Monday, August 17, 2009

What Has THG Been Doing for the Last Three Weeks?!

While sending somebody THG links for an upcoming story/interview request I realized that I have not posted anything here since about three weeks ago when the world was abuzz with talk of the kegger on the White House lawn. (That's not to say I've been away from writing about food and drink, but followers of my Twitter feed know that.)

So, you may be wondering, what the heck has been happening at THG HQ over the last few weeks? The answer in one word... lots!

The first big event since last we spoke was the latest installment of what has become an annual tradition on par with Thanksgiving here at Casa THG... the European Trash Cinema BBQ. This little gathering got its start a few years back when our UK pal artist Adrian Salmon was in the States for the Baltimore Comic-Con and we introduced him to a world filled with Old Bay, steamed crabs and beer can chicken. Unfortunately, I also became reacquainted with Seagram's VO Gold that night and given the way the evening ended it's amazing there was a second ETP BBQ... or ETPBQ as they've become known.

But my wife is nothing if not patient, understanding and forgiving so each summer has seen this spectacle return, usually accompanied by mountains of pulled pork, other grilled goodies and sweet and tasty desserts that my pals (including Tomb it May Concern mastermind/Tough to Kill co-author David Zuzelo who gifted me with a massive box of Batman comics and graphic novels that I'm wading through and will be posting about at Exploitation Retrospect) gleefully devour into the wee hours.

This year's gathering was intimate compared to previous events with just eight friends joining us for the evening (past events have featured three times that number), but that didn't stop the food and beer from flowing. Armed with my copy of Adam Perry Lang's Serious Barbecue (my new bible and go-to cookbook) we rolled out my homemade pulled pork, a sweet and spicy whiskey barbecue sauce, beer-bathed brats with grilled onions (which will be making their return for NFL kickoff weekend), my father-in-law's classic potato salad (kicked up with a touch of bacon), spareribs and not one but two kinds of cole slaw (traditional and Ina Garten's amazing Blue Cheese Slaw, a new fave in this house).

The event was a rousing success though the ribs disappointed me. Though pals gave them the thumbs-up both Chris and I thought they were a bit tough and chewy, not as tender and tasty as my usual slabs. Frankly, I blame the full slabs I purchased at Costco. I usually purchase the Costco-butchered ribs which feature thick, meaty portions with nice marbling and enough fat to deliver juicy and delicious ribs. The pre-packed Smithfield slabs I purchased seemed leaner, perhaps too lean, and never gave me the shrink from the bone I look for when initial cooking the ribs in the oven before they get finished on the grill. Lesson learned.

Naturally, I've also been busy making sure that copies of the latest (and final) issue of THE HUNGOVER GOURMET have been making their way out into the world. Due to some unexpected client projects this has been a bit more glacially-paced than I would like, but we're getting there. There's still time to order copies from our on-line store or send $3 (cash or money order, no checks) to PO Box 5531, Lutherville, MD 21094-5531. Early feedback on the issue has been very positive with Louis Fowler's epic culinary trip through Big Lots being singled out by many.

Speaking of projects with a lengthy gestation period, I'm also pleased to report that after three-plus years our kitchen renovation is about 99% complete. We began renovating the room back in the summer of 2006 but never finalized the backsplash due to our need for a new roof (heavy, windy storms were causing our kitchen ceiling and walls to leak like something out of a horror flick). With that major expense finally checked off our list earlier this summer we were able to get the backsplash installed and begin thinking about the last touches needed to complete the room, namely a new light fixture over the kitchen table and a fresh coat of paint on the ceiling. I'll be happy to have these pieces complete as we close in on our fourth anniversary here at the house.

That pretty much brings you up to date on what's been going on over the last few weeks. I don't know about where you live dear reader but we're smack dab into the dog days of summer here in Baltimore and my office is sweltering thanks to the various computers and printers, not to mention the "closed door policy" intended to keep my two-year-old at bay. I promise more posts to come in the days ahead, including my take on JULIE & JULIA, more coffee chatter, and even – dare I say it? – a THG website update.

Till then, relax, it's only cooking.

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