The Wild World of BBQ Blogging

One of the more fascinating aspects of barbecue blogging is the number of unsolicited messages I get from folks pushing their (sometimes) barbecue-related products. From BBQ sauce companies to grill stores to cookbook publishers, I get several emails a week seeking to drum up publicity for whatever it is they are selling.  I can only imagine what a less obscure blog with more readers must receive in PR-mail.

Among my recent favorite messages to reach my inbox are these two gems:

“Dear Porky,

How about a post on refreshing beverage savings ideal for summer? ALO Drink, the #1 ready-to-drink aloe vera beverage in the U.S. natural market, is offering a 50 cent coupon when you Like ALO on Facebook.


Made with real aloe vera pulp and juice straight from the aloe vera plant – never reconstituted from powder, ALŌ Drink contains 25% aloe vera pulp and juice content, is naturally full of vitamins, minerals and essential amino acids, and is completely Free of preservatives, artificial colorings, artificial flavors, emulsifiers or thickeners. Available in exotic flavors like mangosteen and mango or pomelo, pink grapefruit and lemon, ALŌ extracts only the desirable inner aloe pulp by using a hand-filleting method, instead of including the non-nutritious green outer skin as part of its blend.

More information can be found at www.alodrink.comPlease let me know if you have any questions or need any additional information.”

Well, I guess my first question would be what the heck does this drink have to do with barbecue?  I honestly can’t think of a drink I’d be less likely to consume while tucking into a plate of BBQ than aloe vera juice… unless I burned my tongue on a rib. That said, I am duly impressed that ALO Drink is the “#1 ready-to-drink aloe vera beverage in the U.S.”: I mean, there is more than one such drink?  No wonder people thing the end times are near…

“Hi Porky,

I thought you and your readers might be interested in participating in the following Facebook contest!  Wild Planet, a leader in sustainable canned seafood, is giving away three cans of premium tuna in their signature lunch bag to celebrate World Oceans Day! To win, simply describe your favorite Wild Planet product in five words. Never tried Wild Planet? Use five words to say why you want to! The contest runs through June 8th. Submit your entry on the Wild Planet Facebook page:

Get your feet wet, but don’t worry about going too deep. If you have any questions, or need any additional information, just let me know.”

Okay, let me get this straight: you are asking a BBQ blogger to write about canned tuna? And the grand prize for the contest is three cans of tuna in a lunch bag? Wow. I think I’ll stick to my tried and true approach to sustaining tuna: leave it in the can and eat a pit-cooked pig instead.

Ah, the wonders of capitalism in the age of blogging.  Now if only more folks would start sending me samples.  After all, aloe vera juice sure would pair nicely with canned tuna.

Crystal’s BBQ & Grill Opens in Flat Rock

As a general rule, about the only thing I am more afraid to eat in North Carolina’s mountains than oysters is barbecue.  Despite all the great barbecue in the eastern and Piedmont regions of the state, the mountains have historically been a barbecue wasteland.  Pork is typically slathered with sticky, sweet sauce that strays far from North Carolina traditions but bears little resemblance to the good stuff in places like Memphis. Still, that may be changing, as several pretty good barbecue joints exist in the western part of the state.  Crystal’s BBQ Grill in Flat Rock is the most recent joint to open in the mountains.

According to the Times-News Online, Crystal’s serves both pork barbecue (otherwise known as “barbecue”) and beef brisket, as well as non-‘cue dishes like burgers.  The article references hickory smoking, though I assume this is off the electric-fired smoker variety until proven otherwise.  Still, better than nothing.  I must admit that the owner’s food training, which according to the article consists of working as the cafeteria manager at an elementary school and watching BBQ shows on the Food Network, gives me pause. Still, barbecue ain’t that complicated, and the owner seems to have a passion for it.  I’ll definitely be stopping here next time I am near Flat Rock.  Heck, if the BBQ is good I mean even stop at the local elementary school…

Crystal’s is open 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Phone number is 828.693.0645.

Barbecue in Canada, eh?

Canadian Bacon: Not Just John Candy’s Last Movie

Until yesterday I was under the impression that Canadian bacon is the only meat the Canucks consume with gusto.  Little did I realize Canadians also eat North Carolina barbecue.  Well, at least some of them do.  Yesterday I received an excited note from my good friend Jeremy Goldcue, whose folks escaped the sweltering Carolina heat to settle in Toronto, Ontario quite a few years back.  Evidently Dr. David Goldcue, Jeremy’s old man, has at long last discovered a cure for the chronic hunger that ails all Canada-via-Carolina transplants: authentic Canadian barbecue.

In late 2010, Toronto’s Drake Hotel opened a… wait for it… barbecue joint.  Drake BBQ chef Anthony Rose explains his qualifications for making barbecue as follows: “I grew up in the south–southern Ontario anyway.”  A sense of humor is a good sign for a barbecue cook, so I’ll give Chef Rose a pass for relying on the seldom used (in Carolina) phrase “pulled pork” to describe his “Carolina”-style barbecue.  Drake BBQ’s menu is endearingly straightforward–a small selection of sides, and main courses limited to a brisket sandwich, pulled pork sandwich, or “60/60” sandwich that features equal parts brisket and pork (maybe 60/60 Canadian is equal to 50/50 American, given the exchange rate and Canada’s inflationary economic policies?).

The Obvious Question: Is Canadian ‘Cue Edible?

Dr. Goldcue raves about Drake BBQ.  Are his raves to be taken seriously or merely the lunatic ravings of a barbecue-deprived dual citizen? Having known Dr. Goldcue for a good many years, I can attest that he is a reasonable man.  Also, there is photographic evidence of Chef Rose cooking meat in a smoker, surely a positive sign.  Still, Dr. Goldcue should not be given a free pass: I have my suspicions of any former North Carolina resident exiled to the pork-scarce Great White North.  For barbecue lovers, the best analogy to living in Canada is serving a life sentence in prison–any member of the opposite sex is sure to attract attention from hungry eyes.  Until I taste Drake BBQ’s offerings for myself, I will reserve judgment as to whether their food is good or Dr. Goldcue has simply lost his bearings so close to the north pole (no closer to the pole than New York City, he might point out, but that would only confirm my suspicions).

Happy Father’s Day 2011

Since I spent Father’s Day weekend at the beach with my wife and kids, I’ve had no time to prepare a post for today.  Instead, please accept my sincere wishes that you and your’s had a good and barbecue-fueled Father’s Day.  In lieu of a post, my gift to you dads out there is the below half-eaten BBQ sandwich from last year’s Barbecue Festival in Lexington.  Hey, it’s better than another tacky tie, right?


A Break from BBQ: Two New North Carolina Cookbooks

As the summer heat cranks up, things get interesting in North Carolina.  For one thing, Porky LeSwine starts to speak about himself in the third person and craves food beyond just barbecue.  While man could live just fine on the holy trinity of swine, slaw and hush puppies, sometimes a taste of something else is good for the soul (and the aorta).  Luckily, there are two new cookbooks from North Carolina that allow folks like Porky to get a taste of the good life beyond pork.

Andrea Reusing, newly minted James Beard award winning chef at Chapel Hill’s Lantern Restaurant has released her first cookbook, Cooking in the Moment: A Year of Seasonal RecipesReusing is best known for the Asian-inspired, locally sourced, carefully prepared fare she and her team serve at the Lantern, but Cooking in the Moment features few Asian recipes.  Instead, it is full of fairly simple, eclectic recipes that are organized by season, well explained, beautifully photographed and, judging from the few dishes I’ve made thus far, delicious.

Cooking in the Moment is particularly enjoyable for anyone who lives in or near Durham and Orange Counties, as it includes many stories involving local farmers many of us recognize from the area’s several farmer’s markets.  But don’t get me wrong, this is a hell of a cookbook and will appeal to people who live anywhere and love good food.  So, we can forgive Ms. Reusing that she fails to include any recipes for barbecue.  Die hard pigavores will have to suffice with cider-braised pork shoulder, carnitas and the like.
Another cookbook with a similar theme and Chapel Hill ties, this one published by The University of North Carolina Press, is The New Southern Garden Cookbook by Sheri Castle.   The title hints at what is inside: over 300 recipes organized alphabetically by vegetable/fruit ingredient–apples to zucchini, and a whole lot in between.

Rest assured that ham and plenty of other pig parts make their way into The New Southern Garden Cookbook’s recipes.  This is the “new south” but it is still the south.  I should confess that I’ve yet to read this cookbook–my copy is in the mail–but it sounds like a winner from all I’ve heard.  I’ll report back once I get a chance to test drive the recipes. Until then, happy cooking… and don’t forget to take an occasional break from all the produce for some barbecue.  It’s important to stay in shape, after all.

Next Time Say Yes

A brief barbecue tale:

Recently, I was at a highbrow, foodie conference in Austin. While killing time in the lobby between sessions, I noticed that the woman next to me had a Kansas City Barbeque Society sticker on her laptop. That got my attention, because the majority of attendees were…well, unlikely to sport KCBS stickers.

I made an innocent comment about it and the woman, in her 50s or so, asked if I was a member. I said no, unfortunately, I’d let my membership lapse.

Her: Oh, that’s too bad.


Me: What’s your affiliation with KCBS?

Her: I’m the executive director.


Shortly thereafter, she got up and left as I consoled myself by (silently) disparaging the sugar-sauced up product those KCers push. In other words, I was lamenting a missed opportunity.

The lesson here–what’s a little membership-related fib between barbecue brethren?

Got Wood?

I received an email from a reader with the following problem. I’m hoping someone out there in the Internets can provide some specific advice. If you’d rather not share the full contact info here, drop me a line at BBQJew at and I’ll pass it along.


We are planning to resurrect a very old brick cookpit on our property.  Would you be able to share a source for wood in the general Raleigh area?  We live in Wake Forest. Thanks for any info. you may have.  : )

 Sincerely, Diane
P.S.  I found you by way of a search I’d describe as nearly exhaustive!”
Diane’s exhaustive search probably would have been more productive had in been focused on Craigslist, the yellow pages, or even wandering around the streets of Wake Forest rather than trying to find a BBQ-eating fool like me.  But I appreciate her effort and want to help her out. Anybody out there know of good sources of cooking wood in the Raleigh area. Though she doesn’t specify, I assume Diane would prefer hickory but oak may do too.

There is plenty of wood at Grady's in Dudley...

Buy Me Some Peanuts and Barbecue

Baseball season is in full swing and the biggest news is from the concession stand.  Since Dillard’s BBQ, long-time Bulls game concessionaire, met its demise (well, mostly) in the offseason, my hometown Durham Bulls have brought in some new ‘cue.  Does the BBQ come from long-time Durham Bullock’s? Nope, they are only AA BBQ. Relative newcomer Backyard BBQ Pit? No again.  The Bulls have made the barbecue equivalent of signing a big name, albeit overhyped, free agent. “Now introducing, for your hometown Durham Bulls, our new barbecue vendor: The Pit restaurant from Raleigh, North Carolina!”  (Of course, soon enough The Pit will be from Durham too.)

I must say, at $6 for a sandwich The Pit’s ballpark barbecue is annoyingly overpriced like all ballpark concessions, but the ‘cue is a significant upgrade from Dillard’s.  To put it in baseball terms, the Dillard’s barbecue was like veteran pitcher Jamie Moyer: okay for five or six innings but not too special and likely to give you some heartburn before the game ended.  The Pit ain’t exactly Phillies ace Roy Halladay–maybe it’s Cole HAMels?–but it’s a big step up from Moyer: wood-cooked, good texture and generally capable of filling mealtime needs well into the late innings. (For the record, I’m not a Phillies fan and I’m not sure why I am using a convoluted Phils-centric analogy… deal with it.)

A picture of my too small, overpriced but fairly tasty The Pit barbecue sandwich is above. Note the crappy, from-a-plastic-container coleslaw, which is unforgivable. Still, better than an shriveled hot dog and a more than adequate representation of North Carolina barbecue; something we can be comfortable with the many out of town visitors to Bulls’ games tasting if it happens to be their first exposure to North Carolina barbecue.

Take me out to the DBAP,
Take me out with the crowd/
Buy me some peanuts and bar-b-q,
I’ll eat ’em both ’cause I’m the BBQ Jew/

Let me root, root, root for the D-Bulls,
If they don’t win it’s a shame/

For it’s one, two, three strikes, you’re out,
At the old ball game!


The Food Effect

Are you aware that one in five children in North Carolina is hungry?  That is the eye catching statistic cited by Lindsay Gsell of New Media Strategies, who contacted me to share information about a new partnership designed to raise awareness of and combat hunger in the Tar Heel state.

As Lindsay writes, “The Food Effect, a new partnership between the North Carolina Pork Council and the North Carolina Association of Feeding America Food Banks, was created [recently] to combat this issue across the state. This initiative provides North Carolinians a way to give time, voices and funding to these food banks. You can learn more about hunger statistics in North Carolina and where we stand in national rankings by visiting The Food Effect’s website.

Check out what Alan Briggs, Executive Director of the NC Association of  Feeding America Food Banks has to say about the campaign in this YouTube video,  or watch this video from News 14 Carolina.

By donating a few dollars, spending a Saturday volunteering or making friends and family aware on Facebook, we can make a difference in the lives of these children. To find out more about donating your time, your money or your voice, visit Spread the word by liking The Food Effect on Facebook at, or follow the project on twitter at @thefoodeffect.”

This looks like a great cause, thanks to Lindsay for sharing it with us.

Hog Happenin’ in Lincolnton Today and Saturday

If you’re like me–i.e., you’ve gone nearly 12 hours since you last ate barbecue–take comfort in the fact that you can get your ‘cue fix this weekend.  Tonight and tomorrow in Lincolnton is the annual Hog Happenin’, not to be confused with the Wil King Hog Happenin’ in Kinston that took place way back in May, or the Hog Happnin’ in Shelby in November.  According to the festival website, the Lincolnton event features “a regional bike fest and Kansas City Barbeque Society Sanctioned North Carolina State Championship Barbeque Cook-off that brings motorcycle owners and Barbeque teams together in downtown Lincolnton… While there are many hog events throughout North Carolina, Lincolnton was the first to combine the animal with the mechanical.” Hogs and Hogs, get it? Honestly, it took me a second…

The event draws close to 10,000 people to little downtown Lincolton, including volunteers from members of the  Christian Motorcycle Association, Carolina Faith Riders, Freedom Biker Church. Who knew there were so many motorcyclists riding for the lord?  I sure didn’t but good for them.  Word on the street is that the Veggie Tales Vegan-Baptist Biker Society is sitting out the Hog Happenin’ but may return for the yam portion of the Ham & Yam Festival in Smithfield next year.

At any rate, the Lincolnton event is free and open to the public.  Many more details online, and probably many more religious biker clubs I have not yet learned about.