Monday, February 22, 2010

Two Meade-Bellinger short films: "TEXAS BARBECUE TOUR 2009" and "INFRASTRUCTURE at CHURCH of BOSTON"

Both released last night.



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Sunday, January 03, 2010

Snow's BBQ, Lexington, Texas: 2009 Visit

Snow's serves the best barbecue in Texas, as judged by Texas Monthly (not the New Yorker). The Manic American team visits Snow's every December to have brisket for breakfast and check in with the crew.

Please check out the photos from this year's visit on Flickr. Here are my three favorites:

Tootsie Tomanetz, Pitmaster

Brisket, Pork Shoulder, Jalapeno, Sauce

Owner Kerry Bexley Explaining His Art

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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Smitty's Front Entrance, Lockhart, Tex.

From ABBQ09.

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Mega-Manic Fall

It's 3:33 p.m., and the sun has already clocked out here in Boston. In dark times, you have to make your own weather. This is what I'm working on:

11/16-19 NY for work
11/19-21 Boston for life and rehearsal.
11/22-23 Toronto for work (looking forward to this, as I've never been to the city before).
11/24-29 NY and Philly for Thanksgiving.

And then:
12/11-12/14: ABBQII in Austin! With a crew of at least 5!
12/18 INFRASTRUCTURE at Church in Boston
12/26 INFRASTRUCTURE at National Underground in Manhattan.

Doing stuff is awesome.

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Philly, Continued: DiNic's Italian BBQ

I was in for quite a surprise today when I walked into Downtown Philly's Reading Market for lunch. When I saw a stall advertising brisket and pulled pork, I figured it was some type of northern, gas-cooked, imitation barbecue. That was going to be good enough for a quick lunch. What I found was something very different: a new-to-me style of barbecue true to both American and Italian American traditions.

Fifteen minutes on line were worth it. Though the meat at DiNic's is definitely gas cooked, it's tender as hell. Stacks of cooked shoulders and brisket line the counter, waiting for the knife. Here, it's not so much the flavor of hickory coals that give the meat its flavor, but the Italian accoutrements. Both beef and pork sandwiches get a splash of a thin "gravy," which had more than a hint of apple cider vinegar. I also had them throw on some of the options. Upon request, the sandwich maker lined my sub roll with slices of sharp provolone. I also got roasted green peppers and "greens" (choice of broccoli rabe or spinach--I always get the rabe). The buttery garlic flavor of the rabe soaked right into the chopped pork shoulder.

I have to wonder if there are other places that serve this kind of BBQ in Philly or if DiNic's is one-of-a-kind.

Speaking of Mid-Atlantic BBQ, the Amtrak magazine clued me in on the Baltimore Pit Beef. If you want to read about that, open Arrive Magazine here and use the TOC to open up to page 66.

Two cameraphone shots of DiNic's Italian pulled pork sub:

I may have to go back tomorrow with my real equipment.

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Monday, July 14, 2008

NCBBQII Part The Second: The Race to B's Barbecue, Greenville, NC

It has no phone line, but it has a state road named after it. It only opens for lunch, and it closes as soon as the last scraps of smoked meat are sold. The anomalies and challenges surrounding B's Barbecue make it the grail of any barbecue quest, so we made it the first stop on our second North Carolina trip.

Now, about those challenges. First, you have to work around B's summer vacation schedule. Impossible! They have no phone or website. In 2006, we showed up late on a Saturday morning to find the place closed for a week. (Okay, it was close to July 4th.) Second, you have to get there before they run out of food. Greenville looks reachable on a map, but it's actually four and a half boring hours from D.C., where our NCBBQ tours begin.

This time, we did the requisite planning. We had to wake up hung over on a vacation Friday at 6:30 a.m., grab bagels, and book it southward from the District. I-95 is heavily policed in all of Virginia, so one must drive the speed limit. As the stereo in Rob L's Taurus blared blared Dale Watson and John Hiatt, the NC border grew closer and closer. Traffic jams in DC and road work in VA slowed us down, and a nervous silence pervaded the cabin of the auto even as country and blues emanated from its speakers. Would we make it to Greenville in time?

The gas needle moved leftward as our route took us over a very rural road. With eighteen miles to go, we were down to less than an eighth of a tank. Noon approached. Would we ever find a gas station between highways? If we ran out of fuel, could we hitchhike to the barbecue? I neurotically rolled up my window to reduce drag. Rob left his down. We drove on.

A rural outpost of three independent gas stations appeared; this was Belvoir, NC. One of the gas stations sold beauty supplies, and another was out of business. We gassed up at the third, where lunching farmers inside stared uncomfortably at our bright shirts. Quite the opposite of Texas, everyone wore baseball caps instead of Stetsons. Onward.

Around Belvoir, NC:

Like many small southern cities, Greenville is ringed by rural suburbs and thick summer verdure. We knew we were close to B's, right around noontime, when the restaurant almost literally exploded into sight. At a T-shaped intersection stood the white brick structure and its smokehouse, the latter bellowing even whiter smoke into the clearing. Cars and trucks and every type of human covered every available inch of ground. There were many nurses and paramedics from the nearby hospital, schoolteachers, delivery drivers, a road crew, and us. We ditched the car and got on (in) one of the two lines.


Take Out:

Friendly natives, visiting their former home from Dallas, welcomed us into the line. They told us that they'd come at 1:30 the day before and found the place deserted--the barbecue had run out. As we moved slowly into the building, we discovered that there was a quite large and dimly lit dining room inside.

As the line made its way to the counter, we debated--again, neurotically--whether to get pork sandwiches or the chicken and pork combo. We were glad we chose the latter, for B's is the only place I've been to that gives its chicken and pork equal treatment. This means that instead of using a thick, tangy, tomato-based sauce on the chicken (like Stamey's in Greensboro does, for instance), B's douses its chicken with the same vinegar-based sauce or "dip" that the pork gets. Every joint in NC makes its own sauce, so it's hard to describe the faint variations, but B's is accentuated by bright flecks of a red pepper.

But enough about the chicken. The pork, of course, was perfect. B's barbecue was tender and almost smooth, with nary a bit of skin or bone to interrupt its texture.
Meals also come with two sides and corn sticks, a strange, fried cornmeal concoction. Like the more common hushpuppy, they seem designed to soak up vinegar-based sauces. For my sides, I got a boiled potato salad and coleslaw.

The pork and chicken combo:

B's sauce, served in old Crown Royal bottles:

Outdoor close-up:

We ate and ate and only got halfway through our meals. By one p.m., the crowd showed no signs of dissipating. Smoke still bellowed from the smoker. Cars and delivery trucks hunted for parking spots, and some ended up parking in front of neighboring houses.

The Smoker and Its Keeper (This is a Dignity Hunt photograph):

Yes, B's really has a state road named after it, though the road uses a different spelling of barbecue.

Though sated, Rob and I had more work to do: we had to eat lunch again. So we hopped in the car and drove down Route 43 to the Barbecue Capital of the World, the tiny town of Ayden, NC.

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Friday, May 09, 2008

The Greatest North Carolina BBQ Webpage Ever

From Rob Lott: An interactive trail map from the NC Barbecue Society.

It looks like a noble plan, but it is weighted toward variety and not vinegar (that's another link from Rob). Truthfully, I quest to find non-standard, rural, Eastern joints, where the dip is nothing but vinegar and peppers.

Skylight Inn is amazing (I wear their t-shirt a lot). Wilbur's is pretty good. B's was closed when I went. In order for Eastern North Carolina BBQ to be a true tradition, it must be served at more than three places.

Almost all family-run BBQ joints are closed Sundays, so we have a Friday, a Saturday, and part of a Monday to eat as much as we can.

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Friday, April 04, 2008

Vantage Point for Long Night Exposure of Mill

Asheboro, NC. Curving railroad tracks will reflect light from the mill. Bridges between buildings are visible in satellite photo. Location scouted while lost on way to physics conference last summer.

View Larger Map

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May 30-June 2.

We may have the chance to get these shots.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

JR's Barbeque, Culver City, CA

JR's in Culver City, which is surrounded by LA, was so good that I went back a second night and got the exact same entree again. Thin-sliced, well-smoked brisket, delightfully greasy beef hot links laden with garlic, and above average sides (dug the beans, potato salad, mac 'n cheese). Their meats may be "tender as a mother's love," but their mud-black and mud-thick hot sauce will sting your ass numb like daddy's belt.

Food shot below.

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Brisket, Hot Links, and Hot Sauce

JR's BBQ. Culver City, CA.

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That reddish-orange stuff is the best western-style bbq dip I've tasted: perhaps half ketchup and half vinegar. Only the chicken gets it; the pork is average ketchupy stuff. The curly things are what hush puppies are supposed to look like. Greensboro, NC.

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Friday, September 28, 2007

Follow up to "Return to Aeroworld:" What is White Sauce BBQ?

Smoked meat with mayonnaise-based sauce. Creamy, sometimes fluffy, white sauce containing loads of black pepper. In other words, disgusting.

I won't name the place we went to, since the pork and chicken both had a strong, acrid taste that caused suspicion of liquid smoke.

Even my Italian sub the next day contained a boatload of mayo, on top of which vinaigrette was poured. "Dude, it's the South," my colleague said.


Wednesday, August 01, 2007

RB on the job in Reidsville, NC

Images by/courtesy of Leo Wiegman.


Tuesday, July 31, 2007


Stamey's for lunch, Short Sugar's for dinner.


Thursday, March 08, 2007

BBQ, The Great Unifier, at work in Denver

Last night I dined at Wolfe's Barbecue in Denver, right across from the state capitol in a neighborhood that seemed unusually seedy. Wolfe's is like the dingy Chinese restaurant of the barbecue world, a one-man operation in a small storefront. [Read all about it here.] I had the address written down and walked right past the place on my first attempt.

Wolfe himself seems like a real character. He's a short, white-bearded dude in an apron. He charges $.50 for use of a credit card, $2 to make change for non-customers, and he gets free web hosting out of his Sam's Club business membership.

His BBQ, however, cuts no corners. To attain surprisingly authentic flavor, he uses a hickory/charcoal combo to smoke his meat. I tried the three-course dinner: brisket, pork, and beef sausage were my meat selections. The brisket was thin-sliced and a little dry, with a faint, smoky flavor. The edges were also a bit fatty. The pork turned out to be big, delicious, and smoky chunks--not pulled or chopped, and thus dippable in Wolfe's sauce. The sausage was the real surprise. The "all beef" links had the perfect blend of flavor and heat.

"It's made for me, using my own recipe," Wolfe told me. "No nitrites or preservatives."

For my two sides, I chose BBQ beans and slaw. The slaw was tasty, though not extremely fresh. The beans were delicious--probably store-bought, then doctored with ketchup, spice, and pork. I went up for seconds. Wolfe said I could pay "a buck or a buck and a nickel." I gave him a ten dollar bill, and he scoffed, audibly, at having to make change.

As I doused my dinner roll in hot, house recipe barbecue sauce, over-under-dressed hipsters with bad tattoos ordered bbq tofu sandwiches and discussed having their bands play together. State house types in suits came in and got some cue to power them through a boring night of research. And proprietors of other East Colfax businesses also came in to pick up dinner.

An anomaly like this deserves to last. I only wish I had heard about the lemon pie before leaving town.

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Saturday, February 03, 2007

Last Week in BBQ, Part II: Uncle Pete's Hickory Ribs, Revere, MA

When Seth gmailed that he had found a few barbecue joints in Revere--an urban "blue collar suburb" and Coney Island/Gravesend analogue that I happen to love--I knew we had to get out there.

Last Saturday, he and I ventured to Mass Hwy 60, Squire Road. On a two-block stretch of this sprawlofare, one can find both The Big Lou (no website) and Uncle Pete's Hickory Ribs. The latter's website announced unexpected entrees of the Thai kind, so we decide to explore this weirdness.

This photoset on Flickr explains the outcome.

Worth checking out are the amazingly well-smoked beef ribs and the surprisingly different, Asianized Buffalo tenders.

Seth and I will be planning a trip to the Big Lou and perhaps a follow-up trip to Uncle Pete's soon.

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