a couple's adventures in eating
What: Caro-Bama BBQ
Where: Dr. Phillips Food Truck Festival at Dr. Phillips High School (Bill Spoone Stadium)
The Deal: Yesterday, we had our first foray into the food truck world, and as expected it did not disappoint. What a fun afternoon. The food was great, the people were fantastic, and we finally got a chance to meet up with our new friend @marvinrm. We got to taste an appetite whetting arepa from @micasita, delicious chicken adobo tacos and dessert from @curbsidechef, and a refreshing Thai iced tea from @sabaimobilethai (tune in to our blog for future reviews of some of these trucks and more).
Husband and wife team, Brandon and Lora Gantt travel with their small but mighty food truck wielding some of the best BBQ I have ever tasted. This is truly a bold statement, but the thing that makes Caro-Bama different is that rather than picking sides in the barbecue world, they embrace the different styles and tweak them to make these styles their own.
Lora is from South Carolina. Typically the Carolina folks prefer either a vinegar based BBQ sauce, or a sauce based more in the mustard world. There are purists for each sauce, and this truck gives you both! Both of these sauces are the perfect complement to the pulled pork, and the folks who run this truck as well as Marcus in the kitchen, are eager to give you a sample.
Here’s where Brandon throws me a curveball. This truck serves out what is affectionately known as “Bama White Sauce.” No, I didn’t mention the name of the lovely lady who turns the letters on Wheel, I’m talking about a traditional Northern Alabama BBQ topping invented by Big Bob Gibson. Who is Big Bob Gibson? I’m not sure either. But, in the world of Northern Alabama BBQ, it seems that his is a name that rolls trippingly off of the tongue. From what I could find out, Bob invented this sauce in the early 1920’s and it quickly became a traditional ingredient of at-home cooks and at restaurants in the region. Brandon makes his a little different from the original recipe by removing the horseradish from the sauce, and allowing the tang to come through without the immediate horseradish “zing.” On the Caro-Bama sandwich, the mixture of the spicy vinegar Carolina sauce and the cool Bama White sauce create an amazing balance of heat, tang, and support of the smoky pork flavor. Brandon described it best by likening it to a good buffalo chicken wing and some cool ranch or bleu cheese dressing.
Although I spent at least an hour of my day just now trying to find the right words with which to wax poetic about their signature sauces, I find that the sauce too often get top billing, when truly they are just supporting characters. Barbecue is meant to describe the style of cooking, not the sauce itself. This is why I find myself, gourmand de cochon eager to talk about the deliciously smoked pork…NAKED!
The low and slow method is no doubt the way to go, but the Gantts have a secret weapon. They have a specially made smoker to get the job done right. They don’t have it on sight, but Brandon describes it as, “a barrel…like a fuel tank on a diesel truck ‘kinda thing…he [a friend of Brandon’s father-in-law] has plates that he has welded up here. [making diagonal slates with his hands] So you have these…like office drawers from a desk that you put the charcoal in on the bottom and it smokes and creates a circular motion with the smoke. There’s a six inch space over the middle of the grill that you can’t put anything over because that would be direct heat, everything else is indirect. If you saw that thing, you would never think…It would look like a redneck…We would not put that on Twitter, but you would never think that this thing can generate the kind of food that it does.” See the artist rendering below of what this smoker just might look like. Sorry, Brandon. You said you wouldn’t put it on Twitter. You said nothing about WordPress.
So let me sum this up. Lora and Brandon have put their hearts and souls into their business and food. They have been through the job circuit like the rest of us and have settled down to do what they love. Their main business is catering, but with food like this…they will no doubt be featured in many more food truck functions to come. This is only their second event with a truck. At future functions, I might not even leave their space. I want to eat everything on their menu.
The verdict: DUH!!! The best of the best of the best. Run, don’t walk to their next event. I look up to this food so much it may even be orbiting the earth. Follow them on every social media platform. Find them wherever you can. Their food is amazing, their demeanor is unmatched, and they love what they do.