Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Waiting Game: BBQ Edition

I feel like I spend my whole life waiting. Part of my quest to avoid regret is driven by the constant struggle between the slowness of time and the feeling that time is slipping away too quickly. I always feel like I'm running out of time, which makes sitting around waiting for something to happen ever the more frustrating.

This weekend, we decided to buy a Fast Pass for the Big Apple BBQ Block Party in Madison Square Park so we wouldn't have to wait so long to buy plates of 'que from the various vendors that set up for the weekend extravaganza, whose lines are notoriously long. The Fast Pass didn't really help much, because it still pretty much felt like waiting in line for the really good rollercoasters at Six Flags: sun beating down on you, sweat pouring into your eyes, anxiety rising in the pit of your stomach as you get madder and madder that you have to wait so long for something that might not end up being that good.

free beerI got lucky with the first round of food, nabbing some delicious St. Louis-style ribs from Baker's Ribs in a matter of minutes and bringing them back into the shady area behind Shake Shack that we had cornered for ourselves. It turned out to be a good standing spot for eating and for getting free beers from dudes who realized they were double-fisting when they couldn't actually take their beers out of the beer garden and into the long lines for food. It's amazing how willing they were to just give a full, cold beer away. We were more than happy to accept.

We realized what a fluke our first round of food was when Edith disappeared for what seemed like forever to get some sausage from The Salt Lick, which came with unusually tasty cole slaw (were those toasted sesame seeds?) that was well-worth the wait. But as the afternoon progressed, so did the lines, and after nearly an hour in line for one of the few things at the BBQ that wasn't beef brisket or pork shoulder, I couldn't stand it anymore and had to tag Edith in. She's even more determined (and gets even madder) than I, so she stuck it out in the sun to get some ridiculously fresh hush puppies made - to order - with crawfish and smoked okra.

We'd about had it with the sun after over two hours and decided to leave, despite having used less than half of my $100 Fast Pass - even more frustrating since the Bourbon Bar didn't accept it and we could've easily used it up there. In my mind I figured I could come back the next day and try to use it up, so I was happy to move the party to Rodeo Bar for some happy hour frozen margaritas to cool off and rest up.

In retrospect, Saturday's experience at Madison Square Park didn't seem so bad, despite the headache that was still plaguing me this morning and the heat stroke I'm pretty sure I suffered. We'd actually had a great time: we heard two great bands (The DeFibulators and The Sweet Divines), we ate great food, and we got to do some really weird people watching (including the
"Tasty Murder" guy and the grass-fed cow street teamer guy who looked very out of place chanting in a style that was more hip hop than Flatiron, "Read it 'cuz ya eat it!"). So it wasn't too hard to go back today, once again slathering on some sunblock and putting on a sundress I wouldn't mind sweating through.

This time I decided to not be as choosy about what I was eating, instead just jumping on short lines to get some quick breakfast pork into my stomach. My first stop at Ubon's got me pulled pork and slaw within seconds, slightly longer than it took me to devour it. Next stop? The terrifying whole hog stand courtesy of Raleigh's The Pit.

the whole hogI wasn't sure what I'd see when I got to The Pit, but the first thing I saw was...the whole hog. They'd gutted an entire pig and smoked it in one of their huge cookers, and it took four men to drag the browned thing out onto a big table, where six gloved workers dug in with their fingers and began pulling it apart. Most pulled pork is from just a part of the pig, often the shoulder, but this pulled pork was most certainly the entire pig, all emptied out into one big foil pan.

scrapsAfter I got my sandwich and cole slaw, soaked in some peppery hot sauce poured from a plastic jug, I stopped at the end of the table where I saw one guy with a smaller foil pan with indescriminate parts inside. Ah, the scraps! I got a couple of chunks of I-don't-know-what, crispy fatty brown bits that had already been ravaged once but still had enough left on them for one more ravage. The man said to me, "Come over here pumpkin and let me give you another piece. Now you go put some of that sauce down there on it, yeah."

It's weird not knowing what you're eating.

s'moreI still had quite a bit of money left on my Fast Pass, but I was fading fast in the sun once again, so I decided to spend it on a Blue Smoke t-shirt and a s'more from Wildwood BBQ, leaving about $4 unspent with no regrets.

If I hadn't been sweating so much, I think I would've made some friends in the park, strolling all alone with a Texas Pete temporary tattoo on my chest. There were a lot of single guys there - beer-drinkin', BBQ-lovin' dudes for whom I'm probably their dream girl. But greased up with sunblock and sweat dripping down my back, I felt far less than attractive and got the hell out of there as quickly as I came.

I'd wanted to go to this annual BBQ pretty much ever since I've lived in the neighborhood, so I'm glad I finally got to go. But the long lines and a real lack of variety in the food (despite the quality) may keep me from going back next year...unless it's only to scope out the pitmasters' secret techniques, as they prepare their meaty offerings throughout the night before.