Monday, July 28, 2008
On the road with Joltin' Django (part two)
I remember the first time I ate at Carl's Perfect Pig Bar-B-Que in White Bluff, TN. I was in college, and I was dating a girl whose parents lived just around the corner from the restaurant.
My girlfriend and I stopped at her parents' house one weekend whilst on our way to my Aunt's cabin on Kentucky Lake. We hadn't planned on staying in White Bluff for very long. When we got to her parents' house, however, her dad insisted that we go to Carl's Perfect Pig. The old man kept going on and on about Carl's "fantastic barbeque," so off to Carl's we went.
To make a long story short, I left that restaurant admiring the hell out of the barbeque served therein. I left the relationship with my little girlfriend - she was 5'1" and weighed maybe 100 lbs - wishing that I could keep hanging out with Daddy What's-His-Name every Saturday afternoon at Carl's. (Didn't happen, of course.) In the intervening twelve years, I went back to Carl's two times, the last time being in 2000. And each time I exited the restaurant, I said a silent "thank you" to the guy who took me to the place when, in truth, I didn't really want to go.
I was making 70 mph on Saturday when I passed Carl's Perfect Pig Bar-B-Que on my way back from McEwen. Don't really know what provoked me to do so, given that I was up to my eyeballs in Irish Picnic 'que and fixins, but I turned around and headed back to Carl's. I think it was 'cause "fantastic barbeque" kept rattling 'round my brain for two miles after I passed the place.
All of Carl's parking spots were filled when I turned into their lot. (What a great testament, n'est-ce pas?!) I parked in some nearby grass whilst trying to decide what my stuffed-to-the-gills self would order. I quickly said to myself, "I'll get a pound, sample some when I get home, and eat the rest for lunch tomorrow." I did get a pound of 'que, but I didn't just sample the stuff when I got home. Oh, no, I opened the tub and dug right in.
First thing I noticed when I opened my tub o' Carl's was the fact that it was pulled pork. ("Hoo-ray!" I says to myself.) When I order barbeque, I don't want the chopped-to-smithereens crap you get at places like Whitt's. Just pull it off the shoulder with your fingers and then serve it to me. That's all I ask; and 'tis just what the folks at Carl's did to the pork they served me. [Sidebar: Tony Neely, proprietor of Neely's BBQ in Nashville, once told me that folks in Memphis prefer chopped pork, and folks in Nashville prefer pulled pork. Neither he nor I could come up with an explanation for such.]
Second thing I noticed 'bout Carl's 'que was the visible chunks of pork skin peppered throughout the pound I'd purchased. You don't find that at many barbeque restaurants these days. Indeed, most joints pick over their meat like a monkey and discard anything that even hints of texture and/or flavor. I'd eaten, maybe, two bites of pulled 'que before my teeth met a crunchy bit of pork skin. What an unexpected treat. It was almost as if I'd been treated to a bit of fried pork skin right there midst my very few bites of smoked meat. Oh, my!
So how did Carl's pulled smoked pork shoulder taste? Good. No, groin-grabbingly good. And you can quote me on that. I always judge smoked pork by how well it tastes sans garnishment. That is, is it just as flavorful without sauce as it would be with (or "wit," as they say in Philadelphia)? In the case of Carl's 'que, it is. It's smoky, and spicy, and juicy, and it needs no garnishment to make your taste buds sing.
And sing my taste buds did when I ate me some Carls' at 10 p.m. Saturday. I was really too full to be eating again after my two-pound-plate lunch, but I simply had to eat me some Carl's 'que before it went into the refrigerator. I sliced me a tomato, put some Carl's on a plate, and put just a tad of Irish Picnic sauce on the whole shebang. This's how it looked:
Damn, damn, DAMN it was good (apologies to Florida Evans). And damned if it wasn't the first thing on my mind when I awoke Sunday! Lunch did finally roll around, 'bout 10 a.m. Yes, I ate barbeque for "lunch" on Sunday at 10 a.m. Enjoyed every minute of it, too. If you'd been here, you would've enjoyed every minute of it, too.