Then today I made the somewhat ill fated decision to tackle the Big Apple Barbecue, despite having seen this picture from last year.
Yeah, it was as bad as all that.
I had carefully picked a time, 2pm on Sunday, for a few reasons. 1. This was right in between lunch and dinner. I'd be dealing with snackers, right? 2. It was supposed be cloudy, maybe even a little rainy on Sunday. This would easily pick off the faint of heart as well as the tourists. 3. A musician who I had met back when I interned at the McCarter Theatre named Bill Sims Jr. was playing at 2:45, and I really enjoy him. The entire music lineup was sponsored by 101.9 Rock Experience, which Will cleverly chose to dub "Roxperience!" I had worked in a 45 minute buffer so that I could get food, drink, and be all situated by the time he went on. This plan was fool proof. To quote many a 1980's sitcom, "What could possibly go wrong?"
Well I had vastly misunderstood people's eating schedules and it was in the mid 70's and sunny. Will and I arrived to a wall of people and twisting confusing lines that led to places that may or may not be out of food. It took us 20 minutes just to fight the crowds and find the beer, and then once we got through the line to the main beer tent they weren't serving the cider I wanted, for which you would have to go across the courtyard where the hard cider had it's own table. Thank god I'm one of the few people who enjoy the fermented drinks of ye olde forefathers, that process was actually painless.
Once we had found a place in the dirt to sit (I had forgotten to bring the picnic blanket I had bought YESTERDAY for exactly this type of event) and put our stuff down, I decided to forage out in search of food. It was only 5 minutes until Bill went on, but he was playing until 4. I would grab the food and be in like flint.
Oh Holy Hell. I had decided on brisket, looked at the map, and decided to head for the northern most corner to the Salt Lick. After shuffling for 10 minutes to get there, it turns out the Salt Lick was out of brisket, but as the tiny woman shouting at the large crowd informed us, they were still serving sausage! Sausage. Right lady. At the biggest barbeque event of the year, surrounded by southern pit masters from across the county, I was going to eat food best procured year round from Little Italy. I was tired of pushing my way to different stands, however, so I decided pulled pork sandwich was just fine and shifted to the next line over to BlackJack BBQ from Charleston, South Carolina.
The guys in front of me were so preppy it was cartoonish. Polo shirts, sandals, and, no kidding, one of them was holding a football. In the middle of a crowd the size of the one pictured above, he had a football. Where he thought he was going to throw it is a mystery known only to himself. Maybe he envisioned himself playing a game of catch with the guys chopping up an entire pig "OK guys, out of bounds is this dense crowd of people over here, and that dense crowd of people over there. The goal line is that traffic jam on Broadway, and if you hit the Empire State Building you've gone too far." With such company I wove my way through the line for a solid 45 minutes, dreaming all the while of the Sunday Times I left at home, or the iPod that just wouldn't fit in my tiny clutch that looked so cute with my outfit.
The payoff was two extremely good pulled pork sandwiches that were satisfyingly juicy with a delectably sweet sauce. The potato roll was fluffy, if a bit generic, and even the cole slaw was yummy, and I usually don't touch the stuff. Hustling them back to our spot by the stage I got to catch the last 20 minutes of the set, and Bill Sims Jr. was as good as I remembered. Will asked if I wanted to get another drink and walk around for awhile, but I was done with the crowds, and I remembered what a flavorful Mint Julep Will can make. I decided we could continue our Southern gastronomical "roxperience" from the comfort of our own living room.