05/29/14 12:25pm
Tyson makes the first cut as an eager crowd looks on.
Tyson Ho is bringing whole hog barbecue to Bushwick this summer.

A little over year ago New York City’s very own Chinese-American Yankee whole hog cooker, Tyson Ho, and I journeyed to the heart of North Carolina barbecue. With the Big Apple BBQ Block Party just two weeks away and Ho’s Arrogant Swine restaurant beginning to take shape in Bushwick, I thought it would be a good time for us to sit down and chat.

What’s this I hear about you trying to get a Thai pitmaster? You’re not going to turn Northeastern Carolina ’cue into Southeast Asian ’cue are you?
I figured I’d put an ad out there in the Thai community. Southeast Asians have been cooking North Carolina barbecue for generations. In fact the single largest diaspora community of Degars, natives of the central Highlands of Vietnam, live in Greensboro N.C. The pits of Stamey’s Barbecue in Greensboro, which is historically the most significant and influential western Carolina barbecue spot in the region, are run by a pitmaster by the name of Pon, a Degar immigrant. Several decades of traditional North Carolina barbecue has been served [and cooked] by a Southeast Asian American.

I’m not sure I’ll find a Southeast Asian pitmaster but if I do, we would be continuing a long standing tradition.

I can hardly wait for Ho’s whole hog,

So where are you going to be getting your hogs from and how will they be smoked?
I am working with a farm in Seven Springs, N.C., a town with a whooping population of 85 persons. We’re still working out the logistics of getting them up here but I’m optimistic. They’re a special breed called Chester Whites which have extensive marbling and amazing flavor. I’m also in the process of building my own hog smokers. After years of dealing with the good and ugly (mainly ugly), I have a general idea of what makes for a great hog smoker.

I seem to recall reading on your blog about a wonderful pork product called outside brown. What’s that all about?
Outside brown is the smoky crusty part of the pork shoulder that is native to the Western Carolina region in what’s known as the Piedmont Triangle. It is served with tomato based red sauce and red slaw. At the Swine we’ll be butchering pork shoulder in a way that will maximize exposure to the smoke, thus making the entire cut “outside brown.” This also a way to showcase the nuances of real North Carolina BBQ and to educate the public that pulled pork is a crude oversimplification of our tradition.

What made you settle on Brooklyn instead of Queens? Have you forsaken your home borough?
I wouldn’t call it forsaking Queens as much as put my plans on temporary hiatus. While residential rental rates are significantly lower than Brooklyn, commercial leases are the opposite. In industrial North Brooklyn, my competition for space is small fry speculators like me. In Queens I’m fighting for spaces against Starbucks, Foot Locker etc. Spots in Ridgewood, Astoria, Sunnyside are a fraction of my current space and yet almost at twice the cost per month. So let’s see how things work out in Brooklyn and if I get a few more pennies in my pocket I can try Queens again.

What can folks expect from the menu at Arrogant Swine?
I have a few items I’m putting up there, but still deciding if they’ll stay. The core of everything is the whole hog. Any menu item can go or change.  This is largely why I haven’t really published a menu of sorts yet. In North Carolina, barbecue is whole hog, everything else is optional. We will serve up our smoked hog with slaw and cornpone. It will be dressed with the traditional vinegar pepper sauce. We can be playful in seasoning different things like chicken or turkey but never the hog.

What about your artisanal ham?
Given that North Carolina BBQ doesn’t have a very diverse menu set, I figured I’d dig deeper into the whole hog philosophy. To really make ourselves a church of pork, I decided that we were going to import in the Iberian tradition of serving long cured hams. These will be American hams curated from Virginia to Georgia, and like our BBQ, have been long vetted by the palate of history. There is no amount of chefy creativity that could make a better appetizer than these hams. We can take the greatest culinary minds of our generation. Pit them against the traditions of salt, smoke and time. The fight wouldn’t even be remotely fair, ham will win every time.

Graffiti will grace the wall of Arrogant Swine.

How will it be different from a Carolina whole hog barbecue joint, besides the graffiti?
We are the only Carolina BBQ joint housed inside a Munich-style beer hall. The issue with most joints in North Carolina is that they’re restaurants. I’m not interested in importing in Carolina cuisine, but rather the tradition of the Carolina pig picking. Pig pickings strengthen communities and ties us to our history. A beer hall is the perfect place to host a pig picking.

Actually tell me about the graffiti. What does street art legend Adam Cost have to do with barbecue anyway?
Our walls are curated by the Bushwick Collective, a syndicate of globally famous street artists doing murals in Bushwick. Street art has everything to do with barbecue. Barbecue, especially whole hog, is a gathering of the community. Here in Bushwick, the community is progressive and artistic. So rather than outfit ourselves with faux Southern kitsch and look like some overpriced Cracker Barrel, we are a Bushwick joint. As a proper Bushwick joint, we dress ourselves accordingly.

You seem to have developed an obsession with doughnuts over the past year. Are you moonlighting as a cop?
There might be something in the works. I might just be messing with folks on social media. Or I’m simply on a slow march towards obesity. Folks will simply have to stay tuned to see which.

Will you assisting your mentor Ed Mitchell at this year’s Big Apple BBQ Block Party?
I’m probably gonna stop in and greet some old friends. But building the Swine up has taken away any opportunities for extra-curricular activities.

What do you think of this year’s lineup?
From a whole hog point of view it’s amazing how many we have. Rodney Scott, Sam Jones, Pat Martin and of course Ed. Hopefully this upswing in hoggers means that folks finally see an appreciation of nose to tail eating. And in good timing too! My rent is due soon ….

02/03/14 12:02pm

Elyse Pasquale digs into a Filipino balut in Woodside.

I’ve gone on record before as saying that I’m not a fan of the word foodie, preferring such designations as “good eater” and even the pejorative “glutton.” All that said there is one person who for whom my hatred of the F-Word does not apply, my good friend, Elyse Pasquale, aka Foodie International. She was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule, which includes everything from eating reindeer hearts and scorpions to harvesting her own olive oil and slaughtering pigs, to answer Seven Questions.  

Where did you learn to use chopsticks?
In my bedroom, in high school. I grew up on a horse farm outside of Philadelphia. There wasn’t much diversity in the area when it came to food. In high school, a take-out Chinese joint opened in the same strip mall as our grocery store. Let’s just call it the year of Lo Mein . . . I was determined to perfect my chopsticks skills, so I followed the directions printed on the wrapper and practiced in my room. I think my execution might be a little unorthodox, but I can hold my own in any Tokyo ramen shop. For the record, I also tie my shoes counterintuitively, but my bows still turn out looking like bows. (more…)

11/14/13 10:47am

Photo: Michael Rudin

Chef Natasha Pogrebinsky has gone so far as to trademark the cuisine at Bear as New European, but after spending some time with her and her brother Sasha I can see whya a mutual friend characterizes it as “deeply personal.” It draws as much on her Ukrainian heritage and her Midwestern childhood as it does New york City itself. Pogrebinsky was kind enough to take time out out from her Long Island City kitchen to answer Seven Questions.

Talk to me about Chopped. What was it like?
I cooked in all three rounds, I got to dessert and the judges thought my Russian cookies and tea were not sweet enough.  Ironically I serve the exact same dessert at Bear and it sells out, so what do they know.  But I had a lot of fun being on the show and competing and representing not only New York city, but also Queens  and of course, Bear. People recognize me on the street and say, “You should’ve won.” People come from around the country to eat at Bear just because they saw me on the show.

Where did you learn to use chopsticks?
Nowhere. I still struggle.

What’s your favorite way to eat bone marrow?
The old school way, roasted and spread on country toast. with a side of pickled vegetables or sauerkraut.

Where do you like to eat on your days off? What are some of your favorite spots in Queens?
On my one day off I like to bum on my couch mostly but if I do go out it’s for ethnic food, or something simple like really good tacos, I like El Ray on Astoria Blvd., I like to try different spots every time.  But mostly I like to either cook at home or go to a friend’s house and they cook. (more…)

10/10/13 10:27am

© Colin Bell

Fuchsia Dunlop’s account of wrangling with passel of stag pizzle in the latest Lucky Peach is alternately harrowing and humorous. It’s been five years since I took the acclaimed British cook and Chinese food expert to explore Flushing’s Golden Mall, so I thought I’d put my aside my castration anxiety aside and drop the author of Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking; Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China, a line. Dunlop who is currently eating her way through Beijing was kind enough to answer Seven Questions. By the way if you want to get really hungry follow her adventures on Instagram.

Are there any misconceptions about Chinese food you’d like to dispel?
I’ve spent my entire food-writing career trying to dispel various misconceptions about Chinese food—most of all that it’s unhealthy! Of course if one were to eat deep-fried egg rolls and sweet-and-sour pork all the time it wouldn’t be a very healthy diet, but most Chinese home cooking is about rice or other grains with plenty of vegetables and a little meat, fish or poultry. I’ve always been impressed by Chinese knowledge of how to eat for health and happiness (and it’s sad to see how many younger people are now following in the unhealthy food footsteps of the West).

The other misconception is that ‘Chinese food’ is a single cuisine. China is a vast country with an incredible wealth of local and regional culinary traditions. (more…)

07/26/13 10:25am


 The coverage of the imminent arrival of Los Angeles-based Umami Burger in New York City has been making me incredibly hungry. I’ve yet to try one, but as a kid who ate Accent out of the jar, I’m all about that fifth taste. Umami Burger opens in the West Village (432 6th Ave.) on Monday. CEO Adam Fleischman  took some time out of his busy schedule to answer Seven Questions.

What inspired you to create Umami Burger?
I wanted to approach burger making from a scientific way to make things more delicious. (more…)

06/10/13 10:22am
Andy Ricker, the force behind the Pok Pok empire.

Andy Ricker, the driving force behind the Pok Pok empire.

Whenever I ball up sticky rice and dip it into the liquid pooled in the bottom of my papaya salad, the waitress usually asks whether I’ve been to Thailand. My response: “No, just Queens.” Unlike me Andy Ricker, the Portland-based chef behind the Pok Pok empire has been to both. He first got into Thai food by traveling Thailand in the 1980s. His Pok Pok Ny is one of the few reasons that I will trek to Brooklyn. He was kind enough to answer Seven Questions.

How often do you eat Thai food?
Every day when I am at work, every day when I am in Thailand and seldom otherwise.

Have you ever eaten Thai silkworms? I found them to be terrible, mealy and musty!
Yeah, I have tasted most of the grubs and insects that Thais eat. Those things are subsistence foods that some people have gotten used to and developed a taste for, but are not and should not be taken for a dish found commonly on the Thai table. Red ant eggs and bee larvae are a different story though: delicious!

We’re in agreement on those red ant eggs. I’ll have to add bee larvae to the list. Tell me, where’d you learn to use chopsticks?
I learned to eat with chopsticks at a very young age. My mom and stepdad used to take me to Chinese restaurants, and they showed me how. (more…)

05/13/13 10:02am
Tyson Ho and friend.

Tyson Ho and friend.

Tyson Ho is the type of guy who invites his pals over to hang out in his front yard for a pig picking. Not such an unusual occurence in the South, but you can be damn sure he’s the only Yankee in Flushing cooking whole hog in his driveway.  When it comes to Carolina barbecue, the man is no slouch. He learned the art of cooking the entire animal slowly over hardwood embers and then chopping it up, including the crispy skin so that every bite contains a little bit of the entire pig, at the hands of the master, Ed Mitchell. He’s got big plans for New York City including the Hog Days of Summer.  He and I are taking a short trip to North Carolina later this week to pick up his new hog cooker. Before we hit the road he was kind enough to answer Seven Questions

 What made you get into Carolina whole hog barbecue? Why not brisket?
I actually expected to hate Carolina whole hog the first time I tried it in the middle-of-nowhere town of Ayden. Seriously who wants to eat pork drenched in vinegar? The first bite was a message from God, by the last bite my mandate was set. I have seen the path of righteousness, now it’s just matter of converting everyone else.

Back when I got into barbecue, no one [in New York] was really doing brisket and all the restaurants serving brisket sucked. I also tried my hand cooking brisket and it came out horrible. Thus I concluded that brisket intrinsically sucked for barbecue. Obviously I’ve been proven wrong, but by the time Hill Country, Bowen, Mangum, and Delaney came to town I was already too deep in this whole hog thing to hop on the trend. (more…)

Josh_Ozersky_2This week I caught up with my old friend Josh Ozersky, the Meatopia maven and food writer. Of late Josh has been writing hunger-inducing dispatches like this one on modernist barbecue over on Esquire’s Eat Like A Man. In case anyone is wondering the rumors about Josh and I rolling around in the dewy heather on Martha Stewart’s compound are dirty lie. It was asphalt

Where do you like to eat when you make it out to Queens?
I still have a soft spot for the Bukharian places in Rego Park, like Arzu and Cheburchnaya, and I never miss a chance to visit the Northern Chinese “mutton men” of Flushing. I would like to go back to La Portena someday.

Ah, the mutton men. You owe it to yourself to try Fu Run’s Muslim lamb chop. Tell me where did you learn to use chopsticks?
I haven’t, and I won’t. Chopsticks are the stupidest implement in history. There can be no more ludicrous act of pretension than an American claiming to like them. You might as well wear a powdered wig, or carry a Roman short sword into battle.

I seem to remember reading something about you having a beef with chefs overusing bone marrow. Tell me more? It’s all written right here. The simple fact is that bone marrow sounds sexy, but it’s just tasteless fat, never meant to have a starring role. It should be, like Joyce’s God, invisible and omnipresent in a dish.  (more…)

The man behind The Marrow.

The man behind The Marrow.

With a menu that includes Italian-inspired fare from Famiglia Chiarelli and German-inspired dishes from Familie Dieterle Harold Dieterle’s The Marrow is a deeply personal restaurant. It is also deeply delicious at least based on the dish I tried, The Bone Marrow ($16) Chef Dieterle’s  genius combination of uni and bone marrow with baby celery leaves,  Meyer lemon aioli, and crunchy little potato cubes. The man in charge of what is surely New York City’s first Teutonic-Italian eatery took some time to answer Seven Questions as he prepped for dinner service last Friday afternoon.

The Marrow’s menu is a nod to your lineage, you’re half German and half Sicilian right?
My paternal grandmother is actually Irish but her husband was 100% German. I grew up eating two very different styles of cuisine. Half the time I’d eat very German, schnitzels, spaetzels, a lot of braises, very peasant style food. The other half of the time I would eat very southern Italian style food.

What do your folks think of the half German half Italian menu?
They love it. It’s a very personal restaurant to me. They’re very excited about it. They’re proud that this is what I decided to go with for the next place.

Why did you name the restaurant The Marrow?
A lot of our restaurants have double meanings, so The Marrow really means the center of or the best part of. It’s very much a meat-focused restaurant, so we thought it would be a fun name. (more…)

Joe McPherson knows a thing or two about kimchi.

Joe McPherson knows a thing or two about kimchi.

Joe McPherson, founder of Korean food site ZenKimchi has forgotten more about Korean food and culture than I will probably ever know. I’m still trying to wrap my brain around the immense K-town that is Northern Boulevard. Korean Joe, as I have taken to calling him, was kind enough to answer this week’s edition of Seven Questions.

Are there any foods from the States that you miss in Korea?
These days it’s getting progressively better. I do miss good Mexican, American Chinese food, Cajun, good beer, and affordable whiskey. But if I was back in America, I’d miss makgeolli [Korean rice wine] and Korean country-style foods.

Name three things that are always in your refrigerator.
Kimchi, gochujang, peeled garlic

What’s your favorite way to eat bone marrow?
When I’m able to get it, on toast. (more…)