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.
A 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.
– TMBBQ on the italian influences of Texas BBQ in Waco
– An inside look at day one at Rodney Scott’s BBQ last week
– It opened without a hitch after a day or two of soft opening
– If you missed last week’s Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern as they traveled to Buxton Hall and Fox Bros among others on the “Southern BBQ Trail”, you have a couple more chances to check it out
– Speaking of which, Zimmern has some goodies from his stops available at his website
– Marie, Let’s Eat! visits the Athens, TN location of the Buddy’s Bar-B-Q chain and left unimpressed
– An oldie but goodie from Our State
– A few more stops in the Carolina’s for Grant: Stephenson’s Bar-B-Q in Willow Spring, Skylight Inn in Ayden, and Sweatman’s Bar-B-Que down in Holly Hill, SC
– Robert Moss has an introduction to Georgia BBQ to kickoff Georgia BBQ Week, which Grant will surely love
– Coming to West Nashville soon from Pitmaster Pat Martin
– Daniel Vaughn of TMBBQ muses on a couple of easy rules for barbecue line etiquette
– From last month, Destination BBQ has an interview with Daniel Doyle of Poogan’s Smokehouse in Charleston
– The highly-anticipated Scott’s BBQ has broken ground at its Charleston location
– John Shelton Reed has a pretty out there barbecue theory on why Donald Trump carried the state of NC and I’ll just let him have at it
The latest, he told me the other day, was Hillary Clinton’s choice of a barbecue stop in Charlotte at the end of the presidential campaign. She and President Obama ate at the Midwood Smokehouse. It has a varied and upscale menu, but it is not a traditional barbecue eatery. Meanwhile, Donald Trump was buying one of those $3.50 barbecue sandwiches at Stamey’s in Greensboro.
“Maybe Clinton’s choice sold in Charlotte,” Reed said, “but the rest of the state was thinking Drumpf was eating at a real North Carolina barbecue stop, a big reason he won and she lost.
– This week in “that’s so NC” barbecue: a new barbecue joint called Redneck Barbecue Lab will take over a space that formerly housed a Dairy Queen attached to a BP off I-40 in McGee’s Crossroads
– NY Times’ 13 essential barbecue stops includes Lexington Barbecue
– Speaking of Lexington, the city’s marketing campaign is apparently paying off
– Photos from last week’s 87th Mallard Creek Annual BBQ
– Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew in Austin is expanding but the new location won’t simply be “Stiles Switch 2” according to its owner
– New York Times writer Ethan Hauser: I Hopped a Plane Just for a Barbecue Sandwich. I’d Do It Again.
I can tell you with complete assurance that 532 miles is not too far to travel for a sandwich. That is the distance between my home in Ridgewood, Queens, and theSkylight Inn in Ayden, N.C., where a man in a black apron fills the cutout between the kitchen and the cash register and wields cleavers as if they were weapons from “Game of Thrones,” one in each substantial hand.
Eater and The Southern Foodways Alliance visit Ayden, NC:
This week’s pick from Southern Foodways Alliance’s documentary program profiles Skylight Inn BBQ, once named the “capital of barbecue” in America by National Geographic. The all-wood, whole-pig production at Skylight Inn has been family-run for three generations, and it’s renown (for quality, flavor, and values) extends far beyond the city limits of Ayden, North Carolina.
– Another writeup on Rien Fertel’s latest book, The One True Barbecue, with the tagline “Get to Ayden before it’s too late”…now too late for what, I’m not quite sure
– Speaking of Ayden, this past weekend it became home to the Kings of Q BBQ Cook-off and Festival
– Three questions with The Improper Pig, who started a food truck just in time for the summer
– A very interesting read on how Daniel Vaughn helped Tuffy Stone’s Cool Smoke competition team lose at this month’s Memphis in May
– Vaughn also weighs in with an appreciation of The Salt Lick, which sometimes gets unfairly maligned as “overrated”
– The Wall Street Journal profiles Melissa Cookston, “the most decorated woman in competitive barbecue” (h/t)
– Grant’s latest Georgia barbecue stops: The Butt Hutt in Athens, Tucker’s Bar-B-Q in Macon, Hudson’s BBQ in Roberta, and Piggie Park in Thomaston
– Catching up with Robert Moss’ latest entries for The Daily South: a writeup on The One True Barbecue and the end of a Savannah BBQ legend; here’s an excerpt from the first linked article on whole hog:
Whether the whole hog tradition is dying out or evolving into a new form is left unsettled. By the end of the story, Chris Siler at Siler’s Old Time has switched to pork shoulders after it got too hard to procure whole hogs, and Ricky Parker is gone, dead from liver disease at only 51. At the same time, a new generation of cooks from other walks of life, like Tyson Ho at Arrogant Swine in Brooklyn, NY, and Elliot Moss at Buxton Hall in Asheville, NC, have made the “journey into the madness of whole-hog fanaticism.”
– Always worth revisiting the basics
– Congrats to Sam Jones on the opening of his new barbecue joint in Greenville, NC last week and continuing the tradition of wood-cooked barbecue
A decade back, those of us who make a living writing about and documenting barbecue were worried. Honest, wood-cooked barbecue was imperiled, we said. Pitmasters who dedicated their lives to firing pits and flipping hogs were atavistic, we worried, wheezing their way toward foregone retirement.
I’m pleased to report that we seers of ‘cue were wrong. We lacked vision. We lacked heart. Evidence of our errors of belief is seemingly everywhere. Traditional barbecue is now in renaissance.
– More on Sam Jones and his role as fire chief in Ayden from the Southern Foodways Alliance and Chicago Tribune writer Kevin Pang
– Food Republic has a guide on where to eat in Columbia, SC that includes a couple of barbecue joints including Hite’s BBQ, True BBQ, and Big Boy’s Original Smokehouse
– Pork ribs in Mississippi changed Adam Perry Lang’s life
– Charlotte Agenda thinks Midwood Smokehouse has one of the best non-traditional tacos in the city
– On so-called “nouveau ‘cue” and the supersizing of barbecue
– Thanksgiving is coming, so here’s a homemade mac and cheese recipe from Midwood Smokehouse
Check out Capital Q, a short film by Joe York on the history of Ayden, NC’s Skylight Inn and the Jones family commissioned by the Southern Foodways Alliance. Its 16 minutes long but is a quick watch.
I’ve just started The 100 Best Barbecue Restaurants in America by Johnny Fugitt but wanted to share some of the accolades that Charlotte and NC received in the book. I will spoil only just a little bit, and you will have to pick it up for yourself in order to read the rest (currently the #1 new release in US Travel Guides!).
For not having a stellar barbecue reputation, Charlotte is decently represented. I’m proud to say that we helped point Johnny in the direction of Boone’s Bar-B-Que Kitchen based on our Charlotte Rankings and were able to accompany him on a private tour of Boone’s prep kitchen last year.
- Midwood Smokehouse (our review here and here) makes the top 100 barbecue restaurants in America list (everything outside of the top 25 was not ranked)
- Midwood Smokehouse’s brisket is #6 on “10 Best Briskets outside Texas (better than 99% in Texas)”
- Boone’s Bar-B-Que Kitchen (our review here) also makes the top 100 list
- Boone’s brunswick stew is #1 in “The Three Best Brunswick Stews I found in all the Land”
- Boone’s also makes “America’s 10 Best Vinegar/Tomato-Based Sauces” at #10 for their Eastern Carolina sauce
- Finally, Boone’s brunswick stew is also listed on Johnny’s “Dream Carolina Meal” as a side along with Skylight Inn’s pork as well as Lexington Barbecue’s pork and barbecue slaw
North Carolina joints were also well represented, with Skylight Inn #8 overall, Allen & Son’s Barbeque (our review here) #18, and Raleigh’s The Pit (our review here) making the top 100; there were several other individual accolades for pork and sides.
Finally, thanks to Johnny for the shout out to us in his review of Lexington Barbecue. Our love for Lexington Barbecue is well-documented (review here), and its cool that he associated us with it.
– The Raleigh News & Observer is doing a multi-part story on a four-way crossbreed of pigs called silky pork created by two brothers in eastern North Carolina that are craved by consumers in Tokyo
The Iveys are part of a weekly race against time and circumstance to deliver the pork fresh – never frozen – from barns east of Raleigh to the world’s largest metropolis. It has become an unyielding effort to penetrate the demanding Japanese marketplace, where pork is consumed with a passion akin to North Carolinians and their barbecue.
– We don’t use the word “joint” here to describe just any restaurant, and this story is about how pitmasters consider it a badge of honor
Due to its working-class reputation and association with rowdiness, “joint” came to be applied to other establishments considered uncultured or cheap. The terms “beer joint” and “burger joint” started appearing in newspaper articles in the 1940s and ’50s. It was about this time that the word “joint” started transitioning from meaning a disreputable establishment to one that is, more accurately, inexpensive and informal.
– Four Star BBQ in Wichita “focuses on Carolina-style meats that have been marinated in apple juice and rubbed with brown sugar”…hmmm
– Virgie’s Bar-B-Que, which Rudy visited a few months back, gets a write-up on its nearly 50-year history
– Billy’s Bar-B-Q in Gaston County was damaged by a fire in April and is now planning to reopen for lunch and dinner in January
– The reviews from the latter part of the barbecue circumnavigation by Marie, Let’s Eat!: Skylight Inn in Ayden (which he absolutely raves about), Grady’s in Dudley, Shuler’s in Latta, SC, and BBQ Barn in North Augusta, SC
– Look who stopped by Buz and Ned’s in Richmond this past weekend!
– If you need smoked meats or sides for Christmas lunch or dinner, you have until next Monday to place an order with Midwood Smokehouse