A chilled bottle of beer in hand, sight of crackling meat glistening in it’s fat and juices, addictive sweet scent of flavored wood. Now imagine the fire-licked possibilities that await your future – this my dear friends is the definition of Summer and Backyard Barbecue.
The luxury Orlando resort Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes pulled out all the stops by hosting one of a kind Big Brew ‘n Que class to cook alongside “Dr. BBQ,” Ray Lampe, Chefs Jeremy Soares and Nathan Hardin from Highball & Harvest, along with tips and information on home-brewing with Whisper Creek Farm‘s very own Certified Cicerone® Aaron Libera.
Our Disney Expert Disney Dude, was on-site to savor this finger-licking moment and to master the craft of real American barbecue from BBQ experts. The six-hour class was followed with a dinner on the Highball and Harvest lawn featuring live music and a variety of BBQ and grill stations, manned by Ritz’s talented culinary team and “Dr. BBQ” himself.
Kansas City’s Boulevard Brewing brewmaster John MacDonald was on premises to brilliantly paired craft beers for each BBQ dish.
With four Big Green Egg cookers and the smoker endearingly named “Smoking Maggie” we knew we were in for a serious BBQ lesson. First up was Ray Lampa AKA “Dr BBQ” demonstrating how to cook baby back ribs, chicken wings, and a blue cheese cole slaw on the big green egg cookers. Are you drooling yet? We certainly couldn’t get enough of Dr BBQ’s deliciousness.
Few words of wisdom from Dr. BBQ:
- Always trim the membrane since it makes the ribs tough.
- It’s not an exact science, embrace it with confidence and make it your own.
- Cooking real low and slow is the mantra. For poultry, hotter and faster is better than low and slow.
Manufactured from advanced ceramic materials, Green Egg Cooker is the ultimate cooking
experience for backyard cooks and grilling aficionados. One bite is all it took to recognize why Dr. BBQ stands tall in the BBQ hall of fame.
We noshed on a spread of lip-smacking barbecue and smoked meats during lunch while John McDonald cleverly demonstrated the philosphy of craft beer pairing with food.
After lunch, micro brew master Aaron Libera imparted the basic 101s of micro brews alongside the history and evolution of craft beers.
Fun Fact – Craft brewers operate in 344 congressional districts and that majority of Americans live within 10 miles of a brewery. The number of craft brewers has gone from eight in 1980, to 537 in 1994, to over 2,800 in 2013.
Chef Jeremy Soares utilized “Smoking Maggie” to demonstrate the art of smoking meats from brisket trimming to smoking fish. Expert advice – Be generous with your rub and soak wood chips in beer and apple juice to enhance flavors.
The new culinary head of Ritz Carlton Orlando, Executive Chef Peter Zampaglione explained the valuable role of “Smoking Maggie” for the property and the upcoming new menu offerings. We for one can’t wait to taste the exciting new changes.
After all this hard-work, the students and chefs indulged in a backyard party, in Ritz style. The sizzling and crackling sounds of juicy meat enticed a few Ritz’s residents who popped in with their families to enjoy our dinner soiree.
We religiously followed Certified Cicerone® Aaron Libera cues for beer pairings. The seasonal Hibiscuis Gose (Germany origin in 1800’s) tangy, sweet and sour ale steeped in dried hibiscus flowers with a vibrant pink hue, refreshing citrus character, and coriander spiciness paired beautifully with the Salt Crusted Snapper with burnt pineapple salsa.
Loaded with herbs, bright spices, and Ginger Lemon Radler Beer, the succulent Beer Can Chicken ideal partner was none other than Boulevard’s Ginger Lemon Radler Beer, a zesty, refreshing take on the tradition of mixing beer with soda or lemonade to create a light, thirst-quenching beverage ideal for warm weather. It took every ounce of my strength to resist slathering myself with Chef Soares Kentucky Bourbon BBQ sauce.
The grapefruit hoppy notes of Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale, a Belgian-style farmhouse ale with a peppery, dry finish connected with just about everything on our plate including the Smoked n Simmered Black Eyed Peas and Florida Grilled Corn with Tabasco butter, farmhouse cheese, and cilantro.
A puritan by heart, Cicerone Aaron might seem on the fence with the limited release Tripel Julep. Exuding aromas of mint, whiskey, and vanilla oak, medium-full body, with a prominent sweet malt flavor, the Tripel Julep, in our opinion worked seamlessly with the richness of the Pit Roasted Pork Belly painstakingly and skillfully cooked over an open Argentinian fire. If only technology allowed me to transmit the prized crunchiness of pig’s skin. Bravo chef!!
I have four words for you – Smoked BBQ Beef Brisket. The culinary team of Highball & Harvest transformed this primal cut of beef into a pure state of bliss – smoky, ultra tender, rich, salty hunk of pure deliciousness. Bursting with fat and umami, our palates desired a beverage similar to a big Cabernet.
The Bourbon Barrel Quad, abbey-style quadrupel aged in bourbon oak barrels showcasing aromas of cherry, vanilla, dark fruit, cloves, and spice reminded us of similar tannins that holds it’s own weight alongside the richness of the brisket.
H & H’s signature Southern Spread with pimento cheese, smoked fish dip, house pickled vegetables, sourdough bread; Watermelon Gazpacho a refreshing respite for soaring temps with fresno pepper honey; Florida Heirloom tomato Salad; Buttermilk soaked raisins, white cheddar croutons, house bacon Kale Salad; Loaded Baked Potato Salad; and H & H Pickled Slaw were glamorized version of classic barbecue fixings befitting a queen.
With barbecue there is a before, during, and after. Before our lavish BBQ dinner at H & H, we diligently studied the skills required to host a successful cookout. During our meal, the succulent smoky goodness captured our senses. After, we wondered where the time had gone? Standing ovation to Executive Chef Zampaglione and his incredible team at the Ritz Carlton Orlando for giving us humble folks this magical opportunity to hone in on our barbecue skills.
Now all we need is a batch of freshly brewed beer, a green egg cooker, handsome chunks of meat, and we have ourselves ingredients for the perfect recipe to throw our very own ultimate backyard BBQ cookout.
PS: You can purchase all the ingredients and equipment required for your first batch of beer at Aaron Libera’s Sanford Brew Supply smack in downtown Sanford.