If you caught my last recipe post, you already know I’ve been tricking myself to eat fish by throwing it in a taco and adding excessive toppings, like a parent hiding veggies in their kid’s mac and cheese. It’s sad but true. Of course, grilling fish makes it a little more palatable, plus nothing beats grilling in the summer (even if it is fish…). Fresh. Fast. Flavorful. And so darn pretty.
Ladies and gentlemen. I gots the fever.
Barbecue pulled pork.
I blame it on Midwood Smokehouse, my favorite barbecue spot in town, which I frequent at LEAST once a week. I bounce back and forth between the pork cuban (authentic Cuban bread, hickory smoked pork, thinly sliced ham, Swiss cheese, and dill pickles… I die!) and the pork and brisket tacos. And when I’m lucky enough to have some meat leftover, I make barbecue pulled pork omelets the next morning.
Did you catch me talking sausage toppings on WBTV this morning? Check out the video link below!
Here we are, in the height of backyard barbecue season, with literally dozens of ketchup and mustard covered hot dogs under our belts, and I.am.bored. Don’t get me wrong, I love that classic combo, but sometimes I crave to shake things up a bit. Get a little spicy, a little saucy, a little something like THIS:
TOPPING REMIX #1: a Mexican-inspired sandwich using Johnsonville Chorizo Sausage topped with some of my homemade guacamole and fresh pico de gallo. Incredible flavor, practically impossible to eat just one.
TOPPING REMIX #2: a Johnsonville Turkey Sausage with Cheddar topped with barbecue sauce and a simple lightened up slaw. Hearty and healthified without sacrificing a pants size.
My passion for barbecue was discovered late in life, at the ripe age of 26, at the very same time and the very same instant I discovered my soulmate of the meat variety. PORK. Thank you Charlotte, for introducing this Ohio girl to your precious piggy bounty, abundant sauces, and deep-rooted opinions on all things ‘cue.
Though it greatly annoys me when a recipes calls for two cups of “your favorite barbecue sauce,” I’ve never attempted to make my own before now. It’s something I’ve left to the professionals (aka Midwood Smokehouse, my favorite barbecue joint in town). I favor BBQ sauces that are heavy on the vinegar (that’s eastern NC style for you BBQ neophytes), but I’m also coming around to the sweeter, ketchup-based sauces. So this recipe, my first ever BBQ sauce, is a mash-up of the two, a combo that’s united with a heavy hand of Four Roses Bourbon. Bourbon and barbecue? Puh-lease.
Ballantyne’s Elwoods BBQ opened back in 2009, and the reviews were, well, not great. Things took a turn for the barbecue better this October when two brothers-in-law, Dan Anderson and Jeremy Johnson, purchased the joint. While the face of the restaurant hasn’t changed much and the menu offerings aren’t drastically different, the quality of food being served has seen substantial improvement with the arrival of the new owners and Chef Mike Theimer, previously with the Burger Co., heading up the kitchen. What’s in the past is in the past; nowadays, Elwoods is smoking their meats daily, grinding burgers in-house, and making everything they possibly can from scratch.
Think of Elwoods as a BBQ melting pot: they’ve got Carolina pulled pork covered, of course, but they’re also smoking Texas style beef brisket, St Louis ribs, chicken, and (my personal favorite) the Kansas City burnt ends. Considered a barbecue delicacy by many, some folks (especially northerners like me who aren’t akin to these little nuggets of beef) find the burnt ends crispy, tough, and dry. I can admit I previously fell into that camp, but the burnt ends at Elwoods changed my mind on the very first bite, with a juicy, chewy texture that reminded me more of pork belly than the dehydrated meat bits I’d had from other guys in town.
Whisky (no “e”) River, owned by Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (yes, the NASCAR king), is located in the EpiCentre, just down the road from the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Despite the NASCAR connections, don’t come to Whisky expecting to see a bunch of rednecks drinking Busch Light. Instead, you’ll find “club casual” digs– it’s two parts rock and roll and one part country with a splash of southern hospitality. The country innuendo is slight: cowhide backs on the bar stools, a mechanical bull, and the occasional country song pouring from the speakers. There are also servers dressed in tight fitting tops and barely there Daisy Dukes, a uniform that surprisingly only applies to the female employees. What gives, Dale? Overall, the vibe in Whisky River is more night club than country western, and that’s exactly what Mr. Earnhardt was shooting for.
Whisky River offers a full drink menu–beer, wine, and cocktails–and has two sprawling bars, seating for over 200, a VIP lounge, plus plenty of room for dancing. Further solidifying its ultimate entertainment venue status, Whisky partners with Kiss 95.1 as the official pre and post party venue for many big name concerts and sporting events uptown.
For better or for worse, my favorite thing to do on the weekends is EAT. Each Friday night, Jarrod and I head out to a local restaurant for what we affectionately call a “slow dinner.” We order drinks, we savor them. We order an appetizer, we relish it. Then, after turning the server away at least three times, we order our entrees. And later (on occasion) we order dessert. It’s like a progressive dinner, except we sit in one spot the entire night, with the exception of regular potty breaks.
Last weekend, we had the epitome of slow dinners: six small meals at six different locations! The best part was we didn’t have to plan a thing—everything was handled by Kristi of Feast Food Tours.
I met Kristi a few months ago, and I had an immediate urge to go on one of her tours. She has several options listed on her website, including an Uptown Chic Tour and Charlotte Brew and Chew Tour. But, for the love of barbecue, I chose the Soul of the South Tour, on which Queen City Q was our first stop! Queen City Q opened earlier this year, but we hadn’t made it in for a visit prior to the tour. Our first order of business: pulled pork sliders!
Fervent Foodie is a contributing writer for the official Urbanspoon blog.
Dear Mr. President,
Forget the state of the economy, medical insurance issues, and the never ending tax-rate debate–politics just isn’t my cup of macaroni and cheese, if you will. As a fervent foodie based in Charlotte, the host city of the 2012 Democratic National Convention, I am writing you to advise you on the Queen City’s culinary scene. North Carolina is the birthplace of Cheerwine, Bojangles‘, and Texas Pete hot sauce and there’s much more to our food than collard greens, pimento cheese, and sweet tea.