Dickey’s Plague Spreading in Raleigh?

According to a clumsily written Valentine’s Day press release, Dickey’s Barbecue Pit is “coming soon to Raleigh.”  Of course, Dickey’s has had a downtown Raleigh location for some time now, so it’s unclear what this means.  The news release contains amazingly little information so it’s not at all clear if and where a new franchise is opening, but I am assuming Dickey’s will soon open in North Raleigh or lord knows where else.  Stay tuned… and brace yourself.

KC Masterpiece Ain’t Kosher

Yet another reason to avoid KC Masterpiece and other store-bought mega brands: a kashrut alert from the Orthodox Union.

KASHRUTH ALERT

August 5, 2011 KC Masterpiece – Buffalo Marinade
Brand: KC Masterpiece
Product: Buffalo Marinade
Company: HV Food Products – Oakland, CA
Issue: Not certified
This product bears an unauthorized OU symbol.  It is not certified by the Orthodox Union and contains dairy.  Corrective measures are being implemented.

I am intrigued by the “corrective measures… being implemented.” I am picturing Orthodox ninjas crashing through the ceiling at KC Masterpiece’s headquarters in Kansas City… er… Oakland, California… to put a bloody end to the tainted marinade.  Whatever the punishment, it is yet another reason to avoid products made in California that have Kansas City in the name.  So, BBQ Jews, keep your sauce local and you can be assured your pork will be kosher and your conscience clear.

Porky’s Pulpit: Dickey’s to the Rescue? No thanks.

As loyal readers may have noticed, I am not the world’s biggest fan of Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, though I am a member of The Yellow Cup Club for research purposes.  So when I saw this press release from the Media Machine that is Dickey’s, I threw up a little bit in my mouth (ironically, it tasted a bit like Dickey’s pulled pork… I jest).  According to the release, “In the past 8 months, Dickey’s Barbecue Pit launched 34 new stores in cities across the country, fueling employment growth in each community… bring[ing] employment opportunities to struggling communities. With each new franchise that opens we bring dozens of jobs and, while unemployment numbers remain at historic levels, we are looking to expand these efforts.  As our franchise expands from coast to coast, we are constantly looking to employ people locally,’ President of Dickey’s Barbecue Restaurants, Inc. Roland Dickey, Jr. said.”

I am pleased that Dickey’s is “constantly looking to employ people locally,” since it would be a poor business model to open a restaurant that employs people who don’t work there.   Still, I can’t help but feel like rooting for Dickey’s to grow is like rooting for Wal-Mart, Starbucks or any other number of mega-chains that have taken over for the mom and pop five-and-dimes and the local coffee shops of the country. Worse yet, whereas even the old time five-and-dimes sell the same crap made in China, and coffee is a fairly universal language, barbecue is/should be hyper local.  Part of what makes barbecue so appealing to me is its particular heritage, its local flavor (figuratively and literally), and the multi-generational pride in regional, and even town to town, differences between meats, sauces, rubs, and the like.

In short, a barbecue chain is antithetical to everything barbecue is about.  Chain barbecue, whether “good” or “bad” in taste, is by definition universal and designed for mass appeal, meaning it is anti-local.  That may work for hamburgers, or coffee, or cheap t-shirts, but not for barbecue.  I don’t want to be able to eat the same brisket in Cheyenne, Wyoming as I eat in Lockhart, Texas. If I did, I’d eat every meal at Applebees (baby back ribs, anyone?!).

Aside from my philosophical objections to franchising barbecue, I have serious reservations about Dickey’s overall impact on employment.  Does each new Dickey’s franchise simply add local jobs, or is the truth a little more complicated?  Are there one-of-a-kind local restaurants, whether serving barbecue or otherwise, that lose customers to Dickey’s?  Will your favorite local BBQ joint survive Dickey’s aggressive expansion plans?  Will the pitmaster who spent his adult life tending the coals at your favorite joint be eager to reheat meat in Dickey’s kitchen?

I know, I know, this is life in a capitalist economy and one can make a similar argument about virtually any chain.  And life without chains would have drawbacks too (I own some of those cheap t-shirts and have a Big Mac from time to time).  I don’t begrudge Dickey’s for doing what they do well, but I sure hope I’m not the only one who steers clear of The Big Yellow Cup That Could in favor of local joints that show pride in their uniqueness.  The barbecue served by chains is something less than, while the barbecue served at your local joint is, well, barbecue.

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

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.