Ashley Christensen’s Take on Barbecue — With Fullsteam!

November 4, 2010

As I wrote earlier, Ashley Christensen of Poole’s Diner is preparing a very special barbecue dinner to benefit the Lucy Daniels Center.  This won’t be any ordinary barbecue, however.

Ashley cures the pork for 3 days, with a special rub of salt and other herbs and spices.  This turns the pork into the most amazingly succulent swine you’ll ever taste.  But then she slowly smokes that pig over nut wood (typically pecan) for hours and hours, until a nice, crust is formed and the meat is redolent of that sweet smoke.  Of course, she has her own take on sauce.

You know it will be good.  No, you know it will be the best damn barbecue you’ve ever had.

But there will also be beer.  And we’re talking about beer that was created to be served with barbecue: Fullsteam’s Hogwash, which is a hickory-smoked porter.  We’ll also be serving the Fullsteam Carolina Common, a lighter beer for those who prefer it that way.

And as far as side dishes are concerned, you won’t be disappointed.  Don’t expect some limp green beens or dried out corn sticks.  There will even be a special Brunswick Stew.  And banana pudding so good, it’ll make you want to smack someone.  I mean, kiss them.

We will have some of Ashley’s roast chicken for those who don’t eat pork.  And if you’ve had that chicken before, it’s the best.  Anywhere.

But I need you to buy tickets to this dinner.  Yeah, it’s pricey, but it’s for an amazing cause.  The Lucy Daniels Center is the Triangle’s leading non-profit provider of children’s mental health services.  Why is this a big deal?  Because in this economy, with so many people unemployed, it’s harder than ever on children.  And parents don’t have the resources to pay for the help their kids’ needs.  The Lucy Daniels Center provides some sort of financial assistance to 90% of the families who receive care.  A large portion of those families receive care for free.

So I ask you — No, I BEG you — please go to the Lucy Daniels website and buy tickets to the dinner. Or call Patti Wilt at 919.459.1611. You’ll have a great meal.  You’ll enjoy the beer.  And you’ll know you’ve done something very special for families in need.  And there’s nothing better than that feeling.  Not even the banana pudding.

Buy tickets thru PayPal here:

Or call Patti Wilt at the Lucy Daniels Center at 919.459.1611

Adults are $75, kids under 14 are $35, and all but $25 is tax deductible.  Sorry, no beer for the kids.

Barbecue: Poole’s Diner Style

October 15, 2010

I love barbecue.  I love Poole’s Diner.  And on November 7th, I’m going to really love me some barbecue made by Ashley Christensen of Poole’s Diner.  This will be a special family-oriented fundraising meal benefiting the Lucy Daniels Center for Early Childhood (of which I’m the Chair of the Board), and I invite you to purchase your tickets via PayPal by going here.

Here’s the details: Poole’s Diner will be preparing the barbecue and the sides from 5:30 to 8:30 PM on Sunday, November 7th.  Beer has been graciously donated by the great folks of Fullsteam Brewery in Durham (can anyone say “yum” to a Hogwash, hickory-smoked porter?).  Heck, I might even make a dish or two (I can put my kids to work making pie).  Tickets for adults are $75 and $35 for kids14 and under, and of that price, all but $25 is tax deductible.

Space truly is limited, as Poole’s is a pretty small place, and we’ll be looking to do two full turns of the restaurant.  It’ll be a nice way to spend an evening, eating some great barbecue, and supporting a very worthy cause.  Did you know that with this economy, the need for mental health services has dramatically increased, but there are fewer places where kids can get those services?  Did you know that 90% of the kids who receive services from the Lucy Daniels Center receive some sort of assistance, and many families do not pay a dime?  Did you know that when one child is helped with an emotional problem, that also benefits that child’s family and classroom?  Did you know that I REALLY want to see you buy tickets for this event?

This is very important to me.

This is very important to the children of the Triangle.

And this may be the best barbecue you ever ate. Please join us.


‘Cuegrass Festival in Downtown Raleigh on Saturday

April 13, 2010

If there were ever a match made in heaven, it would be whole hog North Carolina barbecue with local swamp-trash rockers,  Southern Culture on the Skids.  But it ain’t heaven, it’s Davie Street in downtown Raleigh this Saturday at the second annual North Carolina ‘Cuegrass Festival.  I love how they state that the festival features the “bluegrass music by Southern Culture on the Skids.”  Er, SCOTS is not a bluegrass band.  SCOTS is not anywhere close to a bluegrass band.  But SCOTS is a perfect band to play at a festival featuring Southern food, and particularly barbecue (fried chicken and banana pudding would be great, too).   Now there are some legit bluegrass bands playing at ‘Cuegrass, so fans of banjo picking and fiddle playing need not worry about getting your fill of tunes.

The festival is put on by the folks at The Pit restaurant in Raleigh, and it’s a huge fundraiser to support the W.C. Breeze Family Farm, a 270-acre educational farm near Hillsborough devoted to sustainable agriculture, and the North Carolina Future Farmers of America , a student farmers’ education group.  Barbecue sandwich plates, beef brisket sandwich plates, and beer (great local stuff) each will sell for $5.  Pretty simple, and pretty reasonable (where’s that nanner puddin’??).  And who knows, maybe Greg Hatem, Ed Mitchell and the other folks at Empire Eats will expand this festival to bring in other pitmasters from across the country, as is the case with the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party.  We need that type of party here in North Carolina!

North Carolina ‘Cuegrass Festival
Saturday, April 17
11 AM to 4 PM (Rain or Shine)
328 W. Davie St., Raleigh, NC
Free entry

The Pit to Expand

August 6, 2009

pit-100Not the most earth-shattering news, but business has been so good for The Pit that they’re about to expand, according to pitmaster Ed Mitchell.  They’ll be opening a new take-out window where you can get as much barbecue as you want.  Mitchell told me that business has been extremely good, and you need reservations on Thursday through Saturday unless you want to eat very early or late.  Obviously, all the attention Mitchell and The Pit have been getting of late has really paid off.

Capitol Q

July 14, 2009

My friend Joe York, filmmaker extraordinaire, has put together a fantastic film on one of North Carolina’s barbecue gems, the Skylight Inn in Ayden. The Skylight is a special place, a purist’s nirvana, where the crunchy skin is cut into the meat, and there are only three foods on the menu — barbecue, slaw, and cornbread. Yeah, they have soda and Moon Pies, but those aren’t made there. And the barbecue at the Skylight is seasoned very lightly, allowing you to savor the full flavor of the Q.

Watch the film, which was put together for the Southern Foodways Alliance with support from Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group. The film debuted in New York, of all places, at the Big Apple BBQ Block Party.

Edit: I meant to re-post this great photo of James Henry Howell, the Skylight’s pitmaster:

The Barbecue Song

January 21, 2009

My friend Kathi Purvis sent me a link to this wonderful, and quite accurate, song about barbecue.  Yeah, it was part of an Alka-Seltzer ad campaign from last summer, but it’s still cool.  I think I’ll have Rhett and Link, the front men for this song, come to the next pig pickin’ I do, as they are from North Carolina.

An Eastern North Carolina Barbecue Birth

November 18, 2008


Here I was, surrounded by icons of North Carolina barbecue: Wilber Shirley of Wilber’s Barbecue in Goldsboro.  Chip and Charles Stamey of Stamey’s Barbecue in Greensboro.  Samuel Jones of the Skylight Inn in Ayden.  And Ed Mitchell of Raleigh’s The Pit.  We were assembled there to celebrate the release of the fantastic book on North Carolina barbecue, Holy Smoke: The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue, written by John Shelton Reed, Dale Volberg Reed, and William McKinney.  Mr. Mitchell was getting ready to pull a pig off his cooker in the kitchen, and folks were just having a grand time.  I truly felt that I was not worthy to be around so many barbecue dignitaries, but they weren’t the ones drawing my attention.  No, Andy Price was the person I really wanted to get to know, and that’s because this young accountant is about to open a small, Eastern-style barbecue restaurant in Lumberton. Read the rest of this entry »

Ed Mitchell Kicks South Carolina’s Butt on NBC

June 23, 2008

Raleigh’s Ed Mitchell went head to head with South Carolina pitmaster James Hagood on NBC’s Today show this morning, in a battle between NC and SC barbecue.  Of course, Ed’s barbecue was the unanimous winner among the three judges.

Click here for the video.

And be sure to look for newlywed Greg Hatem in the background!

New North Carolina Barbecue Book Coming

June 23, 2008

I received in the mail a notice from UNC Press about a book that will be coming out in November, a book on North Carolina barbecue with the title, “Holy Smoke: The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue.”  Yeah, I know — “Just what we need, another barbecue book.”  That’s what I thought, too., until I saw who wrote this sucker: John Shelton Reed, Dale Volberg Reed, and William McKinney.  I know each of these individuals, but Will McKinney is a friend who may be more knowledgeable about NC barbecue than anyone I know.  How knowledgeable?  Well, how many people have spent HUNDREDS of hours gathering oral interviews from owners and pitmasters of NC barbecue establishments?  How many people can say they founded the North Carolina BBQ Society — when they were a student??? McKinney has a passion for barbecue that few can match, so I’m quite sure his contributions were invaluable to this book.

John Shelton Reed is not a historian or a food writer by trade; he’s a sociologist, and that makes this book even more exciting in my mind.  It’s the human dynamic of barbecue that fascinates me, and I really can’t wait to dive into this book.  Professor Reed and his wife are two of the leading authorities on Southern culture (if you haven’t read their book, 1001 Things Everyone Should Know About the South, you need to), so I’m pretty darned sure that this book on barbecue won’t disappoint you.

Raleigh is Smokin’

June 12, 2008

If you live in the Triangle, you’re having to deal with all the smoke due to the wildfires in coastal North Carolina. The air quality is pretty bad right now, and it’ll probably get worse before it gets better.

The funny thing about this (if anything can be funny about wildfires) came from when I went to The Pit for lunch today. For the first time ever, the air outside The Pit was smokier than inside. And that’s saying something.

Ed Mitchell Featured in N&O

February 6, 2008

Andrea Weigl has a great in-depth story on The Pit’s Ed Mitchell in today’s News & Observer. Weigl pulls no punches, digging into Mitchell’s background, his lawsuit with the bank that foreclosed on his Wilson barbecue restaurant, and his ultimate conviction for tax evasion. Ed Mitchell, like all of us, is a flawed human being. He has made a number of mistakes and lost control of the industry built around his “Pitmaster” persona. But give him credit: he landed on his feet, found a solid business partner in Greg Hatem, and has put together an incredible barbecue restaurant. In some ways, Mitchell’s failings make him a much more intriguing character, and when you get right down to it, a little notoriety probably ain’t too bad for business. Frankly, I like Ed Mitchell — he’s got a personality that will win you over the moment you talk to him. You may feel like you’re talking to a snake oil salesman, but Mitchell ultimately convinces you that not only should you buy that snake oil, but it really does the body good. He’s a salesman. He’s a personality. He’s a barbecue icon. While you’re at it, check out the multimedia presentation on Mitchell on the N&O’s website. Read the rest of this entry »

The Pit is Great, And They’re Open for Lunch

January 22, 2008

thepit.jpgThe Pit has now been open for nearly two months, and I finally made it there for lunch. Yes, that’s right, for lunch — they started offering the mid-day meal in the last couple of weeks. But others — many others — have beaten me to the punch. Greg Cox of the N&O has already visited and will be reviewing it shortly. Bob Garner‘s crew is editing his review for his television report. And I, after writing about it extensively (including my first ever post on VarmintBites), finally got down to Davie Street to see how good it was. Damn good is the answer.

For some reason, I was a bit skeptical of The Pit. Most of the early reviews were favorable, with a few high praises and one or two “no, thank yous” mixed in. I knew Ed Mitchell could cook a pig as well or better than anyone else, but I also remembered that his Wilson restaurant was plagued with quality control problems. Blame it on inattentiveness, bad management, or just lack of consistent turnover, but I had some pretty lousy barbecue at Mitchell’s. That’s why I was hoping, but not overly optimistically, that this partnership with Greg Hatem and Empire Eats would result in a quality eating establishment. Read the rest of this entry »

The Pit Opens Today

November 26, 2007

Ed Mitchell and Greg Hatem’s new venture, The Pit, opens for dinner today at 5:00. I just received a copy of the menu, and it’s an interesting selection. This most definitely is high end barbecue, at $12 a plate (including 2 sides). I don’t mind paying 50% more than other places if the quality is good and they continue to use hogs raised in a sustainable fashion. I’ve heard several people compare this concept with Danny Meyer’s and Kenny Callaghan’s Blue Smoke in New York, which is amazingly successful, and the prices here are about 30% to 50% less than Blue Smoke’s. I can see The Pit becoming a place where business people and politicians hang out. I really, truly hope it succeeds. I’ll have a report after I give it a try.

Anyhow, the menu’s after the break.

Read the rest of this entry »

Ed Mitchell’s “The Pit” to Open in November

October 29, 2007


I confirmed with Ed Mitchell and Greg Hatem that their new barbecue restaurant, The Pit, will open in Raleigh on November 26, the Monday after Thanksgiving. The new joint will be a high-end place in the old Nana’s Chophouse space and will initially serve only dinner, with lunch available in January.

I had a plate of Mitchell’s barbecue this past Saturday at the Southern Foodways Alliance symposium, and it was some of the best pork I’ve ever had. Plus, it was fun to see barbecue guru Bob Garner and Hatem working on Ed’s crew! I’ve always liked Mitchell’s barbecue, but I never raved over it. He often had quality control issues, with the barbecue being dry one day and overly sauced the next. Folks, Ed Mitchell has his act together, as the pork was tender, juicy, slightly smoky and just damn good. Every fan of slow-cooked pig should start marking their calendars for this exciting opening. The new website, which is not live yet, will be

A couple of my favorite photos

September 18, 2007

From the back of a pickup in rural North Carolina . . .


From the Skylight Inn in Ayden, NC. One of the hardest working men in the BBQ business.


Ed Mitchell To Open Barbecue Joint in Raleigh

September 12, 2007

ed-mitchell.jpg As I posted earlier today at eGullet, Ed Mitchell, the famed “Pitmaster” of eastern style North Carolina barbecue, has a deal in the works with local developer/restaurateur Greg Hatem to open a new barbecue joint in Raleigh. Gourmet’s “Diary of a Foodie” was filming a segment on Mitchell in his hometown of Wilson, NC on Monday. It will be interesting to see how things work out, as Mitchell is still involved in litigation regarding his previous restaurant.

Mitchell is certainly a great promoter and he can make some mighty fine barbecue, and I hope his partnering with Hatem will give him the business expertise that he always lacked. Mitchell is a flawed businessman and readily points the finger at others for his failings. And Hatem hasn’t always had a great relationship with chefs, as evidenced by the toxic break-up with Ashley Christensen. Regardless, Raleigh could FINALLY be a barbecue destination. I can’t wait for that.


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