For a team obsessed with barbecue undertaking its annual research Pilgrimage to the States, you might ask what the brisket are we doing visiting New York?
This state is more known for its Italian-influences: pizza, pasta, delis, giant sandwiches and sidewalk hot dogs. But not American low and slow barbecue.
However this resurgent trend which is firmly back in the zeitgeist, both here in the States, and now gripping the UK, has put down roots east coast side. And the Pitmasters here aren’t just ‘giving it a go’. They’re 100% serious they can turn out the best ‘cue this country has to offer. They don’t just want to equal the famed Pitmasters of Texas, Tennessee or the Carolinas, these new NYC Pitmasters want to better them; respectively 😉
Unconstrained by the shackles of regional ‘BBQ rules’, there is no one style found here in New York. Similar to Red’s, many of these new smokehouses celebrate the varying different regional barbecue styles, all under one roof. Texas beef brisket, North Carolina Pulled Pork and chopped Whole Hog, Memphis spare and baby back ribs. It’s a true melting pot.
But can they really take on the Franklins, Muellers, Cookstons and Fourtons of this world? Let’s eat and find out….
The S’Wich game is strong here in NYC, so we took the opportunity to head out into Red Hook, Brooklyn, to find us some lunch.
Defontes is an Italian-American deli, which has happily fed the local neighbourhood since 1922. This place is straight out of The Sopranos. So much so, when you walk in there’s a wall dedicated to its patrons, and dominating half the stretch are various different cast members from every Italian mobster film you’ve ever watched.
Americans don’t mess about with size of fillings. Add in to the mix the flavoursome Italian influence, and you’ve the greatest sandwiches known to a made man. We ordered a boxful and sent our hunger swimming with the fishes.
The rest of the afternoon was spent in Wiliamsburgh, a hip Brooklyn district sitting just west of Manhattan over the Hudson river, and home to one of Red’s customer’s favourites suds – Brooklyn.
This brand has cut its path to mainstream now, but whilst it has numerous out of town breweries to cope with global demand, the original brewery site remains dedicated to kicking out small batch craft ales which helped make its name. A re-occuring annual favourite: The Unsung Hero (4.75%), a saison with ginger, lemon and lime zest, received some serious attention from the team, as did the East IPA (6.9%).
Brooklyn sits across the water from down town NYC, so not wanting to miss the epic Manhattan skyline, we squeezed in a few Six Point Brewery Co Bengali Tigers, 10 stories up in the Ides Bar of Wyhte Hotel. You have to be completely devoid of any humanity to not look fall deeply in love, and look in such awe, at this most grandiose of cities.
Day #-1 of Red’s Pilgrimage was wrapped up back in downtown NYC at the world famous Katz’s Deli. This place has fed everyone from Frank Sinatra to the Foo Fighters and many Presidents in between. It’s one of New York’s oldest delis, and was put on the global map in the 80s when Meg Ryan faked an orgasm at the table in the film When Harry Met Sally.
The Red’s Good Book used to play host to a Reuben Sandwich, so with this trip being all about finding new dishes, and homing existing ones, we placed our order.
If you’ve never had a Reuben, you need this in your life:
Sliced pastrami (cured beef brisket), sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Russian Dressing (ketchup, Ranch dressing, onions, parsley, garlic and Worcestershire sauce), all between white sour dough bread. At first the $20 price tag seems heavy.
Then you clamp your cake hole round it, and realise the irony of the orgasm scene; subtly spiced, aromatic beef, acidic sauerkraut, umami rich cheese and the creamy, tangy dressing make this sandwich not only worthy of resurrection to the Good Book, but an excuse to sport a proud semi-on in a restaurant….
Let’s call this a day, dive under the duvet at The Comfort Inn and ready ourselves for the onslaught of four full on food stops in one 24 hr period….