Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Ed Mitchell, BBQ Maestro

The mission of the James Beard Foundation is the promotion of American cuisine in all its varied forms. When people hear cuisine, they immediately think white table cloths, fine china and wine lists the size of phonebooks. But American cuisine encompasses myriad choices such as fine dining in San Francisco, lobster shacks in New England, and the smoky barbecue of the South.

Ed Mitchell is a legend among the BBQ cognoscenti. With numerous TV appearances, including beating Bobby Flay in a ribs throw down, he is getting noticed outside of his usual area. Judging by the lines for his food at the Big Apple BBQ, the message is being received.

I was very excited to hear that Ed had accepted an invitation to cook at the James Beard House and was packing up his pork for a trip up North. A sold out crowd was greeted with moonshine mojitos and some very tasty appetizers. I don't know what it is with pork liver, but like the "Swine and Wine" dinner a few weeks ago, a liver dish was the standout. In this case, it was liver pudding served on a ginger snap. A very strange sounding combination, but it really worked well. The zestiness of the ginger snap melded well with the richness of the liver pudding. The other appetizers were also well received, especially the bacon wrapped figs with goat cheese and the North Carolina mountain trout mousse with cracklin's.

In a break in the usual routine, we were invited to head out back and get our own pork for the first course. Both chopped pork and pulled pork were on offer for the diners to grab to make their own sandwiches with. Back at the table, cole slaw and bread were waiting to enhance the pork. Of course, it really did not need any enhancement. This is the dish that Ed is rightfully known for.

Fried green tomatoes were served with an arugula salad dressed with a bacon-sherry vinaigrette as a second course. All the components of this dish worked really well together. The zippy acidity of the Fire Road sauvignon blanc from New Zealand proved to be the perfect foil to this dish.

A grilled pork loin with beautiful grill marks was the next dish to grace our plates. While the pork was excellent, it was upstaged a bit by the sweet potato hash.

Next up were the Flay felling ribs with macaroni and cheese. They were indeed ribs worthy of accolades, they were simply falling off the bone mounds of goodness. A banana pudding rounded out the dinner that was over all too soon.

Ed Mitchell came out after dinner bringing with him the other chefs that helped him prepare this wonderful dinner. Lauren Thompson, Executive Chef of The Pit, Corey Palakovich, Executive Chef of Empire Eats and Matt Scofield, Chef at Sitti all received well deserved kudos from the crowd. As the Q and A session was going on, a huge storm was raging outside. This provoked a few more questions to be asked as no one wanted to venture out in the tempest.

It's going to be a long wait till the next Big Apple BBQ after getting this extended taste of Ed's food. A road trip to NC may have to be planned.

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