Wouldn't you rather be here right now...
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Wouldn't you rather be here right now...
Thursday, June 3, 2010
If you're a veteran of the festival, there are a few minor tweaks this year that you should know about.
First, the pitmasters will begin slinging their creations at 11 AM each day, rather than at noon as in some prior years. This will give those willing to scarf bbq before mid-day a head start on those not in-the-know.
Second, the number of fast passes being sold was severely cut this year and they are already sold out. However, if you are feeling truly saucy, a new pass called the Mad Sq ParkPass is available for purchase for the gentle price of $1500. The money goes to a good cause and is almost entirely tax-deductible, so it's worth consideration if you're so inclined.
Finally, and most exciting, there are several new pitmasters joining the veteran legends at the block party this year including Ken Bosley from Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn in Owensboro, KY. Mr. Bosley will try to do his home state's legacy proud by being the first BABBP participant to prepare Mutton in the festivals history.
Planning the perfect mode of attack for the BABBP, depends on your eating status. More specifically, are you a nibbler, a nosher or a fresser?
For your convenience, I've provided the following definitions specific to the purpose of this article to help you sort yourselves out:
A nibbler is someone who likes to sample a few things here or there, but is there as much for the blissful atmosphere as for the food.
A nosher is interested in trying the best of the best, but doesn't need to have everything to feel like they got what they wanted out of the experience.
A fresser is there to sample all they they possibly can. Calories be damned, a fresser is going to make the most of this unique annual event.
For all you nibblers out there, I'm thinking 2 plates of bbq is probably enough to sate your curiosity and appetite. That's why I'm proscribing you the following agenda:
1) Get a pulled pork sandwich from Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q, from Decatur, Alabama. Pit master Chris Lilly’s pork is chock full of nuanced smoky flavor and signature spices, while remaining moist and tender. Of all the pulled pork sandwiches I've had in my life (and I've had dozens), Lilly's have been the most consistent and delicious I've come across. You can try one of Big Bob's several signature BBQ sauces, if you dare, but this meat needs no adornment.
2) Gobble down a plate of brisket and sausage from The Salt Lick, of Driftwood, Texas. Michael Rodriguez and crew are no longer the winners of the “longest distance traveled” award, but they are still the BBQ beef kings. They turn out pink smoke laden beef and juicy, spicy sausage that bests the competition when in the Big Apple. Be sure to ask for a bit of the “moist” end of the brisket -- you won’t be disappointed.
For the noshers, four plates seems about right. To the nibbler proscription, tack on the following assignments:
3) Grab a whole hog sandwich from Mitchell’s BBQ, of Wilson, North Carolina. For those unfamiliar to whole hog cooking, it involves slicing an entire pig right down the middle, seasoning the insides with spices and marinades and then smoking the whole thing on a huge grill. The meat, fortunately, more than makes up for the effort it takes to prepare it. Juicier than the traditional pulled pork sandwich, Mitchell’s whole hog is replete with a vinegar-based sauce that gives it a kick not found in some of the other sandwiches on offer. The meat is rich and incredibly flavorful (though it lacks a bit of the complexity from smoke penetration that many people expect in their pork).
4) Chow down on a plate of ribs from the 17th Street Bar & Grill of Murphysboro, Illinois. These are traditional Memphis style baby back ribs which are dry rubbed to let the succulent meat shine. Lovers of BBQ baked beans should make it a particular point to stop by the 17th Street stand, as their version (which accompanies the two or three ribs you'll get) is quite simply the finest I've ever tasted.
For the fressers out there, you probably know all about the barbecue festival already and have your fast passes in hand (I should hope). For you, start with the four already recommended, and keep the good times rolling until we can roll you down Madison avenue, which should be right about when you polish off these two plates:
5) New this year: Chomp on some burgoo and BBQ mutton from Ken Bosley's Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn in Owensboro, Kentucky, lauded everywhere from the Wall Street Journal to Gourmet magazine (R.I.P.). Mr. Bosley's mutton -- meat from a lamb that's at least a year old is called mutton -- is cooked over hickory logs to give it its unique flavor. For food lovers, this is a unique opportunity to try a beloved regional classic that rarely gets much play outside of the Bluegrass State. Burgoo is a hearty soup made from mutton, chicken, and a variety of vegetables. Apparently, no two cooks prepare it the same way, so you know this will be a singular side.
Gotta love the smack talk from the rookies
Whether you're planning on trying few bites of one, or demolishing more than eight plates of barbecue in the two days of the festival, I assure you that you'll have a blast.
Now get out there and enjoy!
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Sunday, December 6, 2009
After our recent trip to Argentina, Tesha and I had some pictures to exchange and debts to settle, so I invited her and her boyfriend Clifford over for dinner this past Sunday night. Tesha is one of my favorite diners, as she is both adventurous and trusting that I probably won’t kill her with my experiments.
We started off with a jazzed up version of the Argentine staple, provoleta. Lacking the standard circular metal dish in which the hunk of provolone is normally grilled turned out to be a major problem, as my disk of cheese melted far more quickly than I expected in my grill pan. While I was able to salvage the cheese, I didn’t get the beautiful circle of provolone that I was looking for, nor did the cheese develop a golden brown crust over very much of it, which is sort of the whole point of the dish.
Having said that, it’s melted cheese, and no matter what you do it, it will probably be pretty tasty.
A mostly delicious failure
I added my twist to the provoleta by adding shreds of Benton’s Tennessee prosciutto, fresh basil and some homemade pickled red onion slivers that I made with more sugar that the recipe calls for to counteract the saltiness of the other ingredients. The onions provided a nice texture element to the gooey mess on the plate and the basil a welcome floral note. The prosciutto might have been overkill considering that the cheese was already salt laden, but it definitely worked and added some richness. This was definitely a triumph of taste over appearance. Next time I’ll pick up a proper cooking vessel though.
Next we had a classic matzoh ball soup with some roasted jalapeno added for a little kick. I started off with chicken neck bones, onions, parsnips, celery and carrots from which I made a classic chicken stock. Then I charred two jalapenos using the gas from my stove and peeled the burned skin off before letting the whole peppers soak in the soup for the last hour of simmering to impart a bit of their flavor and heat. The difference is subtle, but I think it’s a nice addition to an already pretty good soup.
Simple, Homey Goodness
For the meat course, I prepared chicken leg/thigh quarters that I marinated in Lawry’s Chicken and Poultry seasoning (which I use as a base seasoning for almost all chicken dishes) and Ssamjang, a Korean condiment made from bean paste, chili paste, sesame, garlic and sugar. It’s basically the Korean version of ketchup, and improves just about any dish that you’d consider either hot sauce or ketchup for.
Spicy, Savory, Sweet and Tender
I browned the chicken in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat for a few minutes, then roasted the quarters in the oven at 325 degrees for about an hour. What resulted was some of the most flavorful and tender chicken that I’ve ever prepared. The ssamjang worked wonders for the meat and caramelized into a beautiful crust on the skin. Tesha said it was her favorite chicken dish that she can remember. I'm not sure it was quite that good, but just to check, I’m making it again tonight.
Finally, we arrived at dessert, which was my most ambitious course of the evening.
Let me start by saying that I’m really into basil. I love the flavor, I love the smell and I love how versatile it is. When I was out in San Francisco earlier this year, David and I prepared french toast with strawberries and basil whipped cream. I also sampled one of the best desserts of my life at Ubuntu, a basil semifreddo with strawberries and lime granita.
I was determined to make a dessert with basil, and I decided that I was going to do so via one of my other favorite foods, ice cream.
I borrowed an ice cream machine from a co-worker and got down to business. The first step was trying to figure out how to impart the basil flavor without actually putting basil leaves in the ice cream (I didn’t think they’d work texturally). I decided to take a page from Christina Tosi’s book and let the cream sit with bunches of bruised basil leaves in it for a few hours before making the ice cream. I then followed the standard recipe for vanilla ice cream (milk, cream, sugar and vanilla).
Infuse thyself, basil!
I dipped a spoon into the mix and tasted the results. It was SO good. Again, remember that I like basil so much that I eat the leaves straight, but this stuff was awesome. A little sweet, a little floral and not overpowering, but certainly basil ice cream.
This really couldn't be much easier
As a base for the ice cream, I made some challah french toast. I added a bit of balsamic vinegar to the batter for an additional twist of flavor and it worked very well as part of the dessert, with the ice cream’s sweetness swooping in to balance out the tart vinegar.
Balsamic French Toast, Basil Ice Cream, Raspberry
I was quite excited that the dessert worked as well as it did and I’ve already begun pondering both what else I can use the basil ice cream for (caprese with tomato sorbet and mozzarella balls?) and what other non-traditional ice creams I would like to attempt.
All in all, I think Tesha and Clifford had a nice evening and were pretty pleased with their meals. It was a great Sunday evening.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
We were enticed by the waitress to try their special drink of the evening, a concoction of whiskey, rioja wine, lemongrass and orange liqueur. However, it wasn’t the elixir itself, which was compelling enough, that prompted our order. It was the delivery method.
That was via porron.
For those too lazy to click to the link, here’s what George Orwell had to say about them: “A porron is a sort of glass bottle with a pointed spout from which a thin jet of wine spurts out whenever you tip it up; you can thus drink from a distance, without touching it with your lips, and it can be passed from hand to hand..”
The idea is that the whole table can share one porron, and because of the proscribed method of imbibing, the hygenic issues of sharing a drinking vessel are minimized.
I can honestly say that I’ve never had so much fun drinking anything.
At first, it was funny to watch my friends struggle to perform the porron dance of slowly pouring the drink into their mouths and then spilling on themselves as they tried to pull the porron away as the waitress showed us. Once we got the hang of it though, it became a blast to both drink from the porron yourself and watch your friends do so via long streams of alcohol hurling through the air into their mouths.
It was so pleasurable, that I even took to using a spent porron as my water glass.
Josh impressing the ladies
It turns out that porrons are not particularly expensive, and I think they’d make a great gift for anyone who enjoys being a daredevil drinker.
Just be sure to wear a bib….
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
It's been way, way, way, way too long.
Now that we've gotten that over with, I have much to share in the coming weeks (assuming someone is still reading this (thanks Mom)).
First, a short article detailing how to get the most nutritional value out of the foods you are eating.
Try adding some black pepper to this party for both complexity and, apparently, good health
Luckily, the suggestions involved are often tasty additions to the vittles in question, so it really shouldn't take much convincing to give these ideas a try.
Enjoy: Getting the Most From Your Meals
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Monday, July 13, 2009
The lair of the Chang and Wylie Dogs, and Bacon infused whisky
Please Don't Tell (PDT) - Finding your way into this hidden drinking den is only the beginning of the fun. Creative drinks using fresh, seasonal ingredients are the standard at this clandestine cocktail lounge. More importantly, there's nothing quite like quaffing a pitch perfect cocktail while chowing down on phenomenal junk food (Jalapeno Cheese Tater Tots anyone?). Be sure to check out their celebrity-chef haute dogs.
Terroir - Wine bars can be snooty, overpriced and boring. This place is none of those things. Run by the fine folks at Hearth and Insieme, Terroir's staff will gladly educate you about the wines you're tasting while feeding you excellent morsels of interesting foods.
Friday, June 19, 2009
Their logo certainly does not match the local weather so far this summer
This Tuesday, June 23rd, City Harvest is hosting their annual benefit, Summer in the City. This year's event features tastings from over thirty top joints, including Stanton Social, Dirt Candy, Allen & Delancey, and 10 Downing.
Of interest to celebrity chef followers, Food Network and Top Chef alum such as Leah Cohen, Alex Guarnaschelli and Chris Santos will be on hand cooking on behalf of their restaurants.
I've been working on my pick-up line for weeks
The event costs $125 for general admission and $200 for VIP. For the price of a nice dinner out, you can eat dishes from 30+ great restaurants and drink from some of Manhattan's top watering holes, both with unlimited portions.
Would it help if I told you I'll be on hand as a greeter?
Again, this is a really fantastic cause, so if you've got the evening free, I couldn't think of a better way to enjoy a Tuesday night while doing something both important and fun.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Last year I did a preview of what was going down, which you can see here. All of those favorites are back for another year, as well as some new entrants into the competition. I'm particularly excited to sample the ribs from Pappy's Smokehouse in St. Louis.
I'll be the one right over there, licking my fingers
Whether you're there for the food, the live music, the beer garden or just great people watching, this event has something for everyone. I look forward to seeing you there.
Friday, May 15, 2009
Melody Serafino is bringing value to the masses
Fellow frugal New Yorker Melody Serafino pens a valuable blog called Fabulously Frugal. For her weekly Friday profiles of people living according to her site's mantra, she has chosen yours truly.
Check it out here.
Monday, April 27, 2009
That pungent garlicky aroma? It can only mean one thing.
Ramps are back.
For those who aren't familiar with these spring delicacies, ramps are wild green onions that grow in eastern North America from north Georgia up through Canada. Prized for their sharp, powerful flavor and come-hither aroma, ramps substitute easily for any dish requiring garlic or onion.
Ramps are only available for about a month out of the year, depending on what neck of the woods you call home. Also depending on the location of your domicile, you might be able to go out and pick your very own ramps (or order them from someone who can). Ramps are often found in groups with wide, verdant green leaves, and purple or burgundy tints on the stems. A scallion-like bulb strongly roots the plant to the dirt underneath.
For New York city dwellers, ramps can be found at the Union Square greenmarket Mondays, Wendesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Just let your sense of smell guide you to them.
I love using ramps in recipes that allow them to play with other bold flavors, or as a substitute for garlic. Some of the things I've been concocting include:
With ramps, you really can't go wrong. Have fun, experiment, and for everyone's sake, brush your teeth.