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Blues And Barbecue: A Natural New Orleans Pairing

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Chocolate and peanut butter, Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan and The Saints and the Superbowl are all matches made in heaven. Blues music and barbecue are no different, which is why the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation made the natural pairing into a three day festival featuring the best barbecue and blues musicians to be found in New Orleans, or anywhere for that matter.

GoNOLA RadioPete and Jenny Breen, owners of the Bywater barbecue restaurant The Joint, recently named one of the top 20 in America by Huffington Post, joined our hosts to talk about their delicious smoked delicacies. Hosts Lorin Gaudin, Mikko and George Ingmire pick their brains on all things barbecue and the New Orleans music scene. George takes a look at all the amazing blues musicians performing at this year’s Crescent City Blues and BBQ Festival in Lafayette Square from Oct. 12-14. If you’ve never experienced this soulful, harmonious pairing, don’t miss your chance at the wonderful New Orleans festival!

GoNOLA Radio is a free New Orleans podcast hosted by Sunpie Barnes, Lorin Gaudin, George Ingmire and Mikko about the food, music and culture of the Crescent City. Subscribe to GoNOLA Radio on iTunes or download to your mobile device on Stitcher. GoNOLA Radio features music by Cale Pellick.

Podcast Transcript:

Sunpie: Welcome to GoNOLA Radio. My name is Sunpie Barnes; I will be
your host of hosts as we explore New Orleans to learn about the
city’s rich cultural heritage, food, and music. We bring you
experts, the real deal experts, who will talk with you about the
people who make New Orleans such a wonderful place to live and
visit. It is GoNOLA Radio.

Miko: You know you are going to be at a party and someone is going to ask
you, ‘Do you know what barbecue means?’ It is French for
barbeque, which means they cook it ‘from the beard to the tail,’
and they will swear to God that this is the meaning of barbeque.
Folks, I am here to tell you the real meaning right after I
introduce the show.

My name is Miko. Welcome to our GoNOLA feature on blues and
barbeque. We have blues expert, George Ingmire.

George: Hello.

Miko: And barbeque expert Lauren Goden.

Lauren: Oh, no. No barbeque expert.

Miko: She is not going to take that credit.

Lauren: Food person. We have barbeque experts in the house.

Miko: Yes, we do, and we are very excited. We have been talking about you
guys all day today. We have Pete and Jenny Breen, owners of The
Joint, in the Bywater, glorious barbeque place that has brought
wonderful food. It was the first of a wave of really great
restaurants down there.

Lauren: It put the smile on the face of a lot of people, because New
Orleans is not really traditionally thought of as a barbeque
town.
Miko: It is not. It is funny because it is starting to come in, and we are
going to talk about that in a second. The real origin of the
word, I just learned this. I was one of those pretentious
people, you know what they say, ‘Ignorant people are people that
do not know something you did not know 10 minutes ago’, I am
like that. It was a Taine word, from the Indians of the
Caribbean meaning the framework of sticks in which they put the
animal on to cook it, and it was barbacoa, the Spanish borrowed
this word. Afre Ben, one of your favorite poets, Lauren.

Lauren: Yes, of course.

Miko: A very early female poet that you should know a lot more about. She
actually used the phrase, ‘Let’s barbeque this fat rogue,’ in
the 1600s. That far back they were using the word barbeque, in
the sense that we use it today.

Lauren: I have even heard a pirate connection to the word barbeque,
too.

Miko: Yes, there is, but that’s another one of those folk etymologies.

Lauren: Legend.

Miko: I will leave it to you kind listeners to go look on the internet for
other versions of the word barbeque. Here is the thing,
universally, barbeque is just delicious, and there are so many
different styles. I am afraid to talk about them because I do
not know anything about them, that is why you are here Pete and
Jenny, welcome.

Jenny: Thank you.

Pete: Thank you. It is nice to be here.

Miko: Tell us, why barbeque? Why you are doing barbeque and not gumbo and
po’ boys.

Pete: I guess it was the absence of a lot of barbeque in New Orleans,
combined with a vacant building in our neighborhood, and a soft
job economy.

Miko: Jenny, when you were getting into this, were you a barbeque lover?

Jenny: I liked barbeque. I cannot say I was nearly as familiar with it
as I am now, but yes. It has been a great learning experience,
and now I do love it.
Miko: I am sure today, we are going to get into all the differences: Kansas
City, Texas, Maine, and Vermont barbeque, I do not know what all
the types are. The couple Breen here, either one of you can
answer, are you finding that New Orleans is developing its own
barbeque style, or do you find that people like one type over
the other? What is your experience of that?

Pete: As far as New Orleans having its own style, I do not know. There are
ingredients here that are something like an andouille sausage
that is only south Louisiana. Beyond that, the barbeque that we
saw here was like the second line tradition. At the street
parades, a lot of people cooking chicken, Double D Hot Sausage,
and ribs, too, frequently over direct heat with some wood
involved to introduce the smoke flavor and a relatively thick,
sweet barbeque sauce.

Lauren: In fact, in that area where you guys are, I have even tasted a
tiny bit of cinnamon, like, some spice in that sweeter style of
barbeque, and the sauce is not a dark burgundy, it is more of a
brick color.

Pete: I think that is right. It might be Caribbean flavor.

Lauren: Very fascinating and really interesting to eat, and it is just
beautiful.

Miko: There is wet barbeque, dry barbeque, the rubs, the sweet kind, and
there is the kind they put whiskey. Do you find that in New
Orleans, we are coming to be aware of more of that, or do you
think that we are going one specific direction? What do you
think about that?

Pete: Maybe there is just more styles available now, in town. We have
always found ourselves on the side of if we are going to smoke
the meat for a long time then let us have the opportunity to
taste it first without sauce, and then introduce that as an
accent.

George: I want to talk about the two sauces they keep on their table,
over at The Joint.

Lauren: Absolutely.

George: There is talk about them. One has got a Carolina vibe and the
other one is not a Carolina vibe.

Pete: One of the first barbeque places that really opened my eyes was an
eastern North Carolina-style thin, vinegary pork barbeque. The
first time I had I said, ‘Wow. That really is an incredible
flavor.’ It really does not overpower the meat and really
compliments the pork, so we imitated that in our sauce that we
offer. Then we wanted to offer a tomato barbeque sauce, as well,
a more traditional, something that people are more familiar
with, but we wanted it to be more balance than what you would
traditionally see in a grocery store, which is heavy, thick,
sweet, and have it a little bit tangier, a little bit of spice
to it, and also some sweetness.

Lauren: George, I do not know about you but for me, The Joint, when it
was the original place on Poland, there was that whole Bacchanal
connection for me. You would sit out on a Sunday evening at
Bacchanal, which is still where it is and of course, Joaquin
Rhodhiss, a fabulous chef doing his own thing now. Before all of
that, you would go get your food from The Joint, bring it over,
and sit in that and listen to music and eat this beautiful,
smoky, tender delicious food. The scent always just wafted over
to other people, and then they had to go make their run for
their food, and that was just so special to me. Did you have
that experience, too?

George: Absolutely. When I think of The Joint, I also think of music
because of your jukebox over there and your participation in
local events, ranging from Chazfest.

Lauren: Fabulous.

Jenny: I love Chazfest.

George: The Wednesday between the weekends of that other big festival
Then there is the upcoming Blues and Barbeque Festival of which
you guys have been a fixture. There is something that, blues and
barbeque go really well together. It is a southern thing, it is
all about soulfulness, the food itself that you prepare has time
and soulfulness put into it. It is not cooked quickly. You get
up early and you . . .

Lauren: Low and slow, baby.

Jenny: It is not fast food.

George: Low and slow, and therefore, it falls off the bone, and it has
a flavor that you wouldn’t get hitting it with really high heat.

Lauren: You know what else, too? It still has a little toothiness to
it, which I think is really a hallmark of proper barbeque.

George: Yes.

Lauren: Is that it is not just dripping off the bone, like mush.

George: It is not brittle.

Lauren: There is still a bite and a pull that was required, that, I
think, is gorgeous. The Joint was named by Huffington Post as
one of the Top 20 barbeque places in the county, and there is a
reason for that.

George: Yes.

Lauren: We also need to talk about where they have moved to. I
mentioned they were on Poland, but that is not where they are
now.

George: No. You have moved, but you brought your jukebox. I keep going
back to the jukebox.

Lauren: Going to the jukebox, I am sorry. I am on the food, you are on
the music.

Miko: Do you actually eat when you are there George, or do you just put
money in the jukebox?

George: I eat, drink, listen to music, and I talk to people I love.

Pete: The jukebox has been with us since the beginning.

Jenny: Yes, it is our little baby.

Pete: It has been up and down, and we had to send the laser off to New
Hampshire to get it repaired, we got it back and reinstalled it.
It has some good days and some bad days.

George: Don’t we all.

Jenny: It has its own . . .

Lauren: Can you tell us where the new place is though, so that people
want to go hear the jukebox and eat the love.

George: Yes, eat the music. I was about to say, eat the food.

Miko: There is your next bumper sticker.

Jenny: The music is also delicious; the music is also very yummy. We
moved 4 blocks from our original location to 701 Mayzant Street.
It is on the corner of Royal Street, which also runs into the
quarter, so a lot of people are familiar with Royal. It is a
block closer to the river so we have a beautiful river view, see
the boats go by and the calipee comes by. We love it there, it
is a lot more comfortable. We have a lot more space, primarily
for us, our cooks and our storage, but it is also a lot more
comfortable for the customers, as well. Everyone just has a
little more elbow room, it is huge.

Miko: I was thinking about the whole blues and barbeque thing, trying to
connect it, and it dawned on me that when you go to the Waldorf-
Astoria in the old days to see an elegant band play, Glen Miller
Music or something, and they give you caviar and champagne
because that was the milieu that you were in. Blues music came
out of these sheds and shacks all up and down the Mississippi
delta, and of course, any conscientious club owner might want to
offer food, barbeque, smokers, To this day you go out into the
swamps of Louisiana, I ride the crew the Mardi Gras out there
sometimes, and they have the smokers going. That smoker is older
than I am. They got a pig probably older than me in there,
certainly heavier than me, in the smoker.

I was thinking that they went together in a way . . . because
New Orleans, of course, was a coveted place to come to if you
were a blues musician in the day, you are playing Oxford,
Mississippi, then you come down and you are in Vicksburg, and
you end up in New Orleans. I like to think that maybe that is
how this idea of country cooking, the barbeque cooking came
along, although I do not think that is really the way it
happened, but I am going to romanticize it. The Joint is filling
that, what is the word I want, beaucolic, old school musical
food niche in the Bywater.

Jenny: Thank you. That is nice.

Miko: It is carrying over an interesting and wonderful tradition.

Lauren: George mentioned that they are such an instrumental part of the
Barbeque and Blues Festival, which is amazing. It is so much fun
because there are so many restaurants that are involved, in
addition to The Joint, that are doing their thing. You got
[inaudible: 10:36] Sausage doing their thing out there, Lucy’s
Retired Surfer Bar, and Fat Hen Grocery. Chef Shane Pritchett
does a lot of his smoking outdoors and that kind of thing. You
got Walker’s Love at First Bite, they do that [inaudible: 10:49]
po’ boy, that is famous at that festival.

George: That big festival.

Lauren: That very large one. Then Praline Connection, they stick it out
there. They do their grilled chicken drummettes and some greens.
That festival is food heavy and really music rich.

George: Yes, it is a good time of year to start eating that heaviness
again, to get back to that. You guys mix it up; you have some
lighter stuff, also a great salad with the smoked tomato. I want
to just say that the salad with smoked tomato dressing is great
over there. The Blues and Barbeque Festival this year is
exciting because it starts with one of my favorite locals,
Luther Kent, who was recording at the age of 14 under the name
Duke Royale.

Lauren: He is awesome.

George: He is one of the most soulful people I have ever met, amazing
singer. It actually wraps up on Sunday with Clarence Carter, who
I just heard in Johannesburg.

Lauren: Wow.

George: It is like he is bringing right here to New Orleans. Lots of
great stuff in between all that, Ernie Vincent, who does the dap
walk, everyone knows him for the dap walk, and Little Freddie
King.

Lauren: I love Little Freddie King.

George: He has got a North Mississippi blues sound. It is more
cyclical, it has more like hooks than it is straight 1/4/5
blues. He is just an interesting guy. I see him all the time in
the neighborhood, he is actually on my block. He has nice
clothing, he is in a suit on a bike riding around.

Lauren: Always.

George: His zoot suit, on a bike.

Jenny: Very stylist.

Lauren: A zoot suit?

George: Yes.

Lauren: That long jacket does not get in the way?

George: I do not know how he does it.

Miko: That will be a Jazzfest poster one year, you watch.

Lauren: Yes. Johnny Sansone, who is also an amazingly soulful person.
Spencer Bowren, who is always on tour, it is nice to have him
back. Amade Frederick, the Creole bluesman who caught me by
surprise; somebody people really need to see.

I am wondering what it is like while you guys are out there
cooking. You got to be enjoying the music too, it is not just
serving food.

Pete: Sometimes you hear the music, sometimes you get so busy that you do
not even realize it is happening, and you miss somebody you
wanted to pay attention to.

Jenny: Sometimes you look up and, yes.

Miko: Is it a blur for you?

Pete: It can be. It is a busy event, it is probably our biggest event of
the year now, it has become.

Jenny: Yes.

Miko: That is good. No showdown with Charice?

Pete: Not yet.

George: It almost sounds like Cajun chorizo, the spelling of it.

Lauren: That is.

George: Really?

Lauren: Charice is the French version of chorizzo, it has those very
interesting spice.

George: It is so good.

Lauren: They make theirs at Crescent Pie and Sausage Company; Bart
Bell, the chef.

Pete: He does a great one.

Jenny: Bart’s is so good.

Lauren: His is amazing charice. Yes, you get to taste his stuff, too.

Jenny: Bart’s is really good.

Lauren: Yeas. I bet yours is fab.

George: You guys across the city, that are in similar industries food-
wise, have communication, which is something I find interesting.
I do not think that is the case everywhere. It is happening in
Brooklyn, there seems to be a collaboration between restaurants,
but there is a communication between you guys, is there not, in
terms of . . .

Jenny: Definitely.

Pete: Sure.

Jenny: Bart is one of our great friends.

Pete: Bart is a guy we have known for a long time, long before we ever
thought we would go into the restaurant business, we were
friends with Bart.

Jenny: We all help each other out if somebody has got a man down or a
smoker down.

Miko: Smoker down.

Jenny: With us and Bart, we have definitely helped each other out
many times at festivals, or otherwise.

George: Talk a little bit more, we talked about your connection with
the music world, but you actually have musicians come in there
to eat at the place on a regular basis, you go out and see bands
too, when you are not cooking food, getting up, at 6:00 the
morning or earlier, to cook.

Jenny: 5:00.

George: You are sleeping 4 hours, between listening to music and
getting up to cook, so you are part of the music scene as much,
not just because of your jukebox, right?

Jenny: Right.

Pete: Correct.

Jenny: We love going out to see music when we can. We do have a lot,
our neighborhood, as you know is filled with food service
people, musicians, and artists so everybody is coming in and
supporting each other.

Lauren: There is this mad love in town for barbeque. When you guys have
a chance to breathe and go out, do you try the other barbeque
places in town?

Jenny: Sometimes you just get a hankering for it.

Lauren: Yes. It is amazing how many more have come out. We got Nola’s
Smokehouse, Avenue Pub, and McClure’s and I just saw that
Saucy’s is now on Magazine Street. Do you have any place that
you are willing to share, that you really like to go back to
over and over again, that is not your place?

Pete: Of those places, McClure’s is the only one we have had the chance to
go to. It is funny actually, Neil McClure is, I believe it is
his stepfather, is actually a business partner with Jenny’s dad.

Jenny: They are in Pensacola.

Pete: They run an architecture firm in Pensacola.

Lauren: Always the way.

Pete: We enjoyed his food a lot.

Jenny: Yes.

Lauren: Yes. Neil is doing a beautiful job.

Jenny: He is doing a nice job.

Pete: Yeas. We are waiting eagerly for him to open up his new place.

Lauren: Absolutely, hoping for some brick-and-mortar of it. We still,
everybody loving to come to The Joint, going to the new spot,
digging in, and loving every minute of it.

Miko: Make sure you check out the links, not only to The Joint, but to the
Blues and Barbeque Festival.

George: Exactly. JazzAndHeritage.org/Blue-Fest, or just go to
BluesAndHeritage.org and you will find a link on the homepage.
It is October 12th through the 14th, 2012. Starting on Friday,
October 12th at 5:30 and ending on Sunday evening around 8:00.

Laura: Where?

George: If you are coming into town, this is in Lafayette Square Park,
right by the streetcar tracks. Sometimes you actually you hear
the bell of the streetcar or the brakes of the streetcar in the
background of the music. It is a great feel.

Miko: It reminds you where you are.

George: It is open to the public, I guess we can actually say free,
because this is not a public radio station like I am used to
speaking on, where you cannot say free, but you can say open to
the public. This is free, that means no money, but that also
means bring an appetite, bring some thirst. Do not bring a
cooler or a lunchbox. Enjoy the great food, meet the people that
are cooking the food, enjoy the great music, and meet some
really cool people along the way.

Lauren: Remember that the festival is free, but you bring some cash to
pay for your eats.

George: Exactly. The food, the charice is not free this year?

Pete: The charice will not be free.

Miko: Damn.

Jenny: Maybe for you.

Miko: On that note, this has been exciting because I got to meet two of my
heroes that I have not met before, but I am glad you are on the
show. I cannot wait to go back to your fabulous restaurant. We
have also come up with some new t-shirts for you, one that will
say ‘Mon Charice Amor,’ we thought that would be good. ‘Smoker
Down,’ you have to make that into a t-shirt, and I am sure we
can come up with a couple others. Pete and Jenny Breen, of The
Joint, thank you so much for being with us today.

Pete: Thank you for having us.

Jenny: Thank you so much for having us.

Lauren: This was a smoking episode.

Miko: I get the bad jokes on this show Lauren.

Lauren: Sorry.

Miko: We will let you have that one. Lauren, thank you. George, thank you.

George: As always.

Sunpie: GoNOLA Radio is a production of New Orleans Tourism and
Marketing Corporation, in conjunction with FSC Interactive.
Music by Kale Pellet. My name is Sunpie. Tune in next week by
subscribing to GoNOLA Radio on iTunes or GoNOLA.com.