In the heart of Santa Maria Style Barbecue country, many of the keepers of barbecue and other local traditions are cowboys to the core. So it’s no surprise that the annual Santa Maria Elks Rodeo is one of the Santa Maria Valley’s biggest events of the year.
And you can bet that Santa Maria Style Barbecue will have a presence at this year’s 70th Annual Santa Maria Elks Rodeo happening Thursday, May 30 through Sunday, June 2. Indeed, an array of dining events, fundraisers, dances, contests, exhibitions, performances and even a parade and golf tournament dot the calendar throughout this four day extravaganza held at the Elks Unocal Event Center in Santa Maria.
Each day, a three hour rodeo performance treats spectators to six adrenaline-rushing events, including bull riding, bronc riding, tie-down roping, steer wrestling, bareback riding, barrel racing, local team roping and mutton bustin’, all garnished with rodeo’s top announcers, bull fighters, barrelmen and stock contractors. Then, on Sunday, the top cowboys compete for the championship.
Two additional events new to this year’s lineup are Camp Buckaroo ‘n’ Lil’ Rodeo for kids, plus the Vino & Vittles Wine Tasting Tent for those a bit more mature. Open the entire four days, Camp Buckaroo ‘n’ Lil’ Rodeo invites kids to enter and compete in mock-rodeo events. This is a chance to rope, ride a bull and run in the Stick Horse Gauntlet for a chance to bring home a buckle! Meanwhile, a new play area and educational zone lets children tackle a rock wall, run the obstacle course or soar in the bounce house.
Vintners will be pouring the fine wines of Santa Maria Valley at the new Vino & Vittles Wine Tasting Tent. Located adjacent to the rodeo’s Main Arena, this is the perfect spot for attendees to begin their festivities while enjoying live music and appetizers. Click here to plan your rodeo adventure.
The original Hitching Post restaurant in Casmalia in the Santa Maria Valley is certainly no stranger to this blog. In fact, it is one of the most iconic restaurants in the pantheon of Santa Maria Style Barbecue.
But that’s not where the Hitching Post story ends. There’s a related restaurant, the Hitching Post II, in the nearby Santa Ynez Valley that has been thriving for nearly 30 years (which sounds like a long time, until you learn that the original Hitching Post opened 60 years ago!).
Both locations are renowned for their epic barbecue fare, but the Hitching Post II has another claim to fame, as it was featured prominently in the hit movie Sideways.
Jeanette Trompeter of KSBY recently featured the Hitching Post II in her No Place Like Home series, which features experiences that are unique to the Central Coast. Click here to watch the segment and learn more about the unlikely Hollywood story of the Hitching Post II.
When it comes to local flavors, you might say that the Santa Maria Valley is famed for both its savory and its sweet offerings. Yep. Some regions have all the luck.
Indeed, Santa Maria Valley’s reputation for mouthwatering barbecue shares the spotlight with its top crop: strawberries.
According to a new report, strawberries remain the top moneymaking crop in Santa Barbara County, with the vast majority of the strawberry acreage being in the Santa Maria Valley.
The latest Santa Barbara County Crop Report shows strawberries valued at $441.4 million in 2012—three times the value of broccoli, which occupies second place. Officials say that strawberries are in greater demand on a global scale, and that new varieties and better shipping methods are making it easier to meet the demand.
Perhaps the best news is that strawberries pair beautifully with barbecue, and strawberry pie continues to be the dessert of choice for a classic Santa Maria Style Barbecue meal.
Be sure to visit one of Santa Maria Valley’s popular roadside strawberry stands, or check out the annual Santa Maria Valley Strawberry Festival, which happens each April. And don’t forget that many interesting strawberry facts may be found at the www.santamaria.com under “Visitor Information.” Sweet!
We’ve always said that Santa Maria Style Barbecue holds its own against the “big boys” of regional American barbecue, and the latest evidence comes courtesy of a feature in Business Traveler magazine by food and travel writer Bob Ecker.
In the piece, Ecker highlights the top regional barbecues, a list that includes Texas, Memphis, St. Louis, Kansas City, the Carolinas and, of course, Santa Maria Style Barbecue. He writes, “Always using indigenous red oak for fuel, the meat was top sirloin or “tri-tip,” a triangular cut of bottom sirloin made popular in the Santa Maria area. (This appetizing cut of beef is still unknown to many people outside of California.) In fact, Santa Maria Style tri-tip has become synonymous with California barbecue. Another differentiating factor from other styles is that this type of barbecue is often served with a good Santa Barbara red wine like Zaca Mesa Syrah, as a complement.”
Kudos to Mr. Ecker for recognizing that Santa Maria Style Barbecue has earned a rightful place in the pantheon of American regional barbecue styles!
In the Santa Maria Valley, there’s rarely much distance between a good cause and Santa Maria Style Barbecue. Time and time again, the residents of the Santa Maria Valley fire up the red oak to raise money and awareness for someone in need.
A perfect example is the third annual “Mine for Gold” barbecue dinner, live auction and concert in honor of Royal Family KIDS, a program that mentors foster children ages six to 12 during what is a critical developmental stage. The really good news is that the program’s research shows that at-risk children make progress in every area (academic, social, and family life) after just one year of a positive mentoring experience.
The community has really come together for this event happening on Saturday, April 20 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Santa Maria Fairpark. The evening’s big draw is a show by acclaimed cowboy singer-songwriter, Dave Stamey. However, another highlight is, of course, related to barbecue. One tenacious bidder will come away from the live auction with the promise of a genuine Santa Maria Style Barbecue catered for 20 of his or her friends!
For tickets ($50), visit Eventbrite.com and type in “Dave Stamey” or call (805)264-0731.
Here at the Official Santa Maria BBQ Blog, we’ve noted numerous times how our regional culinary tradition is spreading far and wide, and the latest example is Burnin’ Wood BBQ of Greensboro, North Carolina. Mark and Mary Rosa started Burnin’ Wood BBQ Company towards the end of last year. They call it a “have pit, will travel” business. Mark hires himself out as a personal barbecue chef, and brings the pit to ‘cue up tri-tip, chicken, veggies….whatever his clients request. Mark and Mary specialize in winery and microbrewery events, festivals, reunions and other family gatherings. “My goal is to provide simple, delicious, open-pit barbecue,” Mark says. We recently caught up with Mark to discover how his Santa Maria Style Barbecue business took root 3,000 miles away from the Santa Maria Valley:
How did you come to specialize in Santa Maria BBQ out in North Carolina?
I was born and raised in Santa Maria, California, and this style of BBQ is part of our family tradition. My father taught me how to barbecue tri-tip, and we had a built-in pit in our backyard. We would basically find any reason to BBQ and get the family together: holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, baptisms, etc. I have been doing this style of barbecue for 30-plus years. In 1995, I moved to Florida. When I met my wife in Florida, we would do barbecue on a little Weber grill with red oak chips that my sister sent me from California. Whenever I had the opportunity, I would grill up for friends — who absolutely loved it! Upon moving to North Carolina in 2006, I continued to share this style of barbecue with my neighbors and friends here. For my birthday last year, I special ordered a Santa Maria BBQ pit from Costco in Bakersfield (since they didn’t have one here in Greensboro). The first “official” barbecue was actually for our wine club member picnic at McRitchie Winery in Elkin, NC. I had contacted the owners and offered to bring my pit and BBQ for the picnic. People raved about it so much — I thought to myself, I could actually turn this love, and hobby for fellowship and food into a business.
How do you obtain your Santa Maria BBQ ingredients—are they hard to find?
At first it was very difficult to find the ingredients for this style of BBQ. It took a lot of research online and getting in touch with local vendors here in Greensboro to find most of the ingredients. The Greensboro area here in North Carolina, is very similar to Santa Maria in terms of offering local, fresh ingredients, so I source from our local Farmers Markets whenever possible for the chicken and veggies. We have found vendors for the artichokes, linguica and untrimmed tri-tip in Greensboro. North Carolina also has red oak trees, and I’ve been able to locate wood, but still have my sister send out some bark from California when she can. The Pinquito beans have still eluded my search here, so my mom and best friend ship them out to me from Santa Maria.
North Carolina is famous for its own regional barbecue style. What’s the typical reaction from folks out there when they try Santa Maria BBQ for the first time?
People are blown away! Much like a book or movie, this style of BBQ is its own genre, so people don’t tend to compare it to North Carolina BBQ. They are impressed with how succulent and flavorful the food is — even being cooked over open flame — and they love the flavor the oak wood imparts. Burnin’ Wood BBQ is as much about the fellowship and friendship as it is about the food. I’m very glad to share my family tradition with others. As I say on my business cards, “It’s BBQ’d Love!” Here’s a testimony from someone whose lived in NC for 30 years (and who I had the opportunity to BBQ for their celebration).
The famed Hitching Post II restaurant, the sister restaurant to the iconic original Hitching Post in the Santa Maria Valley has announced a naming contest for its “Magic Dust” seasoning. The seasoning is based on the traditional Santa Maria BBQ blend of salt, garlic and black pepper, but with a dash of Cajun influence.
The Magic Dust seasoning has been a staple in the restaurant for 15 years, and has also been a popular retail item. However, proprietor Frank Ostini recently learned that another restaurant in Indiana had been using its own seasoning called Magic Dust for 20 years. Ostini befriended the owners of that restaurant at national barbecue events, and has decided to re-name his own Magic Dust seasoning out of deference to them.
This is where you come in, dear Santa Maria BBQ enthusiast, because the Hitching Post II is running a re-naming contest on its Facebook page over the next two weeks. A panel of judges will select the winners who will be announced at the Hitching Post II Open House on April 21, 2013 in celebration of the Santa Barbara Vintners’ Festival Weekend. The 1st place winner will receive a $200 gift certificate with six more prizes available.
So fire up the barbecue, grab a glass of Santa Maria Valley wine and get those creative juices flowing. You might end up with a big meal or two, not to mention bragging rights in the land of Santa Maria Style Barbecue!