September 30, 2014
"You're killing me!" Susan Orlean wrote to BBQ Pitmaster John Markus; she was on the other coast, which meant missing another spectacular dinner at his house.
I, on the other hand, was more fortunate. And as the evening approached, things got better. And better still.
"The Maysville guys are coming to cook," John wrote a week ago. "Don't bring anything." And then, in a final email a few days later he added, "They're bring bubbly, whites and reds, so don't bother bringing wine." What he neglected to mention was the Pinhook Bourbon they also had in tow.
It was an amazing meal. It started with these oysters, cooked on hay, topped with brown butter and shallots. I'm not a big fan of hot oysters. Let me amend that: I've never been a fan before. But these – briny Island Creeks – were perfect. Hot shells, but inside them the oysters were still firm, just lightly warmed so that the flavors really popped. Amazing.
This is the chefs, Kyle Knall and Micah Mowrey, cooking chicken beneath a brick on the uberWeber. (The largest Weber grill I've ever seen, it was a gift from Adam Perry Lang.) The chicken, incidently, was remarkable; tender, smoky, and served with salsify. It actually stood up to the brisket, which I would not have considered anywhere within the realm of possiblity.
Many different kinds of wood were employed in the smoking of the meat; John has an entire library of woods, and he can tell you why you want to use each one. We talked. We nibbled cheese and fantastic Maysville-made charcuterie. We sipped chilled tomato soup, still sweet, but with the slightest hint of tartness, a reminder that we're on the brink of fall. The light began to fade.
We sat outside – Indian summer – completely magical. The food was so abundant it's hard to recall every bite. I remember smoked trout. That amazing chicken. Delicata squash, surrounded by leaves, topped with shards of cheese. And this wonderful tangle of flavors:
extraordinary beans, all local,
And this, another vegetable medley: farro, herbs, salsify, carrots, and remarkably sweet beets.
Grilled peaches. And then, of course, the brisket, the deckle rich with fat, the flat smoked to a gorgeous ring:
Even now, two days later, I can recall the way the smoke infused each bite and how the meat seemed to literally melt when it was in my mouth.
Afterward there were many desserts, including a chocolate concoction somewhere between pudding and mousse. And then this, which pushed the entire evening over the top:
It was a perfect evening, at summer's edge. A few months from now, when snow is covering the ground, it is this night that I'll remember.
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