A Back Street, Street Food Hero

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I have often questioned my sanity when it comes to my love of good food and the distances I go sometimes. I mean, how far should you travel to sample it. Is there a maximum distance? How far is a reasonable amount of miles? Previously the furthest I have been willing to travel is about 40 miles in any given direction but twice now in the space of 8 months I have found myself prepared to travel to even greater lengths to experience the Holy Grail that is good food. My first such journey was to Manchester, where in May of last year I went to The British Street Food Awards Northern event at Guerilla Eats. While at Guerilla Eats I sampled some of the nicest food I had eaten in a long time. One such food was an Arepa, a tasty, toasty, carby maize bread that is filled with authentic home made Latin American fillings. Now Arepa! Arepa! Arepa! and their food moved me and they firmly planted themselves in my memory that day as some of the tastiest food I had tried while at Guerilla Eats. Fast forward if you would to November 2014. While browsing through Twitter I came across a post by GRUBMCR for an event on the 31st of January 2015 and, yes you’ve guessed it, it was going to be in Manchester and yes, I was about to embark on another 450 mile door to door journey to eat good food. Unbeknown to me at the time, GRUBMCR were in fact the lovely folks behind Arepa! Arepa! Arepa!. Once I had established this, I knew that the event they were organising was going to be a success. The event in question was The Winter Beer Festival 2015 or #WBF15 as it became known. A beer festival? In winter? Are you mad? I jokingly thought at the time, not once doubting their ability to organise an event such as this. The event was to be held at The Runaway Brewery. a micro brewery utilising the old railway arches on Dantzic Street Manchester M4. A relatively new brewery run by Mark and Darren who pride themselves on doing it right. For them, brewing isn’t just about the end product, it is about the process – the journey. So to them, if it is worth doing, it is worth doing right. The Winter Beer Festival was initially going to be held over 3 sessions. Saturday day, Saturday evening and a Sunday session ending early evening. Due to the sheer numbers of people buying tickets as a result of the attention the #WBF15 was getting via various social media platform and the buzz the event had created as far a field as South Wales, it was decided that another session, Friday evening would be added. Now as is traditional with such events, food also plays a big part so I was intrigued to find out who would be there selling their fine fayre to accompany the many beers that GRUBMCR were planning to have attend. I wasn’t to be disappointed. In attendance were Fu-Schnikens, who at The British Street Food Awards 2014 with their steamed buns, Nam Plah wings and Ramen had won themselves the “Best of the Best” award. COMIDA, run by Anna & Jamie who’s Spanish street food is inspired by trips to Barcelona and included menu item’s such as Octopus with a Romesco Sauce and Black Truffle and Manchego Croqueta’s. Then there was The GingerTart with her Bretzels, a perfect and traditional accompaniment to beer. Louise is fanatical about sweet treats and more. She is also a very accomplished and passionate Pastry Chef. Her Bacon Brownies, yes I did say Bacon, were unbelievable and were eaten so fast you’d swear I hadn’t eaten for days. A feast fit for a King I hear you say. More than enough choice for any hardened Street-food clientele? No!!!! There was 1 more Street-food trader in attendance. A man who some say is half man, half BBQ and if you put him up to your ear you can actually hear Texas and on certain times of the year, if you lick his left cheek he actually tastes of Ribs. With an introduction like that I can only be referring to one man. That man is Andy from #Andy’s Low ‘n’ Slow# a Birmingham based smoked BBQ who specialises in Texas style Brisket and Ribs, Pulled Pork and melt in the mouth Ox-cheeks that all have such a depth of flavour you know that his food is produced with love. Anyone who doesn’t know Andy or his food would think after their first taste that he had be perfecting his craft for a lifetime. Tweaking his rub recipe, sourcing the finest meats and Ribs or using nothing but the best wood in his magnificent Weber Smoker. Oak, Plum, Pear, Apple and Hickory have all adorned his smoker at one time or another so this shows how serious Andy is about his craft. Andy has been Q’ing for approximately 18 months now, supported by his parents and accompanied at all his events by his partner Donna. The menu isn’t extensive, it doesn’t need to be. All the usual suspects are present, accompanied by some awesome home-made mustard slaw, dill pickle, sweet heat BBQ sauce, which when served in a steamed, toasted Demi Brioche Bun is enough to make a grown man cry tears of joy as the first bite is taken. An explosion of flavours goes off in your mouth as one taste sensation leads to another. Andy uses only the best ingredients and that shows in the eating experience. Painstakingly perfecting the rub that goes onto his baby back ribs for example. There are no packet mixes here. Every herb, spice or sugar used is researched to ensure they will not only compliment each other but ultimately compliment his Hickory smoked baby back ribs for example. I tried to prize out of him just what goes into his rub but as with any self respecting genius who guards their recipes, Andy was very coy and hesitant in giving me any more details other than some of this, some of that. I did however, come away with some of his rub for use at home. His dedication to his craft is ultimately what has lead Andy to be so successful. Nobody willingly gives away their secrets to anyone. Regular gigs at various street food events in his home town of Birmingham, appearing at The BBC’s Good Food Show in Birmingham’s N.E.C. and sell out appearances where ever he goes mean #Andy’s Low ‘n’ Slow# is hot property. It is no wonder that he sells out on a regular basis, his food is quite simply delicious. Having to say “Sorry, sold out” is one of the most difficult things a Street Food trader has to do. Nobody wants to turn people away after sometimes queuing for food that simply, due to logistics is only enough for a certain amount of people. There is an obvious solution to this but as Andy explained to me as he and I chatted at The Winter Beer Festival, it isn’t always possible to cater for everyone even though he would love to. I tried just about everything on Andy’s menu that day except for the ribs. They had been in his Weber smoker, which due to fact it gives off smoke, had to be situated outside and was at the mercy of a typical sunny but very cold and slightly windy January Manchester day so the cooking process was extended beyond the time I was able to stay. I wasn’t perturbed by the fact I hadn’t experienced them, I shall just have to make sure I do the next time I get the opportunity to pay #Andy’s Low ‘n’ Slow# a visit after all I have now been accepted in to the #Low ‘n’ Slow# family with open arms.

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