It’s hard to believe that Josh Bowen, the owner of John Brown Smokehouse, once told me he wasn’t really into Kansas’ most famous abolitionist. These days his restaurant has a whole wall devoted to its namesake. And on Sunday Bowen hosted the first ever John Brown Day along with JOHN BROWN LIVES!
The celebration featured a talk by John Stauffer, a Harvard Professor, and Zoe Trodd, a professor at the University of Nottingham. Bowen was also presented with a proclamation by Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer. Later in the evening there was some swing from George Gee and some kick-ass blues from R.L. Boyce. The most important part of the proceeding as far as I was concerned though was the Carolina style, whole hog barbecue prepared by Tyson Ho aka The Arrogant Swine.
Barbecuing a whole hog requires a whole lot of time and, of course, a barbecue itself with which to smoke the hog. This presented a bit of a setback for the Ho and his crew since some miscreant stole his hog cooker from in front of John Brown the night before he was to start cooking. Thankfully Matt Fisher, the pitmaster of Fletcher’s Brooklyn Barbecue came through and lent a hog cooker to the cause. As they say the sow must go on.
Ho knows a thing or two about whole hog and prepared the hog in the classic Carolina style. He and his crew chopped it up with two cleavers in what seemed like a matter of minutes. Bits of crunchy skin and succulent flesh were mixed with vinegar, hot pepper, and little else. Served with a side of slaw, the resulting product was so good I ate two portions.
There’s been a lot of ink spilled lately about whether New York City is the best barbecue city in the country of late. All I can say is I’m glad it’s got so much good ‘cue and that Queens is a part of it. By the way if you missed Sunday’s event don’t sweat it. Ho will be cooking whole hog at several venue this summer, including Pig Island. He’ll also be helping out Team Ed Mitchell at the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party in June. As a friend likes to say these are meaty times in which we live. Meaty, indeed.