Tue Jun 12, 2012
"10th annual," the phrase that preceded this year's Big Apple BBQ Block Party, is an open invitation to reminisce. Right behind the most common question of my favorite bite, everyone was asking what number year it was for me at the party. I hadn't really thought about it much before this past weekend, but the realization that this was my eighth Block Party—missed the first year because I didn't know about it, and one other year because I was out of town—had me awash in gluttonous, slow-smoked memories and how far I've come from secretly sneaking shots of the pitmasters I admired to now regarding many as friends. The Meatwave's presence at the Block Party runs just as deep, with a tradition of procuring a Fast Pass, inviting all Meatwavers, and then wallowing in the immense seas of stellar barbecue flowing off the smokers in the streets surrounding Madison Square Park. It's an event that's now engrained in my heart, and this year just added another great memory to look back on, along with a few extra deposits in the old arteries.
More after the jump >>
Thu Aug 11, 2011
Ever since my first visit to a barbecue competition I've been thinking about jumping into the game. Joining into a strong community of people who share a similar passion seems like a logical step to take my cooking from the backyard to the next level. Although the basics of cooking in a competition are the same as I'm already doing—rubbed, cooked low-and-slow, then sauced—there are techniques and flavor profiles that set apart award-winning 'cue from what you find in a backyard or at a restaurant. I admittedly know little about this side of barbecue, so I was grateful and excited when Clint Cantwell, the pitmaster behind Smoke in Da Eye, let me join him for a day of cooking at the Battle of the BBQ Brethren, a sanctioned event out on the Island in Manorville, New York.
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Tue Jun 14, 2011
Hells yeah! In the 9th year of the Big Apple BBQ Block Party I finally accomplished what I've failed to due previously, sample every single piece barbecue being smoked up by the 16 pitmasters that assembled onto Madison Square Park this past weekend. I believe I've been to all of the previous Block Parties except two, and while I've strived so hard to
meet meat my goal each summer, I ultimately left dejected and a feeling more like a glutton than meaty achiever. This has all changed now—I am triumphant, feeling well-deserved of my self-described title of "Meatmaster." In a celebration of my victory, you will now have to endure a mega-post of everything I ate on this Meatwave field trip, which would have never had been accomplished without the help the great Meatwavers I'm lucky to have as friends.
More meaty goodness after the jump >>
Tue Mar 29, 2011
I'm a creature of habit, often finding it hard to crawl outside of my comfort zone. Ever since getting what I consider to be pretty damn good at making barbecue, I've been unable to bring that skill outside of the safety of my backyard. Even with Grillin' on the Bay, New York City's only professional barbecue contest, so close in comparison to most other competitions, entering it has been something I've always convinced myself to dismiss. Although I still didn't enter this year, I finally got off my ass and made the long trek from Astoria to Sheepshead Bay to see what Grillin' on the Bay and competition barbecue is all about. At the end of a day filled with great eats and even greater people, my problem is less that I'm afraid to compete, but more that I'm dangerously close to taking the leap from reserved cooker to full-on competitor with vigor.
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Mon Jul 12, 2010
For years I've always looked forward to drooling over the meaty masterpieces that come out of food writer extraordinaire Josh Ozersky's birthday parties, appropriately dubbed Meatopia. Sinful amounts of meat, each one looking more delicious than the next, it's like a long lost twin of the Meatwave. So when I first found out that Meatopia was expanding from private birthday party to all out meat festival this year, my enthusiasm was unbridled. I quickly bought two six-tasting tickets, and before I knew it, I was setting sail to Governor's Island, hoping to return with a belly full of some of the best meats NYC has to offer.
Prior to arrival, what excited me most was that the event was being branded as "NYC BBQ." As convoluted as the way us northerners use the term "barbecue," so is what's considered barbecue in NYC now-a-days.
It wasn't long ago that New Yorker's best hope for good barbecue was the annual Big Apple Barbecue Block Party. Leading up to and following the first Block Party, there were only a handful of restaurants serving true barbecue, most focused on the imitation of a distinct regional style from somewhere else in the country. As we got comfortable in our barbecue skin, and with the usual ribs and brisket territories well covered, barbecue in the city seemed to quickly go to no-holds-barred—as long as it's smoked or grilled, it can be barbecue in New York. Large swaths of country probably cringe at this, but I'm in the business of embracing it, which is why Meatopia was so exciting. I thought of it as a State of Barbecue in NYC, which has room on its plate for everything from La Caja China roasted pigs to smoked duck tacos.
It's unfortunate that the event ended up being a less than ideal setting for getting the best NYC barbecue fix possible, mostly due to a few shortcomings. I'm dubious of any new event, as it usually takes a couple years to really work out the kinks, and Meatopia was not safe from those first-year mishaps.
I started getting nervous about the crowds when we had to wait 45 minutes on a hella long line to board the ferry over. Once there, I was actually surprised with the organization— tickets were being handed out quickly based on last name, and much like the fast pass at the Big Apple Barbecue Block party, the Meatopia passes eliminated the need to bust out cash for que, which keeps lines rolling.
After a lap around the event, where not all the stalls were exactly where the map said they should be, the three of us decided to divide and conquer. While the lines were long, it only took 15 minutes for use to reconvene and dive into our first three samplings. With a taste of what's to come, we quickly went off for our next three plates, but by this time—around 2pm—some of our must-haves were already gone. We settled on a few alternative items, then went off for round three. Now it was about 2:45pm and it seemed as if at least half of the vendors were sold out, thee-hours into the event with 2 hours to go. Those still with meat started to have lines prohibitive for the less patient.
I convinced my band of now un-merry men and women to stick it out for one more round, where we waited on now half-hour lines to get food that didn't hold the most interest to us. After that round, and over two hours in the heat and a little rain, my crew was done, and I relented and headed back to the ferry with two tastings still available on my ticket.
It seems that despite a great effort in organization, New Yorkers' insatiable hunger for meat was underestimated. Even so, in the two and half hours I was there, I sampled eleven different tasty meats, even if they weren't all my number one choices.
So what's NYC BBQ today? Here's small tasting that was dictated mainly by supply and demand.
More after the jump >>