The Owner’s Corner Office

November 12, 2017

Technical Travesties 

You know it’s funny how often I get here at 0’dark thirty everyday and ponder the meaning of my BBQ Joint existence…

Like last night, as my head hit the pillow, ready to dream a little dream, I was startled back to reality as The Boy (aka my son) called me and said that our smoker (you know, that thing I attempt to make money with) had a busted frannistat or something…

So I pull on my pants and shoes sans socks (with no socks nearby, clean or otherwise, as I slipped on my work shoes and secretly delighted in the refreshing feeling of BBQ Sauce oozing between my toes), threw on my trusty Snap Onä jacket and ran out to Cecil The Diesel and hot footed it up to the joint wondering what in tarnation was going on with Chris Moneymaker. (Yes, folks, I named my smoker “Chris Moneymaker” after the 2003 World Series of Poker Main Event Winner… He had tremendous odds to overcome to become a World Champion. I was kinda hoping his good juju would rub off on me… So far? Not so much…)

Getting here, I was told what was going on and set to work inspecting the smoker’s operation. Everything SEEMED to be working properly, so I sent the crew on home. And so as I prepared to call it a false alarm and head back home to my pillow, I heard a CLUNK.

Folks, after my 38 years as a PRO-fessional Mechanic, I have learned there are 2 things in life you should never, EVER ignore:

1. An angry “Wife with a Knife”… especially mine. She may only be 5 foot nuthin’ but I hear tell Nukes are pretty small too…and they pretty much work the same way: one second everything is hunky-dory then, the next, there’s nothing but a big hole in the ground and complete devastation as far as the eye can see.

And 2, Things that go CLUNK when they shouldn’t go CLUNK during “Normal Operation”.

While not normally as bad or as expensive as a BANG or, even worse, a KABLOOEY!!!!!!, CLUNK is not something you really want to hear after having gone home for the day after a 14 hour day only to be called back 2 hours later.

Something else I learned is what I refer to as Troy’s 8th Law of Mechanical Repair: No matter what tools you think you’ll need to do ANY repair, you never actually bring the actual tools you will actually need to repair what actually broke.

Thus, in my haste to have all my possible bases covered I had thrown every imaginable tool that MIGHT REMOTELY be needed right along with my handy-dandy Lincolnä Arc Welder in the back of Cecil The Diesel and then forgot to toss my trusty Lincolnä Arc Welding Auto-Darkening Welding Helmet in… which just figures…right?

Anyway, I found that the auger which auto feeds fuel to the fire box in the smoker had snapped a spot weld and was feeding fuel only sporadically. This was the CLUNK I had heard – it would get in a bind, feed a bit of fuel but then CLUNK as it felt resistance and stop turning with the auger shaft. OK, not a huge deal, but a pain in the butt to deal with considering I had a full load of expensive meats started and I really can’t just let ‘em go…

So I get my aforementioned handy-dandy Lincolnä Arc Welder in the back of Cecil The Diesel out and set it up. 30 minutes, 45 minutes tops and I can get back in my comfy chair and fall asleep to Peter Ustinov narrating some show about Soviet Mig-27s (NATO codenamed “Flogger”) during the Cold War…

So, I got the auger stripped, cleaned and prepped for welding and I flipped my head several times to get my trusty Lincolnä Arc Welding Auto-Darkening Welding Helmet to drop down.

Then, like an idiot, I realized, “HEY!!! DUMBASS!!! You don’t have your trusty Lincolnä Arc Welding Auto-Darkening Welding Helmet on, you freakin’ bonehead!!!!” Yes, I must have looked like ruby breasted BBQ Boobie flipping my head up and down, while on my knees staring at a stainless steel auger holding my trusty Lincolnä Arc Welder’s welding gun in my hand…

Well, hell… Troy’s 8th Law of Mechanical Repair strikes again…

I really did THINK about going home and grabbing it…

Do you know how hard it is to close your eyes and turn your head while trying to lay a good “bead” with a wire feed welder???

To make a long story dull, I laid what is quite possibly the ugliest bird poop-looking weld in the history of mankind, womankind, and everyone else-kind. But I tested it with a 3 pound sledge hammer and it held nicely, so there you go…

 

Funny how I could remember to throw a 3 pound sledge hammer in the tool bag and not grab my trusty Lincolnä Arc Welding Auto-Darkening Welding Helmet…

Anyway, I reassembled everything, double-checked that everything was working smoothly and called it a night.

So just to be thorough, I figured, upon returning home I had better find my trusty Lincolnä Arc Welding Auto-Darkening Welding Helmet and throw it in Cecil The Diesel so I would be able to clean up the “Weld from Hell” on Maintenance Monday.

Bad move.

Seems I had left my trusty Lincolnä Arc Welding Auto-Darkening Welding Helmet in one of my other cars. Seems that, in true Ghost Adventuresä form, it somehow unscrewed one side of the headband that the helmet pivots on, all by itself…or shall I say some unseen force of a non-human nature decided to mess with my stuff? These things just don’t unscrew themselves, ya know… Trust me, these things are a pain in the butt to unscrew when you really want it to!!!

Thus comes into play Troy’s 4th Law of Mechanical Repair: That Tool you ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO HAVE is broken. Also Troy’s 7th Law of Mechanical Repair: Toolboxes have big damn locks for a reason but the second anyone or anything notices your tools are unsecured said tools will get “borrowed”, screwed with or put in a place you would never in a million years think to look for them at.

”Open a BBQ joint,” they said.

”You’ll do fine,” they said.

”You’ll make money,” they said.

By the way, Troy’s 1st Law of Mechanical Repair:

An opinion is worth exactly how much you paid for it…
 

September 25ffffthhhh 2017

So it’s been a while… What’s new?

So it’s been a while since I posted anything new…besides our Friday Food Comas, I mean, so I’m gonna try and be more frequent on posting. Can’t _promise_ that I’ll be posting with any regularity, but I’m gonna try…

I gotta say it’s been a real roller coaster ride the last few months. We’ve added a couple new faces to the joint and we’ve been looking at expanding our reach. We had our first catering job and THAT was an “eye opener” !!! (More on that when I can relate what happened in a rational way – so don’t hold your breath on that coming any time soon.)

This year we were, again, asked 47,328 times why we didn’t do the rib cook off… uhhhh, yeeeaaahhh, no…

But the biggest thing to me is how many new friends we have made lately. I think that alone makes the 16-18 hour days I work worthwhile.

Since I have a commercial smoker that is pretty well sized to do a good day’s worth of business here at our little joint, what more is there? Well, I’d like to build a “real” BBQ Restaurant and Bar with a “real” menu. Ya see, here, if I plan everything exceptionally well, we can do a “boomer” of a day’s business and still not completely run dry. BUT, since I am an idiot most days and my crystal ball has been sitting in Ralph’s House Of The Occult – Sales, Rentals and Service, waiting for repair (something about a franistat being on inter-dimensional back order), I have to _guess_ on how much to smoke each night. And like an argument with She Who Must Be Obeyed (aka my wife), I go in with the best of intentions and a winning strategy and then end up a quivering pile of goo by the end of the day. So I think it’s time to take a look at building a bigger joint that has a big enough kitchen that I can REALLY show folks what we can do…

I have my beady little eyeballs on a prime location that is grossly under-served, food wise, and I want to get there and create a full-size restaurant-bar. But since I have pretty much everything I own in hock to support this joint, I have been looking at asking for help via investment to build and open our World Domination BBQ Joint. Also, since I am not the greatest business mind in the world, I’ll need help for that end of things. Folks, I can smoke and cook like a fiend, I’m totally willing to take a very minority “stake” in the venture while still making sure the food is still “top notch”. This joint is our “proof of concept” and our happy customers and on-line ratings prove that. But to make a long story dull, I’m asking for help and advice to really take this thing to a new level. If anyone knows anyone or a even a group of people wanting to sit down and talk about how we could form a partnership to corner a truly untapped market, I’m usually here from 4 AM (or earlier) until 7 PM (or later) 7 days a week (except Mondays, when I try and get out by 2-3 PM…so I can take a nap). BTW I am already serving a bunch of folks from that area who are BEGGING me to open a place there. I just don’t have the resources to make it happen.

Oh, and not to worry, we’ll be keeping this place open…I’m not gonna disappoint all the folks who have come in and supported us through our growing pains.

I’m all ears, folks…

 

 

 

February 12ffffthth, 2017

Selling out of EVERYTHING, and I’m not happy about it…

I suppose that selling out is supposed to be a “Good Thing”, but I am not particularly happy about it, this fine Sunday Morning at 3 am as I start writing this tale…

So !!! In Austin, Texas, Memphis, Tennessee, Kansas City, etc., selling out of the previous night’s smoking sessions is not only a “Good Thing” but is actually part of the business model of most of the best BBQ joints out there. Places with names like Mueller’s, Franklin’s, Fincher’s, Big Mista’s….They ALL sell out on a very regular basis. I know that Aaron Franklin’s BBQ joint in Austin, Texas can smoke 1800 (!!!) pounds of Beef Brisket in a single day.

And he still…sells…out…

I am just a bit more limited in my ability to actually smoke much more than 150 lbs of brisket a night…

Why ?

Well, there’s the fact that I only have a current capacity to smoke 150 lbs of brisket a night. I mean, we do an honest to Gawd, minimum 16 hours in the smoker for each load of the Certified Angus Beef brisket we sell here, so it’s not like I can just whip more out on a moment’s notice. Then there’s the 3 sides we make fresh every day, which takes a bit of time. Then there’s the fact that a lot of studio apartments have a bigger kitchen than we do. On top of all that, there’s the idea that we are trying to make our little joint a fun place to hang out even if you’re not buying or eating anything.

So why is selling out not a “Good Thing” ?

Because I hate disappointing people.

One of the reasons that I think I am good at what I do is that I actually CARE about what I do. I hem and haw over our meats and try to make sure the rubs are not too sweet or too salty or too thin or too thick… I worry that everything is hot and juicy, that the Pork Ribs fall off the bone, yet they aren’t over cooked, that the woods we use are complimenting the weather (yeah, really !!!), that our people engage customers like the friends they truly are, that the portions are large enough…. I could go on and on…

And then there is the eternal guessing game of “How much should I smoke tonight?”

Guess wrong and I have meats I can either throw away (obviously not gonna happen unless I have screwed it up beyond all repair and it’s not salvageable) or donate it to a worthy charity around town.

OR I run out while people are still looking to come in and get some of our grub…which generally upsets people for a pretty good reason…they want OUR food and can’t get it when THEY WANT IT !!!

Frankly, we are doing the best we can. And still we need to do better. Trust me, I don’t wanna spend all this money on advertising to get people to try us and then run out when they finally decide “You know, I wanna try that new place on Clear Acre…” – only to see that we sold out before they got here. It pisses them off and it pisses ME off.

Yesterday was a prime example. I smoked more than normal for a “normal” Saturday and we STILL ran out by 3 pm… So today we are doing our Stuffed Baked Potatoes (Baked Potatoes stuffed with Brisket, Bacon, Cheese and Sour Cream) along with the normal menu. The smoker is STUFFED FULL. And chances are we won’t make it to 6 pm before we sell out…

OK, I’m done whining. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it. We’ll get to where we need to be eventually. Until that happens, please bear with us, we really are doing the best we can.

 

 

January 8th,2017

COLD CALLS AND OTHER DISTRACTIONS

One thing that happens a whole bunch, here at the joint, is getting “Cold Calls” from various companies looking to “increase my customer contacts, reduce my Merchant Account Costs (Credit card charges I pay every time someone uses a credit/debit card) and block random Nigerian Princes from unloading raw, uncut diamonds on me if I will just give them $20 to cover postage…”

Usually Kashier Kimberly screens those calls (Bless her heart) but, this last Friday, one slipped past her…

“Hi, Troy? This is Sabrina from “Shemp” (yeah, I could say it was just about any of the BIG INTERNET companies, but since I’m paying for MY website and you’ll notice I don’t allow advertising on here, they ain’t gettin’ nuthin’ for free), how are you?”

I quickly shot a glare at Kashier Kimberly for not sparing me a demand for money I ain’t got for advertising I can’t afford, I also noticed she was “taste testing” the Gooey Cake !! Cocking my head to one side as I glared, Kashier Kimberly muttered something about “Quality Control” being in her job description…then she started counting sporks.

“I’m fine, Sabrina. How are you? How’s the family? How’s your Mom? OK, Good talking to you, I have to make Gooey Cake now, seems it shrinks away to invisibility on the front counter if I don’t keep an eye on it…”

This was followed by a snort and the sound of Kashier Kimberly’s head bumping the underside of the counter where she had been counting sporks and hiding as she polished off her bounty of absconded Gooey Cake. She startles easily and HATES getting caught, but Karma was on my side and victory was mine!!! I think a small thump on the back of the head was a small price to pay for her Gooey Cake larceny…

“Well, Troy, SHEMP and I appreciate that your time is valuable, so I will just let you know that being the one of the most recognized names in…”

Slowly I turned, step by step, I found my way to a table and chair and plopped my butt down. I really wasn’t that busy and Sabrina sounded nice enough. I figured if I made more Gooey Cake, it would just disappear into one of the other of my 3 employee’s pie holes anyway, so why not see what she had to say.

“… we would like to schedule…”

I get these calls ALL the time. I have found that, honestly, I could answer the phone, put it down for 10 minutes and come back and they would be finished with their script by then, so I could then politely say “No” and get on with my life.

Not so with Sabrina. Sabrina took me clean off my hinges by actually engaging in polite 2-way conversation.

I’ll give her this, she’s a sneaky one. I hate being ambushed, but this one was carefully crafted and expertly deployed: she knew my business, has a background in restaurant operations (her parents owned one), had my web page up on her computer and commented on the menu items…

OK, Round One to Sabrina. She maneuvered me into actually getting to know her just a bit and kept me on the phone for 50 minutes until I caved in and said I would agree to listen to her web-based sales presentation (pitch). In exchange, she is coming to Reno to try the joint’s offerings. And that is what sealed me into giving her a shot at getting money out of my empty pockets.

The thing is, I am a firm believer in the theory that you can not promote a product you haven’t tried yourself. Whether it’s an Accountant, a Plumber or a bar of soap – you need to try it before you start pushing it on other people. The idea that she does do business here is Rhennoe, on occasion, and promised to come try our BBQ when she was next in town, appealed to me.

Trust me, I have fed quite a few disc jockeys as we beat each other up over ad rates and whatnot. But honestly, I won’t ask anyone to push our products until they’ve tried them. It doesn’t make sense to push a bad product. Having worked with, literally, HUNDREDS of used car sales people…we don’t play that game. If we make good food, it will show when you talk about us.

Sabrina, I hope you do come try our food. I think we might surprise you…and that will make you want us to succeed…so you can get more ad revenue from us. That way we all win.

I’ll keep everyone posted as this goes forward… Did I mention that I hate getting ambushed? 🙂

October 21st, 2016

SO IT’S BEEN A YEAR ?

Yeah, I actually started working toward opening The Joint a year ago today…

So in Facebook, I got one of those “Share your memories” things that pop up every so often. I forget that sometimes I am actually a bit of a “nut job”. I figured I’d repost it here.

Happy Anniversary to me…I think. Anyway, here’s what I had to say a year ago today:

 

One of my friends on-line ( Bigmista from Bigmista’s BBQ and Sammich Shop in Long Beach, CA ) was “venting” about how many people get pissy when he runs out of food at his BBQ shop.

big-mista

People have no clue how long GOOD BBQ actually takes to make so that it TASTES LIKE GOOD BBQ !!!!

I don’t have my biz running…yet ( * remember this was October, 2015 * ), but here is a typical weekend when I’m going to be smoking “only” 40lbs of pork butt:

Saturday

6 am: I head to my local supplier to get 40lbs of FRESH pork (Boston Butts or Pork Shoulder to the uninitiated).

7 am: I get home and prepare the buts with the rub and ingredients I prepared over the course of the previous few nights after my day job. I wrap everything in foil and put in fridge, pissing off wife and step kids because I moved EVERYTHING to make room.

9 am: I start making 2 gallons of my secret recipe BBQ sauce.

9:10 am: Run to the store to grab all the missing ingredients “I was just SURE I had more (insert secret ingredient name(s) here) of”.

9:40 am: Restart the process of completely “trashing the kitchen” making sauce. (BTW … Trashing The Kitchen is the name of my new band!!!)

11:15 am Set 5.25 GALLON (!!!) stock pot to simmer on low heat for next 6 hours stirring every 10 minutes. Open and consume first of many beers that will disappear throughout the next 36 hours…

11:16 am Get reminded that The Princess is not going to clean up after me…AGAIN !!!!

11:17 am Pick self up off of ground after a quick yet severe thrashing from The Princess after “smarting off”…

11:18 am Consume 2 beers in quick succession to relieve pain and reduce bruising…

11:20 am Clean smoker with FIRE !!!!

11:33 am Explain to nice Police Officer that “No, Sir, I’m not burning trash in my back yard, I’m just cleaning my smoker and yes, of course I will save you some pork tomorrow night if you won’t cite me for being a public nuisance.”

11:45 am Get hose and put out wooden fence that tried to go up in flames. Give up trying to put out tree that I never liked anyway.

12:07 pm Assure responding fire department hook and ladder crew that things are under control and of course I’ll save them some pork and sauce.

12:30 pm Start hauling 80lbs of charcoal to smoker. Place two 5 gallon buckets of wood chips next to smoker, add water.

1:00 pm Start boiling containers used to store sauce.

1:15 pm Assure The Princess I am not getting drunk.

1:18 pm Start feeling drunk. Switch to vodka instead of beer.

1:20 pm to 5:00 pm Watch a collection of DIE HARD movies.

5:15 pm Transfer sauce to containers. Put containers in fridge and cause near riot because no one can get to anything else in fridge.

5:20 Start “cleaning kitchen”…

5:20:30 Give up on kitchen.

Sunday

1:30 am Start charcoal for smoker.

2:30 am Pull pork from fridge and put in smoker. Add 4th load of charcoal in fire box. Watch with glee as fire box starts glowing red hot.

3:15 am – 4:30 pm Add new charcoal to smoker every 45 minutes. Check meat internal temps every 1/2 hour. Move butts in smoker to maintain even temps. Add wet wood chips to create enough smoke so it can be seen from space as needed.

4:45 pm Remove butts from smoker and put in empty 60qt cooler to “rest” for one hour. Unsuccessfully beg The Princess to get me more beer.

6:00 pm Take butts from cooler and put in aluminum trays and start pulling.

7:30 pm Finish pulling pork and start portioning out to fill orders.

8:15 pm Try to figure out who to piss off because 40lbs of raw pork yields 31 lbs of smoked pulled pork….

8:17 pm add 9lbs of sauce to 31lbs of pork to equal 40 lbs of product and pray no one notices.

8:20 pm Pull everything out of fridge and put on counter. Put pork in fridge. Play Tetris with everything on counter trying to get it back in fridge.

8:25 pm I stop trying to be nice and put cargo tie downs around the fridge and tighten until door closes all the way.

8:26 pm Get beaten unconscious by The Princess…

So the moral of the story is: Be happy I am just stupid enough to do this every few weekends. If you don’t think it’s worth it, ask the people who have tried it…and quit bitching when I run out!!!!

*************************

 

August 20th, 2016

 

ON TROLLS, FRIENDS, A DEATH IN THE FAMILY AND OUR FIRST RADIO AD…

 

First, let me get this out of the way:

On August 1st, my father passed away. It was something I knew was going to happen due to declining health since my mother’s passing less than a year before. Running the joint has given me little to no time to grieve his loss properly and I know it’s going to catch up with me sooner or later…hopefully later. I got the Certified Death Certificate in the mail and it hit me pretty hard so if I seem a bit distracted, please forgive me. To Mom and Dad: I love and miss you both terribly.

OK !! On to the more entertaining stuff everyone seems to want.

The friends I am making since opening the joint are truly fun, unique and WILDLY entertaining. I used to think mechanics and construction workers were a scream to hang with. Turns out secretaries, fire fighters, lady Sheriff’s Deputies, UNR kids, Nevada DOT workers, bookkeepers, radio DJs and tattoo shop owners (along with a whole host of others) are some of the best and funnest people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.

It takes a whole hell of a lot to make ME shoot food out my nose (usually I am the instigator of said mayhem) but it is turning into a full scale laugh riot here when we get our regular crew of rather “normal” people in here and then they start in… The lady deputy that stood up, grabbed her gun belt and started jumping up and down. Swear to gawd, she was holding her “utility belt” ( including a “Bat-a-rang” and “Bat Grapple” ) and jumped up and down so as to, in her words, “Compact everything so I can finish this damned sammich!!!”

Laughing so hard you shoot Hawaiian bread out you nose is not funny…for the victim. For everyone else it’s a riot.

Then we have a guy that comes in on a semi regular basis that could pass as “The Crusher” from a Bugs Bunny cartoon…He is a BIG DUDE, and just as nice, as friendly and as fun as anyone I’ve ever met…I think I have a picture somewhere here… yeah…here he is:

The Crusher

I keep telling him he needs to work on his legs…

Another thing: I am always telling The Princess (AKA my wife, AKA She Who Must Be Obeyed, AKA “Shorty” [she’s 5′ 3/4″ and I’m 6’3″] ) when I actually get to see her, that I really don’t have “customers”, I have friends who buy food from me…And 99.99% of the people that come through here are just the nicest people you’ll ever meet in your life.

And then there’s the “Trolls”.

I am, contrary to many varied opinions, a human being. Not terribly intelligent, but not stoopid either… I _DO_ make mistakes. It happens. and when it does, I do everything in my power to fix it. I will literally look you in the eye, apologize, refund your money AND remake your food and do everything I can…right up to groveling. (Troy don’t grovel. Ain’t gonna happen.) Yesterday we literally chased a car through the parking lot because _I_ forgot a customer’s corn bread. Maybe someone else would say “Oh, well…”

Uhhh…not me.

1) Someone PAID money for that corn bread.

2) I hate when it happens to me.

3) It’s the “right thing to do”.

I have nearly fired staff for not giving out portions I thought were generous enough. And still I get trolled…

“The beans were too hot. The sammich was too cold.I’m sick and it didn’t taste good.” Really? Uh, I watched you Hoover that thing down in your car right outside my window. You didn’t come in and say anything? You admit your sense of taste is shot yet you complain about the taste? How can I fix ANYTHING if you wait 6 hours, go home and blast me in a review ? If you had stepped back in after Hoovering your “terrible” meal, or even called me, I would have refunded your money and more than likely given you credit to eat for FREE when you felt better… Since we so utterly failed you that you had to carpet bomb us in a review even when I reached out to you to try and fix the issues you had…what, exactly, can I do? I have no idea how to make it right. And that, for me, is just frustrating beyond all measure.

If anyone has ideas, I’m all ears…

Then we come to our final item before I have to slave away over hot smoked meats and deal with goof-ball employees… Our first radio spot.

I am of two minds on this:

1) It is over the top.

2) It is SO over the top, that it pretty much fits hand-in-glove with all the other stuff we do. Like the tin signs we have hanging all over the walls that still make me snicker when I see them. Or the picture of “Our Founders”:

founders pic 2

You can hear our first ad here:

Yeah, it’s pretty much ridiculous…just like us…

Lets us know what you think. Call or stop in. We can either feed you or talk your ear clean off or, hell, be adventurous, we can talk your ear off while you eat… Orrrrrr…you could just come in, get yer food and GET OUT!!!

 

 

July 26th, 2016

 

One of the frequent questions we hear at the joint is : “Are you guys doing the Rib Cook Off ?” and the short answer is always “Sorry, no…”

This is always followed by “Why not ?”

Which is always answered by “Because.”

This, in turn, is always followed by 1 of 2 reactions 96.239% of the time (yes, I keep track): Either raised eyebrows or “Because, why ?”

Ok, folks, time to get a cup of coffee, a beer, a glass of wine or a stiff drink…or all of the above. (Really, I don’t judge…) I’m about to get my normal, long winded blog on…

When a man or woman loves their pork ribs very, very much, they tend to want to make them the best way they know how. Once that perfect rib rub is found, the perfect way to prepare and manage the fire, that perfect wood, charcoal, butane, propane, methanol, gasoline or what ever fuel you like, you tend to stick with it…because it works for you.

Since, here at the joint, we smoke our ribs for around 4 – 4 1/2 hours then let them “rest” for at least 1/2 an hour, our cycle time is 4 1/2 to 5 hours to make a batch of ribs. My smoker has a capacity to do 50 racks of ribs at the same time…which we never do…ever…

Just because we “can” is not the point. I “can” make 50 racks at the same time and have “OK” ribs or I can do 20 racks of “OMG” ribs… For the same price, which would YOU rather have ?

“Because, why?”

I have destroyed more racks of ribs figuring our MY technique than I will ever eat in a lifetime. I have had 3 generations of dawgs that have lived and died eating my failed attempts at pork ribs… I am a rather stubborn old bastard who decided they will be either the best damned ribs _I_ can make or I won’t make them… Agreed, pork ribs are kinda like pizza: Even when they’re kinda bad they’re still kinda good. I don’t want “kinda good”, I want “OH MY GAWD, THESE ARE SOOOO GOOD!!!!” So after 40+ years of trying, I am happy with what I do. So are about 98.5314% of the people who have tried them… The reason is, I don’t go for for the “Turn and Burn” school of thought. I can make 20 racks of ribs every 5 hours or so… and that is all I’m gonna do in one day. Which means at ~ $ 25 a rack to the customer, I’m never gonna get rich…or famous…but they’ll be the best I can do. Yeah, doing the best I can doesn’t always pay the bills, but seeing happy customers enjoy their food….well, artificial lighting really IS over rated…

Now, then…”Turn and Burn” is how a lot of Pit Masters will produce a whole bunch of ribs in a short period of time. And believe me, some of these people make SPECTACULAR ribs that way… I just travel a different path. I believe “low and slow” yields a better product. The “low” refers to temperatures in the smoker. The “slow’ refers to how much time I take to do the cooking…

“Turn and Burn” (as I define it) is where you have a hot fire that “sears” the meat on the outside, sealing in the juices. After the meat is seared it can either be moved to a “cooler” part of the grill or basted with sauce to keep the outside of the meat from burning as the inner portions come up to a (hopefully) safe temperature. The problem I have with this is you can have a very, VERY tasty rib but it can be a bit less tender, maybe a bit more charred than I, personally, like or possibly not “done” next to the bone. Another thing I have a problem with is that the connective tissues don’t “render” or break down. That’s the rubbery “gristle” you end up pulling or spitting out…

Rendering the fatty and connective bits is the reason our ribs “fall off the bone”. A lot of good folks will tell you a good rib should have a bit of “tug”: you should have to give a tug on the rib meat before it comes off the bone. A lot of good people like broccoli…and tofu…and raw fish cheeks…

Ewww…

Anyway, the way I do ribs the meat falls off the bone because I have given it enough TIME at a relatively low heat level to loosen everything up and then SLOWLY come up to a temperature where the stuff holding everything together just breaks down and gets super tender. Also you have less gristle to contend with, which equals more “NOM NOM NOM” per bone and less “PIT-TOOIE” of rubber chunks…

“So why can’t you do that at the Rib Cook Off ?”

Because I would lose a whole ton of money… As a business where I have yet to even SMELL a profit, I can’t pack up the shop and do a 4 day cook at the Rib Cook Off for around $500 a day in sales at a cost of $600-900 per day… They charge you rent for your stall, there is the cost of the raw materials, there are labor costs, permits, equipment, close the store for the weekend, etc…And I still could only make 20 racks of ribs (at ~ $25 per rack) per day. Yes, I know many may charge a lot more than that, but I think ~ $25 a rack is fair and I won’t charge more than that… Again, I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I don’t try to cut you to the bone, either…

So while I know that some folks will make an absolute “killing” at the Rib Cook Off, it’s not something I’m willing to sacrifice my time, money and what I consider my quality for. Maybe in a few years, but not right now…

 

 

 

May 12th, 2016

She Who Must Be Obeyed…a love story

Since it’s 1:52am as I start this, and since I’ve polished off the first (!!!) pot of coffee, my sense of well being has been restored to optimal parameters, (for you gamers out there, it’s like I just picked up 14 med kits). That being the case, I wanted to share a story:
 
My lovely and talented wife, colloquially known as SHE WHO MUST BE OBEYED (SWMBO), called me at the joint and asked if I was busy… After being married to this sweet, unassuming, 5 foot nothing, wisp of a woman for this long, I knew that meant “Stop EVERYTHING !!! I’m HANGRY !!!”
 
(As an aside, Hangry is a distinct combination of being so hungry/angry at being hungry, you find yourself in a mood where tearing the head off a grizzly bear with your bare hands to steal the Salmon it just caught, well, yeah, that seems like a good idea…)
 
In my most pleasant dulcet toned voice I assured her I would be right there with copious amounts of food for her and her co-workers… I know what the term “Running the Gauntlet” means. I also know that, according to those “people” she works with, “Sharing is Caring” and, conversely, not sharing equals a slow and painful death by a thousand staples followed by my lifeless body being fed into the paper shredder for an environmentally friendly and proper disposal.
 
As it turns out I had several racks of smoked ribs and an entire Angus Beef brisket that someone ordered and failed to pick up. (Which is why deposits are not refundable, kids)
 
I proceeded to wrap said ribs up in my pink butcher paper, sliced and diced the brisket up and made Nachos so as to stretch my meager offerings to the High Priestess of The Office Where She Who Must Be Obeyed currently holds Court, stuffed everything in my pre-heated Igloo Cooler and hot footed it over to Her Majesty’s Temple of processed cellulose fibers and organic ink.
 
Upon arrival at the Daytime Domain of my Lovely Wife, I heaved my cooler out of my trusty steed, and was immediately accosted by the resident lower level workers who ran away as soon as I declared what my mission was… For even they know not to face the wrath of my Hangry, itty bitty wife. Stepping lively over the lifeless bodies strewn hither and yon, which grew more dense as I neared her office, I sighed a prayer of relief that I had brought so much food – a simple sammich would have been a Death Sentence. Surely, she would have blown up with the force of 157 Hiroshima-type Atomic Bombs had I been so derelict in my duty to make sure her appetite was quenched.
 
Quaking with fear and trepidation, I quickly dispatched the assorted packages of Smoked meals to their awaiting, gaping maws… Soon the sound of rending plastic, torn paper and shredded foil was replacing by a crescendo of “NOM NOM NOM NOM” !!!!
 
A veritable blizzard of napkins was seen as Sparks and Smoke sauce flew in every direction, pitiless in it’s destruction of white blouses and colorful skirts…and still the Orgy of Consumption continued unabated… (By The Way: Orgy of Consumption is the name of my new band!!!)
 
Seeing that I had survived relatively unscathed, I made a hasty retreat, hauling the heavily scarred Igloo Cooler behind me, leaving only satisfied *BURPS* behind me… That is until…
 
I noticed, in the bottom of the cooler, a sauce laden Rack ‘O Ribs. It seems that the foil, which should have been holding all that juicy rib goodness had ruptured, allowing moisture of the best kind to permeate the pink wrappings. Seizing my chance at Tom Foolery, I stepped into the department Head Honcho’s office and declared “It’s your lucky day!!!” and placed the goo-laden packet on the corner of his desk. Since I knew his schedule would not permit him to eat right away, I felt smug in leaving my gift of Smoked Offerings…slowly gluing itself to his nicely polished desk.
 
Later that same day, I got wind that 7 mechanics, armed with pry bars, pneumatic chisels and a crane finally removed the ribs from Honcho’s desk…
 
He’s looking for a replacement desk, by the way… It didn’t, sad to say, survive the encounter, he did mention, however, how good the ribs were, though. So that’s nice.

 

 

 

May 3rd, 2016

 

I got an e-mail

 

So “T” wrote me an e-mail and asked:
 
“Why are you only open on the weekends? Or is your website not up to date?”
 
Here’s a very slight edit of my response:
 
Hello, T,
 
The reason I only open Friday Saturday Sunday and Monday from 11 am to 6pm is purely so I can get some rest. That and the market research for my little shop, that is pretty unique for the Reno area (Takeout-Only BBQ), showed that my best chance for success is to try and grab the “at the end of the week/beginning of the week/weekend crowd” and would rather buy pretty good BBQ than make their own at home. I know it does make it inconvenient for a lot of people, but we are working hard to be open longer and with more days.
 
Totally being honest ??? I have no one trained up to do what I do and don’t have the cash flow…yet. You can stop reading now and go to the bottom or continue and I’ll show you, in my typical long winded way, what my typical week looks like:
 
I start my “week” on Tuesdays cleaning from the weekend. Doing what we do is pretty messy and it takes quite a bit of time to clean and sanitize everything. The shop I’m in is not really the ideal spot for what we do…in fact it’s pretty darned cramped “in the back”. But, it is what it is and I am not making excuses, just stating facts… Then there’s the maintenance on the equipment. Figure I do 12 hours Tuesdays.
 
Wednesday is pretty light, I check my orders in and restock the fridges, shelves etc. Make sauces, rubs, etc. I pay my vendors, do payroll for my 2 employees, do the banking, balance my books and figure out what people liked best “this week”… Trust me it’s a moving target……..Nah, it’s like trying to convince my wife she has enough shoes ( a valiant effort but doomed to failure ) Figure 7-10 hours.
 
Thursdays I start trimming all the meats for service on Friday and set them aside for a period of “-it’s a secret- time”. Do final maintenance on the Smoker, reline it with foil, start the meats smoking at about 2-3pm…bottle the sauces, make all the side dishes ready to go/ready to mix, make sure everything is clean and sanitized, run around town trying to find stuff I forgot I needed for the “Friday Food Coma” special, etc… Figure 9 hours.
 
Friday’s I get to work at 2 am (drink a gallon of coffee) and temp probe all the meats and wrap as needed, when needed. At about 6am I start prepping the ribs for 11 am service. Then I cook and serve till about 2 when I start Saturday’s prep…and still prep and serve along side my helper. I close the shop down either when we run out of food or at around 6pm. Do a bit of cleaning, wrap up the leftovers for food bank donations or to give to friends who might -need- it, then go home around 7:30pm.
 
Sat, Sun, Monday is pretty much a repeat of Friday. So from Friday morning at 2 am to Monday at 7:30pm I am there working around 65-70 hours. Add the other days, ( ~ 25-28 hours) I have a 90 hour work week being open 4 days a week. Since I am rather old and feeble-minded, I decided I’m just not up to doing many more hours than that…
 
I would LOVE to have more employees like the 2 I have now, who are TOTALLY Rock Stars, honestly I can’t afford it yet. I pay them for the hours they work, yet I can’t afford to pay myself, yet…
 
There’s a saying in the BBQ community: “Wanna make a small fortune? Start with a large fortune and then open a BBQ joint…”
 
Man, they weren’t lying !!! I have not had an income since October 2015… That’s why I trade long hours for the idea that _I KNOW, WITHOUT A DOUBT_ that things are getting done right… Because, really, I could be “The Open 24 hours, 7 days a week, so-so BBQ place that charges too much for too little food” or the one that would rather have shorter hours, fewer days and provide a generous, quality product done to the absolute best of my ability.
 
Thanks for letting me vent.
 
owner/pitmaster
Sparks and Smoke BBQ Takeout
 

While I was writing this, John Wayne stopped in…

JohnWayne

Here’s what he thinks:

 

 

May 1st, 2016

So there seems to be some misconceptions about what part of an Angus Beef Brisket is what…

We had a customer come in and LOUDLY proclaim that she didn’t want “any of that FATTY stuff !!!”

Folks allow me to explain a few things about briskets, more specifically OUR briskets that may explain a bit better what is and what is not gonna land on your takeout order.

( The following is said in a broad sense…it is in NO WAY the end all and be all of brisket. It’s how WE do things and what works for us and 99% of our customers. If it don’t work for you, you must be the 1%…and doesn’t that make you feel SPECIAL ? )

Here’s a picture of where the brisket comes from on the cow:

BeefCutBrisket.svg

It is a notoriously TOUGH piece of meat, comprising 2 muscles and a broad band of fat between them. So you’ve got these 2 muscles – one lean and one heavily marbled with fat – separated by this large layer of fat and connective tissue called the DECKLE (actually the deckle is more complicated, but for this discussion, humor me it’ll make things easier to understand. For people that know better, you have already figured out I’m an idiot so get over it).

The best and, really, only way to get this hunk of meat edible is to cook it low (heat-wise) and slow (for a looooooong time). That’s why here, and a lot of other places, the lead cook looks like 362 miles of bad road… He or she spent quite a bit of time trimming a bunch of briskets at 2 or 3 in the afternoon, has applied a dose of “rub” on what seems like a metric ton of big ‘ol briskets, then spent the next 10-20 hours babysitting them in a smoker at temps from 225 degrees to 275 degrees. With the eye of a Rembrandt they look for the color and texture changes that indicate any number of things depending on the Pitmaster: add wood, lower the temps, open or close air ducts. Then they might decide “additives” are required. They’ll spray with any number of things: water, vinegar, Jack Daniels or in our case, Pixie Dust and Unicorn Dandruff mixed in Madrone wooden bowls harvested from a secret enchanted forest outside Waddel, AZ and then chased with Everclear…oh wait, the Everclear is for the cook.

No… Really…!!!

Anyway, since we have trimmed a great deal of the excess fat from the brisket, it’s not THAT fat a piece of meat when in hits the smoker. The rest of what remains of the fat is left on to keep the meat moist… As the fat “renders” or melts off, it protects the leaner portions from drying out like shoe leather. So on a “good” brisket there are 2 portions: The lean “flat” and the more fatty “point”.

The flat is usually sliced against the grain and is very lean and tender.

Like this:

Lean Brisket

Then there is “the point”….and that my friends is where the golden nuggets of flavor excellence is: The Burnt Ends…The Point being exceptionally moist and tender and full of Pixie Dust and Unicorn Dandruff rub, caramelized from heat and Everclear…I tell ya THAT is the reward for all the sleep lost watching the fires and making sure everything is just so with the vigilance of a Meerkat…

burnt-ends

You can see the caramelized rub, the “smoke ring” and the looseness of the meat fibers in this photo.

Is it a “fattier” piece of meat? Yup. Absolutely.

Is it “Fatty”? Uhhhh…no. It has a lot of very juicy sections with a lot of rendered fat that may “look” fatty.

In the end, you really just gotta trust us and realize we _do_ trim the “waste fat” off and we’re not gonna serve you anything that may be pure fat…because that’s what we eat !!! I mean why waste it ?

 

 

 

April 25th, 2016

Where is everybody?? Bueller ? Bueller ??

So it’s been a solid 3 weeks since we opened our doors and already we have had a string of “regulars” start to come in…

I mean -2- can be a “string of regulars”, right?

Yeah, so my -2- regulars are mechanics or “technicians”, if you prefer, at the Dolan Auto Group, where I, once upon a time, used to work…as a mechanic. They probably feel sorry for me, seeing me up to my armpits in Angus Beef Briskets, Pork Butts (no, it’s not from the butt of a pig but rather the front shoulder, often called a Boston Butt, most people just refer to it as a a Pork Butt and it’s what Pulled Pork is usually made from), Pork Ribs, Corn Bread, etc…

I loved being a auto mechanic, hated being an A2 Tire Tech (think earthmover tires, the BIG ones) was so-so about being a plumber’s laborer at Camp Pendleton (HUGE Marine base north of San Diego).

What’s this got to do with spending 14-18 hours a day, 7 days a week, tending a Barbecue joint ?

Well, it seems like common sense has not only abandoned me, but taken a trip to Antarctica by way of Christchurch, New Zealand. I mean, who in their right mind decides “I’ve had enough of this good job with decent pay, good benefits and lots of friends… I’m going to open a BBQ Joint !!!! Long hours, no steady income – in fact, no income since October, hearing about how 85% of all restaurants close in the first year, blowing my life savings and borrowing money to make it work… Yup, I’m in !!!” ? Sanity is, evidently, not one of my strong points.

Anyway.

Everyone I know loves good BBQ food. Everyone.

Everyone I know who has actually tried it, loves my homemade, secret recipe BBQ sauce. 3 varieties, doesn’t melt your eyeballs or set your tongue on fire…or anything else, later that same day, IF you know what I mean…

Everybody is looking for “value” in their food purchases (reasonable prices with good sized portions).

So where are all those elusive people collectively known as “everybody” ?

I have been dealing with a trickle of folks coming in and have decided that an avalanche is better than a trickle. At least in the case of my business model. And, no, I’m not going THERE.

So I have decided to ADVERTISE…

Have any of you looked at all the advertising options? It’s a nightmare. Print, on-line, radio, TV (cable or local, time slots, type of programs you want to be featured in)… I thought about hiring a “celebrity” to endorse the joint… Then it came to me that this is RENO, NV. There are no celebrities here. So scratch that off the list.

Being at the corner of North East corner of McCarran and Clear Acre Lane, there is a lot of traffic. But since we are next to the Port Of Subs in a little shop that was empty for 18 months before I moved in, it’s a bit hard to get people’s attention and let them know we are here. Folks KNOW the Port Of Subs is here but how to get US noticed is a bit of a chore.

I put up a couple of “feather flags” and that has helped a bit. But with the lease restrictions we have in place, doing a whole lot more than that is prohibitively expensive at this point. So what to do, what to do….?

If you’ve gotten this far, here’s the payoff:

Ask for Troy and say “I feel sorry for you” and we’ll take 10% off your bill. Easy, right? It get’s better.

Ask for Troy and say “I feel sorry for you” and bring a friend, we’ll take 15% off for both of you. Can’t get any easier than that.

Offer ends May 30th 2016, so ya got a whole month to get in here and save some dough.

Word of mouth is still the best way to help a start-up get going so this should help get the ball rolling…

Suggestions, comments and lunatic ravings? Email me at troy@sparksandsmokebbq.com

 

 

 

April 20, 2016

If you’ve ever been here, at Sparks and Smoke, you know my “office” is a little spec of floor space off to the side by the Port of Subs drive-up lane.

My little “Corner Office” has the computer I’m currently typing on, a phone, the logs for the EPA and Health Department, receipts, packing lists, refrigerator owner’s manuals, extra pens and pencils, clip boards, misc crapola and a flashlight… Ain’t much, but it’s mine and this is where the books get screwed up. (You can ask my bookkeeper. She has put out a “contract” on me so many times I’ve lost count, but then she calls it off when I feed her a hefty Beef Brisket potato, filled with cheese and brisket and topped with sour creme. So far it seems to have worked for me. At least I’m still alive…for the time being, anyway.)

[And NO!! The Beef Brisket Potato is not on the menu, although I might add it if enough people demand it… So there.]

The corner office is also where I’ll be writing what happens “behind the scenes” here at my little BBQ Takeout joint.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I like watching the “behind the scenes” stuff they run at the end of movies or on cable shows like Deadliest Catch. It reminds me that ALL professionals screw up every so often. Better yet, what makes it special for me, personally, is the funny stuff that just “happens”. All that stuff you just can’t make up. Oh, c’mon, we have all seen the YouTube videos of people with the best of intentions making absolute fools of themselves. I’m no different. She Who Must Be Obeyed often tells me I’m an idiot…but since she also says “You’re MY idiot, don’t you dare change a thing!!!”, I guess that’s OK.

So, to make a long story dull, this is where all the things that didn’t kill me but is “supposed to make me stronger” is gonna be dealt with. I’ll probably bore everyone to tears when I bring up stuff from my Automotive years, my Woodworking catastrophes and my chatting with God T. Creator on my back porch over beer and cigars…

In fact, why not insult the intelligence of everyone by starting with something I wrote way back in 2009 – Oh, one more thing before you go any further: If you are easily offended, please do us all a favor and just stop here. I don’t consider this any kind of serious because I’m an idiot, remember? I make darned good BBQ but other than that, well…not too many redeeming qualities. So there. All the disclosures are out of the way, on with the idiocy !!!

Chilling with God T. Creator

So there I was, sitting on my back porch, smoking a cigar, swilling good beer and chatting with God T. Creator.

God, you see, is everywhere and when He makes an appearance on my back porch, He seems to really enjoy swilling my beer. But, then again, since He brings the Cigars (Gurkha Black Beautys) I figure it’s only right that I provide the beer, ( St. Sixtus Westvleteren 12 –  It’s beer brewed by Cistercian Monks in Belgium… [Come ON!! What else you gonna serve God? Coors Lite????] )

Seeing as we all know the world as we know it will be ending, December 21st, 2012, God likes to come over to reminisce about things. It’s kinda cool just shooting the breeze with Him. After all, when you have a chance to find out all the truths about, well, everything, why not?

So there we were yesterday afternoon. Riley T. Dawg was trying to shed all over The Creator and I (besides being happy the dog had someone else to shed on) was again asking why His Children had split off into so many different directions. You know the whole Judeao-Christian-Muslim factional rift. He gave me a level stare and started to lose control of His inner dimmer switch (again) and realizing He was burning my eyes out and giving me another 3rd degree sun burn, He composed Himself and dimmed His Holy Presence down to just Brilliant.

“Again??!! Jesus Christ Almighty, Troy!!  How many times do I have to expl-“

And once again proving that I am such a dumb drunk bastard as to provoke God, Heavenly Trumpets sounded, an Angelic chourus started singing, the clouds parted and running with His white robes fluttering behind Him, Birkenstocks slapping the clouds, Jesus Christ Almighty came to a skidding halt on my porch.

Panting, He said-eth unto The Lord “Yeah, Dad???”

Slowly closing His open mouth and even more slowly turning toward me, God said “Troy, why must you insist on trying my patience? What is this,  3 times in the last 6 months you have had me blow my main gasket just because you can?” Turning toward His Only Begotten Son, God T. Creator said “Never mind, Son. I’m sorry I bothered you …”

To which Jesus Christ Almighty replied “You know Dad he does it just to bug You. You want, maybe I should take care of him?” all the while cracking His knuckles and staring at me.

“No, that’s all right, I have my own plans for him. You can just run along now.”

And so, no longer needed upon this Earth, Jesus put His Apple God-Pod headphones back on and with the lyrical sounds of  – what else – Stairway to Heaven as sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir ringing in the air, Jesus made His way back Home… Jesus accending to heaven playing air-guitar, now THAT’S not something you see everyday.

“Kids.” God said, shaking His head.

“I gotta tell ya, there, Oh King Of All The Universe, I kinda figured Him for Areatha Frankin-style Gospels and what not and so forth…”

“Why don’t you just shut up and hand me another beer?”

“Are you sure? I mean, I know your not driving or anything, but do you have a designated Deity?” I asked, smirking and offering Him another cold and frosty.

Glaring, God replied “I knew that 5 second rule was a mistake.”

“Hmmm? What’s that?”

“The 5 second rule. You know drop something on the floor and if you pick it up within 5 seconds it’s probably okay?” God said, preceding a beer belch that wiped out 3 islands in lower Sumatra.

“5 Second rule, gotcha.”

God just stared at me.

“Okay, 5 second rule. What about it?”

More staring.

“So, what? You are trying to tell me You have actually invoked the 5 Second rule? As in, uh, let’s see, like the platypus: mammal, lays eggs, venomous-“

“I was feeling a bit out of sorts and spilled. What can I say? I was mixing up a batch of mammals and there was some other junk on the floor from my many other creative processes and…”

“Hunh… Well that explains a lot.”

“Yeah,” He muttered under His breath. “it sure does… Take a look in the mirror.”

And with a great retort (that, trust me, I would have severely regretted) about to be uttered, I was interrupted by the sound of a Ram’s Horn bellowing out louder than an AC/DC Concert. I had just uncrossed my eyes  when, again, I was assaulted by another deafening blast.

“Hold that thought, Troy, I’ve got to take this.”

And with that, God reached into His volumous robes and hauled out a miniture Ark of the Covenant, flipped it open one-handed and held it up to His ear.

“Gabriel, 2 things . One, I told you not call me here and Two, if you don’t stop blowing that thing so hard I am going to take it away from you and beat you with it!! Now, what do you want?”

God listened and then started smoldering, small tendrils of smoke rising and curling over his head.

“Fine, I’ll  be there in a minute and- No, just tell them they’ll have to wait. NO!! Fine!! I’ll be right there.”

And with that God stood up and made to leave, clinching His cigar firmly in His teeth and slipping 2 more beers in His pockets.

Upon seeing my raised eyebrows, He said “For the road. Always- eh, uh… Well, most times, a pleasure talking with you Troy, but that senile old bastard Pete has lost his keys again…”

“Pete?”

“Yeah, I gotta get a younger Saint up there at the Pearly Gates. ‘Ol Pete is getting on in years, don’t cha know. Gettin’ so he would lose his head if it wasn’t attached.  He’s even running around calling Jesus ‘Sonny Boy’. I gotta go and straighten things out before I get an angry mob scene up there. Anyway, so long and don’t drink all the beer!!”

A clap of thunder, a flash of light and He was gone.

Along with the rest of the cigars…

The Princess stuck her head out and asked “So, what’s new with God?”

“Same ‘ol, same ‘ol.”

“He answer your question on why His Children-“

“Oh, hell, I am just about to give up asking.  Who knows why kids do the things they do… What makes you think His would be any different?”