Holy Smokes Brought Pitmasters from All Over to the South Carolina Lowcountry

Monk: On a beautiful November afternoon, the Holy Smokes Barbecue Festival brought acclaimed pitmasters from across the US to South Carolina’s low country. In its second year, the festival moved to beautiful Riverfront Park in North Charleston amongst the remains of the old naval base. A beautiful setting for an alternatingly chilly and warm afternoon of barbecue, music, and good people.

The pitmasters were spread across four food “villages” and collaborated on dishes together. Walking in, the first villages you come across are the Traditional and Texas Villages. I started my day off at the Traditional Village with plates of whole hog two ways with cracklins, pit chicken, and a rib with side of hash and rice. The highlight for me was the whole hog and the hash and rice, both likely heavily influenced by Rodney Scott.

Fifteen minutes into the festival and I was already starting to get a little full. Uh oh. From there, friend of the blog Handsome Russ and I wandered towards the music stage and the Coastal Village. After taking in a few songs from Laurens, SC native (and Clemson fan) Warrick McZeke we tried plates of smoked oyster stew from Evan LeRoy and Matthew Register, smoked swordfish over rice from Elliott Moss and the Home Team BBQ guys, and shrimp and grits from Leslie Roark Scott from Ubon’s and local chef Jamie Hough. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the smoked swordfish and rice dish.

In addition to his fantastic oyster stew, a highlight of the festival was catching up with Matthew Register of Southern Smoke as well as his crew of Rodolfo and Cray. I spent a good amount of time chatting with those guys not only about barbecue but of course the usual soccer and college football banter. Great group of guys and I always enjoy catching up with them. I even got a chance to meet Matthew’s collaborator Evan LeRoy briefly and hope to get back to try out his barbecue again soon (my review of a visit during a smaller Sunday menu here).

From there, I really slowed down on food and focused in on the music stage where Asheville, NC’s Travers Brothership absolutely slayed the middle timeslot. As for the villages, I was in eyeshot of the New School Village and after an initial rush the lines mostly died down and the portions got bigger. By the time I stepped up, the smoked sirloin taco was sans tortilla (they had apparently run out) and I tried a fried hawg bawl, skipping the giant tri-tip sandwiches that were being put out as this particular village signaled that they were starting to get rid of food. Forgot to take any photos of my food though.

The Texas Village consistently had the longest lines and by the time I had worked up enough appetite to meander over as my fourth stop, they just had the cheese hominy sausages left, which packed a nice kick.

So I didn’t get to all of the food but next time around I’ll have a better plan going in. But all in all, the Holy Smokes Festival was a great success. In addition to chatting with the aforementioned Matthew Register and Evan LeRoy, I met Rodney Scott at his famed double burn barrel as well as Trey Dutton (and his wife Ellen) of Southern Keep, a childhood friend of Handsome Russ who makes some great-looking artisan jams and pickles in Charleston. I also picked up a beautiful handcrafted oyster knife from Middleton Knives, who was one of the vendors there.

Until next year, Holy Smokes!

Anthony Bourdain’s “A Cook’s Tour” Featuring the “Triangle of BBQ”

Monk: Before “No Reservations” and “Parts Unknown”, Anthony Bourdain’s first food travelogue show was “A Cook’s Tour” on the Food Network. In the second season, he visited Texas, Kansas City, and NC – which he refers to as “the barbecue triangle” – and explored barbecue culture for what may have been his first time (at least on recorded camera). The NC section (starts at 15:29) visits with Ed Mitchell at his old joint in Wilson to explore eastern NC whole hog barbecue, one of his first barbecue loves.

Description: BBQ is the classic American food that’s featured in Kansas City, Houston, and North Carolina. The #1 food writer and television presenter in the world, and star of Travel Channel and CNN, Anthony Bourdain reinvented the food travel genre. In his groundbreaking first television series, Bourdain travels around the world indulging his taste for local cuisine and eccentric characters. You never know what he’ll say, who he will meet, or what they will have for dinner.

Linkdown 11/16/22 – The BBQ Bowl Victory Tour Edition

Monk: The second edition of the NC East/West BBQ Bowl took place this past weekend between Gardner-Webb University and Campbell. And Gardner-Webb Bulldogs held on just enough to come out victorious with a 42-35 dub.

GWU QB Bailey Fisher had a monster game, throwing for 3 TDs as well as running for another one, and was named BBQ Bowl MVP.

Fisher was also named the Big South Conference Offensive Player of the Week.

…and WR Caleb Borders was named Freshman of the Week

On their way back to Boiling Springs, the trophy made a few Western NC barbecue stops. First stop: a chopped plate at Lexington Barbecue.

Back in Cleveland County, they made one final stop at Red Bridges after hours.

As mentioned above, the BBQ Bowl win means that Gardner-Webb has the honors of playing for the Big South Football Championship this weekend in Boiling Springs against NC A&T. Good luck to the Bulldogs!

Native News

Barbecue Center‘s winter hours are as follows:

The BBQ Lab – the more civilized cousin of Benson’s Redneck BBQ Lab – is now open in Raleigh’s North Hills

Raleigh’s had two major barbecue openings in as many weeks with Longleaf Swine opening earlier in the month

John Tanner on The Holy Barbecue at the Barbecue Church in Barbecue, NC

Non-Native News

John Tanner checks out the pork from Robertson’s BBQ in Ralph-Fosters, AL and a saucy chopped brisket sandwich at the Buc-ee’s in Leeds

Big upset in Intercollegiate Meat Judging

Shepard Barbecue on “Diners, Drive-In’s, and Dives” S42 E34

Link to Shepard Barbecue website, Instagram

Monk: Guy Fieri was on the Crystal Coast of North Carolina earlier this year and checked out relative newcomer Shepard Barbecue in Emerald Isle. Episode 34 of season 42 (!!) actually kicks off with Chef Brandon Shepard, who with his wife Elizabeth started a barbecue joint that draws inspiration from not only eastern NC but of course all over (i.e. Texas).

Brandon, Guy, and his son Hunter kick things off by putting together the Boss Hog sandwich. They start with the prep of jalapeno cheddar sausage made from trimmings of both brisket as well as pork. After a couple of grinds, the sausages are cold smoked for two-and-a-half hours before another 3 at a higher temp. Brandon does all his smoking on a custom offset stick burner using a mixture of hickory, post oak, and pecan.

For his pork butts, he keeps it simple with just a salt and pepper rub and smoked 10 hours. He mixes in his Carolina Vinegar sauce and puts a tray of that away for service.

Back to the Boss Hog, Brandon walks through the making of his Carolina Gold mustard sauce with yellow and Dijon mustards plus his Carolina Vinegar sauce, white vinegar, Worcestershire and a bunch of spices.

For the sandwich, the bun is brushed with beef tallow (!!) and garlic before starting the stack of slaw, sausage, pulled pork, Carolina Gold sauce, pickled red onions to create a behemoth of a sandwich.

Next, onto the “Spicy Heifer,” another big boy of a sandwich made with prime brisket.

The brisket is doused with a mixture of Carolina Gold sauce and pickle juice before covering in salt, pepper, seasoning salt, and granulated garlic. It is then smoked at 225F for 12-16 hours.

Shepard’s red barbecue sauce is a vinegar-based sauce with ketchup, apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, Carolina Vinegar, molasses, brown sugar, and other spices before taking a smoke bath.

Shepard then assembles the Spicy Heifer starting with pickles then sausage then brisket then Carolina red sauce and finally topped with pickled jalapenos and white onion. Behold:

Among the house made sides mentioned are Helen’s collards (inspired by his grandmother), pit beans, and street corn salad. Congrats on a great showing by Shepard Barbecue to Brandon and his wife Elizabeth!