How To Make Alabama White Sauce

Homemade Alabama White Sauce.

Homemade Alabama White Sauce.

As the four of you who actually read these writings are aware: I am a big fan of the Union Woodshop.  Their pork is on point and the beef is ballin’ out. However, quality meats aren’t the only must-have to run a successful BBQ joint, like the Woodshop.  As G. Love put it, “my baby’s got sauce.”  You need some diverse sauces to really bring out the best in your BBQ servings.  The Woodshop allows your tastebuds to travel the country with their sauce samples.  Traditional Memphis sauce (for that true Beale Street BBQ flavor), a Chinatown inspired New York BBQ, mustardy South Carolina, chipotle Texas, mayo based Bama white sauce, and two off the menu favorites–Hell Sauce (ghost pepper infused, but not overpowering) and North Carolina (a vinegar sauce perfect for pulled pork–but that’s just me).

All of the sauces are, as Guy Fieri would put it, DYNAMITE.  Take a finger and try them all, see what you like.  Through many sessions of trial and error, I have discovered that BBQ sauce is like wine.  For each meat, there is a sauce that you should pair it with.  Nothing shows this correlation better than the Alabama White Sauce and chicken.  Ooo baby.  This sauce can turn bland chicken into a cocky rooster.  They should call it Foghorn Leghorn Chicken.  It’s got attitude.  I usually don’t go to BBQ places for the chicken, but this sauce, alone, changes my mind every time.  Now, I’m proud to say, I’ve learned how to make it.  Well…not theirs…theirs is definitely still better than mine…but I’m close!  It’s super easy, too.  You most likely have all the ingredients you need in your fridge in pantry already.  Here’s what you need (to make enough for a group, or save some for later):

  • 1 cup mayo (light works, if you’re worried about that)
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon hot chili paste
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • dash (or two) of salt and ground black pepper
  • tiny bit of garlic, because it belongs in everything

Wrap it up with some foil, let it chill for a little bit and enjoy with some chicken.  Time to grow up, no more Hidden Valley!

Union Woodshop: A BBQ Smoke Session

Woodshop

When you tell somebody that you’re from Clarkston (Michigan), you’ll likely receive one of two responses: something about Pine Knob (or as the suits would call it ,“DTE Energy Music Theatre”) or something about The Union’s mac and cheese. It may be a small town, but it’s got spotlight eats. The Union’s mac and cheese is so good that you can’t take your eyes off of it to notice Kid Rock at the table next to you. (he’s a regular, the dude’s got good taste for…good taste). It’s so good that the competition is desperate to get their hands on the recipe—having been caught literally trying to get their hands on the recipe. The Union’s grub, interesting ambience (being built inside an old church) and friendly staff led to such great success that the team was able to open a second restaurant (and later a third, and a fourth) next door, the Union Woodshop. The Woodshop offers a different menu than its sister restaurant, focusing on my favorite of all the foods; and since Valentine’s Day is meant to be spent surrounded by what you love, I got some BBQ.

If the Woodshop was a dude, he’d be bearded, sporting a button-up plaid shirt, half-rim glasses, a beanie, but also, like, really good at fixing cars. If that imagery doesn’t work for you, it’s a hipster’s log cabin, with great craft brews, wood-fire pizzas, and mouth-watering, Guy Fieri endorsed smoked ‘que. Like Guy demonstrates on Triple D, my go-to order is the Porker—because what goes better with pork, than more pork? Ground pork patty, house-made hot link, and maple smoked bacon combined with explosive pickled chilies, smoked cheddar, and some South Carolina mayo spread. With all that pig no wonder Porky had a stutter. Poor guy was scared s***less.

A poor phone photo of the Porker.

A poor phone photo of the Porker.

If all of that pork makes you feel like a pig, the wood-fire pizzas are always on point. I’d recommend the Woodshop pizza, their version of the BBQ chicken pizza. In addition to the smoked chicken, you get pulled pork, brisket, onions, and a tangy Memphis sauce. The other pizzas are good, too; but I have a hard time going to a BBQ joint and not getting BBQ. It’s a sin, certainly a regret (for the secular).

tea jar

Food isn’t the only highlight of the place, however. Upstairs is also, in my opinion, the “hottest” bar in town. Now, that’s not saying much because there are only, like, three or four bars in town—but it’s still really cool! The music is hip, the feng shui is peaceful, and I fall in love with every server, but that’s just me. There are so many reasons to go to the Woodshop, make it happen.

Grand Rapids: Michigan’s Grub Capital

The Green Well Gastropub in Grand Rapids

The Green Well Gastropub in Grand Rapids

Detroit is making a comeback.  It’s picking up the pieces (of rubble) and rebuilding after decades of urban blight, white flight, and corruption.  Now, the city is looking for an identity change, a new way to brand itself in a positive light; to find the perfect model that Detroit should follow, you don’t have to look very far.

Grand Rapids is where it’s at, there’s no doubt about it.  Being a Spartan, I love Lansing–but, as a city, it doesn’t hold a candle to Grand Rapids.  I have no problem admitting Ann Arbor is a beautiful place, but is too, let’s call it, quaint next to the urban-feel you get in Grand Rapids.  Having said that, with all three of those previously mentioned cities being college towns, you won’t have a hard time finding fun in any of these areas–but when you sit down to eat, you’ll see what really makes Grand Rapids so…can I say grand?

Grand Rapids is very liberal, to sum up its population: the city is young, dreadlocked, and studying graphic design at GVSU.  That creative nature and earth-friendly attitude really comes out with the food scene that has developed in the area recently. Most restaurants are going local and organic, giving the city a comfortable community feel.  The beer you’re drinking, the bread you’re eating, and the person cooking it up for you are all local.  If you’re into microbrews, then walking through the city is like your own personal tour of Wonka.  Last weekend, I made a trip to the city with the sole purpose of grubbing down on some out-of-the-box eats and sharing some recommendations with you so you can go check it out for yourself.  Farm-to-table isn’t the only kind of grub you’ll find on your culinary crusade of Grand Rapids.  The city has an eclectic mix of ethnic cuisine: Mexican, Dutch, Italian, Mediterranean, fresh markets, anything you could want to eat is within reach. With limited time in town, I had to make choices on where I wanted to eat, so I opted to try all new places.  So, this meant I that, today, I would not be showcasing San Chez, a tapas bistro, and home of my favorite sandwich ever–EVER: the Pork Belly and Pretzel B.L.T. Sandwich. Sweet, succulent, glazed pork belly, contrasted with cold, creamy apple slaw, fresh tomato, topped with a spicy jalapeño honey mustard, all enclosed in a steamy pretzel bun.  So good that it hurt to write all of that.  I do my best to sample all of the food showcased on the Travel Channel’s Man v Food and Adam Richman’s Best Sandiwch in America, and this sandwich truly trumps the field.  This “only new restaurants” rule also meant I would not be going to another personal favorite, Marie Catrib’s–home of outstanding food that you don’t feel guilty devouring because it’s healthy and made from scratch.  Definitely check out their falafel and desserts.

Good meals are something meant to be shared, and not eaten alone, so my dad and I arrived to town for a late dinner and decided to hit up the Green Well Gastropub.  I may be a sucker, but I always get excited about places that refer to themselves as gastropubs.  Some may consider gastronomy a snobby, bourgeois way to label food; but to me, it means you’re going to get something unique–and the Green Well menu is one of a kind. They have wines made exclusively for them by a local winery (Black Star Farms) and fresh baked bread baked right in town.  Oh, that bread.  We started with an order of their Breads & Spreads and were blown away. Great artesian breads, but the spreads were the talking point.  Three spreads were given with the assortment of breads: a curry lentil dip, that was the perfect mix of spice creating layers of different tastes in the mouth; a blueberry jalapeño spread, an amazing union of heat from the pepper and cool from the yogurt-esque blueberry, interesting take on taste similar to the hot wing-ranch/bleu cheese combo; then, there was the tomato basil dip, perfect for a cool and crisp bite between the spicier spreads.

The Green Well's Bread & Spread (Dips: curry lentil, tomato basil, and blueberry jalapeño)

The Green Well’s Bread & Spread (Dips: curry lentil, tomato basil, and blueberry jalapeño)

The appetizer was good enough to make a meal, but the carbs seemed a bit overwhelming so a real meal was to be had.  I cannot recall the last time I was that overwhelmed looking at a menu.  Everything sounded good.  Korean braised beef and noodles? Yes, please. Fish tacos? All day. Chicken and Waffles, too? After many internal battles and episodes of cognitive dissonance, I finally made up my mind and ordered the Cuban Sandwich and pops went with the Green Well Pad Thai with braised beef.

The Green Well Cuban Sandwich

The Green Well Cuban Sandwich

Despite the plethora of other great choices on the menu, I did not regret my choice for a minute.  It was the type of sandwich where before you even clamp your teeth down you get the rush of flavors to the mouth.  You could probably sit there and just breathe the sandwich in and get your moneys worth (and you save the calories!).  The spices on the pork merge with the bitterness of the Swiss cheese and tangy sweet mustard to create a gift to the taste buds, ending with a crunch of the fresh local bread. Perfection. After every bite I couldn’t help but let out a muttered “Dammit” or “holy hell.”  It was so good it made me angry that I couldn’t have it in my life every day.  You know a food is up your alley when it’s so good that you roll your eyes.  I don’t know why that happens, but I have no problem with it.

Fish Lad's Menu Grand Rapids Downtown Market

Fish Lad’s Menu Grand Rapids Downtown Market

The next morning, I woke up excited for the next venture.  I did some quick research on my phone and found our next chowdown spot–we’d be heading to the Grand Rapids Downtown Market.  To anyone who describes themselves as a foodie, markets are always a utopia, and Grand Rapids didn’t dissapoint.  Everything you’d want to find at a market you could find here.  Fresh produce, butchers, artesian bakers, fresh squeezed juice, sushi, gourmet cheeses, the market is your oyster–they have those, too!  After several laps around the building, stopping to stare at the sausage menu, the taco restaurant, and several other eye grabbing eats I ended at Fish Lad’s.  I can’t see Po’ Boy on a menu and not indulge.  I’m weak like that.  It’s not often that you find a stellar Po’ Boy in Michigan.  I had the option of shrimp, oyster, and soft shell crab; all of them sounded just as amazing as the next so I asked homeboy behind the counter what the go-to is.  Before I could finish the sentence he exclaimed, “Crab. Gotta do the crab.” He looked trustworthy, so I followed his lead and went with the soft shell.  I’ve never had one but it always looks good and I was (and continue to be) intrigued by how one can eat the entire crab shell and all.  It was just as good as I had hoped it would be (paying as much as I did for it).  Each bite a delightful crunch with a fresh seafood flavor that took you out of the frigid Michigan cold and straight to somewhere tropical.  Good seafood makes me nostalgic, I can’t help it.

Fish Lad's Po Boy

Fish Lad’s Po Boy

Take a trip to Grand Rapids, catch a Griffin game, get kicked out of the B.O.B., and find something new to eat.  You won’t regret it. Now we need to take that creative gastronomy innovation going on in Grand Rapids and bring it to Detroit.  Food brings people together, and creating a happening food scene is one way to start bringing in intelligent, young people who want to create something impactful from the ground up.

GR Market Fish

Tacos, juice, and Soft shell crab Po Boy.

Tacos, juice, and Soft shell crab Po Boy.

Happy Birthday, Man

I hate to say it, but it’s very easy to forget a friend’s birthday.  I’m not as active on Facebook as I once was, some friends aren’t even on social media any more, and at times it’s hard to keep track of my own birthday.  On top of that, what constitutes as wishing someone a happy birthday?  Does a Facebook post count?  I’ve had friends get mad at me over not wishing them a happy birthday, in a proper way.  So, I took the Larry David approach to the situation, and made a sketch on the subject.  Here is our new sketch “Happy Birthday, Man.”

Campus Chowdown Ep. 2- What Up Dawg? – Michigan State University

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In the second episode of Campus Chowdown, we return to East Lansing to face the Big Dawg Challenge (9 specialty hot dogs in 20 minutes). Will we be Top Dawg? Or go down as little wienies?

The Mystery of True Detective

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Between sleeping-in until noon, working nights, catching the flu from an eating contest for an episode of Campus Chowdown, and finally getting around to watching The Office (UK)—I haven’t had the time to check out True Detective, until this week (alright, alright, alright).  I saw all of the buzz it was generating on Twitter and was anxious to see if it was worth the hype.

From peoples Tweets I sort of understood what it was all about beforehand. My feed was practically drowning in piss-poor Yellow King memes and “jokes”, so going into it I knew there was some sort of mystery on who this “Yellow King” is.  I decided to make a night of the on-demand experience seeing how every episode garnered the Twitter attention of the Breaking Bad finale. I cleared all the plans I didn’t have, ordered pizza, hit the lights & lit candles to provide the optimal viewing experience. I was ready.  Within the first five-minutes, however, I was quite confused. They showed and referenced the Yellow King?! How was everybody wondering who he is the whole time when they blatantly said it within the first five minutes of the very first episode? As the episode progressed I grew more and more confused. Much of the plot was unexplained and dialogue referenced things that the viewer was supposed to know but had no way of knowing, nor ever explained.  The two detectives seemed to have a strange relationship and a lot of background that never was shown—I was completely lost. Thinking maybe I was too dazed during that episode, I decided to make a more cognitive effort to focus during the second.  I didn’t touch my phone, I was in the zone.  Yet, it still made no sense, what so ever. For the life of me I could not understand how the masses followed the show or enjoyed it because it made zero sense.

It took me three episodes…THREE EPISODES…to realize I was watching the show from end to finish, and now I can’t go back because I know how it ends.  I bought the book and went straight to the last page.  Here I was thinking everybody was an idiot for liking this show, when I was the fool. I bet I would have actually enjoyed it had I not dyslexicly viewed it.  Hopefully I’ll learn how to read by the time season two rolls around.

Campus Chowdown: Conrad’s East Lansing

For the first episode of our new food porn web series “Campus Chowdown“, my good friend Al Karsten and I head to our favorite East Lansing grub spot—Conrad’s Collegetown Grill—where we attempt to throw back 3 gigantic wraps each.  Check it out!