There has been some stuff goin’ on around here but I’m only going back as far as the National Barbecue Association Conference held in San Diego this year and end with the Santa Anita's Winner's Circle BBQ Championship

While there was no Soby’s in my future this trip. I enjoyed myself nonetheless. My husband was with me for this trip but I still got to hug on my barbecue boyfriends Mike Mills of 17th Street Bar & Grill and Dave Raymond of Sweet Baby Ray’s Barbecue Restaurants and yes we all know his bbq sauce. I also picked up new barbecue husband’s Will Cleaver and Stan Hays of Operation BBQ Relief. They were part of the smoked bologna and brown likker crew. Yes, there were women there too. I actually went shopping with Melissa of Memphis Barbecue Company and 2010 Memphis in May champion. I should say I watched her shop. She could win that competition too. I missed my girl Diva Q who chose her husband over me. Just kidding Vlad, we can share her.

Enough about the barbecue folks and on to the conference. Since it was in San Diego, we drove. That coupled with the fact that we were cooking the bash and had to bring the trailer. We didn’t make it there in time for the BBQ Bus Tour (thank goodness) but we did head over to Brazen’s for dinner. I loved the vibe of their place. Just really laid back and comfortable with the smoker hittin’ you in the face as soon as you walk in the door. Their menu is outstanding because it’s traditional with a twist, which is what they were going for per John and Brad. I can’t remember but I ate but I do remember I finished it, which means it was good to me.

After Brazen’s we went back to the room. Neil wanted to hang out and I wanted to sleep. Guess who won? We both did, he went out and I went to bed. We learned arguing is futile when folks want to do what they want to do.

Our strategies for the conference weren’t so much a divide and conquer, as ‘you go to the stuff that bores me and I’ll go to the stuff that bores you’. The general session for that morning was How BBQ gives back which consisted of Todd Johns of Plowboys BBQ, Mike Mills of 17th Street Bar & Grill, and Jeff Stith, Will Cleaver and Stan Hays of Operation BBQ Relief. They all spoke on the culture of barbecue and what it means to give back, not only to those in your community, but anywhere there is a need. Every story brought tears.

My first session after that was The Legend of Mr. Sun” The Story of Picnic People. I must have been drunk and in a funk every time I looked as this because for some reason I thought it had something to do with a little Asian man. I know, I know but boy was I happily surprised with the subject matter. Not that little Asian men aren’t cute but I had no idea what they had to do with barbecue but evidently to me it had to be better than listening to the meanderings of competition tips and the ever popular California tri-tip.

The Picnic People company is an awe-inspiring organization that covers every aspect of a picnic event from beginning to end. All their clients do is show up and enjoy. The story behind the woman who started the company is not some hard luck tale but more of opportunity meets ingenuity. It is truly a great beginning.

Next on my list for the day was Different by Design: A Fresh Approach to BBQ. The presenters for this session were the good guys of Brazen BBQ. I love the name and the fact that they built the concept on the definition of the word. To me it’s as if they took all the gourmet food truck madness and put it in a brick and mortar place. That’s not to say that they are gourmet (and neither are those trucks labeled as such) but they give new flavor to the tradition.

I wanted to try the Brisket Rueben but I’m a sucker for a bacon burger (THAT’S WHAT I HAD, DOH)! I’m especially gaga for a meaty burger (I like ‘em meaty ya’ll). It’s hard to mess up a burger but when you make a good one you’re my new BBBF (the extra B is for burger). I’m not above a two hour drive (if you stick to the speed limits like they tell you) to try something else on their menu because let’s face it, chains are over rated and you’ve tried all the other local places in your neighborhood.

My last session of the day was Creative Catering presented by the goods folks of Ranch Hands BBQ. These folks were great also. The first thing that caught my eye was their use of bricks for table scape. LOVED IT! They talked about different ways you can be creative with your foods by just slightly altering your ingredients or just adding a new flavor to the mix. They also talked about personalizing your menu in such a way to create conversation between you and the client and possibly getting them to choose that particular item

The greatest thing about this session though was that they fed us the goodies that were on the table. I wasn’t a big fan of the hash but they had me at Dump Cake. Boy was that some tasty stuff. They had this other dish that they told us came from the Big Bob Gibson BBQ Book. I don’t know what the sam hill it was called but it was so good I went back to the room and ordered the cookbook.

Well that ended my first day of sessions. And seeing as how I rambled on a lot longer than I intended I won’t go into the second day. I guess not only do I talk a lot but I type a lot too.

I will add that I took the KCBS Certified Judging Class and am now certified to tell you about your bbq.

I’ll try to write another post about Santa Anita but you guys know my blabbering comes in spurts.