Trill Foods montage

The Vitals: the spot: Trill Foods 415 E. St. Elmo road Austin TX 78745 @vacancy brewing the eats: rotating menu but get meat and veg dishes, think fine dining you can mostly eat with hands the bucks: $8-$12 a person the full nelson: one of my all time fav chefs making fine dining for the masses

Nick Belloni can't quit tortillas. His first food trailer, Trill Taqueria filled a niche of farm to table tacos for breakfast, lunch and dinner until Covid-19 shut him down. With an opportunity to rethink the big picture, he launched Trill Foods, offering more of his Southern Roots to the menu. He still has tacos and tostadas though, because he just can't quit tortillas. And neither can I. Trill foods line up Trill Foods carnitas

Carnitas tacos

I've eaten countless tacos from Chef Nick and if there is one thing I've learned is that his vegetarian offerings are where it's at. That's not to say he can't cook meat. It's just that his eye and creativity with vegetables is a pure stand out. Restaurants like Odd Duck get deserved credit for being inventive with produce. Nick is just as inventive and Trill is like a quarter of the price. Right, back to the carnitas . . . locally sourced pork, Texas Citrus, bright green cilantro and house made salsas. The star of the show as always is the tortillas he nixtamilizes himself(i.e. grind the corn and turns it into dough). Trill Foods tuna tostada portrait

Tuna Tataki Tostada

Those same great tortillas make for great tostadas too. This is sushi grade ahi tuna on display here on a bed whipped avocado, grilled peaches, togarashi(Japanese spice blend), and cilantro. I tagged this post "fine dining" because of this dish right here. This is the kind of quality level you would expect to find at a place on Resy with a two week wait. Literally as delicious as it is gorgeous. Trill Foods bean and cheese tostada

Lentil and Chorizo Tostada

One will not go hungry if one has lentils. It's the food of my people(shout out to my Bengali/South Asian peeps) and it sticks to your ribs. Chef Nick cooks them in the style of chorizo and adds Oaxacan cheese, serrano chili and cilantro. This is a shareable tostada for sure so I'd order this for a group. Trill Foods charred broccoli

Charred Broccoli Tostada

The Tostada train continues with this charred broccoli tostada. Chef Nick brings out more whipped avocado along with Oaxacan cheese and chili oil. He demanded I get this and he was of course right. Like I said he rocks vegetables and this is the dish that stands out the most. And that's coming from a bonafide carnivore. More than a few recipes as of late suggest to cook vegetables like steak: charring, searing etc. The technique creates that Maillard reaction, a savory crust, and adds umami, elevating what could be have been a side dish to a main dish. I've toyed with this at home and have enjoyed the results. In Nick's hands you have a new go to meatless Monday meal. Vacancy Brewing Vacany Brewing artwork

Want beer with that?

All of this goes down at Vacancy Brewing and the beers are on point too. Austin might be crowded when it comes to craft beer and tacos but good is good. And Trill? It's the best. Pre pandemic times I used to take food tours to Trill Tacos. Some people loved it, some not so much. I think those that didn't thought they knew what they were getting. A taco at a truck? Not exactly a game changing notion. Then you take a bite and realize that you're being taken out of your comfort zone. Fine dining is about new experiences and challenging expectations. That's what you get at Trill minus the formality and price. Bending the rules and raising the bar is what an ambitious chef lives for. And that's what happens at Trill . . . for like a quarter of the price of his closest competitors. Definitely give Trill Foods a try. The cooking is special and like Guerilla Tacos in Los Angeles, he is offering fine dining for the masses. It's a must visit on my Austin list.
Traeger Smoked 'n Simmered Beer Brats montage

The Vitals: the recipe: Traeger Smoked 'n Simmered beer brats  the smoker: Traeger Ironwood 885 the time: about an hour and a half the full nelson: the best Brat method EVER

I've been Brat obsessed since the tender age of . . . well I don't exactly remember when. But I was a little boy with big dreams of eating all the meats in the butcher's case. Back in the day, my family would shop at our local butcher shop. That's where I first laid eyes on Bratwursts, Italian Sausages, Kielbasa, you name it. I'd get my parents to buy me some veal brat(they didnt eat pork) and we would fry 'em up at home. Years later my food obsessed lifestyle would take me to German Delis, gourmet markets and hipster butcher shops. While it's hard not to tip your cap to a true German sausage specialist for a top shelf brat, I ain't mad at Johnsonville for some reason. They do the job. Especially if you simmer them in cheap beer. And while you're at it, break out the Traeger. Brats ready to be smoked

Brats > Hot Dogs

It's hard not to argue that hot dogs are the simplest thing to cook on the grill. I mean, you're not even cooking, you're just reheating. Thing is, Brats > Hot Dogs and the extra effort is frankly more relaxing because you have more time to sip on a beer. And it's about as cheap as hot dogs too if the kind of dogs you're springing for are of the Boar's Head or Hebrew National variety. Brats smoking on the Traeger

Smoke your sausage

I smoked these brats for about an hour at 225 degrees. I use a Traeger 885 Ironwood which has this super smoke feature and I like to use it every chance I get. When it comes to making proper barbecue like ribs, I'll break out a smoker tube to really drive the point home but these brats only need a kiss of smoke, a chef's kiss even. I smoke these for about an hour though you could cut that in half if you're running short on time as it's going to cook more in the simmer process. Brats ready for the simmer

Break out the cast iron skillet

Like burgers, a cast iron skillet is your sausage's best friend. Like the one from summer camp that you finally reconnected with on Facebook and is now, like kinda weird. Well, actually nothing like that at all, because you're not friends with a pan. Ok, back to the method. Melt some butter and beer in the pan to a simmer. Now drop the links. Brats simmering in butter and beer

The Wisconsin Method

Years ago I came across this method of simmering the brats in butter and beer as part of a Wisconsin tailgate tradition. I've dubbed it the Wisconsin Method ever since. Actually I dubbed it that pretty much just now. But trust me, I've been to Milwaukee and I'm pretty sure some genius that's 6 or 7 Old Styles deep, making sweatshirts with Wisconsin Method ironed on as I type this. Oh right, back to cooking Brats. Look, you cook these till they look good. I'd ballpark it as 10-2o minutes depending on the size of the link and how long you smoked it. For safety, use a instant read thermometer and pull them when they hit an internal temp of 165 degrees. Finishing the brats

Crisp 'em up for the finish

What's nice about the simmer is that you can hold the sausages warm without drying them out too much. When you're ready to serve, toss them on a grill or even a pan to crisp them up. It will only take a few minutes. Then get the buns, mustard and kraut ready. Plated Brats 1

Smoke 'n Simmer: best of both worlds.

This is such a fun and easy way to use a pellet grill like a Traeger. And while you could do this all on the grill, you could also just smoke them on the grill and do the rest over the stove. Any grill will work but clearly one that incorporates smoke will yield the best results too. I also find this method is a great way to dress up supermarket level brats like Johnsonville but you could try anything. In fact, I bet there is a little boy in a hipster butcher shop somewhere in Brooklyn, looking at some sustainably raised Duroc or Kurobuta pork brats wondering how his mom will cook them. Winona, if you can hear me . . . try the Ali Khan Smoked n Simmered method. Just keep the mustard ballpark style. Somethings are simply timeless. Thanks for bearing with me while I got weird with the humor in this one. If you liked it, comment below!    
T-Loc's montage

The Vitals: the spot: T-Loc's  5000 Burnet Rd. Austin TX 78756 the eats: Sonoran Style Hot Dogs, Carne Asada fries, tacos, burritos and more the bucks: $5-$12 the full nelson: straight outta Tucson with real deal Sonoran Style Hot Dogs

Who let the dogs out?

T-Loc's did, that's who. But before we get into all that I feel like I need to let you all in on a little secret: Hotdogs are my kryptonite! More often than not, when it comes to tubesteaks I'll take a hard pass. This is especially true for loaded dogs. Are there exceptions? Heck yes and I'll mention Dave's Dogs from Cheap Eats Santa Barbara as a truly special exception. My man Dave can load up a dog, but rather than overload it with salty meat goodness, Dave seeks to strike balance by adding contrasting flavors. This flavor combo of complexity is the saviour of any loaded dog when it comes to the true blue gourmand's palate. And there happens to be a maestro of that caliber running a truck/trailer in Austin TX. His spot is T-Loc's and I'm loco for Chef Miguel Kaiser's elevated grub. T-Loc's Miguel Kaiser

Miguel dreams of hot dogs

If Jiro Ono dreams of sushi, then Miguel Kaiser dreams of hot dogs. That's certainly the case now as he is currently in his seventh year of operating T-Loc's Sonoran Hot Dogs and Street food, a food trailer in Austin along with his partner Zulma Nataren. But was Miguel always dreaming of hot dogs? Definitely in his youth when he was growing up in Tucson, AZ. Tucson could be considered the capital of Sonoran style hot dogs on this side of the border. This might beg the question from some of you: what exactly is a Sonoran Style Hot Dog? T-Loc's menu T-Loc's Sonora Dog

Sonoran Style Hot Dog 101

Look carefully at the upper lefthand corner of the menu and you'll see the Sonoran Hot Dog breakdown. Spoiler alert: it's all about toppings. A special bun that T-Loc's ships out from a bakery in Tucson is the bed for this bevy of toppings. A bacon wrapped hot dog takes a seat on the bun followed by pinto beans, diced onion and tomato, jalapeño sauce, yellow mustard and mayo. Spicy, salty, juicy, tart, filling and it's all so damn epic. T-Loc's pop up night 2

Ali Khan Eats approved

I'll say it again: I pretty much hate hot dogs but I'll make an exception for this one and give it my fist bump/cocktail bump. The toppings and the flavor contrast make the meal, kinda like a Chicago Dog. But make no mistake this is Sonora all day. It should be worth noting that yes, this hot dog style is a gift from Mexican immigrants from Sonora who started selling them in Tucson. Now I have had plenty of bacon wrapped dogs in LA, also known as TJ style dogs, but the bun and the precision layering of toppings makes Sonora style, particularly T-Loc's rendition, a total standout. T-Loc's pop up night with

Sonoran Style Hot Dog remix

Even though Sonoran style dogs are steeped in tradition, Chef Miguel is an innovator. Recently I was invited to a pop up with T-Loc's and Wunderoot/Bolthouse Farms. Here Chef Miguel used roasted carrots with particular flavors in lieu of a traditional hot dog. Now I'm not big meat substitute guy(duh), but I certainly appreciate and partake in eating vegetables. Call me crazy but I don't want to keel over and die before I'm 50. T-Loc's pop up night with Wunderoots 2

Better than plant based: just plants

What's cool about these "hot dogs" is that they're literally just roasted carrots versus some chopped up and reformed thing (McRib anyone?)  It's a far easier ask for me to eat vegetables than pretend that the vegetable is some kind of meat. I mean, let's just be real about that. That secret sauce to making it all work is what Miguel puts in toppings wise. You already know about the Sonora Style, the other two are a chorizo and an italian "sausage". For the chorizo, Chef Miguel contrast the spicy "sausage" with crisp coleslaw and bbq sauce. While those toppings aren't typically out of the norm for loaded dogs, BBQ sauce is far more interesting on a roasted carrot than an actual chorizo link. The Italian "sausage" gets hit with arugula and a spicy carrot vinaigrette. Named the hipster, I was least keen on this. Chalk it up to being in your 40s I guess.

Come for the dogs, come back for Chef Miguel

T-Loc's is Chef Miguel's muse. Yes, it's the spot to get a legit Sonoran Style Dog in Austin whether at the food truck or at Q2 stadium(where Austin FC plays). But it's all about a guy who trained at the Culinary Institute of America, interned Per Se, one of the most celebrated restaurants in the country yet focuses on food that can be appreciated by anybody and everybody. If Cheap Eats rolled back into Austin, T-Loc's would be a slam dunk. And the best part? I didn't even get to tell you about his carne asada fries. Literally . . . stay tuned. PS: He will be giving away FREE DOGS July 4th weekend and July 9-11.  
Traeger Baby Back ribs montage

The Vitals: the recipe: Traeger Baby Back Ribs Vol 5 the smoker: Traeger Ironwood 885 the time: about 3 hours the full nelson: easiest traeger ribs yet

I don't know why I started my focus on Traeger mastery with ribs. Maybe it's because brisket takes way too long? Or that salmon just comes out so darn good like every time and there's not that much to master? Whatever the reason, I am committed to figuring ribs out and I think I might really be on to something here. Traeger Baby Back ribs prep 2

Use the best meat possible

In previous cooks, most notably Operation Traeger Baby Back Ribs Vol 3, I've used average quality meat. Look, I shop at the regular grocery store aplenty. But over the last year, where our dining out dollars shifted to home cooking, we have opted to shop at higher end shops. In some cases, the difference is extremely noticeable such as produce. This time I went to Salt & Time, a top shelf butcher shop in Austin TX for my ribs. Sure, these cost double what I would pay at say Costco, but one good rack was all I needed. Believe me, it was worth every penny.  

Pro Tips from Sasquatch BBQ

I enlisted the help of Sasquatch BBQ aka Matt Crawford. Matt is a BBQ pitmaster, Traeger advocate and all around good dude. A fellow Traeger sponsor, Matt is an accomplished Barbecue chef and has no shortage of advice when it comes to smoking on a Traeger or any smoker for that matter. Sasquatch recommended I hit the ribs with some yellow mustard and then the rub. He said the mustard was mostly for making sure the rub sticks and this is backed by a number of recipes. I totally caught the taste of mustard and I strongly suggest you do the same. Traeger Baby Back ribs on the grill 1

3 hour ribs

In previous cooks, I've spent up to 8 hours making ribs that were just on the verge of being smokey. I've used smoker tubes, apple juice spritz, and the "Super Smoke method": a feature on Traeger models like my Ironwood 885. The conclusion I have come to is that the time and effort just wasn't worth it when it came achieving a true smoked rib taste. So I asked Sasquatch for a faster method. Traeger Baby Back ribs on the grill 2

Set your Traeger to 275

Sasquatch had me set my grill to 275. Once it came to temp, I gave it a good 15 minutes before I laid the rack on there. I cooked it till the internal temp hit 165, which took about an hour and a half. Then, like many cooks before, I foil wrapped the rack in butter, brown sugar and more rub. He did suggest some apple cider vinegar but I skipped that as I was out. Then back into the grill till we hit 190, which took another hour and a half. Traeger Baby Back ribs glazing 2

Cook first, then smoke.

After the rack hit 190, I opened up the foil and sauced it up. Once again I reached for a bottle of Aaron Franklin's BBQ sauce. The taste is classic Kansas City, thick, sweet and tangy, despite the word Texas prominently displayed. After saucing, I lowered the temp of the grill t0 225 degrees and hit it with the Super Smoke feature. This was to let the sauce the set, which takes about 10 minutes. I let it ride a little longer for sh*** and giggles. Traeger Baby Back ribs resting Traeger Baby Back ribs carved

And the verdict is . . .

I think these are tied for the best ribs I've made along with Vol 2. While that version was smokier, it also took 8+ hours whereas this only took 3+ hours. Mustard was a welcomed addition to Vol 5 and the meat quality from Salt and Time was outstanding. Traeger is known for a clean taste so the quality of your meat stands out. This can work conversely too. If you get that rack that has an off smell when you take it out of the plastic, don't expect the smoke to mask that funk. Frankly that's gross and I'm done with those days. I'd rather eat less and have better quality that a fridge full of leftover jank ribs. Now the only real flaw here is that I didn't eat them ASAP. We had friends coming over and a game to watch so I made these ribs ahead if time and held them in the oven. Baby Backs can dry out and while these weren't dry, I can only imagine them tasting better had I eaten them sooner. Regardless, as I type this I'm going to totally make this again and compare with a second rack cooked lower and slower to compare. For now though the takeaway and technique is this: high quality meat and mustard rub. A Traeger is a handy device but it can't create all the flavors, that's also on you, your pantry and your butcher.  

The Vitals: the spot: Il Ritorno 449 Central Avenue St. Petersburg FL 33701 the eats: Bucatini Pomodoro, Short Rib Mezzaluna, Squid Ink Garganelli, Bone Marrow with Yellowtail Tartare, Smoked Meatballs, A5 Japanese Wagyu Beef(seriously) the bucks: $$$ and worth it. I'd budget $75 a head with wine to do it right. Although to get a nice plate of pasta will set you back $20-$30 the full nelson: a splurge worthy Italian experience that isn't even that bad of a splurge. 

Throughout the entire five season run of Cheap Eats, St. Petersburg FL still stands out as a surprisingly impressive culinary destination. From the moment I got off the plane at Tampa International, any notion of a sleepy Gulf town was washed away. Florida is well populated and flush with tourism dollars, a combination that extends beyond Miami and the Keys. And that means there's good eats up and down this state. In February of 2018, I was taken to Il Ritorno by Chef Chris Fernandez from Red Mesa Cantina. Back then, as in now, I remain simply blown away by the food. Not gonna lie either, I got the star treatment. When Chef Chris toured me around the restaurants, I met chefs, sampled the fare and it was pretty much all on the house. The cameras probably should have been running for my after hours tour. Maybe that's why I've posted multiple times about my St. Pete adventures beyond what we featured on Cheap Eats. And here I am about to do it again.

When in Florida

My wife loves a poolside vacation with a view of the beach and St. Pete is a two hour flight from Austin, so it was only a matter of time. With Covid-19 easing up, we cashed in some airline points to make a quick domestic beach vacay. We stayed at a great hotel called Treasure Island Beach Resort, a 10 minute drive from downtown St. Pete. PS - get the bloody mary at Treasure Island + the wings were respectable for poolside fare. Khans at Il Ritorno 2

The boy loves pasta

My kid is a freak for carbs. That kinda comes off sounding insensitive but seriously, he could eat steamed dumplings, ramen and pasta all day. Even though Il Ritorno is a bit more formal than what he is accustomed too, I had to take him to try Chef David Benstock's cooking. Previously I had a pasta dish he made for the James Beard house and it was simply epic. So much so that I submitted it for an episode of Best Thing I Ever Ate. Let's just say the nominee list is about to get a little more crowded. Il Ritorno Amuse Bouche

Amuse Bouche: a taste of what's to come

"This is something from the kitchen" is music to my ears. It's more than a comp, it's showing off but in the best of ways. The rundown here: Crispy Polenta with A5 Wagyu Tartare and Osetra Caviar. If that doesn't cause your jaw to drop, google the prices on A5 Wagyu and Osetra Caviar. Sure one could argue whether anything is worth all that cheddar but I've eaten a lotta cheddar in my day and Wagyu + Osetra is way better. See what I did there? Smoked Meatballs

These meatballs . . .

I had the smoked meatballs back in 2018 and with my kid in tow, they were definitely making a return. These meatballs were downright smokey and rich thanks to the smoked tomato sauce and Piave, an Italian Cow's milk cheese. You could make a meal out of this, some charcuterie and wine. But we had bigger fish to fry. Bone Marrow course

Trendy + Fred Flintstone approved

Bone marrow is everywhere these days. I swear people who I know swore off beef will order it for the sake of ordering it. It's easy to see why. This rustic dish has a primal like draw yer few homecooks would dare make it, me included. This, however, is not your average Bone Marrow dish. Named "Monti e Mare" which translates to Mountain and Sea, the roasted bone marrow is filled with Yellowtail Amberjack tartare. This combination might sound unusual but the two proteins go together like turkey and bacon on a club sandwich. Watermelon radish makes it very Instagrammable as well(insert eye roll emoji). Hey, if trends are tasty, I'm down. Short Rib Mezzaluna ravioli

Pasta Pasta Pasta

On to the pastas. As soon as I mentioned that I was going to Il Ritorno everyone and the magic 8 ball said "get the Short Rib Mezzaluna". Such is the way of dishes that seem to pack on one level of indulgence after another. Mezzaluna, the halfmoon shaped pasta(similar to ravioli) is stuffed with braised beef short rib and more of that Piave from the smoked meatball starter. Speaking of sauce, let's talk about the Truffle Fonduta. This fondue like sauce features Fontina cheese, lots of Parmesan and reduced tomato. It goes without saying that this is a dish to share. But we had more sharing to do. I have a very difficult time not ordering anything with squid ink or lobster. This has both. Garganelli pasta is made with Squid Ink and studded studded with lobster and bottarga, with a sauce that features orange and fennel. The proteins give the dish an intense taste of the sea, especially the bottarga which is a cured mullet roe, and a global delicacy that happens to be native to the waters of the area. The sauce gave the dish a surprisingly sweet taste though not overly so Still that sweet kick caught me off guard. I found it a little distracting. But I'm glad to have tried it as it seemed something ambitious to add. As the dinner would go on, I found the perfect compliment for that bite of pasta but more on that in a sec. Bucatini Pomodoro Call me a simpleton, a Neanderthal, an absolute culinary novice but this was far and away my favorite pasta dish. Ordered for the kiddo in an attempt to play it safe; simplicity would win the day. They say pasta shapes are meant to be paired with sauces. I can't say why firm al dente bucatini went so well with this Pomodoro sauce but my God, was this so magnificently satisfying. Never sleep on the power of burrata cheese either. Once you pierce the outer Mozzarella exterior, soft cheese curds instantly add cream to the tomato sauce. Rich and tangy, familiar yet with execution so perfect, the experience is more Unicorn sighting than our Kid friendly intentions would lead us to believe. I'll steal one from Action Bronson: F*** that's delicious. Il Ritorno A5 steak course

A5 Wagyu beef from Japan. Really.

So this is the part of the story that's just gonna come off as unfair. This is when the meal matches my honeymoon feast of 2008 ate when I ate back to back meals at Bartolotta and at Top Chef Tom Colicchio's Craftsteak in Las Vegas. Over the course of two dinners I had A5 Kobe beef from Japan(Craftsteak) and superb Italian food(Barlotta). Those meals together cost about a month's rent. And I would emulate the experience again at Il Ritorno, in one single meal for a fraction of the price. "Something from the kitchen" was heard once again. This time it would be A5 Wagyu Ribeye steak from Hokkaido and A5 Wagyu strip from Okinawa. Real deal melt in your mouth, break out the black AMEX beef. A little goes a long way both on the palate and the bill. Yes, it was comped. Yes I freaking died at how it good it was. A5 Wagyu beef from Japan Note the black and blue sear. Yeah, that's the way to play it. Also note the pretty dots of yellow and green. That's a Meyer lemon citronette and a green garlic emulsion. I traded off bites of the steak with bites of that squid ink Garganelli, a surf and turf of epic proportions that renewed my interest in the Garganelli and made me appreciate that slight sweet kick, the orange in particular.

A reasonable splurge

Look, I realize this kind of experience is a far departure from my M.O. but all of this added up to about $200(before tip) which also included a bottle of wine, two glasses of Sparkling wine and a Vanilla gelato. Yes, the Wagyu Amuse Bouche was comped as was the steak, but they were tasting size portions. When the dust settles, this kind of experience is never cheap. But for the sheer level of cooking and ingredients, Il Ritorno is a reasonable splurge. Additional props to the wine list as well. We had a bottle of wine for $45 which is pretty reasonable for a restaurant of this caliber. There was maybe 50 bottles on the list and 10 of them were priced around $50 or less, again pretty fair given the fact that real deal caviar and Wagyu beef is part of the Il Ritorno playbook.

Bottom line

Three years later and I'm still impressed. If you're in St. Pete and love Italian food, I'd put this on the list.          
Cheesesteak Sliders montage

Cheesesteak Meal Kit: a taste of Philly in your kitchen

Earlier this year I posted about an Italian Beef Kit I got from Mauro Provisions, the butcher shop delivery service from Jeff Mauro of Food Network's the Kitchen. Well I also got some shaved beef for cheesesteaks and finally got around to whipping up a batch. Sweet baby Jesus was it so damn good.

Fire up your Cast Iron

I fired up my cast iron skillet, tossed in some chopped onions and once they got darn golden, in cometh the beef. The beef you get from Mauro Provisions is shaved ribeye. In the past I have taken eye of round, tossed it in the freezer for a bit and then sliced it thin for cheesesteaks. While a fairly economical solution, it's bit of work and the fat content is minimal. The cheesesteak beef you get here is far more marbled and toothsome. Look, you get what you pay for.

White American cheese is the move

I had a couple slices of white American cheese and tossed them on top of the beef once it was pretty much done. That stuff turned to delicious gooey goodness in seconds. I had some brioche rolls and tossed them in for a toast. Of course using a proper hoagie roll would have made it a far more authentic experience but you know what? Cheesesteak still tastes good on a variety of breads. Besides, brioche is buttery delish and always serves as a fine carby compliment to a beef sandwich.

Unorthodox toppings? Yes please.

In addition to some Giardiniera I got from Mauro Provisions I also added some top shelf pickled jalapeños from legendary Austin BBQ joint La Barbecue. Yes these toppings are whole unorthodox but serve as excellent compliments to the rich beef, cheese and brioche. Acidity and spice plus fat makes for excellent mouth feels.

Shameless plug or delicious truth?

I realize this might seem like a full on plug for Jeff and Mauro Provisions but the truth is A) the products are damn delicious) and B) me and this bozo go way back for a reason. I knew the Italian Beef kit would be a ringer but the Cheesesteak is kinda genius. Unless you're in Philly, cheesesteaks tend to be disappointing or kinda pricey. With pre shaved beef it's really easy to make. If you can sauté onions, you can make this. And as blasphemous as this sounds: cheesesteaks are better with giardiniera. Yup, I went there. I gotta go now though, I'm sure there are some Eagles fans at my door that wanna pummel me. Sometimes delivering delicious truth can be a burden.
Traeger Smoked Salmon montage

The Vitals: the recipe: Traeger Smoked Salmon the smoker: Traeger Ironwood 885 the time: about an hour the full nelson: the best thing I've smoked in a Traeger: freakin' fish

Traeger Day 2021

Traeger Day is fast becoming the biggest food holiday the internet has cooked up. Last year I joined Team Traeger when they generously sent me a grill. Perks of the life folks. I started off getting into ribs and realized that even with a sophisticated piece of machinery like a wifi pellet grill, smoking meat is still a craft that takes time to master, whether your burning wood or pellets. So when this year's Traeger Day rolled in, I thought hard about what I wanted to do for the big day. Loads of Traeger heads would be going the traditional brisket and ribs route. Me? I guess I wanted to think outside the box and not spend 4-12 hours smoking meat that would still end up being a distant second to the top shelf BBQ that's being served up in my hood of East Austin. And that's when it hit me: Smoked Salmon in a Traeger. (more…)
Curtido montage

Salsa's Best Friend (and taco's too)

Curtido is a taco condiment staple, especially in the Yucatan where it is featured on Cochinita Pibil, Mexico's answer to low and slow pulled pork. I like it on many tacos, especially the meaty ones likes Carnitas or Campechano(steak and chorizo). And making it could not be more simple. (more…)
Al Pastor Traeger hack montageThe Vitals: the recipe: Al Pastor Traeger Hack the smoker: Traeger Ironwood 885  the time: about an hour the full nelson: too damn fun not to try Lazy Sunday cookouts have been a running theme in my backyard lately. On Sundays, like in this Instagram Reels post, I've been hitting up my neighborhood carniceria. Their selection of marinated meats and salsas are damn tasty when I don't feel like dedicating a weekend for the prep. And it gave me a reason to try out this Al Pastor Traeger hack. (more…)
Ali Khan:Stiles Switch Steakhouse night montage

The Vitals: the spot: your house! A zoom cooking class with Ali Khan and Stiles Switch BBQ the eats: Central Texas style brisket with steakhouse sides the bucks: contact through site for pricing the full nelson: Dressing up Brisket with a classic steakhouse style dinner

The last year and a half has got me in the kitchen more than ever. Now I'm taking those skills plus my years of food tv, blogging and writing into your kitchen. I've teamed up with celebrated Austin BBQ restaurant, Stiles Switch BBQ to create a series of cooking classes where we remix classic Central Texas Smoked Meats. Grab a martini and read all about my Central Texas Brisket dinner with Classic Steakhouse sides. (more…)