Barbecue Bros Book Club: The One True Barbecue by Rien Fertel

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Not that we’re anywhere close to being qualified enough to evaluate books but more so as a public service announcement we will periodically discuss barbecue and barbecue-related books.

IMG_8196A collection of profiles on whole hog pitmasters throughout the southeast, “The One True Barbecue” by Rien Fertel is an enjoyable if not somewhat controversial read. In particular, Fertel ruffled feathers with his chapters on Wilber Shirley and Ed Mitchell. He portrayed the former’s restaurant as a joint with a racial division of labor between the front of the house and the back and the latter as a marketing gimmick in overalls that cooks hogs in a non-traditional manner (hot and fast rather than the traditional low and slow). However fair Fertel’s representation may or may not be (and he is but one man with his opinion), the fact that he spoke with neither for the purposes of this book only added more embers to the burn barrel.

Fertel ties the profiles together through narrative, following his path from New Orleans to the Carolinas and back, with even a stop in Bushwick to visit Arrogant Swine. Each chapter not only explores the pitmaster(s) themselves but in some cases the history of an entire town with Ayden, NC and its two joints Skylight Inn and Bum’s. He particularly favors Scott’s-Parker’s Barbecue in Lexington, TN, visiting with pitmaster Ricky Parker in the first chapter and then his sons after his death in the last chapter. In between, Fertel visits 12 other whole hog joints in Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Mississippi, and the aforementioned Arrogant Swine in NY.

I enjoyed Fertel’s writing and found this to be a quick read that I devoured over just a few sittings. Fertel cut his teeth writing oral histories for The Southern Foodways Alliance, and his experience writing on southern food showed. A small complaint would be that the only color photographs are confined to a section at the center of the book – I would have loved to see them throughout as opposed to the smaller black and white ones within the chapters. In any case, I can’t recommend “The One True Barbecue” enough.

Monk

Linkdown: 3/22/17

– Will Bigham and Christopher Soto of The Improper Pig in Charlotte are doing great work feeding 400 homeless while The Salvation Army’s kitchen undergoes renovations

– Congrats to Luella’s  Bar-B-Que in Asheville for 10 years of being open

Luella’s has teamed with Asheville’s Hi-Wire Brewing Co. to create Pig on a Wire Anniversary Ale, an amber honey-wheat ale that goes well with barbecue.

– Elliott Moss is one of Zagat’s 9 southern chefs to watch this year

– Speaking of Buxton Hall, they make the list of Garden & Gun’s fried chicken bucket list for NC

– TMBBQ on Barbecue (the film)

– John Lewis joined CBS This Morning and brought some recipes for his upcoming Tex-Mex restaurant in Charleston, Juan Luis

– Great sign at Chubby’s Bar-B-Q in Chattanooga. The barbecue? According to Marie, Let’s Eat!: ehhhhh

– A short video on Wilber’s Barbecue in Goldsboro from The Southern Weekend

– If you don’t know, now you know:

Barbecue Bros Book Club: Buxton Hall BBQ Book of Smoke by Elliott Moss

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Not that we’re anywhere close to being qualified enough to evaluate books but more so as a public service announcement we will periodically discuss barbecue and barbecue-related books.

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“Buxton Hall BBQ Book of Smoke” is a book of recipes from Chef Elliott Moss, the head chef and pitmaster of, you guessed it, Buxton Hall Barbecue. It also functions as a coffee table book of sorts with its beautiful color photography. Finally, it also contains narrative from Moss; among other things, he explains the history of how Buxton Hall came to be, his own family history of barbecue, inspiration for the restaurant, and his philosophy when it comes to barbecue and food.

In terms of the recipes, Moss divides the book between pit smoking techniques and meats, favorite foods found at Buxton Hall, sides, and desserts. While this section of the book is heavy on the recipes themselves, Moss still gives a couple paragraphs introduction on each dish so his voice continues throughout the book past those initial pages.

This was a quick read but I enjoyed reading Elliott Moss’s writing on barbecue (his passion is quite evident) and particularly the food porn-y full color photography (something I wish more barbecue books would have). “Buxton Hall BBQ Book of Smoke” will sit on my shelf as a beautifully laid out reference book that I will go back to try some of the recipes and techniques in the future (hello, cinder block pit and burn barrel).

Monk

Friday Find: Rien Fertel on his “feud” with Ed Mitchell

I recently finished the excellent “The One True Barbecue” by Rien Fertel, where he travels the Carolinas and Tennessee and profiles the men, families, and towns behind whole hog barbecue. Part of the chapter “Will Success Spoil Rodney Scott?” covers Ed Mitchell and his previous two restaurants in Wilson and in Durham, though not in a very flattering light. Some of the controversy comes from the fact that Fertel didn’t actually interview Mitchell for the book and instead relied on his 2012 interview of the man plus additional research. Per the News & Observer:

He presents a rocky picture, and Mitchell comes across as an image-crafting marketing pro and a barbecue rogue who cooks his hogs hot and fast. Fertel compares the way Mitchell presents himself, with his bushy white beard and well-worn overalls, as the sort of hyper-Southern gimmick one would find in a Cracker Barrel dining room.

Here’s some footage taken by the excellent Gene Galin (who also does some great work for the Chatham Journal photographing NC State, UNC Chapel Hill, and Duke football) at a book reading at Flyleaf Book Store in Chapel Hill last year where he defends his portrayal of Mitchell and hopes he can speak with him at the then-upcoming Big Apple Barbecue last summer. No word if anything ever came of it.

Linkdown: 3/15/17

– Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim to receive barbecue and a subscription to Our State Magazine (among other items) for his comments on Greensboro “adding no value” in hosting the ACC Tournament

– A review of the Barbecue documentary film

– TMBBQ has a post about the Texas smokehouses and barbecue pits of the 20th century

– Marie, Let’s Eat! finds Bears Den BBQ in Ocoee, TN to be similar to Herb’s in Murphy, NC

– A short film on Scott’s-Parker’s Barbecue from the Southern Foodway Alliance

– This article from the Washington Post’s Jim Shahin covers Heirloom Market BBQ among others

Charlotte Barbecue Joint Big Board – March 2017

We have a new #1! Jon G’s BBQ hosts a regular pop-up at Southern Range Brewing in Monroe and smokes some of the finest brisket in NC (the pork’s not so bad either), which lands it at the top spot in our latest update. Since our last big board in December 2015, we’ve added seven total new joints to the list, four of which landed in the top 7: the aforementioned Jon G’s BBQMidwood Smokeshack – the fast casual brother of Midwood Smokehouse, the Texas-style joint Big Tiny’s BBQ in Mooresville, and the year-old korean-southern barbecue fusion of Seoul Food Meat Co. 2017 should hopefully bring us the debut of Jim Noble’s barbecue restaurant, the Texas-and-maybe-Lexington-barbecue-influenced Noble Smoke (side note: our top 5 has a little too much Texas flavor to it for my liking). He’s done some events in Charlotte over the past few months on his new smoker, and I am hoping his brick and mortar restaurant opens soon (or at least I get a chance to taste his barbecue somewhere).

What other Charlotte area joints should we check out? Feel free to weigh in on your favorite in the comments and if you present a strong enough case we will try to head there next. I’ve checked out a few joints recently based on reader comments and feedback (including our new #1) and am always looking for more, whether in Charlotte or across the state.

-Monk

Note: “new” denotes reviewed since last big board update

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  1. Jon G’s BBQ new
    A recent revelation from Monroe. Check their Facebook and Instagram to figure out when Garren and Kelly will be smoking at Southern Range Brewing next because you won’t want to miss it.IMG_0196
  2. Boone’s Bar-B-Que Kitchen (food truck)
    Some friends of the blog ordered some catering from Boone’s last summer and it was still pretty dang good. I hope to catch them out and about some time soon to see if Jon G’s really is the new best barbecue in town.IMG_1469
  3. Midwood Smokehouse: Ballantyne / Central Ave (original review)
    Midwood keeps doing their thing, and continue to expand with another Charlotte location expected to open with the next month or so.
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  4. Midwood Smokeshack (Matthews) new
    Recently relocated Texas-born pitmaster Michael Wagner is doing some great things at the fast casual brother of Midwood Smokehouse.IMG_4457
  5. The Smoke Pit (Concord) (original review)
    Having recently tried the Salisbury location of The Smoke Pit, I was reminded just how good their smoked meats are.
  6. Big Tiny’s BBQ (Mooresville) new
  7. Seoul Food Meat Co new
  8. Sauceman’s (original review)
  9. Bill Spoon’s Barbecue (original review)
  10. Kyle Fletcher’s Barbecue & Catering
  11. Q2U (Lake Wylie) new
  12. The Improper Pig
  13. Killer Q
  14. Bar-B-Q King
  15. 521 BBQ and Grill: Tega Cay / Indian Land
  16. Mac’s Speed Shop: Steele Creek / South Blvd
  17. Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q (Concord) 
  18. The Q Shack
  19. Smoke & Go Bar-B-Que (food truck)
  20. Kid Cashew new

  21. Treehouse Whiskey and Fork new
  22. Smoke Modern Barbeque (Huntersville)
  23. R&R Bar-B-Que (Concord)
  24. Queen City Q (original review)
  25. Lancaster’s BBQ: Huntersville / Mooresville
  26. Rock Store Bar-B-Q: Stallings / Mint Hill
  27. Moe’s Original Bar-B-Que: food truck / Matthews (original review)
  28. McKoy’s Smokehouse and Saloon
  29. Brooks’ Sandwich House
  30. Fort Mill BBQ Company (Fort Mill) new

  31. Queen City Q (Concord) new
  32. Bubba’s Barbecue
  33. JJR’s BBQ Shack
  34. Ranucci’s Big Butt BBQ
  35. The Dixie Pig (Rock Hill)
  36. City Smoke
  37. Bobbee-O’s BBQ (original review)
  38. OooWee BBQ (food truck)
  39. R.O.’s Bar-B-Que

Closed: Old Hickory House (April 2015), Elwood’s Barbecue & Burger Bar (September 2015), Carolina Ribs on the Run (Mooresville) (July 2014), Farmer’s BBQ (unknown)

Still to review: Dan the Pig Man (food truck), Bodrick’s BBQ, Glenn’s Again (Kannapolis), Slow Smokin’ BBQ (food truck), Smokey J’s BBQ (food truck), Smoke Modern Barbeque (Stonecrest), JB’s Lazy Pig BBQ and Ice Cream (Waxhaw), Unnamed Jim Noble barbecue restaurant (coming soon), Randy’s BBQ (Troutman), City Barbeque, Dan Good Que

Previous Big Boards: December 2015, January 2015May 2014December 2013July 2013

Friday Find: Anthony Bourdain’s “A Cook’s Tour” – The BBQ Triangle

Before “No Reservations” and “Parts Unknown”, Anthony Bourdan’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 18:35) visits with Ed Mitchell at his old joint in Wilson to explore eastern NC barbecue and then with Bill Eason (vice president of the NC BBQ Society) and Jim Tabb (founder of the Blue Ridge BBQ Festival) in Marshville to learn about Lexington-style barbecue. Of all the barbecue he tastes that episode, he seems to come away most impressed by Mitchell’s eastern NC whole hog.

This episode first aired in 2003 on the Food Network. Bourdain has subsequently learned a lot more through his other shows, but it’s interesting to see where he started from. In any case, it’s all a bit quaint.

Linkdown: 3/8/17

– As part of its Project 543 (named for the 543 miles between Manteo on the coast and Murphy in the mountains), Visit NC has a short profile on Lexington though it curiously says you can “go whole hog” in a city where they smoke pork shoulders

– Pitt County (around Greenville, NC) is working on lining up barbecue joints for a beer and barbecue trail

– Mississippi barbecue isn’t just Memphis’s lesser cousin

“Gas station barbecue is a phenomenon in the South and especially Mississippi,” Hatten said. “It’s servicing a population of the state that otherwise probably wouldn’t have lunch because they have to get back to work … a family-run joint is the archetype in the state.”

– The News & Observer editorial board: Bill Ellis was an inspiration to employees, all

Now here’s a story every North Carolina school child should learn. It is that of a kid who grew up on a Wayne County tobacco farm in the Great Depression, dropped out of school in the eighth grade to help support his family, worked at a variety of jobs and at 29, bought himself a hot dog stand.

– Marie, Let’s Eat! tries the brisket at potentially the best barbecue joint in Chattanooga’s, Shuford’s Smokehouse

– Daniel Vaughn on smoking barbecue in west Texas, where there are no trees

– Euphoria Greenville’s launch event in April will feature Elliott Moss

– Well this looks dang good

– More on Wofford College’s barbecue course held last January

– Barbecue is worth seeing at SXSW; also here’s an interview with director Matthew Salleh

-From an News and Observer sports writer at this week’s ACC Tournament in Brooklyn:

Jon G’s BBQ – Monroe, NC

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Name: Jon G’s BBQ (monthly pop up at Southern Range Brewing)
Date: 2/25/17
Address: 151 S Stewart St, Monroe, NC 28112
Order: Two meat platter (brisket and pulled pork) with coleslaw and jalapeno cheddar grits
Price: $17

Monk: For the past few months, Jon G’s BBQ has been hosting a monthly pop-up dubbed “BBQ Saturdays” at Southern Range BBQ in Monroe, NC (about 30 miles southeast of Charlotte on US-74). On a beautiful mild February day (what day this past February wasn’t?), I was able to convince my trooper of a wife two days past her due date to make the 35 minute trek with me to finally check it out after months of Instagram stalking.

Jon G’s BBQ is the barbecue catering operation of Garren Kirkman and his wife Kelly. Garren is a NC guy but his barbecue is heavily influenced by Central Texas. He routinely makes trips to Texas and you can tell he’s done his research in his product.

Getting right to it, the brisket without a doubt is one of the best briskets I’ve had in NC . Garren has gone to pains to recreate the Central Texas style of his brisket, down to constructing his giant offset smoker out of a 500 gallon propane tank and smoking with a mixture of pecan and oak. And it showed – the bark was thick and peppery and the beautifully smoked meat had a nice tug to it. Granted, I haven’t really made the rounds in Texas like Rudy or even Speedy have but this was a damn fine brisket.

While Garren has clearly focused on his brisket, his pork doesn’t suffer in the least. He smokes Boston butts and the coarsely pulled strands of pork were tender and flavorful. It did not require any sauce but one of the three available was an eastern NC vinegar sauce and it paired well with the pork.

I found my sides (cole slaw and jalapeno cheese grits) to be solid, but the real stars of the show were the meats.

Jon G’s BBQ is absolutely worth the trip to Monroe. The portions are quite generous (I got a second meal out of it) and the beer at Southern Range ain’t so bad either. However, be sure not to delay too much after they begin serving as they tend to sell out of meat within a couple of hours. If you make the trip (and you absolutely should), be assured that you are tasting the best barbecue in the Charlotte area.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – N/A
Brisket – 4.5 hogs
Pork – 4.5 hogs
Sides – 3 hogs
Overall – 4.5 hogs