Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Big Apple BBQ: Blackjack BBQ and Demos

Big Apple BBQ – Pulled Pork and Demos

Each of the vendors at the Big Apple BBQ had a substantial crew working with them, and it was needed. Most of the locations had a BBQ assembly line going with entree and sides being punched out en masse. At times during the day I would wipe the sweat from my brow and indulge in a bit of self pity. I was out there in near 100 degree weather and it wasn’t getting cooler any time soon. When I realized that a significant amount of the people working behind the counters were volunteers it helped to put things in perspective. They had to have been much hotter than I was and they couldn’t relax and enjoy themselves.

The ‘FastPass’ lines were a bit of a misnomer. There was nothing fast about them. They were faster than the lines for the general public, but you could still expect a ten minute wait on the deeper lines. I truly felt bad for the people on the ‘regular’ lines. I would estimate that some people were waiting over half an hour for their food.

Thankfully the event included some great bands that provided live music. There were speakers spread-out throughout the park so that the music was pleasant but not obtrusive. In addition to the bands, there were also lectures, demonstrations and book signings to go along with the BBQ.

The demonstrations were sponsored by ‘Every Day With Rachel Ray’ and were run by their editors who did an admirable job of preparing and explaining numerous traditional BBQ side dishes. In about an hour they prepared collard greens, hush puppies, sweat tea and baked beans. Samples were plentiful and the servers were polite and informative. The hush puppies were nice but could have been a bit sweater. The collards were truly excellent. The beans were a bit bland. The hosts did an excellent job. They were entertaining, clear in their instructions and made each item seem ‘doable’ for the home cook.

Wandering through the event were representatives of sponsors and various street teams for manufacturers such as alka-seltzer. Representatives of the avocado agricultural board were an event sponsor and they were handing out samples of a delicious chilled avocado soup.

I was able to try three different vendors who prepared pulled pork. The first was BlackJack BBQ. I’m not sure what the exact affiliation is, but I believe that they are the competition team that represents the Food for the Southern Soul food consortium. When I mentioned in the previous article that I was astonished that vendors were able to produce competition quality food in that environment, this is what I was talking about.

The pulled pork was moist, held onto its physical integrity (as opposed to pork that disintegrates when it has been overcooked or has been sitting too long in a steamer). I didn’t notice a smoke ring, but a lack of a smoke ring in pulled pork is not really indicative of anything. It’s a nice visual clue that things were probably smoked properly, but there is so much depth to the meat from the shoulder that it can easily be missed.

If you are a regular reader you will know that I’m a fan of mustard sauces. The sauce on the sandwich I had was excellent. I wish that I had the opportunity to purchase a bottle for an official review, but what I tried was great. I hope that it is indicative of what their bottled sauce offers. It was tangy without too much tartness. It had an excellent balance of flavors and most importantly, it highlighted instead of masked the flavor of the pork.

The people working at the booth were extremely friendly and had a smile on in spite of the heat and hard work. Jimmy Hagood is the owner of Blackjack Barbecue and Food for the Southern Soul. He should be extremely proud of the product that he put out and the crew he had working for him.

Jimmy will be on the Today show on June 23rd. The show is doing a three day series on BBQ and will be showing contrasting regional styles. I’ll be tuning in hoping to grab the sauce recipe.

You can visit Blackjack Barbecue and Food for the Southern Soul at www.foodforthesouthernsoul.com

Thanks to Ashton Saber for the photos


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