Leap Year w/ Frog’s Leap Winery

Over 20 years ago, my wife, Karen, and I were introduced to John Williams, owner of Frog’s Leap Winery, through our relationship with Dan Duckhorn of Duckhorn Vineyards. We started going out to Napa Valley in 1986 and fell in love with their culture, and have developed a lasting relationship with them that we are grateful to have today.

John Williams, Owner & Winemaker. Photography by Meg Smith, copyright 2001.

We used to do some great dinners out there. One night to mention, we had the Williams’, Duckhorn’s and a few others get together,  starting out with newer Sauvignon Blancs, then making our way towards the older white bordeaux… It was a night to remember. Frog’s Leap has such fun with their wines. Their product is loved and respected by all of our restaurants, so we wanted to do something in honor of them this year. Frog’s Leap has always celebrated Leap Year because of their name, so we decided to do a Frog’s Leap-Leap Day Dinner at Rooster’s Southpark. If you’d like, you may view the menu on the Events tab of our Facebook page. I am excited for this event, but Karen might be a little more excited… she really enjoys Frog’s Legs. One of our favorite wines was a dessert wine they used to make. In fact, John Williams was kind enough to send over their dessert wine now that is made from Riesling called Frogenbeerenauslese for our dinner this week.. We hope you’ll be able to attend!

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Granny Noble’s Raw Sweet Potato Pudding

An event came up recently that brought me back to my childhood. It was a request to put together a sweet potato recipe of sorts. I recalled when my Granny Noble would make this pudding and we would eat it for dessert after a meal, then we would go back into the “icebox” and slice off tastes until it was gone.

I thought I’d share this special (and delicious) recipe with you all:

4                                    eggs

1/3 c                            brown sugar

1/2 c                            butter, melted

1/2 c                            molasses

1 TS                              nutmeg

1 TS                              cinnamon

1 TS                              cloves

4 c                                 sweet potato, grated and packed level

1 c                                 cream

Grate sweet potatoes until you have four cups.  Butter a 9 X 12 baking dished liberally.  Mix all remaining ingredients together and pour into buttered dish.  Bake in preheated 350 oven for 30-40 minutes or until the pudding is set.

I suggest serving it with whipped cream, as pictured, with cinnamon, paired with a late harvest Riesling. The above photo also has fried sweet potatoes as a garnish, but that’s only if you want to go all out. They have to be sliced on a mandolin to get them as thin as they are pictured. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this as much as me and my family.

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Pig Pen Trails Day 15 – Lexington #1

Future Pit master Ben Philpott, Chef Noble, Wayne Monk, Chef Joe Kindred

Might I first say that me and the boys had an absolutely wonderful time with Wayne Monk.  I want to give a special thank you to Mr. Monk, founder of Lexington #1 BBQ and his son Rick Monk for making our visit to “Honey Monk” so extremely special.  We are grateful and honored to have been given the better part of a morning a few days ago at #1 as we continued our road study of Carolina BBQ – on our way to opening our own true, artisan wood-fired BBQ joint in the Queen City in the near future.  

Lexington #1 BBQ, also know as Honey Monk’s, was the site of our latest Pig Pen Trail, though I have been many times prior to this visit.  Growing up in High Point, besides Kepley’s BBQ, Lexington #1 was the place we visited most.  As I have previously mentioned on this blog, my Dad was a great fan of Carolina BBQ and particularly western pork shoulder BBQ.  According to Dad, the pork shoulder BBQ of western NC has less fat and gristle and was leaner and therefore cleaner.  Of course this is really up to the pit master and how well the meat is chopped and separated.  Obviously the pit master has the ability to make the Q as lean as he chooses.  Either way, Lexington #1 is legendary  in western styled Carolina BBQ, and I believe the best BBQ I have had in the west.  

Wayne Monk opened Lexington BBQ in 1962 as “Honey Monk’s” and as he said it was more of a family styled restaurant than BBQ, even though he had worked in BBQ joints in Lexington since he was about 16.  After it became a handout for young kids and he was having to stay open and work until late at night, he changed it to a true BBQ restaurant.  We all should be glad he did.  He says the secret to his success is to focus on really one thing: pork shoulder BBQ.  Monk mentioned that he has tried a lot of things over the years, like BBQ chicken and ice cream, but realized that focusing on BBQ was his best route.   

Lexington BBQ slow cooks their pork shoulders over hickory and oak coals for a period of 10-12 hours.  Their pitmaster has faithfully been with the Monk family for years and he keeps the BBQ excellent – moist and consistent.  This is my favorite Q in western NC styled BBQ.  

Wayne took us all on a tour through the kitchen and to the pits.  Wayne has built, expanded and relocated the pits at least three times.  We walked past the older pits as we headed to the current pits in the rear of the restaurant.  Here BBQ is done the artisanal, old fashioned, painstaking way.  A firebox is where the wood is burned into coals.  Then the hot coals are shoveled under the pits where the porks shoulders are cooking, maintaining a constant 200-225 degree temperature in the pit.  The shoulders are accessed in the pits through doors right over the coals in the lower chamber which has its own door.  Pork shoulders are started skin side up and turned over skin side down to finish.  The shoulder gets a dark smokey mahogany color as it is completed and slow cooked.  

Pits at Lexington #1

After the tour we all had to sit down for an early lunch; by this time it was about 11:20.  We ordered some skins – this is the real deal.  Your cardiologist would not want you to order them, but I think that about once a year should be okay.  Man, we all sure enjoyed them and left nothing on the plate.  (Please don’t tell Karen).  Then we ordered and enjoyed the “coarse, brown” tray.  I love coarse chopped Q best of all, chopped BBQ oxidizes rapidly and loses its great meaty, smokey flavor.  This is, so far the best Q I have had in NC.  We enjoyed the hushpuppies and dipping sauce as well, but I didn’t really watch the guys eating very much, I was too busy.  

Wayne also offered to help us design our BBQ pits were are planning for our BBQ joint here in Charlotte by putting us in contact with his mason.  

Wayne, you are a living legend with a gracious humble spirit.  We appreciate you and we also are grateful for the great BBQ you have served over the last nearly 50 years.  You are a champion and are truly thankful for the time you spent with us last month.  If I become as good a chef as you are a pitmaster, I will be a happy man!

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Lexington #1

I am truly looking forward to going to one of my favorite true NC BBQ joints this week as we continue our journey on “The Pig Pen Trails” in North and South Carolina.  See our My Hog Blog about Carolina BBQ and Carolina Road Cuisine as we prepare to open our own, true, Carolina, artisanal, wood smoked BBQ joint here in the heart of the Queen City, Charlotte, NC.

Lexington #1

Going with me tomorrow on the “Pig Pen Trails” will be future exec chef/pitmaster of our BBQ joint, Ben Philpott (now at Rooster’s), Rooster’s exec chef Joe Kindred and Peter St Onge of the Charlotte Observer.  We are meeting with owner and founder of Lexington BBQ #1, Wayne Monk and his son Rick.  Lexington # 1 has been in business since 1962.  Wayne Monk trained under Warner Stamey in the 50’s before he opened his own BBQ restaurant on I-85 (now the I-85 by-pass).  He is an icon in the BBQ world and I am honored to have time with him tomorrow and enjoy some of his BBQ.  I believe his is the best BBQ in North Carolina, western style, and so far my favorite in whole state.  I have grown up on Lexington #1 BBQ and I am excited about our visit.

I’ll keep you posted!


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Bum’s & Parker’s Come to Aid of Skylight

Here is something that the Jones’ put together after Skylight had a fire in one of their cook houses during the week of Thanksgiving.  What a testament to all of these BBQ restaurant folks in Eastern North Carolina (among competitors) during the time of year we give gifts to each other and give Thanks to God.

Skylight's Article

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Pig Pen Trails Day 14

Finally after several months on the “Pig Pen Trails” I have gotten back to “square one” where my buddy Skipper Beck and I first began on Day 1.  If

my buddy Skipper at Skylight

you recall, Skipper and I flew from Charlotte to Raleigh, where we visited The Pit in a refurbished warehouse/mill in downtown. Originally opened as Nana’s Chop House by my friend Scott Howell, the restaurant was converted to The Pit with pitmaster Ed Mitchell from Mitchell’s BBQ in Wilson, NC at the helm.  From here we flew into Greenville, NC where we visited and had great BBQ at world renown Pete Jone’s Skylight Inn where we had my favorite Eastern NC BBQ to date.  Unfortunately, the Skylight had a pit fire last week and the testimony of other BBQ restaurants who showed up to help out the Jones in the down time was wonderful and inspiring – chivalry and honor are not dead in NC! Those guys at Skylight make the best Q I have had in the East to date!

On the way back to the airport, you may recall B’s was out of food.  From here Skipper and I flew to Conway SC, rented a car and drove to Hemingway SC to eat at Scott’s only to find it closed.  I knew I would never hear the end of Skipper’s raggin’ on me about Scott’s being closed, not to mention I made him throw out the great BBQ at Skylight to save room for 4 more BBQ joints that afternoon.  Skipper said “Noble, I am so hungry now (about 5 o’clock pm) I would pull that Q out of the trash can if I could.  I can’t believe you brought me down here and didn’t know they were closed.”

Well, Skipper, you will be glad to know I finally made it back the Saturday after Thanksgiving on a deer hunting trip.

You have to make a point to visit Hemingway SC and I found out that the deer lease my father-in-law and brother-in-law have is only 15 minutes from Scott’s BBQ.  What a great coincidence!  In fact, Patrick Cook who manages the lease and works with Dick & Sam (father and brother in laws) knows Rosie (Roosevelt) who owns Scotts.  So I took the trek to Scott’s and I am sure glad I did.

I got to Scott’s about 2 in the afternoon and there was a steady stream of people coming in and getting BBQ pork, skins and chicken to go.  As I approached the order window inside, I saw a large pile of pulled BBQ pork waiting to be ordered.  Scott’s uses whole hogs and have been for some 30+

Scott's BBQ

years.  The pork was cooked with precision and was dressed with a little sauce, but they provided some on the side.  It was more of a NC BBQ sauce than the expected mustard based SC sauce.  The meat was tender and luscious.  I ordered a pound of pulled pork, a whole BBQ chicken and a pack of skins which came in a ziplock bag.  As I was paying, I asked the lady at the checkout if she was the owner, and she pointed to a man sitting a the only table inside and said that he, her husband and she owned the restaurant.  Knowing there was no place else to eat, I asked if I could eat inside and she told Rosie to slide over for me.  What a treat, to sit down with Rosie and eat his BBQ.  We struck up a great conversation about BBQ, Scott’s, the NY Times article and his history in BBQ.  He was a great host and after asking, he showed me around and showed me the pits.  This place is a classic.  He has a room to the side that is the pit room with about 10-12 pits end to end with a walk way through the middle.  He also has more pits outside.  Rosie showed me the iron walls and said they were there because the pit room had burned down 2 times already.  He kept a 8′ fire barrel outside where they fired up the wood from which they would pull the coals for the pits.  Rodney Scott, son to Rosie and Ella is the pitmaster and has been cooking whole hogs for over 27 years.

Rosie Scott

Rosie and Ella Scott are good folks and I loved their place.  Scotts BBQ was founded in 1972 by Ella and Roosevelt “Rosie” Scott in Hemingway, SC. If ever I am in the area hunting (which I hope is soon) I will return to Scott’s for the BBQ Skipper and I only dreamed about until last week.

Scott’s is open Thursday, Friday & Saturday
from 9:30am to 8:30pm
Scott’s Bar-B-Que
2734 Hemingway Hwy.
Hwy. 261 Brunson Cross Road
Hemingway, SC  29554
843-558-0134 Store

Fire Barrel


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Pig Pen Trails Day 13

091016 004

Lancasters Bar B Cue

On a recent solo trip to Noble’s Grille in Winston-Salem I had the opportunity to add a couple more BBQ joints to the “Pig Pen Trails.”  This particular week I took the I77 to I 40 route to the twin city and had my first stop in Mooresville at Lancaster’s BBQ.  Their claim to fame is that they are the only whole hog BBQ smokers in the “Western NC” group.  As far as I know that’s true (not to mention that these guys are no “fly by night” operation – these guys are serious BBQ folks: a noticeably successful and large restaurant.  They must be doing it right.)  I had a chopped BBQ tray with hushpuppies and an unsweet tea.  Now, I don’t know why I try to drink unsweet tea (with Splenda or Stevia) when I am eating BBQ, but I suppose every little bit helps.  I understand that Lancaster’s is a hot BBQ joint for the racing business that seems to have a great toe hold in Mooresville.  This also appears to be a great family place as well.  Well done.

My next stop was in Mocksville, NC.  When I was a kid we would take a trip to visit Granddaddy’s family “up in the country” in Iredell county – before Iredell county was cool!  You remember my Granddaddy Stamie Stroud (my Mom’s Dad) from my restaurant blog on tomatoes and summer.  He was the local tomato king in Guilford County.  Well anyway when Stamie was 16 he moved from Iredell county to the big city of High Point and got a job with Globe Parlor Furniture Co.  Granddaddy was good with his hands and did a great job, eventually becoming the Cabinet Room Foreman.  He grew up between Mocksville and Harmony on NC 901 where we would go to visit every so often, taking Aunt Beaut with us – her name was Beulah, but we called her Beaut.  This was before I40 was completed so we would go down I85 to NC 64 and drive through Mocksville, where Aunt Ruth lived (she was a Hoot! who loved life and the Lord and had a continual and contagious laugh).  There is a square in the middle of downtown Mocksville that had an old drug store on the corner where we would stop and get “real” fountain cokes.  Just in case your wondering how old I am, this was in the 60’s when I was just a tot.  Once we finally got to Grandpa and Grandma Stroud’s home we would always find a plate full of “local” fried chicken (local from the back yard because there was no other place to get it) and stacks of homemake biscuits.  Wonderful, and probably the reason I love fried chicken today (see King’s Kitchen menu).  It is amazing how food reminds you of places, times and smells from your past.

Deano's Barbecue
Deano’s Barbecue

Back to Mocksville and Q!  Deano’s Barbecue is right near the square in Mocksville and well worth the trip.  If you are in Mocksville, you need to stop in.  They are cooking with wood and the Q is good.  Deano’s is owned and operated by Dean Allen who started in the BBQ business in 1961 as a curb hop for Buck Miller at Buck’s BBQ while still in high school.  He opened the current restaurant in 1998 in a hewn log building.  I understand from Jim Early Deano’s serves a “mean” pimento cheeseburger along with a long list of sandwiches.  I’ll go back for the bologna, Philly steak and house made pimento cheese.

Next stop, an interview with Wayne Monk of Lexington #1 – the King of Western North Carolina BBQ.


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