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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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