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Saturday, June 13, 2009

Meatzilla Vs. Manhattan

You've seen this one before, friend.

Creatures from Island X and Outback Y descend upon Giant Metropolis. Locals are confused and divided. Some take optimistic approach (they come in peace!), whilst others pick fights (these outsiders are up to no good). Either way, smoke and fire. And a fragrant chaos which draws great crowds. In the end everyone bands together around a common purpose (rise to the challenge, best the beasts, eat) and order is restored... after we learn a valuable lesson.

Here's one lesson, champ: unless you have the strongest of constitutions, never ever ever use a port-a-potty at a BBQ event. And another: if you really like meat, quit fretting and enjoy thyself at Madison Square Park's annual Big Apple BBQ Block Party.

As parties go, this has to be New York's most popular and controversial both. Each year people complain about the lines (“unbearably” long), the pitmaster selection (“not real 'cue”), the price (too high), and the organization (or lack thereof). Yet every year it gets bigger and (with experience) easier to navigate. And while you may not find the holy grail of backwoods dixie bbq, you will be privy to the boldest and broadest selection of smokey slow-cooked southern meats ever assembled in NYC. As to what you should have been eating...Last year's favorite ribs courtesy of Joe Duncan and Baker's Ribs (Dallas, TX) were as good as we remembered. Terrific rub and cooking technique = moist, meaty, succulent. It's as simple as that.
Newcomer Pappy's (St. Louis, MO) brought a different style. We liked the peppery rub, but the sauce lay a bit heavy and sweet, and the meat tasted as tho it had been sitting around a few minutes too long. Still, it's ribs. And ribs = good.
Another newcomer, Martin's Bar-B-Que (Nashville, TN) brought some whole hog action. Not our favorite seasoning of the pork entrants, but it was well pulled. And it's a whole hog. Points detracted because the pitmaster's picture makes him look like Bret Favre.
Hill Country BBQ made the unfathomable trek from 26th Street, bringing some fatty smoked brisket and a refreshing side of sweet, vinegary cucumbers.
An even better hometown option: the pork shoulder from Dinosaur BBQ (Harlem, USA). Very generous sandwiches, a wonderfully salty rub, and a balanced sauce to finish. Plus the server looked *exactly* like Rod Stewart. We're fans.
Our favorite of the day? Homemade Smoked Sausage with Pimento Cheese and Saltines courtesy of newcomer Jim 'N Nick's Bar B-Q (Alabama, et al). Each toothsome link – coarsely ground with snappy casing – is hickory-smoked for a modest 45 minutes, then finished for about 15 on the grill. The cheese (a mix of mayo, cheddar, and fire-roasted peppers) adds tang and creamy body; a sliced Serrano gives it crisp heat; the cracker settles things down; and the sauces (smokey habanero or their eminently balanced tomato-based original) seal the delicious deal.
Drew Robinson (above), talks sausages and the South

The maestro of this meat is one Drew Robinson. A relative young'n (36), he got his start at “white tablecloths” around the country before heading back home to Alabama. [cue Skynard] Six years ago he began working with Nick at Jim 'N Nick's, hoping to blaze bold new flavor trails steeped in southern tradition. So rather than reinvent the wheel, Robinson is looking to improve things: make southern standards like pimento cheese sing anew; borrow something from east Carolina (vinegar) and St. Louis/Memphis (tomato) to create a sharp, savory sauce; pair everything with a sausage heartier than its Texas counterpart, yet every bit as delicious. Especially when they bring it up to NYC.

After all, good reader, that's what this shindig was all about: flavor to the people!

Hot links for all,

– J. Slab

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1 Comments:

Anonymous Kimberly Preiss said...

Hah, how funny! My boyfriend and I just ran across this article -- he was the server who looked like Rod Stewart. :) He got a good chuckle out of it! We're usually hanging in the bar area every weekend, maybe you'll see us there someday. Thanks!! :)

12:17 AM  

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