Day 10: Big Apple BBQ Block Party @ MSP
I started this challenge worried (actually terrified) about all the BBQ parties from friends that I’d inevitably have to miss. But then a little bird told me about the Big Apple BBQ Block Party down in Flatiron, so I immediately cleared my calendar and prepped my appetite for the epic grubfest. The forecast of all day showers did nothing to ward off crowds of super hungry StreetGrubbers. It was packed, like a 4th of July down by the Seaport, right before the first firework is lit kind of packed. I quickly scouted the stands, and as hungry as I was, stuck to my plan of jumping only onto the longest lines (indicative of the best grub of course!).
I was in the company of world class pitmasters – the kind you see on those BBQ cook-off shows where the hosts keep reminding you of all the wonderful smells they smelled, and that it was too bad for us because we didn’t have smell-a-vision. It’s not our fault! The closest I ever got to that were scratch-n-sniff stickers that I’d always end up inevitably licking (which never tasted the same by the way). Those kinds of shows always make me drool uncontrollably, and the amazing sights, sounds, and smells coming out of Madison Ave did the same. Every stand produced wafts of the most savory, sweet, most deliciously intense smoke I’d ever experienced. My first stop was Pappy’s Smokehouse for two plates of their famous St. Louis style baby back ribs.
The ribs were proportioned well. I’m a fan of the dry rub as I feel the crust encapsulating the meat provides a layer of intense flavor that also keeps the fat sealed in for extra moistness. Pappy’s ribs are slow-smoked over apple and cherry wood, and the flavor is more sweet than smoky, with just a bit of tang to let that natural pork flavor shine. It wasn’t as fall-off-the-bone as I’d hoped, but that flavor, especially when I got to the burnt edges hit just all the right notes. I like everything spicy, and this was missing some heat, but I found them in the side of beans. They were sweet yet super hot, which was definitely a welcome surprise. As big as the portions were, I finished both plates with ease.
Next stop was The Salt Lick BBQ for their Texas style brisket and sausage. The wait was just as long but the ribs kept my stomach happy. I bought another two plates (one for the road) and got 5 slices of brisket, half a sausage, sesame coated slaw, and a slice of bread that was graced with all the yummy, fatty flavor dripping from the meat atop. I dove right into the brisket and was met by a blandness and slight chewiness that I didn’t expect. The pieces of fatty meat I got were great – soft, melty, and super tender, but the flavors were just lacking a little excitement. The sausage however was just perfect. Smoky, fatty, sweet and spicy, with that perfect snap of the skin in every bite. It was so moist and flavorful that I contemplated getting back in line just for that alone.
I strolled into the park and saw a large purple sign displaying the two most beautiful words thus far in my challenge – Beer Garden. I immediately got my wristband and ordered two – a Pilsner and a Freshchester APA. I’m a big fan of Pale Ales, especially IPAs, and while most consider it the “gateway” beer, I like its crisp, refreshing taste, and malty, bitter flavor, but not overpowering and heavy like a Guinness. The Freshchester was on the lighter side, but was still full of that classic Pale Ale flavor – full, bitter, citrusy, and hoppy. The Pilsner was refreshing, and complimented well the warm humidity that we were bestowed with. I was happy – belly full of delicious grub, a doggie bag for dinner (I also grabbed some freebies of pasta salad from the Hellman’s stand) and my thirst was finally quenched with icy cold brews – and all from the street! Check back next weekend as I cover round two of the Food Truck Rally in Prospect Park.