I have been in the US now for about 2 weeks after flying from Melbourne via Brisbane, LA and onto Miami, a mammoth trip with two small children.
My wife as a native Floridian, born and raised in Miami, first requested we find Cuban food. So my first meal state side was black beans and rice and grilled chicken – so simple but somehow the Cuban flavours bring it to life and make you come back for more. After spending a couple of days in South Florida we headed to Disney, this part was for the kids but who knew Micky is a Pitmaster?! Disney rocks a Back Yard BBQ, ribs, brisket, pulled pork, fried chicken with all the ‘fixins. It was decent looking BBQ but not quite the quality I’m accustomed to but did get me excited about my travels and all the southern food to come. Ps. Disney World is awesome. At any age.
Next stop: Amelia Island, Florida. My mother in law lives in Fernandina Beach, a small island community just outside Jacksonville. This is where our southern food adventure begins. This town is not about BBQ but all about shrimp. You see shrimp boats moored in the harbour here, straight outta Forest Gump. My first real Southern feed is Shrimp and Grits. My wife had been trying to convince me of grits for years, unsuccessfully. if you’re unfamiliar – they are cornmeal, a little like polenta, usually drowning in butter, maybe cheese, served warm and usually with breakfast. True Southern food! These grits were nestled under some shrimp, pan-fired in garlic and the winner was the white wine heavy cream andouille sausage gravy. Unreal. Nuff said. Other notable mentions have been the fried shrimp and hush puppies and the staple burgers and hot dogs on the fourth of July.
From Northern Florida, to Southern Georgia and Saint Simons Island and Southern Soul BBQ. We arrived mid-afternoon and decided to have dinner at Southern Soul. I introduced myself to the staff and am told to be there in the morning, 6am. Bring a meat probe, note book and pen.
For dinner we ordered the St Louis style pork ribs, BBQ beans, mac and cheese, brisket, slaw and potato salad. Just a few things; the toddler is a big eater. Everything was top shelf – especially the ribs – ridiculously good. I go to bed just a little excited. I set my alarm for 5:15 am and jump on my purple beach bike that is at the house we rented and head to my first day at Southern Soul BBQ.
I roll up on my sick new ride and say g’day to my new crew. We get stuck in straight away, the pits are already up to temp. We are burning Oak which has been double split and is sitting outside the restaurant. They run four pits, three Lang reverse flow offsets and a rotisserie smoker. First job is to rub butts (don’t you love BBQ speak?), these get stacked in the rotisserie smoker, then briskets go in the first Lang, ribs and chicken in the second and the third pit is not being used today. I spend most of the morning prepping ribs and briskets. Service starts at 11am and before I know it we are getting smashed but it is a well-oiled machine, with Chef Leo at the pass, Big (that’s his name) slicing brisket and ribs, Terrance on sides, Dan on sandwiches, Joe and I smashing out prep and Q (yes, his name, Q cooks the Que) managing the pits. I spend most of my day answering questions about kangaroos and Australian BBQ.
I leave at 3pm after picking Leo’s brain about service and hot holding and go home to see the family who have spent the day at the pool, hiding from the 100 degree Fahrenheit heat. Pizza for dinner tonight. Back at Southern Soul, 6 am tomorrow – more from me tomorrow night!