Smokehouse Live is a triple threat for meat and music lovers

Lately, pitmasters have been reexamining the accepted barbecue wisdom and, as with dietary advice and family bromides, they have found it wanting.

Use cheaper cuts from cattle fattened with corn and antibiotics? Nope, top pitmasters these days buy “all-natural” and prime-grade beef. Serve meats straight from the smoker? Forget it. Cooks have discovered the rewards of resting and holding meats for hours. Search for the best barbecue only in backwoods burgs? Urban upstarts have all but buried that notion.

Now there’s Smokehouse Live, a sprawling Leesburg operation that, in its own way, both embraces and rejects much of the passed-down wisdom.

To reach Smokehouse Live from the District — or worse, Maryland — you must make an old-fashioned barbecue pilgrimage. Depending on the time of day and route, you will log dozens of miles, give your E-ZPass a workout and test your patience with the most aggressive drivers this side of Talladega. At the end of your trip, you’ll find a barbecue joint and honky-tonk that occupies more than 16,000 square feet at the Village at Leesburg, a pre-fab shopping, dining and residential district designed to cure all forms of suburban ennui.

It’s not exactly Kreuz Market in Lockhart, Texas.

But with its cavernous rooms, unadorned plywood walls and order counter in back, Smokehouse Live does a mean impression of a Texas meat market, which should come as no surprise. Co-owner Jim Foss is the former chef de cuisine and director of D.C. operations for Hill Country, that homage to Central Texas barbecue with its market-oriented approach to smoked meats.

Foss and executive chef Bryan Yealy are the kind of guys you want running a smokehouse: They’re obsessives, forever tinkering with recipes and approaches until they hit upon the right formula. Their house-made sausages provide a solid example: On two earlier visits I found the links, both the jalapeño-and-cheese sausage and the Shiner Bock brat, assertive but semi- arid, the beef-and-pork farce reduced to a crumbly consistency. Later, Foss and Yealy switched to brisket fat in their links, and the sausages suddenly assumed a richness that had previously disappeared in the cold-smoking process.

Foss and Yealy straddle a line between elemental, fire-and-wood tradition and modern, set-it-and-forget-it technology. They employ two large-capacity Ole Hickory smokers that burn white oak logs sourced from Virginia. The smokers are connected to gas lines, but the pitmasters use the heat source to ignite their wood, not to cook meats. Arguably, their most important machines can be found behind the meat-carving counters: the “controlled vapor technology” units, or CVaps, which create a humid environment to hold cooked meats for hours.

The pricey CVaps guarantee something that few ’cue joints can: a moist, consistent product no matter what time of day you dine at Smokehouse Live. I cannot emphasize this enough. One of the toughest calculations for a pitmaster is determining how much meat is needed for service. Place too much in the smoker and your food waste will soar; place too little, and your customers will Yelp like scalded cats, hissing about meats that sell out early. Many pitmasters will adopt a conservative calculation, desperately hoping to keep their morning batch of, say, spare ribs moist throughout the day. The approach is usually a one-way ticket to Dry Town.

But aside from those early incarnation sausages, everything I ordered at Smokehouse Live retained much of its natural moisture, even ornery cusses like pulled pork and lean brisket. This is not to say I loved all the barbecue. The Savannah chicken, with its notes of citrus and dry mustard, came protected in a skin more elastic than crispy. The beef clod, billed as a “farmer’s roast” in a similar flush of creative marketing that gave us the Chilean sea bass, went down like rare roast beef, often with a gnarly chew.

Barbecue may be among the most difficult cuisines to review, due to both freshness issues (see above about holding meats) and bias. Personally, I prefer my pork spare ribs cut St. Louis-style, in which pitmasters slice away the sternum section along with its hard, pencil-eraser-like nubbins of cartilage. Smokehouse Live basically serves the full monster bones, which are lovely, smoky, crusty, moist and all nubbin-y on one end. I ate around the cartilage with only modest complaint. The Texas short rib has no such issue: It’s approximately a one-pound cudgel of smoky, spicy beef, at once fleshy and succulent. It’s a bone designed to share, unless you’re a Serengeti lion.

Foss and Yealy take a pan- regional approach to meats, but they betray a Texas-esque paternalism when it comes to sauce: Their house-made condiments are not within arm’s reach at the table but found on a separate stand near the hand-washing stations. Don’t fret. The majority of meats require no added flavors, notably the wet brisket slices with their geologic layers of blackened bark and pink smoke ring, which conceal an inner core of juicy beef. Much to my surprise, the lightly smoked pulled pork can be enjoyed sans condiments, yet it benefits from a splash of the East Carolina vinegar sauce.

It’s best to surround your meat with sides, which Smokehouse Live offers both hot and cold. Among the latter, I dig the mustard-bite of the “loco” potato salad and the low-acid lure of the “Texas caviar,” a well-seasoned salad of black-eye peas, onions, roasted bell peppers and poblano pepper. The baked organic cheese grits (a polenta-like dish with a light nutmeg perfume) and the turkey-spiked collards stand out among the hot sides. I would have included a third, the “Route 7” mac and cheese, but I found the warm pasta overcooked and pasty.

Smokehouse Live may be the most ambitious barbecue joint I’ve experienced. As partners Foss and Kris Diemar explain, the place is actually three concepts under one roof: a smokehouse, a craft-cocktail bar (with a separate menu that includes a thick-cut bacon BLT with Sriracha mayo, perfect for the hipster smokehound) and a live music venue (booked mostly Thursday through Sunday). It also serves desserts with more imagination than your standard smokehouse sweets of pecan pie and peach cobbler. Then again, I’ll take pastry chef Jessika Yealy’s (daughter of chef Bryan) more conventional salted caramel pudding over her Dirt n’ Worms, in which the floral-chemical flavor of gummy worms contaminates the natural chocolate ecosystem of the dessert.

All this ambition, I should add, comes with a cost. This is cheap-eats fare by reputation only, not by the reality of your check. Barbecue of this level requires quality meat, large piles of seasoned wood and lots of time. You will pay for it.

Article posted from The Washington Post »

Second Annual “Crusin’ the Village” Car Show Comes to Village at Leesburg

PG - 2015 Car Show image

Village at Leesburg has announced their 2nd Cruisin’ the Village car show, a free event on Saturday, September 12, starting at noon. The Village will be filled with custom cars both old and new; the day also includes a free concert and outdoor movie in the Village Plaza.

Car enthusiasts with a prized vehicle to show can register online at or onsite the day of the event starting at 11am. The top ten Best in Show winners will be voted on by the event’s attendees, given plaques to commemorate their titles and announced around 3:30 pm. Other awards include “Furthest Driven,” “2 Doors Too Many” for the most popular four-door, and “Rattiest Rat,” for the most creative “rat rod.”

Cruisin’ the Village has more to offer than cars; it’s a full day of fun. The Rock-A-Sonics take the stage for a free concert at 4:30pm. At dusk, the 1973 George Lucas classic American Graffiti will be shown on the big screen outside.

Village at Leesburg is located along Route 7 at the Crosstrail Boulevard/River Creek Parkway exit in Leesburg.

Article posted from the Purcellville Gazette >>


Daytrip Dining: 9 Top Restaurants Outside Washington, D.C. Worth the Drive #savortheroad

We didn’t tackle every delicious corner of the country in our 2015 Summer Road Trip Restaurant Guide, so we are pleased to highlight top restaurants outside Washington, D.C., that are perfect for daytrip dining — or worthy of a stop on your mid-Atlantic road trip. 

Sometimes you need to get out of the city for a little while to leave the noise and haste behind. What better reason to escape than a memorable meal? Luckily for DCists, the countryside surrounding the nation’s capital is home to a bounty of road-trip-worthy restaurants. Whether you’re in the mood for a white tablecloth treat or more casual fare, there are plenty of options. We’ve picked our nine favorite reasons to drive outside Washington, D.C., for dinner.

Click here to read complete list »

Leesburg’s Smokehouse Live: Barbecue & Smokin’ Tunes

For Smokehouse Live co-owner Jim Foss, the restaurant’s blues and Americana music lineup is an added treat for patrons looking to enjoy tasty barbecue. But he admits that with the venue’s sweet lineup of up-and-coming performers—both national and local—there likely will be plenty of folks for whom music is the main draw.

“One of the great things that goes with barbecue is music,” Foss said. “We’re a restaurant first and an entertainment venue secondly. The music program was created to be an amenity to our guests so people can come in and eat some barbecue and watch some really good bands in a family environment.”

The restaurant, which opened in June, is a joint venture between Foss, a former vice president of operations and corporate chef for Capital Restaurant Concepts, and Kris Diemar, a veteran of several big name DC-area restaurants. Both men live in Loudoun—Foss in Sterling and Diemar in Hamilton—and they had talked about launching a restaurant for several years.

The Village at Leesburg location was conveniently between their homes and also offered the right ambiance.

“We love the little town center here,” Foss said. “It has a nice, upbeat, eclectic feel to it, and we were hoping to give people reason not to go into DC for the night. We really wanted to have a one-stop shop for people to come out and eat and have a nice time out with us.”

Foss, who runs the back of the house, is focused on high-quality, pit-smoked meats always smoked the day they’re served and sold by the pound, as well as homemade sauces, and hot and cold sides. The restaurant offers 12 beers on draft, wine, specialty cocktails and more than 80 American whiskeys.

But the music side is a big part of the operation for the partners, who have hired an in-house music booker and music program manager. Upcoming shows include the Levi Stephens Band, Karen Jonas and Thom Shepherd. Foss is particularly excited about Nashville-based Humming House, which appears Aug. 22.

The venue also offers family-oriented Americana/bluegrass brunches on Sundays (music is free with brunch), a popular monthly karaoke night with a live band. The karaoke night is free, and most shows run between $10 and $20.

Mississippi-based blues artist Jarekus Singleton, who appears Aug. 14, is exactly the kind of emerging artist the venue is looking for, said Smokehouse Live publicist Melissa Gold.

“We’re hoping to do a lot of Americana music, which is kind of all-enveloping: singer-songwriters, blues, bluegrass, some rock, but more of the soulful music. Jarekus really falls into that lane really, really well. We like to get a lot of up-and-coming bands, and he happens to be one of those,” Gold said.

For more information and a music schedule, go to