Yesterday I drove with my coworker, Diana, to Sturbridge, MA, to sell books at the Harvest New England conference. We weren't entirely sure that it would be a financially successful day for the Odyssey Bookshop to be there, especially when we were told that our book table would be in the outer hall way where the registration table is, not in the exhibit hall (turns out our fears were misplaced). But as we were driving into town, Diana casually pointed out a BBQ joint, called B.T.'s Smokehouse, on the side of the road and allowed that she'd had good food there before, so I knew the day wouldn't be a waste of time, personally speaking.
When it was time to break for lunch, Diana picked us up two pulled pork sandwiches and a container of hushpuppies to go and brought the whole lot back to the conference hall, where the wafting scent of smoked pig attracted a lot of attention. Too bad for the rest of the conference attendees, who had to eat in the cafeteria instead! As a Southerner who has frequently bemoaned the lack of good BBQ in New England (up here in the Kingdom of the Yankee, they think "bbq" is a verb, not a noun), this sandwich was a revelation. Not only did it pass the important first step of not having any sauce on it (in real Southern bbq, the customer adds the sauce at the table; the meat should not come pre-slathered in sauce), the meat was piled high on a soft white roll, with lots of those crispy, blackened, caramelized end bits of the pork. Neither one of us could finish the "regular" size sandwich, not on top of those yummy, ever-so-slightly-sweet hushpuppies.
|Diana, waiting for our food.|
I knew that my dear but long-suffering husband would never forgive me if he knew I was that close to good BBQ but did not bring him any, so after Diana and I packed up at the end of the conference, and AFTER we stopped at the largest liquor & wine store in New England (an entire row of shelves with nothing but rum!) we stopped by B.T.'s to pick up dinner to go. It looks just like a BBQ joint on the side of the road ought to look-- diner-style comfort with not much to speak of in terms of decor, in order not to distract from the finest BBQ I've eaten in New England. The usual sides are there, like beans & slaw, but this place also has greens and cheese grits, and lemon sweet tea on tap. It's also the real deal, with two large smokers sitting in the parking lot. You can even top your meal off with an amply-portioned square of pecan pie or bread puddin'.
I know that B.T.'s also serves up beef, too, but I was so blinded by the pulled pork that I never looked beyond it on the menu. Guess I'll have to wait until my next visit to see what the rest of the menu holds, which might be sooner than I thought...My husband almost cried when he tasted the pork I brought home to him and asked if we could go back the next day. Maybe not tomorrow, but it will be soon. That 45-minute drive from our house ain't nothin' when it comes to a BBQ pilgrimage.
NB: I'd like to mention that this blog post title comes from a documentary called In Praise of the Pig that my old boss and friend, Robert Willig of Troubadour Books, made when he was a few decades younger. He traveled all over the US in search of the best BBQ. There was one particularly excellent and prolific area for bbq, and that's the point where Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee come together. He said at that point that he and his buddy could basically just roll down the windows of their car and follow their noses from one bbq joint to another.
|Not one, but two, smokers!|
|Bought this one for the fun bottle!|
|Bought this one 'cause it's amazing.|
I'd like to edit this post on 19 March 2011 to add that I went back one week later for lunch with my husband and my friend and we ordered randomly and widely from the menu: pulled pork sandwiches, Rueben brisket sandwich (I couldn't let down those folks who recommended it, could I?), macaroni & cheese, collard greens, cole slaw, and cheese grits and everything ranged from good to oh-my-freakin'-God. My husband and friend didn't care much for the lemon sweet tea, but that's okay. I liked it enough to down mine and theirs, too. Oddly enough the greens weren't fantastic, merely good, but everything else was excellent, most notably the beef brisket Rueben. We also ordered a side of ribs, a quart of pulled pork, some bread pudding, and a pecan pie square to go to have feast later at home, and again everything was excellent except for the bread pudding. The accompanying sauce, which tasted like caramel icing on a caramel cake, was good, but the bread pudding itself was too stale and a little too smokey in flavor to even finish. Since that Friday I've been thinking long and hard about the Rueben brisket sandwich. I wonder if it would be considered excessive to drive to out to Sturbridge every Friday to eat it?