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!

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!

Phar Mill Brewing & BBQ in Harrisburg Shows Promise

Name: Phar Mill Brewing & BBQ
Address: 105 Oakley Dr, Harrisburg, NC 28075
Order: 1/2 lb brisket, 1/2 lb pulled pork, and pork belly burnt ends
Pricing: $$

Monk: Phar Mill Brewing & BBQ recently joined the local barbecue scene after it expanded from a small craft brewery in Harrisburg to add barbecue smoked on a Jon G’s stick burner. The expansion has continued recently, having opened a second, larger location in downtown Concord in September a little more than a year after expanding to barbecue. I recently checked out the original Harrisburg location a few weeks back.

Long story short, Phar Mill shows some promise but is not quite there for me yet. For this visit, I ordered a half pound of brisket and pulled pork as well as an order of pork belly burnt ends.

The brisket came in a paper boat and was somewhat hacked into half slices. Underneath some more promising leans, a piece of fatty had stripes of un-rendered fat. Not sure what happened here, but not the most appetizing sight.

The pulled pork was smoky and had good flavor on the chunks of bark but I couldn’t tell how fresh it was since it was served on the cooler side. The pulled strands could have also used another chop or two in my opinion.

Continuing with the theme, the pork belly burnt ends had some good qualities but wasn’t quite there. The burnt ends were unevenly cut, cooked, and sauced but the flavor and smoke was there.

I want to really like Phar Mill Brewing & BBQ since they are smoking over all wood, and will definitely be giving it another chance (perhaps at their downtown Concord location) to try some of the other meats and beers. Speaking of beer, I tried the Enjoy Yourself American Lager on this visit but would like try some of their IPA and sour offerings. As for the barbecue, for now we’ll give it an “A” for effort.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 3 hogs
Pork – 3 hogs
Brisket – 3 hogs
Pork belly burnt ends – 3 hogs
Overall – 3 hogs

Friday Find: How Pitmaster Arnis Robbins Built One of the Best BBQ Spots in West Texas

Monk: The latest from Eater’s Smoke Point visits the up and coming Evie Mae’s Pit Barbeque in Wolfforth outside of Lubbock. In this video, pitmaster Arnis Robbins walks us through his team’s process for brisket trimming, hatch chile roasting, sausage making, and rib cooking.

Description: Just outside Lubbock, Texas, Arnis Robbins serves some of the best barbecue in the state at Evie Mae’s, with dishes like pork ribs, green chile cheese sausage, brisket, and more.