This is one of those no-fail, largely hands-off, wintery main courses, in which the oven does all the work.
In fact, the only real heavy-lifting you’ll have to do is procuring the pork cheeks, which is not an easy find at most supermarkets. Nor is it a necessarily inexpensive one, either.
I lucked out in buying mine from California’s only commercial Iberian pig operation, Encina Farms. What makes Iberian pork so sought after is the fact that the pigs are finished on acorns, giving their meat incredible richness. In fact, in Spain, this is the pork that’s cured into luxurious jamon Iberico.
Encina Farms does sell out of pork cheeks fast, especially since there are only two cheeks per pig, of course. But if you are serious about buying some, fill out its contact form online, and the farm owners will either alert you when the cheeks are available or save some for you.
During nearly three decades as a special agent with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Ray Roundtree was used to packing heat.
Now, its his Red Devil Hot Links that do that.
The recently retired Oakland native traded a career in law enforcement for entrepreneurship when he founded his passion project, Richmond’s Urban Flavors Gourmet line of sausages, condiments and spices.
“It has been my dream to be an entrepreneur in this ever competitive marketplace,” he says. “I kept my promise to my parents for three decades that I would finish what I started with my career as an ATF agent. It is now time for me to venture into the unchartered waters of my new culinary endeavors ‘one bite at a time.’ “
Let me preface this by saying that I am not the biggest beef eater by any means.
But when pitmaster extraordinaire Matt Horn carved off a tiny morsel of fatty, warm brisket and handed it to me last week, it may have just turned me for good.
Supple, near spoonable, and downright custardy, this brisket is beyond.
What he turns out at his Horn Barbecue in West Oakland is near life-changing stuff.
Brisket, smoked low and slow with utmost intention for up to 16 hours, that he gets going at the ungodly hour of 2 a.m. Pork ribs that are tender yet still have a nice little give, plus impressive smoke ring penetration. Pulled pork sandwiches piled high with shards of meat plus a crisp, celery seed-flecked slaw. Shell mac ‘n’ cheese with gobs of cheese. And his wife Nina’s potato salad — hefty, creamy, substantial, and like tater salad crossed with egg salad.
I had a chance to try all of that last week at a media preview for Horn Barbecue, which is expected to open to the public sometime this week for outdoor dining and takeout at Tanya Holland’s former Brown Sugar Kitchen location. Check its Instagram or Facebook page for the latest news on its opening date, which was derailed at least once before because of city approval delays.
When it debuted in downtown Palo Alto in 2018, Bevri was thought to be the first Georgian restaurant in all of Northern California.
Russia-born Pavel Sirotin, who also works at Google, opened it with his brother and sister-in-law because he missed his favorite homeland noshes. Over the years, word has spread about this unique gem of a place, and even more so now after the restaurant was featured on a recent episode of “Check, Please! Bay Area Kids Special.” Sirotin says a lot of newcomers have discovered Bevri as a result of that show, with many of them racing in and declaring, “I want what those kids had!”
It’s all available for takeout, too. If you are a carb lover like I am, you simply must order the iconic khachapuri adjaruli ($21), the soft, puffy, canoe-shaped bread whose center is molten cheese. The bread comes packed in a pizza box so it won’t get smooshed on the drive home. A separate container of butter, and a raw egg yolk is included. Warm up the bread in a toaster oven, then plop the yolk and butter in the center, and mix it into the warm cheese. Tear off a hunk of bread, dip it into the center like fondue, and prepare to experience bread-and-cheese nirvana.
If you don’t want to contend with a raw yolk, there is also the khachapuri imeruli ($18), which is more like a flattened round bread that has a filling of soft, stretchy, mozzarella-like cheese. It’s also wonderful, but not as quite as special.