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Big Apple BBQ

(post, John Dryzga)

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Much like the swallows returning to Capistrano, early each June the Pitmasters return to Madison Square Park. I look forward to this event with an enthusiasm on the level of an 8 year old waiting for Santa. 

As the hordes exit the subway(hordes is the only way to describe the amount of people here), they walk following their noses, sniffing the sweet smell of hard wood and pork, till they reach Madison Square Park. There they are greeted by the sight of nearly 20 elaborate barbeque cooking rigs. These things bear about as much resemblence to your backyard grill as a rubber ducky to an ocean liner, they both kind of do the same thing, just one does it on a much grander scale. They are also greeted by great throngs of people. The Big Apple BBQ attracts around 100,000 ravenous carnivores each year.

 I arrived just after the 11AM opening time and got right to business. My first stop was Jim 'N' Nicks to taste their sausage and pimento cheese. The sausage was a definite hit, a charred outside crust lead to a wonderfly juicy inside. The pimento cheese rocked. They should have sold this in pint containers like ice cream. Just give me the pint and a spon then carefully back away please. 

My next stop was my perennial favorite Ed Mithcell's The Pitt. Ed always does whole hog and he always does it well. Add a classic North Carolina vinegar based sauce and you have the recipe for porcine Nirvana.

I took a break from scarfing down these wonderful offering and was just wandering around to take a few pictures. I ran into some of the folks from the AOL food page. I met these fun and knowledable foodies the night before at the Craig Claiborne celebration. When a passing shower had us looking for shelter, they deputized me as media and let me hide with them in Mike Mill's area. Mike makes some of the best barbeque there is, and you can't argue with a man that has a fountain that spouts bbq sauce!

Along with all the wonderful eats, the Big Apple BBQ also offers a full slate of cooking demos and seminars. This offer a needed respite from all the required eating. They also have live bands performing. The music certainly adds an even more festive mood to the wood smoke athmosphere. 

Now, for pure theater, there was no comparison to Martins from Tennesee. They elevated the act of extracting a whole hog from a cooker into art. Weddings have the ceremonial throwing of the boquet, Martins has the tossing of a pigs foot. That's hard to top.

All too soon my day at the Big Apple BBQ was over. As I headed uptown to a friend's home, smelling of hickory and pecan, I was already dreaming of next year.