The 11th Big Apple Barbecue Block Party filled Madison Square Park with smoke, meat,and revelry this past weekend as pitmasters from all over the country gathered to show us Yankees how it’s done. Back when I first started attending the annual smokefest Danny Meyer spoke at a panel and said something to the effect of “One day barbecue will be a dining option. The same way people say, ‘Let’s go eat Chinese, or Mexican, or Italian.’” This carnivore is proud to say that day is most certainly here. After all there are four barbecue joints in Queens alone.
I have been staying away from the block party in recent years, partly because I find waiting in line bad for the digestion, but mostly because the’ cue in New York City is now so good I see no need to attend. My recent whole hog epiphany spurred to me to check out the party this Sunday. Somehow I managed to hang out all day without eating any brisket, save for a bite of Salt Lick’s excellent product.
The day’s porkapalooza kicked off with a whole hog barbecue sandwich from Pitmaster Ed Mitchell, who will be the first tell you that in North Carolina at least, the very phrase whole hog barbecue is redundant. His crew was set up under a pig-skin pink tent sponsored by the North Carolina Pork Council. It was a magnificent sandwich. The bun was piled high with chopped pork—crunchy bits of skin,loin, shoulder and other various and sundry pig parts—all mixed with a vinegar pepper sauce. As I watched the gents behind the cutting board go at the meat with dual cleavers, I was truly amazed to hear folks on line calling Mitchell’s product pulled pork.
Next up on my swinetastic tasting was the spicy pork link from Jim ‘N Nick’s Community Bar-B-Q. Each ruddy sausage came with a healthy scoop of pimento cheese, some saltines, and a few slices of jalapeño. The cracker serves as the base for a miniature open-faced sandwich of sorts. I am salivating as I recall the combination. Spicy smoky sausage, zesty cheese, and a nice blast of chile heat. I could eat five right now.
For some reason there was no line whatsoever at Scott’s Bar-B-Que. Hemingway, S.C., pitmaster Rodney Scott served his whole hog over a slice of white bread with crackling on top. It was good, but I preferred Ed Mitchell’s sandwich.
It’s been 72 hours since the Big Apple Barbecue Block party and I’m starting to crave pork again. Good thing that Tyson Ho and John Brown Smokehouse are kicking off the Hog Days of Summer this Saturday.