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AKA: NYC vs. the rest of the U.S.

Every time I sit down to write this post I don’t get very far. My head starts swimming with the chaos and smells off the Big Apple BBQ Block Party and I figure I better give myself a few more hours to let the dust settle. It truly is an overwhelming event for a BBQ lover. Not to mention the thing thats great about BBQ is indescribable. Maybe starting a blog focusing on the subject wasn’t such a great idea….

Anyway, Day one I hit fest festival hard and early, trying several different places in rapid succession. Maybe I overdid it because by day two, the thought of going through it all again made me dizzy, so I just hit one quick spot for lunch and got out. My main goal here was to see how the places regarded as NYC’s best held up against famous places from around the US. The results were mixed, but all in all our fair city held its own I think. Here’s a quick rundown of some of my impressions.

Beef BrisketHilly Country (New York, NY) vs. Jack’s Old South (Unadilla, GA)
If Salt Lick had made it to the festival it would have been no contest, but they we absent for some mysterious reason.

Jack’s – Good mix of marbled and lean, good texture, but lacking in overall flavor in some bites, where Hill Country hits it out of the park every single time, giving NYC a win.

Pulled Pork Dinosaur (New York, NY) vs. Martin’s (Nashville, TN)

Martin's Pulled Pork

Dinosaur Pulled Pork

The best pork I’ve had to date was in Memphis. Nothing has ever come close. So I had high hopes for Martin’s from Nashville.

All in all though, our own Dinosaur BBQ’s pulled pork was great. It doesn’t have that intangible magic that the southerners obtain, but its still some of the best I’ve ever had. The festival just reassured me in that.

Martin’s was great. It had that extra love, that intangible quality that I’ve only found in the south so far. It was also whole hog, as opposed to shoulder only, which might explain a more heterogeneous flavor and texture. Martin’s Tennessee Whiskey sauce was great, but didn’t touch the Memphis ones The hot bbq sauce was very spicy but didn’t take away from the flavor of the meat like some other hot bbq sauces I’ve had. Though Dinosaur was great, I’m gonna have to call this a win for Tennessee.

Other Notables

Pappy’s Ribs (St. Louis, MO)

Pappy's Ribs

Perfect consistency, just the right pull off the bone, great smokey dry rub.

Moonlite Mutton (Owensboro, KY)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RJikC4SlHwQ
Like nothing I’ve ever had before. The essence of lamb flavor was deep in the meat. The spices were thick and vinegary, which helped to cut through the gaminess of the meat.

The Burgoo was hardy with tons of meat but the flavor of potatoes pervaded overall.

Wildwood Pork Steak with ‘bourbon onions’ (New York, NY)
I’d never had a pork steak sandwich like this before and there wasn’t anything else at the festival to compare it to. Wildwood is known for their signature dry rub and that was definitely the highlight of this sandwich. Onions were good but not sure if I actually tasted bourbon in them. If I have any complaint its that the steak may have been a bit too thick for the spices to be effective.

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No new BBQ Adventures this week, but did you know about the Big Apple BBQ coming up in less than two weeks!? Should be a great way to compare all of the more well known places.

As for this week, my goal is to venture into the depths of Brooklyn based on a few tips I’ve had recently.

Happy Memorial Day!

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It Begins…

When I moved to New York City nearly two years ago it felt like coming home. Despite growing up alternately in suburban sprawl and southern rural areas, I adapted quickly, only rarely feeling pangs of homesickness. To my surprise, the one thing found myself missing on an almost daily basis was Barbecue.

While living in Jacksonville, Florida for the four years before I moved north, BBQ became a social hobby of mine. Jacksonville is the largest city in the US by square mileage, and yet tops out at just over one-million residents. The vastness of it has led to what may be the most BBQ joints per cap-pita in the South (Texas is not part of the South in my mind). It became a mission of a few friends and myself to seek out the diversity in BBQ flavors which Jacksonville had to offer, and we probably hit a dozen different places over the course of 6 months, returning weekly to a few favorites.

Fast-forward to March 2010. I set out on a road trip from New York to Texas that was supposed to be a musical trip of research and discovery. Each day when I sat down to write a blog post I found myself writing more about beer and food than music. Our trip took us inadvertently through a BBQ tour of half of the US, hitting Western North Carolina, Northern Georgia, Alabama, New Orleans, Houston, Austin, and Memphis – each with their own unique BBQ history. When I looked back at two weeks of blog posts, my passion for BBQ was much clearer than my all-but-consuming interest music. This was somewhat startling to me.

I think I love BBQ for the same reasons I love folk music: its pure, its universal, and its regionally unique. It isn’t about who’s is the best, each region has they’re own specialty to offer. Which is why I had trouble adapting to the NYC BBQ culture. There is truly some great BBQ in New York, but most of it doesn’t have a strong cultural identity. Its either generic or lifted from some other region. Whats worse, its expensive. I really feel that BBQ is the people’s food; its rich history and flavor came from people who HAD to cook it the way they did. Its hard to find a pork sandwich in New York for under $10.

My trip through the South was as disturbing as it was elating because of all the simple little things local BBQ include that New York BBQ places don’t bother with. Namely – warm sauce. Warm BBQ sauce is amazing, it makes the flavor sing. Why then, had I yet to find a single restaurant in the Tri-State area with warm sauce? What is so difficult about that?! I finally found one today, which gives me hope for the five boroughs.

Its time for me to stop ignoring the signs from the universe and create an outlet for this passion. Therefore, as of today I am launching the NYC BBQ Blog. I will plunge into the depths of this city, and find the real people that are making real affordable soulful barbecue. It isn’t just about the meat either, sides and extras are just as important in making the experience complete. I’ll also highlight some of the more well known places and some tips on how to eat afford-ably at them. My extreme broke-ness has forced me to find ways to do so.

I’m no expert and I’m definitely not a food critic, but I do love food. And so I’m going to report my findings here, and if anyone is interested they’re welcome to the information. Meanwhile check out NYC Food Guy, who is great.  Maybe with some collective bargaining we can catch the interest in some of the bigger more expensive places. I’m sure they’d love the attention of the concentrated BBQ lovers of the city. Thanks for reading!

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