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July 19, 2017
Picture, if you will, a big plate of barbecue. Depending on where you’re from, you might have an image in your head of a chicken leg doused in a dark red sauce, or maybe a tangy pulled pork sandwich with a side of almost-translucent dressing. Either of those are correct, of course. And barbecue fans will go back and forth all day as to which style of ‘cue is the most “authentic.”
But to limit barbecue, the unofficial foodstuff of summer, to a binary choice is to ignore grilling traditions from not only all over the country, but all over the world.
Mitch-Stuart has non-profit fundraising auction travel packages to use for any number of reasons, and many of them have culinary twists, whether it’s food tours or in-residence cooking lessons. If you’ve got donors who are connected at the hip to their grills, the type who like to look over the shoulder of the chef at every cookout, some of these alternative barbecue destinations may garner big bids at an auction.
Anyone who has seen Hawaii portrayed on television is likely familiar with the luau, where the party often barbecues a full pig. But that’s not the only way that Hawaiians prepare meat over an open flame. When on the island of Oahu, ask around for a good purveyor of huli-huli, which is chicken done rotisserie-style and, as one might expect, seasoned with a pineapple-forward marinade. While a full luau can be hard to find (and costly to attend), huli-huli is sometimes found even at stands or food trucks.
Really good ‘cue is likely a little too heavy for the health-conscious residents of Los Angeles. But head up the coast a couple of hours – closer to Santa Barbara – and you hit Santa Maria, the home of tri-tip barbecue. A Santa Maria-style plate of barbecue is likely to closely resemble a steak as served in a restaurant; seasoning is sparse, and the taste of the meat (and the smoke created by the oak-powered fire) is the star. The supporting cast, though, can steal the show; most Santa Maria-style barbecue joints will serve it alongside grilled French bread that’s been decadently dipped in butter.
And America does not have a monopoly on great grilling, of course. In Barcelona, the art of barbacoa involves a heavier emphasis on pork over cow or chicken, but it still tastes delicious all the same. And barbacoa in Barcelona is often done in a very communal atmosphere; festivals are prevalent, maybe as common as private, backyard affairs. And in Tuscany, like Santa Maria, there’s no sauce used (except for a finishing drizzle of olive oil), but the flavor that comes from the all-wood fire is plenty for most barbecue fans. With an emphasis on fresh elements (especially vegetables), European grilling is both healthy and flavorful.