Blog: Brisket King of NYC 2014
With the potential of another winter storm on the horizon, visions of piping hot smoke arising from perfectly marbled burnt ends brought hundreds of hungry revelers to a new venue on Wednesday night, to once again crown a king. The Brisket King of New York City has become a fun and competitive event in recent years and with 2014 being the most intricate one yet, the festivities were ushered away from Santos Party House right up the street to a larger space to accommodate a wider selection of frenzied eaters. The Firehouse, a historic fire station at 87 Lafayette Street was transformed into a multi-room haven for food lovers with the sights and smells (and the sheer number of people) inside resulting in a complete sensory overload for the flurry of guests in attendance.
The winter’s most anticipated meat event is one unlike any other because of its focus on such a perfect singular item for colder months. The three hour tasting featured an array of beers, wines and spirits to wash down more than a dozen different briskets sourced from hundreds upon hundreds of pounds of tender meat. Entering shortly after the 6pm start time, and “Brisket King” was already in full swing, noticeably packed with attendees. Methodically, we sought out some of the shorter food lines to fill up on until some of the lengthier waits in the narrower rooms subsided. Ironically, the first tender slice of brisket called out to us as soon as we removed our coats- and it was among the most anticipated participants of the entire evening. Any fan of New York City barbecue will tell you that Hill Country ranks up there with the City’s finest and their thick hearty strip was smoked to perfection doused with a squirt of their BBQ sauce which bled onto three chilled slices of cucumber that accompanied on our plates. Brooklyn ‘cue haunt Mable’s Smokehouse was just a few feet away doling out perhaps the evening’s most generous portions of fat-laden, charred brisket which we- in true caveman style- eschewed forks for and dug right in hands first.
With a few samples already hitting our empty stomachs, we grabbed a few beers courtesy of Smuttynose and Lagunitas (Czech style “PILS”) and we welcomed Michigan’s Bell’s to New York City for the very first time, a beer that we’ve long been waiting to reach the east coast. Aside from the many pours of suds, there were plenty of tables filled with different spirits seemingly at every nook and cranny inside The Firehouse. Bourbon from Four Roses and Angels Envy, Scorpion Mezcal and Lucky Player Vodka all proved to be viable alternatives to the mix of beers and each brought out some differing taste elements from the uniquely prepared briskets.
Because of the arrangement of different rooms, we’d be remiss to not mention that there were some bottlenecks inside of the venue resulting from the sea of hungry eaters and the number of people that attended this year’s event. The coat check area seemingly filled up immediately and many guests were forced to hang on to their large bags and big coats which at times proved problematic for others who struggled to find ample space to comfortably eat. But the fare being served by each table more than made up for any frustrations in movement and more often than not, the dishes were each worth the wait. Some of the more noteworthy entries into the competition included Tchoup Shop‘s hearty “Brisket and Gravy Biscuit,” Dear Bushwick’s “English Brisket” smeared with an apple onion marmalade, Beast of Bourbon’s “Brisket Taco” with peppers, onions and a creamy remoulade, and Le Rivage‘s perfect for winter “Beef Brisket Bourguignon” with bulbous potatoes and carrot slices. Hometown Bar B Que brought out a thick slice of smoked meat atop a halved cheddar biscuit topped with chopped white onions, while Kutsher’s Tribeca’s “Brisket Topped Latke” was among the event’s most distinctive showings.
In all Brisket King of NYC announced three winners for 2014. The “Best Traditional Smoked Brisket” crowned Fletcher’s BBQ of Brooklyn its King with their “Chili-Rubbed Brisket with Sugar and Spice Jalapeno,” while the “Best Non-Traditional Smoked Brisket” went to Duck’s Eatery, whose thinly sliced “Six Month Aged Smoked Brisket” was unlike anything else served on this night. Finally, “Most Innovative Brisket” was awarded to Mokbar, whose “Nori Taco with Pulled Brisket” paired sweet brown rice and cucumber kimchi on a plate and was perhaps the evening’s most buzzed about dish. In the face of these pitmasters and this BBQ royalty, we bow in servitude to their mastery, for we are but mere peasants in the company of these kings of the brisket. Though the space was jam-packed, each bite was an exercise in mouth-watering decadence, presented by some of the most inventive culinary minds in New York City.