The logistics were managed much better this year than last; pitmasters were spread out on Madison Avenue between 23rd and 26th Streets, they took cash at each booth (so you didn't have to queue up to buy food tickets beforehand) and the restrictions on how many plates each person could purchase were lifted, within reason.
We went with a group of nine people, got the lay of the land and immediately devised a strategy. Carrie and I got into line for Ed Mitchell's whole-hog North Carolina 'cue and each bought several sandwiches for the group. (A minor quibble - no sweet iced tea or lemonade on offer. Oh, well.)
Others in our merry band got in line for Texas-style brisket and barbecued sausages, two kinds of ribs (one with a dry rub from a Memphis crew and one with a wet sauce--"St. Louis style," from an Arkansas group), and some surprisingly good smoked pork shoulder from a Mississippi-based team.
We got into line at noon on the nose, the declared opening time for the Block Party, and got sandwiches made with Mr. Mitchell's 'cue about forty-five minutes later. Sandwiches, water and wet-naps in hand, we circled back into Madison Square Park and met our friends by the bandstand, where we assembled our Barbecue Tasting Menu.
A good time was had by all, and we all got plenty to eat.
I cannot recommend the following strategy highly enough:
- Go early.
- Bring bottled water, napkins and sunscreen with you.
- Go with a group, split up and then assemble your own tasting menu.