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

Arrogant Swine – Brooklyn, NY

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Name
: Arrogant Swine
Date: 10/6/15
Address: 173 Morgan Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11237
Order: 1 lb East Carolina whole hog, 1 lb Western NC outside brown shoulder, 1 lb spare ribs, Tikka Masala Sausage, Greensboro Pitmaster Chicken Wings, red vinegar slaw, collards, mac and cheese (link)
Price: ~$120

Monk: Having followed for the past year Tyson Ho’s excellent blog series on Serious Eats on the opening of his barbecue restaurant in Brooklyn, Arrogant Swine was my number one priority while we were in New York for 9 days in early October. That plus the fact that he was doing eastern NC whole hog in the middle of Brooklyn and that his joint was also advertised as a beer hall made it an easy choice.

Speedy: And what a fantastic atmosphere it had! Contrary to every other place in NY, the restaurant was spacious and comfortable, and had a large outdoor seating area. We started our meal at the bar (Monk and crew had some beers and smoked wings while I dealt with a closed subway line) before ordering. A great beer (and whiskey) selection was a big help in allowing the group to wait for me. Anyhow, once I arrived, we put in our order.

Monk: As a nod to cracklins, or crispy hog skin chopped into whole hog, Arrogant Swine serves their chopped pork with a layer of pork rinds. Which is a little bit of a curious choice if you ask me and it took me a minute to realize the pork was underneath it. Once I waded through the pork rinds, I found the vinegary chopped pork to be a decent version of NC whole hog but not quite as good as I had hoped or expected.

Speedy: The western style outside brown was also a little different than you’d find in NC. It came chopped, though I’d consider it more cubed. The pork almost looked more like burnt ends. The flavor was pretty OK, but the cubes made it seem a bit less tender than typical. Overall, I think this really missed the mark. Sorry, Tyson.

Monk: The tikka misala sausage was made in house and was definitely one of the favorites of our group, though there isn’t much of a link to NC either in the sausage or the fact that its Indian spiced.

Speedy: The spare rib was big, meaty, and smoked well. They weren’t over cooked, so you could get a good bit, and the seasoning and sauce was a good compliment to, but did not overpower, the meat. Overall, I think this was better than the pork, which is odd for an NC ‘cue joint. If I were to return, I’d focus on the sausage and the ribs.

Monk: The Greensboro Pit Master wings are a nod to the Vietnamese pitmasters who do much of the smoking in the Piedmont joints that still smoke over wood – notably Stamey’s in Greensboro. While a nice tip of the hat, the sticky and sweet sauce on the wings isn’t really reminiscent of anything related to NC barbecue traditions. In any case, a nice idea and decently executed wing.

Speedy: I thought they were well smoked, but I didn’t love the sauce – a little sweet on my end. In terms of sides, I think I only had the slaw, which I enjoyed, even though there were raisins in there for some reason, which I can’t figure out.

Monk: Oh yeah! Even after we got an explanation from Tyson that just chopped cabbage and carrots in vinegar wouldn’t cut it in NYC, raisins still didn’t make sense to me. Another curious choice. Shout out to the waffle mac and cheese served with a side of queso, though.

Speedy: While eating, we did chat with Tyson a good bit and he was very cool. We talked about some of the differences between his joint and what we typically see in NC, and he was very aware of that. As he put it, he wanted to take the unique pieces on NC ‘cue and amplify them, which I think he did. While doing that, I think it lost some of the things I love about NC ‘cue, but it’s still better than most of the “barbecue” I’ve eaten in the city.

Monk: As an experience, Arrogant Swine was definitely worth trekking it out to Bushwick and I only wish we had been able to go a little earlier to hang on the outdoor patio and drink more of their great selection of beers. As a barbecue restaurant, Arrogant Swine was a little more of a mixed bag with some items more successful than others. In any case, I would definitely go back to Arrogant Swine again and will continue to follow its development, since  a joint that cooks whole hog over wood (particularly in NYC) is a rarity these days.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 4 hogs
Pork (eastern) – 3 hogs
Pork (western) – 2 hogs
RIbs – 3.5 hogs
Sausage – 3.5 hogs
Wings – 2.5 hogs
Sides – 2.5 hogs
Overall – 3 hogs
Arrogant Swine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Arrogant Swine

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Linkdown: 8/26/15

– You remember how Tyson Ho built  a barbecue restaurant in Brooklyn? He checks in with a retrospective nearly a year after it opened; if you want to catch up on the entire blog series (and I recommend that you do), check it out here

– Blasphemers!: Stamey’s food trailer was stolen from their lot Monday night

– A fire has damaged Bill Ellis’ Barbecue in Wilson but at least there’s this nugget:

“I took my plate with me,” Mangum said. “I was too hungry to just leave my good plate.”

Mangum stood beside Lisa Woodard, who was in her car looking at the smoke.

“I am as hungry as I can be,” Woodard said. “I just paid my money and they told us to get out.”

– Luella’s Bar B Que in Asheville is getting a second location in Biltmore Park Town Square

– A Charlotte vs Raleigh restaurant smackdown includes a short profile on Frank Scibelli (restaurateur behind Midwood Smokehouse) as well as a head to head barbecue smackdown between Bill Spoon’s in Charlotte and Clyde Cooper’s in Raleigh

– Marie, Let’s Eat! has been exploring Alabama barbecue this year and his latest stops on the blog are Pruett’s BBQ & Catfish in Gadsden and Ray’s Bar-B-Que in Atalla

A guide to Houston BBQ from TMBBQ

– Buxton Hall opens this Friday and I couldn’t be more excited to check it out at some point – I believe its been more than 2.5 years since its first iteration Buxton Hill was first announced, then with Rodney Scott as a partner

Buxton Hall is coming. On Aug. 28, the whole-hog barbecue restaurant will throw open its doors, permitting access to chef Elliott Moss’ wood-smoked ‘cue and farm-driven sides, all served in a cavernous former skating rink.

Linkdown: 7/8/15

– Michael W Twitty with a thought-provoking piece: Barbecue is an American Tradition – of enslaved Africans and Native Americans

– How the word barbecue has “divided the coalition of the grilling”

– Friend of the blog Johnny Fugit also weighs in on how words matter when it comes to the word “barbecue”

– We linked to this article a few weeks back, but its worth another link: Tyson Ho (among others) gets a profile in Garden & Gun Magazine

A guide to barbecue in the San Francisco bay area includes the Lexington-style joint Rusty’s Southern

Sarah Fritsche: “When I first visited Lexington Barbecue in North Carolina about a decade ago, I knew I’d met my ideal kind of ‘cue. Slow-smoked pork shoulder is finely chopped, not pulled, and served with a tangy vinegar sauce and all the fixings, which include a tomato-based red slaw and cornmeal hush puppies. Happily, thanks to Rusty’s Southern, I don’t have to book a flight to N.C. to get my fix. Prior to opening their Tenderloin restaurant earlier this spring, owner Rusty Olson and chef Francis Rubio spent time with Lexington Barbecue owner Wayne Monk to learn how to re-create the unique barbecue.”

– The 10 best barbecue restaurants in Britain, for what thats worth

– There is a South Carolina Barbecue Association judging class this Saturday in Cheraw

– Grant’s latest joints on Marie, Let’s Eat!: Center Point Pit Barbecue in Hendersonville, TN and Bill’s Bar-B-Q in Hull, GA

– In a follow-up on Michael Symon and his quest to create “Cleveland-style” barbecue, Thrillist asks just exactly what it is (via)

– Smoking tips from a man who knows what he is talking about, Steve Raichlen