Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Tang Isn't Just for Astronauts

Pierce's Pit-Cooked Barbecue
Williamsburg, VA

Believe it or not, it's just an urban legend that the drink Tang was created for Astronauts.

It was actually created in 1957, but it didn't "blast off" until 1965 when General Foods Corporation was able to brag that NASA astronauts used it in Gemini Space Flights -- only the second human spaceflight conducted by the Federal Government.

Regardless, I'm a fan of tang.

Being Suit69, that includes ALL kinds of tang.

And that "tang-y" flavor you get from most types of Southern barbecue is one of the major reasons I enjoy it so much.

The tang flavor comes from vinegar.  And vinegar is a chief ingredient in all barbecue sauces.

Just check those bottles in your fridge.  Even your super-sweet KC Masterpiece includes the stuff.

Being in southeastern Virginia, I was ready to chomp down on some good old-fashioned tangy vinegar-based barbecue.

While today, it's commonly known as "North Carolina-style" barbecue, it's really the first American barbecue, originating in the colonies of southeastern Virginia and eastern North Carolina.

Virginia just ended up losing out on the naming rights.

It came about "back in the day" when colonists in the area realized cows couldn't take the high heat and humidity

So they started raising pigs.

They slow-cooked them to break down the fatty/gristly parts of the meat in outdoor pits, using hickory wood -- which was very plentiful -- to cook them.

Once cooked, the meat was served with "English ketchup," a concoction featuring mainly vinegar and red pepper flakes.

Of course, at that point, colonists were under the impression tomatoes were poisonous.

Believe it or not, some folks in this region still claim they are.

To barbecue.

I'd heard an awful lot about Pierce's and was really looking forward to trying it when I found I'd be able to squeeze it in for a late lunch in the middle of a long day of traveling.

Located near colonial Williamsburg, a prime tourist destination, their fame has grown over the years, so I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

My choice for a meal was easy.

While they had ribs and chicken, I was there for the pulled pork.

I ordered the "J.C. Special" which included a pulled pork sandwich with slaw, fries, a sweet tea (which they actually had -- and fresh brewed too!) and a chocolate chip cookie.

All in all, it rang up to about $8.  Not bad.

Taking the sandwich back to my table, I noticed the meat was a reddish orange color.

While that's definitely a departure from traditional NC-style barbecue, I didn't think anything of it.

Many barbecue joints have started "coloring" their NC-style 'cue with Texas Pete -- which is actually made in North Carolina.

Texas Pete is really more or less just a slightly hotter and more condensed version of NC-style sauce, so no big deal.

But one bite revealed something totally different than what I was expecting.

There was smoke there, but in place of the drop-kicking I was hoping my tastebuds would get from a vinegary tang, there was just sweet.

Lots of sweet.  Lots and lots of sweet.

And what ever Yankee was in charge of the tangy flavor, must have been playing astronaut that day.

In fact, I could have eaten the cookie as my meal and had the sandwich for dessert.

But even though it wasn't anywhere near what I was expecting, it was still good.

It just required about a half a bottle of Texas Pete to fix.

The fries were just ok, as well.  They were big crinkle cuts and needed salt.

The best part of the meal was the sweet tea.  In fact, I had a couple of refills.

Based on it's location -- and what I'd heard -- I thought Pierce's Pit-Cooked Barbecue would serve up some impressive NC-style barbecue.

It didn't. But it was still pretty good.

But they've definitely taken the colonial out of Williamsburg.  And you have to bring your own tang.

Rating:  Would Wear the Shirt if it Were Free

1 comment:

  1. Should of ask your MIL on Pierce's, stopped by there once wanting NC BBQ chicken, got breast laid on a plate with bbq sauce poured over the top. The only way I'd go back there were if it was free and I had no where else to choose from.