Rock the Grill

BBQ Cook-off

The week found me heading back downtown in Rock Hill for the Rock the Grill event.  Now that fall is here and the temperatures are less hellish the second festival / outdoor event season has arrived as well.  This one had all the makings for a great afternoon; classic car show, live music, kids area, wood carving display, a theoretical moonshine tasting, food trucks and the star of the show a KCBS cooking competition with public tasting.  I mean seriously that’s a great day.

I went early for a couple of reasons.  First I was afraid this might be popular enough the tasting tickets would run out and also there was a football game on at 3:30 I had to be home for.  They had this in the same area where the Food Truck Fridays are but they closed off a few more streets so I got to come in along one of the car show areas and there were some nice ones.

I knew the public tasting was $10 but I wasn’t sure how it was going to work until I got there.  Turns out they give you 10 tickets and two tokens and I also later learned the BBQ butt samples were 1 ticket each and the ribs were 2 tickets and the tokens were for you to vote for your two favorites.  Now you could certainly purchase more bundles at $10 a shot but I figured this would do me and I was right.  Now that I had the important part down I headed for what you may have noticed I called a theoretical moonshine tasting.  The tasting was supposed to be held at the historic White Home.

I got there and didn’t see any activity which I’ll grant I hadn’t expected a lot since it was 11:00 am.  Now I know some of you may be saying “Moonshine before noon, is he a lush?”  No, my thought was to give that a try early so by the time I needed to leave and drive home all traces of the moonshine would be gone.  So I head into the house that is a museum to focused on a prominent family in the area.  I was greeted by a really nice lady who apologized that the moonshiners hadn’t shown up yet even though she didn’t have anything to do with the event.  Since I was there I decided to pop for the $5 and tour the house which is a really great old house with displays and infographics in each room.  After killing about an hour there and still no sign of the shine I headed over to the beer tent since it was noon and getting warmer.

I wouldn’t otherwise mention the beer tent visit because I just got a Windy Hill Gala Peach cider and I’ve mentioned them before but while I was there I did get a good laugh.  As I’m getting my cider a guy comes around the tent with a container of pickles (they had a specialty dill pickle dealer on site) offering to share.  One lady at the beer tent waved them away with a shiver but another said “Oh, I love dill pickles I’ll take one”.  She grabbed one and was just crunching down on it as the guy says “Yeah, they’re the spicy horseradish ones”.  Her face was priceless. Four out of five people there had a little chuckle as she gamely finished the pickle slice.  I still had an hour or so to kill before the tasting started and that sounded like some time to spend enjoying the live music.

Based on the two acts I heard; the Maggie Valley Band, and The Drovers Old Time Medicine Show, they could have called it Country the Grill although neither would classify themselves as country I’m sure.  In fact according to their respective websites they are dark Appalachian & moonshine fueled bluegrass.  Anyway they were talented even if there weren’t a dozen people watching either one while I was there.  The bubble guy was busy though.

At last the time had come and the tasting was starting.  As I mentioned earlier you were sold tickets and tokens and each contestant was given a number and a table where their entries were served but you had no idea which belonged to a particular team.  There were 27 entries although I don’t think they all got their meat delivered on time as there were some empty spots.  As a taster you went up to one of the tables that struck your fancy and exchanged one ticket for a sample of butt and / or 2 tickets for ribs.  The teams were required to cook chicken and brisket as well but that was not part of the public tasting.  I guess those were judged by the KCBS (Kansas City Barbecue Society for anyone wondering) judges.  As it happens I am a butt guy and got just one token rib.  In any case there were plenty of ribs and butts and not a vegetable in sight.

It was interesting as the table volunteers varied in how full they fill the sample cup.  I’ll admit when I first saw the little sample I was thinking “That’s all?” but when you pile 8 of them and a rib on a plate I got my money’s worth.  For the most part the little cups provided two or three bites of each, enough to give you a good idea of the flavor and the texture.  One contestant though did chop theirs a bit coarse and you can see the one at the top of the plate has a huge hunk of meat in the cup.

Also depending on the volunteer you might get to pick the rib you wanted or they’d just reach in and grab one at random.  For my one rib I happened to get a young lady who let you pick so I got a nice meaty one.  None of the meat was heavily sauced but most did have some type of sauce or rub.  Those ranged from sweet to savory and some had a mild spiciness.  My two favorites were one that had no sauce but a great smokey flavor that permeated the meat throughout and not just on the surface and another that was a bit like a Carolina vinegar but not quite as tangy and with some other flavor I couldn’t quite identify but it was very good.  Those two got my votes but I was happy with all the entries.

Now lest you think this was a carnivore only event at least two of the food trucks had vegan options as well as normal food.

In closing I also want to mention this is held to benefit Miracle Park Rock Hill which is really cool and worth a click on the link.

Overall I’d say this was a successful culinary outing and I can’t wait to see what next year brings.

Fork in the Road

Food Truck Friday

September’s entry continued the win streak for good food and good music even if it was hot and humid.  This month I didn’t do any pre-planning as to which truck I wanted to hit so I knew I’d be strolling the streets looking for something that struck my fancy.  Since street strolling is thirsty business I stopped by the beverage tent to secure something to enjoy as I roamed.  I wasn’t sure if it would be too heavy in the heat but I decided to take a chance on the Warlock Imperial Stout.

As you can see it was a dark like a stout should be but fortunately it wasn’t as heavy as some stouts and had a nice smooth taste and a cinnamony spiciness.  Subsequently I learned it has pumpkin and pumpkin spice in it.  You can’t escape that stuff this time of year.  As I took the first sip I got an interesting view.

Looked like the moon was rising like a bubble from the clouds.  Anyway from there I moved through the passel of food trucks arrayed around the park until I spotted the Roaming Fork food truck and that seemed like the perfect option since I was roaming too.

The menu board had some interesting looking items and from them I chose the Truffled Mushroom Swiss burger and for my side I decided to stick with the theme and get the Parmesan Truffle Fries.

As the picture shows it was a decent size burger with a generous helping of toppings.  The burger was a thick preformed patty that was served on a quality bun and a bed of lettuce and topped with bacon, swiss cheese, mushrooms, an aoli and crispy onions.  If it sounds good that’s because it was.  The fries were ok.  They had a crunchy coating and some truffle oil and grated Parmesan cheese.  The serving size was generous enough I didn’t finish them all.

I grabbed a spot to eat that had a good view of the band, Radiojacks, and the fountain.

I also had a dead on view of I what I decided to call disappointment corner.  When I sat down there was a lady standing there scanning the crowd and pacing and every minute or so checking her phone.  This went on through Superstition and two more songs before she walked away looking unhappy.  She wasn’t gone more than a minute before another lady showed up and basically repeated the process through All About that Bass and two more songs then walked away with a determined look.  Finally as I wrapped up the burger a guy stopped in the same spot and started checking his phone and looking around.  I didn’t stick around to find out if he left disappointed as well because I was dry and needed another drink.

The after dinner drink was a local brew, Whistleblower Watermelon Wheat, from Legal Remedy.  It was another chancy move as I figured it could only be really good or really crap.  Fortunately it was pretty good.  Nice refreshing wheat beer with a definite watermelon flavor.  The way the carbonation acted it was more bubbly throughout the full glass than most beers.  I wouldn’t want it to be my go to beer but it was a fine accompaniment to listening to a talented band and people watching on a hot humid evening.

Only two more Food Truck Fridays this year and I hope the trend of good meals continues.


Jazzy Lunch


Last weekend I was out running an errand and happened to notice one of the newest local restaurants in Rock Hill, Jasmine Grill.  They took over a place that had been a fast food joint specializing in gyros and when I saw they were a Mediterranean place I wasn’t sure it was much more than a name change.  I decided to stop in and check them out anyway and I’m glad I did.  The place had been open 4 days and they didn’t even have their menu boards up.

They’ve adapted the old fast food set up so they have table service plus a counter where you can place take out orders or pick up called in orders.  At this time it was a seat yourself and the dude working the floor would get around to you.  So they weren’t fast but it’s not because they weren’t hustling because the counter guy and the floor guy were busting their butts.

The menu was definitely more than fast food Mediterranean.  They have some standards like various kebabs, shawarma, wraps, salads, etc.  I got the beef & lamb shawarma plate which came with two sides from a choice that included hummus, baba ganoush, white & yellow rice, fries, fatuch, labneh, or a house salad.  I chose hummus and yellow rice.

First out was the hummus so I had something to snack on while I was waiting for the main event.  There were two toasted pitas that served as delivery systems for the delicious hummus.  A great way to whet the appetite.

The shawarma was served with a spicy pepper and a yogurty white pasty substance on the side.  After a taste of the pepper sauce to see how hot it was I dumped the lot on the meat and added the white stuff and stirred it all up and it was a delicious combo.  I did taste the meat prior to added either of the sides and it was tasty with neither added but it was better with them.  The yellow rice was jasmine rice (what other kind would it have been) with a little carrot and peas added.  Not a ton of flavor by itself but a good accompaniment to the shawarma and wow was the duo filling.  They also have natural juices as well as tea and soft drinks so I took the chance to have some guava juice as well as tea to wash down this great meal.

If they sustain the level of patronage they were getting while I was there they will be very successful and I hope they are because I can see this becoming a regular place to grab some grub.


Just Graft No Corruption

Another DragonCon Edition

The Labor Day weekend and a few days before found me in Atlanta for DragonCon and visiting friends.  While at the con I stuck pretty much to known quantities and hit restaurants I’ve mentioned before in previous posts.  In some cases lunch is just a respite from the multitudes and the food is the same old, same old but I do want to mention two before I jump into the new place I visited.

Truva is a Turkish restaurant that I have been going to for years and I really enjoy the calm relaxing atmosphere, service and food.  I do try to sample something new each time and this time I had the Adana Kebab with an Efes beer.


I have to start by mentioning the warm bread that’s delivered with some olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette dipping sauce.  I love this bread and they are not stingy with it.  That and planning the rest of my days con schedule kept me busy until the adana kebab arrived.  As you can see from the photo it was a traditional ground meat, in this case lamb, formed and skewered kebab.  It was nicely spiced with red bell peppers, onions, a bit of red and black pepper plus other spices.  The salad was essentially shredded lettuce and no big deal but the grilled tomato and rice went nicely with the kebab.  The yogurt sauce also added a nice touch.  The Efes beer was a pilsner that didn’t have any special characteristics but was refreshing on the warm day.

The next place I wanted to mention again was the Pacific Rim Bistro where I got some nice sushi.

This is a busy joint during the con and they have seats around the sushi making station so you can see the chefs crafting it while you wait and it’s easy for a singleton to get seated.  You also get to meet new people who strike up random conversations about their trip from Michigan to Georgia and what their particular brands of geekdom are.  So what I’m saying is it’s a good place to get some lunch, R&R and make new friends.  I decided to let the professionals work for me and selected the Sushi Lunch Combo A.  This came with soup or cucumber salad, 5 pieces of nigiri sushi, 3 pieces of tuna roll, 4 pieces of California roll and Inari tofu (that’s the weird looking brown thing at the front of the sushi plate).  The cucumber salad was delivered first and I only got a few bites before the sushi was delivered so speed was something they did well.  The cucumbers were good and a nice change from the usual green salad offerings.  The sushi was fresh tasting and delicious and while it wasn’t spectacular it was a great variety and value in my opinion.  The Inari tofu was totally new to me and I didn’t have any idea what it was.  I lifted up the brown envelope looking thing and saw there was only rice under it so I figured it couldn’t be too dangerous.  The texture was a little odd, kind of rubbery, but the taste was ok.  It was a little sweet so it was appropriate I saved it until last and decided to dub it dessert.  Overall another good visit.

The last place I’m going to mention was actually the first restaurant I visited on my trip south.  As part of my DragonCon tradition I have the opportunity to share a great meal with my friend Sharon and she had scoped this place out ahead of time.  Graft Restaurant is a farm to table place in Grayson, GA.  It’s located in an old home and is loaded with heavy dark wood and a warm welcoming atmosphere.  The night we went was also a live music evening so we got a bit of a show as well.  Our server Kai (I’m guessing on that, I know it started with a K and rhymed with eye) was more than willing to go over the menu and explain what the evenings dishes were based on that days ingredients.  In the end I went with a couple of appetizers and Sharon got a salad with grilled chicken and I had a waiting beer and a meal beer.

The apps I opted for were the venison sliders and the twice cooked fries with cider vinegar aioli dipping sauce.  The venison sliders were cooked medium well and had some braised collards and a light tangy sauce all between a slightly sweet slider bun.  Very tasty.  It didn’t mention the sliders came with fries so I’d ordered the additional fries so there were a lot of taters on the table.  The aioli dipping sauce was very good bringing to mind a mash up of the vinegar the UK folks like with their chips and the mayo that the Dutch like with theirs.  Sharon reported the salad was good and the baby kale wasn’t bitter at all and the grilled chicken was great.  The beers I had were both from Akedemia Brewing in Athens, GA.  The dark one was the Hades’ Hounds Hunker Down Brown (any UGA fans will know why I had to have that one) and the other was Lemon Drop Blanc saison.  The brown ale was decent and had a nice malty taste with a bit of extra sweetness and the saison had a tart citrus flavor that was easy to sip as we chatted and listened to music (once they got the volume right and we could converse without yelling).

As I mentioned at the start Graft was a welcoming place and not only was Kai great but there was another woman walking around making sure everything was good and doing the needful.  And I don’t know if it was just us and the table next to us but when items got delivered it was a shared experience of “ooh what’s that?” & “that looks good” so there was a sense of camaraderie going on.  If you find yourself in the metropolitan Grayson area you should give them a try.