Only in New York: Kosher Pork

A tip of the snout to alert reader and longtime BBQ buddy Ike Walker*, who alerted me to a story in the New Yorker about pork that was mistakenly labeled Kosher in a Queens supermarket. Although pork is by definition not Kosher (or treyf, if you want to show off), few things could be more Kosher than reading an article in the New Yorker about pork.  And it’s a pretty interesting story too.

Among several gems in the story: “In this era of budget cuts, [New York] state has laid off all eight of its  Kosher-enforcement inspectors, leaving Rabbi Weiss as a one-man department… .” State-funded Kosher inspectors?  Really? Better yet, I am pleased by the discovery of the Orthodox Union, which according to the article, has a “voice-mail recording [that] describes it as “the global leader in Kosher supervision and the world’s largest Jewish resource.”  The Orthodox Union, among many other things, certifies products as Kosher and offers a “Kosher Alerts” RSS feed.  A recent alert:

“Brands: West Coast Select
Products: Maple Nuggets Smoked Sockeye
Company: Sundance Seafood LTD., Surrey British Columbia
Issue: Unauthorized OU
West Coast Select Maple Nuggets Smoked Sockeye bear an unauthorized OU symbol.  This product is not certified by the Orthodox Union, and it is being withdrawn from the marketplace. ”

I am thinking about trying to get OU certification for my favorite local BBQ joint, Allen & Son’s, so I can dine completely guilt-free.  Until then, the BBQ Jew certifies all pork as Kosher.  Keep on swinin’ and dinin’.

*Notably, Mr. Walker is also the man whose family introduced me to pig pickin’s way back when.

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Imminent Disaster in Washington, D.C.

If you’ve paid any attention to the news lately, you are aware that a major crisis looms for our nation.  Indeed, I witnessed the crisis in person when visiting Washington, D.C. recently.  In addition to the proliferation of BBQ sub sandwiches in and around our nation’s capital, our federal government faces an imminent disaster of its own creation.

Dinosaur meat?

Yes, I am referring to the faux ‘cue that has made its way into the very heart of our nation’s capital.  A trip to the Atrium Cafe* at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History revealed a menu with a few barbecue choices, including “Carolina style pulled pork.” At a steep $12.95 for a plate with two sides, I nearly skipped this meal but my thirst for knowledge hunger for pork prevailed.

While the museum’s large collection of prehistoric fossils and other remnants of America’s natural history may be authentic, the Carolina style barbecue is not.  Indeed, if I curated a barbecue museum I wouldn’t let the soggy, slow cooker-style swine pictured at left into my building, let alone feature it in my cafeteria.  From the taste (no smoke and a half-hearted imitation of NC sauce) to the texture (pulled rather than chopped, as well as soggy), the Atrium Cafe’s barbecue is not fit for inclusion in a hallowed Smithsonian institution.

I dare say that pigs are a more relevant part of America’s natural history than dinosaur bones and other dusty old relics.  I wish our nation’s leaders would take action to force the Museum of Natural History to address the current cafeteria situation before it becomes a crisis. I am setting an August 2nd deadline for Congress to take action.  If not, I will refuse to eat pork at a federal museum until true Carolina barbecue is served.  Better yet, each federally funded cafeteria should serve both Eastern- and Lexington-style barbecue.  This would be a true “balanced solution” to the present problem.  Please contact your elected officials and urge them to take action.

*Editor’s note: We have heard reports that the Atrium Cafe will soon be renamed the Debt Ceiling and will have its hours cut dramatically.

Porky’s Pulpit: Say It Ain’t So, Jared

I recently spent a weekend in our nation’s capital visiting friends.  The visit was going well until I exited a Metro train, headed up the escalator and encountered this horrifying sight:

What's wrong with this picture? Everything.

There are a many things wrong with the image above:

1) Despite the food styling, flattering lighting, airbrushing and god knows what else this sandwich was subjected to in preparation for its big showcase, it looks inedible.

2) Only a fool would pour gloopy barbecue sauce on top of pulled pork. Then again only a fool would order a BBQ sandwich at Subway. It makes the gray, lifeless Philly cheese steak Jared’s benefactors hawk look almost appealing.

3) Only someone out to harm our nation’s vital interests would place pork barbecue on top of lettuce on a sandwich.  The Department of Homeland Security should stop frisking infants and the infirm and focus instead on this serious threat to America.

4)  A barbecue sandwich where the bread is a sub roll? No thanks.

5) The tagline “Get Pulled In” is more of a threat than an invitation, particularly when paired with the BBQ sauce bullseye/vortex pictured to the right of the sandwich.

I could go on but you catch my drift.  Could it really be as bad as it looked?  As the nation’s most fearless North Carolina-based Jewish barbecue journalist, I knew I could not rest until I hunted down the Abominable Pulled Pig in its natural habitat.  How else would the public be made aware of this imminent threat to the American way of life?

On the way back home from D.C. I made a pit stop in Rawlings, the scuba capital of central Virginia.  It was there, under the harsh flourescent lights of a Subway/gas station/Dunkin Donuts that I spotted the beast. Luckily, I was protected by a sparkling clean glass sneeze guard and was able to photograph the pulled pork without risking life and limb.

As the sauce-stained pork lay silenty in its black plastic cage, reconciled to its fate, I suddenly felt sorry for it. While other pulled porks were cooking away over wood coals with salivating customers eagerly awaiting them, this pork was all alone despite its crowded surroundings.  Pepperoni, provolone, guacamole and the like have nothing to offer a proud pulled pork.  Sure, other pulled porks don’t get displayed on a poster in the Metro or a digital billboard near Petersburg, but was the fame worth it?  Was its life really going to come to an end on an Italian roll being served to an unappreciative BBQ Jew?

Well, not exactly. I ran out the door screaming before I could bring myself to order this vile creation.  But it lurks out there awaiting the next oxygen-deprived inland scuba diver to get pulled in

Going Postal (Again) in Hickory

Hickory, the town with the second greatest name in North Carolina–after the town of Barbecue, of course–is the site of a new barbecue joint.  Well, not exactly new, but Post Office BBQ is back open under new ownership after a hiatus, sayeth the Hickory Daily Record (HDR).

According to the HDR, “The new Post Office BBQ owners had purchased an existing building, but they wanted to make renovations including refurbishing the dining area with new floors, flat screen TVs, and wireless Internet service. However, their most important addition was a smoker to cook their meats on site. ‘Most local restaurants purchase their barbeque from wholesalers and add their own sauce,’ explains co-owner Lee Spach. ‘We do our own cooking on site to provide the freshest, tastiest barbeque pork, chicken, and beef in the area.’”

Wi-Fi in a barbecue joint is one of the seven deadly sins, I believe, but adding a smoker is a positive step. Whether that smoker is gas/electric or a true wood-burner is unclear; I strongly suspect the former but even that is better than nothing.  If you’ve been to the new Post Office BBQ, let me know, as I’d enjoy hearing a first hand report.  Heck, you can even send me your thoughts from your laptop using the restaurant’s Wi-Fi.

Foodie: A Short, Dark Comedy Horror Film

As North Carolina’s most powerful Jewish barbecue blogger, I have a large bully pulpit (and you know what they say about guys with large bully pulpits).  From time to time I use that power to try and help make the world a better place.  Today is not one of those times.

Instead, I am using my bully (swiney?) pulpit to plug a new film being produced by a couple of buddies of mine.  Eric “Raw BBQ” Calhoun and the Rev. Eryk Pruitt have launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the film, Foodie, which they describe as follows:

“Foodie” is a short, dark comedy horror film about, well, foodies.  Our hero, an aspiring restauranteur, is invited to an exclusive gourmet dinner party finds much more on the menu than he bargained for…

Intrigued?  Check out a short video preview at this link on Kickstarter or visit the project website. Aside from having the opportunity to say you helped kickstart a film being made by two guys named Eric/Eryk who spell their name wildly differently, your donation will get the project off the ground and get you in line for rewards like DVDs of the film, dinner from a terrific Durham chef, and more.  Plus, both Eric and Eryk are barbecue enthusiasts and I’m sure they’d appreciate some help from their barbecue brethren.

BBQ Jew’s View: Huey’s Restaurant & Oyster Bar

7601 Highway 70 East, Mebane, NC
919.563.6731
Website
Hours: Tu-Th 4 – 8:30, Fr-Sa 4-9, Sun 12-8:30
BBQ Jew’s Grade: C-
Porky Says: “This barbecue is fishy.”

Beware Inland Seafood & Coastal Barbecue
I’ve always been wary of seafood restaurants that are located far from the coast, and even more wary of beachside barbecue joints.  Huey’s Restaurant & Oyster Bar is located in Mebane, a long ways from the beach but on the edge of Lexington-style barbecue country.  The family-owned business has been around for well over 50 years and has a menu sure to please anyone.  (Don’t take my word for it, listen to the woman who magically teleports herself onto the restaurant’s website.)  Well, almost anyone.

Huey’s features a large array of dishes, with an emphasis on steak and seafood, as well as barbecue.  You can get everything from $26 filet mignon with lobster to $17 snow crab legs to a $6 BBQ tray.  Huey’s also offers flounder, shrimp, clams, oysters, scallops, chicken, jalapeno poppers and much more.  Guess what I had? Yeah, well that comes as no surprise.  What is surprising is that the barbecue at this 54 year old dining institution tastes institutional.

Unfortunately, especially for those of us still mourning the loss of the A&M Grill, Mebane’s recently shuttered barbecue temple, Huey’s fails to deliver on its promise of “tempting” barbecue.  As with all restaurants that serve raw shellfish in North Carolina, the restaurant displays a warning from the NC Department of Environmental & Natural Resources warning patrons that, “Eating raw oysters, clams or mussels may cause severe illness.”  I wonder why no such warning appears in places serving lousy barbecue? “Caution,” the sign could say, “the barbecue you are about to ingest may cause severe emotional distress.” Continue reading

Porky’s Pulpit: Reasons to Visit Minnesota (or to Stay Home)

I recently returned from a week’s vacation in northern Minnesota, a short canoe trip (or long drive, your choice) from the Canadian border.  In case you and your’s are considering a journey to the land of 10,000 lakes, perhaps you’ll find the below comparative analysis helpful.

                                                    North Carolina      versus      Minnesota

Official State Bird                Cardinal                                           Common Loon

Unofficial State Bird           Chicken (Fried or BBQ’d)            Mosquito

Political Embarassment    John Edwards                                State government shutdown

Typical July Weather          95 degrees                                       75 degrees

Key Word/Phrase                 “Ain’t”                                              “You betcha”

“Athlete”/Politician             Richard “The King” Petty             Jesse “The Body” Ventura

Food of Choice                        Barbecue                                          Hot Dish (aka casserole)

State Religion                         Baptist/NASCAR                            Lutheran/Ice Fishing

Auto Accessory                      Calvin peeing sticker                     Snow chains

Minnesota is a beautiful state, but please don’t visit for its barbecue, which in my limited experience is, to put it as politely as possible, horrible.  Pictured at left is the “pork barbecue” sandwich I had the misfortune of ingesting on July 4th. Believe me when I say our founding fathers would have been appalled.