The Survival Gourmet


Bigmista’s Barbecue gets great reviews!

Bigmista’s Barbecue was part of a BBQ crawl on Saturday. A crawl is when a group of BBQ fans get together and go taste BBQ at several different restaurants and post their findings. We were up against two of L.A’s most established BBQ joints, Phillips and Texas BBQ King. We were really happy with our reviews. Here is a portion of them:

Bigmista’s Barbecue – Watts Farmers Market

Bigmista’s Barbecue is headed up by Neil Strawder with the able assistance of his father-in-law Glenn Croxton. We visited their stand at the Watt’s Farmers Market, Ted Watkins Park at 103rd St. & Central Ave. They are there every Saturday from 10 am to 2 pm. A copy of the menu, and other vending locations in the L.A. basin, is posted below. I note that Bigmista’s was the only place which served all four traditional competition meats – brisket, chicken, pulled pork and pork spare ribs – as well as links. We were also able to test the following sides: pineapple coleslaw, baked beans, and collard greens. Neil and Glenn cook on a Spicewine with charcoal and hickory. They were willing to show us their cooker and graciously spent time visiting with us.

“Tender, flavor good.”
“Tender, delicious”
“Great flavor, best I have ever had. Tender, perfect.”
“Perfectly cooked for tenderness. 8 on tenderness, 8 on taste.”
“Tender, nice flavor, but could have been a bit moister”
“Outstanding. Not too dry or moist. Good flavor.”
“Nice flavor, texture. 9 out of 10”
“Was the best of the meats. Moist.”
“The brisket was a revelation.”

“Tender, flavorful.”
“Very tender, much flavor.”
“Good flavor and smoke”
“Nice. Not too much of anything. Good balance.”
“Tender, nice flavor (without sauce), moist.”
“Good flavor, a little dry for me.”
“…this was some of the best butt I have ever had!”
“8 out of 10”
“Very good texture, not mushy.”

“Good flavor, could be cooked a little more (too much pink for me)”
“Great smoke flavor. Tender. Could have been a bit moister.”
“Mild smoke, good taste.”
“10 out of 10”
“Good smoke and pull”
“Slightly undercooked for my taste.”

“Good, but too salty”
“Too salty, but I loved it”
“Really good, especially balanced with the sauce.”
“Too salty and a little dry unless you put sauce on it.”
“Too much pepper, dry”
“5 out of 10”
“Bit dry”
“Dry and over-salted.”

“Good with a nice spicyness.”

“9 out of 10”
“Nice, sweet, tangy, great on the pulled pork.”
“Delicious, tasty”
“Great! A winner”
“Too sweet for me”

“Little too sweet.”
“Excellent. More please.”
“These are good, but not really special.”
“10 out of 10”
“Good beans, but nothing special.”

“A little too salty for me and a bit overcooked.”
“Great taste.”
“I liked it with a touch of vinegar.”
“Loved the greens.”

“I liked this sauce. A bit spicy, but rich.”
“Nice and thick and rich, right amount of spice.”
“9 out of 10”

You can see the rest of the review My BBQ Pit.

The reviewers (along with some other guy who had to get in the pic):

BBQ Crawl

The food!

Pork, links and chicken

Brisket and Ribs

And here are our locations:

SUNDAY - 10:00-2:00
Atwater Village (Wells Fargo Parking Lot)
3250 Glendale Boulevard

TUESDAY - 8:00-1:00
Torrance (Charles H. Wilson Park)
2200 Crenshaw Boulevard

WEDNESDAY - 2:00-7:00
Lawndale (in front of Civic Center building)
147th & Hawhtorne Boulevard

SATURDAY - 10:00-2:00
Watts (Ted Watkins Park)
103rd & Central Avenue

Come on out and see for yourself why we have some of the best BBQ in town!



The Survival Gourmet


Lawndale: Small Crowds, Big Orders!

We had another good day at the Lawndale Farmers Market this time. The crowd wasn’t that large but they were very happy that we were there. We had several people tell us how good the food was and some even came back to order more.

One man came back three times! He said he was in town working at one of the refineries on assignment from Texas. WE asked him why he kept coming back. He said that he hadn’t been able to find any good brisket and ours reminded him of home.

I called a lady over at the Hawthorne City hall (Hawthorne is the next town over) and told her we were at the Farmers Market down the road. She remembered us from a BBQ contest n Hawthorne last year. She told me she would call back with an order. True to her word she did. Next thing we know, two detectives from the Hawthorne PD showed up to pick up the order. They saw the food we were fixing and ordered 3 more sandwiches. One of them said he was putting an alarm in his phone so he can remember to come back every week!

All in all, it was a good day. The market was from 2p-7p but we were out of most stuff by 5pm. We didn’t take too much food because we didn’t know what the crowd would be like. WE will be taking a lot more next week.

I had to come back to work today so I can rest!



The Survival Gourmet


Tuna Salad…sorta

So I am on a diet. I need some protein. I have can of tuna. What to do?

Casserole? Naw. Way too much fat and calories.

Salad? Sure! Wait…what about all that mayo? Low-fat mayo? Blech!

So the question is what can I do to make this dry-ass tuna (pardon my french) palatable?

And the answer is? Nothing. Can’t do it. But you can hide it! That’s what I did.

The Survival Gourmet tuna salad

First I drained the 6 oz can of tuna and put it in a bowl. I squeezed half a lime over it and mixed it. Then I cut up the following:

2 roma tomatoes
1/2 cucumber
1/2 avocado (I ate the other half)
10 Jalapeno slices from the jar
3 green onions
some cilantro

I put all of that in a bowl, sprinkled it with salt, black pepper and garlic powder and squeezed the other half of the lime over it. Then I just mixed it all up and Voila!! Tuna salad!

I must thank my Sister-in-Law Laila for the inspiration. I doubt I would hav e come up with this combination with out a push from her.

Tuna salad - The Survival Gourmet



The Survival Gourmet


Kushari - Egyptian Fast Food

Kushari on The Survival GourmetI was watching an episode of Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations the other night and became fascinated with a dish on the show. It was an Egyptian dish called Kushari. Basically it is their version of fast food and there are hundreds of places that sell it.

It is a mixture of rice, pasta and lentils topped with a spicy tomato sauce and sauteed onions. Deceptive in it’s simplicity, this dish has some complex flavors and it is truly satisfying.

Not having a clue as to how to make it, I scoured the internet for a recipe and came up with this one from

Kushari (Lentils, rice, and macaroni mixture)

Kushari is often referred to as “Egyptian chili”, and is a specialty of street vendors in Cairo.

2 cups cooked rice
2 cups cooked pasta (such as macaroni or penne)
2 tablespoons vinegar
1 teaspoon ground Cumin, divided
½ teaspoon Garlic Powder
1 cup cooked lentils
1 can (15 ounces) crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed pepper
2 medium onions, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)

1. Combine rice and pasta; spoon into bottom of shallow serving platter. Keep warm.
2. Whisk together vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, and garlic powder in a medium bowl. Add cooked lentils and stir to combine. Spoon over rice and pasta.
3. Combine tomatoes, water, sugar, cinnamon, salt, remaining 1/2 teaspoon cumin and red pepper in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat about 5 minutes or until heated through, stirring occasionally. Spoon tomato mixure over lentil layer. Partially stir tomato mixture into other layers, but do not completely combine all layers.
4. Sauté onions in 1 tbsp oil over high heat until browned and starting to crisp. Scatter over top of the kushari and serve.

Egyptian Fast Food on The Survival

Now being who I am, I improvised with what I had in the house. I used Garbanzo Beans instead of lentils and spaghetti instead of macaroni. Nothing to severely alter the taste or texture but purists (if there is such a thing a kushari purists) will probably point out that it isn’t traditional. You will also notice swome smoked chicken in the picture. Sorry, I’m not a vegetarian.

Anyway, I recommend that you try this dish at home. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.



The Survival Gourmet


UDS And New Year’s Meat

My father-in-law, Glenn, has been bitten by the BBQ bug. He has become a part of Four Q and works with me at the farmers market. Lately, he has been looking at smokers. I told him before he spent some money on a smoker, let’s clean up the UDS and so he could use that to practice on.

My Ugly Drum Smoker (UDS) hasn’t gotten much work since I got the Spicewine so I figured it would be perfect for him. I found a tri-tip and a brisket point in the freezer for burnt ends so we went to work.

We turned out a great meal and he has a smoker at no cost. Seems like a great way to start the year.


I’m back!

Sorry I have been away. We finally got approved to sell BBQ at a local Farmers Market. You can now get some Bigmista’s Barbecue at the Watts Healthy Farmers Market every Saturday from 10am - 2pm at Ted Watkins Park in Watts. The Market is on the corner of 103rd and Central Ave. Hope to see you there!

Bigmista's Barbecue Catering



Sometimes the simplest meals are the best.

Pasta, brisket, BBQ, recipe

It seems that between catering and practicing for competitions, I always seem to have some meat leftover in a baggie in my freezer. This time it was some brisket. You could just as easily use some pork or chicken.

I put some rotini pasta in a pot to boil. In another pot, I mixed the thawed out chopped brisket with some Super Smokers Tennessee BBQ sauce and let it simmer while the pasta is boiling. When the pasta was done, I drained it and added it to the pot with the meat and sauce. I mixed it and tasted it. It was bland. Apparently, the sauce mellows as it cooks. So I added a few shots of Bigmista’s Secret Sauce and that kicked it right up. I’d recommend using a bold flavored sauce from the beginning when you try this recipe.

So that’s it. No special ingredients. No special trips to the store. Just a tasty meal that anyone can whip up!

Barbecue, Pasta, Beef, Brisket, recipe



The Survival Gourmet


Spicewine brisket

I cooked four briskets in my Spicewine smoker yesterday. It performed like a champ. Just thought I would share some food porn with you…

Smoked BBQ Brisket

Sliced Barbecue Brisket

BBQ Beef Brisket

Chopped BBQ Beef



Cucina Picarelli - Anniversary dinner

MrsMista and I searched the internet for a quiet romantic place to have dinner for our anniversary. We didn’t want a formal place where we had to get all dressed up. We just wanted good food in a comfortable atmosphere. What we found was Cucina Picarelli.

Cucina Picarelli front

From the time we walked in the front door, the owner, Joe Picarelli, doted on us like we were family. He spent time getting to know us, cracking jokes and just making us feel at home. Our waiter Pablo gave us excellent service and that made the meal even more enjoyable.

After a glass of Chianti and a dinner salad (with a very healthy amount of greens) we got down to dinner. MrsMista had the crab ravioli.

Cucina Picarelli, crab ravioli

The ravioli was shaped like long, thin empanadas instead of the traditional square pillows. There was lots of crab inside and the sauce was smooth and creamy. The flavors were delicate and balanced.

I had the Linguine con Frutti di Mare. It was a combination of calamari, clams, mussels and shrimp in a bold, spicy red sauce.

Joe wouldn’t let us leave with out trying his homemade Tiramisu. It rare that I eat dessert at a restaurant but this was the best Tiramisu I have ever had.

If you are ever in Long Beach, or L.A. County for that matter, head on over to Cucina Picarelli. It is definitely worth the trip. But don’t tell anybody. Let’s keep this our little secret.

Cucina Picarelli
5096 E. Pacific Coast Highway
Long Beach, CA 90804
Phone 562.494.5118

Pictures courtesy of



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Enchillasagna, Mexican, Italian, Cheese

So the other night I need to make dinner but I didn’t want to go to the grocery store because we were going away for the weekend. I need to improvise with what I had in the house. But that’s what I do right?

So I took up the challenge. I looked at what I had in the fridge, freezer and pantry and came up with some Italian and Mexican ingredients. Fusion it is!! I call the dish I came up with Enchillasagna.

Here are the ingredients:

1 lb. Hot Italian Sausage, cut into small rounds
2 15 oz cans of diced tomatoes

1 tbsp Kosher Salt
2 tsp Black Pepper
1 tbsp Garlic Powder
1 tsp Cayenne Pepper
1 tbsp Chili Powder
1 tbsp Italian Seasoning

8-10 Corn Tortillas
8 oz Shredded Cheddar Cheese
6 oz. Queso Fresco Mexican Cheese, crumbled

Brown the sausage in a sauce pan. Crumble it with a spatula or a spoon. Remove the sausage from the pan. Pour in the tomatoes and add all of the seasonings. Puree (blend) with a hand blender and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes.

Warm the tortillas. (I usually do this on the burner on the stove but you can also wrap them in a damp towel and microwave for 15-20 seconds.)

Cover the bottom of a casserole dish with a layer of tortillas. Sprinkle half of the crumbled sausage on top of the tortillas. Spoon half of the tomato sauce on top of that. Cover with half of the cheddar cheese. Sprinkle half of the Queso Fresco on top of that. Repeat.

Put the casserole dish in a 350 oven for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let it rest for 10 minutes.

Serve and eat.

Enchillasagna, Mexican, Italian, Meat, Cheese



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