Nothing Unlucky About Mountain High BBQ & Music Festival

It’s Friday the 13th, black cats are prowling the streets, and I keep walking under ladders and breaking mirrors.  If you’re like me and need some good luck this weekend, head on down (well, up) to Franklin in the beautiful western NC mountains for the Mountain High BBQ & Music Festival.

The Festival features a KCBS-sanctioned barbecue cookoff, a cornhole tournament, music (including a Johnny Cash tribute band), and more.

Swine & Wine

I’ve had a lot of different drinks with barbecue over the years: beer, water, lemonade, Cheerwine, Pepsi and yes, of course, ice tea, to name a few.  But I’d never thought seriously about pairing wine and barbecue.  Somehow it just didn’t seem right: humble barbecue and that snooty vino stuff.  As far as I was concerned wine belonged with barbecue about as much as lobster belonged on a peanut butter & jelly sandwich.  But a recent experience made me think again.

A wine distributor contacted me and offered to send me a couple bottles of Argentinian wine if I was willing to have some friends over to sample it alongside barbecue.  (Generous offer, not-so-subtle attempt at free advertising, bribe?  You decide).  I was going to say no thanks but curiousity and the willingess to do anything for a free bottle of alcohol swayed me.  Plus, it occurred to me that the people of Argentina are notorious meat eaters and undoubtedly pair wine with their carnivore diet all the time.

The wine I received was a 2008 bottle of Broquel Malbec from Trapiche, which is Argentina’s largest premium wine exporter.  (See this link for some interesting background on Malbec.)  Because Broquel Malbec has a rich, complex flavor Trapiche recommends pairing it with flavorful foods like “stew made of game, lamb, or wild boar.”  Given the surprising lack of availability of wild boar at my local grocer (when is boar season ’round here anyway?), and my distaste for stew in 100 degree August weather, I figured barbecue would be a good substitute.

I invited some friends over for NC-style barbecue pork butt and Texas-style beef brisket.  I told my friends not to bother to bring drinks, since wine was on the menu.  My wine loving friends didn’t flinch but the alert barbecue lovers voiced some concern.  Luckily, free booze and ‘cue is hard to resist. 

The results were great. I can vouch that the complex fruit flavors of the Broquel Malbec paired well with the smoky, rich meaty flavors of the barbecue.  Perhaps because the beef brisket had a stronger flavor, the wine worked particularly well with it.  Still, even the relatively subtle flavors of the pork were not overwhelmed by the Broquel Malbec.  Live, drink and learn.  I’m not giving up ice tea as my preferred BBQ drink but I’ll catch myself next time my eyes roll at the mention of wine and barbecue!

Dear BBQ Jew: Notes from a Virginian

We recently received a letter (okay, just an email) from reader Robbie Robinson of Virginia, and think you might enjoy his comments on a recent barbecue pilgrimmage to the Old North State.  Robbie shares his thoughts on some local joints and also reveals his weight loss secret: the BBQ Atkins diet.  Below is a slightly edited version of Robbie’s correspondence, printed with his permission.

BBQ Jew,

Many, many thanks for your website.  NC BBQ research is a dirty job but we know you are out there for us, leading us into temptation and away from the evil of non-wood cooked BBQ.  I just returned from a few weeks in Chapel Hill but only made it to 11 joints due to circumstances [Editor’s note: only 11?].

I do not understand the raves for Allen and Son (north of Chapel Hill). It has everything going for it,but I have made two visits in the last 60 days and found the pork uninteresting. Nice big moist tender pieces,but no smokey flavor and not much other flavor. Sauce only average. Also,I am on BBQ Atkins diet and Allen and Sons was the only place of 11 that would not make me a low carb plate. They were pleasant but firm, no substitutions. [Editor’s note: I will defend Allen’s until the day I die so will blame your poor judgment on being deprived of essential nutrients–specifically, hush puppies–due to adhering to the BBQ Atkins diet.]

The waitress at Short Sugar’s took it as a personal challenge to make  sure Continue reading

BBQ Events This Weekend

If you’re in the Triangle area this weekend you could do worse than checking out one of these two BBQ-themed events.  First, in Cary (yes, that Cary) on Friday and Saturday is the traveling road show called the Beer, Bourbon & BBQ Festival.  Or, if you are looking for something with a little more of a downhome sophisticate flair, swing by The Flying Saucer in Raleigh on Saturday at 4:00 p.m. for a pairing of Hogwash beer with barbecue.  Twenty bucks gets you five 5-oz pours of Fullsteam Brewery beers and a heaping plate o’ ‘cue.  (A tip of the snout to BBQ Dave for pointing this event out.)

Yankee Doodle ‘Cue

It’s amusing to learn about the deviant behavior in the north that passes for cooking barbecue.  Recently the New York Times ran a piece on some friends putting on a “pig roast” in New York state.  This was no ordinary barbecue, at least by our humble southern standards: the pig was stuffed with “quartered and peeled pineapples and butternut squash, halved red onions and a dozen sprigs of rosemary” and then wrapped in banana leaves.  Instead of hush puppies and slaw, sides included kimchi,  as well as “a vegetable piccalilli with ample peppers” and “a concoction of coconut milk, pineapple juice and crushed banana mixed with a pesto of basil and cilantro.”  Yep, we ain’t in Mayberry anymore, Toto.

It’s easy to poke fun at New Yorkers cooking a hog, but all kidding aside it looks like the pig roast participants had a good time and a good meal, which are two defining features of good barbecue.  Plus, the slide show of pig roast pictures is nice.  Still, it’s hard not to smirk when the guys wrap the pig in banana leaves followed by burlap followed by chicken wire.  As if that’s not enough overkill, they then lower the strait-jacketed pig into a stone-lined pit in the ground and cover it with coals and dirt.  Sheesh,  I guess it’s hard to rent a pig cooker up north?

Two Rights Can Make a Wrong: A Review of Cheerwine-filled Krispy Kreme Donuts

You are not asleep and this is not a dream

Somehow this news got past me when it was announced in June, but it’s about the biggest thing since sliced pork: beloved NC donut makers Krispy Kreme partnered with beloved NC soft drink maker Cheerwine to produce a Cheerwine cream-filled donut.  Wow.

On paper the Cheerwine-Krispy Kreme donut is the most delicious idea to emerge in a long time, possibly ever.  Krispy Kreme donuts are a NC tradition and an international sensation.  And Cheerwine is the preferred barbecue pairing beverage aside from ice tea.  Unfortunately, whereas the sticky sweet cherry taste of Cheerwine pairs splendidly with tangy barbecue, it is an absolute disaster when turned into cream form and injected into a sticky sweet Krispy Kreme donut.  At least that is the verdict reached by my palate and the palates of the five fellow testers I employed during a recent double-non-blind taste test.  In the interest of full disclosure, none of the testers are big fans of creme-filled donuts to begin with and none much care for Krispy Kreme’s “chocolate” icing.  If you don’t trust my opinion (fair enough), see more coverage on the donut here and here; the latter link includes a terrific, if nauseating slide show.

All members of the BBQ Jew Test Crew agreed that the cream had a distinct Cheerwine taste but that it would have been much better to use that Cheerwine flavor as an icing or in the dough itself instead of in cream form.  Are you listening Krispy Kreme Korporate Kings?  Make the Cheerglaze or Cheerdough happen and I will buy a dozen, I promise.  Until then, when I crave dessert I think I will stick to my staple: the barbecue sundae.