Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

"Live" from the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party '04


Fat Guy
 Share

Recommended Posts

What is America's greatest barbecue town? Is it in North Carolina, perhaps Lexington or Wilson? Is it Kansas City, Memphis, St. Louis, or perhaps somewhere in Texas? The question will never be settled. But one city that surely doesn't get a nomination is New York City.

Once a year, however, for one weekend New York joins the ranks of the great barbecue cities of America. Because on this weekend, several of the nation's top pitmasters aren't at their home bases in North Carolina, Missouri, and Texas. They're on East 26th Street between Fifth and Madison Avenues, on the north edge of Madison Square Park, at the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party. And -- as if it could be any other way -- eGulleters will be out in full force to greet them.

Last year we got caught off guard by the inaugural Big Apple Barbecue Block Party. It didn't come together until just a few days before the event. And we didn't know it would be as great as it was. Nonetheless, we brought you a terrific series of photo essays from Ellen Shapiro.

This year, we had some time to get ready. Not to mention, so did the event's organizers. Instead of being crammed onto East 27th Street, the event this year will occupy all of Madison Square Park, which by the way is looking quite spiffy thanks to a years-long makeover. The pitmasters will be on the north side of the park, the bandstand will be just south of them, and the main lawn will be open (for the first time ever) to picnickers and spectators.

For our part, we are going to try to cover every moment of the event, from the arrival of the pitmasters to the arrival of the pigs, from setup to knockdown, and we're going to do it in as close to real time as this medium allows. We asked for as much behind-the-scenes access as the organizers (led by Danny Meyer's Union Square Hospitality Group aka USHG) would allow, and they gave it to us, in some cases exclusively or as part of a very limited group of media. Not only will we be filing reports at the end of every day, but also we'll try to post here during the event, thanks to Wi-Fi in the park.

Those eGulleters who plan to be at the event, come on over and get on my computer -- or bring your own Wi-Fi-capable unit so we'll have more resources -- and put up some posts live from the event. Those who attend the event and don't get to post live, we encourage you to post your impressions at night when you get home. Let's hear as many voices and perspectives as we can.

Two other housekeeping matters before we get to some real coverage:

First, we'd like to ask that between now and Monday morning posting on this topic be restricted to those who have attended the event. We'd like this to be a documentary project at first, as a precursor to discussion. On Monday we'll open the topic to everyone.

Second, we're asking that all eGulleters who are physically capable of being at the event meet up at the panel discussion "America's Barbeculture: Who Owns It?" That's Sunday, June 13, 3:00-3:45 PM. This will be held in Madison Square Park. There is no charge for admission. I will figure out a way to stake out some sort of eGullet space where we can assemble. This is set to be a great, controversial and interesting discussion. I think it will generate enough heat for a great post-game debate here on our boards. And it will be a way for us to come together as a community for a few minutes before we go back to feasting. For those who meet up with our group on Sunday, June 13, 3:00-3:45 PM, there will be a special surprise. I can't say more.

On to our coverage of the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party 2004.

The pitmasters assembled for the first time at 3pm Friday afternoon, at the Jazz Standard (the jazz club below the USHG's Blue Smoke restaurant). The mood was tense: these folks are about barbecue, not about waiting around, and the city wouldn't turn control of 26th Street over to the Big Apple Barbecue crews until 6pm. There was about an hour of feasting on ribs and other good stuff provided by Blue Smoke. There was about an our of logistics briefings by Danny Meyer and his team (this year's event will require the work of 150 employees handling everything from security to ticket sales, and that's in addition to all the USHG staff and the pitmasters' crews). And then there was about an hour of stressing out as the crews really got to itching to get access to the venue.

We're going to try to introduce you, throughout the weekend, to several of the pitmasters. There's no way we'll be able to do all six. The time constraints won't allow it, and after all we have to leave something for next year.

Today we mostly focused on Ed Mitchell, in part because, as the one pitmaster cooking whole hogs, his ambitious setup was the most dramatic of all, and in part because I personally find him to be one of the more interesting people in the universe.

I met Ed Mitchell at last year's Big Apple Barbecue Block Party. Two things immediately struck me about Ed Mitchell: first, he was the only African-American pitmaster at the event. All the others were white, as are it seems most of the high-profile barbecue restaurant owners in the South despite the genre's largely black roots. Second, he was the only one barbecuing whole hogs. The rest were cooking ribs, shoulders, and other small-by-comparison cuts of meat. My critics' antennae are always attuned to the odd man out, so I kept an eye on Mitchell.

Later, at a panel discussion downstairs at the Jazz Standard (this year the panels will be in the park, but last year the venue was organized differently), Mitchell sat quietly on the dais with the other pitmasters. The others had plenty to say but, like a professional poker player, Mitchell was mostly silent. He cut quite a figure in his overalls, baseball cap, and massive white beard affixed to an even more impressive head. When the rest of the crew was all but talked out, however, Mitchell leaned forward towards his microphone and said, “May I add just a couple of comments?” At which point the crowd was treated to a quiet, intensive lecture on the social history of barbecue. Mitchell, among other surprises, has a masters degree in sociology. I knew then that, one day, I'd have to visit Mitchell on his home turf.

Mitchell's Ribs, Chicken & BBQ rises out of Wilson, North Carolina's spartan landscape like a secret government research hangar. With few surrounding reference points, the scale of the operation isn't entirely clear until you're standing right in front of it: Mitchell's barn-like structure is large enough to accommodate a large herd of cattle or a small shopping mall. By 11am the parking lot was filling with cars and tour buses -- what are people doing on tours around here anyway? -- and over in a far corner of the lot's expanse was the same semi truck that is right now parked on 26th Street in Manhattan.

Mitchell's didn't start out on this scale. It didn't even start out as a barbecue place, nor did Ed Mitchell ever have ambitions of becoming a professional pitmaster. Although as a boy he had assisted his father at many a pig roast -- in the several hours we spent talking to him in Wilson, he recalled his youth when every occasion would be transformed into an excuse for a pig roast, from birthdays to the birth of a favorite hunting dog's litter -- Ed Mitchell never intended to run a barbecue restaurant. His G.I.-bill-funded studies ranged from sociology to economics, and he spent 17 years as a manager for Ford in Boston. It wasn't until his father took ill, and he came back home to help care for his family, that the course of his life was to change.

On the current Mitchell's site used to be the Mitchell family grocery. Like most small stores of its kind, Mitchell's grocery eventually came under pressure from chain supermarkets and evolving tastes. With Mitchell's father unable to work the store, the pressure on his mother was almost unbearable.

One day, as Ed Mitchell was helping his mother open the store, she began to cry. “What can I do to make you feel better?” he asked.

“Make me some of your barbecue,” she answered, “like you used to make.”

So the dutiful son went out and bought a baby pig and spent the day barbecuing it. Near closing time, it was ready.

Mitchell recalls eating the barbecue behind the counter with his mother when a customer walked in. “Oh, Mrs. Mitchell, you've got barbecue now?” The rest was history.

Ed Mitchell sees his restaurant – now more than ten times the size of the family market – as a research laboratory. Rooted in the Southern barbecue tradition, Mitchell is nonetheless a modernist, and his goal is to unite the old methods with contemporary business acumen to create a barbecue empire that can expand and replicate itself beyond Wilson, and beyond Mitchell's lifetime. “I'm doing this for my son,” he said several times during the day we spent with him. His son, Ryan, is here this weekend, as is his brother Stevie (his other brother, Aubrey, hurt his foot and couldn't make it up this year) as well as a host of cousins.

Unlike most traditionally oriented Southern barbecue establishments, Mitchell's is decidedly high-tech. At the drive-through window, the employees wear wireless headsets and utilize the same computer point-of-sale ordering systems as Kentucky Fried Chicken. At the main service line, Mitchell has inverted the traditional barbecue kitchen by putting all the food out in the open: customers line up cafeteria style and point to whatever they want, and the staff builds each person a plate. “People eat with their eyes,” was another of Mitchell's oft-repeated comments. The cafeteria line also allows Mitchell to service easily in excess of a thousand customers a day. “We've never even tested the limits of this thing.” Yet despite the streamlined look and feel of Mitchell's, everything in the back of the house occurs with old-fashioned rigor. Hushpuppies are shaped by hand (most barbecue places, even the most traditional ones, now use a machine), desserts are made from scratch, and vegetables are prepared according to old Mitchell family recipes.

My favorite area of Mitchell's barn/laboratory/restaurant -- and I must go back to see this thing in action -- is the Pig Bar. The Pig Bar looks like any bar, anywhere, right down to the beer taps, dark wood, and television screens playing sports programming, but where you'd normally find liquor bottles on the back bar there is, instead, a Jacuzzi-sized multi-compartment apparatus holding different cuts of pit-roasted pork. Customers at the Pig Bar point to what they want, and the pig-bartender makes up a plate. “People eat with their eyes,” commented Mitchell. “And this will get them hungry.” That's for sure. The thing wasn't even up and running when I was there, and I nonetheless have erotic dreams about it.

Perhaps most innovative, however, is Mitchell's system for pit-roasting whole hogs, a system he calls “banking.” North Carolina barbecue, in the Eastern part of the state where Mitchell is from, is synonymous with the whole hog. While it's at least somewhat straightforward to create automated equipment for roasting chickens or racks of ribs, it's quite a bit more complex to create a scientifically based system for pit-roasting whole hogs. Thus, whole-hog barbecue remains the most mysterious form of barbecue, requiring 24/7 attention and continuous adjustment to the barbecue pits, and practiced only by a few idiosyncratic pitmasters at hard-to-reach locations in the rural South.

What Mitchell's system achieves is a degree of standardization that can allow a properly trained employee to pit-roast a pig like the great pitmasters, without the need to stay up all night. Mitchell's specially constructed all-brick pits are wired with temperature probes, they have special valves to control airflow, and they are backed up by redundant state-of-the art exhaust and fire-suppression systems. For each weight of hog, Mitchell's team has created graphs demonstrating the pit temperature and internal temperatures for the entire length of the roast. So it is possible, using his system, for the cook to prep and leave the pig on the fire at night, reduce the pit's airflow to the proper level for that size animal, and return in the morning to a fully barbecued whole hog. Then, in the morning, the quicker-cooking items like ribs and chicken can be added to the pits, and by lunchtime there's a full barbecue inventory ready to serve.

When I entered the room housing Mitchell's pits – they are indoors, right where a normal kitchen would be – I was reminded of my second barbecue road trip through North Carolina. This was when I first met Dean McCord ("Varmint" here on eGullet). As I set out on the trip, I vowed to visit the pits everywhere I could. I figured there would be resistance -- pitmasters have a reputation for secretiveness -- but I'd persevere and get behind the scenes. At Wilbur's barbecue in Goldsboro, North Carolina, Dean, Ellen, and I summoned up the courage to ask “May we see the pits?”

“You want to see the pits?” asked a puzzled owner, leaning on his white pickup truck and smoking a big stogie. “Sure.” We walked around back to a long brick shed lined with smokestacks exhaling gray soot and vaporized grease, and Wilbur (that's his name) opened the door and gestured for us to enter.

It was like walking into an oven, in Hell, without any air, surrounded by the sight, aroma, and vapor of dead baby pigs. I lasted just long enough to have the vision recur to me over the years in early-morning nightmares. I didn't ask for very many pit tours after that. Wilbur was, I think, amused.

In Mitchell's pits, the thermometer on the wall reads 70-degrees. There is no aroma. The pigs are under metal domes and, in moments of denial, even look kind of cute. You can read a book, take a nap, or have a picnic in Mitchell's pit area and never know there are whole hogs roasting six feet away from you. And by extension, you may be able to have a Mitchell's barbecue franchise next door to your apartment in a large city yet not be inconvenienced. That, at least, is Ed Mitchell's hope.

Tonight, when Ed Mitchell's rig pulled up onto 26th Street, all the other pitmasters stopped and stared. The rear doors of the semi truck opened and Mitchell's crew rolled out not one, not two, but eight wheeled barbecue pits, each large enough to cook a 150-pound hog. They filled a quarter of the block. Danny Meyer had said to me earlier, pointing to that section of the block, "This part is for Mitchell's, and everybody else splits up the rest." I didn't realize he was serious.

Stuff just kept on coming out of that truck: tables, industrial-sized canisters of condiments, logs, sacks of coals, and cartons of Mitchell's tee-shirts, barbecue sauces, and baseball caps. When everything was in its places, the crew loaded up each pit with coals, and later on with wood.

After an hour or so, ten whole hogs arrived in another truck. Kenny Callaghan of Blue Smoke had procured the pigs locally, in accordance with Ed Mitchell's specifications as to size, color, and other characterisitcs. Upon seeing them, Mitchell slapped a few butts, flexed a few ankles (on the pigs, that is), and proclaimed, "Kenny did a nice job." His crew hefted the 150-pound hogs over their shoulders like they were bags of feathers, marched them over to a long table in the street, and set upon them maniacally with cleavers. Each hog was split down the middle, and its head and feet removed.

Ed Mitchell allowed me to "christen" the first pit by adding the final logs, setting up the grill grate, and heaving the pig into place (aided by two guys who contributed most of the real strength to the equation), after which I mostly drank bottles of water and griped about my back for the rest of the evening.

The hogs will cook overnight, for approximately 12 hours at between 275 and 300 degrees. Tomorrow morning, when they come off the pits, we'll be there.

Finally, before turning this over to Ellen for some photographic documentation, let me set forth the key pieces of information about the event:

The second annual Big Apple Barbecue Block Party will be this weekend, Saturday, June 12th and Sunday, June 13. On both days it will run from 12 noon until 6pm. The venue is 26th Street between Fifth and Madison Avenues (for the actual barbecue) and the adjacent Madison Square Park (for everything else)

The barbecue establishments represented at the event will be:

Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q

Decatur, Alabama

Pitmasters Chris Lilly and Don McLemore

Pork Shoulder & Baked Beans

Blue Smoke

New York, New York

Pitmaster Kenny Callaghan

Kansas City Spare Ribs & Dill Pickles

K. C. Baron of Barbeque's R.U.B. BBQ

Kansas City, Missouri

Pitmaster Paul Kirk

Beef Brisket & Dill Pickles

Memphis Championship Barbecue

Las Vegas, Nevada

17th Street Bar & Grill

Murphysboro, Illinois

Pitmaster Mike Mills

Baby Back Ribs & Baked Beans

Mitchell's Ribs, Chicken & BBQ

Wilson, North Carolina

Pitmaster Ed Mitchell

Whole Hog & Coleslaw

The Salt Lick

Driftwood, Texas

Pitmaster Scott Roberts

Beef Brisket & Coleslaw

Sausage & Coleslaw

Smoki O's Barbeque

St. Louis, Missouri

Pitmaster Otis Walker

Pig Snoot Sandwiches

There will also be desserts from Blue Smoke's Pastry Chef Jenn Giblin and frozen custards from Shake Shack, the forthcoming USHG-operated food kiosk in Madison Square Park.

The music schedule is as follows:

Saturday

12:00-12:45 p.m. Jazz Standard Youth Orchestra

1:15-2:00 p.m. David Ostwald's Gully Low Jazz Band

2:30-3:15 p.m. Matt Munisteri & Brock Mumford

3:45-4:30 p.m. Brian Mitchell & The Loisaida Social Club

5:00-5:45 p.m. Jimmy Vivino & Friends

Sunday

12:00-1:00 p.m. Jazz Standard Youth Orchestra

1:30-2:30 p.m. Demolition String Band

3:00-4:00 p.m. Chris Bergson Band

4:30-5:45 p.m. Melvin Sparks

There will also be a number of seminars in the park:

Saturday

1:30-2:15 p.m. Chopped, Pulled and Picked: An Insider's Guide to North Carolina Barbecue

Ed Levine, moderator, author of "New York Eats (More)" and writer for The New York Times

Bob Garner, author, North Carolina Barbecue Flavored by Time

Austin McKenna, filmmaker, Barbecue is a Noun

Will McKinney, founder, North Carolina BBQ Society

Ed Mitchell, pitmaster, Mitchell's Ribs, Chicken and BBQ

2:15 - 2:45 p.m. Barnes & Noble Author Signing: Ed Levine, Bob Garner

3:00-3:45 p.m. All-Star Barbecue Sauce Tasting

Colman Andrews, moderator, editor-in-chief, SAVEUR

Jeffrey Steingarten, author, The Man Who Ate Everything

Calvin Trillin, author, Feeding a Yen

3:45 - 4:15 p.m. Barnes & Noble Author Signing: Calvin Trillin, Jeffrey Steingarten, Paul Kirk

Sunday

1:30-2:15 p.m. The Ultimate Barbecue Roadfood Trip

Jane and Michael Stern

2:15 - 2:45 p.m. Barnes & Noble Author Signing: Jane and Michael Stern

3:00-3:45 p.m. America's Barbeculture: Who Owns It?

Robb Walsh, moderator, author, "The Tex-Mex Cookbook" and "Legends of Texas Barbecue Cookbook"

Colman Andrews, editor in chief, SAVEUR

Lolis Eric Elie, author, "Smokestack Lightning"

Jack Hitt, contributing writer for Harpers, GQ, Lingua Franca, and New York Times Magazine

3:45 - 4:15 p.m. Barnes & Noble author signing: Lolis Eric Elie, Robb Walsh, Colman Andrews

Admission to the block party is free, including live music and seminars. Food, beverages and merchandise are purchased with coupons. Proceeds from the 2004 BABBP will benefit the Madison Square Park Conservancy & VH1 Save The Music Foundation.

There is more information on the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party 2004 Web site, especially as relates to the music and the details of the panel discussions.

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)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This just in . . .

Before we get to Ellen's photos, which she should be ready to post in about half an hour, here's a quick report we got from Ned. I'm going to reproduce it here for completeness, since he already posted it on the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party planning thread. So, from Ned:

After a fine dinner of smoked tuna sald with yuzu foam, whole aji sashimi, o-toro with shiso and a small piece of braised berkshire pork belly, I was taking a little ride-around on my bicycle and I happened on Madison Park.  Imagine my surprise when I found all those smokers and before them, brawny men with knives, folding tables, boxes of meat and knives.  As luck would have it, I happened to have brought a camera with me:

i8313.jpg

These were the only fellows (from Kansas city by the way) who claimed theirs to be the best BBQ in the world.  It's brisket they're trimming.

i8311.jpg

Wilson, NC.  When I asked what was inside they said "hawg."  I had to ask twice to understand so finally the handsome guy in the green shirt pulled open the lid and let me see for myself.

i8310.jpg

They asked me to get their thin side.  OK, anything to help.  I looked all over for a thinnish primal cut hanging from a hook somewhere around their trailer.  To no avail.  So I just took a picture of the three fat guys prepping slabs of ribs.

In conclusion, you never know what will happen if you go for a midnight bike ride around Manhattan.  For example you might meet a friendly guy with a huge cigar and a mite bit of a drawl who starts running on about snoot.  You wonder what in the hell he's talking about and change the subject.  You shared some stories about your bent-chef father-in-laws and finally you find out that he's talking about smoked pigs snout.  And that it's a specialty of St.Louis and that you can buy some from his bent father-in-law tomorrow. 

I'll be there starting around noon tomorrow with a pregnant wife who'll have sauce on her face and on the part of her shirt that covers the topside of her belly.  Also three English people and a tall slow-eating asian lady.  Back again Sunday with a pack of fools and my bent-chef father-in-law known here as jaypm51 who's come up from Atlanta because I managed to finagle a reservation at Per Se for Tuesday.

-Ned

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)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What a gorgeous night it was in Madison Square Park tonight, and it looks like the weather is going to rock this weekend!

b1.jpg

Most men, if they call me honey, it pisses me off. But when Ed Mitchell calls me honey, it makes me want to give him a big ol' hug. What a great bunch of guys that came up from Mitchell's.

Here we have one of Mitchell's guys getting the coals ready.

b2.jpg

The unloading of the pigs.

b3.jpg

And it is accurate, as Fat Guy says, that there was a maniacal aspect of the preparation of the carcasses.

b4.jpg

Ed Mitchell and Fat Guy set up one of the pits.

b5.jpg

And load it up with a hog.

b6.jpg

Here's how it looks on the pit (in an earlier stage from what Ned has kindly photographed above).

b7.jpg

For some context and background let me throw in a few photos from when we were down at Mitchell's restaurant in North Carolina. Fat Guy referred to the hog cookin' graphs that Mitchell creates. Here's one of those.

b16.jpg

And Mitchell's state of the art ventilation system.

b17.jpg

Making hushpuppies by hand in the Mitchell's kitchen.

b18.jpg

And this is the feast that Fat Guy and Varmint put together when Mitchell said "Try anything you want" and Fat Guy said "One of each."

b19.jpg

Back in the Big Apple, I wandered up the block to see what some of the other crews were doing. We're going to try to do a piece on the pig snoot folks to whom Ned has referred. They're super-cool. But that will probably be later on. Here are a few of the other snacks and treats I found on the block tonight.

Mike Mills was makin' some ribs.

b8.jpg

And setting up his table.

b9.jpg

Chris Lilly from Big Bob Gibson was injecting some pork shoulders (not all the shoulders will be injected, it's too much work given the numbers they're expecting, but maybe if you ask for injected you'll get it?).

b11.jpg

And putting them in his pit (it feels funny to call these above-ground things pits but that's how the barbecue crowd refers to any contraption for smoking meat above or below ground).

b10.jpg

This is what his setup looks like.

b12.jpg

Lots of stuff getting delivered to Blue Smoke's pit. Some coals.

b13.jpg

And a little bread.

b14.jpg

Be sure to walk up to the corner of 26th and Fifth if you come to the event. You'll be afforded a great view of the Empire State Building if you look uptown, and the Flatiron Building if you look downtown.

b15.jpg

Bye for now!

Ellen Shapiro

www.byellen.com

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think you all have probably gotten the idea by now that Ed Mitchell doesn't fuck around when it comes to barbecue. But check this out: Ed Mitchell is now traveling with . . .

. . . a publicist!

There I was, just taking a little time to commune with "my" pig, when Mitchell's new Chicago-based publicist came over and started giving me press releases. Later I'll read them and share any interesting tidbits.

We hope to see you all around today. There seems to be strong Wi-Fi signal near the statue at the north end of the park and there are some good benches just east of the statue. That's probably where I'll spend much of my time.

And I especially look forward to seeing everybody at the panel discussion "America's Barbeculture: Who Owns It?" tomorrow, that's Sunday, June 13, 3:00-3:45 PM. This will be held in Madison Square Park.

I'd also like to reiterate the request made above that between now and Monday morning posting on this topic be restricted to those who have attended the event. We're looking to document the event through the eGullet lens, and then have the follow-up discussion starting on Monday. Thanks so much for your cooperation and support.

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)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

9:00 am, mopping it up.

i8332.jpg

Pigs stacked and ready for pickin'

i8333.jpg

You shouldn't eat grouse and woodcock, venison, a quail and dove pate, abalone and oysters, caviar, calf sweetbreads, kidneys, liver, and ducks all during the same week with several cases of wine. That's a health tip.

Jim Harrison from "Off to the Side"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Things are about to get started, and as I mentioned we'll be at the event all day. I may not have the battery capacity necessary to pull off what I had hoped in terms of using my PC as an official eGullet wireless station all day, so I'd encourage anybody with a Wi-Fi capable unit to bring it down. Also if you're a Verizon DSL customer you can get a really strong signal at the park, whereas the networks I'm relying upon are touch-and-go at best. Anyway, see you there. We'll have additional reports later today, as soon as we can pull everything together.

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)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

More pics.

Cracklin:

i8340.jpg

Brisket:

i8339.jpg

Time for a nap.

Nice meeting you Steve.

You shouldn't eat grouse and woodcock, venison, a quail and dove pate, abalone and oysters, caviar, calf sweetbreads, kidneys, liver, and ducks all during the same week with several cases of wine. That's a health tip.

Jim Harrison from "Off to the Side"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Attendance at the event has exceeded the expectations of even those who said it would exceed expectations. This is great in many ways: it shows the pitmasters we New Yorkers are interested in what they're doing, it benefits the charities that are getting the proceeds from the event, and it contributes to a general feeling of being at an end-of-the-world party catered by the nation's greatest pitmasters.

But the crowd situation also means you'll need to be smart about your strategy for attending the event. If you come tomorrow (Sunday), come before noon so you can be early on the lines -- they are getting so long that by 1pm it may take you an hour to get a taste of 'cue from the more popular stands. If you come in a group, split up and have each person get multiple portions so you can sample as many of the products as possible. Bring your own cans of soda and bottles of water -- you don't need the hassle of those lines.

You pay for everything with "cue-pons" (they are in $1 denominations; each plate of 'cue is $6; beer, cobbler, and root beer floats are $4; Fiji water is $2; soft drinks and chocolate chip cookies are $1 -- no cash accepted at the 'cue concessions) and purchasing them requires careful strategy as well. Do not under any circumstances go to the cue-pon booths at the two ends of 26th Street (on Fifth and Madison Avenues). Instead, go to the booth at the south end of the park near 23rd Street. The line is less than half as long. There's also a booth near the band stand, north of the center of the park. That line looks good too.

Before you get on either line, grab a $1 "preview cone" at the Shake Shack, also near the south end of the park. The Shake Shack is the new, soon-to-open permanent installation that replaces the Eleven Madison Park hot dog cart of previous summers. The Shake Shack is a great addition to the park. It blends into the park's landscape and the increased capacity allows for an expanded menu that includes truly inspired frozen custard (and also hamburgers, but those aren't on offer this weekend -- just vanilla custard). You'll probably find Kerry Heffernan (executive chef) and Nicole Kaplan (pastry chef) of Eleven Madison Park operating the custard machine. Say hi, especially to Nicole -- as you all know she is an active eGullet member.

So far I've managed to make it through two lines: Smoki O's Barbecue and K.C. Baron of Barbecue's R.U.B. BBQ. Smoki O's is serving pig snoot (aka snout) sandwiches. K.C. Baron is serving brisket.

The brisket I tried was quite simply the best barbecue brisket I've ever had, and I've had the product in most of the places that are candidates for the title of best in Texas and Kansas City. The way the Baron has set up the line is such that as you wait you walk past long tables where you can view the briskets in various stages: first in the smokers, then whole, then being trimmed (the most pornographic stage of the process, when you can beg a piece of gelatinous pepper-rubbed fat off the guy doing the trimming), and finally being sliced. At the end, if you haven't passed out from this test of your will, you get a portion of brisket with slices of dill pickles and a slice of white bread. It's tender but not overcooked -- it retains some of the texture and toothsomeness of the meat without tripping over into disintegration. The exterior bits are peppery but not dry. Skip the sauce -- it's the meat you want to be tasting.

As for pig snoot, well, I can't say I've ever had a pig snoot sandwich before. This is definitely an acquired taste. However, quantities are extremely limited (the pig snoot folks have less than 1/10 the capacity of the big operations like Mtichell's) so you will have to get there early on Sunday if you want to secure one of only about 400 available portions and try to acquire the taste for yourself. The pig snoot slices are cooked to an extreme state of crispy crunchiness and the slices are spread with a sweet barbecue sauce. You can't actually eat the sandwich as a sandwich -- you need to pick up the individual slices of snoot and chew on them, a lot. The taste is somewhere along a spectrum beginning with bacon the left, with pork rinds in the center, and with the snoot somewhere to the right of the pork rinds, if that makes sense. It is an unusual taste. Even the proprietor says so, in a little handout entitled "Snootology" that you will be given when you buy your snoot sandwich. Right there, printed on fuchsia paper, it says, and it's true, "We have been noted locally and as far away as New York and California for the unusual taste of our snoot."

The snoot is literally the pig's nose, as Smoki O's defines it, "the pigs nose, which the nostrils have been cut away and the anterior prolongation is prepared for an exciting culinary experience." I haven't been able to learn how the snoot is made. All we know is that it is a four-stage process that took Smoki O's four years to develop. Danny Meyer and I spent a little time last night debriefing the snootologists, but I haven't extracted enough information from them yet. Perhaps tomorrow morning I can corner them and supplement this report.

Note that the seminar stage is not the same as the music stage, so if you meet up with us tomorrow you will need to come to the stage towards the south end of the park and not the music stage near the north end. I'm hoping some eGulleters made it to the Saturday seminar. I'll provide a report on the Sunday one, but I was spread too thin to make it to the one today.

It was great to see so many eGulleters there today, and I'm looking forward to our meet-and-greet tomorrow. We were so busy covering the event we never really got to set up a Wi-Fi connection that we could all share for purposes of posting, but maybe tomorrow we can accomplish some of that. For now I've set up sort of a mobile eGullet command center at the Starbuck's on Fifth Avenue near 28th. That's where I've been going to access Wi-Fi and get out of the sun so I can see my screen. Tomorrow, if you approach from that direction, stick your head into the Starbuck's there -- I might be inside. Otherwise, see you at 3pm.

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)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The lines were insane today, and the longest one by far was at Mitchell's.

b101.jpg

Some folks waited as much as an hour for a taste. Some of them didn't even know what they were on line for! And there was a lot of attrition. Mitchell probably could have served 10,000 people today if he had been able to bring another ten or so pits and if additional staff had been on hand to sell the product.

Mike Mills told us last night that according to his calculations if you have to serve 4,000 people in 6 hours that means you have to serve 1 person every 5.4 seconds. Even if you split that into three lines, it's only 21.6 seconds per line per person, and some people are totally dense about how to perform the simple act of handing over 6 tickets. We didn't check the math but it sounds right.

I focused on two things today: the final part of the process of making whole hog barbecue at Mitchell's, and the brisket slicing process at K.C. Baron.

So, here we have the continuation of the whole hog story, from when it comes off the pit, to picking, to chopping, to crafting sandwiches.

b102.jpg

b103.jpg

b104.jpg

b105.jpg

b106.jpg

b107.jpg

b108.jpg

b109.jpg

b110.jpg

b111.jpg

And here's a little "brisket porn."

b112.jpg

b113.jpg

b114.jpg

b115.jpg

b116.jpg

b117.jpg

b118.jpg

b119.jpg

See you all tomorrow.

b120.jpg

Ellen Shapiro

www.byellen.com

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just got back from the BABBP, and am wishing I had the patience to wait in line in the hot sun to try more outstanding BBQ treats. Reminiscing about my 4 years in Texas, I headed straight to the Salt Lick stand that was serving sausage and brisket. I've got to say I was pleased, next best thing to actually being in longhorn country. The brisket was tender and laced with chewy fat. The sweet sauce had a nice tang that would not dare to overpower the meaty mouthfuls I'm looking for in BBQ. The sausage was tops, juicy with a tight casing topped with the same sauce that came on the brisket. It came wrapped in a wonderesque slice of white bread (it came in handy in cleaning up any remaining sauce).

The word is definitely out on this party. Lines are long, but move relatively quickly (mainly because you have to first wait in line to get your 'cue pons). My biggest gripe is that beer is not allowed outside the central stage area of Madison Park. Therefore, you can't sip on your beer as you wait for your poke. As my mom always says, "beggars can't be choosers." I think I will try to go back tomorrow...

Jennie Auster aka "GIT"

Gastronome in Training

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I was SO excited for this event today. In fact I was dreaming about it all night. Unfortunately, I have to report back that I was pretty disappointed. I'm sure that the food was spectacular, but I didn't have the patience to wait through the lines to taste it. We arrived at around 2pm. The crowd was so thick that you couldn't even tell which line was which or where the end of the lines were. Myself and my companions bought a bunch of tickets before we realized the situation. In fact, I purchased MY "cue-pons" from a guy who bought his and then couldn't wait on the lines. Ironically, I ended up doing the same thing. After about 10 minutes of wandering around we decided to bail. It was just too chaotic. We couldn't even get close enough to the booths to get a good look at the food.

Luckily we ended up pawning off our tickets to some other poor souls. We were determined to eat barbeque though and promptly hopped in a cab and headed towards Daisy Mae's BBQ on the west side. Sadly, upon arriving, we saw that it was closed! :sad: BBQ didn't seem to be in our future today. Even more determined, we took another cab over to Virgil's which satisfied my craving for the day. We topped it off with a gelato downtown at Il Laboratorio del Gelato. Superb.

All in all a great day - just disapointing how crowded this event became. Everyone and their mother somehow found out about this thing. I'm curious to hear how other people did today. Like I said, I'm sure the cue was worth it - and Fat Guy's pics are making me drool - even though I'm full on Virgil's. Did people who came early have a better time? Should I give it another shot tomorrow??

Here are some pics of the crowd. See if you can find the line!

crowd1.jpg

crowd2.jpg

crowd3.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I decided to take the "Close Up" approach to BBQ photography, as Ellen has already done a great job showing you the flavor and feel of the show:

jhp-bbq15.jpg

On stage entertainment

jhp-bbq1.jpg

KC Cut Ribs, from Blue Smoke. All I can say is these ribs kicked some serious ass.

jhp-bbq2.jpg

jhp-bbq3.jpg

jhp-bbq5.jpg

jhp-bbq6.jpg

Whole Hog Chopped/Pulled Pork, from Ed Mitchell. Note the little bits of cracklins' mixed in with the mix of shoulder and other pig parts.

jhp-bbq7.jpg

A closeup of of a plated portion of Whole Hog

jhp-bbq8.jpg

jhp-bbq9.jpg

One of K.C. Baron's big smokers.

jhp-bbq10.jpg

Beef Brisket from K. C. Baron of Barbeque's R.U.B. BBQ

jhp-bbq11.jpg

jhp-bbq12.jpg

This little guy looked really hungry.

jhp-bbq13.jpg

Baby Backs and BBQ Beans from Memphis Championship Barbecue (Mike Mills). These ribs were really well seasoned and surprisingly spicy -- the beans are also a big hit too, using several different types of beans, with nice and juicy bits of pork in it, in a vinegary and tomatoey bbq sauce base -- very zingy.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Wannabechef must have gotten there just before it got crowded or after the crowd thinned out a bit. :laugh: They desperately need a change of venue--either a much larger area with more bbq pits, or one that's a lot harder to get to, so the turn out is less. I guess the latter would provide some of sort of survival of the fittest, or at least service of the most dedicated. The crowds were almost unbearable at the peak times. The one thing that made it bearable was the everyone seemed really relaxed and friendly. Either no one in the crowd was a native New Yorker, or the people who showed up are going to ruin our sour reputation after these pitmasters take home their stories.

At least we managed to get a bit to eat early and then I had some more later. I think lines were unpredictable. A lot of that had to do with the fact that they were so long at times that people often didn't really know which line they were on. When I first tried to get some pulled shoulder, the line was by far the longest on the block, but when I went back late in the day, there was hardly any line at all in spite of the fact that the two adjacent places had long lines. No one was going to Bob Gibson's only because there wasn't a line to stand on.

The music varied. I didn't hear much because after we had some food and beer (boy, I'm really glad no one told me there was a restricted are for beer drinking) we went over to attend the two seminars. I'll say they were interesting and informative, to a guy who doesn't know much about bbq, but hardly as intense as I might have hoped they'd be. Ed Mitchell, behind that drawl and those overalls, was as erudite as any on the panel, maybe more so. Maybe it's just that he lets everyone else speak and when they run dry, he delivers the less than obvious information. It's not surprising to learn he's highly educated. There's a lot of sophistication behind his operation and especially behind his thinking about his operation. His comment about the importance of "quality of product," referring to the raw product he uses, wouldn't have been out of place in an interview with Ducasse, Keller or any of our four star chefs. He uses Neiman Ranch pigs, by the way. Someone else on the panel, mentioned eating the meat of pigs raised in the mountains fed largely on acorns. I thought that was very interesting as hams in Spain are qualified by the diet of the pig. "Bellota" means "acorn" in Spanish and the top quality hams are called bellota because they are fed a diet of only acorns. Our own Will McKinney was on the panel. I had met him last night and hoped to introduce him to other members, but unfortunately I didn't see any we knew, although I suspect eGullet must have been represented in the audience. Will was born in South Carolina but went to school and lives in North Carolina. The first seminar was on North Carolina BBQ.

The second seminar--we had a table in the shade and it was easier to stay than leave although it was hard keeping away from that frozen custard that long--was about BBQ sauces and there were six of them distributed for tasting along with a slice of potato bread for dipping. Calvin Trillin and Jeffrey Steingarten were on the panel to guide us. They're both great talkers and like many great wordsmiths, they can keep you enrapt for hours without really saying anything. Maybe it's just that I was more interested in Amy's comments on the sauces. Amy was with Mike Mills' 17th Street Bar & Grill crew from Murphysboro, Illinois. Will invited her over and I reintroduced myself. I had met her earlier as she and my daughter knew each other professionally. Amy probably wasn't there to learn as I was. She could write the book on Memphis BBQ and, I gather, is doing just that. What I learned from that tasting was that I don't much like BBQ sauce, any BBQ on white bread all that much. On the whole however, I like the thinner ones better than the sweet cloying ones or the ones that were supposed to give the meat the smokey taste.

More later.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Don't know if this is inappropriate, but do any eG'ers have any "inside" tracks to any of the booths? These food pics are making me want to go back again tomorrow. I just can't stand to wait on those crazy lines though. To people who stayed all day today - are there any better or ideal times to show up? Was it less crowded at the end of the day, or when it first started? Just trying to come up with a good strategy! :biggrin:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Don't know if this is inappropriate, but do any eG'ers have any "inside" tracks to any of the booths? These food pics are making me want to go back again tomorrow. I just can't stand to wait on those crazy lines though. To people who stayed all day today - are there any better or ideal times to show up? Was it less crowded at the end of the day, or when it first started? Just trying to come up with a good strategy! :biggrin:

I suppose Fat Guy's got an inside track to Ed Mitchell's. You would have too if you were there last night helping him load up. It's unlikely that's going to buy anyone else entry. The lines vary. Early and late seem to be best. About four or five they ran out of 'cue-pons or stopped selling them because they don't want people on line at six when it's supposed to close. Lines move very quickly unless you get stuck behind a couple of bimbos who can't decide if they want hot, mild or sweet and tangy sauce and need a special plate so they can taste each one separately and then in combinations of twos until they finally walk away with enough a mixture to sauce a dozen portions. If everyone's cooperating, they can serve a half a dozen people in a minute. The vendors are organized and they've all got remarkable production lines in operation, but you still get people staring at eighteen identical portions of the one thing the booth is selling, while they're trying to decide what to order.

Get on line before noon, or show up late, but not without tickets, and hope there's food left. The mistake we made was not buying enough tickets. Although I have some left over, we will have to stand on line to buy more tomorrow. It's all do-able, but only with patience and a willingness to make a day of it listening to music and attending a seminar or two. Eat and run is almost impossible. Fat Guy's strategy of going with a group and splitting up to shop and remeeting to eat is a good idea.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Whew. What a day. First of all Mitchell's pork is worth waiting nearly any amount of time for. I put some of the hot sauce on the side. Heaven. I can't say enough about the complexity of flavor and texture in this pork. The moistness throughout, lovely vinegar and seasonings, the heat.

Never has so much bread been used as a napkin and tossed in the garbage.

Here's a tip: when you get to the front of the line, buy lots of whatever they're selling. No matter whether you're at Mitchell's or Blue Smoke or Salt Lick or wherever. It's going to be a while before you eat the next thing and surely it's going to be a long time before you eat anything that good again.

Both briskets are good but for my money, K. C. Baron of Barbeque's R.U.B. BBQ

is the best. The only thing I didn't get to was pork shoulder.

The snoot sandwich is good but it could be better. I think it isn't seasoned all that well and then after that, a thing that is in large part about crunch is made soggy by sauce. Still worth trying if only so you can say you did.

The lines are horrendous but at the beginning and end of the day they are less so. They quit selling tickets at a certain point today and it became possible to actually find a line and stand on it. Some lines are bigger than others. Mitchell's as was noted before is quite the longest, and snoot the shortest (you can just walk up there--oops you can just fight your way through the crowds tripping over dog's leashes, knocking over old ladies, getting threatened by fat men and squashing small children) followed by Blue Smoke where people seem to think that they are making what they always make. NOT SO. Their normal ribs are awesome. These today were significantly better.

Finally, I carried beer all over the place and nobody noticed or cared. I recommend you all do the same. It's hot out there and you are eating barbecue.

Maybe it will rain tomorrow. We can only hope.

You shouldn't eat grouse and woodcock, venison, a quail and dove pate, abalone and oysters, caviar, calf sweetbreads, kidneys, liver, and ducks all during the same week with several cases of wine. That's a health tip.

Jim Harrison from "Off to the Side"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I got there at a little after twelve and bought cuepons at 23rd street when there was no line. I was with five other people and we split up, within ten minutes I had tried the snoot and blue smoke's ribs as they had no wait. Without being too aggressive about it by 2 oclock I had gotten a taste of everything except the sausage, which my bastard friends ate all of while I was waiting for pork shoulder. I even scored some bones for my dog from the pitmaster at Big Bob Gibsons.

My advice would be the same as Fat Guys: arrive before 12 with friends, buy your cuepons at 23rd, buy some custard and walk to the north end of the park, pick a meeting place while your walking, and then split up and get the food. Maybe for tomorrow they will figure out a better way to organize the lines, but even with all the chaos today, with the nice weather, the music, and some beer the wait was no big deal.

Virgil's is no substitute.

Good luck,

Roger

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I was there all day today, and had hoped to run into Steven and some of my other egullet friends, such as Kirk and Jamie. Maybe tomorrow! I did, however, get to spend a lot of time talking to Mike Mills, Paul Kirk, Kenny Callaghan, and other pit guys. The crowds are insane. Go early and avoid the fate. But if you have to stand in line, I would say that the RUB NYC brisket is best in show. If you miss it, though, don't feel bad: they're opening a restaurant in New York that will immediately reduce everyone else in town to obsolescence.

signed,

Mister Cutlets

Mr-Cutlets.com: your source for advice, excerpts, Cutlets news, and links to buy Meat Me in Manhattan: A Carnivore's Guide to New York!
Link to comment
Share on other sites

ribs at 12:03.. as good as they were last year.. which is to say the best i've had.. mike mills was out and talking with anyone who wanted to speak with him all morning..

moved down to the shoulder and had it in hand by 12:12.. it was good, their beans much better than mike mills's places, but the lack of slaw was troubling for me..

ed mitchell's hog had a line even at noon when the tickets started being sold.. but it was barely a ten minute wait at that point.. when i came back at two the line wrapped around on itself multiple times..

brisket at three was great.. but the 45 minute wait on line to get to it, especaially when half ot was spent in front of ed mitchell's pits while they were raking the coals, wasn't the most pleasant of ways to do it..

early is definitely the way to go.. i stopped by around ten when everyone was drinking coffee and still recovering from the evening before.. ed mitchell literally tripped over his own feet to get to the dallis coffee guy.. but he was talking with everyone around and laughing and cracking jokes.. his publicist was so excited to be doing the job that she approached everyone with a camera early on.. it was nice to speak with her and get her viewpoint on the spread of barbecue..

my photos should follow in the next day or two..

Edited by juuceman (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I dunno about the Rub NYC (K.C. Baron) brisket. I mean, its juicy, but I found it to be really, really fatty stuff. I was advised that their BBQ sauce would cut down on its fattiness -- which it does -- but I found it to be too sweet. Interestingly enough, the BBQ Sauce they brought was the one they formulated for the NY market and the new restaurant -- they didn't bring their existing sauce.

If I can, I'm going to see if they can get me some of the leaner cut brisket tomorrow. I know this goes in total contrast to what brisket is about, and I will probably get laughed at for this, but there has to be a way to have juicy and not really fatty. Sort of like the way you can have a juicy cut of pastrami at Katz's, but have huge peices of fat laced in it. Actually, my initial reaction to the brisket unsauced was "hmm.. kinda like a really fatty pastrami"

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm a good party member and waited on line like all my comrades who didn't know if they were waiting for toilet paper, Czech shoes, or beef brisket. I didn't even get to eat any of the pig I helped load up, or anything else from Mitchell's today. They gave me a "Press" badge but I didn't wear it; it felt silly. The fish pants were enough. Anyway there are so many gazillions of people walking around with press badges that it hardly makes you all that much of a VIP. The only 100% reliable way to cut the line is to be from the place where the pitmasters are from. If you're legitimately from Wilson, NC, for example, you will be treated very well indeed by Mitchell's (I saw it happen once).

I think, if you're the type of person for whom crowds and lines ruin an event, the best move is not to come to this thing. It's the one reason not to go, and if it's a big enough reason for you then that's the end of the discussion. There also happen to be a million reasons to go, but you're going to need to do some time on the lines just like everybody else.

To recap, my suggestion, for anyone who can handle it, would be to make peace with the notion of a significant investment of time. Come before noon, get loaded up with cue-pons, get organized with a couple of teammates, fan out, each acquire multiple portions, and do your first wave of 'cue eating at the most popular places (Mitchell's, Baron's, Mike Mills's) as soon after noon as possible. Then go for snoot. Then take the bulk of the afternoon off. Enjoy the music, attend the seminars, hang out on that glorious lawn, and wait for the lines to die down -- eventually they should come down from their early afternoon peak. There are no guarantees, though, regarding exactly when that will happen or what will be left to eat when it does -- you'll have to be flexible. So maybe you'll end up your day with a snack from Blue Smoke's stand, or the Salt Lick, or Big Bob Gibson, or all three.

And, uh, did I mention we're all meeting up at the panel discussion "America's Barbeculture: Who Owns It?" from 3:00-3:45 PM? I think I mentioned that, maybe.

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)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If you are able to find short lines, just stand on them. All the food that we sampled was great, so you can't go wrong. By the end of the day, all the booths ran out of food, or came pretty close, and yes, they actually ran out of cue'pons.

We were there for the last hour and a half, and by 5:15 the lines were shortening but several of the booths were out of food. The Blue Smoke dessert booth had run out of everything but vanilla ice cream. But it was some of the best vanilla ice cream. Mmm.

My thoughts on the meat:

Ed Mitchel's -- kick ass seasoning (very peppery) and meat tenderness, texture. However, there was a lot of crackling mixed in. Now, I'm not the biggest fan of crackling, so take this with your grain of salt, but I thought crackling was supposed to be crispy crunchy like pork rinds. This was hard crunchy, like peanut brittle. Be careful you don't break a tooth! We didn't eat it as a sandwich (it's the picture with all the potato rolls on top in Ellen's photo essay), but with the cole slaw. Great cole slaw -- not mayonnaisey at all, but not too tart either.

Blue Smoke – Huge, tender, juicy KC ribs. Really, really good. Sauce basted on finished product. Very happy. But I don’t get the pickle chips?

R.U.B. BBQ – Very marbled beef brisket. We were chatting with Mrs. RUB and I mentioned that it was almost gelatinous and she said “Well, you’re not eating it with any sauce. The sauce cuts the fattiness.” So she gets us some sauce and we try it with the sauce. And it does cut the fat a little. I mention that I’m surprised their sauce is a little sweet, I thought it would be more vinegary. And she told me they made it sweet for the NY crowd. I said, next year, serve it like you would at home. All this is not to say that it was not great BBQ brisket. I was mostly telling this story to let you know that they thought they had to modify their sauce for New Yorkers. I guess they think New Yorkers can’t handle a little zing?

Memphis Championship Barbecue (Las Vegas) / Mike Mills' 17th Street Bar & Grill (Illinois) – Baby back ribs and BBQ beans. The ribs were good. Nice, meaty, dry rubbed ribs. The thing here is the beans. Fabulous beans. And I’m not a BBQ beans fan. They use five kinds of beans: white, pinto, red kidney, butterbean. Hmm, I have to go look at the pint I managed to get to go as we were leaving at 6 o’clock… I think Darin Yunek (chef from Memphis Championship Barbecue in Las Vegas) said the fifth was navy beans. I asked if they cook the beans individually (for proper doneness) and then mix them with the sauce, but he said, “No, they’re all cooked together.” They soak their beans, btw, so I told him about the eGullet dried beans method.

jhp-bbq16.jpg

Mmm. Beans. The blobby stuff to the lower right that doesn't look like a bean is meat.

It was such a beautiful, and I mean fabulous day, weather-wise, too. I wish I could be there tomorrow. I missed whatever they were making with the white barbecue sauce. Jason has instructions to try that tomorrow.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Fat Guy will happily eat a piece of fat straight. I am averse to all fat in its pure form. So I empathize with Jason's reaction to the brisket. As long as fat contributes silently to beef by making it juicy, tender, and flavorful, I am pro-fat, but once fat reveals itself as such then I am repulsed by it.

However, in hanging out and photographing the brisketeers for quite a while, what I learned is that a brisket is not a uniform piece of meat. It is two rather different pieces of meat: piece number one is called the "flat" and piece number two is called the "deckle" or "point." This was demonstrated for me over and over again, accompanied by numerous entreaties to taste the difference. At some point I will try to comb back through the photos (what you are seeing here are about 2% of the photos I took, selected on the fly and not cropped or postprocessed at all) and do a sequence illustrating the two parts of the brisket and the way the cross-sections look.

To make a long story short, though, if you don't like visible fat striations in your brisket, you want to ask for slices from the flat. You will be considered a pain in the ass customer (and a fool), but you will probably be able to push through the request.

Ellen Shapiro

www.byellen.com

Link to comment
Share on other sites

To make a long story short, though, if you don't like visible fat striations in your brisket, you want to ask for slices from the flat. You will be considered a pain in the ass customer (and a fool), but you will probably be able to push through the request.

A happy fool I will be, thanks.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...