Mallard Creek Barbecue

Neat TV news story profiling the serious work involved in preparing for Thursday’s annual Mallard Creek Barbecue in Charlotte.  It’s worth watching for the burn barrels alone, check it out embedded below or by following this link.  For one thing, I didn’t realize they actually cook over wood coals–impressive for an event serving 14,000 pounds of pork!

Q-City Charlotte BBQ Championship

Perhaps still seeking its BBQ identity after the Michelle Obama flap of 2011, the not-so-famed BBQ destination of Charlotte will host a barbecue competition the weekend after next.  Seriously, it sounds like a fun event so check it out.  Below is an excerpt from the media release about the event, with all the gory details:

Charlotte, NC – September 11, 2013 – BBQ competitors have yet another reason to sharpen their skills and perfect their recipes before the Q-City Charlotte BBQ Championship. On October 19, the winning team will not only receive the title of Grand Champion and a $7,500 cash prize; the team will also receive a Golden Ticket – an exclusive invitation to compete in the 2013 World Food Championships in Las Vegas, to be held November 7-10, 2013.

The four day, invitation-only food competition draws hundreds of contenders from around the world. Competitors vie for $300,000 in winnings and the title of 2013 World Food Champion. The Q-City Charlotte BBQ Grand Champion team will represent the Southeast region and battle other top-tier national teams in the World Barbecue Championship category.

The Q-City Charlotte BBQ Championship will be held for the 11th year on October 18-19 in Uptown Charlotte. There are two types of teams – Memphis BBQ Network (MBN) pros and Challenger (amateur) teams that will compete in a variety of categories – everything from Boston butt and whole hog to cole slaw and chicken. The Grand Champion will be chosen from the MBN pro team division. This is the second year that the Grand Champion will be automatically qualified to compete in the World Food Championships.

Fans will enjoy tons of food, live music, BBQ demonstrations and competitions during the Q-City Charlotte BBQ Championship. Cost of admission? It’s free. Join us Oct. 18-19 in Charlotte.

Charlotte Home of State’s First BBQ Joint?

Fascinating post from last week’s Southern Foodways Alliance blog about barbecue’s surprisingly long history in Charlotte: http://southernfoodways.blogspot.com/2012/08/mr-nunns-barbecue-stand-north-carolinas.html

Pork Bottle Politics

The Democrats have upped the ante when it comes to barbecue-pandering in the 2012 presidential election.  The organizers of the upcoming Democratic National Convention are making localregional and national headlines for their recently announced sauce contest.

Charlotte in 2012, the convention’s organizing body, released a Request for Proposals (RFP) seeking the best barbecue sauces among the styles most common in the Carolinas.  As the RFP states, the organizers are “looking to work with a Barbeque sauce vendor as part of the merchandising effort for the Convention.”  I will refrain from picking on the committee for the erroneously capitalized spelling of “Barbeque”, as this would be a cheap shot.

The RFP seeks entries among “three different types of BBQ sauces, mustard, vinegar, and tomato that represent the different styles from around the Carolinas.”  I will pick on the organizers for this statement, which has the following flaws:

  • Every North Carolinian worth his vinegar knows that there is no such thing as tomato-based sauce here, but rather dips that are spiked with a touch of tomato/ketchup;
  • mustard-based sauces are a South Carolina thing and we frown upon them here in the real, civilized Carolina;
  • South Carolina will vote for the GOP nominee come hell, highwater, or Strom Thurmond’s reincarnation as a friendly Palmetto tree, so why waste time tasting that state’s Grey Pou-ponsense?
  • Reasonable people of all political stripes should have a healthy dose of skepticism about a taste test conducted by political hacks.  My guess is the winner will be whichever sauce receives the support of White House Brand Vinegar’s Super PAC.

Finally, though the sauce contest seems innocent enough on the surface, the Democrats are treading on dangerous territory.  Their attempt at an ecumenical selection of winners across three different styles risks alienating us North Carolinians, as we are die hard Baptists when it comes to sticking with what we like.  We each have our sauce religion figured out and don’t need the sauce teachings we believe in questioned by out of town operatives, whether they be Mormon, Catholic or just plain not from ’round here.  Of course, in fairness, political common sense dictates that picking three sauces will anger fewer voters than picking just one.  Perhaps.

Obamas Bring Dems to BBQ Mecca (Well, Near It)

As you have probably heard by now, the 2012 Democratic National Convention will be held in Charlotte, NC.  Here’s what the First Lady had to say about the selection in a letter to supporters, which is excerpted below:

I am thrilled to make sure you are the first to hear some very exciting news. Charlotte, North Carolina will host the 46th Democratic National Convention in 2012.

Charlotte is a city marked by its southern charm, warm hospitality, and an “up by the bootstraps” mentality that has propelled the city forward as one of the fastest-growing in the South. Vibrant, diverse, and full of opportunity, the Queen City is home to innovative, hardworking folks with big hearts and open minds. And of course, great barbecue.

Barack and I spent a lot of time in North Carolina during the campaign—from the Atlantic Coast to the Research Triangle to the Smoky Mountains and everywhere in between. Barack enjoyed Asheville so much when he spent several days preparing for the second Presidential debate that our family vacationed there in 2009…

We hope many of you can join us in Charlotte the week of September 3rd, 2012. But if you can’t, we intend to bring the spirit of the convention—as well as actual, related events to your community and even your own backyard [Editor's note: Is the First Lady hinting at good old fashioned political pig pickin's?]

Looking forward to sharing this together,

Michelle

Fox News, not exactly supporters of the Prez, ran this story reporting on Michelle Obama’s letter.  The story includes an oh-so-classy dig at the First Lady’s work to prevent childhood obesity but is notable mostly for its misinformed stock photo of someone eating ribs, meant to portray NC barbecue. Fair and balanced? No comment. But certainly ill informed on the important matter of North Carolina barbecue.

As to whether the First Lady is right in her assertion that Charlotte has “great barbecue”?  Debatable, even among the most likely defenders, such as Charlotte Observer readers and staff (and yet again).

The Mallard Creek Barbeque

Want to be one of the lucky thousands who gets to eat barbecue while rubbing elbows with desperate politicians just days before the election?  Head on down to Charlotte, where the 81st Mallard Creek Barbeque is scheduled for this Thursday starting at 10 a.m.  The annual fundraiser is organized by Mallard Creek Presbyterian Church, as it has been since year one, and promises to serve up thousands of pounds of pig, slaw and Brunswick stew, along with a healthy dose of good cheer (as well as those pesky politicians).  The event is the largest of its kind in North Carolina so be sure you leave yourself plenty of time to soak it in.  Get directions to the Barbeque site here.

Happy Meat Week

Happy Meat Week everyone!  Meat Week is one of the greatest ideas ever–ranking right up there with cooking whole hog over coals and the invention of vinegar–but the only North Carolina chapter is in Charlotte.  Obviously folks need to step up and start other NC chapters by next year.  Who’s going to take on this awesome responsibility? I call not it… but I will be happy to participate.

BBQ&A: Jim Noble, Chef & Restaurateur

Jim at work on one of his non-barbecue side projects

Jim at work on one of his non-barbecue side projects

[Note: Follow this link-Noble BBQ&A-for an easier to read, .pdf version of the interview.]

Jim Noble is a real-deal Charlotte restaurateur with two establishments in the Queen City and three more in the works. Yet, in his heart of hearts, that heart beats for barbecue (It’s kind of a Russian doll thing). He’s Triad born and Triad bred, and he first experienced…Aw, shucks, let’s just let him tell it:

BBQ Jew: Where are you from and did you grow up on the divine swine?
Jim Noble: I am from High Point and grew up eating BBQ at least once a week or so with my Dad and family. My father was a furniture rep, traveling NC, and he was always on the lookout for great BBQ and local, homespun restaurants all over the state. In fact when we traveled together, he would take me to places he really enjoyed.

BBQJ: What’s your first barbecue memory?
JN: There were so many from an early age, I can’t recall my first, but Saturdays were the best Q days for us. Dad would normally get his mail together and go to the Post Office mid morning. Often I would go with him, then to the grocery store and end up at Kepley’s BBQ (The red pig on the sign signifies the first Q joint Kepley had, called The Red Pig.).

My dad’s favorite was Lexington and Gary’s in China Grove, but Kepley’s was only a mile or so from our home. Kepley’s was always good and I love those guys – we’ve been going in for 45+ years, but our favorite was Monk’s Q at Lexington #1 (in the west that is.) one of my favorite BBQ memories was going hunting with Bob Timberlake, Tom Ix and a crew from Lexington at the Wildcat Hunting club and eating the skins at Jimmy’s BBQ. They were absolutely awesome (overused but great word when used in its original meaning). He once approached me about buying Jimmy’s, but I wasn’t ready at the time.

BBQJ: As a gourmand and a chef, what do you appreciate most about barbecue?
JN: I appreciate the craft of cooking pork over live wood. All of our restaurants cook with wood and I wouldn’t think of cooking it any other way. If I had to cook without wood, I would go into the wine business or organic farming. The legend/lore/artisanal characteristics of cooking with wood is my most heartfelt passion. As one of my chefs and I say, “You can’t sous-vide that.”

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