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JUNE 18, 2017

Hitching Post celebrates

65 YEARS OF BARBECUE Family-owned Casmalia restaurant renowned for its indoor open-flame style MIKE HODGSON


hen the subject of barbecue comes up on the Central Coast, perhaps no restaurant has a better reputation for consistently good food than the Hitching Post in Casmalia. It’s a reputation that stretches back more than half a century to 1952, when brothers Frank and Victor Ostini and nephew Jerry Ransom purchased the restaurant, located in an 1890s building that had previously housed a hotel, an Italian restaurant, a barber shop, a pool hall and a bar. By the time the Ostinis and Ransom finished the deal, the Hitching Post already had its name and an outdoor oakwood barbecue, the first of its kind in the area. Frank did all the cooking there, while Victor tended bar and worked in the kitchen. “At that time, there were only three steaks on the menu — New York, filet, top sirloin,� said Bill Ostini, who now owns the restaurant with wife Sally. “You didn’t get to choose. You ordered rare, medium rare, medium-well, well done, and he picked the steak for you.� One reason is because the Ostinis purchased beef loins, then broke them down themselves. As a result, only a limited number of each cut was available each night.


Chef Luis Meza grills steak, ribs, vegetables and artichokes at the Hitching Post in Casmalia. Another reason is that certain cuts are meant to be cooked certain ways, Ostini said. “One of the secrets of cooking is knowing how to cook steaks,� he said. “You can’t cook a medium-well cut medium-rare. It just won’t work.� Eventually, Victor left the business, and when Frank died, the Hitching Post was taken over by his sons Bill and Frank Jr., who had virtually

grown up in the restaurant. “My earliest childhood memory is sleeping in a big brass bed where my desk is now,� Bill said. “I had a knife in my hand when I was 6 or 7 years old. I’d trim the roasts.� The Hitching Post still serves up steaks cut on site by the chefs and cooked over an open oakwood fire, although the fire Please see BARBECUE, Page A2

Steak and artichokes at the Hitching Post in Casmalia. LEN WOOD, STAFF

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Frank Ostini, Sr. stands behind the Hitching Post’s original indoor barbecue pit in 1955.


Steak, ribs, vegetables and artichokes cook on the grill at the Hitching Post in Casmalia.

Barbecue From A1

pit is now inside the restaurant where diners can watch their food being cooked. Until two years ago, those steaks were all cooked by Bill Ostini. “I cooked for 35 years,” he said. “If my back didn’t hurt, I’d still be

cooking. I love to cook.” TRADITION CONTINUES‌ Now, the cooking duties are handled by brothers Luis and Phil Meza, who both have worked at the restaurant since they were young and who Ostini trained himself. “We cook steaks the same way my dad did 40 or 50 years ago,” he


Bill Ostini shows off grilled steak, ribs and vegetables at the Hitching Post in Casmalia. said. “We buy the best meat, then we handle it with kid gloves. “Red oak really makes the difference,” he added. “It has its own unique flavor.” The menu has also grown over the years — the additions have included seafood and grilled vegetables — but it’s been a slow process. “I don’t like fixing things that aren’t broke,” Ostini said. “It took

them a year to talk me into putting artichokes on the menu. Now we serve a lot of them.” In fact, artichokes are one of the Hitching Post’s signature dishes, and like virtually everything else, they’re cooked over the open fire. “Nothing is cooked on a stove,” Ostini said. “We have a stove, but it’s used as a countertop. We have two ovens. The only things we

cook in those are the baked potatoes.” Another reason people come back year after year, bringing their friends, is the service, he said. “We have the best staff around,” he said, adding some have been there 20 to 25 years. “They work hard. You can have the best food in Please see BARBECUE, Page A3

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Sunday, June 18, 2017 | A3


The Hitching Post in Casmalia was opened in 1952 in a building dating back to the 1890s.


“That really hurt us,” he said. “It took us four or five years to recover From A2 from that. It’s why we opened the Hitching Post II in Buellton. We the world, but if the service is bad, wanted the landfill owner to buy people won’t come back.” us out, but when that didn’t work Ostini said, overall, the restau- out, we started looking around for rant weathered the recession well. another location. We bought the old Valley Steak House.” LOVING WHAT WE DO‌ Frank Jr. now runs that location. “We’ve always had such an outstanding reputation,” he said HIGH PROFILE GUEST LIST‌ this week, as he talked about the Over the years, the Casmalia Hitching Post’s 65th anniversary. restaurant has been frequented “Sometimes it’s hard to live up to by a lot of movie stars — “those that reputation, but we do it be- people don’t impress me much,” cause we love what we do.” Ostini said — and by four- and He said business was hurt five-star generals from Vandenmore by the issue of the Casmalia berg Air Force Base. Toxic Waste Dump, where leaking Even secretaries of defense have chemicals were making people dined at the Hitching Post. sick and a federal cleanup brought national headlines. Please see BARBECUE, Page A4 Steak cooks on the grill at the Hitching Post in Casmalia.




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“We know ahead when those people are coming,” he said. “They bring in dogs in the afternoon to sniff around and make sure there aren’t any explosives.” And he’s seen his share of characters, like the man who came in the first time and ordered a 48-ounce filet. “I’d never cooked a 48-ounce filet,” Ostini marveled. “He ate all of it but one bite. He kept coming in, but he backed off a little. He only ordered 30- to 32-ounce steaks.” Although the Hitching Post has gained a national and even international reputation, Ostini said he doesn’t believe the restaurant’s style has influenced other Central Coast restaurants that much. “This style of barbecue has been around here a long time,” he said. “Jocko’s, Shaw’s, the Far Western all cook on open flame and oak firewood. It’s all derived from the vaqueros from 150 years ago.” And he expects to keep serving up steaks the same way his father did for a long time to come. “We do it the way we do, and it works,” he said. “”We won’t change the way we do things.” An outside special events area at the Hitching Post in Casmalia features a koi pond and gardens.



The iconic Hitching Post sign in Casmalia.

Ribs and grilled vegetables at the Hitching Post in Casmalia.


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Grilling foods to be safe and healthy CONTRIBUTED

‌ eople rely on indoor and outP door grills to prepare foods all year long. Not only can menu items made on the grill taste delicious, but they also may be healthier than foods cooked via other methods. When done correctly, grilling is a versatile way to cook tasty foods relatively quickly. One of the challenges of cooking over high, open heat is the difficulty in determining just how long to keep foods over the flame. Take them off too soon and they may be undercooked. Wait too long and items may be dry and charred. Use these tips to make grilling easy and safe.

Preheat and prepare the grill‌

will not stick and create a mess that will ultimately require considerable cleaning.

Be sure to preheat the grill to Buy a meat thermometer‌ between 400 F and 500 F. Use a One of the easiest ways to take nonstick spray on the grates while the guesswork out of grilling is the grill is heating. This way foods to use a meat thermometer. By

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though the inside is still pink. Thermometers allow cooks to avoid cutting open foods to check doneness, spilling out tasty juices in the process. The U.S. Department of Agriculture advises on minimal internal temperatures for meats and poultry (https://www.fsis. get-answers/food-safety-factsheets/safe-food-handling/ safe-minimum-internal-temperature-chart/ct_index). Keep in mind that food continues to cook when it is taken off the grill. Therefore, removing a few minCONTRIBUTED‌ utes before it has reached a certain temperature is ideal. knowing internal temperatures in a few seconds, grillmasters can Fish is fast‌ have juicy foods that are cooked Don’t avoid grilling fish beto the correct temperature so cause of its delicacy. Using wood foodborne illnesses do not be- planks or any of the newer grillcome a problem. Cooking by sight ing gadgets available can keep is inaccurate, as the outside of flaky fish from falling through the food may look well done even the grates. Plus, fish is an ideal

go-to when one is really short on cooking time. If necessary, experiment with varieties of fish that are durable, such as salmon or tuna.

Leave an empty spot‌

Have an unheated area of the grill or one that is set to a low temperature so there is somewhere to move food if a flare-up occurs or if something is cooking too fast. This is also a good spot to finish foods that may need a little more time over indirect heat — such as burgers that require melted cheese.

Use sauce at the end‌

Avoid charring foods by using sugary sauces toward the end of cooking. Otherwise, the sauce can burn quickly and contribute to potentially carcinogenic char. Grilling can be made easier with a few tricks of the trade. The results will be delicious, healthy and safe to enjoy.


| SUNDAY, JUNE 18, 2017



Let grilled desserts

ADD SPARK to outdoor entertaining CONTRIBUTED



rilling immediately calls to mind smoky meats, vegetables and even seafood. However, many people may not know that grills can be an ideal place to cook dessert. Outdoor grills are relied on to impart flavor and facilitate outdoor entertaining. Yet, when it comes time to serve dessert, hosts and hostesses often turn to store-bought treats or delicacies that must be cooked in the oven.

But various delicious desserts can be prepared over an open fire.  Grilled fruit: Slice up melon, pineapples, peaches, mangoes — just about anything you can think of. Cook for a few minutes over low heat. The grill will help release the sugars and create that extra-tasty caramelization. Grilled fruit is a dessert without too many extra calories.  Grilled s’mores: S’mores are the quintessential campfire food, and they also can be cooked on the grill. If you don’t trust little ones

around the hot coals or propane, have them prepare the s’mores and then wrap them in foil. Adults can them toss them on the hot grates for a little while, until the foil packets can be unwrapped to unveil melted chocolate and marshmallow goodness.  Grilled cake: Use a firm cake, such as pound cake, and slice into thick pieces. Grill for a few minutes to warm, then top with fresh berries and homemade whipped cream for an easy and tasty treat.

 Grilled cobbler: Dutch ovens are one of the great tools of outdoor cooking. Dutch ovens are heavy, cast-iron pots that can be lowered into a campfire. However, Dutch ovens also can be placed in the belly of a grill. Line with foil and fill the Dutch oven with a favorite cake mix, the corresponding oil amount, fresh berries and even chocolate chips. Let cook for 30 to 40 minutes on low heat until the mixture is bubbly.  Grilled dessert pizza: Ready-

made or homemade pizza dough can be oiled and grilled over medium heat for a few minutes until grill marks form and the dough starts to puff and harden slightly. Turn over and cover with chocolate-hazelnut spread or some preserves. Grill for another few minutes until the dough is cooked through. Transfer to a cutting board and add sliced bananas. Grilled menu options can extend to dessert to make outdoor entertaining even easier.

How to prevent or safely extinguish grill flare-ups CONTRIBUTED

Flavor, convenience and the fun factor drives thousands of home cooks each year to fire up their backyard grills. Preparing meals over an open fire imparts smoky flavors to various foods, and can be a low-fat, quick method of cooking. Although grilling is full of benefits, cooking over an open flame also can be dangerous. Flare-ups are a safety risk that, if left unchecked, can lead to grill fires. As many as 10 people each year lose their lives due to grill fires. Prevention is the single best way to avoid damage and injury. After that, acting quickly and knowing how to safely tame flare-ups can help.

Preventing flare-ups  Although many consumer grills are designed to prevent flare-

ups, that does not mean they can’t still happen. Here are some ways to reduce the risk of high flames and overcooked foods.  Trim fat. Excess fat that drips down into the coals can ignite

easily. Trim as much fat as possible without sacrificing flavor. Consider using lean meats in burger patties.  Limit use of sauces and marinades. Sugary or oily marinades CONTRIBUTED

Stop making these 8 common grilling mistakes CONTRIBUTED

Cooking food over an open fire imparts all sorts of flavor. Grilling tends to be quicker, less messy and more convenient than cooking in the kitchen — particularly during the dog days of summer. Outdoor grills are everywhere, including nearly every backyard across the country. The Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association says $1.47 billion in grill sales were made in 2016. That grills are so commonplace doesn’t mean that everyone grilling is employing the right techniques. Becoming the ultimate grillmaster involves understanding the subtleties of grilling and avoiding common mistakes so food can look and taste that much better. 1. Not prepping the food: The French culinary term for preparing to cook is “mise en place.” This is especially important when grilling, as cooks must deal with faster cooking times than they would otherwise encounter when cooking meals in the stove. 2. Dirty grill: Make sure the grill is cleaned before and after

each use. Grease can quickly build up on a grill, leading to flare-ups that can cause foods to char. Frequent cleaning also helps grillmasters avoid a tiresome cleaning process at the start of the season. 3. Forgetting to preheat: Preheating the grill ensures that foods will cook quickly and as evenly as possible. Otherwise, meats can lose moisture and even stick to cooler grates. Reader’s Digest suggests preheating to between 350 F and 450 F depending on the food. 4. Overreliance on lighter fluid: The chemical taste of lighter fluid can transfer to foods even when the fluid is used sparingly. Consider using a chimney starter when grilling with charcoal. And avoid repeated pyrotechnics with fluid, or worse, gasoline. 5. Too much direct heat: Food should not char on the outside before the inside has a chance to cook. A two-zone fire, according to food experts at Serious Eats, enables grillmasters to cook over high heat to sear and then move

the food to a lower temperature to continue to cook evenly. 6. Playing with food: Grilling does not require much intervention. Repeatedly flipping and squeezing meat and poultry can cause flavorful juices to leak out. Then you’re left with dried-out food. Resist any urges to prod and poke food. And minimize how many times you lift the grill cover to take a peek, as that can cause temperatures to fluctuate. Use a thermometer to determine when food is done. And don’t forget that meat will still cook a bit after it’s taken off the grill. 7. Improper seasoning: Basting food with sugar-laden sauces and marinades too early can cause flare-ups and burning. Quick rubs can help lock in flavor, and then reserve the sauce for the last few minutes of grilling, says cookbook author Dave Martin. 8. Digging in too soon: Give meats a chance to rest for between five and 10 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute through the food. This improves flavor and tenderness.

and sauces may be more prone to ignition. Try dry rubs and then add a small amount of sauce when the heat is low during the final minutes of cooking.  Wait to grill until windy conditions abate. Oxygen fuels fires, and

wind that can channel between the grates may cause bigger flames. Try to keep the grill away from windy areas, or wait until breezes die down before cooking, if possible.  Leave the lid open. The grill manufacturer CharBroil advises

leaving the lid open when searing fatty foods.  Keep a clean grill. Remove residue from the belly of the grill

and clean the grates after each meal is made.  Handle flare-ups with care  If flames do rise, keep calm and try these techniques.  Leave room to move foods on the grill. Keep empty spots on the

grill where food can be moved if a flare-up occurs.  Turn off the burners. When using a propane grill, turn off the

gas when flare-ups begin. Then move the food to another area.  Starve the fire. If possible, close all vents and the lid to deplete

the oxygen supply to the fire.  Smother the flames. Never use water on a grill, as any existing

grease can pop and explode when it comes into contact with water. This also may cause flames to spread. Instead, use baking soda, salt or sand to put out greasy fires.  Keep a fire extinguisher handy. A class ABC fire extinguisher can

put out a multitude of different fires.  Call the fire department. If flames cannot be handled immedi-

ately, call the fire department and steer clear of the burning grill.  Grill fires can be dangerous. Taking steps to prevent flare-ups is

one way to stay safe when grilling. 00 1



Sunday, June 18, 2017 | A7

Gas grill safety tips CONTRIBUTED


Keep grilled foods warm CONTRIBUTED

‌Many people prefer the flavor of grilled foods over the flavor of foods cooked in other ways. Grilled foods certainly have distinct flavors, but that uniqueness can be compromised when some foods finish cooking before cooks are ready to serve them. Grilled foods may lose some flavor if they’re served cold or not as hot as cooks would like. But there are a handful of ways to keep grilled foods warm until they’re ready to be served. „„ Keep a low-heat zone on the grill. As foods finish cooking, move them to a predetermined low-heat zone on the grill where they will stay warm without overcooking. Monitor this area while cooking the foods to ensure it’s

warm but not hot enough to keep cooking foods once they have been moved. „„ Store cooked foods in aluminum foil. Moving foods off the grill and tenting them in aluminum foil is another way to keep them warm until serving time, though this might only work if cooks need to keep foods for just a few minutes. Create a tin foil tent and place foods inside. The tent can then be placed on a less hot area of the grill or placed into an oven that’s not on. Avoid tenting foods that are meant to have crispy skins, as tenting can moisten the skin. „„ Use the warming feature on the stove. Many stoves come with warming settings that keep foods warm without cooking them.

While this requires cooks to go indoors, it can help keep grilled foods warm while the rest of the meal continues cooking over the open flame. „„ Place foods in the slow cooker. If the stove is not an option because other components of the meal are being baked or broiled, grilled foods can be placed in ceramic slow cookers with lids. This can potentially keep foods warm for longer periods of time than aluminum foil tents without sacrificing flavor. Keeping grilled foods warm until it’s time to serve meals can be difficult. But grillmasters can employ various strategies to ensure grilled foods maintain their unique flavor without getting cold.

‌ackyard barbecues are a B warm weather tradition. While some brave men and women grill year-round, many reserve their outdoor cooking to those times of year when the weather fully cooperates. The laid back vibes of spring, summer and early fall can make it easy for grillmasters to overlook safety when cooking outside. But grilling requires that cooks prioritize safety. While both charcoal and gas grills can cause fires, the National Fire Protection Association says gas grills contributed to four out of five gas grill fires. The NFPA also notes that many of those gas grill-related fires can be traced to leaks or breaks in the hoses. The following are a handful of ways cooks can safeguard themselves, their families, their grills, and their homes against leaks or breaks in their gas grill hoses. „„ Inspect hoses at the start of each grilling season. Leaks, breaks or cracks in the hoses may occur when moving grills into the garage or shed for the winter. So it’s a good idea to inspect the hoses at the start of each season before using the grill for the first time each year. „„ Employ soap and water if you suspect but cannot find any leaks. Travelers Insurance recommends that men and women who suspect a leak is present but cannot find one apply a light solution of soap and water to the hose. If there is a leak, bubbles


Practicing safety when using a gas grill can be the best taste of the day.

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will appear. „„ Do not turn on the gas if the grill lid is closed. If the gas is turned on while the lid is closed, gas can build up inside and potentially ignite, causing the lid to blow off. So men and women should always make sure the lids of their grills are open before turning on the gas. „„ Stop grilling if you smell gas and see no flame. If there is no flame, but you still smell gas, turn off the tank and grill immediately. Some leaks may cease, at which time men and women can take their tanks to be serviced. If the leak persists, contact the local fire department. „„ Turn off the grill and cease cooking if you smell gas while food is on the grill. The odor of gas while cooking is another telltale sign of a leak, even if there is a flame and food appears to be cooking. Contact the local fire department if such a situation presents itself. „„ Close the valve after cooking. Always make sure the valve is tightly closed after cooking. „„ Store tanks away from the house. Propane tanks should always be stored away from the house. Near the end of each grilling season, homeowners may want to use what’s left of the gas in their propane tanks so they don’t have to store tanks over the winter. Grilling with gas can make for delicious meals, but men and women must prioritize safety around their gas grills to prevent fires and other accidents.

A8 | Sunday, June 18, 2017

Santa Maria Special Section1

Janet Silveria, President & CEO


705 West Central Avenue, Lompoc (805) 737-4064

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Santa Maria Style BBQ  
Santa Maria Style BBQ