Posts filed under ‘Santa Maria Style BBQ’
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.
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!
When it comes to barbecue, we can’t say that there’s anything better than Santa Maria Style BBQ, but we can acknowledge that there’s something bigger—and that would be Texas BBQ, from the largest state in the lower 48.
On that note, we’d like to return a shout-out to the new barbecue editor for the prestigious Texas Monthly magazine, Daniel Vaughn. According to this story, “Vaughn’s new job at Texas Monthly begins April 15. He previously helped Texas Monthly with its barbecue app and served on the tasting team for the Texas Monthly Top 50, but never full time…Vaughn will continue to live in Dallas and will explore barbecue in Texas, across the U.S., and even internationally.”
The story notes that Vaughn has a new book coming out on May 14 called The Prophets of Smoked Meat: A Journey Through Texas Barbecue.
It also includes an interview with Vaughn, and our collective ears perked up when it ended on this note:
Is there an area of the country that’s unexplored for you when it comes to barbecue?
Yeah. Actually, I’m going to be going to the Carolinas in two weeks. It’s going to be my first trip to the Carolinas. I hope the book tour takes me to Santa Maria, California to try the Santa Maria style.
Consider the invitation open, Daniel! And congrats on the dream job.
When folks from other regional American barbecue strongholds get their first glimpse of Santa Maria Stye Barbecue in action, they’ve been known to say, “Hey, that’s not barbecue, that’s grilling!”
What perplexes them is the fact that Santa Maria BBQ is prepared over hot open coals of local red oak, whereas traditional barbecue favors “slow cooking over a smoldering fire for a long period of time.”
But that doesn’t mean that Santa Maria barbecue isn’t barbecue, it’s just a different approach. Here’s how an article in the Wine Enthusiast puts it: “Let’s pause to acknowledge that definitions of BBQ for all but the purists are fluid and forgiving. Grilling vs. barbecue, direct heat vs. indirect, slow vs. fast, smoke vs. fire. All I will say is, the Santa Maria tradition is long and well respected: it’s a form of grill cooking that has been called (in Sunset Magazine) “the best barbecue in the world.” Even the web site, TexasBarbecue.com (and needless to say, Texas prides itself on its BBQ), hails it as “legendary…There really is no argument anywhere that Santa Maria Barbecue is Tri-Tip Beef Barbecue at its best.”
Chef John of the popular Food Wishes blog adds this perspective in response to a skeptic: This style’s been called barbecue in California’s Central Coast since the early Spanish settlers. The common denominator being a wood fire… if they were cooking the legs or head it would be long and slow (like your precious definition), however if they were cooking a slab of top sirloin or rib steak (the original Santa Maria BBQ), they did it more quickly over the hottest part of the fire…because it was better that way. Regardless of which cut, or how long it took, this was all just called BBQ…Besides, “barbacoa” from which you get your barbecue term is technically steaming anyway. The animal was wrapped in wet leaves and steamed over the fire. So, if wet leaves aren’t used is it still BBQ? For these reasons, my personal definition (and that’s all it is, and to each his own), is “anything cooked over or near a wood fire is barbecue.”
In other words, there’s no upside to arguing about it. Let’s just all get along and simply enjoy Santa Maria Style Barbecue for its unique heritage and wondrous flavors!
Once upon a time, Santa Maria Style Barbecue was prepared by stringing cuts of top-block sirloin on large skewers or rods and cooking them over the coals of local red oak. Over time, however, authentic Santa Maria Style Barbecue has grown to also include the tri-tip cut, and to accommodate “Santa Maria grills” as a more convenient alternative to rods.
A key feature of these grills is an adjustable screen that allows you to lower and raise the meat. Why is this feature so important? Because it allows you to easily perform one of the key secrets to achieving the best Santa Maria Style Barbecue.
Here’s the scoop on how to do it: Fill your grill with red oak (or other high-quality fuel, avoiding cheap paraffin charcoal). Wait until the coals are red hot with very little flame; spread them out evenly.
Quickly sear the meat to seal in flavorful juices, starting with the fat side.
Now, here’s where the screen comes in: Once the meat is seared, you raise the barbecue pit screen to prevent burning. When juice appears at the top of the meat, it is time to turn it over. Then cook until desired doneness (medium rare is recommended).
The advent of Santa Maria grills has made it much easier to manage these key steps right in one’s own backyard. In fact, Santa Maria BBQ Grill Outfitters in Santa Maria even makes a small “tailgater” version (pictured here) for preparing Santa Maria Style Barbecue on the go. These grills may not be quite as romantic as the classic rods, but they sure are convenient, and just as effective!
This was no small order, as they were tasked with serving more than 2,000 employees and guests of ESPN and Prime Sports as well as float owners, sponsors and television executives.
Sue and Billy Ruiz, who have owned and operated Cowboy Flavor for more than 30 years, tackled this mission with their knowhow for hospitality, flavor and fun in all that they do. We caught up with them to get the lowdown on this epic experience:
Q: Describe your experience serving at this year’s Rose Bowl?
A: Wow! It was an honor to be a part of this event and to represent Santa Maria Style Barbecue to all the good folks in Pasadena. We have to add that Prime Sports choreographed the tailgate event to perfection.
Q: How did people react to Santa Maria Style Barbecue?
A: The oak wood and meat aromas were in the air. And when people saw our pit and the quantities of meat, the cameras came out. After they tasted, the thumbs went up!
Q: What was one of your most memorable moments from the experience?
A: Putting smiles on hungry people’s faces, being in the shadow of the Rose Bowl and being asked to come back again next year for the 100th anniversary of the Rose Bowl.
Thank you to Sue and Billy Ruiz for sharing their experience and for spreading the love for Santa Maria Style Barbecue!
But at Pioneer Park here in California’s BBQ Capital, the centerpiece is a massive Santa Maria Style Barbecue pit that can hold up to 800 pounds of top block sirloin over coals of native red oak.
The roots of Pioneer Park extend nearly 90 years, ever since a trio of ranchers invited their friends to a barbecue on Alamo Creek near Porter Ranch. According to this article by local historian Shirley Contreras, “Everyone had such a good time reminiscing about the old days that the group decided to make this an annual event.”
This group of pioneers was originally known as the Old Timers. Then, according to Contreras: “In July of 1924, the ‘Old Timers’ became the Santa Maria Valley Pioneer Association, and in 1926 the group dedicated its new Pioneer Park on land leased from Newhall Land and Farm Company on the Cuyama Highway, located about 13 miles from Santa Maria.”
The lease on the park land was later withdrawn, and the Pioneer Association picnics moved to Waller Park in 1941, and they later moved again before settling into the current Santa Maria Pioneer Park: “History was again made on July 14, 1996, when the Santa Maria Pioneers dedicated their new park during the 72nd annual picnic. A crowd of 1,000 pioneers was on hand to greet old friends and to celebrate the official opening of Santa Maria Pioneer Park.”
The epic barbecue pit was built by several of the pioneers, and can accommodate cooking on both rods and adjustable screens. The park spans 15 acres at 1150 West Foster Road in Santa Maria. In addition to the large barbecue area, it also features a pavilion, softball field, children’s playground, and horseshoe pits. Groups may rent facilities at the park for their events, and the barbecue is available for just a $20 surcharge.
Pioneer Park and its magnificent barbecue pit are just one of many vivid examples of how our local barbecue heritage runs deep. Santa Maria Style Barbecue is born of tradition, but its role in the community is timeless!