Sunday, October 11, 2015

RGV Profile: J. D. Davidsmeyer

A few weeks ago, I wrote about Smokin' Aces North Barbecue adding Pitmaster J.D. Davidsmeyer to their team in order to offer some of the best barbecue in the Rio Grande Valley. Yes, you can go have some drinks at the bar; but, you absolutely must have a steak while you're there. Today, we are going to focus a little bit on the Pitmaster himself, J.D. Davidsmeyer.

The question is, how does one become a Pitmaster? We all fancy ourselves great barbecue makers. We all have some technique to give us fairly edible barbecue, whether it be a barbecue sauce, a marinade, a rub, smoke, or some other trick to try to make the meat taste good. Does that make us Pitmasters? No. You don't just declare yourself a Pitmaster. To be a Pitmaster, you have to win competitions, consistently.

What we are talking about is the difference between puttering around the driveway with your skateboard and winning skateboarding competitions with cash prizes. It's the difference between playing 18 holes with your friends over some beers and winning the PGA circuit. It is the difference between grilling for your family on the weekend and winning on the competitive barbecue circuit. Yes, it's a thing.

It's not enough to simply compete on the competitive barbecue circuit. You have to win, and then win some more.

This is why J.D. Davidsmeyer is a barbecue Pitmaster. The man has competed and won repeatedly. He has paid his dues by competing and going home empty-handed on more than one occasion. He worked his way up and finally is able to compete to win or place in one of the top levels.

Humble Origins

J.D. Davidsmeyer's first introduction to barbecuing was. like most of us, the family barbecue. He would help his father around age 14 and eventually took over the grill for family events. It was his family who first suggested that he enter into barbecue competitions. J.D. first teamed up with a neighbor to compete. He admits that for the first six years, he had team members come and go. For the most part, they would drink and goof off, yielding them exactly zero wins.

After six years, something changed. J.D. decided that he needed to start winning competitions. His game plan got serious. He started learning all he could about methods, meats, and the competitive circuit. He also found a mentor who helped J.D. learn how to be a Pitmaster. Specifically, his mentor taught Davidsmeyer how to run a team, how to be humble, how to be a family-oriented cooker, and more importantly, how to be a competitive cooker. Their relationship lasted 8 years until cancer took his friend.

All the work paid off. After six years of losing, Davidsmeyer's first win was at The Battle of Medina in San Antonio, where he took first place. After that first win, it was easier to win ensuing competitions, or to at least place in the Top 5. His experience has also taught him a variety of foods to make on the grill, such as pizza, vegetarian, cake, and other things you would not normally associate with barbecue.

After reaching success in the competitive barbecue circuit, J. D. Davidsmeyer's family encouraged him to try getting on TV shows. He eventually landed on the BBQ Pitmasters TV show, from which he gained much notoriety.

The Present Day

These days, J. D. Davidsmeyer is working the kitchen at Smokin' Aces North and doing other things that revolve around barbecue. For example, he likes to volunteer to cook for veterans organizations and even teaches barbecue classes over the weekend. The only non-barbecue activity he enjoys is riding his Victory motorcycle on his own or with his motorcycle club.

Given his work obligations, J. D. does not compete as much as in the past. However, that doesn't mean he's not working his craft. He puts his best into every plate he serves up in the Team Xtreme kitchen inside Smokin' Aces North. You don't have to follow the barbecue circuit to find some of the best grilled meats. All you have to do is stop by Smokin' Aces North to have a taste of real Pitmaster fare.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Come Get You Some BBQ at Smokin' Aces North

A couple of weeks ago, I visited Smokin' Aces North at the invitation of a friend. I did not realize what a great opportunity that was. Readers of this blog know that I Forrest Gump my way around greatness. But, before we go into my latest Gump move, know that Smokin' Aces North is currently in a transition. Aces North already had the bar part of "Bar & Grill" figured out. Now, they are working on the grill part of the Bar & Grill in a big way.

Smokin' Aces North wants to bring in lunch and family dining during the daylight hours. They will then transition to the bar focus after 9 pm. The menu is expanding to include many barbecue items such as the Brisket Sundae, Xtreme 1/2 pound burger, stuffed Poblano peppers, steaks, some of those really good chicken wings I tried last time, and also meals for kids.

Local diners are discovering that they can stop by Aces North during their lunch break for some delicious barbecue. Some folks are also taking the family in for dinner. There are plans on developing a food challenge for adventurous hungry types who want to eat a big meal and provide entertainment for other guests.

So here is why I am so excited. Aces North has brought JD Davidsmeyer of JD's Team Xtreme BBQ to operate the Team Xtreme kitchen. You may have seen JD Davidsmeyer on TV episodes of BBQ Pitmasters.

Here is a video of JD working on some Las Vegas Strip Steak for the show.

JD's kitchen is a joint venture between him and the ownership. That means that the other night when I visited Smokin' Aces, the wings were his work. In my own spaced-out mind, I though maybe it was the beer talking, or the cook just got lucky. I didn't realize there was real talent at work.

JD Davidsmeyer has tons of experience with competitive cooking and brings that skill set to Smokin' Aces North. His specialties are chicken and ribs; but, he knows his way around other meats too. In my last blog post about Aces, I wrote that I might have to go back and try the steak.

Well, JD read the post and invited me to try out the steak as his treat. I took the offer, of course. You don't turn down a pit master offering you a steak. At least not in Texas. We spent a good chunk of time interviewing. I'm going to write more about JD Davidsmeyer on another post. The guy has an interesting story about how he wound up making barbecue his passion in life. I don't say that barbecue is his passion lightly. There is a dead seriousness about JD when he talks about barbecue.


It's all about the process, according to JD. You have to really know your meats. At this point, I was really wanting to know my steak, so I asked him to show me how to cook a steak. We went back into the kitchen where he turned on the cast iron skillet and then shuffled through some steaks in the cooler to find one he liked. The steaks are marinaded for 15 hours before they are brought to the restaurant.

That is another thing that I want to point out. JD isn't just some cook frying steaks in a pan. When JD Davidsmeyer cooks, it's a commitment. After shutting down the kitchen at night, JD gets to work on the next day's meats at home. He mans the fire all night, taking power naps and checking on the meat periodically. He is done by 6 am when he finally gets some sleep. When it's time to go to work, he brings the meats with him to the restaurant.

All of JD's dedication pays off. That steak went from the refrigerator, to the grill, to my plate. Not once was it touched by salt, pepper, or a sauce. He did lightly baste the steak with butter to flame sear the steak.

When I started eating the steak, it was amazing. It was as juicy on the outside as it was on the inside. It was tender and a delicious pink. Normally for me, steaks taste good, but they are missing something, which is a steak sauce or a squeeze of lemon. Once cooked, JD takes it personally if you put steak sauce on your meat before you even taste it. I would too, if I could cook a steak like he does. "Sauces are to cover up the f$%k-up", he says. Well prepared meat does not require the aid of any sauce. It is delicious on its own.

I cut off a chunk of the steak and went to town on it. As the steak got smaller, I started cutting smaller pieces to make it last longer. Things got so that started using mental tricks to make the experience better. I chewed slowly. I closed my eyes. And I tasted everything that steak had to offer. Oooh, yeah.

When you do stop by Aces North to have a JD's Team Xtreme BBQ steak, brisket, or chicken, consider yourself on the ground floor of something great. This is the start of a whole new experience at Smokin' Aces North with the addition of JD's Team Xtreme BBQ kitchen. It is going to be a much better experience than you could get at some fancy pants barbecue restaurant. You want to try it out before the crowds show up.

Up next, I'm going to write about JD Davidsmeyer's journey in competitive barbecue.

Friday, August 14, 2015

McAllen’s Own: Remarkable Firefighter

I requested suggestions for interesting people in the Rio Grande Valley. Thanks to David Cruz for sharing this post on Juan Angel Gloria, Deputy Chief at McAllen Fire Department.

Saturday, August 08, 2015

An Evening at Smokin Aces North

Yesterday after work, a friend invited me to Smokin Aces North, a bar in McAllen near 10th Street and Martin. If you're into live music by local bands, you're probably familiar with Aces. Once upon a time, there was an Aces in Mission; but, people started complaining and things got political, so the place shut down. Still, even back then, they were big into the music scene. I think that's what's important here, that there are places for local talent to perform.

My buddy, +Richie Trevino, used have a rock band a few years back. He still writes songs here and there. It's cool to see that even though he isn't performing anymore, he supports other bands when he can. It was interesting to see that some of the other people at the bar were also performers. I didn't know that there was a community of artists in the RGV until last night.

Last night, Radio on Repeat was playing some cover songs. These are some young guys with good sound. The band consists of guitar player Joshua Lopez, vocalist Ray Hinojosa, bassist Joe Anzaldua, and drummer Caesar Elias. They had a good mix of cover songs that even an old guy like myself can enjoy.

If you get a chance to check out live performances here in the Rio Grande Valley, I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

One thing I wasn't expecting to find at Smokin Aces was that they have a kitchen. We ordered some of the fattest chicken wings I've ever had. They were delicious. One of these days, I'm going to have to give their steak a try.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

A Saturday at South Padre Island

Yesterday, my family and I went out to South Padre Island to cool off. The Rio Grande Valley has had weather in the 90s until these past couple weeks, which are the dog days of summer, or as you will hear called around here, "la canicula". If there ever was a time to go spend some time at the beach, it is now.

You have probably heard of people in New York City who have lived there all their lives and never visited the Statue of Liberty, or any of the famous attractions. Living there, they can go any time they choose, so they don't go. I think it's the same here in South Texas with South Padre Island. Our family does not go and take advantage of this great attraction very often. It's there. We could go any time.

In fact, we have typically gone to the beach at South Padre Island during the off season, closer to November. The weather is still warm and the water is still warm. More importantly, we do not have to deal with the traffic.

On the way to the beach during the summer, traffic slows down in Laguna Vista. Then, you are creeping along through Port Isabel, the Queen Isabela causeway, and then the City of South Padre Island to find your favorite beach access. The excitement of getting on the beach makes the trip out less daunting.

After sunset, however, the reverse trip gets as congested as the trip onto the island as vacationers begin their exodus.

But, if you don't mind spending a little more time on the island, you can avoid a good chunk of the return traffic by waiting it out at the bay side.

The cool thing about South Padre Island is that there are two beaches. One beach faces the Gulf of Mexico. The other beach faces the Laguna Madre. So, before sunset, you can drive from the beach access to the bay access and watch the sun go down over the water. The bay side of South Padre Island is much calmer than the Gulf side. You can hang out and picnic as the sun sets and the other vacationers sit in traffic.

Of course, even if you're not that into going to the beach, South Padre Island has much to offer in terms of outdoor activities. What makes the outdoors attractive at the Island is that the outdoor temperature is typically much cooler there than it is inland. So, even without splashing around in the water, you would suffer the summer less.

Rob Nixon of Waiting for the Next Swell, recently wrote a post about sharks. I didn't mention sharks to my family lest they freak out. But, I figured that a little vigilance on my part would suffice. I did see the occasional bird diving into the water after fish; but not many. We weren't exactly getting slapped in the face by fish that would attract sharks. We did see minnows darting around in the water, which was surprisingly less murky than I remember. In the end, we survived a fun day at the beach.

I did spend a couple hours today cleaning the sand out of the car. One thing about going to the beach is that sand gets EVERYWHERE. Despite the extra work, I figure the fun we had was worth the cleanup.

Except for a film camera, I left all my electronics in the car. Sand, humidity, and salt are not kind to electronics. Furthermore, nothing posted online could be as interesting as our little escape. I'll take the film in for developing some time this week. I am not anxious to plaster the interwebs with photos of our weekend getaway, like I would have done a few years back. The only reason I'm writing about this today is to suggest that you take your family to the beach.

It is only a short while longer before school starts up again. It is going to be really hot between now and then, and probably after. But, once school starts, things get complicated. You are less likely to go. Now is a good time to hit up South Padre Island for all the good times it has to offer. They have shopping, restaurants, bungee rides, the beach, a movie theater, boat rides, rental bikes and carts, and, most importantly, stories your family can tell about the good times they had.

Monday, July 13, 2015

The End of Our Good Weather Run

I was shocked to see the temperature reach 100 degrees the other day. Shocked I say!

The run of 90 degree weather we have enjoyed up to now has run out. Back are the days of 100 degrees.

I had hoped we would make it through the full summer in the 90s. That would be so nice.

So, what now?

Well, there are some things you can do:

  • Visit your local municipal pool for some swimming
  • Visit your library during the hot hours. Have some quiet "me time". 
  • Go shopping
  • The movies have always been a good way to escape the heat. Hit the matinees.
  • Go outdoors. Since you're going to be hot and sweaty anyway, go do some outdoor stuff. At least you'll have something to show for your perspiration.
  • Go to South Padre Island. Sharks be damned. They can't bite everybody. You have good odds of keeping even numbers of limbs.
That's all I can think of off the top of my head. Do you have any ideas?

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Save Camp Lula Sams

I realize that this is a bit last-minute; but, it is important. A few days ago, I was contacted by +Karine Aigner regarding a campaign to save Camp Lula Sams, which is 85.7 acres of land formerly used by the Girl Scouts. The property is now up for sale, which prompted a campaign to raise money to save it. 

The important thing to know about Camp Lula Sams is that it is one of those properties that is home to all manner of wildlife and flora that appeals to nature lovers, photographers, and the occasional biology nerd. 

You can keep up with the campaign by liking their Facebook Page at .

Important Date:

There is a fundraiser dinner on May 16. Yes, that is in 2 days. Tickets are $40 each. Obviously, the more tickets are sold, the more money there is to save Camp Lula Sams. Below are the details of the event.

Another Important Date

Being chock-full of helpfulness, I should also inform you that  from now until June 15th, there is a Photography Tournament being sponsored by the Images for Conservation Fund and the Valley Land Fund. 

Entrance fees and photos will be used to help raise money to (drumroll, please) . . .  save Camp Lula Sams. A portion of the fees will be used for prizes for the top photographers. You can find out more details at: 

Why This Is Important To RGV Life

One of the reasons I started RGV Life was because I would often hear negative things about living in the Rio Grande Valley. Often it would be about what we do not have or about what we do wrong. Well, Camp Lula Sams is one of those things that our community in South Texas has done right. We should protect it. We should celebrate it. More importantly, we should save it. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

Waze App Is Helpful in the Rio Grande Valley

Lately, I have been using the +Waze app more and more to get around here in the Rio Grande Valley. Granted, the RGV is not quite San Antonio or Houston in terms of traffic. Still, there are areas that get congested during different times of day, which makes it frustrating at times.

In case you are not familiar with Waze, it is a mobile app that calculates the fastest route between your current location and your destination. Waze does this by tracking data sent by users like myself. Their servers recognize patterns and figure out the best route to take based on data sent from others users. If traffic slows down on your route, Waze will even reroute you to a better path.

Normally, you would use GPS to find places you have never visited. Waze can help you find locations like any old GPS; however, Waze is useful even when you know exactly where you are going because it is watching traffic ahead of you.

For example, in the mornings and afternoons, streets near schools get congested because parents are dropping off and picking up their m'hijos at school. Going around those areas can save you a couple of minutes. Waze manages to route around these busy areas so that you aren't stuck waiting behind a line of cars taking turns at the school drop off zone.

Personally, I pick up and drop off my oldest from +The University of Texas-Pan American (UTPA) regularly. Going from Mission to Edinburg will take different amounts of time depending on the time of day. Waze surprises me by picking different paths between home and UTPA. Even driving home from McAllen to Mission takes different paths. Sometimes Waze takes Bicentennial to the Expressway, sometimes it chooses 3 Mile Line.

Every once in a while, Waze will pick what seems like a strange path to get on a highway or to cut through town. It chooses streets that are almost completely empty and get me to my destination faster than I thought possible.

The RGV has sufficient traffic and enough users to make Waze a useful tool for getting around. Of course, the more people who use Waze for even routine drives, the better it gets. Waze definitely has a place in the daily drive. I recommend it.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Best Time of Year in the Rio Grande Valley

We are in the best time of year for the Rio Grande Valley in terms of temperature. Mornings are cool, days are warm and evenings are pleasant. This is the sort of weather that inspires one to go out for a walk to enjoy the glory of the outdoors, whether it is rural or in town.

Obviously, not all is perfect with this time of year. Allergies run rampant for those who suffer them. On my part, I get leaky eyes; whereas, others in my family get the whole stuffy face and headache with their allergies.

We have discovered that air purifiers are a tremendous help. Not only do the  allergy sufferers in my home sleep better, they wake up in a better mood.

Coming back to the weather this time of year, I love it because the heat is not oppressive during the day like it is in summer. Summer days start off sweaty. I would say humid and hot; but, that's not how it feels. As soon as you step outside into the day, you start to sweat like a cheese with your patina of moisture, even in the morning. As the day heats up to triple digits, it can feel slightly suffocating.

In that kind of weather, going out for a walk, even in the mornings, is unpleasant. Forget walking in broad daylight.

Winter is no better. No. Winter is not too bad when the air is simply cold without wind or rain. I think what makes winter in the RGV unpleasant is the rain and wind. This is probably the same the world over, mind you. The best winter days are those in which the air is still. There is a crispness to the the outdoors on still winter days where everything seems more real. Perhaps it is the overcast soft lighting in which you don't have to squint.

Our version of spring time and after the summer heats are the best times because we have the crisp mornings and evenings, with the comfort of warm days.

This time of year in the Rio Grande Valley is the best for barbecues and spending time outside with friends and family. Entertaining guests, even in modest homes, is possible, because the outdoors is your entertaining room.

I'm going to miss this weather when the summer arrives. For now, I'll just pop some allergy pills and go to to enjoy our little corner of creation.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Orange Blossoms

Spring is almost in the air.  We are seeing blooms around the RGV.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

RGV Commute Is Great For Learning

You could learn a great deal if you have to travel between South Padre Island and Roma. I don't imagine many of us make the full drive; but many of us drive somewhere in between. Recently my work requires driving from McAllen to Rio Grande City or McAllen to Raymondville. These aren't the longest drives in the world. However, if you fire up audio books or podcasts, you can learn some things.

There have been plenty of people to recommend Automobile University over the years. The idea started back in the day when you could buy a book on cassette. That later evolved to books on CD. Today's technology allows you to purchase and download an audio book in seconds. Thus, you can learn all manner of things if you put the effort into it.

Personally, I use Audible for my audio books because of its tie-in with Amazon. But, there are plenty of other places where you can download some books, such as, Google Play, iTunes, and Librivox among others.

If you are not into books, preferring radio show-like productions, then you can download podcasts and play them on the go.

There are plenty of places in the RGV where there is slow traffic that give you 10 to 20 minutes of listening time. A little here and a little there adds up.

Some of my favorite drives are the open areas between La Joya and Rio Grande City, or between Harlingen and Brownsville. Of course, there is the open country on the way to South Padre Island. But, even a boring commute to the office is 20 minutes of listening you can put in.

Some time ago, I did the opposite, calling in a Blog Talk Radio show for 30 minutes during my commute to work. We have the time to do things, is my point, if we use some of that wasted time in our lives.

Fortunately, the RGV being the land of tomorrow can result in tons of wasted time, which you can use for self-improvement.

If everybody in the Valley takes heed of my words, we could become some of the best educated people in the state.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Signs of Spring 2015 in the RGV

Signs of Spring in the RGV
We have had some warm days in the 2014-2015 winter. Here we are mid-February. It is likely Spring will roll in, except for Spring Break. For some reason the weather likes to hit us with a cold front for Spring Break.
Peach blossoms

Blooming Aloe

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