Sunday, July 1, 2012

A Vegetarian's Blasphemy, A Meat Lover's Barbecue

     Every year during a weekend in June, downtown NYC hosts this huge block party called "The Big Apple Barbecue Block Party." This year the party had its 10th Anniversary. True to it's name, it was indeed a big block party, and a lot of barbecue was involved. Select chefs from all over New York, Texas, Minnesota, Alabama, Missouri, Tennessee, Georgia, Virginia, and the Carolinas pick their signature dish and set up shop for a weekend serving thousands of hungry New Yorkers for delicious meaty goodness.
Our Shared Fast Pass
     Thousands of people stand in line (or have fast-passes) for an hour just to get a few short ribs for $8. The main dishes are $8, drinks are $2, and desserts are $4. The streets are more filled with people than a high school lunchroom, but the food is lots better. Select meats include pulled beef brisket, pulled pork shoulder, beef ribs, sausage, and baby back ribs. In the park, six bands play at select times from Saturday to Sunday. From blues to country to rock and roll, the setting is perfectly enjoyable while chomping on the delicious barbecue.
     For my parents anniversary, our whole family went to the block party. My dad holds the ranking for the biggest barbecue fan in our family, but I consider myself to be farther down on the list. Still, I hold no doubt for New York City's food.
     When we got to 25th street on the west side, there were a couple stray barbecue stands that we spotted immediately. Still, the main attraction was yet to come. First, our family investigated the food scene scouted out the food we wanted. Luckily, we had a fast pass that was good for two people in the shorter line. Mom and I let the boys go first, and we waited on a park bench for them to collect the meaty goods.
     We exchanged fast passes and mom and I stood online for a stand called Pappy's, which had barbecued short ribs. After a good twenty minutes we arrived at the front of the line to pay for our order. I noted that staff from Missouri are not as fast as the workers in a deli in New York. Whenever I head to the midwest, I feel I have to slow down my speech whenever I order food. That's not a criticism, it's just that in the city every person has a point that they want to get to and make it quickly. It seems normal to me, but maybe to the rest of the world we're a bunch of weirdos. But we have good food anyhow.
     Mom and I both agree--the short ribs were fantastic. I didn't add extra barbecue sauce to mine, but it was amazing. No offense to my dad's barbecue, but these short ribs were honestly better than any other I had tasted. I also got a pulled pork sandwich, but I didn't appeal to the spiciness as much as I did to the barbecue flavor. But wow, I was shocked at how good they were.
     While we sat in the small park nearby, there was still so much going on around us. The companies who had sponsored all the restaurants to share their food had hunkered down with tents and more advertising than the human brain could comprehend. But if you didn't want to spin a wheel to win a Home Depot gift card, live music was provided. Don't expect to find Katy Perry or Eminem blasting tunes. Instead the genres hover closer to rock 'n' roll and soul. I could have sworn as I listened that the original singer from Talking Heads strummed to their famous hit, "Psycho Killer."
     My family next hopped on the line for fried pie. We had heard the dessert's delicious reputation, but after moving only five feet in half an hour we decided to call it quits. We handed our fast passes to another patient line-goer and made our way back up to Columbus Circle, where we got italian gelato from Grom.
     Grom is one of my favorite gelato places. They have fantastic hot chocolate as well, and all the products are rich and creamy. All the flavors are different, from the intense dark chocolate to the nutty pistachio, to the delicious italian yogurt. I especially like Grom because of the many variances of chocolate and nutty flavors. It's a little different from the fried pie, but ice cream is a good compliment to barbecued ribs. One can even argue that ice cream is a good compliment to everything. You just have to find the right kind of ice cream.
     I talked to a lot of people about the barbecue party afterwords. A lot of New Yorkers already know about it, and they have found tips and tricks to get the best out of the barbecue experience. One person goes to the block party, but to listen to the music rather than eat the food. Some people figure out what kind of barbecue they want, and go to the actual restaurant instead of standing on line. Then you have my family: coming for the meat, and leaving to get gelato.
     So there are many different ways to take food. Everyone has their own tips and tricks. Some people brave the lines for one thing, or plan ahead and then hit a restaurant, or choose to appreciate something different. We all came together for a single event, but left satisfied in different ways.

Here's to picking and choosing what you want to eat, and how you want to see it,

P.S. Here are the links to the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party and Grom.

Big Apple Barbecue Block Party: Learn about the participating restaurants, musicians, and how this New York party got started.

Grom: This italian gelato is really quite fantastic, and all their ingredients are wholesome and organic. Next time I'm in Italy...