Maybe it’s a primal urge, a carnivorous craving of meat and fire. Maybe it’s the bonding comfort of the hearth, of communing ‘round its warming glow. Maybe it’s as simple as the promise of a cold beer. Whatever the reason, where there’s smoke, there’s a party: the grill is our great uniter. High class and low, friends or strangers, we are brothers in barbecue. Every culture knows this — every tribe has its outdoor cooking ritual — from frigid Midwest tailgates to backwoods spit roasts, rusty oil drums in empty lots to gleaming multi-burner gas rigs on loafer-scuffed pool decks. But perhaps the best is flame cooked food is had beachside, where lounging is a way of life, and the only things stronger than the Weber and the sun are the spice rubs and rum punch. Give your grillfest some Caribbean swing with this season’s crate of summery items, ready to party. Lace up your apron and slip on the flip flops. Time to mingle
Citrus Rosemary Cocktail Syrup // Raft // Portland, OR
From the fog-slicked slopes of the Pacific Northwest, as far from the south seas as it seems possible to get, comes an unexpected flash of island flavor, like beachside sun filtered through the pines. Natural cane sugar, bright bursting citrus, and a twist of woodsy rosemary (Oregon’s piney trademark). Dash it in seltzer for a healthier soda, or whip up a big-batch cocktail for self-serve at the party. We like adding it to gin and soda, and topping with a sugar-dusted and grilled lemon, sprig of rosemary, and serving — natch — in Portland-proven mason jars.
Smoke Shack Split Pea Crunch // North River Dry Goods // Brooklyn
A picky eating toddler and her parents’ search for better-tasting peas led yes, to improved baby food, but more important, to a treat for mom and dad as well. What’s in it? Potassium, iron, fiber and protein — necessary nutrients for all ages, wrapped in snack-friendly flavors like this rich and smoky barbecue. What’s not? GMOs, sugar, soy, and chubby babies on the label. Eat your veggies like a grown-up.
Buffalo Wing Jerky // Long Beach Jerky Co. // Long Beach, CA
It seems so simple on paper: meat plus time equals jerky. And the feed-lot’s worth of cured sticks and slabs and shredded snacks crowding gas-station counters and grocery-store munchie aisles attest to how easy it is to make beef jerky. Anyone can do it — and everyone seems to. But any old neanderthal can toss a steak on a grate and call it grilling; it takes a master to hone such elemental methods into art. Long Beach Jerky’s founder’s grandad was one such pro. His jerky was a legendary Christmas tradition, and the recipe hasn’t been altered since. Thick-cut brisket, tangy citrusy wing sauce — perfection in a pouch. We wouldn’t change a thing.
Mambo Sauce // Capital City Co. // Washington, DC
Think a flag pin and a briefcase mark a DC local? Look closer — it’s the hot sauce stains. Sweet and tangy Mambo Sauce is a staple of Washington take-out joints, but unknown outside the Beltway. Each one has its private recipe, and come last call, bar-emptied hordes crowd counters and pass squeeze bottles, Dems and Reps, Senators and drag queens, united in glistening, lip-smacking glory. The sauce goes with anything — especially as it gets late — but its classic pair is wings. Drizzle a batch with oil and salt, grill, and toss still hot in Mambo Sauce, then pop back on the fire to caramelize. And don’t forget to tuck in your tie before you dig in.
River Of No Return // Caboose Spice Co. // Middleton, ID
This spicy, savory mix of smoked salt, brown sugar, and earthy marjoram gets its beguiling citrussy snap from sumac, a deep crimson Middle Eastern spice. It’s a global blend, complex and broad, heavenly with salmon, but great on anything that swims. As long as you cook it right: mix with olive oil, brush on whatever’s fresh and local, toss on the barbecue, and watch closely — shellfish are done when they open up, prawns and squid in a minute or two, and grill-ready fillets or whole fish, depending on thickness, in two or three minutes per side.
Fresca Salsa // La Fundidora // Brooklyn, NY
Salsa is a grill-side staple these days, but those neon red jars of store-bought extra-chunky are as authentic as your shrink-wrapped buns are bakery-fresh. Grow up, hombre. Simple and fresh and bursting with flavors bright as beachside sun, La Fundadora makes the real deal: spicy serranos and tangy tomatillos, hot as sand, cooling as the waves. Give your fresh-grilled fish the dressing it deserves.
August 2017 Mantry | Grillfest Vol. 3 Mantry