Monday, June 20, 2011

A tale of four pulled pork sandwiches (Big Apple BBQ)

Welcome sign

I've realized what's limiting my potential as a blogger (and the potential of this blog) - I just don't care enough to write about new things as they happen. When I had my interview for Google, they ran through all the standard questions... what superpower would you choose if you could have any one? Time-space control. What's your favorite color? #ff0033. What Disney character would you be? That dude who nails Mulan. What's your greatest weakness? Without any second thoughts I blurted out "I'm kind of lazy, and I don't really do things in a timely fashion." Apparently that wasn't a deal breaker since I got the job, but I really wasn't lying. In case you haven't noticed, I'm writing this post well more than a week after the event actually happened... probably because no one's forcing me to write blog posts, but mostly the lazy thing. Whatever, I just want to talk about some kick-ass pulled pork sandwiches without the pressure of "being relevant."


For those unaware of what the Big Apple BBQ is, it's basically a weekend festival where a bunch of decidedly non-Jewish people descend on Madison Square Park to pollute the air with the fantastic scent of pigs and smoke. Basically a bunch of pit masters from all across the US come to pimp their shit and try to spread obesity to the population of greater-NYC. Brilliance with a hint of mesquite yo.

So whatya doin'?

Just look at that guy. Not one fuck was given that day. All he wants to do is flame torch the shit out of his rack of ribs.

Seriously though, if that picture doesn't have you convinced that a festival revolving around consuming meats rubbed down with sauce is a brilliant thing (in theory as well as practice)... well, you're probably a vegetarian and don't care much for my opinion anyway. In any case, I'm going to start talking about pulling pork now.

Big Bob Gibson's pulled pork sandwich

Ahh, pulled pork from Big Bob Gibson's Bar-B-Q. If you asked me for the most trustworthy sounding name for someone who knew how to make pulled pork... it'd probably be someone who's named Big Bob. No joke. The pulled pork shoulder that he was pushing out was tender, moist, and had just a hint of smokiness. In sandwich form it feels like kind of a waste (I'm pretty sure by including a bun, it's easier to skimp on the meat), but it was a good sandwich to say the least. Initially I had the complaint that the flavor was a tad mild, that it either needed more sauce or more seasoning. I felt retarded after someone suggested I eat a bit of burnt edge by itself. I would trample a mob of senior citizens for just one more bite of that shit.

Team Ed

I got really excited when I came upon a group of Twilight fans who were roasting whole hogs. As much as you feel bad for Jacob, team Edward is where it's at. He's got that whole sparkly thing going for him. Then I got moderately disappointed when I realized that "Team Ed" actually stood for "Team Ed... Mitchell."

Ed Mitchell's whole hog sandwich

My sadness quickly faded when I got a hold of his whole hog pulled pork sandwich. With a solid 30-minute wait, I feel like his sandwich was slightly over-hyped. Maybe it's because I'm not in love with the vinegary taste of North Carolina barbecue, but it just wasn't as impressive as I thought it would be from others' accounts. Big Bob Gibson's pulled pork was definitely something of a high-water benchmark I used throughout the day, and obviously it's impossible to compare apples to oranges, but that first sandwich was probably too tough an act to follow for "Team Edward."

I have to admit, the hot sauce they had on hand was pretty dope (I forget what it was called if someone wants to chime in?)

Ubon's pulled pork sandwich

Ubon's pulled pork was closer to what my mind thinks of in terms of "barbecue." It was similar in style to Big Bob's, but was coarser, less refined, and had a more distinct texture. While Bob's was moist and basically melted in your mouth (yes, apparently meats can melt in my head), Ubon's took a little bit more work to eat. In terms of flavor, it lacked the distinct charring and smokey aftertaste that Bob's had, but was heavily influenced by the sheer amount of sauce present. It was messy, but good in its own way.

Dinosaur Bar-B-Que pulled pork

And then there was one. Dinosaur Bar-B-Que is one that hits close to home for me. For years I used to steal the delivery from Dino BBQ that was sent to the adjacent lab to mine at Columbia. For years I would complain about how their wings "weren't as good" as advertised. To be honest I wasn't so ecstatic about paying $8 for a pulled pork sandwich that I could get at any given time (given its close proximity). In the end, I didn't feel like I wasted money. Their sandwich was a nice blend of subtle porcine flavor and just enough sauce to add a hint of tangy aftertaste. It wasn't mindblowingly incredible, but it also didn't fail me like their sorry excuses for wings have for years.

17th Street ribs

I also ate ribs... in case you were wondering. These were from 17th Street Bar and Grill, who came all the way out from Illinois. Their menu says their baby back ribs are "sprinkled with Magic Dust then slowly cooked in our pit with a combination of apple & cherry woods for 5 to 7 hours." I don't know what "Magic Dust" is, and I never want to find out. The mystery tastes delicious to me.

Anyway, I don't know where I'm going with all this... I really just wanted to talk about pork sandwiches. I think I've accomplished that so I'll stop now. Back to being lazy.


Danny said...

hurray, let's be lazy together. haha. time/space control is a pretty dope answer. i would opt for something more nefarious like mind control/reading. ah... that's why i don't work at the googs.

Hungry said...

Dude, in case you didn't read my answer to your comment the other day: I've used old Fast Passes to get into the VIP area. I hoard them now.

Nicholas said...

Danny - I thought for a long time about writing a post in which I explained why these "food based events" are dumb. Just a huge waste of money and inefficient allocation of stomach space. Then I realized... I don't care enough to do that. I just want to tell people about pork sandwiches. They taste good. The end.

I originally wanted to say x-ray vision (but then I'd sound like a pervert), flight (which is super played out), instantaneous fire (useful for survival), or the ability to process urine as potable water (a la Bear Grylls)... but I settled on time/space manipulation. It turned out to be a good answer as that was also the solution to my lack of time-management skills. I did actually say "the dude banging Mulan" though.

Hungry - shhhh, luckily no one really reads my blog, but I don't want you to get in trouble with the peeps at the Big Apple BBQ...

Nicholas said...

James - dude I just bought a 24 pack of that stuff. It made Ed Mitchell's whole hog go from "meh this is okay," to "holy shit, my mouth just came prematurely."

Re: relevance... isn't this the trap we've all fallen into? Success in food blogging is partially quantified by page views. If people are reading your stuff, it should follow that you're successful/relevant. The problem exists that people have short attention spans. They don't care about things way after they happen - forcing writers to churn out shitty posts immediately afterward out of fear that they lose relevance. I hate it, but I'm still a slave to it for some reason. It's why I'm the ultimate hypocrite when it comes to food blogging, basically I hate half the things I do.

James said...

Lots of terms to unpack there.

Timeliness = ?
Relevance = ?
Success = ? (this is the most vague one)

I think timeliness is only equivalent to relevance (and thus garners success) if you're a food news blog, or writing in some kind of food news capacity. You're competing for page views with other food news blogs and thus need to be on top of shit as much as possible.

Otherwise, timeliness is built into your blog post in the post date -- if you reviewed a certain burger joint two years ago, then anyone reading should know that the information and judgments in that review might no longer be timely in the sense of current accuracy, and thus lose its relevance.

Ultimately, I think blogs like ours sometimes make their success from pure breadth/specialization of content -- but much more often by voice. Voice is what creates loyalty, allows you to write things in a way that is not subject to news cycles, helps you make friends and get to know your peers, gets you potential freelance writing gigs, etc. Timeliness could be a plus on top of that, but it's hardly a necessary condition (let alone a sufficient one). Consistency is much more important. I really question the value of frequency, too.

There were probably hundreds of block party blog posts posted the day of or day after the event, but I could predict what all but 5-10 or so would have said and thus would not have bothered to read them. With you, I can't make that prediction completely, and I know I'll probably want to hear your voice on the same subject anyway.

I guess the trap I really fall into is assuming that people share my ideas on what's worth reading :P Also, writing essays in comments. I'm going to go back to my own blog and try again to write a post on the value of food blogging...

Nicholas said...

James - ahhh, it's okay to write essays in comments. More for me to think about.

You see, I fall into the pitfall of being an engineer. I can't quantify relevance solely using a time marker so I equate it to timeliness. How can you measure the timeliness of something? Well, in another leap of logic it has to do with page views (which some would consider success). Since that's the only quantifiable metric I have - outside of feed subscribers - it all rolls into one giant ball of "food writing is getting to be less and less fun."

As for being able to predict what people will write... ha, god help whoever can predict what I'm going to say about anything. I don't really think about things, I just blurt them out/start typing furiously. I don't even know what I want to say normally.

Anonymous said...

I read your blog because of your awesome writing and entertainment and actually couldn't care less about the food you write about, except for the pretty pictures, since I will never be able to try any of these foods anyway

Nicholas said...

Anonymous - aw, you sound like one of my friends who complained when I wrote about food in Taiwan haha. I wish I could go back to elementary school and tell my 4th grade teacher that people said I have "awesome writing." Bitch would probably choke.

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