by Anneli Rufus
Tailgate parties aren't just mindless indulgences.
They're ceremonies by which we can support local businesses — that is, if we live in the East Bay and use Kingsford charcoal.
Now nearly a century old, founded by a relative of car magnate Henry Ford when it was discovered that auto-factory scrapwood could be made into handy briquets, Kingsford is based in Oakland, it's the nation's leading charcoal manufacturer, and it's now part of Clorox. That's what a few of us learned last night a few blocks away from the company's headquarters, as Picán's executive chef Dean Dupuis barbecued bourbon-spiked treats on an outdoor grill — a gift from Kingsford — which were paired with mixologist Joshua Perry's bacon-bourbon old fashioneds and other new takes on classic drinks.
As part of Picán's ongoing drive (detailed here) to bring back bourbon, Dupuis injected butter and bourbon into pulled pork, cured salmon in bourbon, and even pre-soaked wooden skewers in bourbon before studding them with meat, which he grilled. Smoky ribs bore a rich bourbon glow, as did biscuits.
"Bacon is the quintessential pairing for bourbon," Perry said, explaining how he had soaked the meat in the liquor for hours before making the drinks. But because bourbon is so dark and rich, he said, it also goes with chocolate and anything barbecued.
Some folks from Kingsford were on hand to tell us about the green side of charcoal: A new formula incorporating more wood char and deeper groves produces less ash, meaning less waste, and represents a 10 percent decrease in the use of non-renewable resources every year. More charcoal than ever before is now being transported per distribution truck, which lowers the number of trucks on the road and translates to 800,000 fewer miles traveled per year.