The barbecue season in NYC has officially started. As I cycled down Park Avenue late on Friday night, the smell of charcoal and chops stopped me in my tracks. Trance-like I was drawn, bike in tow, to Madison Square Park where the 14th annual Big Apple Barbecue Block Party was preparing for a weekend of festivities. Trucks were edging train-size ovens into place, fires were blazing to make coals, pallets of tomato sauce were being unloaded, and high-hatted, big bearded pit masters from all over the country were greeting each other like long lost friends. With hundreds of thousands more expected the next morning, there was scarcely time for a cold beer…
Pigs must feel about the Block Party like turkeys feel about Thanksgiving. On Saturday for just one of the 14 different pit masters, all offering their own magical mix of smoke of fire, the consumption tally was 1,350 sides of ribs. Some roast the whole hog and ‘pull’ the meat, some use a dry rub on ribs and others wet. Spices and sauces vary, as does ‘southern’ versus ‘northern’ recipes. It’s not so much a competition as it is a lifestyle, and for many of the bib & brace barbecuers that extends to being part of ‘Operation BBQ Relief‘, a national response team that mobilizes quickly in the wake of tornadoes and wild fires, bringing delicious food and friendship.
By Sunday morning cowboy hats were nowhere to be seen. Caps and the ‘cue crew were finding their spots, and best of all, succulent ribs were being taken out of ovens and generously mopped with sweet sticky sauce. The only tornado in town was my spinning wheels – a perfect time to arrive…!