Sunday, June 08, 2008
More Than the Meat Off the Grill
Saturday was one of those mornings when I woke up drenched in my own sweat and immediately regretted leaving the windows open. But the first and most brutally hot day of an expected 4-day heat wave didn't stop thousands from flooding Madison Square Park for the 6th annual Big Apple Bar-Be-Cue.
Every year the the nation's best pitmasters tow their gargantuan smokers across the country and converge in Madison Square Park. The event is not much of a competition but rather a showcase and celebration. There is no better venue for a BBQ event of this magnitude than NYC. The success of such Manhattan BBQ joints such as Blue Smoke, Hill Country and Dinosaur, have ignited a new appreciation in NY foodies for the meticulous cooking methods, various styles and spices that define American BBQ. A recent article in New York Magazine asked if BBQ was the new deli.
Among the many highlights of the event was a Q&A with 10x World BBQ Champion pitmaster Chris Lilli and 3x Grand Master Champion of the Memphis in May (aka the "Super Bowl of Swine") Mike Mills. To say these men know BBQ would be an understatement. These men do more than smoke meats for a living, they are true ambassadors of a great American tradition. They spoke of flavor profiles, described competitions, and in his closing statement Mills summed up what BBQ was all about. Mills said it best when he described the Big Apple BBQ. He explained that winning the competitions are such a small part of BBQ, he emphasized how great BBQ doesn't require the best equipment and that the best and most significant part of events like these was bringing people together. Here people of all cooking styles, tastes, preferences and backgrounds can come together and fill the hot and muggy Manhattan air with a single plume of smoke for which all mouths water. "It's about the friends you make... and the joy you get from giving people tips and helping them".