Saturday, March 12, 2011

BBQ Heaven

As I edited the photos for this blog post I had a moment of 'Wow, did I really eat all that?' incredulity.

Yes, I really ate all that ... and savoured every calorific bite.

I love good BBQ, but it's hard to find around these parts. So when my friend Bonita suggested we hit Buster Rhino's Southern BBQ in Whitby, ON for one of their menu sampling days I jumped at the chance. B had already been to one, and her descriptions of candied bacon, smoky ribs, and tender brisket had me positively drooling. Such events at Buster Rhino's are few and far between so we signed up for this one weeks ago, knowing it was a hot ticket.

Darryl Koster, the proprietor, knows BBQ. His family is from South Carolina, and he's not about injecting Jack Daniels into his meat, or dousing it with BBQ sauce (Although he does make a damn fine one.). No, he prefers to use rubs to bring out the flavour of the meat itself, which is evident when you taste it. For Darryl it's all about low and slow cooking, using charcoal and cherry wood. And the smokiness of the cherry wood is infused into everything, the flavour lingering long after you've taken your last bite.

On to the food, all eight courses' worth.

We start with Bacon Jam, a decadent spread made with figs, coffee, chipotle, bittersweet chocolate, and of course lots of bacon. Spread on crackers, it's the perfect amuse bouche to get us excited about what's to come.

Next up: Pig Candy, a sweet, smoky bacon confection. Delightful.

A bacon triple-play, we next sink our teeth into a potato skin unlike any other. Smoked cheese, loads of bacon chunks (and not those weenie, tasteless bacon bits you'll sometimes get with potato skins) and spices fill the perfectly-cooked spuds.

Moving right along to the best-named item of the day, the Redneck Wellington. There's true innovation at play here, as Darryl and his team have stuffed homemade sausage with BBQ sauce, caramelized onions and peppers, then smoked it. From there, the sausage is tucked inside phyllo pastry and baked until you have the creation you see pictured. Buttery, spicy, meaty goodness.

I love pulled pork, and Darryl's pulled pork slider is excellent. Going along with his recommendation, I first try it as-is, no adornments. It's tender, savoury and delightfully smoky -- the reason Darryl uses cherry wood, by the way, is because he finds mesquite and hickory bitter. From there, I pile on some homemade coleslaw. The tart bite of the coleslaw complements the pulled pork perfectly, and though I can't imagine anything topping it, a hit of BR's Championship Hot BBQ Sauce is a nice little addition.

On to my choice for best course of the day -- and that's the beef brisket slider (pictured at top). The meat is so tender it's ridiculous. And though I'm glad it's a miniature (I'm starting to get full...imagine that), I'll most definitely return for the full-sized version. Creamy potato salad is the perfect side dish.

I'm thinking it's dessert time but no! One more course! How could I forget about the ribs...cooked low and slow for hours after being coated in mustard and a spice rub. Once again, the chosen side -- baked beans -- impressed. I'm not a baked beans kinda gal, but these ones I gobbled up.

Finally, dessert. A scoop of vanilla ice cream impaled with a slab of bacon pecan brittle. Is there anything bacon can't improve? It is the wonder food.

Several hearty rounds of applause later, Darryl and his hard-working crew bid their enthusiastic, satiated diners adieu. Smiles all around, as they know we'll all be back. And soon.