Monday, June 9, 2008

Big Apple BBQ: Piggies and Moo Cows and Cupcakes, Oh My!


I'm still full after our trip to the Big Apple BBQ...ok, that's a total lie, I'm not that delicate...if there were still pitmasters in Madison Square Park I would go right now. But alas the 'cue has gone returned to the land of Sweet Tea and Red Velvet cake and all I have left is our fully punched badge of honor (aka Fast Pass) and photos. Lots and lots of delicious photos...

As I mentioned before this was our first year with the Fast Pass and it was worth every penny of the $100 investment. After all, we were splitting it between Lawman, Lawman-in-law, Blondie and me and that's only $25 worth of 'cue each. The Fast Pass granted the FP wearer and a guest entry to the Fast Pass line area which on the park side of the tents and for the most part in the shade. We took turns on the lines hunting and gathering the 'cue and staying cool in the shade and minding the picnic blanket.

Saturday afternoon while I was traveling on business, Lawman and Lawman-in-law ran off with the Fast Pass--I mean braved the opening day crowds to try out the Beef Brisket from Salt Lick in Driftwood, TX and the Chopped Pork Sandwich from the Checkered Pig in Martinsville, VA. I had the camera on my trip, so there aren't any pics, but from what I heard from Lawman, neither were revelatory 'cue experiences. After all of the great reviews Lawman had heard about Salt Lick he was disappointed that the Brisket was dry and not all that flavorful, though NYC Food Guy said that if you chatted up the Pit Crew they might hook you up with the awesome fresh out of the pit stuff. As for the Checkered Pig, Lawman-in-law said it was good, but not wow and not worth a repeat visit when we we returned on Sunday. Lawman and Lawman-in-law tried to get a whole hog sandwich from Ed Mitchell's The Pit, but by the late afternoon they were already out of piggies for the day. Serves you right, Lawman, for trying to get the whole hog without me!

Ed Mitchell, pitmaster extraordinaire at work

Ed Mitchell, pitmaster extraordinaire at work

Saucin' up the whole hog

Adding the sauce

Saucin' up the Whole Hog at The Pit

Saucin' up the Whole Hog at The Pit

Chopped and ready whole hog from The Pit

Chopped and ready whole hog from The Pit

Our first stop on Sunday was The Pit. I totally subscribe to Ed Levine's Big Apple BBQ strategy theory. I know that there is some good 'cue being dished up in NYC, but I can have that any other time. I can't have 'cue from the big guns down south everyday and I have to take advantage of it while I can and from all I've heard about Ed Mitchell, there was no way we were going to be done out of our whole hog sandwich again. When we arrived at around 12:30pm, I wasn't sure that we were in the right place. This was the Fast Pass Lane...right? For the Pit, right? And that was Ed Mitchell himself over there up to his elbows in piggy goodness, right? Why was there no line? Suckers! I proudly presented my fast pass and we claimed our sandwich and slaw. Mmmm, it looked and smelled delicious. But, I had heard that one of the best parts is getting little bits of crispy skin.

Getting the piggy skin ready for the grill

Getting the piggy skin ready for the grill

Crispy piggy skin

Crispy piggy skin

Since Blondie was holding our plate of whole hog goodness I nudged her over to the pitmaster himself and told her to ask for crispy bits or something. Blondie being Blondie went over to Ed Mitchell and said, "what am I asking for?" and he said, "aw, you want some ribs" and then he piled our plate high with ribs, ribs and more ribs and directed us to try the sauce. Mmmmm. Mmmm. Yes, sir, don't mind if we do.

Ed Mitchell suggests Blondie might want some ribs

Pitmaster Ed Mitchell suggests Blondie might want some ribs

Mmm, mmm, Whole Hog

Mmm, mmm, Whole Hog

Now that's what I call a whole hog. As for the taste...it was certifiably delicious. Melt in your mouth piggy. The sauce was vinegar based, very tangy with a nice spicy kick at the end. Really tasty. The coleslaw was a bit watery and had too much mayo for Blondie's taste. But really, who needs coleslaw when you have a whole hog sandwich. I could have gone right back to The Pit to buy another sandwich, but the day was short and there was much 'cue to try. Next on our list, Big Bob's from Decatur, Georgia for their Pulled Pork Sandwich.

Dishing up the Pulled Pork at Big Bob's

Dishing up the Pulled Pork at Big Bob's

Pulled Pork and Coleslaw from Big Bob's

Pulled Pork and Coleslaw from Big Bob's

Pulled Pork Sandwich from Big Bob's in Decatur, GA

Pulled Pork Sandwich from Big Bob's

The Pulled Pork Sandwich from Big Bob's was hands down Blondie's favorite. It was smokier than the sandwich from The Pit. Blondie really liked their Championship Red Sauce which she proclaimed was "everything barbecue sauce should be." They're coleslaw was top notch as well. It had a nice hint of sweetness and not too much mayo. Blondie is not typically a coleslaw fan, but she could definitely see herself eating the coleslaw from Big Bob's. The lady who dished up our 'cue recommended putting the 'slaw on the sandwich and that was a delicious combo. Meat and 'slaw. Can't beat it. After stuffing our selves with two pork sandwiches it was time to turn our attention to rib procurement.

I had heard good things about the ribs from 17th Street Bar and Grill from Murphysboro, IL who Bon Appétit Magazine hailed as the Best Ribs in the US.

Baby Back Ribs from 17th Street

Baby Back Ribs from 17th Street

The first order of Baby Backs that we got were perfect fall of the bone delicious. They were smokey and chock full of flavor. Awesome!

1st order of Baby Back Ribs from 17th Street

1st order of Baby Back Ribs from 17th Street

Our second order wasn't nearly as good. It was much saltier from ribs to the beans. When examining the left over bones (it may have been saltier, but we subscribe to a no rib left behind policy), we noticed that the first order of Baby Backs were smaller and shorter. Not sure what that means, if anything, but thought that it was interesting.

2nd order of ribs from 17th street

2nd order of ribs from 17th street

All of the lines were relatively fast. We had no wait at The Pit or Big Bob's or even 17th Street. But our luck ran out. We had heard that the Smoked Crawfish & Okra Hush Puppies were must tries so I went to seek them out. The line was crazy! This was the Fast Pass?! Whoa. I got in line any way and learned that 1) the regular line was over twice as long and 2) the Hush Puppies were made to order. Well, at least I was waiting for something that was guaranteed to be fresh. Blondie, Lawman, and I all did our time in the line and finally 1 hour later we had Hush Puppies in hand. Here's a peek at the process...

Scoopin' up the Hush Puppies

Scoopin' up the Hush Puppies

Frying up some Smoked Crawfish & Okra Hush Puppies

Frying up some Smoked Crawfish & Okra Hush Puppies

Smoked Crawfish & Okra Hush Puppies from City Grocery in Oxford, MS

Smoked Crawfish & Okra Hush Puppies from City Grocery in Oxford, MS

Hush Puppies at Last

Hush Puppies at Last!

Smoked Crawfish & Okra Hush Puppies from City Grocery in Oxford, MS

Order of Hush Puppies minus one, photographer was too hungry...

Inside the Smoked Crawfish & Okra Hush Puppies from City Grocery in Oxford, MS

Inside the Hush Puppies

The Hush Puppies were so good. It was great getting them fresh out of the fryer. Nice crust. Love the texture of the cornmeal--these were unique and special. The dipping sauce was tangy and spicy. Really good and I have to say it was worth the wait.

The second longest line I waited in was for dessert at Blue Smoke. They were offering Root Beer Floats, Brownies and Peanut Butter and Jelly Cupcakes, so of course I had get all three. The Root Beer Float was a bit of a disappointment because what they billed as Root Beer was actually a Coke Float. What the heck? That said, it was over 90 degrees and very hot and the Coke Float did help to cool me down so I can't complain too much. The Brownie was good and VERY chocolatey. I have to say that my favorite treat were the peanut butter and jelly cupcakes. Yum. Loved that frosting, that tasted like super creamy pb with a little extra sugar. The cake was moist and the jelly was a nice complement.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Cupcakes from Blue Smoke

Peanut Butter and Jelly Cupcakes from Blue Smoke

PB&J Cupcake

Inside the PB&J Cupcake

After the cupcakes and desserts, Lawman was still hungry so he headed over to the Hill Country tent and picked up a Beef Rib and some Sausage. He thought it was tasty, moist and tender. He especially liked the sausage which tasted like it had cheese and perhaps jalapeños. It definitely piqued Lawman's interest in Hill Country. Hope to check them out for dinner soon!


Hill Country's Offering

Beef Ribs and Sausage from Hill Country

Because we had a little room left and a few bucks on our Fast Pass, we decided to try the desserts from Wildwood and picked up a Bourbon Banana Nilla Wafer Pudding and Peanut Butter S'more. Blondie thought the pudding was good but wished that it had more Nilla Wafers and actual chunks of bananas. The s'more was good, but it could have used some more chocolate. Perhaps the s'more could have been dipped completely in chocolate. Maybe next time.

Wildwood's Peanut Butter S'more & Banana Pudding

Bourbon Banana Nilla Wafer Pudding and Peanut Butter S'more

Overall, a successful Big Apple BBQ. Besides all the good eats we got to meet up with a couple bloggers who we regularly read: Food in Mouth and NYC Food Guy. What a day! Before we left we had to shake Ed Mitchell's hand and tell him how much we enjoyed his 'cue. He got our vote for best pitmaster. Can't wait until next year. Fast Pass here we come! In the meantime, how do you feel about a road trip, Blondie?
Ed Mitchell, Pitmaster of The Pit, Raleigh

Ed Mitchell, Pitmaster of The Pit

For more photos check out our flickr.


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