Head East Young Man

Looking for something pork-related to do this first weekend of May?  Head on down to Kinston, in the heart of Eastern-style barbecue country, to check out the 28th annual BBQ Festival on the Neuse and Wil King Hog Happening, which is perhaps the best named of our state’s several large barbecue events.  The festival begins tonight and continues through early afternoon on Saturday, with the most intense barbecue cooking going on Friday night and into Saturday morning.  Barbecue plates go on sale to the public on Saturday at 11 a.m., for those who need to know.

Learn more about the festival by reading this article (thanks to burgeoningfoodie for sending the link along), which features some enticing gems. My favorite is this bit of boasting: “We know eastern barbecue is better and we’re going to show these folks,” Jan Barwick of the Kinston-Lenoir County Chamber of Commerce said of the visitors from around North Carolina. “They just don’t know ours is better because they haven’t had good barbecue yet.”  Not exactly finely honed trash talk but it does the job.  So, Lexington fanatics, head on down to Kinston and tell Jan what you think of the ‘cue.

Porky’s Pulpit: Sign of the Apocalypse

No smoking, unless your smoking a pig!  Photo used with permission of the photographer, Dale Vogel Reed

No smoking, unless you're smoking a pig! (Photo by Dale Volberg Reed, used with permission)

First the swine flu and now an even more certain sign of the apocalypse: a smoke free dining billboard in Davidson County, NC.  Why is this billboard a sign of the apocalypse?  Well, in case you don’t know/ain’t from ’round here, the main town in Davidson County is Lexington.  Lexington is, of course, perhaps the most important barbecue town in North Carolina and even dubs itself the “barbecue capital of the world.”  This title is one Lexington can make a legitimate claim to given its rich history and its present day status: roughly 20 barbecue joints, most still cooking over wood in the traditional manner, serve the town of just 20,000 people.

Apparently Davidson County’s Health Department is working with area restaurants to help them go smoke-free.  Luckily, this initiative targets cigarettes, cigars and the like, and not the wood pits out back.  As a matter of fact, quite a few barbecue joints in Lexington have signed on to the County’s list of smoke-free restaurants.  Even The Barbecue Center and Lexington #1 are among the joints that have gone smoke-free, but rest assured they still burn plenty of hickory wood when they cook their pork.

In all seriousness, the fact that so many barbecue joints are going smoke-free is interesting, given how closely tobacco and barbecue have been linked throughout NC’s history.  See this interesting article in the Raleigh News & Observer on the subject.

Swine Flu: The Only Thing We Have to Fear is Flu Itself

As you no doubt have heard by now, unless bbqjew.com is your only source of contact with the outside world (in which case we fear you have more serious problems than the flu), the SWINE FLU has emerged as the leading threat to humankind.  As best we can tell, the SWINE FLU! will either a) quickly fade away and be forgotten or b) decimate humanity.  Here’s to hoping a) is correct.  “But how does this potential epidemic impact dedicated barbecue eaters like me?,” you might ask.  Or you might not.  After initially fearing for the lives of our family and friends, this is exactly the disturbing question that entered my mind. 

The good news is that, while the SWINE FLU!!  may soon decimate the world’s population and bring a sudden end to civilization as we know it, it is perfectly safe to continue eating barbecue in the meantime.   According to an informative Q&A posted on MSNBC online, “People cannot become infected by eating pork or pork products. Cooking pork to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit kills the virus as well as other bacteria, notes the CDC.” 

A victim of the swine flu or the global economic downturn?

A victim of the swine flu or the global economic downturn?

Barbecue is certainly cooked to 160 degrees so there is no need for alarm.  That’s right, folks, please continue to eat barbecue all you want.  However, just to be on the safe side you may want to steer clear of eating barbecue at restaurants that have other customers or, to be extra safe, employees.  Yes, it turns out the SWINE FLU!!! can be transmitted person-to-person as well as pig-to-person, so you may want to carry out your next barbecue plate  and eat it inside your locked, HEPA-filtered, Tamiflu and meat thermometer stocked basement.  But really, we assure you, there is absolutely NO NEED TO PANIC!!!

As an aside, the swine flu was first identified in hogs in 1930, which coincidentally (?) was around the beginning of the Great Depression.  Now we are in the midst of another economic crisis and the swine flu is back in the news.  Mere coincidence or public health fear mongering intended to distract Joe Public from economic fear mongering?  You be the judge.  As for me, I’ll let you know my thoughts on this matter just as soon as I emerge from my basement.  See you in 2011.

All Aboard the Oink Express

All aboard the Oink Express!

All aboard the Oink Express!

Awhile back we got a question from an out of state reader about where to find decent mail order barbecue.  We recommended King’s Oink Express, since King’s is the only joint we know of that offers such a service as part of their everyday business (we’ve heard of some other joints that will ship pork upon special request).  I am pleased to report that a friend of mine who lives in California stepped up to the (barbecue) plate  and decided to try the Oink Express.

My friend–he prefers to be known as Governor Schwarzenoinker
to give the proper gravitas to his comments–reports that his Oink Express order arrived quickly, still frozen in the styrofoam cooler and accompanied by clear reheating instructions (pictured above).  But how did the pork-in-a-box taste?  Continue reading

The Power of Social Netporking

In observance of Earth Day, which we support despite our carnivorous ways, today’s post is vegetarian and features a completely pork-free message (well, at least no pictures of dead hogs).  Instead, today’s post focuses on shameless self-promotion.  In response to popular demand from our legions legion of devotees, we have created a Facebook page.  Please consider joining The BBQ Jew Crew if any of the following 10 statements apply to you:

1. I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night salivating for chopped pork.

2. I often wake up in the morning craving barbecue and scrambled eggs.

3. I am skeptical of social networking but believe in the world-changing power of social netporking.

4. After experiencing a strange and sudden metamorphosis I find myself with four hooves and a yarmulke.

5. I think there ought to be a Jess Swicegood & Sid Weaver Day holiday in NC.

6. I have too much time on my hands.

7. I am Jewish and eat pork.

8. I am not Jewish and eat pork.

9. I am agnostic when it comes to religion but fundamentalist when it comes to barbecue.

10. I like both swine and the Interweb.

The benefits of joining The BBQ Jew Crew are almost too many to name, so I will focus on just a couple.  First, you get to plug our website in exchange for no compensation whatsoever.  Second, you get to wow your friends by being part of an exclusive club for which membership is available only to those that apply.  If those compelling reasons haven’t convinced you, we’ll forgive you.  Oh, and we promise to post something a wee bit more substantive (to the extent possible on a website devoted to barbecue) on Friday.  Until then, happy Earth Day.

High on the (Whole) Hog

I went to my first pig pickin’ this weekend and…¡Wow!

The Pig Kahuna

The Pig Kahuna

Growing up in Massachusetts, the only thing I can compare it to is a clam bake, which, oddly enough, usually centers around lobster. After having access to a whole hog on a smoker, I have a newfound appreciation for a) how difficult it is to get at lobster meat and b) just how much meat is on a pig.

The event, held in Durham’s Duke Park neighborhood, was the result of a backyard conversation between two neighbors and a ‘why not?’ attitude. As in, why not mix a 165 pound hog, salt and pepper, 10 hours over the (cough) gas cooker and a little dip? The result was a glorious bit of ‘cue-aided community building.  (Thanks, Doug!)

While Doug and his neighbor Jeff did use a gas cooker,  at least they had a pile of wood nearby to please the eye. Plus, they woke up at 5 a.m. to get things started, earning some nice legitimacy points.

some prime picked pork

some prime picked pork

While this should have been obvious to me beforehand, the best part of the evening was actually pickin‘ pieces from the smoker. Finding that perfectly crusty piece (like this little gem to the left) was an experience I’d love to repeat (and did quite a few times on Saturday).

True to my moniker, I enjoyed a rarity in NC barbecue–a rib. And ever the breadaholic since Passover’s end, I crafted a sandwich with hand-picked morsels. That’s it below, moments before departing this world. And, yes, that is a nice piece of “outside brown.”

If I have to split hairs, I thought the barbecue could have been chopped finer. But I can certainly imagine the cleaver guys getting pork elbow after working their way through most of that hog.

The kicker of the whole thing was meeting a nice Jewish family who’d moved to Carolina from Israel. Alas, being Orthodox, they didn’t partake of the pork. The poor souls. But, as a devout BBQ Jew,  I could understand their devotion. And we met in the middle at a keg of nice, local beer.

The grand sandwich

The grand sandwich

BBQ Jew’s View: Country Barbeque

4012 W Wendover Ave, Greensboro, NC
No Website
BBQ Jew’s Grade: B
Porky Says: “Good enough to make you dance.”

Barbecue Clubs and Gentleman’s Joints
Country Barbeque is the only barbecue joint I know of that is located immediately adjacent to a strip club. (See the Google Maps street view–note that what look like large stained glass windows on the strip club are actually fake, which is probably consistent with what lies inside the club.) Luckily, Country Barbeque’s naughty neighbor is not the main reason to visit. 

Country Barbeque in Greensboro, from http://hkentcraig.com/BBQ36.html

Country Barbeque in Greensboro, from http://hkentcraig.com/BBQ36.html

Electric Table Dance
The food that the friendly, efficient wait staff at Country Barbeque bring to the table is quite good. The joint serves moist, tasty barbecue that is chopped to an ideal consistency—not too fine and not too chunky. The dip that accompanies the ‘cue is an excellent, sharply vinegared dark brown mixture that is reminiscent of the dip served at Lexington #1.  The red barbecue slaw that accompanied my ‘cue was good, although a little bit sweet for my taste.  The hush puppies were only mediocre, as they were small and somewhat overcooked.  I had a better than average piece of homemade peach cobbler for dessert. 

Now understand that I say all these positive things about the pork served at Country Barbeque knowing full well that they do not cook it over wood coals.  Continue reading

Pesach Special: A Matzoh ‘Cue Sandwich from New England

A buddy of mine, let’s call him The Jewish Gentile, sent me an email a couple of days ago that was too good not to share on this website.  TJG wrote, “I’m keeping Passover this year, but I really wanted a pulled pork sandwich. So I went to Blue Ribbon BBQ in Arlington, MA and got the North Carolina Pulled Pork Platter. Then I made myself this sandwich (see attached photo). And it was delicious.” 

Far be it from me, a much less observant Jew than TJG despite my bloodlines, to question whether he was abiding by the letter but not the spirit of Passover laws when he indulged in this multi-cultural treat (I’ll leave that discussion to him and his wife).  And let’s leave aside that the barbecue in between the matzoh was purchased in Massachusetts (I’ll leave that discussion to him and G-d).  The important thing is that TJG was inspired by the divine, acted on that inspiration, and documented his work the old fashioned way–with the digital photograph shown below.

A Passover delight.

A Passover delight.

Backyard BBQ 2: Electric Boogaloo

When we heard that the Backyard BBQ Pit was opening a new location, we BBQ Jews were excited and surprised (with an emphasis on the latter). And so we had to check it out for ourselves.

Will there be another Backyard BBQ? All signs point to yes.

Will there be another Backyard BBQ? All signs point to yes.

Sure enough…Bingo:

The new Pit will be dug in the old Pizza Palace location. While it will likely be a win for barbecue fans (as long as the owners bring some of their wood pile north to Guess Road), it’s a bummer to see the Palace’s coffin sealed shut. After all, they made a decent pie and had a…swingin’ vibe.

For us, though, it’s a fitting transition. The Palace was a real karaoke hot spot. By the power of “Copa Cabana” and “Sweet Caroline,” that means the spirit of Barry Manilow and Neil Diamond still haunts the building.

And that’s appropriate as they’re both true BBQ Jews. (Well, at least they’re Jews).

Anyway, we’ll be among the first in line when The Pit II opens. And yes, we’ll be humming “Sweet Caroline.”

Passover Swine

It’s now passover, but I can’t seem to pass over any barbecue…

And that has led me to conclude: a barbecue plate fills in nicely for the Passover seder plate. Once you get past that kosher thing, that is.

The seder plate (courtesy of Sam Felder)

The seder plate (courtesy of Sam Felder)

What the barbecue plate lacks in tradition(!), it more than makes up for in taste. And it’s not hopeless on the symbolism front, either.

First off–the barbecue (or pork, for you heathens). You can’t tell me that some finely chopped N.C. barbecue doesn’t look a little like haroset, the apple-walnut-wine concoction meant to symbolize the mortar used to build the pyramids. Barbecue can play that role.

I’m willing to accept either slaw or fried okra as the karpas, symbolizing springtime and renewal. Best of all, you won’t have to dip the okra into salt water (representing the tears of our ancestral slaves in Egypt) because it’ll already be salty as heck. Meanwhile, collards can serve as the bitter herbs. Although they’ll probably have been boiled with enough pork to eliminate all bitterness and kosherness.

the barbecue plate (courtesy of Alaina B.)

the barbecue plate (courtesy of Alaina B.)

Hush puppies don’t really work with the whole not using flour modus operandi, unfortunately. While matzah meal hush puppies would be wrong on many levels, they might be worth asking for just to enjoy the blank stares.

For beverages, a glass of Cheerwine would substitute nicely for that tired old Manischewitz wine. And don’t forget to enjoy 4 cups, as we’re commanded!

On a final note: Good luck finding anything resembling a shank bone (in place of the lamb shank), or any kind of bone, for that matter, at a N.C. barbecue joint.

Happy Passover, y’all. Enjoy your “seder.”