As Robert Frost wrote, “Good barbecue makes good neighbors.”
DC is a Food Desert when it comes to good barbecue. I’m still trying, but I’ve yet to find a really good place closer than North Carolina. To get first class barbecue I’ve had to make it myself.
I don’t mean to whine. Nancy and I live in a great neighborhood. I can walk to everything I need (food and liquor stores), lots of things I like (libraries, cleaners, some good restaurants, movie theaters), and lots of things I don’t need (Jimmy Choo, Bulgari, etc.). The Metro is only a few blocks away. And Liza and Mike are only six blocks away. Mike is great on the grill, and Doug Jacobson, the Kansas City Barbecue Maven, is always game to try a new place.
We recently have had an uptick in neighborhood quality with new neighbors, Scott and Julie Hammons and A.J. Guy. They had a party the day we returned from New York. As we got out of he car, the air was perfumed with smoke and pork. AJ had been cooking some pork butts in his smoker.
We hurried over a soon as Alabama’s win was certain, and AJ was just preparing to disassemble a butt.
Note that the ugly cinderblock wall is our fault — or rather the fault of the DC government. They require a wall between attached houses even at the points at which they are not attached. The wall had to go up when we added on.
The disassembly was successful, as was the pork. Moist and tender, and suffused with smoke. (AJ uses apple chunks.) It was much better than the pork at Blue Smoke in Manhattan, and it helped me get over my mistake in ordering it.
The pork was not the only attraction by any means. Scott is a connoisseur of fire house chicken — the half chickens cooked as fundraisers for volunteer fire departments in upstate New York, Delaware, West Virginia — and elsewhere, I’m sure. These usually involve long cinder block pits, counter high and topped with racks for the chicken that cooks slowly over charcoal. I remember at one such fundraiser Jon Breul asking the chef how many chickens they could cook at one time. “I don’t know, but we can cook 500 halves.”
Now I like fire house chicken a lot, and Scott’s is excellent. He hasn’t worked up to a 500-half pit … yet … but his grill does the trick nicely with charcoal and wood.
Actually, part of the trick is the sauce. Scott gets a white sauce from upstate New York. It’s very, very good. The sauce lists the ingredients, but not the proportions, so he’s undertaken a research effort to duplicate the sauce, and he’s invited my participation. Happy to oblige, very happy.