Los Angeles BBQ history lives on at Bludso’s Bar & Cue

Oxtail birria tacos, vegan gombo, soothing tofu, political crudités and vegetable trays. I’m Laurie Ochoa, general manager of L.A. Times Food, in for Bill Addison with this week’s Tasting Notes.

Respect for L.A. barbecue

Kevin Bludso sits at the back of his Bludso’s Bar & Cue between the lunch and dinner rushes on a weekday afternoon, talking about the rich history of Los Angeles’ barbecue traditions, from the places that fed early jazz musicians and aficionados drawn to the scene on Central Avenue to legacy places: Woody’s, Phillips, Leo’s, Gadberry’s, Mr. Jim’s and so many more. Bludso insists that Los Angeles doesn’t get enough credit for how influential it’s been. “We had barbecue people who go back 30, 60 years from everywhere, Memphis, Arkansas, Kansas City,”Master chef, judge and host of the TV cooking program (“Fire Masters,” “The American Barbecue Showdown”). “Woody Phillips just passed away, but his restaurants are still here and I’m trying to get him into the Barbecue Hall of Fame. Every show I do, I fight for L.A. barbecue.”

Bludso was born in Compton and raised here. Now he spends more of his time at the Texas lakeside property. As a youngster, he used to spend summers with Granny his great aunt. He learned how to barbecue. On this day, he’s back in L.A. and checking in at his La Brea Avenue location, where he’s preparing for a Saturday-night oxtail meal.

As we talk, Bludso’s executive chef, Jimmy Weathersbee, presents a gorgeous tray of brisket, pork-spiked collard greens and mac ’n’ cheese with a magnificent crust. Stanley Hernandez is a 22-year-old trainee pitmaster. From a dishwasher, he rose to the rank of pitmaster. Hernandez enjoyed quality time with Bludso earlier in the day and would like to say thank you before his shift ends. “He’s got the touch,”Bludso. “And he wants to learn.”

Bludso was a pioneer of barbecue, and continues to pass on the traditions.

A few days later, I’m back at Bludso’s for the dinner event where oxtail is served four ways — traditional Southern, Jamaican jerk, smoked curry and even birria-style in a taco. “I love oxtails. I love birria. So this is my twist, which puts them all together but also smokes the oxtails,”He stated this when he presented his recipe for oxtail-birria in his book “Bludso’s BBQ Cookbook,”It was made public this year. “Come on, it’s a no-brainer.”

The place is packed with Bludso’s family, friends and regular customers, who all have different answers when he comes around to their tables and asks which oxtail style they like best. In addition to the oxtail, I’m drawn to his spicy Creole cabbage, which I’m happy to discover later is in the new cookbook along with stories of his childhood as the son of a police officer and “Black Panther-supporting mother.”He also defends his hometown which is where he opened his first barbecue restaurant. “What Everybody Has Wrong About Compton.”

Weathersbee, who is the chef who ensures the food meets and exceeds Bludso’s high standards, hears the raves for the Creole cabbage, pauses a moment and says, “I think we’re going to have to put that on the menu.”

What can vegan gombo pair well with fried chicken

Alta Adams chef Keith Corbin’s take on gumbo is this vegan gombo.

(Katrina Frederick/For The Times)

Here at the L.A. Times, most of us are still working from home, getting together with colleagues when we can over lunch, coffee and occasionally having meetings at one another’s homes — as we did earlier this week at Food Editor Daniel Hernandez’s place. Waiting for the staff’s return is the beautiful new Times Test Kitchen, which we are slowly starting to inhabit. Ben Mims and Julie Giuffrida have begun testing recipes and doing photo shoots in the kitchen, and we’ve started to invite chefs into the kitchen to demonstrate recipes.

Alta Adams chef Keith Corbin, was the first to introduce his restaurant cuisine in the kitchen. His book will feature him as the author Tuesday’s L.A. Times Book ClubTalk about the new memoir “California Soul,”Hernandez. Corbin was interviewed by Jervey Tervalon about his childhood in a violent world and the ways that cooking has helped him to find his way. He created an intensely flavorful dish in The Times Test Kitchen. “vegan gombo” — red miso paste takes the place of roux — I talked with Corbin about what “California Soul”For him, cooking is a passion.

“California soul food?”He spoke. “We took a cuisine that has been around for a long time and reframed it. That means a lot because when I think back about my enslaved ancestors, before they were brought here, they cooked what they grew, they cooked what was around them, they cooked what they caught, they cooked what was in season. So we focus on what California produces while following the diaspora from West Africa through the Caribbean, through the South.”

Alta Adams chef Keith Corbin, in front the L.A. Times Test Kitchen.

(Katrina Frederick/For The Times)

This week’s must-try restaurant: n/soto

Bill Addison’s review this week focuses on n/soto, the more affordable izakaya-inspired sequel to Niki Nakayama and Carole Iida-Nakayama’s Michelin two-star n/naka. Addison addresses this issue and I find it very interesting. “fewer restaurants bill themselves these days as izakayas,” eating and drinking establishments that in some people’s minds “can belie the finesse of cooking.” But he points out that n/soto, like Echo Park’s Tsubaki, “zeroes in on a truer essence of izakaya.”The restaurant was open for lunch on Wednesday. I agreed to this with Addison. “meeting n/soto on its own terms can lead to a series of engaging, intricate delights.”

One of the best dishes: n/naka’s tofu. “No warm batch,”Addison writes “is quite the same as the next — some arrive set to the edges of the small ceramic pot, some more pleasantly milky — but the dish’s effect always soothes.”

Warm house-made tofu from n/soto, left, and the front entrance of the restaurant.

Tofu warm from the house starting at n/soto This is our front door.

(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

Food Bowl available for launch

This is the almost final schedule for this year’s L.A. Times Food Bowl,Angelenos get a month of fun events every week this week. Here are the highlights Paramount Pictures Studios Night MarketThe event will take place over three nights with one dedicated to barbecue. It includes Jenn Harris’s Saturday Night Dumpling Crawl, as well as the BBQ Burger Block Party. “The Bucket List.” I’m also excited about the dinner inside artist Glenn Kaino’s “A Forest for the Trees” exhibit from Minh Phan’s Phenakite (winner of last year’s Restaurant of the Year).

‘Dirty’Roast chicken and caramelized duck

Stephanie Breijo has details of new restaurant openings, including Josiah Citrin’s Augie’s on Main, in which the Mélisse chef gets casual with “dirty chicken” — baked Jidori chicken coated in panko, preserved lemon and confit garlic. Also opening is Mr. T’s, from Paris chef Tsuyoshi Miyazaki and featuring uni rice with confit egg yolk as well as caramelized duck.

Of crudités, veggie trays and grocery store scanners

No matter who you are inclined to support in the Pennsylvania Senate race between Dr. Mehmet Oz and the state’s Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, it seems clear that in the battle between team crudité and team veggie tray, most are going with veggie tray. Oz first posted his rant against the high cost of crudités in April and was mocked for his odd vegetable shopping and beverage pairing. “Guys, that’s $20 for crudité and this doesn’t include the tequila,”He added, Earlier this week Fetterman revived crudité fever when he tweeted, “In PA we call this a … veggie tray”And later, offered to make “let them eat crudité” stickers. Oz responded to the problem by stating that he was “exhausted.”

This brought to mind previous political food gaffes such as Cynthia Nixon’s ordering of a cinnamon-raisin bagel stuffed with lox and capers while she ran for Governor of New York. George H.W. Bush’s amazement at a grocery store scanner, leading many to believe that the elder Bush had not recently entered a supermarket. However, Bush could have been unfairly critiqued. According to a2018 AP story, “Reporters later learned that it was a special scanner with advanced features, including a scale to weigh produce — uncommon then — and the ability to read barcodes even if they were torn up and jumbled. … Marlin Fitzwater, Bush’s press secretary, devoted four angry pages to the incident in his memoir [and] called the AP story knocking down the [original] version ‘the single most courageous story of my White House years.’”

Los Angeles BBQ history lives on at Bludso’s Bar & Cue

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