Multiple courses of culinary chaos ensued last Thursday at The Brewhouse, where The Santa Barbara Independent hosted two simultaneous events: the release of a hoppy red rye ale called Well-Read IPA, our first-ever collaborative beer that we made with The Brewhouse to celebrate the newspaper’s 30th anniversary, and the winners’ showcase for our 7th Annual Sizzling Summer BBQ Contest.
When more than 150 people showed up to drink the beer and sample the bite-sized versions of the winning dishes made by our hardworking grill masters, things got a little crazy. Lines of people snaked throughout the West Montecito Street brewpub and onto the back patio, where our four winners tried their hardest to keep the food coming to satisfy the massive crowd.
It wasn’t the most streamlined affair, and not all in attendance got to try every single dish. But we’re happy to say that most everyone had a great deal of fun, and the vast majority did chomp on George Levinthal’s chorizo-laced burgers, Emily Falke’s “umami” tri-tip tacos, “Texas” Rex White’s Central Texas pork shoulder, and Neighbor Tim Goebel’s smoky brisket.
All four had already been declared victors in this year’s barbecue battle, emerging from about a dozen contestants that submitted their dishes to a panel of judges in The Independent’s West Figueroa Street office a few weeks ago. And to keep the contest spirit alive, we added a “People’s Choice” component to last Thursday’s showcase. As the smoke literally cleared, The Brewhouse audience determined after nearly 90 minutes of eating that Neighbor Tim’s BBQ was their favorite.
So raise a glass and fork to all of our winners, whose dishes, along with the judges’ reactions, are detailed here.
People’s Choice: Tim Goebel, Neighbor Tim’s BBQ
Dish: Genuine Texas-Style Smoked Brisket; Mac ’n’ Cheese; and Homemade Baked Beans with Thick-Cut Smoked Bacon.
Raised by “beef-raising wheat farmers” in South Dakota, Tim Goebel came to Santa Barbara five years ago and promptly entered some cooking contests, including our 2014 edition. Upon winning Brews & BBQ at Elings Park in June 2013, Goebel decided to launch a catering business called Neighbor Tim’s BBQ, which can be found on the first and second Saturdays at 7020 Calle Real in Goleta from noon until the food is gone (usually around 5 p.m.). This weekend, he’ll also be serving at Girsh Park’s Fourth of July event hosted by the Rotary Club of Goleta, where Goebel is a member. His entry is classic Texas brisket, smoked for 10 hours, and served with mac ’n’ cheese, which gets a touch of mustard, and some soupy but crunchy baked beans, enhanced by chunks of pork. His food truck and catering business, which also does Carolina-style pulled pork, is based on the concept that, no matter what we believe in politics or religion or anything else, we can still all get along over some good grilled food. Said Goebel, who’s expecting his first child soon with his wife, Caitlyn Goebel, “We’re all neighbors.”
Judges Say: “Great guy. Good story. Whole package. Brisket nicely crunchy on outside. Snappy beans, really great. Fairly traditional, executed well. Good, zippy BBQ sauce. Winner, winner brisket dinner.”
Dish: Grilled Umami Tri-Tip Tacos with Pickled Beets, Queso Fresco, and Cilantro Horseradish Crème; Black IPA–Braised Red Cabbage; Farro with Grilled Meyer Lemon Slices; and Shishito Peppers topped with Toasted Pepitas.
A curator and director of education at the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum, Emily Falke has done well in our previous grilling and cocktail contests, but this is her first win. She went with a traditional Santa Barbara County cut, the tri-tip, but looked to the Pacific Rim for inspiration and marinated the meat for a couple of days in a salty-sweet “umami” sauce. But the key to her dish is everything else that goes on the taco: the house-pickled beets, the smooth yet slightly spicy horseradish-cilantro aioli, and the farro with grilled Meyer lemon. Chase it all down with a shishito pepper, and it’s a full plate indeed.
Judges Say: “An interesting play of Asian with grill flavors. Good fusion.”
Special Guest: Tony Figueroa, Fig’s Dirty Rub
Tony Figueroa, who learned how to cook while working the galleys of fishing and diving boats in the Santa Barbara Harbor, placed second in our 2015 contest. This year, the judges also loved his entry: a bacon-wrapped chicken breast stuffed with pesto, asparagus, and sausage; a creative and delicious spin on Mexican-style corn with mayonnaise, chile, parmesan, lemon, and butter; a macaroni ’n’ cheese with Cheez-It crumb topping; and a last-minute bacon jam.
But what impressed us more was Fig’s Dirty Rub, a secret-ingredient-filled concoction that works on everything from beef and pork to chicken and fish, and even just as a seasoning. “I put it in basically everything,” he told the judges during his round. So we invited him to show it off at The Brewhouse, where he gave out packets of the rub, which he hopes to have commercially available soon.
See facebook.com/FigsDirtyRub or email email@example.com.
Dish: Grilled Watermelon Gazpacho with Cool Cucumber, Tomato, and Spicy Jalapeño, and Red Onion-Avocado Garnish; Kick-Ass Cheeseburger with Two Kinds of Ground Beef and Chorizo, Topped with Bacon, Cheddar Cheese, Spicy Guacamole, and Cold Tomato; and Tangy Mustard-Vinegar-Dressed Potato Salad with Bacon.
George Levinthal is a cooking contest veteran. This was his fifth time participating in our event, and this marks his third win. He’s also competed in the World Food Championships in Las Vegas and had his burgers featured in the Los Angeles Times. The UCSB employee’s grilled watermelon gazpacho was perhaps the most revelatory dish of the entire contest this year — equal parts cool, smoky, and spicy. The delectable beef-and-chorizo burgers were also mouthwatering.
Judges Say: “This burger is ready for its close-up.
Super inviting. He got the perfect ratio between cheese, chorizo, and beef.”
“Texas” Rex White
Dish: Apple Hickory Pork Shoulder; Sautéed Green Beans with Bacon; Cheesy Squash; Pickled Okra; and Peach Cobbler.
Ever since leaving his native Central Texas, which is home to more than 100 barbecue joints from Dallas to Austin, “Texas” Rex White has lived quite a full life. The father of six has been making T-shirts since his teenage years, was a sheriff’s deputy in Ventura County, managed a heavy-metal band, once ran an avocado orchard, and built a successful career developing brands and inventing graphic technologies for textiles. He went back to his roots for this authentic entry, even pickling his own okra, using grandma’s string bean recipe (but with farmers’ market beans rather than canned ones), and using light cake flour in his cobbler. A highlight were his homemade sauces: a mustard, Carolina-influenced one he calls “Mellow Yellow” and a spicy red sauce that combines perfect amounts of heat with flavor. Oh, and he also cooks a very mean brisket smoked over pecan wood and chopped-up oak barrels that once were full of cabernet sauvignon.
Judges Say: “Smoky, peppery, clean, and simple flavors. Killer sauces. Pickled okra a nice contrast. Traditional but thoughtful. The cooking matches the man: varied but authentic in many ways.”
Special thanks to our long list of sponsors:
Presenting Sponsor: Santa Barbara Farmers Market • sbfarmersmarket.org
Bear Paw • bearpawproducts.com
The Brewhouse • sbbrewhouse.com
Cutler’s Artisan Spirits • cutlersartisan.com
The Great Plate • greatplate.net
Santa Barbara Adventure Company • sbadventureco.com
Santa Barbara Home Improvement Center • sbhicace.com
Shalhoob Meat Company • shalhoob.com
Joe Cole, Indy publisher
Rodrigo Gimenez, chef/architect/former winner, rgcocinero.com
Jackson Friedman, copy chief
Matt Kettmann, senior editor
Mitchell Kriegman, author/food writer, mitchellkriegman.com
D.J. Palladino, food writer, independent.com/dj
Marianne Partridge, Indy editor in chief
Dave Potter, owner/vintner, Municipal Winemakers/
Potek Winery, potek.com
Edie Robertson, chef/former winner, chefedie.com
Brian Thompson, owner/brewer, Telegraph Brewing Company, telegraphbrewing.com
George Yatchisin, food writer, georgeeats.com