Another Day in Poe's Kitchen at The Rattlesnake

Chef Brian Poe shows you the world in the back of the house.

Independence Day Lessons I Learned in My Backyard

Here’s how I roll: After going on a crazy grocery spree, I invite 30 of my closest friends over for a cookout. I supply the beer; if they want to bring more, I won’t argue.

We pull up a large table next to the grill. Pile it high with the groceries, knives, cutting boards, crazy spices—Mexican smoked sea salt, jalapeno powder (made with dried jalapeños, prosciutto powder and cilantro-citrus dust—and lots and lots of chili peppers. Crank the stereo and stand back—we’re about to mix it up.

Chilean BBQ

(Some of us mix it up more than others.) 

Right now on the table there are habañeros, jalapeños, tomatoes, cucumbers, cabbage, three different kinds of mushrooms, red onions, white onions, countless other veggies and every garden herb imaginable—plus a duck, a chicken, a beef tenderloin, pork loin, pork ribs, lamb racks, a leg of lamb, salmon kabobs, and a heap of shrimp. (The greatest part of private catering? The leftover supplies!)

I scan the crowd. It’s the United Nations of cookouts, filled with CouchSurfers—a social network of people, young and not so young, who love to travel and manage to do it in a beautifully karmic kind of way: by sharing their homes with one another on globetrotting jaunts. The rest are industry colleagues who share the same philosophy of life: travel light and eat well!

First course: grilled tomato salad with basil, onion, and cucumber, gently drizzled with tomato vinegar (a super-concentrated vinegar I get from a company in Parma)  and Chilean olive oil. While the gang’s chowing down on that, I’m working on the next round—grilling oyster mushrooms and mixing a truffle-basil dressing into a portobello-crimini slaw. Then I toss the shrimp in garlic and habañero oil, grill it up and serve it with a habañero puree. It’s gone in a matter of seconds—which is why it’s also on the Unleashed menu. Some lessons are best learned in the backyard!

Next come the duck, the ribs, the salmon kabobs, the tenderloin, and then my citrus-and-serrano beer can chicken (which you can watch me whip up right here at How2Heroes).

My musician friend Jose Moreno brings his guitar and plays for hours on end—and I just keep cooking. The barbecue’s looking just like so many I experienced in South America: a bunch of hippies from all over the world—Argentina, Brazil, Britain, India, and, yes, the U.S.—sitting in the moonlight around a smoky firepit in the ground, passing around a leg of lamb and a giant bottle of Peruvian bar. Just as the lamb racks come off and the salmon goes on, one guest—a kind and sincere young lady—whispers, “Brian, I just want a hot dog. Do you think you could grill a few for me?” I chuckle. Even the world’s greatest adventurers sometimes just want the comfort of home. Food takes people to places they’ve never been—but it also takes them back to places, people, and times they will never forget.

 

Dining al fresco Chilean-style, 2008

Dining al fresco Chilean-style, 2008

We call the 4th of July an American holiday, but that diverse group reminded me that America is more than 50 states. America the Beautiful stretches across two continents, and there is a bit of every country in our country. This weekend, as we celebrate Independence Day at Poe’s Kitchen at the Rattlesnake, you’ll be able to relish it all on our Unleashed Menu: think bacon-wrapped Cornish game hens with feijoada puree, grilled watermelon salad, blueberry cobbler à la mode, and chocolate-chip-cookie ice cream sandwiches. Come Saturday, I may even cook up a hot dog or two. Join us on the roof deck to watch—and taste—the fireworks!

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