This was our first time at the Big Apple Barbeque Block Party which takes over the streets surrounding Madison Square Park for 2 days with pitmasters from all over the country. This is one of those events in the past that would have seemed like a horrendous idea to us with small kids (long, long lines and huge crowds), but we were graciously invited by Southern Living, who sponsors the event, to check it out this year and we’re so glad we did.
We were a bit disoriented when we first got there because it was so crowded and we didn’t have a plan, not to mention we didn’t really know who any of the Pitmasters were. BBQ is serious business and we aren’t too familiar with that world. Mark just jumped on a random line with the kids (Pappy’s Smokehouse from St. Louis) and then found a rare empty bench inside the park. He then went with Claudine to wait on another long line at Shake Shack to get her some food (C doesn’t like BBQ and ironically, the line at Shake Shack was longer than the line we were at waiting for BBQ. But you know what – after surviving those Disney World lines for 4 days, we are like Masters of the long line waits). I sat on the bench with Mia enjoying our ribs and beans…and oh, those beans from Pappy’s! I could have eaten a whole bucket of those beans. So sweet, so smokey, so spicy. As we were sweltering in the sun waiting for Mark and C to get back from Shake Shack, saving the bench so they could have a place to sit while they ate their food, I suddenly remembered I had access to a VIP pass. Duh. This is how totally unsophisticated and clueless I am about comped passes. If it wasn’t for Mia needing to use a bathroom and all the porta potties that we could even locate being roped off in the paid Fast Pass holder line, I’m not sure I would have even claimed the VIP pass. But man, am I glad we did! We entered a private fenced off area with lovely wicker lawn furniture under shaded trees and tents. An open bar! Complimentary food! And private porta potties! The girls were thrilled to wear VIP passes around their necks, so much so that they wore them to school the next day. I guess it doesn’t take much to impress this family…
At 4pm we moved on to the Alabama Gulf Seafood No Bone Zone, which is essentially all you can eat Gulf oysters and champagne. I have a small limit to the amount of meat I can consume, but I can eat raw oysters like nobody’s business. I can’t recall whether or not I’ve had Gulf oysters before since most of the oysters we eat seem to come from the Pacific and Northeast, but these were quite good with just the right amount of brine that you want in an oyster (ok and I admit that I am all about the condiments on raw oysters…and on most food). By the time we left the No Bone Zone, the crowds had thinned and some of the pitmasters were starting to break down their booths, enabling us to get a closer look at some of the contraptions and machinery they brought with them from their home states. Like I said, I’m no BBQ connoisseur, but I really enjoyed watching them at their craft and interacting with the crowd. They clearly have a lot of passion for what they do.
Full disclosure: As mentioned above, we were comped access to the VIP area, as well as the Alabama Gulf Seafood No Bone Zone by Southern Living. Oh, you know how I feel about doing sponsored things and this is only our 2nd comped event that I’ve accepted yada yada yada…but…free oysters! In all seriousness, thank you to Southern Living for a lovely summer afternoon! Thank goodness the weather cooperated and we were spared the apocalyptic level rains that bookended the weekend.