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

Fat Guy

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About the diversity of opinion, there's no accounting for personal taste, but there did seem to be a diversity of opinion regarding things I thought were less subjective. You may or may not like cold ribs, but I think we can agree when they're not warm or fresh off the coals. I suspect the nature of the operation and need to feed so many people so quickly contributed to a greater inconsistency than one might face from any of these pitmasters under more ideal circumstances. I also wonder how much variation you're going to have with these kinds of preparations. In spite of all the organization and technology, there are lots of variables.

I had the 17th Street Memphis ribs twice at different times on Saturday without added sauce. For me, these were the highlight of the event, but I'll note that I didn't get to taste the Blue Smoke ribs.

The pig snoot just really didn't interest me when I had it. It was an oddity. I'm glad I tried it. I did not like the sauce. I found it cloying and overwhelming. I don't think the smoke flavor should come from the sauce. It should come from the smoked meat. Someone said they didn't taste fresh. I thought they tasted like some prepackaged snack food. The resemblance to chicharrones or pork rinds was unmistakable to me.

I'm not much of fan and rather unknowledgeable about BBQ. Greasy ribs with some sweet and sticky sauce has always turned me off, which is why I was surprised at how much I liked the 17th Street ribs. It was also no surprise that during the sauce tasting, the sauces I liked most were the ones that didn't taste like BBQ sauce or at least what's sold as that in bottles in supermarkets. For me, that may have been what put me in the Ed Mitchell camp for pulled pork. The North Carolina style is just so much more to my subjective taste in meat. A sauce that seemed mostly vinegar and spice was find. The sauce on Big Bob Gibson's pulled pork was too sweet and tomatoey. Nevertheless, I liked the rougher pulled but unchopped texture of Gibson's shoulder. I liked the cracklings that were added to the mix on Sunday at Mitchell's and I liked Mitchell's slaw better than Gibson's beans. The ability to compare apples and oranges is purely subjective. By the way, BBQ beans are not my favorite beans, mostly I suppose because I find it all too sweet, but I liked the 17th Street beans better, perhaps because the variety of beans was interesting.

I wasn't all that fond of either of the two sauces presented by the brisket guys at Saturday's panel, but K.C. Baron's sauce was at the far end too cloying and that's what made me try The Salt Lick brisket. As others have already mentioned, their brisket was underdone. Their sausages were good though and I enjoyed their sauce well enough on the sausages and less so on the beef brisket, which was rather dry as well as underdone. I might have passed on the sausages, but they were only serving a combo plate while I was there. I guess it was a blessing in disguise.

We did a lot better on Sunday than on Saturday because we organized and sent three people to three different lines while another scouted out a spot on the grass and spread a blanket. While we weren't allowed to bring beer into the grass area at any of the entrances, a pass of beer over the fence was a maneuver that seemed to effect a diplomatic solution.

Robert Buxbaum


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.

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There were many highlights at the Big Apple Barbecue this year. The comic highlight was when Ed Mitchell invited Fat Guy to pick and chop a whole hog.

Clad in gigantic rubber gloves, Fat Guy carefully followed Mitchell's instructions, periodically complaining that, "Even with these gloves on this is really fucking hot."




They really picked that thing clean.



The skin went over to a very hot grill to be turned into crispy cracklin's that get crumbled into the final barbecue mix.





Fat Guy, now covered in pork and perspiring heavily, received instructions from Ed Mitchell on chopping and proceeded to chop two small batches of meat.



At which point Fat Guy, exhausted and complaining of cramps in his arms, bowed out and left the rest of the job to the professionals.


We got to meet tons of eGulleters we had never met, which was great. And the special surprise at the seminar (which I will let someone else report on substance-wise) was that, at the beginning of the seminar, Mark, the manager of Blue Smoke, made a heartfelt speech regarding eGullet, thanking eGulleters for their contribution to the food scene, encouraging the crowd to check out the site, and (not part of the promised surprise but neat) finally wishing Fat Guy a happy birthday (which horrified him). The recognition was exciting, for us at least. Reactions afterwards ranged from "So what was the surprise?" to "That was so cool!"

Hope to see you all at the Big Apple Barbecue next year!



Ellen Shapiro


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My suggestion for organizing the booths for next year would be to close Madison Ave between 23rd and 25th as well as the portion of 25th street that was used this year. The booths can then be distributed over a larger area. This may relieve some of the overcrowding. The police should also be patrolling the lines. Anyone who gets caught cutting in line gets to eat his or her 'cue on Rikers Island. :angry:

One thing is for certain: New Yorkers LOVE good barbeque!!!

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I'd love it if we could get a volunteer to post a summary of today's seminar, on a new thread, and post a link here. I think there's enough fodder there for a lengthy and heated discussion, especially since there wasn't much frisson among the panelists, all of whom seemed to be taking fundamentally similar views of the issue.

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 had to be somewhere else at three--a baby shower if you must know--and was unable to attend the panel discussion. My curiosity has been piqued. What the heck was the big surprise. Forgive me if it's already been divulged and I skipped over it.

Steven, you lucky bastard pickin' that pig with Mr. Mitchell.

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"

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I have the feeling I probably stood in line with some of y'all. I was the tall chick in the long black dress, red heeled sandals and FABULOUS sunglasses, carrying a bag that said "Natchez Opera Festival."

I got there at 10 minutes to noon today, waited all of about two minutes in line to get my coupons, hopped into the Mitchell's line and, less than five minutes later, had a plate (plate?) of porky goodness. I went back about 1/2 hour later for more - to Mitchell's again...slkinsey and SarahD had arrived by that time and we split up, with me in the Mitchell's line, Sam in the 17th Street line for ribs, and Sarah in the line for KC brisket. Even the second time, the line moved very fast...I was in & out of it in about ten minutes, no big deal.

Fat Guy and Ellen were so nice to me that they SHARED their bbq and got me a diet coke. Now THAT is NICE. Because of their generosity, I also got to taste the Texas brisket (dry) and sausage (yummy!), the Alabama pork shoulder (super tasty, would've been even more so if Mitchell's hadn't been there) and my first bit of the KC brisket (YUM. good shit).

Like slkinsey, I'm a huge fan of eastern NC style bbq, in the form of pulled pork with thin vinegar sauce (although the best 'que needs no sauce)...and Mitchell's, I thought, was a sterling example of the type. If I hadn't had to leave by two pm, I'd have gladly spent all day going back again and again. I'd have fought people for that pork. I got little thingies of hot and mild sauce, but we never used them - the meat was just too ambrosial to gild that particular lily. Bread? What bread? Even the coleslaw was pleasant, for coleslaw (yuck).

The KC brisket, I thought, was just right, moist and tender and fatty and didn't even need the red tomatoey sauce, which was a tad too sweet for my taste.

The ribs were dark pink/bright red inside (SMOKED MEAT), juicy, and practically melted in my mouth.

(you think I had a good day of eating? I think so!).

I was going to have some frozen custard to finish things off just right, but they had lost power to the machine and it wasn't available. I just couldn't see spending $4 for a root beer float, much as I love them, so I settled for another diet coke and a bottle of water.

The faint scent of smoked meat that apparently clung to my clothing was commented upon (as a positive thing) at my gig afterward. Oh well. As Michael Lee West says in Consuming Passions: A Food-Obsessed Life, "Many a young woman has been seduced after an evening of torrid barbecuing."

With that in mind, I have just purchased some root beer and vanilla ice cream, and am about to prevail upon slkinsey to make us floats. After that...who knows? But damn, that was fun.


Edited because I forgot to mention that I also tried the snoot! I thought it was delicious, more a snack food than a sandwich food, crunchy, chewy and porky all at once.

Edited by bergerka (log)

Basil endive parmesan shrimp live

Lobster hamster worchester muenster

Caviar radicchio snow pea scampi

Roquefort meat squirt blue beef red alert

Pork hocs side flank cantaloupe sheep shanks

Provolone flatbread goat's head soup

Gruyere cheese angelhair please

And a vichyssoise and a cabbage and a crawfish claws.

--"Johnny Saucep'n," by Moxy Früvous

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Well, I showed up today around 2:45 after practicing in the morning and early afternoon, and bought 20 cuepons. I then spoke with a number of different eGulleteers. I recognized Ellen right away, presumably because I had seen her picture in the Mongolia series, but didn't realize at first that we hadn't met previously. Nice to meet you, Ellen, and nice to meet everyone I already knew and those I hadn't met in person before; it was a good turnout of eGulleteers today. Ultimately, I took a seat for the fascinating panel discussion on Barbeculture.

Once the panel discussion ended, I went over to 27th St. and got on line for ribs from the 17th St. stand. The ribs were warm, not cold, and I thought they tasted terrific! But what was really outstanding was their baked beans, a blend of several different types of beans, as has previously been described. They were spicy and vinegary, not too sweet. I could have stood to have twice as much of them.

Having finished my portion of ribs, I got on line at Big Bob Gibson's, because by that time, Mitchell's had already run out. I wanted their hot sauce, but they were out of that and gave the mild sauce (by the way, thanks to the two eGulleteers who were ahead of me on line and got the cue for me - I forgot your monikers, but please identify yourself and claim credit). I actually thought the mild sauce had a nice bite and a little bit of it helped the pulled pork considerably. It was tasty but a fairly small portion. That said, two portions were enough for me, and I sold my remaining 6 cuepons to a woman who otherwise would have waited on line for nothing (the balance of 2 cuepons had been spent on water). Big Bob's cue also came with a portion of baked beans which were just kidney beans, I think (all the same kind of beans, anyway), and more like what I'm used to - worth eating but not particularly outstanding. I then hung out and listened to the set that Melvin Sparks' band played. Excellent blues band!

In case no-one's mentioned it yet, the organizers seem to have learned a lot from yesterday, and had dividers up to keep the lines organized. Several but not all of the lines also had "end of the line" signs up, held there by members of the staff (17th St. didn't). What people told me was that they simply ran out of cuepons, not that they chose to stop selling them. Clearly, next year they will print more cuepons to meet the level of demand that they now know to expect.

I think it's too bad they don't let people drink beer everywhere in the park for the duration of the block party, but I realize that New York has laws against drinking outside and suspended them in a particular area.

It was a very fun occasion, and I expect I'll come back next year.

Edited by Pan (log)

Michael aka "Pan"


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Great seeing so many old eG friends and meeting new ones today. It was a bit of a whirlwind for Kirk and I as we had tix for Cookin' at 5:30, but we did get to try a few things before leaving, thanks to some help from HWOE and Mister Cutlets (thanks, guys!)

I much preferred the K.C. Baron brisket to the Salt Lick brisket. R.U.B. had a depth in its smoky flavor that I really liked. The Salt Lick brisket had a very mono-smoky flavor. Salt Lick's sausage, though, may have been the best thing I ate overall. Completely flavorful, and as an added bonus I got to taste it again and again all the way through Cookin', all the way home, and as I write this :raz::laugh:

I wasn't able to sweet-talk the very nice Smoki O's woman (she asked about Native American influences at the 3:00 panel) out of a taste of snoot (I know she had a little stash 'cuz I saw it!) but we had a good chat and she did give me a generous cup of sauce which made for good sipping when I caught up to Kirk in the Big Bob Gibson line--nice balance of sweetness and tartness, and it coated my finger perfectly :biggrin: I prefer the vinegary sauces, but this was damn good.

The Big Bob Gibson pork shoulder was just average to me--nothing special. For me, there's a certain greasy smoky smell that good pork shoulder has. To paraphrase Potter Stewart, I can't define it, but I know it when I smell it on my fingers. And this didn't have it. And, to top it off, they were out of their spicy sauce, which I had heard was good. Made me wish I hadn't drunk the Smoki O's sauce.

Finally, I was pleasantly surprised at how well the Blue Smoke rib stood up to the competition.

That's all I got to taste, but given the time I had available, not bad. I'm making a resolution now to plan a bit better for BABBP III. And I didn't use Wet-Nap #1--that's why your fingers fit in your mouth.



See! Antony, that revels long o' nights,

Is notwithstanding up.

Julius Caesar, Act II, Scene ii


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Me and my girlfriend showed up around 12:30--the pig snout was disappointing. I was hoping for something really tender--I mean, face meat is usually tender, right? It was extra hard pork rinds with cold bad barbecue sauce. Seriously, like KC Masterpiece or whatever your local grocery sells. Blue Smoke fared much better; their ribs were fatty and great, even if you only got two. The desserts were just so-so--my $4 root beer float was flat and her rhubarb cobbler was pretty good if small. The logistics of providing food for that many people must be crazy though, so it's impressive that they manage to do it above the standard outdoor booth level. Do all the booths have to be right next to each other? The lines were pretty crazy, except the one for pig snout. Did Mr. Steingarten say anything interesting on Saturday?

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(by the way, thanks to the two eGulleteers who were ahead of me on line and got the cue for me - I forgot your monikers, but please identify yourself and claim credit).

You're welcome :smile:

Pan Posted on Jun 13 2004, 08:27 PM In case no-one's mentioned it yet, the organizers seem to have learned a lot from yesterday

From yesterday's posts, I expected a nightmare and had the opposite experience. The organizers reacted very well--it all seemed very streamlined despite the large crowds.



See! Antony, that revels long o' nights,

Is notwithstanding up.

Julius Caesar, Act II, Scene ii


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One thing that I heard from multiple sources (including the three cops my brother-in-law befriended today -- he's on the job in New Haven and somehow cops everywhere recognize each other) is that there was a barricade shortage in the city on account of the logistical needs of the Puerto Rican Day parade this weekend (an event many times the size and scope of the BABBP), so the organizers' original orders for barricades were underfilled. Last night they figured out that there was a construction site near the park, however, and they traded barbecue for a loan of barricades today.

In terms of the placement of the booths, what I was hearing is that the politics of dealing with the city on something like this are incredibly intricate. I'm sure it's a lot harder to get Madison Avenue than it is to get 26th Street, and I wouldn't be surprised if it's simply impossible to get fire department approval for combustion in the now-heavily-wooded park.

My mother and father both did multiple stints as president of the West 69th Street Block Association. When I was a kid, it was a simple matter to close down a block for a community event and create as much smoke and noise as you wanted. It was a different time, the '70s, right before the liability explosion and the latest big phase of the expansion of the regulatory state. We used to have a bandstand that some guys on the block had cobbled together out of scrap lumber. It was stored in the basement of one of the buildings every year and was so rickety when assembled that everybody was sure one day Howard McGhee's band would fall right through the stage. There were all sorts of near misses with the charcoal kettle grills. The meat for the hamburgers was stored out in the sun.

As regulations got tighter and America's notions of risk assessment and public safety evolved, it became harder and harder to have our block party. The same thing was happening to community groups all over the city. Eventually, professional organizers came into existence -- they were the only ones who could effectively navigate the bureaucratic maze. So block associations would simply let these organizers run their block parties. The West 69th Street block party traded itself in for some shares of the Columbus Avenue festival. Predictably, most block parties aka street fairs in New York are now totally homogenous and sucky.

I give the USHG and the other event sponsors a lot of credit, then, for doing something truly special and unique, reminiscent of the best of the old-style block parties of the past. Next year, maybe they'll ask my mother for advice, though -- she could get the whole thing fixed up.

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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We arrived at 2:00. I made HWOE stand on line for cue-pons while I went off to find Picaman and KirkL. Once I found them, we went back to where I assumed HWOE would still be waiting on line. But no! He, it turns out, had headed up to where we had been, and . . . that's the only good reason for the existence of cell phones. :raz: At least we got to hear a little bit of Jane and Michael Stern talking about roadfood -- Q and other good stuff, including my most beloved Stroud's fried chicken.

More to the point: what did we eat??? I wanted to wait until after the panel discussion, but HWOE was starving. So he got on line for Salt Lick (it appeared to be one of the shorter ones. HAH!), and the three of us walked around, ending up back at the panel presentation area. Meeting and greeting other eGers as they popped up, at least those whom I could identify. We did have a pretty good turnout, and it was quite thrilling to be acknowledged.

Oh yeah, what did we eat? After about an hour on line :shock: HWOE finally returned with portions of Salt Lick brisket and sausage, with bread and sauce only, as they had run out of coleslaw. (The snoot place was already closed when we got there. :sad: ) I liked the brisket all right -- pretty lean, nice smoke ring, tender, but not all that much flavor -- and LOVED the sausage: juicy, snappy, well-flavored. Also liked their sauce: slightly thick and reddish but vinegary. I espied Picaman and KirkL nibbling on a rib -- provided by Mr. Cutlets?? -- and they were kind enough to share it with us. It was from Blue Smoke, and it was GREAT: smoky, tender, flavorful. Looks like they're finally getting it right.

After the panel, the custard stand opened up again, and we had some: excellent, I thought: very vanilla-y, creamy, sweet but not too, rich but not too. I can't wait to see what kind of fruit flavors they might do.

Then we walked around some more (this time, HWOE, BondGirl, and I), and first had the other brisket, from K.C. Baron. Me no like. I found it very tough, with too much fat throughout, and not enough flavor, either of smoke or meat. Liked the sauce, though: very very heavy on the black pepper. The pickles were . . . dill pickle chips. Eh. The Memphis Championship ribs were okay, what there was to eat on them, but had a fairly low meat-to-bone ratio. The beans were as terrific as already mentioned: tangy, beany in flavor, not at all like the usual gloppy too-sweet baked beans that are standard fare with hot dogs and burgers.

Since we hadn't really eaten all that much -- and all BondGirl had eaten was the custard -- the 3 of us went down to NY Noodletown for bowls of Chinese noodle soup. A lovely end to a very enjoyable day.

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Ed Mitchell. The Man. The Legend.


Nice closeup of baby back ribs from Memphis Championship BBQ


Salt Lick Brisket extreme closeup


Salt Lick Texas Sausage closeup -- by far, this was my favorite thing at Salt Lick, and one of the best things of the show.


A closeup of the Salt Lick smoker, with briskets ready to go.


Salt Lick Brisket, spread eagle.


Still Life.


Salt Lick Brisket being sliced up.


Another closeup of Salt Lick brisket -- flat cut.


Another happy customer served.


Extreme closeup of Ed Mitchell's cracklin'.


Brisket, cut from the flat, and some burnt ends from KC Baron BBQ. I admit, now that I have tried their burnt ends and brisket cut from the flat, I'm a happy customer.


Burnt end extreme closeup. Smoky goodness.


Pulled Pork Shoulder Sandwich from Big Bob Gibson.


Big Bob Gibson Baked Beans.


A collection of Burnt Ends from KC Baron.


Paul Kirk of KC Baron slicing up some brisket flat.


Zoom in of Paul Kirk slicing up some brisket flat.


Zoom in of Paul Kirk slicing up some brisket deckle.


Pile o' ribs at Blue Smoke.


Pitmaster Chris Lilly of Bib Bob Gibson.



Ever wanted the see whats in a bottle of Ed Mitchell's HOT BBQ sauce? Lots of red chile pepper flakes. Oh Yeah.






Balducci's Lemonade -- one of the big surprise products of the show. This carbonated lemonade imported from France went great with the Q.

Jason Perlow, Co-Founder eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

Foodies who Review South Florida (Facebook) | offthebroiler.com - Food Blog (archived) | View my food photos on Instagram

Twittter: @jperlow | Mastodon @jperlow@journa.host

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...the special surprise at the seminar (which I will let someone else report on substance-wise) was that, at the beginning of the seminar, Mark, the manager of Blue Smoke, made a heartfelt speech regarding eGullet, thanking eGulleters for their contribution to the food scene, encouraging the crowd to check out the site, and (not part of the promised surprise but neat) finally wishing Fat Guy a happy birthday (which horrified him).

First of all, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, FAT GUY!!! Wish I had known when I saw you yesterday. What a great way to spend it--pulling and chopping whole hog! :biggrin:

I am just thrilled to hear what the surprise was...considering how much press eG gets, I'm still amazed by the number of people who are really into food who have never heard of it. As I told Fat Guy yesterday, I think eG needs a booth at BABBP '05, and I'm publicly volunteering to be there to help spread the word/share the love. :wub:

Sorry I couldn't be there today to meet more eG folks, but I look forward to doing so at future events. And for those of you who didn't quite get their fill of 'cue, check out the pig roast that the NJ crowd is planning for September, and think about joining us!

"I'm not eating it...my tongue is just looking at it!" --My then-3.5 year-old niece, who was NOT eating a piece of gum

"Wow--this is a fancy restaurant! They keep bringing us more water and we didn't even ask for it!" --My 5.75 year-old niece, about Bread Bar

"He's jumped the flounder, as you might say."

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Back home now.

I'll take a slightly different tact from what's up already and start with the color commentary, and slide into the food later on.

It's definitely is a different experience, walking up to the back, flashing your eGullet credentials, and getting to schmooze with the pit-master. And when you are with master schmoozer Jason Perlow, it takes on an entirely different complexion. These guys take their work seriously, and to a man, they seem to appreciate the fact that eGullet seems to take their work seriously too.

The one sour note was, while trying to get a nice shot of Big Bob Gibson's Pork Shoulders, the big dog comes down the aisle, mowing poor web journalists down like wheat at harvest-time.

"NBC. Everybody move. Coming through. NBC!"

People's heads pop up, like on those little dolls with springs for necks. Folks waiting on line in front turn away for a moment and start pulling out hairbrushes. The pit-master runs over to the smoker and starts fiddling around--maybe to make it look a little "smokier" or something. People inside the booth start bumping into each other, their eyes a little wild.

They needn't have worried so much. It looked like a 2nd unit of some type--just a film crew. Tom Brokaw wasn't exactly sidling up asking for a sandwich.

In the (relative) quiet of the back end, you get a nice look at the personalities involved too--or at least some small moments from them. Ed Mitchell, turning his back on the throngs waiting to sample his wares and taking a moment--just a moment--to lean against a table, both palms flat, and take a deep breath. Jason catches his eye, Ed walks over, and I get introduced. After the usual pleasantries, referring back to that moment of weariness, and to the exhausted look in his eyes, I quip "you about ready to go home yet?" It didn't rate more than a chuckle, but I felt lucky to get that. And a sandwich made by Ed's own hands.

Even wackier is watching Danny Meyer sneak up behind Jason Perlow, wrap an arm around his shoulder, and complain "why aren't you getting your ass over to the seminar". Ed's sandwichs still in hand, we race towards the other end of the park, only to find that as is true of good BBQ, you have to wait a bit for good BBQ discussion as well.

The panel discussion was great, and I won't belabor it here, except to say that I have new respect for a friend of eGullet—Robb Walsh—and his skill at steering an event like this. Every panelist had something worthwhile to say, but Robb was definitely the center.

Did I mention the situation with the Pig Snoot people? No? Okay, well apparently they ran out of snoot REALLY early on, and by the time we arrived they'd closed up shop completely and were spread across the entire park—acting like the most joyful of tourists. These guys were having fun, I tell you—filling up the park benches behind Mitchell's place eating pulled pork, lying back in the grass in the main part of the park… even kicking back and listening intently to Mr. Walsh and friends during the seminar. They just looked happy to be there.

A lot of eGulleteers were there, of course. Steven Shaw, looking like he hadn't slept in a week, perked up long enough to grunt "hi". Ellen Shapiro, his wife, just looked cold. I kept asking myself how she could survive the mountaintops of Tibet, and the windswept plains of Mongolia, and have trouble with a windy but fairly mild June day in New York City--but then again that's probably why God invented Polar Fleece. I didn't speak much to most of the others, short of a nod or a quick hello, but a nice clump of us were there. Sam Kinsey kept trying to brush the seed pods from the trees which were raining on us out of his hair, but it just kept going down his shirt instead. Mark Stevens looked somewhat hungry, but frankly I wasn't in the mood to give him any of my special Ed Mitchell sandwich.

One thing you can be sure of in any park in Manhattan, especially these days, is that homeless people will be nearby. It was kind of odd in the park today—watching the no-longer young urban professionals cluster in the middle of the park, near the bandstand, while the homeless crept in and occupied the empty benches on the east and west sides of the park—on the east side kind of staring up at the people eating on the patio at Tabla, nodding to themselves a bit, and going back to sleep.

Walking back after the seminar, at barely 4pm, you could already see how quickly things were winding down. Blue Smoke's people will still cranking out the Spare Ribs by the boatload, and NBC had finally abandoned Big Bob Gibson long enough for us to snatch some pictures, but at some point in the mid-afternoon the "Cue Pons" booth had closed, the crowds were already drastically reduced, and this time Ed Mitchell was sitting down, with his feet up and his hands behind his head. If he'd only had a longneck beer in his hand, it would have been the perfect picture of exhausted satisfaction.

While B.S.ing a bit with the folks at K. C. Baron, a ragged-looking man comes shambling up the sidewalk with big white cardboard signs stuck to his front and back, yelling at the top of his lungs "Fuck Bush!" (the signs mention Iraq in small type, but the large print pretty much just says "Fuck Bush" again) Noticing me, he stops, gets a really serious look on his face, and with seeming complete sincerity asks me in a low but carrying voice "You. Hey you! Do you want to fuck Bush?"

"He's not my type," is all I can think to answer. Later on, a few booths down, my new friend appears again and this time stops Jason—who's really more interested in trying to see if Bob Gibson's pitmaster can spare another minute to let him get some closer-in shots near the smoker. Afterwards, I'm sure we both felt terrible for being so apolitical, but damnit, we were still hungry.

Of course, it's not like we didn't rake in pretty much everything, except the previously mentioned Pig Snoot. The standouts for me were the Sausages from The Salt Lick, the Burnt Ends from K. C. Baron, the Blue Smoke Spare Ribs, and of course Ed Mitchell's humble little sandwich.

The Salt Lick Sausages were huge, plump almost to bursting, and seriously spicy. Basically these boys bit back. The Salt Lick Brisket was clean and simple, in a kind of brown gravy, but didn't really grab me. The folks at the booth were friendly and maybe a bit TOO enthusiastic to put together a nice spread of their products in front of the smoker for us to photograph, when in fact what we were REALLY trying to get was candid shots. We did get a nice series of them slicing up the brisket—close enough together in sequence that I'm going to fool around a bit later and see if I can make an Animated GIF from it.

One thing I learned is that our noble founder managed to spend about a half hour jawing with the folks from K.C. Baron yesterday and the subject of Burnt Ends never even once came up. Now, my Dad has lived in K.C for the past several years, and I've gone visiting on occasion. I can't imagine talking about Kansas City BBQ for 2 minutes without mentioning Burnt Ends, much less a half hour. I remedied that situation the moment I realized that Jason didn't even really KNOW what Burnt Ends are (for those who don't know… basically they are the parts cut off the ends of the brisket when they trim it, and they are put back and smoked a SECOND time afterwards), and while he still seems to prefer the lean cuts, at least I've got his head going in the right direction.

The Blue Smoke Ribs were just amazing—huge and meaty. Jason, who must have felt somewhat constrained when his wife was around yesterday, was in fine form tonight—picking a rib up by the end, waving at the world in general, and saying "Bam. Bam." (imitating the kid from the Flintstones, not Emeril). What can I say? He's a real food sophisticate. But basically, he was right. Unless we got particularly meaty examples, these were real primal. And someone else will probably have to confirm for me, but I believe they were probably just spice rubbed—and that's all they needed. You are going to get your hands pretty dirty picking up a hunk of meat like these no matter what… but to be spared the excess of some obnoxious sticky sauce is enough to make you want to cry.

There's not much to say about the Mitchell sandwiches which hasn't already been said. I know there are some differences of opinion, and I come down on the positive side, but I can't summon anything more original to say other than "yum!". I didn't get to try all three of his sauce variations, but the spicy sauce was just fine with me. It's more vinegary than spicy really, but it gets the job done fine—the meat is the real star. Now as others have described, periodically you'd hit a piece of cracklins that was a bit much, but overall it really is necessary.

One think which pissed me off all day was a reoccurring case of the hiccups. Can you imagine it? Sitting there working around the edges of an Ed Mitchell pulled Pork sandwich and starting to vibrate and choke? People looked at me like I had two heads or something. And this happened all day. At virtually every stop—although I covered it well most of the time. Slugging bottled water down like it was jello shots.

A quick word on a few of the other things… the Memphis Championship Barbecue baby back ribs were the first thing I had, and I liked them quite a bit at the time. But really the Blue Smoke spare ribs just banished them from my mind when I later had that. Between the Salt Lick and K. C. Baron, the later had the better brisket, although as I said I really favored the Burnt Ends—so that might have been coloring my view of the rest of their 'wares as well. Big Bob Gibson's Pork shoulder was good, but didn't really hit the spot the way Mitchell's whole hog operation did. The beans at both Big Bob Gibson and Memphis Championship Barbecue were good, but I'd have to give a real edge to the boys from Vegas (the "Mephis" guys are actually located in Las Vegas and Illinois). I didn't really get to taste the Cole Slaw from The Salt Lick, but Ed Mitchell's slaw was just primo. In fact, while lingering in back of the booth, I overheard this nice lady begging Ed to sell her the slaw by itself—something he wasn't quite prepared to do, but he seemed to take the request as a compliment.

Overall it was a great day.

Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

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About the diversity of opinion, there's no accounting for personal taste, but there did seem to be a diversity of opinion regarding things I thought were less subjective. You may or may not like cold ribs, but I think we can agree when they're not warm or fresh off the coals. I suspect the nature of the operation and need to feed so many people so quickly contributed to a greater inconsistency than one might face from any of these pitmasters under more ideal circumstances. I also wonder how much variation you're going to have with these kinds of preparations. In spite of all the organization and technology, there are lots of variables.

the 17th street ribs i had at noon on sunday were a completely different animal than those i had on saturday at noon..

mike mills was opening up steam trays of ribs, breaking them and looking at the smoke ring and how the meat was breaking.. he didn't seem happy..

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Okay, a small treat for those so inclined.

My late night bowl of yogurt and cereal with strawberries now seems, well, not very satisfying. I would rather be eating a brisket sandwich. :angry:

Thanks. :hmmm::laugh:

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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Okay, so that's about it for the "live" coverage and you all should feel free to post on this thread from here on in.

One thing that was so great about having these pitmasters here in New York was that it brought back memories of visiting their home bases. And for those who have never been to those home bases, it offered a taste and a chance to get up close and personal with the people behind the experiences. I'd love for those who have been to those places to help flesh out this thread with first-hand accounts.

I mentioned our visit to Mitchell's in Wilson, which was part of the research for my forthcoming book. I'd also like to take the opportunity to reminisce a bit about the Salt Lick. My notes are now a couple of years out of date, but allow me to reproduce my impressions from Summer '02:


Almost anyplace you go to eat Texas barbecue, you'll find yourself not only dining but also participating in a party. At the Salt Lick Bar B-Q, in Driftwood, it seems as though that party is both the Republican Party and the Democratic Party during convention week. The place is so big, it would be insulting to measure it in football fields. You'd want to jump straight to multiples of New York's Central Park to get the right order of magnitude. I believe 2,000 customers can be accommodated at once between the indoor and outdoor dining facilities, and it seems another 2,000 are waiting on line, and of course in Texas each person arrives individually in his or her own 4x4 truck and takes up two parking spaces.

When you enter the Salt Lick premises, a guy with a gun (it's Texas) directs you to the parking area. Do not, as we did, attempt to unload your passengers and then go park because the guy with the gun (who is an off-duty sheriff's deputy) will scream, "No unloading!" while gesturing towards the sign that says, "No unloading!" You'll also be cautioned, twenty minutes later when you've hiked back from your parking space, not to register with the hostesses unless your party is complete. "Liars will be prosecuted," reads the sign, which I assume is in jest because everybody lies and says there's a complete party waiting to be seated. Given the hour-long wait, it seems a harmless fib.

Seating, whether inside or out, is at picnic tables. If you haven't eaten at three other barbecue places in the same day, the thing to do is order family style. $13.95 per person buys you infinitely replenished platters of brisket, sausage, pork ribs, potato salad, coleslaw, beans, bread, pickles, and onions. You can also just order barbecue plates and sandwiches.

Hays County, where Salt Lick is located, is a dry county -- alcohol is not available for sale. So Salt Lick is strictly BYO, and boy do Texans know how to bring it. Relatively small groups of diners arrive with coolers so large they need wheels to be moveable. This isn't particularly reassuring since everybody dining at Salt Lick had to drive to get there. Certainly, though, it keeps the costs down and allows you to drink whatever you like so long as you're willing to schlep it.

We were joined at Salt Lick, incidentally, by eGullet.com member NewYorkTexan and his wife, who it turns out have -- among others -- a dog named Fluffernutter.

The current owner of Salt Lick is Hisako T. Roberts, who I believe is Japanese and the widow of Thurman Roberts (the co-founder). It is alleged that the recipes and techniques in use at Salt Lick -- which boasts one of the only open-pit barbecues remaining anywhere -- have been handed down from generation to generation in the Roberts family since the Civil War. There is also apparently some sort of Asian influence in the barbecue sauce, but I couldn't detect it.

You'd think with such popularity and so much hoopla (Salt Lick has been written about effusively in GQ, People, and just about everywhere else) the place would be overrated, but it actually produces first-rate, technically correct barbecue that puts most other barbecue to shame.


So it was great fun having the Salt Lick represented here in New York, even though I personally felt their brisket was not up to the standard of what they serve back home or even particularly good. I did enjoy the sausage, if not the sauce.

I'd also like to extend a heartfelt thanks to all those who have contributed in-depth comments and photos to this thread. Where else in the universe could you possibly go to learn so much about the Big Apple Barbecue? This is the sort of thing that makes eGullet so special.

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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Great comments guys! I read them all, checked out all the photos, and I plan on coming up next year for this event. I hope they tweak it some, as I'm not used to waiting forever for barbeque here in Austin ( :smile: )

Frank in Austin

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I waited longer at the Salt Lick in Texas than on the Salt Lick line in New York, or on any line at the Big Apple Barbecue for that matter!

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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My stylistic preferences with respect to barbecue have evolved quite a bit over the years. I used to be a total rib chauvinist. I think wet ribs and the Memphis style of pulled pork shoulder are the most intuitively lovable styles -- they hit all the highest notes of salty, sweet, and fatty. Today I am more likely to prefer whole hog and brisket, which I think are less intuitive styles -- the whole hog in particular presents a lot of different flavors and textures. I think there is great barbecue in every category, but my feeling at this point in the evolution of my barbecue education (I'm at sort of the elementary school level right now, but I've definitely moved out of the kindergarten) is that the whole hog sits at the apex of the craft. By all the standards we typically use to measure unlike cuisines -- complexity of flavor, difficulty of technical mastery, etc. -- whole hog is da bomb.

Tee hee, this gives me great pleasure. Why, you ask? Let me bring up a statement Fat Guy made nearly 3 years ago about NC barbecue:

My problem with North Carolina is that it's all about finding the best pig you can find, slowly smoking and roasting it over hardwood coals for hours and hours until it's the best pork you've ever eaten in your entire life, and then basically putting it in a blender with ketchup and making it into a beverage. Why would anybody want to ruin perfectly good barbecue by chopping the #### out of it and mixing it with all that stuff so you can't taste the meat? At most of the places, especially the WNC ones, I can't imagine the customers would notice if boiled pork shoulder (or even Chilean sea bass for that matter) was substituted.

The man has learned. NC barbecue is often an acquired taste, simply because it doesn't overpower you with sauce or smoke. The pork is what it's all about. The stuff is chopped a bit too finely at a few places, but, perhaps apocryphal, that's an unfortunate relic from the days when dental practice resulted in too many folks needing their food substantially chopped.

Ketchup? That's a common misunderstanding of NC barbecue ("western" style, that is). The sauce is usually quite thin and still vinegar based. It'll have some ketchup in it, but it's certainly nothing akin to Texas-types of barbecue sauce.

Finally, I want y'all to realize what a special treat you had up there in the big city. Most barbecue festivals are not about feeding the masses. Instead, they're competitions where serving good Q to the ordinary Joe or Jane is almost an afterthought. You certainly would never get so many different types of barbecue at one place. Perhaps they'll add someone next year from Owensboro, KY, to demonstrate one more style. I'd hope they bring up a Lexington/Western style barbecuer, too. I need to set aside all plans in early June next year!

Dean McCord


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