Carolina Barbecue in Northeast Ohio?

When I think of northeast Ohio, my first thought is not, “the Carolina BBQ capital of the rust belt.”  Rather, it is, “there’s a northeast Ohio?”  Indeed, apparently there is a northeast Ohio and it may very well be the Carolina BBQ capital of the rust belt.  The Old Carolina Barbecue Company has four locations in northeast Ohio–Akron, Canton (2), Massillon–and a fifth location is set to open soon.  I have frequently wondered about the lack of Carolina-style barbecue joints across the country compared to places serving brisket, ribs and the like.  Thus, it is particularly amazing that a restaurant in a part of the country known primarily for Goodyear tires and the Pro Football Hall of Fame would be a hotbed for Carolina barbecue.

The owners of the Old Carolina Barbecue Company seems serious about their commitment to Carolina traditions.  According to their website, “Traveling across the country opened our eyes to a great style of food not widely represented in our home state. While Texas, Kansas City and Memphis all have their own claim to the best barbecue, it was the “True Q” of the Carolinas that we appreciated the most.”  Old Carolina claims to cook their ‘cue “over hickory wood” (presumably on an electronic cooker with hickory added, but I’ll check into that).  They say they also serve brisket and chicken, “to keep the yankees happy,” but their focus is pork.

The pork is served unadorned with sauce, a good sign for a BBQ restaurant, and comes with five sauce choices for seasoning at the table.  While NC BBQ fundamentalists (and I am one in most cases) would shudder at the thought of serving more than one sauce, this is Ohio so I recognize it is probably a wise business decision. Vinegar and hot pepper aren’t for everyone.  Put another way, not everyone is sophisticated enough to appreciate the vinegar and hot pepper aesthetic.  Among the sauces offered are variations on Lexington- and Eastern-style sauces, as well as South Carolina mustard-based sauce and a couple of sauces that pander to non-Carolinians.

The rest of Old Carolina’s menu is pretty typical for a BBQ joint inside or outside of the Carolinas, except that it serves brisket, chicken, ribs, and turkey as well as “pulled pork.”  Sides include hush puppies, Brunswick stew, slaw (creamy mayo and vinegar variations offered, notably), french fries and more.  Banana pudding is offered for dessert, and sweet tea is available alongside yankee tea.  Did I mention they offer Cheerwine too?  Huzzah!

If I ever make it to northeast Ohio, I will definitely check this place out. Honestly, I fear that it aspires to be the next Dickey’s, given that franchise opportunities available and they have a virtual stack of slick marketing materials online, but I am holding out hope that it is simply a humble business with an appreciation for Carolina barbecue.  Until I make it to the greater Akron/Canton area (a destination that wasn’t previously on my bucket list), I’ll have to rely on reports from loyal readers.  I will also be in touch with the owners to see if they are available for a BBQ&A… stay tuned.

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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.

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

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.

 

 

 

 

Farewell and Spar for the Spurtle

Fly your barbecue flag at half mast, for today is my brother-in-swine Conor’s final day in North Carolina.  Despite developing a strong affinity for barbecue during his several years in the Tar Heel state, he is returning to his salmon-crazy homeland of Seattle.  In honor of Conor’s return to the west coast, allow me to post the below message from a typical, barbecue-ignorant west coast company, Bob’s Red Mill:

“Hi Porky-

I’m writing to follow up with you on the information I sent about Bob’s Red Mill’s Spar for the Spurtle Recipe Contest.

Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods recently announced its first ever Spar for the Spurtle Recipe Contest, which invites home cooks and professional chefs alike to submit videos demonstrating a unique recipe that makes use of Bob’s Red Mill Steel Cut Oats – the World’s Best Oats. From the entries, three finalists will be flown to Portland, Ore. to compete in a live cook-off, in which the winner will receive an all-expenses-paid trip for two to Scotland, to represent Bob’s Red Mill in the 18th Annual Golden Spurtle World Porridge Making Championship, $2,500 in cash, and several other prizes. The deadline to submit a video is July 30, 2011.

Full details, images and a 2011 Spar for the Spurtle prep video that you can download or post on your blog are available at http://pitch.pe/156688.  For additional Spar for the Spurtle information, please see the contest website. Also, check out Bob’s Red Mill on Twitter and Facebook.”

See what you are getting into, Conor?  So long barbecue and hello oatmeal.  Still, may the pork be with you in your new life, Swinefactor.  Keep in touch and do let me know what a spurtle is when you get a chance.

Good luck finding a view like this in Seattle, buddy.

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).