Sheboygan, Wisconsin, native SAM MOULTON shares the secrets of the state's savory pork link
KEEP IT IN WISCONSIN: Johnsonville brats are available nationwide. But if you need to impress your in-laws from Oconomowoc, mail-order from Usinger's (usinger.com), the best pork ever packed in a tube. NEVER BOIL: I grill mine over charcoal, right out of the package, but some of my people think they taste better if you parboil them in a light lagerlike PBRand sliced onions. If you go that route, simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, and never let them boil; it splits the casings. RESPECT THE BUN: Brats taste best on a warm, buttered hard rollbasically a Bavarian semmel. Beyond the Cheddar Curtain, you'd best bake your own (bratwurstpages.combratsides). A brat on a hot-dog bun is like pinot in a paper cup. DRESS IT RIGHT: Chopped onion, pickles, sauerkraut, and dark brown Düsseldorf mustard make the best combo. And, yes, it is acceptable to squirt ketchupbut not too muchon your brat.
A COMPARISON OF GRILL FIREPOWER
WHAT IT DOES TO THE MEAT: Clean, consistent heat with an automatic igniter and adjustable flame mimics, well, a stove. But for convenience, you cant beat it.
WHAT IT DOES TO YOU: Outside, gas is the cleanest, safest fuel.
WHO ITS FOR: The metro man whos too busy for charcoal.
BUY: Webers Q 320 packs heavyweight perfor-mance into a 36.5-inch footprint, with 21,700 BTU from two burners. $460; weber.com
WHAT IT DOES TO THE MEAT: Low, indirect heat can slow-cook even a whole hog. Smoke breaks down tough muscle fibers until the meat falls apart.
WHAT IT DOES TO YOU: In high doses over time: stomach cancer.
WHO ITS FOR: Nose-to-tail meat aficionados.
BUY: The ceramic XL (14 lamb racks) Big Green Egg, modeled on old Japanese kamado cookers. $1,000; stand, $100; biggreenegg.com
WHAT IT DOES TO THE MEAT: Ceramic tiles convert natural gas to infrared. The focused heat speed-cooks perfectly seared outsides and pink middles.
WHAT IT DOES TO YOU: About the same as gas.
WHO ITS FOR: The well-heeled foodie with a quiver of grills.
BUY: Toss the 20-pound Solaire Anywhere portable in your truck for high-tech tailgating. $400; rasmussen.biz
WHAT IT DOES TO THE MEAT: Burns hot to sear in flavor. Add wood chips for notes of smoke. Downer: Theres ash to clean up, and its tough to control the heat.
WHAT IT DOES TO YOU: Grease vapor is a potential carcinogen.
WHO ITS FOR: Old-school grill masters; your dad.
BUY: The Napoleon Apollo has a Space Age design and side compartments for oven cooking. $200; napole-ongrills.com
The perfect party mix doesn't exist. But some people know better than others. And few can be trusted more than the folks at the Hi-Tone Cafe, in barbecue capital Memphis, Tennessee. The pizza joint hosts about 1,000 bands for 300 shows a yearboth local and national touring acts. "If a tremendous band is playing rooms our size,"says owner Jonathan Kiersky (who suggests the rootsy starter mix here), "they will be playing the Hi-Tone."
1. "Honey, I'm Too Old for You," Jack-O and the Tennessee Tearjerkers
2. "Push and Pull," Viva L'American Death Ray Music
3. "T New," Antenna Shoes
4. "Desert Sun Played," Vending Machine
5. "Is There a Ghost," Band of Horses
6. "So Much Trouble," Matt Pond PA
7. "Ugly Things," Unknown Hinson
8. "The Cry of Melora," Black Cobra
9. "Last Day of Winter," Pelican
10. "Veni Vidi Vici," Black Lips
There's only one brand of potato chip worth eating: Kettle. Go with?sea salt and vinegarblue bag. Unlike reconstituted fakers, they're made from whole potatoes and flavored with actual dehydrated vinegar, which is brutally tangy on the tongue. If you eat the whole bag, like I sometimes do, you're likely to burn off your taste buds. They'll grow back.