RALEIGH — It was a day of good old-fashioned Southern grubbing made all the more beautiful by the universal gift of giving to those in need Saturday in North Raleigh.
A husband and wife team who hosted a BBQ Festival at Lafayette Village wanted to raise $1,000 for the Raleigh Rescue Mission, but by early morning they had eclipsed that goal and tickets to the event sold out.
We sold out in an hour, said Cindy Jones, who co-owns the Savory Spice Shop with her husband Bob Jones. So far we have raised $1,250. A lot of people wanted to bless (the Rescue Mission) over and beyond.
It was an unlikely juxtaposition: a daylong festival at an upscale shopping mall thats fashioned after an Italian or French village to benefit the homeless in Raleigh.
The 100 people who purchased the $10 tickets sampled pork shoulders that had been cooked overnight by eight teams, and then cast their ballots for their favorite samplings.
Bob Jones went home late Saturday morning after a meeting with the eight competing teams, which began cooking at 11 p.m. Friday. He was up soon after daybreak and back at the cook-off with coffee and bagels for the teams.
He was putting up signs for the event when a lady motorist stopped to ask him what was going on.
I told her we were having a barbecue festival to raise money for the rescue mission and she said, Can I just make a donation?
The woman, still in her nurse scrubs after working an overnight shift at a hospital, went inside the mall to an ATM, came out and handed Jones $100 in cash.
She said, Im a single mother here by the grace of God. I looked at Cindy and we both choked up, Bob Jones said. What an awesome way to start the day.
By early afternoon, the event was chugging along nicely. A trio of acoustic guitarists provided musical accompaniment and a vendor offered cold drinks to wash down the food and give respite for the days temperatures.
Gregg Kinney is co-owner of the Olive Wagon, a Lafayette Village shop that offers more than 47 varieties of olive oils and balsamic vinegars. Kinney had fashioned a tray that enabled him to hand out free samples of sun-dried tomato and parmesan olive oil and a rather exotic vanilla and orange balsamic vinegar.
You can drizzle it over ice cream, he said about the vinegar.
Along with ballots cast by ticket buyers, the festival featured a celebrity panel of judges that included Johanna Kramer, author of The Food Lovers Guide for Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill; Jan and Rich Campana, who are the creators of Dimples BBQ Sauce; Wendy Perry, food stylist for Our State magazine; and celebrated pit master Christopher Prieto.
A squat, happy-faced porcelain piglet sat on the table of the Evel Cue Nievel team.
Thats my lucky charm. Its from my daughter, said team cook Jeff Smith, who used what he described as a hybrid sauce that contained vinegar, that Eastern North Carolina barbecue mainstay, to bring out the flavor of his meat. But he also relied on other sauce combinations.
Im from Raleigh, but Ive learned to appreciate other styles, Smith said. I grew up on vinegar-based sauces, but Ive learned to blend other styles.
Cheryl Reinert, team member with the Row-dogs Rib Shack, stood in front of a table that had a centerpiece of Romano lettuce and Roma tomatoes. She patiently explained to ticket buyers the vagaries of the pork her husband, Rowland, had cooked for hours before allowing it to simmer over low heat in a pan of apple juice.
Rowland Reinert didnt say a word. But as soon as someone swallowed a fat sliver of his meat, he peered into their faces to gauge their reaction.
(Cheryl) talked me into doing this, Rowland Reinert said. I did my spice rub and injected the meat with about a quart of apple juice. I made my own sauce. Its tangy. A family recipe.
A few tables down, Phil Searcy, a team member with Phils Backyard Smokehouse, told the group sampling the pulled pork at his table to taste the meat before adding the sauce.
Taste that hickory smoke first, he said. The sauce is vinegar-based. Its got a little heat on it but not much.
Prieto, the award-winning pit master who hails from Wendell, used his thumb, index and middle finger to grab a morsel of the Boston butt that Searcy had cooked overnight to tender perfection. Prieto gazed at the meat offering as if it were a piece of art in a museum. Then he smelled it and stuck it in his mouth and chewed. Slowly.
The author Kramer, Prietos co-judge, looked on in silent admiration.
He was born with a rib in his mouth, she said.