Choosing a style
Posted 14 January 2003 - 12:10 PM
First of all let me say hello as a fellow former St. Louisan. Well, at least I attended highschool there (DeSmet).
I also lived in Memphis, TN for about six years, where I had the opportunity to learn a lot about 'cue and even cook on a team in the Memphis in May competition.
I have not had the chance to try Blue Smoke, but I understand that its theme is derived from your roots in St. Louis and St. Louis barbeque.
How would you describe the restaurant and the style of barbeque that you are offering?
What do you consider "St. Louis Barbeque" and which other style do you think is most similar?
Finally, which region and which cut of meat do you feel is the ultimate expression of barbeque and how did that play into your ideas for developing Blue Smoke (i.e. required cooking equipment, etc.)?
p.s. Toasted Ravioli rocks.
Posted 15 January 2003 - 03:20 PM
My view of St. Louis-style barbecue is that it's somewhere between Memphis (dry rub) and Kansas City (thick, sweet sauce). I often think of the sauce I grew up with "Maull's" -- a St. Louis favorite -- which is thinnish, sweet, hot, and acidic all at once. And we would most often use "St. Louis Style Spareribs -- which are spareribs that are squared off with the top "brisket" and cartilage removed. (The part removed would be sold as "rib rips" across the river in East St. Louis).
Our style of ribs at Blue Smoke is based on the only recipe that has been a 3-time champion at Memphis in May -- one we learned from Mike Mills of 17th Street Bar & Grill in Murphysboro, Illinois (100 miles south of St. Louis and famous for its applewood.) We use Mike's recipe for dry rub and sauce. The ribs are dry-rub-marinated for several hours, and then smoked "low and slow" over applewood for 6-7 hours. We only baste them twice with sauce before you get them at the restaurant. Of course you're welcome to add more sauce at the table.
I've had the honor of judging the rib category twice at Memphis in May and once at the Jack Daniels Invitational Championships in Lynchburg. Based on what I've seen, our pork ribs are definitely Tennessee-style in terms of flavor and texture. We use the exact same recipe both for our Baby Backs and for our St. Louis ribs. In the same way that a well-marbled shell steak is superior flavor-wise to a lean filet mignon, I vastly prefer the St. Louis Spareribs to the baby backs. We're aiming for a tender rib where the meat comes of the bone in one clean bite, but NOT meat that "falls off the bone." That happens when ribs are braised or boiled. You see that a lot in the Carolinas.
That said, I'm also a huge fan of almost every barbecue style from Texas. When it comes to beef ribs and brisket, we're definitely using a Texas salt and pepper flavor, and we'll use a more aggressive wood like hickory. (The Pork ribs at Laird's in Llano, Texas and at Black's in Lockhart are amazing.) With beef, we're almost aiming for a pastrami-like flavor.
We had toasted ravioli on our original Blue Smoke menu, filling them with chopped shrimp and making a homemade smoked tomato sauce for dipping. I'd love to see them back!