|Daisy May's BBQ|
Cuisine: Barbecue , American
Menu: View the Menu
Before sitting down to dinner at Daisy May’s last week, it was important to go through my checklist: Surgical gloves? Check. Bib? Check. Stack of napkins? Check. Wet Naps? Tongs? Check. Check. Ponytail holder? Yup. Light, loose summer dress? Got that too.Review By: Andrea Strong
Okay, I was ready. And so were the fifteen or so other friends that had gathered with me for the Big Pig Gig, a new menu of gargantuan cuts of meat—whole or half suckling pig ($200/400), smoky pulled pork butt ($120), and a full rack of American lamb ($95), all prepared by chef/owner/barbecue legend Adam Perry Lang, a guy who honed his chops at Guy Savoy and Daniel and ended up deciding he’d rather spend time with his head in a smoker than his hand on a sauté pan. I am happy about this decision. His ‘cue is spectacular. But more on that later.
First, the logistics. The Big Pig Gig is a commitment. You need to order everything two days in advance (other than the lamb that must be ordered by 5pm the day you want to eat it.) You must come at eight pm. That is when dinner is served, because that’s when the pigs are ready from their eight hours in the smokers. You will be served in a bare bones wood paneled dining room set with three long rows of picnic tables under bright (unforgiving) florescent lighting. There is little service at Daisy May’s. It’s not that the place is inhospitable, quite the opposite. There’s love and pig in equal amounts. Lang and his staff—Chris and Jeff—are eager to make you comfortable, but this is not four star dining. This is whole hog pig out. If you want a soda or water, you go up to the counter. Don’t sit there and wait for someone to ask what you want to drink. Just get up and get it. Speaking of beverages, Daisy Mae’s is BYOB. So you will have to bring your own beer or wine (or beer, wine, and bourbon as we did) and your own cups and your own corkscrew. Daisy Mae’s is BYOB and cannot even facilitate the service of alcohol. If you want to keep stuff cool, bring a cooler too, or just drink fast.
The night we were there, the A/C had gone out and it was hotter than a horse’s, well, you get the idea. I was glad I remembered my ponytail holder because my hair functions like a heater in summertime. I pulled it all back and up, then dressed myself in a full-length plastic apron, and pulled on my surgical gloves. I felt like I was about to do some sort of exam on a large animal, not eat one. It was fairly hilarious, all of us sitting there sweaty and smiley and suited in Latex like human prophylactics. We fanned ourselves with paper plates as we drank cold beer and passed around the bottle of bourbon that Adam and David, my friends from the Thrillist (www.thrillist.com, a great site if you have not checked it out yet) had brought along. The heat was stifling at first, but soon we adjusted. Plus it made it feel more like a barbecue somewhere in the deep South, which added to the drama of the evening nicely.
Every dinner in the Big Pig Gig begins with the platters of Texas Toast—big triangles of fluffy brioche rubbed with roasted garlic—sliced watermelon so sweet and juicy we thought it was rubbed with simple syrup, and a vat of unusually (and wonderfully) zesty cole slaw. The arrival of the pig is next and it is quite ceremonious. Two chefs bring it out, carrying it out like royalty on a large wooden slab, and place it gingerly on the table with a ramekin of flaky sea salt and a tub of barbecue sauce that is thick and rich—mustardy, spicy, and just a little sweet. If you are squeamish about heads, snouts and tails, you might want to address those issues in therapy before dining at Daisy May’s. A few people I invited actually declined to come because they could not bear to see the pig so close to its natural, once living form. I find this attitude unfortunate.
First of all, what about those lobsters people have no difficulty eating? But beyond that, if you are going to eat animals—if you are not going to commit to a life as a vegetarian—you might as well get next to that animal and honor it and face the fact that something—this suckling pig—lost its life so you could eat it. It’s almost more insulting to say, I will eat a pork chop but I don’t want to eat it if I have to know that it came from a real pig. To eat a pig in this whole form, head, tail, oink, all of it, in my opinion, is the most respectful way to eat an animal. Many will disagree, I know. But if you are not going to be a vegetarian, if you are going to partake in the world of the carnivore, then face the pig, and love it while you eat it.
Anyway, those who will come will find the pig is a glossy beauty with a deep amber caramelized skin like spun sugar, crispy on one side, glistening with fat on the other. Underneath the skin, you will find the most succulent juicy meat you have ever gotten your little fingers on. And you will use your fingers. You will wipe the sweat from your face as you pull tender moist morsels off the shoulder, the ribs, the loin, and cheeks. You’ll pause, eat, drink, smile, and repeat. You will be happy.
To supplement your pork diet, you will have sides. (Every pig comes with two sides in addition to the slaw, toast, and watermelon.) Lang’s baked beans are smoky and creamy and stocked with hunks of bacon. I particularly liked the creamed corn, which was sweet and firm and tasted fresh from the cob. The candied sweet potatoes were a bit too candied for my taste, though I did love the creamed spinach, a sort of soufflé texture that was intensely spinachy in flavor: less cream, more green. As we were pulling off pieces of pig, the pork butt and the lamb arrived. (Yes, we had lots of leftovers.) The pork butt is prepared with a recipe that scored Lang a blue ribbon at the American Royal Invitation (the world series of barbecue in Kansas City). I would like to say now that those folks at the American Royal are smart people indeed. This butt was blue ribbon material all the way—smoky and tender and not the least bit dry, with bits of the crispy skin tossed in with the lovely ropes of pulled meat. It is served with a mustard based barbecue sauce but it begged for nothing other than a mouth to feed. The American rack of lamb Lang does in half or whole rib racks should be awarded some other prize like the best lamb in the world or the lamb medal of excellence, or something along those lines. I have never tasted anything this good. The rib chops are smooth and buttery but with a nice amount of texture and chew. Lang smothers them in a rich spice rub that coats the ribs, giving them a complex second layer of spicy flavor. If I may, I’d like to insist that you have the lamb. You wont regret it.
Adam passed me the last few swigs of bourbon and I shared with Kiri. Alas, we were now drinking straight from the bottle. We are such classy chicks. I sat back in my chair, pulled off my gloves with a snap, and surveyed the scene. It was fairly hilarious. We were all reclining in our plastic bibs/aprons, mopping sweaty foreheads with napkins. The bottle of bourbon was drained and laid on its side. The empty beers bottles were piled up on the table. Watermelon rinds shaped like wide smiles were chewed free of fruit. Crumpled wet naps and tossed off greasy surgical gloves topped empty paper plates. And then the fifteen of us seemed to collectively sigh and reach for our swollen bellies, realizing in unison it seemed, that the pig was done, and so were we.
Neighborhood: West 40s
Chef: Adam Perry Lang
Entree Price: $15-20
Payment: Amex Visa Mastercard
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