People will argue over the proper way to enjoy 15-year-old Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve bourbon. Some say it’s best in a tulip glass, neat, while others insist on sipping it cold over a single chunk of ice.
The truth is, Pappy is best enjoyed as a slug taken straight from the bottle while standing in a cloud of smoke from a barbecue pit, preferably one overlooking a lazy Lowcountry creek dappled by the setting sun.
That was proven Thursday night at Boone Hall when Sean Brock and the team from McCrady’s welcomed Daniel Humm and Will Guidara to Charleston. They’re the executive chef and general manager, respectively, of Eleven Madison Park in New York, and the event was a celebration of their second cookbook, I Love New York: Ingredients and Recipes.
It’s been an eventful year for Humm and Guidara. Back in the fall, they ditched their restaurant’s a la carte menu and replaced it with a four-hour, $195 prix fixe tasting parade. The move raised plenty of eyebrows and drew a few choice brickbats from critics, but after a few adjustments, it’s garnered them plenty of rave reviews as well, including landing them in the number 5 spot on Restaurant Magazine’s much-discussed list of the World’s 500 Best Restaurants.
But there was no pastrami or Long Island duck in sight Thursday night. Their focus may be on opposite sides of the Mason Dixon line, but Brock and Humm share a deep passion for local ingredients and traditional preparations, and Brock rolled out a bang-up Lowcountry feast to welcome the Yankees.
It started with a Lowcountry boil brimming with heads-on shrimp and whole blue crab, dumped in a cloud of steam on a long table so hungry diners could dig in. Barbecue king Rodney Scott was on hand, too, cooking a whole hog on a mobile pit borrowed from the Jim ‘n Nick’s boys, fired by a steady supply of coals from his signature burn barrel.
Scott’s been a busy man lately. He’d spent the previous weekend up in New York City himself, wowing the cityfolk at the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party. He got started for the Boone Hall event at 6 a.m. that morning, and the next day was going to pack up and head to the Bonnaroo Festival in Tennessee, where he would cook pigs with the Fatback Collective.
“This is amazing,” Daniel Humm said as he sampled a fingerful of pork pulled straight from the pit. “I’m just hanging out and taking it all in.”
As the setting sun sent long beams of orange light slicing through the haze of smoke from Scott’s pit, Brock broke out a bottle of Pappy, took a slug, and then began circulating it around the guests gathered under the trees and out on the cotton dock.
That’s how it’s done in the Lowcountry, youse guys.