Ontario St., Albany, 438-7675, eatmypork.com. Serving Mon-Thu
11-8, Fri-Sat 11-10. Cash only, ATM available.
price range: $3.50 (quarter chicken) to $22 (full rack
barbecue revolution con tinues. We of the innocent Northeast
grew up believing that barbecue was a verb, an activity that
took place over a grill fired by fluid-impregnated charcoal
briquettes (developed by Henry Ford as a byproduct of Model
T production). Alongside the endless parade of burgers and
wieners appeared chicken parts, slathered in sweet sauces,
and ribs of pork or beef. With the proper know-how, you can
grill chicken and ribs into excellent meatstuffs. But it’s
not, applying the word as a noun now, barbecue.
Sample the pulled pork at Capital Q Smokehouse for a taste
of the real thing. This is meat as tender as it can get, yanked
off the pork shoulder (in butcher’s parlance, the butt), served
with or without some manner of sauce. Its tenderness comes
from many lingering hours over not-too-hot wood smoke, enough
time to require day-in-advance preparation. When your local
barbecue joint confesses that it’s out of this or that meat,
it’s another sign that they’re making the real thing.
Such was not a problem the day we visited Capital Q Smokehouse,
the little eatery in the Ontario Street space once occupied
by Emil Meister’s Market. There were ribs, there was brisket,
there was pulled pork. And there was a parade of tasty side
dishes to round out the meal, all of it fulfilling a dream
of chef-owner Sean Custer.
love cooking fine French food,” he says, referring to the
years he spent in New York and other cities purveying fine
dining, “but barbecue is more fun.”
Capital Q quietly opened in September, and word quickly spread
among aficionados. I was stymied a couple of times because
I couldn’t get it through my head that the place was closed
on Tuesdays—but that has changed now (nothing to do with me),
and the place operates every day but Sunday.
You can see the small-market legacy in the eatery’s railroad-flat
layout. A service counter dominates the front room, where
a very few seats sit by the picture window. Have a look at
your side dishes, sweating over steam behind a display glass.
Mashed potatoes, collard greens, sweet potatoes candied with
maple glaze, rice and beans, macaroni and cheese and fried
okra are among those offerings; rich cole slaw, French fries
(regular spuds or sweet potatoes), hush puppies and cornbread
also are offered.
Buy your meal by the plate (which in this case means a large
Styrofoam container) and you’ll get cornbread, cole slaw and
your choice of another side thrown in, and you can add yet
another for just a buck.
Pricing on those plates makes it easy to do so. A pulled pork
platter ($7.75) presents more meat than you should consume
at one sitting, or so I told myself and then disobeyed. Because
of the lengthy cooking time, the meat can’t be coated with
anything that will burn, so it’s a dry rub of aromatic spices
that enhances the delicious smokiness.
The default presentation puts a tangy vinegar-based sauce
alongside the meat, North Carolina style, and there’s also
another Carolinian sauce that incorporates mustard into the
brew. Custer is an Oklahoman, and salutes that state with
a ketchup-and-molasses-flavored sauce, the kind of sauce with
which we’re most familiar.
I wish I could name a favorite. I wish I could find within
myself the food-critic fussiness to pass so particular a judgment.
But I’m such a fan of variety, and the sauces are so well
seasoned, that I can only recommend you try each one and delight
in the differences.
The palate is proving to be a more complicated flavor gatherer
than was once thought, and the recently acknowledged fifth
sensation, umami, only supports the need for a good sauce
to be kinetic. As it rolls along the tongue, it hits every
one of those receptors, hits it with a snap and takes over
your mouth for a good, long time.
There’s less of a dance from the meat alone, but the slow
process of smoking spreads the fat content, and fat on the
palate provokes a wonderful prolongation of flavor. Although
it’s leaner than pulled pork, the richness of Texas-style
brisket ($7.75 on a platter, $6.50 on a bun) will linger,
so try it first without the sauce.
Most of the meat is available by the platter ($8 or so), as
a sandwich (about $7) or by the pound. There’s chicken, of
course, available in different sizes; St. Louis-cut ribs (the
brisket bone is removed); moderately spicy chili; chicken-fried
steak; and even cornmeal-breaded catfish. And be sure to try
the house-made garlic pickle.
Custer lucked into a space with its own built-in smoker back
behind the kitchen, a to-die-for assembly that allows him
to prepare many, many pounds of meat at a time—so chances
are you’ll find whatever it is you’re craving whenever you
stop by. There’s an easygoing charm to the place exemplified
by the laid-back owner, who finished a chat with me by declaring,
with a laugh, “But it’s not life or death here. It’s just
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
World Home Cooking Co.
(Route 212, Saugerties) hosts its annual Mardi
Gras bash tomorrow (Friday) and Saturday (Feb.
1-2) with an oyster-rich menu, live music and
more. Among the offerings: shrimp and sausage
jambalaya, crawfish étouffée, gator gumbo, creole
veggie and pecan pasta made with fresh fettuccine,
orange glazed duck with dirty rice, blackened
catfish with Louisiana Béarnaise and oysters on
the half shell, oysters stuffed and baked, oysters
fried with Creole roasted pepper tartar sauce.
Friday’s music is by Crawdaddy; Saturday
dance to Captain Squeeze and the Zydeco Moshers.
The music runs from 9 to 11:30 both nights. There’s
a $5 cover for non-dining guests. Call for reservations:
845-246-0900. . . . Remember to pass your scraps
to Metroland (food at banilsson.com).