End of April Fool’s Day: Spiced Barbecue Cookies

As loyal readers are aware, we at BBQJew.com (become a fan on Facebook!) have done our fair share of shameless self-promotion (BBQ Jew bumper stickers or aprons, anyone?).  Thus, we know a good attempt at self-promotion when we see one.  And a recent attempt was pretty good. On April Fool’s Day we received an email from Page Skelton, President of NC-based hot sauce company Cackalacky, Inc

Page’s message featured the subject line “Barbecue Cookies?” and read: “Me say yes, BBQ Jew!… Celebrating April 1st – the first day of Cackalacky Cookout Season – with our colossal Spiced Barbecue Cookies!  Nom, nom, nom…”  Attached to his message was the below picture.  Well played, sir, but next year give me a little more advance notice if you want free publicity on the real April Fool’s Day instead of on April 30th!  For what it’s worth, I really do enjoy Cackalacky sauce, though I have to admit that I have yet to try it on barbecue.

Hey, Page, shouldn’t I get paid for this product placement? At least give me a free bottle of sauce!


BBQ&A: Jim Early, NC Barbecue Society Founder

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

Jim Early is a good old fashioned barbecue renaissance man.  A native of Henderson, NC, Early graduated from Wake Forest University law school and practiced as an attorney for many years.  His bio notes that, “In addition to being an avid and accomplished hunter, fisherman, and gourmet cook, he also rides and brokers Tennessee walking horses, breeds and trains English Setters and Pointers, flies with his friends in hot air balloons and WWII war birds, restores British cars and classic Chris Craft mahogany speed boats, paints, writes, plays in bands and loves to dance.”

While the above hobbies and accomplishments are interesting in their own right, most relevant to this website is the fact that Early founded the North Carolina Barbecue Society (NCBS).  In 2007, he left his law practice to focus solely on NCBS, which has a mission “to preserve North Carolina’s barbecue history and culture and to secure North Carolina’s rightful place as the Barbecue Capital of the World.”

In addition to founding NCBS, Early authored The Best Tar Heel Barbecue: Manteo to Murphy, which remains the most comprehensive guidebook of NC barbecue joints (and retains a prime spot in my car’s glove box).  He has also authored a cookbook, leads business retreats, and makes presentations on work-life balance and stress reduction.  Recently we added to Early’s stress by asking him a book’s worth of questions, which he was kind enough to answer. 

BBQ Jew: In researching The Best Tar Heel Barbecue: Manteo to Murphy, you visited all 100 counties in North Carolina and ate at 228 restaurants.  How long did this field research take and what did you learn from the experience?
Jim Early: How I went about doing the field research for The Best Tar Heel Barbecue: Manteo to Murphy is described on pages 17-20 of the book.  I wanted the research to be current and I pushed myself as hard as I possibly could to practice law 14-15 hours a day Monday through Thursday and drive to the area I was going to work and work 18 hour days Friday and Saturday in the field.  Sunday morning I ate my first meal since Thursday and drove home to do 6-7 hours dictation and crash.  This was my life for 6 months plus in 2001.  Then I wrote the book and went through all the publishing hoops, distribution hoops, etc.  The whole process was about 4,000 hours, 22,000+ miles, 2,000+ people, 100 counties and 228 BBQ places.  To my knowledge no one else has done a BBQ guide book that is this complete, this  well  researched  and invested the time that I invested to complete the project.  I learned that that there was a reason no one else had done such a project.  The price is higher than most people are willing to pay.  I have written several cook books and numerous magazine articles since I wrote The Best Tar Heel Barbecue, but they have been a walk in the park compared to the efforts I put into that book.

Some of the things I learned from the field research are that there are, to my knowledge, less than 30 old fashioned family owned BBQ places in NC that cook over pits fueled with live wood coals or charcoal and Continue reading

WWOD: Where Would Obama Dine?

As you may have heard the POTUS and First Lady descended on–ascended to, more accurately–Asheville over the weekend to enjoy some good old fashioned R&R.  The Obamas still have a lot of vacation time to take if they have any shot at matching George W. & Laura Bush’s work ethic, but (never mind, that’s a comment perhaps best saved for another blog). What was the first thing the Obamas did when they arrived in town?  They ate barbecue, of course!

Now, normally I would be excited to have the President and his lady visit NC and eat barbecue.  Obama did this several times during the campaign, as politicians are pretty well obligated to do whether or not they have a taste for the stuff.  But this time was different.  He’s in charge now.  Plus, he should have no concerns about winning the Asheville vote in 2012.

Full disclosure: I voted for Obama and I think he’s a smart guy.  Heck, even if each night you pray for a Sarah Palin/Glenn Beck ticket in 2012, you probably recognize that Obama is an intelligent dude.  But when he visited Asheville–vegeterian-paradise-Asheville, deep-in-the-mountains-where-the-altitude-limits-the-flow-of-oxygen-to-the-brain-Asheville, most-of-the-people-there-wouldn’t-know-good-NC-BBQ-if-it-built-its-own-pit-and-cooked-itself-Asheville–Obama should have been smart enough to order something besides ‘cue.  That’s my opinion.

Needless to say, the media was thrilled to see the Prez tuck into some “real” NC barbecue.  The headline of the Washington Post article gushed, “Vacationing Obamas order up a heaping helping of Carolina barbecue.”  But what the not-from-’round-here media failed to notice, unsurprisingly, was that the Obamas ordered ribs, which are not an NC staple by any stretch of the imagination, as well as a bunch of sides that failed to include the ubiquitous slaw or hush puppies. 

So, the real story is that the Obamas visited 12 Bones Smokehouse in Asheville, North Carolina and ordered Kansas City-style barbecue.  Which is pretty much equivalent to visiting a seafood restaurant in the land of lobster, Maine, and ordering fried catfish.  Oh well, at least the Obamas didn’t give Palin/Beck ’12 any ammunition by dining at a vegetarian great like Rosetta’s Kitchen or the Laughing Seed.  Though if he had dined at either of those places I can promise he would have had a more authentically Asheville, North Carolina meal.  If nothing else, by eating pork ribs the President dealt a blow to the lingering suspicions that he is a secret Muslim… unless, of course, Fox News reveals that he goes by the nom de plume Barberak Oribsa and is the force behind BBQMuslim.com.

Accident Kills Whitley’s Restaurant Owner

Sad news from Lexington where Mark Thompson, the owner of Whitley’s Restaurant, died in a motorcycle accident on April 15th.  I did not know Mr. Thompson and only dined at his restaurant once but, as with most locally owned restaurants, Whitley’s was obviously a labor of love.  He was also a strong supporter of The Barbecue Festival, in which Whitley’s was a regular participant.  It is not yet clear whether the restaurant will re-open. 

My condolences to Mr. Thompson’s family and friends and to the loyal patrons who knew him through his restaurant.

Fire at Holt Lake Bar-B-Q

After several recent restaurant closings due to the economy, there is even more bad news for NC barbecue fans: according to WRAL.com, a kitchen fire has temporarily closed down Holt Lake Bar-B-Q & Seafood in Smithfield.  Although I was underwhelmed by Holt Lake Bar-B-Q on my visit there, the joint has many loyal customers who will be much less happy at meal time in the coming weeks.  The good news for the joint’s customers and 20 employees is that it sounds like the owners will work hard to re-open as soon as they can. 

I wish Holt Lake Bar-B-Q all the best for a speedy recovery.  And maybe they will take the fire as a sign from above and decide to rebuild with the addition of some traditional wood pits so they can keep the fire outside the restaurant!

Freaks of Nature

Photo by Vince Horn

Thanks to Eric, a sometimes vegetarian freak of nature himself, for tipping me off to this photo taken by a friend of his.  It’s not from North Carolina, clearly, but it’s pretty damn wonderful anyway.

Talk About Fusion Cooking!

Earlier this week we learned of the better-than-it-sounds barbecue sundae.  And now we have another reason for BBQ Jews to rejoice: The New York Times recently featured an article about a Garden City Park eatery that specializes in bagels and barbecue.  Wow. 

The aptly named Bagels & BBQ features traditional water-boiled bagels along with hickory-smoked ‘cue.   This is the first time in my life I’ve considered relocating to New York…

This Wednesday: The Barbecue Sundae

I thought I’d seen it all until I saw this: the barbecue sundae.  Rest assured, this sundae doesn’t involve any chocolate syrup or chopped walnuts.  This sundae involves chopped pork and looks pretty damn good.  The sundae includes beans, ‘cue and slaw, and is served layered in a plastic cup.  I’m not sure how I feel about the beans but I like the sundae concept.  I wonder if substituting hushpuppies for beans would make this dish even better.  On the other hand, it’s hard to improve on the classic slaw-pork BBQ tray.  Still, off to my BBQ tasting lab to experiment…

Weekend Double Feature: Cuegrass & Fire

Looking for something pork-related to do this weekend?  You have at least two good options.

1) The 14th annual Kings Mountain Firehouse Barbeque Cookoff.  There are 35 teams confirmed to compete in the KCBS-sanctioned cookoff and more than twice that many confirmed judges… hmmm.

2) The 2nd annual North Carolina Cuegrass Festival at The Pit in downtown Raleigh.   The event runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and features music, Ed Mitchell’s BBQ and local beers.  Now that’s a tasty combination plate.  

The headliner musical act is the (in)famous Southern Culture on the Skids.  SCOTS are known for throwing fried chicken into the crowd at their shows.  Since it’s pretty hard to throw chopped barbecue (trust me on this), maybe they’ll toss the fans some hushpuppies.  No word on how much the event costs but it’s a fundraiser for an interesting organization that supports family farms, and I am sure you’ll get your money’s worth in ‘cue and brew too.  Hat tip to burgeoningfoodie and Eryk Pruitt for letting me know about the Cuegrass event.

Newport Pig Pickin’ Contest This Weekend!

I almost forgot to post this announcement, so sorry for the late notice.  Barbecue festival season kicks off in NC today in Newport, aka “The Town with Old Fashioned Courtesy.”  See the event website and this press release for details on the event, which takes place today and tomorrow.  The barbecue competition is sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society and claims to be “USA’s Largest Whole Hog B-B-Q Pig Cookin,” whatever that means.  I can’t attend but would love a report so drop me a line and some photos if you make it to Newport.