of cabs in the city.  Finally, Kansas City offers public transportation in the form of a bus line call the Metro Area Express, aka the MAX.  It is a streamlined service that is perfect for travel from downtown to the Country Club Plaza and your hotel is smack dab in between those two areas on the bus line.  The cost to ride the MAX is $1.50.  Be sure to check into a "transfer ticket" so you can ride round trip for that price.  I think you'll find that the MAX is very easy to use.

If you’re looking for something to do on the cheap, consider hoping in your car and driving over to the American Royal to visit your cook site. It’s not far away, but you’d be amazed how different things look when it’s not American Royal Barbecue time.

Enjoy your time in my town. When you see Kelly Cain, be sure to stop and thank her for putting so much thought and effort into making the 25th anniversary KCBS annual awards banquet so special.  If you have any questions you can contact me through the Pellet Envy website. Shoot me an e-mail or call me. I’m happy to help out with ideas or recommendations. It’s great to have the banquet back and I hope everyone has a blast while in Kansas City.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Third times a charm at Autumn Blaze

This past weekend we competing at the Autumn Blaze cook-off in Garnett, Kansas. This was our third consecutive year to compete at the event, having finished as the Reserve Grand Champion the previous two years. Ted Uhler and his crew run a tight ship and this year was no exception.

Turn in time came and went without incident. With our newest lucky charm, our niece Shea, there to help us pick the absolute best product to put in the boxes, Sheri and and I felt like we'd strung together four decent categories. As Darren Warth of Iowa's Smokey D's would say about his food most days, "good enough to win, good enough to lose." Thanks for the hard work of Dennis and Linda Polson, our KCBS contest reps, to our surprise, awards were ready thirty minutes earlier than announced at the cook's meeting. As awards progressed we heard our names in all four categories, but none were really strong calls (7th Chicken, 4th Ribs, 3rd Pork and 10th Brisket). Ted decided to call out top ten places overall, ultimately removing all doubt when he called Getting Sauced as the Reserve Grand Champions before taking a break from finishing up the overall to recap the Knights of Columbus participating teams and thanking a few more sponsors, before calling Pellet Envy as the Grand Champion of his 2010 event with forty teams competing.

After being so close the last two years, it was truly a sense of relief and accomplishment to be named the winner of this years contest. We're already making plans to get back to Garnett for the 2011 Autumn Blaze event as long as Ted promises not to wear that outfit again.

Pellet Envy wins two categories, finishes as the Reserve Grand Champion

This past weekend, we competed in the Cookin' On The Kaw BBQ Contest in DeSoto, Kansas. The event is held in the new Riverfest Park on the north side of town. The organizers work hard to provide a festive Friday evening complete with a chili contest, a people's choice chicken wing contest, food vendors and great blues bands including Brody Buster. With perfect fall weather, the crowd was huge this year.

With 49 teams competing in the KCBS sanctioned event, Pellet Envy got off to a hot start at awards, winning the Chicken and Ribs categories. Additionally we were called for 6th place in the Pork category. With no call in brisket, we were left to wonder if we had done enough to have our team name called last. In the end, we fell just slightly short, being named the Reserve Grand Champion, being bested by Jeff Stehney and Slaughterhouse Five. Congrats to them on their victory.