Blue Mist Bar-B-Q Blues (R.I.P.)

It is with considerable sadness that I report the recent closing of the venerable Blue Mist Bar-B-Q, which I would hazard a guess was one of North Carolina’s most visited and loved barbecue joints over the years.  Blue Mist was established in 1948 and for as long as I can remember occupied a modest piece of real estate on the eastern edge of Asheboro, just off of Highway 64, which for many years was (along with Hwy 70) one of two key east-west highways in the state.  Highway 64 stretches from the far western corner of the state to the Outer Banks, following a meandering path through much of the state’s tobacco, textile, furniture and BBQ belts.  Blue Mist was my family’s go to spot on trips to the North Carolina Zoo, and it was on a trip to the zoo this past weekend that I discovered it had closed.  At least for now, the small white pig statue still stands sentinel the front door, but he is looking a little more nervous than usual, perhaps wondering if he will soon join his Zoo-dwelling friends in a cage.

According to Asheboro’s Courier-Tribune, Blue Mist closed its doors for the last time on July 7th due to no more exotic reason than a decline in customers.  (Read the article here.)  Blue Mist was not among the best BBQ joints in the state but it was plenty good and had maintained its traditional wood-fired cooking methods, which put it in increasingly elite company over the years.  If we are to believe that all good things must come to an end, then we can be happy that Blue Mist was good for as long as it was.  Still, it will be missed.

My last plate at Blue Mist, it turned out.

My last plate at Blue Mist, as it turned out.

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Texas vs North Carolina: 10 Rounds and No Decision

A tip of the snout to my barbecue buddies John Shelton Reed (Holy Smoke!) and Daniel Vaughn (The Prophets of Smoked Meat) for engaging in an amusing debate about the relative merits of NC and TX barbecue on the pages of Texas Monthly magazine.  See their jabs and counters at http://www.tmbbq.com/the-barbecue-editor-disputes-a-tar-heal/

My favorite passage–a TKO, in my opinion–goes to John with his brilliant dissection of Vaughn’s inability to describe what exactly is Texas barbecue:

“There are more hogs than people in North Carolina, but if we are ‘porcivorous’ (in 1728 William Byrd II said we were) it’s not just for convenience. Our barbeculture is something like the dogma of the Orthodox Church—settled, unchanging, secure in the truth, threatened only by modernity, not by rival faiths. Meanwhile, y’all west of the Mississippi seem to have erred and strayed into the barbecue equivalent of speaking in tongues and taking up serpents. In fact, for all I know, you may take up serpents and barbecue them. Wouldn’t surprise me. Look, surely it’s not my responsibility to defend what has been an understanding universal in Christendom. It’s for Texans and Kansas Citians and Owensboroites to justify their departure from it. Martin Luther nailed some theses to the Wittenberg church door: he didn’t just go do his own damn thing.”

As a related aside, I should point out that the very first trip Daniel Vaughn took after being named Barbecue Editor of Texas Monthly was to none other than… not Lockhart, not Luling, but North Carolina.  To eat barbecue.  Yep.  I assume Mr. Vaughn came to North Carolina as many pilgrims do, to draw strength for what he realizes will be many years of wandering the Texas barbecue desert.

Porky’s Pulpit: Top 10 BBQ Joints in U.S.?! Nonsense.

The Huffington Post has a laughably weak top 10 list of barbecue joints.  Read it and weep: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gayot/best-barbecue-restaurants_b_3589080.html

I half expected to see Dickey’s Barbecue Pit rounding out the rankings.  Sheesh.

Royal Baby Barbecue Names

In order to ensure that this blog continues to stay at the cutting edge of current events, I offer the following list of potential royal baby names (in an alternate universe where Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge are barbecue enthusiasts):

Or maybe Bald Willie and his lady friend Kate will just give the baby a normal name… like Blue Ivy or Moon Unit.  Stay tuned world…

NCBS BBQ Boot Camp – Picture’s Worth 1,000 Words

I spent the weekend helping out at the NC Barbecue Society’s BBQ Boot Camp at Sugar Mountain Resort.  I served as a glorified roadie by setting up tents, carrying trays of food, picking up trash, and similarly glamorous jobs.  Oh, and I had plenty of time to listen in on the classes and to eat and drink more than my share.  It was a lot of fun and a great way to connect with fellow barbecue nerds.  A few pictures of the event are below.

"Corporate Clay" and "Big Sam" from the Skylight Inn cooked a pretty pig.

“Corporate Clay” and “Big Sam” from the Skylight Inn cooked a pretty pig.

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Jim Early, NCBS founder and president.

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Debbie Bridges-Webb of Red Bridges BBQ Lodge arrived in style

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It’s hard to do an 8-meat buffet justice, but I tried.

 

Updates to The Joints Listings

I realized awhile back that I’ve been to a couple dozen places that I’ve not found the time or energy to review fully, so at long last I’ve started the task of updating The Joints page to include more mini-reviews (a couple sentences and a letter grade).  Going forward I’ll keep adding these brief summaries on The Joints page, and eventually I’ll at least post some pictures of each of the places, in lieu of full reviews.  As always, drop me a line or leave a comment if there is a place I’ve yet to visit that you believe I should.

Pig of the Month: First Class Flying Pig

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Struttin’ with Some (Mail Order) BBQ
It’s sad but true: Some days I crave barbecue but I don’t have the time to cook it and I’m too lazy to visit the nearest BBQ joint (or, more likely, it is a Sunday and all the good local joints are closed).  On these dark days, I have a bright new option: Pig of the Month.

The good folks at PigOfTheMonth.com shipped me a sampler pack of meats to test out.  In a rare act of generosity on my part, I invited over a few good friends and “cooked” for these semi-pro taste testers.  Much to our shared surprise, given our assumptions about mail order meat, we were impressed.  The meat ranged from good to excellent, with the sausages and bacon particularly tasty.  Our consensus was that the Pig of the Month products tasted fresh and flavorful, were convenient to cook or heat, and could easily hold their own against most restaurant barbecue.

The company’s website notes that their products are all natural and do not use preservatives, and the freshness really did shine through.  Better yet, “Our meats come from a free range, anti-biotic, and hormone free farm… They are fed a natural diet with plenty of room to run around and play piggy kickball.”

To date, I’ve tried the following Pig of the Month products:

-Maplewood Smoked Bacon.  Their a medium-thick cut, heavily salted and lightly sweetened bacon, and it is delicious.  The bacon is shipped uncooked and frozen.  This is not barbecue, of course, but it is pig and I’d eat it daily if it wouldn’t kill me.

-Candied Pecans.  Their website says it best: “We take organic pecans and roast them with egg whites, sugar, a touch of salt and some special spices to give it a kick at the end.  Sweet, crunchy, and a little bit spicy – these nuts will be gone in a jiffy.”  No argument from me!

-Hot Italian Sausage and Duck, Pear & Port Sausage.  Like the bacon, the sausage is shipped uncooked and frozen.  I cooked mine on a gas grill over wood chips to add some smoke flavor.  The Italian pork sausage is very good with a gentle heat that does not overwhelm the subtle Italian spicing; fresh taste, excellent texture.  However, it was the duck sausage (duck and pork, actually) that had me thinking about mail ordering all my meat–really excellent sausage.

Pig of the Month 3 ribs-Three varieties of pork ribs: Memphis Style Love Me Tender, Texas Style Cattle King, and Key West Style Citrus Grilled Baby Back Ribs.  I prefer spareribs to baby backs, but I may be in the minority on that view. Regardless, these pre-cooked, heat and eat ribs surprised me and my co-tasters.  We expected dried out, flavorless ribs but that wasn’t the case at all.  I wrapped the ribs in foil, per the directions, and warmed them for 20+ minutes.  The ribs had a deep smoke flavor, a good bark, tender meat, and had good flavor from each of the sauces, though I prefer my ribs with less sauce and my sauce less sweet.  Really impressive.  My only complaint was that the meat was a bit too tender, which is probably inevitable for a reheated rib.  As my friend and fellow taste tester observed, “These ribs may not be 10s, but they are easily 7s, and a pre-cooked rib that ranks a 7 may as well be a 10.”  (I’ll spare you his lengthier analogy, which involved a comparison to Olympic diving, with degrees of difficulty establishing the maximum score possible… a good way to look at it, actually, but you get the point.)

Quibbles
I honestly can say that I enjoyed everything I ate from Pig of the Month, but I don’t to be a complete Pollyanna.  Some small criticisms of Pig of the Month include:

-Only selling baby backs is unfortunate, especially when you sell a “Texas -style” rib–you’ll be hard pressed to find a baby back rib at any self-respecting Texas barbecue joint.  Hopefully they will add some St. Louis cut ribs or spareribs soon.

-I’d prefer the sauce be packed separately instead of cryovaced into the rib, or least put on the rib in lesser quantities. I thought there was simply too much sauce on all three of the ribs I tried.  I should note that they do sell a dry rub rib, which is what I’ll order next time, so I can sauce the ribs myself (or not at all).

-For a company based in Dayton, Ohio there is a heavy emphasis on phony Southernisms in the marketing and packaging.  (E.g, “Y’all come back soon, ya hear.”  It’s probably a calculated marketing decision but I found it hokey and forced.  Their product is good enough on its own that they can drop the act and admit to being yankees–yankees who produce barbecue good enough to please this southern boy.

Check out the Pig of the Month website to see their full product selection, which ranges from corned beef brisket to pulled pork to ribs to sausage to bacon to cracked four pepper bacon to chocolate covered bacon to bacon caramel cheddar popcorn to…