When I say I love barbecue, I mean two things: 1. No namby-pamby, unsmoked grilled-for-15-minutes meat; and 2. I could eat the stuff till it came out my ears. My husband and I are both huge fans of Southern barbecue, thanks to university years spent south of the Mason-Dixon line in the U.S. So imagine my excitement when I was invited to tour a new cottage development up in beautiful Honey Harbour, Ont., where none other than the King of the Q himself,
, would be serving up a barbecue lunch fit for, well, a king. Ted is known for his crazy, over-the-top style, which melds many different barbecue traditions into something that’s uniquely his – and uniquely delicious. [caption id="attachment_2379" align="aligncenter" width="387" caption="Ted Reader and his travelling BBQ rig: 3 propane grills, 3-doored charcoal barrel smoker and a propane-fired wok"]
The setting for my crazy feast was spectacular. I’d been invited to tour
The Cottages at Honey Harbour
, which sits smack on the edge of Georgian Bay in a picturesque corner of Ontario’s famous cottage country. The new cottages are built on an old trailer park site, and the builders are working with local biologists and wildlife experts to bring back the local endangered wildlife and ensure that the cottage development is respectful of the gorgeous land it's sitting on. [caption id="attachment_2384" align="aligncenter" width="387" caption="View from the beach, Cottages at Honey Harbour"]
[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2373" align="aligncenter" width="387" caption="One of the cottages, built to fit into the rocky landscape"]
[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2377" align="aligncenter" width="387" caption="Each cottage has an old-fashioned Muskoka room, complete with banging screen door."]
[/caption] Sigh. If only my budget allowed for a cottage. Can't you just imagine savouring a cup or three of morning coffee in that Muskoka room? Once we'd seen the site and admired the views, it was time to dig in to the luscious menu Ted and his crew prepared. We feasted on Plank-Grilled Bacon-Wrapped Chicken Thighs with Apricot Stuffing, 8-Hour Smoked St. Louis Ribs with BBQ Icing and Crispy Crunchy Crust, Bourbon Barrel Grill Smoked Beef Tenderloin with Blueberry Bourbon BBQ Compote, Plank-Grilled Cheddar Mashed Potatoes, Pulled Pork Baked Beans, and tons of vegetable sides. [caption id="attachment_2378" align="aligncenter" width="387" caption="From left: grilled mashed potatoes, smoked ribs, smoked beef tenderloin and coleslaw. Beyond delicious!"]
[/caption] The mashed potatoes were divine – smoky, creamy and a little toasty on the top. And the beef tenderloin was so tender you almost didn't need teeth – just exactly the texture you're looking for in great barbecue. The ribs were literally frosted (plain old white frosting!) and topped with a crispy crust of fried onions, crushed peanuts and panko. Normally, I'm not a huge fan of sweet meat dishes, but the ribs underneath the frosting were utterly tender and perfectly smoked – you could see the reddish ring of smoke that had penetrated the meat during the 8 hours they spent in the smoker. Oh, and the beans. The beans! They featured a spicy mix of pulled pork, black beans, hominy, smoked and fresh hot peppers and – the secret weapon – Ted's homemade hot pepper relish. With all that succulent pork, they really were more of a meal than a side. But so delicious. [caption id="attachment_2380" align="aligncenter" width="387" caption="Pulled Pork Baked Beans. Mmmmmmmmm."]
[/caption] As we digested our fabulous lunch, we had a talk with
, a fascinating naturalist whose knowledge of the local flora and fauna is staggering. He'll be working with the developers to set up a nature program for adults and kids in the cottages. Georgian Bay is a biosphere reserve area, so the possibilities for bird watching, hiking, and nature tours are limitless. And what better way to cap off a day full of sun, gourmet eats and beautiful scenery than some cupcakes decorated to look like some of the local species? [caption id="attachment_2374" align="aligncenter" width="387" caption="Chocolate dragonfly and water lily cupcakes from The Sugar Garden in Barrie, Ont."]
[/caption] All in all, it was a beautiful day. And just in case you're in the mood to make some ribs Ted Reader–style, here's a home-based version of the ones he made up in Honey Harbour. Happy barbecuing!
St. Louis Ribs with Apple BBQ Icing
Recipe by Chef Ted Reader Serves 4 2 racks St. Louis–style ribs, about 2-1/4 lb (1 kg) each 1/2 cup melted bacon fat 1/2 cup Ted’s World Famous BBQ Bone Dust BBQ Seasoning 1 onion, chopped 3 jalapeño peppers, chopped 8 cloves garlic, chopped 3 cups apple juice 1/2 cup commercially available vanilla icing 1/3 cup apple butter 1/4 cup Ted’s World Famous BBQ Apple Brown Betty Grilling Sauce 1/2 cup crispy fried onions (available in Asian grocery stores and specialty food markets) 1/2 cup crushed peanuts 1/2 cup panko 1. Work a sharp knife under the membrane on the back side of the ribs. Once you have a piece large enough, use a paper towel to get a good grip. Gently pull the membrane away from the ribs. Trim away any large pieces of fat. 2. Brush ribs on both sides with melted bacon fat. Season ribs on both sides liberally with Bone Dust seasoning, about 1/4 cup per rib rack. 3. In a large roasting pan, place the chopped onion, jalapeños and garlic. Pour in the apple juice. Place rib rack over onion mixture. Cover tightly with aluminum foil. Preheat oven or grill to 325˚F (165˚C). 4. Braise in the oven or grill for 1-1/2 to 2 hours or until you can wiggle a bone cleanly from the meat. Remove from oven or grill, remove foil and allow ribs to cool long enough to be handled. 5. In a bowl, combine the vanilla icing, apple butter and Apple Brown Betty Grilling Sauce and stir until well mixed. Set aside. 6. In another bowl, combine crispy fried onions, peanuts and panko. Mix gently and set aside. 7. Preheat grill to medium (approximately 350°F to 450ºF). Grill ribs, top side down, for 3 to 4 minutes until lightly charred. Flip over. 8. Spread Apple BBQ Icing evenly over the surface of the ribs. Be generous! Sprinkle with crispy onion/peanut crust mixture. Close grill lid, reduce heat to low and allow ribs to grill bake for 5 to 8 minutes or until the topping is golden brown and crisp. 9. Remove from grill. Cut between every third rib and serve immediately. Serve with baked beans and your favourite coleslaw.