Over the past little while, I had read so much about Buster Rhino’s Southern BBQ, that I knew a visit there was inevitable and would necessarily involve Buster Rhino’s unofficial mascot, Joel Solish. Last Saturday, Joel, Bonita, Mary Luz (and hubby Mario), Andrew and I headed out to Whitby, a short 45 minute jaunt (traffic cooperating) from downtown Toronto for their famous “Southern BBQ Sampler”.
Darryl Koster, President and Owner of Buster Rhino’s, comes from a long line of competitive BBQ-ers with more than 15 titles under their belt, including the three-time South Carolina State Championship. Koster’s website tells the story of Buster Rhino’s birth. Finding that every time he travelled to visit family in the South, he was inundated with requests from friends to bring back some of his family’s award winning BBQ meats, sauces, spices and rubs, he soon came up with the idea of producing his family recipes right here in Canada.
He sold the successful Internet company he had been running for almost 10 years and started Buster Rhino’s Authentic Southern BBQ in August 2005. Honing his BBQ talents by studying and learning from his family in South Carolina, as well as some informal chef training from professionals in Canada, Koster believes that the secret to good BBQ is “all in the ‘slow and low’ cooking method used by the competitive BBQ’ers in the southern United States”. Experimenting with different flavours, spice combinations and woods has led him to develop the signature Buster Rhino’s BBQ products.
In just a few short years, Buster Rhino’s has launched heat-and-serve meats and five sauces and rubs into the Canadian marketplace and are one of the official vendors of the Canadian BBQ Association. This impressive history along with reading tweets from Joel about “bacon candy”, “bacon explosion” and smoked Mars Bars made a trip to Buster Rhino’s not only desirable, but necessary. For the blog, you understand!
We started out with some unusual deep fried black-eyed peas, not dissimilar to the deep fried chick peas many of us at the tasting had eaten at the Full Moon Olive Oil tasting a few weeks ago.
These were outrageously good and would make a GREAT bar snack – so much healthier than peanuts, right? Next up, a smidgeon of bacon chutney:
OMG. Sweet and salty and amazingly delicious. Not the most appetising looking served on the spoon like that but ummm…. on some pancakes with some maple syrup….
Next we tried the bacon candy (pictured at the top of the post). This. was. to. die. for. Seriously. Vanilla cured bacon “pig candy”. Crunchy, sweet and salty and deliciously chewy…
Along with that, we tried tiny morsels of pepper cured bacon (pictured below) and maple sugar cured bacon. Yes, it’s pink and it looks raw and it might freak some people out but according to Darryl, that’s how it should be tasted – straight off the smoker.
Now we were getting into the “real food” with some smokin’ jalapeño poppers.
Normally, jalapeño poppers are something I shy away from at a party because really – does my body need a jalapeño pepper stuffed with cream cheese? Well when it’s wrapped with bacon, the answer is yes! This was incredible – great spice and warmth in the pepper countered by the cream cheese and the saltiness of the bacon. I only ate one (because I knew there were many more bites to come) but I would have happily eaten all three…
At this point, Darryl kindly produced a stunning roasted chicken on smoked polenta (with a smokey chipotle raspberry sauce) for Mary Luz who is working with some dietary restrictions right now. For someone who says he doesn’t know what he is doing with chicken, this looked pretty amazing!
Next up was the famous “bacon explosion” – a mat of weaved bacon, topped with Italian sausage meat, cripsy bacon sprinkles and BBQ sauce and rolled up to make the most decadent meatloaf ever. Darryl suggested we might need another artery to cope with this one…
Whoever said meatloaf is boring needs to get their teeth into this. Unbelieveable.
If you can believe it, there was more. BBQ brisket slider with homemade sweet potato salad. I did away with the bun and just ate the melt in your mouth brisket – tender and moist and quite simply the best brisket I have eaten, hands down.
But wait – there’s more! Pulled pork sliders with coleslaw. Wonderfully smokey succulent goodness on a bun (again, left that and focussed on the meat!).
And in case you weren’t full, there was one last savory dish: Buster Rhino’s famous ribs and hush puppies (deep fried cornbread).
In truth I could only manage one of the ribs and half a hush puppy but Darryl graciously let us take home what we couldn’t eat and so I added it to the collection for Neil who, shockingly, chose wine school over this meat pilgrimage.
And just when you thought you couldn’t eat one more mouthful, the pièce de résistance – smoked, frozen Mars Bars. Oh. My.
All right, so I am a huge frozen Mars Bar fan (those mini ones always used to be in my baby freezer in Paris because seriously who needs a whole Mars Bar?) and was skeptical about this. Smoked chocolate? Well my friends, let me tell you it works! Because it’s cold, it takes a while to get the smokey flavour but once it hits it’s intense. Not overpowering because just when you think there’s too much smoke in your mouth, you get hit with a burst of chocolate to smooth things out. Incredible.
Ok, so you must be thinking that I literally rolled out of there… Actually I felt only pleasantly full because I only generally ate half of each plate, knowing there were so many more. Bonita had brought tupperwares (a girl after my own heart!) so we diligently filled them with half our plates each time. It’s the way to go people because look what lucky Mr Neil had for lunch the next day (thanks here go to Joel for donating some of his uneaten plates. Remember kids: Southern BBQ on the tail of a flu do not a happy tummy maketh…):
If you are ever in the neighbourhood, run, don’t walk to Buster Rhino’s. I know at least three sometime meat-eating vegetarians (Alicia, Liz and Cathy Bee, you know who you are!!!) who might just relax their rules in the presence of such gastronomic delights!
2001 Thickson Road South,
Whitby, ON L1N 6J3