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Big Apple Barbecue Block Party 2003

Fat Guy

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Admin: the thread for the 2004 edition of the Big Apple Barbeque Block Party may be found here.)


12-6PM Big Apple Barbecue Block Party -- Free Admission!

Jazz & Blues on the music stage -- Free Admission!

Purchase food & beverage coupons at-the-door

2-4PM Big Apple Barbecue Legendary Pitmasters Workshops at Jazz Standard (116 East 27th Street) -- Free Admission!

7:30 & 9:30PM Jazz & Blues at Jazz Standard (116 East 27th Street)

(11:30 Saturday only) Purchase tickets, call 212-576-2232

WHERE: East 27th Street, between Park Avenue South and Lexington Avenue

Blue Smoke and Jazz Standard at 116 East 27th Street, New York City

COUPONS: $1 each


Mike Mills, Memphis Championship Barbecue, Las Vegas, Nevada & 17th Street Bar & Grill, Murphysboro, Illinois

Rick Schmidt, Kreuz Market, Lockhart, Texas

Ed Mitchell, Mitchell's Ribs, Chicken, & Barbecue, Wilson, North Carolina

Chris Lilly Memphis in May 2003 Grand Champion & Don Mclemore, Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q, Decatur, Alabama

Ken Callaghan, Blue Smoke, New York, New York

FOUNDED & PRESENTED BY: Union Square Hospitality Group, Blue Smoke & Jazz Standard

More details here: http://bluesmoke.com/blockParty.html

Edited by slkinsey (log)

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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This did not show up in the Community Assistance Unit's listing of outdoor events ..... hmm !!! looks like Boomberg's cuts are having an impact :angry: on up-to-date info.

Thanks for the pointer -- Now if the weather just co-operates.


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What's the link on that?

New Yorkers are such wusses when it comes to rain. What's the big deal about a little rain?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I'm glad to see Ed Mitchell is representing North Carolina. His joint has been pretty much an unknown for years, but he's finally getting the recognition he deserves. He's a hell of a nice guy, too.

Dean McCord


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I was there, stood on line for coupons. Wandered around, got in line for some of Ed Mitchell's whole hog BBQ. Finally get my pig and pay for it, go to take a bite when the sky opens up and it starts pouring rain. I'm fumbling around with BBQ in one hand and an umbrella whose snap would not open in the other, among a crowd of similarly afflicted festival goers.

Finally got adjusted and was able to enjoy a less crowded venue in the couple of hours that followed. Am hoping the weather keeps crowds away from the Red Bank food and jazz fest as Sonny Kenn is scheduled to take the stage at 7pm, I'm selfish and don't like to wait in lines... :raz:


Give a man a fish, he eats for a Day.

Teach a man to fish, he eats for Life.

Teach a man to sell fish, he eats Steak

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Is it really worth going?

If I can be convinced to haul myself all the way to Little-India in the rain -- It must be something no ?

$6 a plate, $4 for Brooklyn Brewery beer :smile: Thanks to FG, it was worth a schelep.


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Is it worth going? Not if you don't like barbecue!

Otherwise, no question no question no question. Even if you lived in the South, even if you lived in Lockhart, even if you lived right in a barbecue pit, how often would you have the chance to sample all in one place, MetroCard-only travel expenses, no risk, six bucks a hit, the barbecue from Mike Mills (17th Street Bar & Grill, Murphysboro, Illinois), Rick Schmidt (Kreuz Market, Lockhart, Texas), Ed Mitchell (Mitchell's Ribs, Chicken, & Barbecue, Wilson, North Carolina), and Chris Lilly (Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q, Decatur, Alabama), plus our Ken Callaghan from Blue Smoke here in New York, New York, who was according to the word on the street holding his own just fine against the big boys?

I started up the block and came upon Mike Mills's operation, where he was smoking ribs in plain sight.


The deal is that for $6 (you buy coupons worth $1 each from the coupon booth and then spend them like cash anywhere in the event) you get a paper tray full of barbecue (whichever meat the particular joint is offering) plus usually some kind of bread and maybe a garnish. Some of the places also have sides at $1 each. Beer and such are available at another booth.



At the Kreuz's booth you had a choice of sausage or beef shoulder, or a combination.



I had planned to walk up the whole block and photograph each booth, the band, etc., but I saw this and stopped dead in my tracks:


I knew the place doing the whole hog, Mitchell's, was the place to be, so I started hovering around their area, taking photos of the hog and the guys working in the trailer (as in tractor-trailer, 18-wheeler, 10-ton semi -- the Mitchell's crew had brought a whole pit-equipped Mack truck up from North Carolina for the event).


Then I hit the jackpot, and the Mitchell's guys invited me up into the trailer to get a closer look and watch them tear down a whole hog.

They start it by hand, literally.


And then they move in with utensils to get at the rest of the meat.



Next they hand-chop the meat with two cleavers. (Some lesser establishments use a mechanical grinder/chopper but the cleavers allow for bigger chunks and better flavor.) Chopping the meat not only aids in seasoning and saucing, but also allows them to mix all parts of the hog together so you get a little bit of everything in your portion.


Then an army of men descends upon the chopped meat with vinegar, hot pepper flakes, and various other seasonings. It's all done by eye -- no preset measures.


They all mix it up by hand to incorporate the seasonings.


Finally, before being served, the pile of meat receives the blessing from the big man himself, Ed Mitchell.



Next we went inside to the Jazz Standard (downstairs from Blue Smoke) for a panel discussion on barbecue, featuring the four pitmasters and hosted by journalists John T. Edge and Robb Walsh. I'll let Fat Guy fill you in on what was said, and he can also provide you with barbecue tasting notes, but here's the cast of characters.

Rick Schmidt of the Kreuz Market in Lockhart, Texas


Ed Mitchell of Mitchell's Ribs, Chicken, & Barbecue in Wilson, North Carolina


Chris Lilly of Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q in Decatur, Alabama


Mike Mills of the 17th Street Bar & Grill in Murphysboro, Illinois


This was the first year of the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party yet even in the rain New Yorkers turned out in droves to sample the work of the masters. I wanted to get these photos up asap so that those of you tuning in to eGullet could have the chance to motivate and get there today -- you can read about it in the Times on Wednesday, after it's all over, or you can read about it here and still get there for day two. Never mind the weather. Get there right at noon for the shortest lines and best selection.








Ellen Shapiro


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I'd definitely encourage those who are able to make it today to attend one of the two remaining "seminar" events at the Jazz Standard. They're far more in-depth, unscripted, expertly hosted, and interesting than the average lightweight bullshit food presentation at, for example, the 92nd Street Y. The barbecue panel we saw yesterday was interesting not so much for the information about barbecue (you can get that in any number of books) but rather for the personal stories and observations we heard from the pitmasters (as well as from Edge and Walsh, who were a combination of moderators and participants -- hey, kind of like on eGullet!). After all, the second most important skill of a pitmaster, after being able to cook barbecue, is storytelling ability.

It's not often that a group like this gets together. I kept thinking, morbidly, that if someone took out the Jazz Standard yesterday it would be a far more tragic loss to American culture than, say, the same thing happening to the U.S. Congress. In regional barbecue competition, there are clusters of pitmasters who see each other all the time, but it seems that such a diverse group doesn't necessarily run on the same circuit. The last time most of them had been together was at a Southern Foodways Alliance thing in Oxford, Mississippi.

The best part of the discussion was when each of them discoursed on what barbecue meant to them. Interestingly, not a single one of them mentioned a type of meat or a particular method of seasoning, smoking, or saucing. The meaning of barbecue was personal, to a man: family, camaraderie (this was stressed over and over again), tradition, pride, simplicity, and this is one of the rare occasions when the word "authenticity" could be bandied about in a meaningful way. And man, every one of these guys was sharp as a tack -- especially Mitchell, who looked like a total backwoods dude in his overalls with his massive gray beard and permanent amused-and-distracted look on his face . . . and then he grabs the microphone and he's busting out these amazingly constructed sentences and targeting the audience questions with extreme precision and confidence. And he was disarmingly honest. Someone asked him why they sell bottled sauce and he was just like, "Well, a big part of it is it's a marketing tool, of course . . ." Which, of course, is the obvious answer but the one almost nobody ever gives to a question like that. Do not get into a card game with this guy.

Tasting notes: thus far I've only tried the Mitchell's and Kreuz's products. Mitchell's was probably the best chopped North Carolina-style whole hog I've ever had, primarily thanks to the very rough texture of the meat. The only place that competes in my memory is Wilber's in Goldsboro, NC. It has been awhile, though, and it's hard to judge these things out of context. But if you want to sample Eastern North Carolina barbecue that is as good as the genre gets, you have the opportunity to do so today in New York City. Kreuz's was also excellent. I had a mixed plate of beef and sausage. This kind of Texas barbecue is smoked much hotter and faster than most other species of barbecue, and there's no sauce whatsoever. The sausage was the star of the show (it's about 85% beef and 15% pork, which is a much higher beef percentage than is typical), but get the combination anyway because it's so unusual to be able to taste a properly done beef shoulder clod in New York.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Day two, clearly the word was out -- the crowds started accumulating early and they just kept growing. We got out of there at 3:00, before the crowd density reached the point at which atomic fission could occur. No way this event can be contained on 27th Street next year. I bet they're already looking for a bigger venue.

The barbecue guys and the security guards had been working through the night to get the day's ration prepared and they were all looking pretty exhausted -- but happy. They were definitely pumped on account of the great reception they were getting from all the New Yorkers.

I tried to catch up with the other three barbecue gods today because I had spent most of my time on day one with Ed Mitchell. So first I wandered by Chris Lilly's place -- that's Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q from Decatur, Alabama. He was just about to start in on a pork shoulder.


He then applied his skilled hands to the shoulder, kind of massaging it into pulled pork.




Right at the end he takes a knife to the bigger pieces to get them down to sandwichable size and, as he raises the knife, he yells to the crowd, "Watch out, it splatters!" Then he rolls it all up in a big clump in his paws and hands it off to the guy with the tray, adding things like, "Y'all may be lucky enough to get some of this one, it felt real good -- just right when I was choppin' it." You'll see in all the photos of the barbecue guys, they looked like they were about to collapse from the rain, the smoke, the intensity of the event -- they were borderline delirious.


Then I caught up with Rick Schmidt from the Kreuz Market out of Lockhart, Texas. He was just about to put some sausages in the oven.


And then he sharpened his knife in preparation for carving a shoulder.




Mike Mills from the 17th Street Bar & Grill in Murphysboro, Illinois, was really happy with his ribs today. There he was, he sees these things every day, he can eat all he wants anytime, and a good batch still makes him smile.




Then we went inside for a short film called Barbecue is a Noun, which was actually not a film but rather a preview of a film that is in the process of being made by two guys named Austin McKenna and Hawes Bostic. Austin McKenna was there to show the short film, and then he and Ed Mitchell (from Mitchell's Ribs, Chicken, & Barbecue in Wilson, North Carolina -- Ed was prominently featured in the film) took questions from the audience for about an hour. A sleep-deprived yet still energetic Danny Meyer introduced the panel.



And that was the end of that. Fat Guy did a near-simultaneous tasting of all four of the imported barbecue styles today so I'm sure he'll report on that later, and he can fill you in on the talk.





Ellen Shapiro


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Eastern North Carolina BBQ likes to travel. It's considered part of the BBQ evangelizing process.

Mitchell's neighbor Bill Ellis (about a mile away in Wilson) has 14 tractor-trailer units for away from home events. Equipped with refrigeration units, massive pit cookers, and every thing necessary to serve customers up to and including the White House.

Wilson is only a few minutes off I-95, so an enterprising traveler can visit Mitchell, Ellis, and Parker's (south of town on US 301) and fill an ice chest with the next few days larder.

Holly's site has details and teasers in its Carolina BBQ section.

Holly Eats

Apparently it's easier still to dictate the conversation and in effect, kill the conversation.

rancho gordo

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DAMMIT.......if I had only knew of this sooner!!!!! I would of made the trip. Geeez, but I am going to have to wait it out till July to come to NYC. Hey anything special going on around the weekend of the 7th??????



Is a Member of PETA..."People Eating Tasty Animals"

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If you didn't make it, y'all missed out. WOW. I had Mitchell's whole hog 'n slaw, and Big Bob Gibson's pork shoulder 'n beans...unbelievable, or, to quote the guy in line behind me (back for fourths) "this is proper sh*t."

music rocked as well. :smile:

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