SAAS Puts the Spice in Sauce

SaasOne of the perks of being a world-renowned* barbecue blogger is occasionally getting free stuff in the mail.  Usually the bounty is barbecue cookbooks but sometimes its edible.

Recently the good folks at  SAAS Hot Sauce sent me samples of their two fiery and flavorful hot sauces, Original Flavor and Onion & Garlic.  I am still struggling to figure out why these seemingly competent folks would bother to mail their sauce all the way from the, ahem, barbecue capital of Upper Montclair, New Jersey to North Carolina.  Regardless, I feel compelled to say some kind words because they deserve a plug.

Both SAAS sauces I sampled are really, truly excellent.  And, in case you wondered, my kind words can’t be bought for $10 worth of hot sauce.  (Ten bucks worth of beer on the other hand… .) The sauces have a thin consistency that works well as a flavor enhancer at the table or as a marinade, if applied cautiously.  They are generously spiked with habanero peppers, among other ingredients, so they are seriously HOT and have a deep, layered flavor profile.  (I sampled the “spicy hot” varieties, not the mild ones, so cannot comment on the latter.)  If you enjoy heat, give ’em a try.

A word of caution: I don’t think the SAAS spicy hot sauces belong anywhere near traditional barbecue–their flavors are simply too strong–but the sauces would work nicely for spicy chicken wings, adding heat/flavor to Asian cooking (a hipster alternative to the now ubiquitous Sriracha?), and so on.  If you live in the New York area check out SAAS’ sauces at a local grocer, or anyone can order online.

Thanks for the sauce, y’all.  Now can someone please ship me a whole hog for a change?

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*Spambots from other countries sometimes visit my website.

Mu Shu Pork BBQ?

Big news in the pork industry today according to the porkNetwork website, which I visit religiously… and by “religiously” I mean that I visit a few times a year on high holidays!  A company from China called the Shuanghui Group plans to acquire Virginia’s Smithfield Foods for roughly $5 billion cash (in a very large briefcase full of unmarked $50 bills, I assume).

Will there be any pork left for us barbecue loving Americans after the Chinese are done meeting their import appetite?  If I were you, I’d start stocking my pantry with as many barbecue sandwiches as will fit… this could be Y2K all over again, but this time the stakes are high.

Whole Hog in Asheville? Buxton Hill says yes

With all due respect to President Obama’s favorite 12 Bones, Asheville is not a barbecue town.  However, Asheville is taking a decidedly down east step toward building its barbeculture.  Word on the Twittersphere is that a new whole hog barbecue restaurant will be opening in Asheville later this summer.

According to its Twitter profile (yes, I spent a lot of time researching this post), Buxton Hill will offer “All wood, Pit Smoked, Pastured Whole Hog Barbeque & Heirloom Southern Fare.”  At first blush this sounds an awful lot like a western North Carolina version of Raleigh’s (and soon Durham’s) down home-upscale restaurant, The Pit. And, yes, that is both a compliment (wood cooking and whole hogs should be encouraged) and an insult.

I’m curious to learn more about Buxton Hill, and given all the good beer flowing on the streets of Asheville, it won’t take much convincing for me to visit whether or not the barbecue is any good.

Adam Wainwright, My New Hero

Those of you who know Porky LeSwine well are aware that he loves the St. Louis Cardinals as much as he loves barbecue.  (He also loves to talk about himself in the third person from time to time.)  Thus, Porky was thrilled to see this article about Cards’ ace pitcher, Adam Wainwright.  An avid BBQ eater, Wainwright offers that, “bad barbecue makes me want to fight somebody.”  I know what he means, though I’m not sure I’d phrase it quite that way.

Apologies to the 99% of you readers who find this post completely uninteresting.  Mr. Wainwright, if you are reading this article then please know that: a) you are an honorable man, b) I’ll buy you a plate of NC barbecue anytime and c) you really ought to send me some complimentary playoff tickets.

Southern Living Makes a Yankee Mistake

An alert reader, who goes by the pseudonym Zachary Writes, pointed out a gross error in the (virtual) pages of Southern Living magazine.  A recent post about Chapel Hill’s revered Allen & Son barbecue, which every damn fool knows has no website, includes a link to Pittsboro’s Allen & Son restaurant, which every damn fool knows has nothing to do with the Chapel Hill location.

In case you were unaware, the Chapel Hill Allen’s cooks over wood and produces some of the best barbecue in the state.  The Pittsboro Allen’s, on the other hand, is a gasser and has no connection to the Chapel Hill restaurant of the same name other than a shared origin 20-some years ago.  If you believe in evolution–and I pray to God that you do–you can think of it this way: Pittsboro’s Allen & Son is the neanderthal that is not fully evolved, while Chapel Hill’s Allen & Son is the fully evolved human that is evolutionarily superior.  Well, except that Neanderthals always cooked over wood while humans invented gas cooking.  Drat, now I’m confused too…

Credit to Southern Living for at least managing to write a nice post, and take good pictures, about the correct Allen & Son’s.  They may be confused, but they are not Neanderthals.

A Detour to Texas

Although this blog focuses on North Carolina barbecue, I do concede that barbecue (if you want to call it that) exists elsewhere, even in parts of Texas.  Having recently traveled to Texas to indulge in some of that state’s good eats, I feel obliged to pass along news of the recently published Texas Monthly Top 50 List.  Read the news here or see the full list here by 5/22.  Austin’s much-hyped, and much respected, Franklin Barbecue takes the top spot in the rankings, a surprise to nobody, least of all the people who spend hours in line to sample the food.  (Franklin is one spot I decided not to visit on my recent trip, as my barbecue itinerary was too crowded and my hipster immune system too low to manage the wait in line.)

I always have mixed feelings about Top X lists of any sort, whether music, movies, nose hair trimmers or, yes, barbecue.  I prefer the concept of the NC Barbecue Society’s Barbecue Trail, in which all traditional joints that are included (more should be but that’s another post) are given equal billing.  However, the Top 50 list certainly does generate a lot of publicity and excitement, and perhaps it keeps joints from complacency, as the list is updated every several years.

Sadly, I don’t think there are I am certain there are not 50 barbecue joints in North Carolina that are worthy of inclusion on a Top 50  list, whereas Texas has plenty of well qualified places to choose from.  But I digress…

Porky’s Pulpit: Ozersky’s “New Barbecue”

If you’d like to read a truly idiotic piece of barbecue writing, and for some reason this blog isn’t meeting your needs, check out Josh Ozersky‘s recent piece in the Wall Street Journal: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323716304578482970210059326.html?mod=itp

The thesis of Ozersky’s article is that barbecue has “become stagnant and so dogmatic that many pit masters haven’t changed their recipes or routines in decades.”  This premise reveals a startling lack of understanding of what barbecue is and what makes it great–tradition, family recipes refined over generations, simple techniques that render (literally) exquisite meat, distinct regionalism, and so on.

One barbecue luminary dropped me a note pondering whether Ozersky’s piece might be satire.  If so, Jonathan Swift himself would be proud, but I don’t think Ozersky is that, uh, swift.  I could go on about the article but I don’t want to waste my virtual breath.  As Daniel Vaughn (@BBQSnob) put it in a tweet to Ozersky (@OzerskyTV), “You say stagnant and dogmatic, while I say traditional and reverent.”  That sums it up.