We didn’t really think this could happen — that someone could dominate our 2nd Annual Sizzling Summer BBQ Contest like Barry Bonds winning MVP Awards in his drug-buffed prime — but we were wrong. For on June 15, the O Street Truck and Liz Bradley drove out of the Whole Foods parking lot doubly victorious, taking the crown for both best professional entrée and best professional side dish over five very talented competitors. But perhaps it’s fitting for an age when so much of the hottest food gets served from a truck.
Then in the cocktail contest on June 16 at Harry’s Plaza Café, we had five mixologists mixing it up, several back for revenge after not finishing first last year. And, indeed, Branden Bidwell, one of those with vengeance on his mind, emerged as the mixology champion, showing that perseverance — aided and abetted by the ability to infuse alcohol — can create the perfect summer cocktail.
But before we get to the stories of Bradley, Bidwell, and the rest of our winners, we’d like to give a shout-out to the sponsors — Whole Foods, Harry’s, RND Vodka, AgaveAvenue.com, and Carreta de Oro Tequila — who helped make this event a searing success and give many thanks to the tastes, stomachs, and livers of our judges. For the food: Krista Harris of Edible Santa Barbara, D.J. Palladino of The Santa Barbara Independent, Chef Edie Robertson (last year’s winner of the professional entrée division), and Larry Schaffer of tercero wines. For the cocktails: Kevin Hebert of Harry’s, Kathryn Graham of C’est Cheese, Mandy Chinn of Sly’s (last year’s cocktail contest winner), and a terrible Indy trio of Matt Kettmann, Ethan Stewart, and yours truly. Once again, the drily witty Travis Mañach emceed our cocktail contest, and what kind of bon vivant could be better?
And now, without further ado, our winners:
Liz Bradley, O Street Truck
BBQ Pork Bánh Mì Sandwich with Xa-Xiu Sauce
Liz Bradley has a couple of confessions to make. First, she says that despite coming from a long line of California foodies (cattle ranchers, hop ranchers, and vintners), she herself came to the world of creating food largely by accident. Now, after eight years leading Olive Street Table and cooking up amazing pâte brisée galette-based pizzas, she’s the woman behind O Street Truck (966-1630, ostreettruck.com), which she calls “the economy’s answer to insanely delicious gourmet fare at street prices.”
Her other confession? The BBQ Pork Bánh Mì Sandwich with Xa-Xiu Sauce isn’t available on the truck — at least yet. “The contest was a great opportunity for us to perfect our BBQ Pork Bánh Mì Sandwich,” she said, explaining that it was the result of “fooling around” with different rubs and spices. “My favorite discovery was how well the xa-xiu sauce went with the sriracha mayo. It all just came together. It will be on the truck soon!” Based on the pleased groans and high scores of our judges, Santa Barbara is in for a real treat.
Meat: “We use baby back ribs,” said Bradley, “but pork loin is good, too.” On cooking, she advised, “The trick with rubs and ribs is to cook the ribs just long enough to turn the meat white, which often isn’t very long at all. The challenge is getting the outside brown without drying out the inside. It’s a common belief that ribs need to be cooked — some say boiled! — for a long time to get them tender. NOT!”
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 2 Tbsp. kosher salt
- 2 tsp. smoked paprika
- 2 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 2 tsp. garlic Salt
- ½ tsp. ginger
- ½ tsp. nutmeg
- ½ tsp. cinnamon
- 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
- French baguette (cold or warmed on grill)
- Sliced cucumber
- Fresh or Pacific Pickle Work’s pickled carrots
- Cha-Cha Sauce (Mayonnaise and Siracha)
Top Secret Xa-Xiu Sauce:
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- ¼ cup ketchup
- 3 Tbsp. hoisin sauce
- 2 Tbsp. oyster sauce
- 2 Tbsp. honey
- 1 Tbsp. brown sugar
- 1 Tbsp. sesame oil
- 2 tsp. Chinese 5-spice powder
- 2 tsp. kosher salt
Directions: Slather rub on ribs. If possible, marinate in the fridge for a day, but you can get good flavor in a couple of hours.
Par-bake the ribs in the oven at 300º for 40 minutes before putting on the grill. Sear the meat hot, hot, hot directly on the grill for 2 minutes each side, then move to cooler section of grill and cook until tender, from 30 minutes to an hour — you’ll know when meat begins to come off bone. Remove meat from bones, and set aside.
Slice baguette, spread Cha-Cha Sauce on one side. Layer cucumbers, carrots, and cilantro. Top with BBQ pork. Squirt on some of the Top Secret Xa-Xiu Sauce, and enjoy.
Pork Shoulder Sandwich
Barbecue is a lot of work, and I’m fortunate to have friends — my buddies Chuck Haines and Colin Blakely — that enjoy cooking as much as I do,” claimed amateur entrée winner Aron Ives, who makes it clear that it takes a village to slow-smoke a pork shoulder. “Having a team of people that know food is important — a successful barbecue, on any scale, is not a one-person operation. Once a component of a dish is finished, we’re all trying it and giving our opinions. Sometimes changes need to be made, and there are changes one person wouldn’t have come up with on his own. Even feeding people in my backyard, I want them walking away thinking, ‘That’s the best food I’ve ever had!’ That’s always the goal.”
An Oklahoma native who moved to Santa Barbara in 1999 to attend Brooks Institute and who now creates corporate and advertising videos, Ives certainly achieved that goal with the many layers of flavors in his seductive dish inspired by a Memphis-style pork sandwich. “I’ve been visiting Memphis since my older brother moved there when I was 17,” he said. “My parents have a house there now, too, so it’s truly my second hometown. I love the people and culture in Memphis so much; I want to share that warmth with everyone I know in Santa Barbara. The best way I know how to do this is to cook for them! In Memphis, your pork sandwich comes with coleslaw on top of the pork. You add the barbecue sauce on top of the slaw, and it turns into this little messy part of heaven.”
And when you deliver such serious barbecue, don’t let your guests go cheap on the drinks. “If you’ve spent six hours smoking several racks of ribs to perfection, don’t settle for a twelver of ‘B-minus’ (Bud Light),” said Ives. “Suggest your favorite IPA or a good local red wine.”
Pulled Pork Injection:
- ¾ cup apple juice
- 1 cup peach juice
- ½ cup sugar
- ⅛ cup salt
- 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 1 Tbsp. white vinegar
Inject this mixture throughout the pork shoulder, then cover generously with your favorite BBQ rub, or make your own.
Secret BBQ Rub:
- 8½ Tbsp. sweet Spanish paprika
- 6 Tbsp. maple sugar
- 1 Tbsp. ground ginger
- 3 Tbsp. ground cumin
- 1 orange peel, dried
- 2 Tbsp. beef granules
- 1 Tbsp. onion powder
- 1 Tbsp. salt
- 1 Tbsp. chipotle
- 2 Tbsp. California chili powder
- 3 tsp. lemon pepper
- 1 Tbsp. white pepper
- 4 Tbsp. black pepper
Directions: Fire up your smoker or grill. Get it to a consistent 350º. Build the fire on one side of the grill, or use a heat shield, as you want indirect heat to slow cook a pork shoulder.
Add hickory and apple wood chips to the fire and put the pork on the smoker, opposite the fire side. Cook uncovered for 3 hours. Remove from heat, and wrap it in foil with ½ cup of apple juice; return to fire until you reach an internal temperature of 190º, usually around 2 hours.
Drain off excess liquid and reserve for sauces. Wrap foil-covered pork shoulder in clean kitchen towels, and place in a food-safe cooler until internal temp reaches 200º. Once proper temperature has been reached, your pork is ready to pull!
- 7 slices bacon
- 2 large shallots, sliced
- 7 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 1¼ cups red wine
Brown bacon, and add shallots, then garlic 1 minute later. Cook until garlic is tender. Remove the majority of bacon grease from the pan. Leave in about 3 Tbsp. and the other ingredients. Deglaze pot with 1¼ cups red wine.
- 3½ more cups red wine
- 5 cups grape soda
- 1 cup smoked pork jus (fat removed)
- 1 cup white vinegar
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- ¼ cup balsamic
- ½ Worcestershire sauce
- ¼ cup lemon juice
Bring to boil, then strain. Discard the solids. Set the liquid to simmer and stir in:
- 1 cup brown sugar
- ¼ cup salt
- 1 cup molasses
- 1 Tbsp. celery salt
- 12-oz. can tomato paste
- ¼ cup yellow mustard
Let sauce reduce for a few hours. This makes a pretty big batch, but it freezes well!
- 1¾ cups cornmeal
- ¾ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 Tbsp. baking powder
- 1 pinch salt
- ½ cup maple syrup
- 1 large egg
- 1½ cups milk
- 1 cup cream-style corn
- 4 oz. chopped mild green chili peppers
- ½ jalapeño, seeded
- 5 Tbsp. melted butter
Combine the dry in one bowl, combine the wet in another, then combine both and gently stir in the melted butter. Put in a waffle iron and cook until browned on both sides. If it doesn’t immediately feel crisp, it’s okay. It will crisp up after it rests for a few seconds.
- 1 head cabbage
- 1/2 cup sweet relish
- 1/4 cup mayo
- 1/4 cup yellow mustard
- 1/8 white balsamic
- 1/8 cup white vinegar
- 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
- 3 Tbsp. horseradish
- 1 Tbsp. Red Rooster hot sauce
- 1 Tbsp. sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
Directions: Mix ingredients thoroughly and serve on top of pork.
Pro Side Dish
Liz Bradley, O Street Truck
Watermelon-Serrano Salad with French-Mex Vinaigrette
The Indy would like nothing more than to share the love and hand out the prizes to numerous contestants, but the judges’ taste buds don’t care for parity, only yumminess. O Street had originally entered a classic French potato salad but changed their minds on the day of the contest, opting for, as Bradley put it, “something lighter, fresher, and a more dynamic pairing with the Bánh Mì. It’s all so French and Vietnamese and, well, Santa Barbara!”
Some judges opined that it might be even better with feta cheese. “I tried it next day, and it was so good,” said Bradley, but she still prefers to keep the salad simple and clean. “I’m going to stick with the one that won. I think it’s omni-palate friendly!” What’s more, the consensus seemed to be the salad didn’t need the cheese.
- ½ medium watermelon (diced in 1” pieces)
- 2 green onions, chopped, both green and white portions
- ½ cup chopped mint
- ¼ cup chopped cilantro
- 2 Serrano chili peppers, diced
- 2 tsp. lime zest
- Juice of 2 limes
- 2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
- Dash of extra-virgin olive oil (tiny, tiny bit)
- Kosher salt and pepper
Directions: Mix watermelon, green onion, mint, and cilantro in a bowl by hand. Whisk together ingredients of the vinaigrette, which can be made a day ahead). Pour vinaigrette over salad, mix by hand, and garnish with extra mint leaves if you’re being fancy!
Amateur Side Dish
South of the Border Cornbread Pudding
George Levinthal, winner of this year’s amateur side dish competition, won the amateur entrée heat last summer, so he’s on a roll. But it goes beyond that, for last year’s winning Southwest Turkey Burger will now be published in the June 30 food section of the L.A. Times. “I was one of the 20 semi-finalists whose burger was prepared and tasted by their judges,” said Levinthal, “and it was then chosen as one of the top five to be published.”
This year he came up with a cornbread that was not so bready. “I was looking to make something that wasn’t as firm as cornbread but not a soft as a pudding,” said Levinthal. “Something savory yet also sweet.” After much recipe tinkering, he decided to make the pudding from scratch rather than use a mix, or canned corn and peppers. “I still add in a can of creamed corn, and the black beans are canned,” he admitted, “but everything else is fresh and grilled to give them more flavor.”
Though a project manager in design and construction services at UCSB by day, Levinthal is clearly an avid amateur chef by night and on weekends. “Keep cooking, my friends,” he advised. “It’s fun and a way to be creative. You never know what you’re going to come up with. For me, I like to look at recipes and tweak them the way I want with different spices, toppings, or even the proteins.”
- ¾ cup of unsweetened butter, melted
- ½ cup buttermilk
- 1 egg, beaten
- ¾ cup masa harina
- ½ cup yellow cornmeal
- ½ tsp. baking powder
- 1/3 cup sugar
- ½ tsp. salt
- ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
- ½ tsp. cumin
- 1 can creamed corn
- 1 can black beans, drained
- 1/3 cup chopped green onions
- 2 ears corn, grilled and kernels removed
- 2 Anaheim and 3 jalapeño chilies, grilled (cover and let sweat for 30 minutes), skinned, and seeded, coarsely chopped. Set one chopped jalapeño aside for garnish.
- ½ cup roasted red peppers, seeded, and coarsely chopped
- 1 Jalapeño pepper, seeded, and sliced crosswise for topping
- 1 sweet red and 1 yellow pepper, seeded, sliced crosswise for topping
- Mexican crema
Directions: Preheat oven to 350º. Coat a 9”x13” baking pan with Pam.
Mix the first three ingredients together in a small bowl. Combine the next seven ingredients in a large bowl, and gradually stir in the wet ingredients from the first bowl.
Add in the corn, beans, chilies, green onions, and peppers and combine. Pour into greased baking dish, add the topping items, and bake for 40 minutes or until firm in the middle.
Remove from the oven and cool slightly. Cut into squares, or scoop out and serve warm; garnish with a dollop of Mexican crema and chopped jalapeños.
Cocktail Contest Winner
This year’s cocktail competition was summed up neatly by judge and Indy editor Matt Kettmann, who opined, “There was a noticeable evolution of mixological sophistication in our 2nd annual libation creation showdown. Not only is this a cheap way to get a bunch of underpaid Indy writers and their friends tipsy under the guise of being contest judges; there’s a professional level of competition going on, and I’m proud to have sacrificed my liver for the cause once again.”
Winner Branden Bidwell fought hard but lost last year, so this victory for his Caprese Martini was particularly pleasing. Although Bidwell is maître d’/wine director at the Wine Cask (813 Anacapa St., 966-9463, winecask.com), he competed unaffiliated, though admitted, “I’m blessed to have a job where I am encouraged to create cocktails, learn about wine, and eat delicious food. When the summer Farmers Market ingredients started rolling out, I thought a Caprese-style drink would be fun. There’s always some tweaking that goes into making a good drink. Luckily, trial and error isn’t much of a punishment when it comes to making — and tasting — drinks.”
He also offered sage advice to home mixologists: “Your favorite drink should always be your next one. Anyone that sticks to one cocktail/beer/wine all the time is totally missing out. Try everything twice, and make up drinks (yes, plural) that please you.”
Even better, hold an annual cocktail contest so others do the pleasing for you.
- 2 oz. tomato-infused vodka
- 1 oz. basil-infused dry vermouth
- ½ oz. fresh lime juice
- ½ oz. simple syrup
- Mini mozzarella ball
Tomato-Infused Vodka: Add a pound of very ripe tomatoes to a liter of vodka; leave for a little over three weeks at room temperature or longer.
Basil-Infused Dry Vermouth: Add a half bunch of basil to 750 ml. of dry vermouth for five days or more.
Directions: Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously with ice. Serve up, with a mini mozzarella ball on a toothpick, not immersed in the drink, as a garnish.