Pitmaster Josh Bowen stoking the fires at Mothership Meat Company.
With the exception of Robert Pearson, who first brought Texas barbeque to Long Island City, it’s pretty safe to say Kansas City native Josh Bowen has done more to popularize low and slow traditional American barbeque in Queens then any one man. Five years ago he opened John Brown Smokehouse in Astoria. There in a tiny space hard by an auto body shop, he turned out sumptuous chunks of that K.C. classic, burnt ends, double-rubbed and double-smoked nuggets of meat candy. A few years later, he pulled up stakes and moved John Brown to L.I.C. turning into a full-fledged barbeque restaurant complete with a backyard featuring live blues. On Mondays and Fridays Bowen takes to the stage himself. His next act? A little something called Mothership Meat Company, an encore of the acclaimed Alchemy Texas BBQ.
Queens Dinner Club is proud to partner with Bowen and Mothership for a very special “sneak peak” dinner later this month.
Where did the idea of Mothership Meat Company come from?
It came from our Alchemy days, kind of R&D Texas barbeque and my partner had a property in Astoria that he wanted to make into something. So here we are.
What about the name come from? Are you a fan of George Clinton?
That’s a weird one because that one just literally came out of the the ether. We’d needed a name and I was like ‘Mothership,’ that sounds good. I mean, I like Funkadelic, but it just sounds like a cool name warm and homey, but also sort of out there a little bit. And I think that represents the food we’re going to be doing there. (more…)
I’m such a fan of low and slow American barbecue, particularly the deckle or luscious top cut of the brisket, that years ago I acquired a BBQ moniker: Joey Deckle. One of my favorite preparations is Kansas City style burnt ends, crusty sweet and spicy nuggets of twice smoked brisket. My go-to spot for this luscious meat candy is John Brown Smokehouse in Long Island City. (more…)
Leave it to John Brown Smokehouse, the only Queens BBQ joint that serves kimchi to come up with a low and slow take on the Mexican torta. Like most tortas, the chupacabra ($12) is a monster. Queso fresco, tostones, pickled jalapeños, and pulled pork are piled high upon a brioche and lashed with ghost pepper barbecue sauce. (more…)
Hunan House’s stupendously good beef with crisp pepper.
Rarely does the same dish get ordered twice on one of my food tours. It’s happened precisely twice. The first time, a Filipino family and I ended a summer afternoon of eating our way along the 7 train at John Brown Smokehouse. They were so smitten by the burnt ends—crisp, fatty chunks of double smoked brisket—that upon finishing an order they immediately asked for more and also got some to go. The second time was just a few weeks ago at Hunan House in Flushing. (more…)
Hog prep as viewed through the event space’s fence.
I have been so eager for The Hog Days of Summer that I thought it was two weeks ago. Two weeks ago when I texted Tyson Ho the hog cooking Chinese-American Yankee who put on the event along with John Brown Smokehouse he responded, “Next Friday . . . very close my dear friend. Soon we shall be awash in HOOOOOOOOOG!” For about a month I have been like a child waiting for Christmas. A tiny, carnivorous child. At last the appointed day came and I showed up the night before to help out a bit. The first thing I noticed was Tyson’s gigantic rig emblazoned with his nom de cue Arrogant Swine.
While the sun was still up the wood, a mixture of oak logs and other woods was delivered. And then came the hogs, two 200-plus pound Gloucester hogs, which each took three men to carry. Tyson instructed his apprentice, James in the finer points of whole hog butchery, teaching him how to expose the shoulder meat so that it gets a nice burnished crust while cooking. With their heads removed and the breast bone cut through so they would lie flat, they were ready for the cooker.
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…)
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. (more…)
A tasty sandwich for good old boys and fressers alike.
Pastrami, as deli denizens and Seinfeld fans alike know, “is the most sensual of all the salted cured meats.” At least once a month I find myself compelled to eat the luscious peppery cured beef , usually at Ben’s Best. The meat owes its sensuality to a three-fold process: curing, smoking, and steaming. Essentially the pastrami process is a Jewish form of low and slow barbecue.
So it’s not surprising that some of New York City’s pitmasters have at one time or another experimented with this most New York of smoked meats. Barbecue joint pastrami is a breed apart from its old-school deli forebears, though. It is of course smokier, but is also more rough hewn than the melting slices one finds at Bens or Katz’s. The only barbecue joint in Queens currently serving it is John Brown Smokehouse. An excellent sandwich of the home cured pastrami can be had for $12. The meat sports a crunchy blackened exterior that barbecue geeks like to call Mr. Brown (no relation to the abolitionist for whom the Long Island City BBQ joint is named). Sometimes I think I like John Brown’s pastrami better than its much-lauded brisket burnt ends, aka meat candy. Please, don’t tell my fellow barbecue geeks of my wavering allegiance to the meat candy brigade.
John Brown Smokehouse, 10-43 44th Dr., Long Island City, 347-617-1120