Columns by John

John Brown has been a wine and food columnist in West Virginia since the 1980’s. His regular columns appear in the Charleston (WV) Gazette-Mail under the title Vines & Vittles and in The State Journal - a statewide business weekly

Try my Hub Bub Rub and a good bottle of red!

I was all set to present you with a scrumptious wintertime meal recipe, and suggest some tasty wines to accompany this heavy, full-flavored dish. But the February weather hasn’t cooperated, and that’s a good thing because, unlike most rational folks, once I get that hankering to cook outside, I don’t ever let snow, wind or rain interfere with my decision.

So with this month’s balmy weather, I decided to leap forward to spring, summer and fall (also known as grilling season) to fire up my trusty old Weber Performer grill. And today, I’m going to provide you with a simple dry rub recipe that will transform any slab of beef, pork or chicken into a culinary masterpiece. It’s also delicious rubbed on salmon filets. And it works well on just about every cut of meat from prime to not so prime.

However, I am very particular where I shop for meat and seafood. I believe that even good meat can be (excuse the phrase) butchered by an inexperienced or oafish meat cutter. Here in Charleston, we are fortunate to have access to the highest quality meats and seafood you’ll find anywhere in our Wild and Wonderful state.

General Steak and Seafood Market on Quarrier Street is my go-to stop for edible protein. Their beef, veal, pork, lamb, chicken and seafood selections are hand cut right before your eyes. Buzz Food Service provides the professionally butchered meats as well as providing the seafood straight from the ocean. And Robin Harman in the shop puts the finishing touches on the meat selections you buy. Same goes for the myriad fresh seafood selections where several talented fishmongers (afishianotos?) will gladly filet your choice of sea creatures.


I had the pleasure of buying a couple of prime beef tenderloin steaks at General Seafood which I used to grill for my lovely wife and I on Valentine’s Day. But remember, this spice rub works as well on hamburgers, pork tenderloin, chuck steak, pork chops, or seafood too. I call it Hub Bub Rub and here is the recipe: Two parts of light brown sugar to one part each of smoked paprika and kosher salt (or our own local salt from J.Q. Dickinson Salt Works).

To prepare the meat for the rub, remove it from the refrigerator for about one-half hour before you’re ready to grill. Then rub the meat all over and let it stand for another 15 minutes before placing it on the grill. For my beef filets, I used two tablespoons of light brown sugar and one tablespoon each of smoked paprika and salt. I grilled the meat to medium rare and served it with sauteed mushrooms, grilled onions, poblano peppers, sweet red peppers and green beans.

For prime meats, I prefer to pair merlot, cabernet sauvignon and Bordeaux-style red blends, but not the really big, purple monster wines. I try and match the flavor and intensity of each element (the wine and meat) so that neither one dominates the other, and the tastes are in sync. For this meal, I chose a relatively inexpensive cabernet sauvignon from the Alexander Valley of Sonoma County, California.

2019 Alexander Valley Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon ($22) – This is a medium-bodied cabernet that has just the right amount of fruit sweetness, tannin and balancing acidity to make it a copacetic pairing with my Hub Bub Rub. The wine has a slight smoky quality too that really draws out the smoked paprika flavors in the grilled filets.

Other wines that would make a good pairing with this dish are: J. Lohr Seven Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon; ($21); Chateau Ste. Michelle Indian Wells Merlot ($19); 2019 Marchesi Frescobaldi Tenuta Perano Chianti Classico (($22); and 2016 Marques de Caceras Rioja Excellens Cuvee ($24).

So go out and take advantage of this year’s early grilling season. Get a big hunk of meat or seafood, pat it down completely with my Hub Bub Rub, and then pair it with one of the tasty reds mentioned above. I think you’ll like this combo.

John Brown is also a novelist. His latest book Augie’s World, is a sequel to his debut novel, Augie’s War. Both novels are available in print and audio at Amazon. You can find out more about his novels and wine columns at

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