A few years ago, we reported about a Santa Maria BBQ joint in Palm Desert called Warehouse BBQ.
Now comes word of another Santa Maria BBQ outpost called Twisted Tips BBQ Fusion in Tehachapi, on the mountainous border of the Mojave Desert and San Joaquin Valley approximately 150 miles due east of Santa Maria.
Twisted Tips BBQ Fusion is owned and operated by Mark Hitt. As the story goes: “Mark was born and raised in Santa Maria and grew up with a passion for perfecting Santa Maria-style tri-tip. In 2004, Mark hitched up his BBQ pit and relocated with his family to the beautiful mountain town of Tehachapi. After years of sharing his traditional Santa Maria-style tri-tip BBQ as well as Asian and Mexican-influenced BBQ dishes with close family and friends, he took their advice and decided to share it with the Tehachapi community.”
And so Twisted Tips was born this fall, bringing Santa Maria Style Barbecue to the hungry denizens of Tehachapi!
We have written about Santa Maria BBQ purveyors from Hawaii to New York and in between, but it sounds like something special is really cooking in the southeast of California. It’s just the latest evidence that while Santa Maria BBQ is a local culinary tradition here on the Central Coast, it continues to cultivate good taste across the nation and beyond!
Most hardcore barbecue fans would agree that there truly is an art to cooking, grilling or smoking meat. Thus, it’s no surprise that barbecue will play a prominent role on October 4 at Santa Maria’s 31st-annual Autumn Arts Grapes and Grains Festival.
This family friendly street festival takes advantage of the Central Coast’s idyllic fall weather . . . when the coastal fog retreats while the sunshine plays on. Celebrants can look forward to live music, arts and crafts vendors, wine and beer tasting, a chalk art expose, a “paint” run and a fine arts show. Add to all that cooking demonstrations and a variety of food vendors and you have a can’t miss afternoon.
The day’s Santa Maria Style BBQ tri-tip delicacies will be expertly served up by the Minerva Club, one of the longest continuously running women’s clubs in California that was founded by pioneer women in 1894. In 1928, Julia Morgan (the architect of Hearst Castle) designed the group’s clubhouse, and in 1984 it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Meanwhile, G. Brothers Smokehouse will present its famed barbecue chicken and ribs. The brothers pride themselves on smoking all meat on-site using an authentic, high quality, wood-burning smoker flown in from Mesquite, Texas. As ever, Santa Maria takes its barbecue seriously, with much flavor, color and flourish!
In the pantheon of regional American barbecue, Santa Maria Style Barbecue tends to fly under the radar compared to other styles such as Texas, Memphis and Kansas City barbecue.
Why is this? A lot of it has to do with the size of the other regions, either geographically or in terms of population. Kansas City and Memphis are both large metropolitan areas, and Texas is the largest state in the lower 48.
By comparison, the City of Santa Maria’s population is barely more than 100,000, and the city resides in the heart of a rural valley, surrounded by ranches, vineyards, open space and shoreline.
Simply put, no matter how much we scream and shout, we’ll never be able to make as much noise as Texas or Kansas City!
But those in the know recognize Santa Maria BBQ as a culinary equal of the larger regional styles, and the latest example comes from restaurateur Rob Serritella, who just opened a new barbecue joint in Santa Monica called Holy Cow (is that an awesome name or what!?).
At Holy Cow, Serritella aims to bend the best of many regional styles, including Santa Maria tri-tip. In this article in the Santa Monica Mirror, he states: “We tried to take the best things from places that do BBQ best like Texas, Memphis, Georgia, and the Carolina’s – not necessarily stick with one particular method, just what we felt people would enjoy the best. I’ve been a tri-tip guy ever since my first trip to Santa Maria…It works stand alone, in a sandwich, or on a salad.”
Serritella says he likes to slow cook his tri-tip, making his preparation more of a hybrid compared to true open-coal Santa Maria BBQ cooking, but it sounds like that’s what his place is all about: mashing up the nation’s best styles, including Santa Maria!
Santa Maria Style Barbecue is the culinary hub of the Santa Maria Valley, but that hub has many spokes as local chefs and food purveyors add creative twists to our regional food traditions.
One example is Monkey Spit, a purveyor of spices and sauces based in the valley’s rural Tepusquet area. Founded by Santa Maria Valley native Paul Smith, Monkey Spit’s offerings are as creative as its brand name, and now find themselves in the spotlight in this recent feature story in the San Luis Obispo Tribune.
Smith started Monkey Spit in 2008, and brought on longtime friend Rudy Stowell as a business partner. Smith’s family roots in Tepusquet date back to the early 1900s.
One Monkey Spit standout is the new Wimpy Chimp seasoning. As story author Katy Budge notes, “Using his family’s longtime recipe for Santa Maria-style seasoning, he developed a slightly different twist on the dry rub, calling it a ‘Nipomo-style’ seasoning named Wimpy Chimp.”
Of course, Nipomo refers to the small town north of Santa Maria, which has its share of Santa Maria BBQ heritage. As Budge notes, Monkey Mop “proved to be such a winner that it brought home competitive awards from such venerable barbecue cities as Kansas City and Mobile, Ala.
Meanwhile, Smith’s sauces barbecue sauces such as Monkey Mop and Atomic Mop represent a departure from the local barbecue style, as Santa Maria Style BBQ is renowned for its sauce-free, dry-rub style. As Budge notes, Monkey Mop “proved to be such a winner that it brought home competitive awards from such venerable barbecue cities as Kansas City and Mobile, Ala.”
A company from Santa Maria winning awards in such saucy barbecue cities as Kansas City and Mobile? Now that’s what you might call monkey business of the highest order!
Here in California’s BBQ Capital, smoke runs through the veins of locals to such an extent that it doesn’t phase them to be asked to “cook their own.”
Such is the case at the annual Labor Day weekend “Cook Your Own” event at Cottonwood Canyon Vineyard & Winery, which is located along the picturesque Santa Maria Valley wine trail.
Happening on Saturday, August 30 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., this event asks attendees to bring their own meat or entrée plus a tasty side dish to share.
The $15 general admission includes barbecue spices, plates, napkins, utensils and one glass of wine as well as live entertainment. Wine may also be purchased by the glass or bottle. Particularly exciting is that the guest with the best side dish in tow will win a magnum bottle of wine!
Cottonwood Canyon specializes in estate-grown Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, two varieties that excel amid the Santa Maria Valley’s pronounced coastal climate. Come out, cook your own and enjoy the fruits of your labors.
Bring the kids–and your appetite–to the Santa Maria Valley Discovery Museum on August 31 as the museum celebrates R.H. Tesene Day.
We recently wrote about how the Discovery Museum provides a creative array of educational exhibits for children, including exhibits on Santa Maria BBQ, local farming and more.
Now the museum is honoring Tesene as one of its founding donors and as a local legend of Santa Maria Style Barbecue. Tesene is also the author of the definitive book on our local barbecue style, simply titled Santa Maria Style Barbecue. This book is nothing less than a landmark record of the origins, customs and history of Santa Maria Style Barbecue.
The family-friendly R.H. Tesene Day event runs from noon to 4 p.m. at the museum. The festivities will include cake and ranching-themed activities. Admission is free!
Also, Big Joe’s Brats will be selling tri-tip lunches, with a portion of the proceeds going to the Discovery Museum. Come out and enjoy a festive afternoon with true Santa Maria style!
We are always excited to not only spread the good word about Santa Maria Style Barbecue, but to also see it take root in places near and far…
The latest such example to cross our desk is Recessions Original Santa Maria Style BBQ on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, operated by Santa Maria Valley natives Art and Joanne Diaz.
So what, exactly, is Recessions Original Santa Maria Style BBQ? As Marta Lane of the Garden Island newspaper reports, “There is no restaurant. It’s not even a food truck. It’s a $10,000 custom made grill with wheels.”
Now that’s Santa Maria Style Barbecue right there!
The Garden Island tells the story behind Recessions Original Santa Maria Style BBQ: “Art Diaz, his wife, Joanne, and their three children lived in Santa Maria, California. Art Jr. and Jared helped their father with his construction business. On Friday nights, the family went to Central City Farmers Market in the town center and danced to music, looked at art and ate legendary barbecue….Art and Joanne moved to Kauai in the early 1990s. Jared moved here in 2002, where he met and married Lenney. When the economy tanked in 2008, Art Jr. joined his family on Kauai. Missing the food of their home, the Diazes were inspired to open Recessions Original Santa Maria Style BBQ. The name is a nod toward the economic downturn and the family keeps prices low so people can enjoy filling meals.”
In the words of Art Jr.: “It’s our own style and something you can’t find anywhere else on Kauai. We’re not Texas barbecue. We’re not Memphis barbecue. We have our own sweet style.”
Kudos and aloha to the Diaz family for bringing a taste of home to Hawaii!