Summertime and cookouts are here people. Even though I grew up calling afternoons of grilling—sausage and peppers, burgers, Dad’s secret Sicilian chicken—barbecue, I now reserve that word for meat that’s cooked low and slow over hardwood embers. Heck, in Eastern North Carolina barbecue’s even more specific. It only applies to whole hog cookery, a method I’ve come to know and love thanks to my pal Tyson Ho.(more…)
Today is National Doughnut Day. While Krispy Kreme and Dunkin’ Donuts are both giving away the treats, this holiday was not started by a corporate chain. It began way back in 1938 when the Salvation Army began commemorating those who served doughnuts to World War I soldiers. This morning I decided to go to Dunkin’ and score a free glazed doughnut. It’s a decision I regret. (more…)
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 ….
The hordes of barbecue and booze and enthusiasts had a blast.
About 10 years ago good barbecue in New York City was about as available as snow boots are this winter. Back in the dark ages of low and slow smoked cooked meat the best place to get the best ‘cue was on the competition circuit, an opportunity I availed myself often enough in the guise of my hard-drinking, meat-eating, smoke-loving alter ego, Joey Deckle. Fast forward to 2014 and there’s more quality barbecue in our fair city than you can shake log of post oak at. (Heck my pal Tyson Ho is even opening up a whole hog emporium later this year.) Much of it was represented at last night’s Brisket King NYC, in which more than a dozen pitmasters vied for the crown. It was so crowded that I found myself chanting, “Ain’t no riot like a meat riot, cause when you’re on a meat riot, you never diet.” (more…)
The gado gado grannies at Masjid Al Hikmah’s Indonesian Food Bazaar.
Hog Days of Summer Saturday, September 14, 2013, Long Island City Tyson Ho, the whole hog cookery wizard who taught me to love to North Carolina ‘cue hosts the final whole hog blowout in Queens. Expect fine swine, fine tunes, and fine brew from Founder’s. Tickets are still available here. Indonesian Food Bazaar Sunday, September 15, 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. Outside the Al-Hikmah Mosque, 48-01 31st Ave. (at 48th St.), Astoria, Queens The O.G. of Indonesian food bazaars features scores satay, freshly made gado gado,and much more.
Šri Ganeša Chaturthi Parade Sunday, September 15, 1:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m.
45-57 Bowne Street, Flushing Flushing’s Ganesh temple, Šri Mahã Vallabha Ganapati Devasthãnam to its devotees, is known among foodies for the dosa served up by its Temple Canteen. It is first and foremost though a temple. Come watch as the elephant headed deity gets paraded through the local streets in a festive celebration.
Matt Gelfand and Tyson Ho prepared Eastern North Carolina BBQ.
Last night Edible Queens celebrated its relaunch with Summerbeat in Sunnyside Gardens Park. The event’s theme “Eat meat, drink beer,” echoed that of the magazine’s summer issue, which includes some great articles about local butchers and brewers as well as my new column, At the Table. It was a very special evening on many levels. For one thing summer has always meant cookouts. Over the years the cookouts in my life have grown in scale from backyard grilling to the smoking of hogs, but the aroma of roasting meat in summer remains as welcome to me as the sight of the first fireflies of July. (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.
A sumptuous whole hog Bar-B-Q sandwich from Ed Mitchell.
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. (more…)
Tyson Ho and his mentor, Ed Mitchell having a hearty country breakfast.
Today is the day that separates the hogs from the sucklings I thought to myself as Tyson, Matt, Mike and I hopped into the pickup for day two of our whirlwind North Carolina barbeque tour. “Some of the places we are going today will make yesterday’s places look like four-star dining,” Tyson said as we began our journey into the sticks.
Our first stop was Wilson, N.C., “the beginning of the sticks,” for breakfast with Ed Mitchell, Tyson’s barbeque mentor. I was kind of disappointed that we were meeting him at a Cracker Barrel, as I’m more of a Waffle House man. Actually I was hoping that breakfast would be at Ed’s new joint, slated to open later this summer. Meeting the maestro of whole hog was kind of surreal, I’d never seen him without overalls or a baseball cap.
At first I wasn’t going to eat anything as I wanted to reserve all my stomach capacity for barbeque. As I heard everyone placing their orders that plan soon fell by the wayside. I had a light breakfast, biscuits and gravy with a sausage patty. A couple of weeks ago when Tyson—a self-professed Chinese Yankee hog cooker—told me barbeque had its roots in North Carolina whole hog cookery I took it with a grain of salt. Now as I broke biscuits with his mentor, I began to realize that this stuff about barbeque being born not from trying to make the best out of tough cuts but from the celebratory roasting of a whole hog was true.
“That’s where barbeque comes from, the pig,” Mitchell said in between phone calls about his new restaurant, each of which seemed to involve fried chicken. “People didn’t slaughter the pig just to cook a shoulder they did it to roast the whole animal. The full technique comes from being able to roast the whole animal. Cooking a rib or a shoulder is nowhere near the challenge of cooking a whole animal.” Pointing to his hands he said, “The only thermometer I have is these right here, but that comes from years of experience.” (more…)
Hursey’s was the first stop on our whirlwind North Carolina barbeque tour.
My notebook and several articles of clothing still smell of hardwood smoke. I blame it on my buddy Tyson Ho. Last week we took a barbeque road trip to hit up a bunch of whole hog joints in North Carolina. Tyson, the man behind the Hog Days of Summer, never misses a chance to evangelize about Carolina barbeque, but the real reason for the pilgrimage was to pick up a cooker to replace the one stolen from in front of John Brown Smokehouse last month. Very few things cause me to leave the house before dawn. One is the Malaysian soup service at Curry Leaves in Flushing. The other is barbeque. So last Thursday morning found me standing on the corner at 4:15 a.m. waiting for Tyson to pick me up to begin the journey southward. Joining us were Tyson’s buddy, Matt Gelfand and Michael Rudin, a photographer and fellow barbeque enthusiast.
On the 10-hour drive down—thanks and praise to expert wheelman Matt—I learned quite a bit about whole hog barbeque. The most important fact being: in North Carolina the phrase “whole hog barbeque” is redundant. “A lot of people will say, ‘I went to North Carolina and asked the waitress what was on the barbeque plate’ and she looked at me funny,” Tyson, who I’ve come to consider as something of a Chinese John T. Edge, said. “That’s because there’s only one thing on it: barbeque. And barbeque is whole hog.”
Pointing to the cookhouse at Hursey’s.
“We are at the six-hour mark don’t eat too much at the first stop,” Tyson said. By the time we pulled into Burlington, N.C., I was delirious from hunger and lack of sleep. So much so that I was ready to try the buffalo chicken pita that some god-forsaken place called The Park touted on its roadside sign. “For me to eat it has to be cooked with wood,” Tyson said pointing to a stack of hickory outside the cookhouse at Hursey’s Bar-B-Q (1834 S. Church St, Burlington, N.C.).
The counter at Hursey’s is country as all getout.
Hursey’s is a local institution that started out with a homemade backyard pit in 1945. Four years later Sylvester Hursey and his wife, Daisy were granted the state’s first ever barbecue wholesale license. These days the entire operation smokes 1,200 shoulders a week over hickory coals.
A plate of Hursey’s hickory-smoked whole hog.
It’s a good thing that we were warned not to pig out too much at the first stop. By the time we were done ordering the table was covered with plates: chopped barbeque, sliced barbeque, broasted chicken, hush puppies, and a rack of ribs, along with cole slaw, banana pudding, and cobbler. The barbeque itself had a nice tangy flavor with a good bit of smoke, but was quite honestly nothing to write home about.The culprit? Prechopping and presaucing the gives the meat a texture not unlike tuna salad. I’m gonna go out on a hickory limb here and say that Sylvester and Daisy would not approve. Frankly I’ve had better whole hog in Tyson’s back yard. The ribs—and remember in N.C. ribs ain’t cue—were of the steamed saucy variety shunned by barbeque geeks like myself. I literally took one bite and left the rest.