Monday, June 11, 2007

BBQ Heaven

Alternate title: Vegetarian Hell

What says summer more than BBQ? Last weekend Madison Sq. Park kicked off summer in style with their 5th Annual Big Apple Barbecue Block Party.

13 of the country's top pitmasters were on hand to give us a taste of some mighty fine barbecue.

Barbecue pits outlining the park represented everywhere from Texas to Massachusetts. Each pit serving a different speciality smothered in their own blend of sauce.

Our first stop was Blackjack BBQ from Charleston, South Carolina for a pulled pork shoulder sandwich with a side of slaw. They offered two sauces, a mustard based sauce and a vinegar based sauce. While the pork was tender and well seasoned, neither sauce was a favorite. With a started under our belts, we moved to the next booth.

Southside Market & BBQ from Elgin, Texas.

Pitmaster Bryan Bracewell and his crew served up slices of beef brisket, sausage, pickles, onions and a slice of cheese. Their original sauce was flavorful with a hint of vinegar but not overpowering. The brisket was tender enough to slice with a plastic knife. The cheddar cheese was mild and a nice compliment to the slightly spicy sausage. The sausage was outstanding, homemade beef sausage with a hint of spice. The pickles and onions added a nice crunch to the meal.

If you are in Elgin, I would look them up - and if you don't think you'll be visiting Elgin TX anytime soon check out their website. You can get that amazing sausage delivered right to your door.

We decided to have one more plate for lunch and then take a break before the dinner round.

Our last plate was Jake's Boss BBQ from Boston, Massachusetts.

Pitmaster Jake Jacobs served up St. Louis Ribs with beans.

Ribs aren't really my favorite - too hard to eat and too much fatty gristly stuff. But the sauce was excellent, the meat was tender and flavorful and the beans were very tasty.

After loosening our belts we walked through the sponsor area to pick up our swag. Beach towels from North Folk bank, coupons, samples, tattoos, and pig ear hats from Texas Pete Hot Sauce, samples of the new vitamin Coke (tasted like diet Coke), and samples of Snapple's new black ice tea (the Orange Pekoe tasted just like sun tea). Apparently Wendy the Snapple Lady was on hand, but I didn't see her.

(On a complete aside - making sun tea can be hazardous to your heath. I was on the other day to try and verify the rumor that you shouldn't eat sushi on Sunday. Well I didn't find anything about that, but I did read that when you make sun tea the water doesn't get warm enough to kill bacteria but can actually encourage it's growth. They recommended just putting tea bags in a jar of water and letting it brew in your fridge.)

After getting our fill of Snapple and hot sauce samples, we walked around the city a bit. I am trying to locate the Project Runway 4 contestants. We were in the fashion district, but no luck.

Dinner started with a starter of Brunswick Stew. Something I would not have tried, but they were giving away free samples. Good marketing - it was delicious! Thick and creamy, a tomato base with tons of soft shredded chicken, chunks of potato, and kernels of corn. We split a bowl and headed on to the main course.

In case you want to make 10 quarts of Brunswick Stew, Proclamation Stew Crew from Lawrenceville, Virginia was kind enough to hand out their recipe.

We were going to try some pulled pork and beans from the crowd favorite Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q from Decatur, Alabama - but they were out of food. Guess we should have waited in that long line earlier in the day.

With our bellies looking for one last bite we headed back to the Southside Market for a sure winner of brisket and sausage. They lived up to our expectations and we ended the day happy and full!