Saturday, July 26, 2008

All About BBQ

Chris has turned me into a bit of a foodie. I don't go out of my way to watch cooking shows or pay attention to culinary trends, but I have developed my palate and my tastes. (I point out does not make me a food snob; but if I go out someplace for dinner I can tell if the ingredients are fresh and have a certain degree of quality, and I can tell if the meal is well-prepared.) For years now we have had occasional conversations about BBQ. Chris has consistently indicated a dislike BBQ because the sauce that's applied generally tends to be that sticky sweet vaguely ketchup-y stuff. (I don't particularly care for that either.) Then, about 10 years ago, I was down in Florida visiting some friends who took me out for real BBQ, which I was not looking forward to, but which completely changed my mind. It was delicious: It was smoky like I wasn't expecting, and had no sauce at all. And I thought of that every time Chris proclaimed to dislike BBQ. Finally, a few months ago, he went to SXSW in Texas, where he was finally able to try some real, honest-to-goodness BBQ, and since then he and I have managed to try a few different BBQ restaurants. 

Chris discovered a place in Brooklyn, the Smoke Joint, which turned out to not be too far away from LIU, so one day last week, after he was done with work, he took the subway down to my neck of the woods and we met there for dinner. It was pleasant enough place, and I think I'd go back if I was looking for something local. (Chris had ribs, which looked great and which were apparently quite good, and a side of decent mac & cheese. I had the Brooklyn wings, which were covered in a spicy slightly yet sticky sauce - the type that gets all over you and won't let go - that I wouldn't have liked if it were not spicy; and for the main course, tolerably good hacked beef (needed salt) and a side of coleslaw, which I tend not to care for but which Chris raved about.) 

That weekend, quite inexplicably and without planning, we went to the local  Famous Dave's, which is a chain. We weren't expecting anything amazing, but we were pleasantly surprised. Not fabulous, really, but I think we'd go again. (We both got a two meat BBQ combo with an extra meat; Chris had the ribs, brisket, and hot link sausage with a side of cole slaw and potato salad; I had the ribs, roasted chicken, and sweetwater catfish with a side of "Firecracker green beans"; and of course we shared.)

Last night we met up with Vhary and went to Virgil's BBQ in the Theater District in New York City. This was probably the best of the three places we'd been to. We split an order of the "Trainwreck Fries" and "Oklahoma State Fair Corndogs," which were both good. Vhary tried the brisket melt for an entree, while Chris and I each had a two meat combo (he had the ribs and brisket with sides of cole slaw and, I believe, country greens; I had ribs and lamb, with sides of macaroni & cheese, and cheese grits). I don't think Vhary's brisket melt had her over the moon, but I was thrilled with my ribs and lamb. 

I still don't know enough to differentiate between the different types of BBQ, and I'm not that excited about the prospect of adding sauce; each place we visited within the past two weeks seemed to have different sauces available (usually on the table, but not always), in variations of hot, mild, and something mustardy. I know there are differences in smoking the meat, types of wood used, different rubs, etc. But the ribs I've had so far have been amazing and I think that from now on, they'll be a staple of whatever I order at a BBQ joint. 

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