by Bonnie Wurst – Montreal Times
There are those who wait until the snow is completely gone and the backyard or balcony is safe to navigate, before pulling out their barbecues for that first smoked and charred taste of the season. They wait until the lawn has dried up enough so when they step on to it they won’t sink into the thawing tundra, imprinting their yards with permanent damage or slip on the balcony and experience potential head traumas.
Then there are those who pull out their BBQ tools on January 1st and with loving care begin the process of meticulously cleaning and shining them. And then they wait. Without storage space their BBQ’s have spent the winter outside. Each morning they gaze longingly out their window in hopes of seeing that glimmer of stainless steel or chip of red or black enamel paint shine through. Sentinels of the backyard BBQ, they wait in earnest. And when that morning arrives, when that corner of the cover appears, they put on their tuques, grab a shovel and clear a path right through the hard, compacted snow directly to the base of their beloved Coleman, Weber or Broil King.
I have been to three early spring BBQ’s since mid-march, watched as the Chef Boy-Ardee-Crazy’s braved freezing rain, ice pellets and hurricane force winds to light the fire. I’m not complaining for I have benefited from this as have many of my friends – and so we take off our hats and bow in humble appreciation.
In light of the above I offer you a short BBQ Review of their individual styles and approaches. Names have been changed to protect the innocent.
Chef Elise the Omnivore > 4 out of 5 stars
We arrived in time for our RSVP’d reservations and were greeted warmly by our hosts – with several bottles of wine and cheese canapés. The ambiance of the place was homey and relaxing. Chef Elise was outside in a parka working diligently to maintain balance between the burners. Her assistant Sous-Chef Danni took our orders. The service was exemplary and the food was fantastic. Salmon steaks were delectable, the T-Bone steaks were charred to personalized perfection and the smoked eggplant wowed the palette. The zucchini, mushroom and red peppers were not up to par with the meal, being over cooked and fairly tasteless, but all in all I would go back to try it again this summer. Especially for those cheese canapés.
Chef Jamie the Vegan> 4 out of 5 stars
With trepidation but with open minds, we accepted the invitation from Chef Jamie, a renowned barbecuing enthusiast and adamant user of charcoal bricks. It was a cloudy but warmer day, so with warmed Sake in our mittened hands we joined the chef outside while she expertly tossed and flipped tofu weenies, black bean veggie burgers and some organic roots and vegetables. Once back inside we were treated to an entree of butternut squash topped with thin slices of barbecued plantain bananas and expertly spiced with sea salt, black pepper and chili garlic. It went down like a fine wine. Served over a bed of gluten-free rice noodles were BBQ’d baby onions, portabella mushroom chunks and teriyaki grilled eggplant, but the noodles were over cooked and slimy. The no-cheese, cheesecake dessert was worth coming back for.
Chef Grog-Meister> 1 out of 10 stars
Chef Grog-Meister is known for one thing – meat. He likes meat; red meat, ribbed meat, minced meat and anything meat. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen him eat a vegetable except for coleslaw and onions on his burgers. Chef Grog-Meister doesn’t actually have a barbecue – he has a fire pit and he uses wood. The snow had been dug out of the pit but there was a puddle of mud at the bottom. The wood was also wet. I was ready to order pizza for the gang, when Chef Grog appeared with some lighter fluid and a blow torch. We waited safely inside while the fire literally exploded into life. The flames were 6 feet high and Chef Grog was grunting with delight. Once it was safe enough, we joined him outside and warmed ourselves next to the fire. He served us some homemade apple cider, spiced with a little spirit, and with the scent of wood smoke wafting through the air, we almost broke into old camp songs. Then Chef Grog-Meister came out with a bucket filled with slabs of marinated I-don’t-know-what. He literally slapped the meat over a metal spit he contrived and let the flames engulf them. My appetite instantly vanished at the sight, but my genetic disposition to the scent got my mouth watering and I did enjoy the first few smoky bites of a filet mignon, but my appetite was limited. Chef Grog needs a nutritionist, but don’t tell him that. But I would go back for that ‘spirited’ apple cider and perhaps a few marshmallows.
And so I await the unveiling of my own Coleman 20,000 BTU barbecue. The weather forecast is looking good and I saw some tulips flowering in a neighbor’s backyard. Now what marinade should I use on what?
Bonnie Wurst is a freelance journalist, a weekly columnist for the Montreal Times, a novelist, ghost writer (not the scary kind) and humorist. Her book “Damaged Goods Re-Stitched” can be found on Amazon.com. Bonnie is available for speaking engagements and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org