Smoke and Bird and Beef

Wood Ranch Grill offers its own take on Thanksgiving

Saturday, October 25, 2014 | 2:23 am

Christmas. Fourth of July. Your Birthday. Opening Day. Yeah yeah yeah. For my money, the best day of the year is Thanksgiving. First, there’s food. And your family. And your friends. And food. Some football. And food. Thanksgiving wins.

Chef Alex Benes, the “Sultan of Smoke” at Wood Ranch BBQ and Grill in Arcadia has his own ideas about the American traditional holiday. (FYI, there is Thanksgiving in other parts of of the world—Grenada, Liberia, and Canada, to name a few.) In Benes’ world it’s all about the smoke. And the rub.

Benes treated us to his own version of Thanksgiving turkey this past week, as he demonstrated his own method of spatchcocking (Splitting it open) and grilling a turkey, with his own tips and tricks on adding flavor without fat. Utilizing his own dry rub concoction, he produced a perfectly browned and juicy turkey for us to sample along with a step-by-step demonstration on how to slice it all up for serving. Dipped in his hand-made gravy, his take on turkey was a little dip of heaven.

And we were only getting started. As Benes regaled the table with stories and anecdotes about a life in BBQ, the food began to arrive. And arrive.

Wood Ranch serves an expansive BBQ menu, from burgers to tri-tip to ribs and sliders. We were about to experience all of it.

As we sat down, the table was set with Wood Ranch’s Famous Shredded onions, followed by trays of Pulled pork sliders, each topped with a pickle and sweet cole slaw. Just before the BBQ Tri Tip sliders made their guest appearance, we were treated to plates full of “Burnt Ends,” the tasty end bits of “Brisket.” They were served on a bed of creamy mac and cheese, easily the most comfortable bed we’ve seen in some time.

A snappy Tuscan Kale Salad and House Salad slowed the pace down, but only for a moment. Clearly, we were here for the duration.

With us having no clear indication of exactly how much food would be arriving this evening, the CAB Giant Short Ribs then appeared. They were succulent and almost overwhelming in their tangy sweetness. Yes, this would have been more enough. This was the end of the first act, I believe.

One of the specialties of Wood Ranch “California” style BBQ is its tri-tip, which we saw unadorned, as well as smothered in the restaurant’s own sauce.

This was followed somehow by places heaving with Wood Ranch’s brisket burgers, burgers made with brisket meat. It was a carnivore’s Disneyland at this point and we all had a Fast Pass. For those who had just the slightest restraint, there were also Vegan Burgers, topped with avocados. Those might have had the quietest reaction for the host of food writers and bloggers, but in our defense, we were dizzy and sated with flesh by that point.

Everything at Wood Ranch, from the individual ingredients to the finished products themselves are made in-house, by the way, and the result is vivid, from the salads to the sauces.

And then the ribs arrived.

Wood Ranch serves a few varieties—St. Louis ribs, baby Back Ribs, and huge beef ribs, that will only remind you of The Flintstones, no matter how hard you try to resist. Each type was chewy, flavorful, and threatened to change your accent, no matter where you called home.

The Smashed Sweet potatoes were creamy and smooth, and tasted like football on TV, and your aunt telling funny stories about your mom. And we had not reached the dessert phase yet.

We re-entered the Earth’s gravitation pull with a Key Lime tart, a Pumpkin Cheesecake, a regularCheesecake, the restaurant’s own flourless Chocolate cake, and a decadent Peach cobbler. At that point, few of us were able to move, remember any online passwords, relatives’ names, or where any cars were parked.

It was a night of smoke and spice, and more than enough deliciousness to fill a dozen packed shiny, plastic boxes with which to taunt workmates the next day.

And we wouldn’t have traded that feeling for Christmas presents.

Wood Ranch BBQ and Grill is at the Westfield Mall at Santa Anita, 400 S Baldwin Ave #905, Arcadia, CA. (626) 447-4745. www.woodranch.com.

 

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