The Big Apple BBQ 2012

Hi there! I'm blogging briefly today from a king sized bed in Las Vegas. The sun is shining, it's about 100 degrees and I have a full day of work ahead. I'll be back tomorrow to give you an update, but for today, I have a super guest post from you from none other than my handsome husband! Shaun checked out the Big Apple BBQ on Sunday (I couldn't join him since I was on a plane to Vegas) and did some reporting for TAA. Tough research project, right?! Hope you enjoy this post! I will (hopefully) be back tomorrow!

 

Once upon a time, in a faraway land there lived a boy named Shaun.  Shaun was very fond of pork and all of its glorious splendor, and being from the land of New Jersey he was especially affectionate towards pork roll which is very popular amongst those people (for further reading:  www.jerseyporkroll.com/about/)  As time wore on, this boy saw many cable television shows about the food industry and read many articles and books about the dubious practices of the pig industry (Yes, Smithfield I am referring to you Rolling Stone article) This new information (new to him at least) confused and disgusted him to the point that he decided to turn his back on pork and didn’t eat it for nearly three years!  That was of course until he went to Spain and was introduced to the sweet, delicacy known as jamón ibérico.

 That was then and this is now.  I was that boy who loved pork roll, shunned pork for three years only to return to the land of the hog after a deft push in that direction by days of eating sublime Spanish ham.  Now that you have an idea of how it got to this point, let me show you the great time that was to be had at the 10th Annual Big Apple Barbeque Block Party that took place this past weekend in New York City’s Madison Square Park.

 

 

I got to the park at 11:30 which was only thirty minutes after the festival opened on Sunday and it was already bumping with live music, the smell of smoking pork, beef and turkey wafting at me from every direction and people everywhere just having a good time.  Most were either on the lawn, waiting in line for ‘cue, or checking out the sponsored booths in the park.  I picked up a map of the barbeque trucks and set out to find some smoky grub.

 

My first stop was the New York City based Rack & Soul Chicken & Ribs BBQ spot manned by John Wheeler, a former homebuilder and native of Mississippi who has been competing (and winning) BBQ contests all over the country since he swapped his hammer for a BBQ mop.  With this being a local joint, the line was much shorter than most of the other stops.  They were serving up baby back ribs with a side of their signature beans for $8.  The portions were substantial for a barbeque festival like this and were definitely delicious.  The smaller end of the ribs that I got were a bit on the dry side but past that first rib bone, the meat was tender, juicy and served as a perfect backdrop for the not too sweet and not too smoky sauce the ribs were slathered in.  My only complaint was that the ribs while plentiful were not very user friendly.  They were served in a nifty cardboard bowl with a compartment for the beans (which were incredibly flavorful) the whole thing was super unwieldy.  I will sum up the consumption situation in as few words as possible.  Saucy ribs…flimsy plastic fork…decision to use fingers for the remaining ribs…sweating from the hot and humid weather...napkins getting saturated with rib sauce…no use on rib sauce still on face…end result…people passing by seeing a man sweating with red substance covering parts of his face and  hands while he figures out to do with the pile of bones he has accumulated in a public park…I just want to prove to the young families with little children passing by that I am not the Manhattan version of those Miami zombies…I do not know if I am successful.

 

After I find enough wet wipes to make myself presentable (I will bring my own next time, as anything being given out for free is usually not good anyway), I decide that I will seek out a pulled pork sandwich stop as those are one of my favorite BBQ foods.  I pull out my map of the grounds and hunt down Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint which is serving up Western Tennessee style whole hog fare.  This joint’s food is being masterminded by pitmaster Patrick Martin out of Nashville, TN.  He and his restaurant have been spotlighted on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives (yes, the one hosted by the ever annoying Guy Fieri) as well as many local and national publications…all to rave reviews.  While I stood in line for my pulled pork sandwich the pitmaster himself was at the helm while being filmed by a television crew.  He and his crew’s enthusiasm was clearly evident as I waited on line, and you know what…it carried over into the quality of their pulled pork sandwich made from pork that has been smoked for 22 hours!

 

 

The sandwich was a nice sized pile of juicy pulled pork, cole slaw, sweet pickles and their own secret barbeque sauce all on a soft white bread bun.  I loved every bite of this sandwich.  It was fall apart pork, crunchy slaw, slightly sour semi-sweet pickles and the sauce…oh, the sauce, it finishes the sandwich off perfectly.  It was my favorite of the day.

 

 

Ok, at this point I am an hour into the heat, pork and crowds that accompany the Big Apple BBQ Block Party.  I am getting full and slightly heat stricken (maybe I am starting to look more like a zombie than I would like to realize), but I push on albeit in the shade.  I take in the sights and the sounds of the festival.  I stop by the This Old House stand and pick up instructions on how to build my own cornhole set, and the next booth over has Dawn Perry from Real Simple magazine demonstrating how to make s’mores.  There is even a demo booth put together by Ikea showing you how to make summer cocktails out of the greatest fruit of the summer the tomato.

 

 

Unfortunately, there is a booth there sponsored by Hellmann’s Mayonnaise.  Which on any other day, I would say this is fantastic.  I love mayonnaise, most of the time it loves me and hey add mayo to anything and it makes it better.  Today it’s 81 degrees and they are serving free samples of Hellmann’s Olive Oil Mayonnaise pasta salad.  I hate Costco style promotions like this but as much as I fight it, mayonnaise is like a magnet.  It was not bad but it was not good either.  At the end of the day, what was I expecting from free pasta salad with semi-bootleg mayo in a park that after 9pm is mostly inhabited by hobos?

 

 

The heat is getting to me and I am exhausted and full.  I just need something refreshing and then it’s time to head home.  I am wandering through the park and the surrounding streets in search of something that fits the bill when I come across local restaurant Blue Smoke’s Dessert and Bake Shop tent on the Madison Avenue side of the park.  They offered fruit crumbles and other mouthwatering baked goods but I went for the root beer float.  Good old fashioned root beer soda with a vanilla ice cream iceberg floating in the cup.  It hit the spot and the sweetness of the root beer paired so well with the barbequed afternoon that it was obviously meant to be. 

 

My time at the 10th Annual Big Apple Barbeque Block Party has come to an end.  The meat sweats are coming on, it’s over 80 degrees, shade is impossible to find and my root beer float’s comforting coolness must be conserved for as long as possible.  I take a turn down Madison Avenue on my out of the park past the rest of the BBQ spots and smile because I know what awaits me at home…a cranked up air conditioner, the Mets/Yankees game on the DVR (commercials are for chumps) and hope that Sunday never ends.  Barbeque festivals are awesome.

 

 

So what do you think?

Have you ever been to a barbecue festival?

Or a street food festival?

Ribs or pulled pork?

Big Appetites Only at the Big Apple BBQ Block Party

On Sunday, I attended the much-hyped (by me) Big Apple BBQ Block Party where I battled crowds and ate pulled pork until my insides cried out in despair. It was a huge turnout with lines as far as the eye could see. I was lucky enough to score a free Fast Pass from a pass-carrying man who had eaten his way through the entire festival and generously gave me his as he was exiting. What did this magical pass, retailed at $100, do for me? It provided Disney World-style line cutting, exponentially improving my experience as I sailed past the long lines and into the 'Fast Pass Area'. While he had used up all of the 'money' the pass had to offer, just accessing the VIP area in itself was a treat.

Seeing pitmasters from across the nation come together for this event was fantastic. I skipped most of the New York-based offerings and went for The Pit from North Carolina (and also featured on Throwdown with Bobby Flay) and Ubon's "The Champion's Choice" from Mississippi (oh, the wonderful bbq sauce...). 2 pulled pork sandwiches later, I was full and happy. Hubby went with the brisket and cucumber salad from NYC's The Hill and after a little taste testing, we decided that this is a restaurant we must try at some point. Unfortunately I didn't have the will power to keep eating...but that's what next year is for, right?


I report live from Big Apple BBQ!

I heart barbeque! Especially pulled pork!

The fest entrance at Madison Square Park

A man from Rack of Ribs giving out free (and fantastic) rib samples!

Multiple bands played throughout the day...bluegrass, folk, & country style!

Ubon's "The Champion's Choice" pulled pork & coleslaw...my pick for best bbq sauce!

The Hill's BBQ'd brisket & cucumber salad...yum!

The Pit truck, featuring Ed Mitchell, Throwdown with Bobby Flay champ!

Tips for next year:
1) If I plan to make a weekend of it, getting the Fast Pass seems worth it. The lines were way longer outside of the VIP area, and the pass came with some punchable pig icons denoting spending money...that's where your $100 goes...to endless amounts of pork.
2) Do a full sweep before launching in to the first sandwich you come across. While I'm sure every stand had delicious food, I went to the first stand with a reasonable line. The sandwich was great, but by the time I got to number 2, I was filled to the back of my throat.
3) This is for the BBQ Festival organizers: GET BETTER DESSERTS! The only desserts offered in the 12 block radius was at the Blue Smoke Desserts stand. If you remember this article, you'll recall that I raved about the apple crisp being one of the best I've ever had (and I've had a LOT of apple crisp). Unfortunately, the 'dessert' stand only offered watermelon, cookies, and a brownie with ice cream that looked average at best. If you want me to spend $4 on dessert after I've eaten my way through 2 pulled pork sandwiches, a strawberry iced tea, one delicious rib, a free sample bite of grilled pork, a few stolen bites of brisket from hubby's plate, and 2 side dishes of coleslaw, you're just going to have to do better than that.

Coming up:
Tonight I'm hitting up the Third Annual Food Film Fest at the South Street Seaport. Featured food films include: Come Have an Omelette With Me, Clam Pie, The Sacred Food, Celeriac, Eat Your Fill, & 24 Hours, 24 Million Meals: Feeding New York City. Free food offerings: Clam pie & Deep fried on a stick. Check back later this week for full report, pending my heart still works after deep fried food fest...

A Wonderful Week of FREE Things!

Free events! Free movies! Free food! Free movies about food! Oh how I love summer...and will love it more when the rain finally ceases. I figured I'd close out the work week with some fun, free things to look forward to in the coming week.

Free Stuff Guide: Jun 13 and beyond
Big Apple Barbeque Block Party
Saturday & Sunday June 13-14

A free event in Madison Square Park, including live jazz and cooking demonstrations, the Big Apple Barbeque Block Party will feature pitmasters from across the nation united to showcase their very best barbequed delights. While the event is free, food will be offered for a minimal price. I'll be there with camera and empty stomach on Sunday. Give me a shout if you're going!

HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival
Every Monday night from June 15 - August 17
A free movie event in Bryant Park, the Summer Film Festival will showcase classic movies every Monday night, starting this coming Monday. Bring your blankets and picnic baskets and set up shop. The films typically start around dusk (8-9pm), and for a bonus you can preorder food from the 'wichcraft kiosk, super chef Tom Colicchio's Craft spinoff. The first film is The Sting, one of my favorite classics starring Robert Redford and Paul Newman (tear). Though it's no Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, who could resist the reuniting of these two quintessential Hollywood stars?

Third Annual Food Film Festival
June 13 through June 19
Could it be that two of my favorite things in this world (food and film) have come together in some sort of alternate perfect universe? And I managed to miss it for the last two years? Apparently the answer is 'yes' on both counts. Filmmakers and foodies collide in this weeklong event, where filmmakers show films they've made...about food! Titles include Mutton: The Movie, Food Cops, and Power of the Peep. (No, I did not make those up). Showing at various locations through the city, screenings will also include free themed food, like clam pie, buttermilk ice cream, and, you guessed it, Peeps. Check their site for full schedule, locations, and food offerings.

Enjoy the week ahead foodies and freebiers! Check back next week for photo, video, and commentary coverage of aforementioned events!