Beast of Bourbon’s Bringing it to Bed-Stuy (aka the “Damn Good Barbecue” Post)

Last night Bed-Stuy barbecue joint slash music venue Beast of Bourbon threw a little shindig in honor of their new pit master, Nestor Laracuente, who carved up hunks of brisket and pork belly for an endlessly regenerating queue of barbecue fans — or, at least, fans of free barbecue. A pair of salads accompanied the meaty tastes: a vinegary cucumber salad and a shredded carrot salad with macerated cherries, which was unexpected and totally delicious.

Hook, line and sinker: Those bites only stoked my appetite, so on my way out I ordered one of the “power trios” to go: 1/2 lb. brisket and two small sides, in this case, brisket beans and meat-studded collard greens, plus cornbread: $21.

The brisket power trio

Such a good move, and frankly, a bargain: Two of us shared (or rather, devoured) the meal, as pictured above, and were totally satisfied. The brisket has a gorgeous, peppery crust and is falling apart tender; the beans and collards were incredibly flavorful with smokey notes imbued from the meaty bits; the cornbread, outstanding.

For a 2014 article on brisket in the New York Times, Laracuente is quoted as saying, “Cooking is science, but barbecue is magic.” If ‘cue is magic, the man most definitely has the magic touch. Smart move by the Beast to bring him to Bed-Stuy — that brisket’s worthy of a G Train trip any day.

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The Brocton, NY Edition: And These Are My Grandpa’s Chicken Wings.

In certain circles, my grandpa is known for a lot of things. Of the stories I hear, one of the things he’s most famous for are his chicken wings.

IMG_0993 copy30 pounds of wings … 60 pounds of wings for that … do you remember when we did 100 pounds for such-and-such party? The man has single-handedly cooked tens of thousands of pounds of chicken wings.

To back it up just a bit: Buffalo, N.Y., purports to be the origin of the chicken-wing-as-bar-snack. Somewhere in those murky decades before my existence, my grandpa fine-tuned his own sauce recipe that even now remains a secret. It’s a damn good sauce: lip-smacking spicy in just the way you want it to be, without burning out your throat. Blue cheese dressing cuts the heat, if you need it. No wonder he’s a local legend.

On this visit, the wings were part of that classic American round robin, the pot luck (aka barbecue, or picnic). There is one rule: Bring yourselves, and bring a dish to share.

IMG_0998 copyI just adore these events. You get the most incredible cornucopia of foods you might not ordinarily eat, or even imagine existed. Your plate becomes a veritable petri dish of American food culture.

Consider the specimen that is Plate no. 1, clockwise from the chicken wings: There’s a baked, cheesy, hashbrown dish; baby pickles; half a Johnsonville Beddar Cheddar brat (with spicy mustard); nacho salad made with lettuce, ground beef, Doritos nacho cheese chip crumbles, and more. (bacon?)

No one eats like this, normally, all the time. That’s why it’s such a treat.

IMG_0005 copyTake, for example, my favorite item on Plate no. 2, the dessert plate, which is located at the top. Yes, that fluffy, very orange “7-Up salad” gets its glow from orange Jello, CoolWhip, canned fruit (I think), 7-Up (I’m assuming) and more.

I should know this because I watched my grandma make it this morning, and I pretty much ate a bowl of it for breakfast … Clockwise from the 7-Up salad is a banana creme pudding dish; a strudel bar and chocolate cherry cake. All homemade.

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… And, to wash it all down, your pick of beers. There’s always a fully-stocked beer fridge, which, by definition, is a separate, secondary fridge, usually located in a garage, full of beer.

Oh, to have a beer fridge in New York City…

Where were we partying? There’s an interior shot of the shed, pre-party, after the jump: Continue reading “The Brocton, NY Edition: And These Are My Grandpa’s Chicken Wings.”

Sunday: Manhattan Circumference Scouting Trip (aka the Epic Bike Ride)

On Sunday, I biked the circumference of Manhattan. Clocking in at almost 35 miles, (including a few errant detours), I wouldn’t exactly call this an eating-centric ride, although we did make some great pit stops.

photo-9What it was, was: Part adventure, part fitness challenge, part remedy to summer island fever — if we didn’t get off the island literally, at least we were in parts we’d never seen before — and a really amazing day.

Our route: We began on the West Side bike path at about Christopher Street, 10:45 a.m. We headed in a counter-clockwise direction for one reason: Oh how sweet it is for the last fifth of the ride to just cruise down that long, curving bike path that runs along the West Side of the island, from nearly 200th Street all the way home. Nearly a straight  shot (no more lumpy island bell curves adding mileage), the sun on your face, virtually flat track. It’s the only way to finish.

On the topic of lumpy island bell curves … the bottom bit is full of them. I thought it outrageous when it was proposed that our first stop would be above 40th Street on the East Side but, in fact, it makes so much sense. Power through, and do it. Slog through that bottom part and take a snack/juice/coffee break once you’re clear of it. There’s still a whole lot of island left.

photophoto-1 Pit Stop no. 1: Orchard House Cafe, E. 58th Street at Fifth First Avenue. What a little gem! I’ve walked within two blocks of here, but had never seen it before. As we rode by, I literally slammed on the breaks — we have to stop here.

It’s a total neighborhood spot: Light meals, coffee stop by day, in the evening it kicks up a notch with wine and miscellaneous entertainment. The food isn’t exactly gourmet, but they bring in from decent sources. My angel food cake “muffin” with a drizzle of lemon frosting on top was so light and fluffy, almost efferescent — the perfect alternative for anyone who is not into hard, dense muffins.

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Pit Stop no. 2: Indian Road Market & Cafe, 218th Street at Indian Road. Indian Road is, essentially, the northern-most road on the island. (There’s a park on top of that that is technically closer to the proverbial tip, but this is the last establishment.)

I love this place! Inside, it’s a coffee shop/specialty market on one side — really great refridgerated case of craft beers — and a proper sit-down restaurant and bar on the other. On weekends, a live pianist gives the place a real sense of class. The staff are delightful.

In the park across the road, we shared a lovely but simple salad spruced up with a side of breakfast sausage (perk of brunch menu). and a couple of bottles of GUS Extra Dry Ginger Ale — so fizzy and refreshing.

photo-8photo-6 Pit Stop no. 3: Dinosaur Bar-B-Cue, W. 131st Street at Riverside Drive. With only about 130 blocks left to go, it was time to celebrate. A giant plate of some of the most giant chicken wings in the city and a bucket of El Presidente beers (6) did the trick — a small meal by Dinosaur Bar-B-Cue standards, but oh so satisfying nonetheless. Powered by beer and wings, we were on cruise mode the rest of the way home.

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Lunch: Hawaiian Barbecue In the Most Unexpected of Places (and Cheap!)

photoBBQ Chicken: $6.25. Huh? Never eaten here, but I could of sworn from the window display of a table set with a plate of plastic sushi that Osaka was a Japanese restaurant. (Plus, there’s usually something in a name.)

Turns out, the barbecue is Hawaiian-style, which means the chicken (there’s also spare ribs, for a few dollars more) is tenderized and marinated in a sweet, hybrid teriyaki-barbecue sauce, grilled, and served on a bed of rice with some salad greens.

photo(3)Yeah, it’s really good chicken. Big flavor, a lot of tenderness, succulence retained: This chicken absolutely destroys the parched, bland, “grill-charred” chicken breasts you find added to salads and pasta dishes, and lurking at delis, waiting to be tucked into sandwiches.

Next time, I’m going to ask for some extra sauce on the side. I found myself wishing I had some to pour all over the chicken and mash into the rice. It’d make it that much better. (As you can see, I had no issue finishing off the plate without sauce.)

photo(4)photo(5)About those spare ribs … The $6.25 barbecue chicken special is part of Osaka’s walk-in, off-the-regular-menu specials, and ends up being pretty basic. The Hawaiian meal listed on the menu ($8.99) opens up a whole new world: You get your choice of chicken or spare ribs, served with rice, soup, shumai, a California roll and salad. Hell yeah.

TIP: The walk-in, off-the-regular-menu menu has a number of lunch specials that hit the sweet spot, wallet-wise. Something to consider if you can ever move past the barbecue. (Photo of menu after the jump.)

Continue reading “Lunch: Hawaiian Barbecue In the Most Unexpected of Places (and Cheap!)”