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Ellen Descisciolo

Smoke ’em If You Got ’em
By B.A. Nilsson

Mo’s Bar-B-Q
107 Mill St., Troy, 266-7227. Serving Tue-Sun 10-10. MC, V.

Cuisine: smoked stuff
Entrée price range: $6 (half chicken) to $19 (full rack o’ ribs with extras)

Ambience: humble
Clientele: people who know

Barbecue is the great Amer- ican dish. The tradition of slow cooking over a low temperature first took hold in the South, probably in North Carolina. Four regional styles developed: Carolina, featuring pork butt (shoulder), with vinegar-based sauces; Texas, where beef brisket is found alongside pork ribs, and they’re glazed with sweet-sour sauce; Memphis, home to ribs and shoulder served with thick, sweet, tomato-based sauce; and Kansas City, with a menu similar to Texas but a more pungent sauce variety.

Too often in the North we’re likely to slap some meat on the grill, slather bottled barbecue sauce on it and think we’re eating the good stuff. We’re not. True barbecue, the stuff that falls off the bone and onto your shirt, needs to cook for many hours.

Perhaps it’s the long wait that has inspired all the craziness that surrounds the stuff. There are impassioned cook-offs—the largest was in Memphis in May, but you still can attend the National Championship Barbecue Cookoff in Texas on Aug. 23, where they hope to top last year’s event in which over 195 cooking teams competed for $17,000 in prize money.

The passions connected with barbecue, its sauce and side dishes, spark like fireworks. Perhaps that’s what drove Paul Connally insane—as he’s quick to so characterize himself. After 25 years selling auto parts, he plunged for the first time into the restaurant business, and in that most specialized niche: barbecue.

Connally came back to his hometown of Troy after spending several of his car- business years in Florida, where he also “got the hang of barbecue,” he says. “It’s always been a hobby of mine, but down there I really got into it.” He also learned a wider range of sauces, including Jamaican jerk seasoning, taught to him by a woman who had cooked for Chris Blackwell, Bob Marley’s record producer—“So this was a sauce that Marley also tasted and enjoyed,” Connally says.

Bringing a hint of Jamaica into the barbecue is totally appropriate to the way such flavors grow and evolve, and it’s nice to think that this confluence is taking place in as unprepossessing a place as Mo’s Bar-B-Q.

Open for eight months, Connally’s tiny restaurant perches on a side street in Troy’s south side, not far from Hudson Valley Community College. It’s humble. Inside, you squeeze into one of a handful of tables, and it’s Connally himself whom you’ll probably see, unless his girlfriend (who makes the coleslaw) is helping.

The menu, as befits a barbecue restaurant, is simple. If you really need a starter, skip the commercial stuff like the jalapeño poppers and go for some chicken wings ($4.50 for 10). Smoked chicken wings, which gives an entirely new dimension to their flavor. You get your choice of sauces of varying spiciness—or barbecue sauce, of course.

The entrées come à la carte or as dinners, the latter netting two side dishes and corn bread. In each case, the dinner costs an additional two bucks. Here are the à la carte prices: A half-rack of ribs is $10, a full rack $17; half a chicken is $6, or add a half-rack of ribs to that for $14.

The ribs speak for themselves. They’re slow cooked, and the sauce is pungent. Whatever Florida influence Connally received came by way of Kansas City. The chicken has a good rub of seasonings, and I recommend the half-and-half.

Side dishes ($1.30 each by themselves) include French fries, sweet-potato fries, onion rings, macaroni salad, coleslaw and baked beans. The last two are my favorites. Where the coleslaw isn’t overly sweet, the beans are, a big taste of molasses and sugar complementing their flavor. (“My sister makes those,” says Connally. “She won’t tell me the recipe. When I’m about to run out, I call her.”) Corn bread does what it’s supposed to do.

There are cheaper dining options, and that’s where the unsung star of the show comes in. The pulled pork is the result of slow-cooking the pork butt and then plucking the meat from the cooked-to- submission bone. Mixed with a vinegary sauce, this is as good as barbecue gets, and pulled pork sets up nicely as a sandwich ($3.50; add 30 cents, and you really should, for coleslaw).You also can get sandwiches of pork tenderloin, barbecued beef or chicken, all in the $3.50 range, as well as those wretched atrocities called chicken fingers, the mucilage of dining.

“My smoking equipment is on the second floor,” says Connally. “It’s state of the art, keeps a constant temperature. I typically smoke the meats over hickory or apple or both.” He can get up to 250 pounds of meat at a time into his smoker, which hasn’t been required yet—but I’m sure that situation will change as his restaurant catches on.

Click here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.


TABLE SCRAPS

The Saratoga Wine Exchange (Spring Street, across from the carousel in Congress Park) will host a wine tasting tonight (Thursday, Aug. 14) from 6 to 9 PM to benefit the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation. Some of the wines that will be offered are: Rudd Jericho Canon Red 1998, Turley Zinfandel Old Vines 2001, Kistler Chardonnay 1999 Dutton Ranch, Robert Foley Claret, Guigal 1999 Hermitage and Allegrini Amarone 1998. In addition, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars and Glenora Wine Cellars will be on hand to pour selected offerings. Light hors d’oeuvres will be provided by Black Diamond Catering. Admission is $50 per person with all proceeds payable to the TRF. Tickets can be purchased at the Saratoga Wine Exchange (580-9891) or the Saratoga Race Course information booths, or by contacting the TRF at (800) 728-1660. . . . Remember to pass your scraps to Metroland. (food@banilsson.com).

—B.A.N.

(Please fax info to 922-7090)

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