This weekend is Memorial Day. In our old way of life (pre-COVID), it was also the kickoff to summer and BBQ season, at least in New England. We all looked forward to finally being able to plant in the garden without threat of frost. Friends and family got together at home, at the beach, or a favorite park to cookout, share stories and celebrate the start of summer. I know in many places, BBQ is a year-round thing. Not so much in an area of the country that had snow a few short weeks ago (seriously!).
Memorial Day also has a serious side as well.
The true reason for Memorial Day, this weekend’s holiday, is remembering those who died in active military service. I remember when I was in high school, our marching band wore hot woolen jackets, and black dress pants and marched 3+ miles to the cemetery. We took an alternate route back so we could play a few tunes at a different cemetery. It was a long morning with bugles playing taps, the band playing a few patriotic tunes.
I am fortunate. None of my family or friends died in active service. But I do remember two people who died serving our country. One was the brother of my Elementary School teacher. I was hit hard when her brother died in Viet Nam. At that young age, it brought the war home in a very different way, and it made me think about my own younger brothers, who would have to register for the draft in just a few years.
And there is also my father’s close friend Joe Gamble. Every day on the anniversary of Joe’s death my father would ask us, “Do you know who died today?” Poor Joe drove a jeep over a land mine from what I remember my father saying. I never met Joe Gamble, but here I sit over 60 years gone by since that day, and I think about Joe.
But today’s post is more about BBQ, and includes both my top two BBQ places and a BBQ Sauce that I think you’ll love. I made it last night, and after washing its sticky goodness of the sides of my refrigerator, walls, and stovetop, the house was filled with that sweet, spicy, delicious aroma. My stomach rumbled as I fell asleep. Chicken is already thawing out so we can cook with it this weekend!
BBQ Places you’ve got to try!
I live very close to Maine. It’s our favorite weekend go-for-a-drive destination. In the Boston area you’re usually either a Maine family or a Cape family. We grew up being a Maine family. So we jead i[ there throughout the year. Even in January and February when people are few and far between, and most hotels and restaurants are closed up for the year. A few years ago we discovered the BeachFire Bar & Grill. This place is fantastic!! They smoke food right on site! And when I say smoke, I mean EVERYTHING!
- Pulled Pork
- Chicken breast
- Turkey breast
It makes me hungry just thinking about it, and I just ate dinner! They offer great specials year-round.
- $10 bottles of wine on Fridays
- Sunday Supper for Two
- ½ Price burgers
If you’re in Ogunquit or thinking of driving up (or down) for a day, do not miss this place! It’s cozy, fun, relaxed, and they have a huge fire pit outside. You can sit out there and eat, drink, and chat with friends. Two winters ago we had dinner with our quartet and ended up singing for some people out by the fire pit (in the snow!). Then they sang for us. It’s just that kind of place.
If you’re ever in Vegas
Yeah, I know, Maine to Vegas is a long haul. But if you’re out that way I highly recommend Virgil’s Real BBQ. Yes, they’re a chain and have locations in Times Square and the Bahamas, but this place still gives you the feeling of local. They feature live music, a fun setting just off the strip, and I’ve never had to wait long for a seat, even when they’re super crowded.
My first visit here was after enjoying the “Happy Half-Hour” trip around the High Roller. It’s a bar car ride with enough space and alcohol for 15 – 20 people or more! Unfortunately for me and my friend Debbie, it was just us, and we had to pay the evening price for our ride because we got there 5 minutes after the cutoff of afternoon prices! So that’s a good $50 each for a half-hour. And we had an open bar for the two of us. By the time we got off, we needed dinner, quick! And Virgil’s was right there. Servings are huge so plenty to share. Some of my favorites:
- Fried sweet pickles
- Trash Ribs
- Crispy Hush Puppies
- Combo Platter (any combination!)
I’ve been to Virgil’s twice now, and both times I had leftovers that ended up being breakfast the next day. If you’re looking to get away from the craziness of Vegas (assuming that craziness comes back!) try a walk over to the LINQ promenade. You won’t regret it.
But now the thing you’ve been waiting for! My recipe for BBQ sauce. Use it on ribs, pulled pork, chicken, steak, ham, or as a dip for fries! Let me know what you think.
Honeycrisp Whiskey Bar-B-Q Sauce
BBQ Sauce Ingredients:
- 1 medium Honeycrisp apple, peeled and chopped
- 2 tsp minced garlic (4 cloves)
- 3/4 cup Jim Beam Apple
- 1 tsp onion powder
Place the above ingredients in a saucepan on medium heat and simmer for 8- 10 minutes until the apple is soft. Whisk periodically to keep things from sticking
Add the following ingredients, whisking/stirring as you add each item
- 12 oz tomato paste (2-6 oz. cans)
- 1/2 cup orange blossom honey
- 1/2 – 3/4 cups water
- 1/2 cup dark cherry balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp crystallized honey sea salt
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 2 TB smoked paprika
- 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
- 1 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 TB cumin
- 1 TB nutmeg
Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and let the sauce simmer for 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so to keep things mixed and prevent burning on the bottom and sides. Add a bit more water if yours seems to be too thick. Don’t let it burn or boil too fast. This will be very hot so I covered my pot (too late unfortunately). Otherwise your kitchen walls, stovetop, and refrigerator will be covered! (Believe me, I could have taken pictures to prove it!) And it’s easy to get burned, so lift the lid carefully.
Once finished, let it cool a few minutes and pour carefully into a mason jar(s) to let finish cooling. Then put on the ring/lid and store in the refrigerator. This BBQ sauce will keep 3 – 4 weeks in the refrigerator.
I love to experiment with different flavored vinegars. The balsamic provides a nice rich tartness and the dark cherry flavor adds something different to the overall taste. This is a very dark, thick BBQ sauce with a sweet tangy flavor but not too tomato-y! and I love that I can make it without ketchup which adds even more sugar to the mix!