July 3, 2014 | Posted by Charlotte March
You’ve undoubtedly heard of Carolina Barbeque and Texas BBQ but have you ever tried Santa Maria Barbeque? Unlike the aforementioned styles, Santa Maria Barbeque doesn’t involve a long, slow cooking method or sweet sauces, but is instead a menu featuring a well-seasoned California tri-tip cooked over native red oak coals on a special hand-cranked grill, accompanied by pinquinto beans, salsa, green salad, and garlic bread.
This mainstay of California culinary heritage is rooted in Santa Barbara County and the menu was actually trademarked by the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce in 1978. The tradition was spawned from the days when giant Mexican cattle ranches covered this territory. Celebratory occasions were marked by serving large cuts of pit-roasted beef with tortillas, beans, salsas. A decidedly more Californian menu has evolved over time, replacing the salsa with a tamer version, some even including celery (eek!) and subbing in bread positively soaked in sweet butter and garlic for the tortillas.
I sought to recreate this much lauded and well preserved tradition in my own backyard but had a little help from Bobby himself in the form of these recipes he created for Barbeque Addiction. Thankfully I didn’t have to buy a one of the special Santa Maria Style grills where the grate raise and lower and was able to fake it using some Susie Q Red Oak Chips niftily wrapped in foil.
Being from Texas, I am wary of any cut of meat, aside from brisket that is, where there is no bone. I mean, the bone is where the flavor is. Enter the California tri-tip, which is the bottom part of the sirloin. It’s good. Really good. Look for one that has a fair amount of fat on one side. The picture above is of the lean side, but trust me, there is ample fat on this guy. Liberally season with salt, pepper and garlic salt a few hours prior to grilling, and because it’s such a sizeable cut of meat, make sure it comes to room temperature before grilling.
Looking for any excuse to head to the Ferry Plaza, I bought a pound of pinquinto beans from Rancho Gordo. Honestly, I wasn’t sure what the fuss was about but once I tasted these sweet, firm, “little pink” beans I was hooked.
Behold: the feast. I paired the meal with a dynamite Merlot from Broadside Vineyard in Paso Robles which is of course just a hop, skip and jump from Santa Maria. This menu personifies California cuisine. At it’s very heart it’s local – the pinqunito beans are ONLY grown commercially in the soils of the Santa Maria Valley, the beef as a reflection of the cattle ranching industry, and the cooking method employs native Red Oak. Oh, and I am sure some rancher’s sweet mother INSISTED they have veggies at the meal hence the green salad.