In Santa Maria, tri-tip is so revered that it is even presented as a hallowed offering at the Santa Maria Valley’s annual Dia de los Muertos celebration where people build elaborate altars in memory of a deceased loved one.
Indeed, “Day of the Dead,” or “All Saints Day,” which is officially on November 1, will be celebrated in Santa Maria on Sunday, November 2 from noon to 5 p.m. at the Veterans Memorial Community Center and at the adjacent Veterans Memorial Park. Here large, colorful altars are erected and decorated with photos, mementos and even the favorite foods of those who have passed.
Festive music, dancing, performances and food (including tri-tip sandwiches) are also an important part of the afternoon. Make no mistake, the Day of the Dead is alive and well in Santa Maria, and so is barbecue!
P.S. The nearby Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Center is presenting a Day of the Dead exhibit featuring the work of David Lozeau (pictured here) showing through November 16.
As any barbecue afficionado will tell you, there is an “art” to the process of cooking meat that often ties in closely with regional culture and history. Such is certainly the case with Santa Maria Style Barbecue, which is linked to Santa Maria Valley’s early rancheros; cowboys; Swiss-Italian immigrants; and founding fathers.
In this spirit, the Official Santa Maria Valley Barbecue Blog tips its hat to the upcoming premiere of Antiques, Art & Americana, a celebration of history, arts and unusual antiques taking place on November 1 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Historic Santa Maria Inn and at the nearby Santa Maria Valley Historical Society Museum. Highlights of the day include talks by local historian and columnist, Shirley Contreras, who will also share the history of the Historic Santa Maria Inn; the wooden creations of Keith Zimmerman, including models of horse drawn carriages, carousel animals, antique aircraft and western figures; vintage toys from the Souza family’s private collection including American-made trucks, tractors, fire engines, Lionel Trains and accessories; and handmade teddy bears by Hattie Stoddard who is well known as the designer of Annette Funicello’s signature line of collectible teddy bears.
Wine tasting, gourmet baked goods and a display of 19th-Century wedding gowns will also be a part of the day, while vintage automobiles will be on hand to shuttle attendees the short distance between the Historic Santa Maria Inn and the Santa Maria Valley Historical Society Museum.
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.