Much like Tyson Ho, pitmaster and proprietor of Arrogant Swine, New York City’s only Eastern North Carolina BBQ joint I am a fan of the spanakopita, or spinach pie. Or at least I am a fan of the idea of it—shattering layers of phyllo filled with a flavorful mixture of spinach and cheese—which is never attained. The ones I have are usually soggy or stale. Not so for Ho’s spinach pie ($6), which is crunchy and crispy thanks to being cooked in a waffle iron.
The resulting pie, filled with a mixture of feta, cream cheese, spinach, eggs, and “probably more butter than anyone should consume at one sitting,” seasoned with lemon zest, garlic, shallots and red pepper among other things is quite astounding. It’s certainly the best spinach pie I have ever had in Bushwick, if not all of New York City. I tried it the other day along with a decidedly Southeast Asian take on pork belly ($14 for half pound). Marinated in fish sauce and dressed with spicy tamarind sauce and crispy shallots, the porky slabs are quite wonderful if not exactly in the Eastern North Carolina tradition.
So just how did spinach pie find its way on to Arrogant Swine’s menu? Ho blames it on the Greek metal fabricator who built his hog cooking pits. “You have to have spinach pie,” Ho was told. “If my wife and I go into a restaurant and they don’t have spinach pie we leave.”
As for the Southeast Asian styled pork belly Ho says it was driven by a desire to set the cut apart from the rest of the hog on the menu. “The one thing I wanted to avoid was this kind of the thing that plagues most barbecue joints. Every single meat gets the same rub and every single meat gets the exact same sauce, you basically wind up tasting the same flavor over and over again.” Nobody ever accused Ho of being unoriginal. Now that he’s started serving brunch I am holding out for artisanal ham and egg sandwiches with donuts standing in for bread.
Arrogant Swine, 173 Morgan Ave., East Williamsburg, 347-328-5595