BBQ - NYC: How was it?
Re: A message from BBQ NYC organizers
From: Ellen Horne, Cruise Director
Thanks for all the feedback, folks, glad so many of you had a great time and our sincerest apologies to those we disappointed. A major mistake on the beer and I take full personal responsibility for it. It was a bad mistake and I'm sorry. In the future, we'll rectify that.
As people have noted, tickets cost more this year. This increase was not motivated by greed or delusions of grandeur. It was a direct response to the surplus demand of previous years and to the increased costs of staging an event for this many people. We tried to accomodate more of the people who have gotten left on the waiting list in previous years. This price increase went straight back into the event, not into the organizer's pockets.
I just wanted to take a minute to point out a couple of things and correct some misinformation. We do take product donations...but not as many as some have suggested! The kind folks at Inkos, Jindalee Wine, Montana Legend (the grass-fed grain-finished brisket suppliers) and Dogfish Head made this event possible. We are not raking in piles of dough. In point of fact, we're still tallying the damage and weve still got our fingers crossed that well break even. With many people doing the shopping and buying ice, etc., this accounting takes some time. Just so that you know, in previous years, our Cuemaster, Travis, has lost money to feed us all this amazing 'cue. We hoped to keep that from happening this year.
Our largest expense? The rental of tables, chairs. And new expenses this year included: port-a-potties, special event insurance (required by the park for a group of our size and flammability), alcohol liability insurance (look ma, no more sneakin' in the booze at the organizers' personal risk), whole pigs, t-shirts, and storage unit for all of the supplies. We may have skimped in places (yup, the beer, sorry folks, again, my bad. We only got two kegs donated this year and only bought one...sorry!) but that was in the hopes of not busting the budget. And, many of you got a break on the meal ticket in exchange for volunteering...so that reduces significantly our income side.
If we have another event, well make sure to have two more kegs and were considering adding drink tickets to make sure that the alcohol is distributed more equitably. We agree that the salsa competition was chaotic and confusing -- without having ever done that before we didn't know what to expect. And if we can find some way to get around the restrictions on amplified music (which could cost us for additional permits/insurance) well try, but that alone is probably not worth a more expensive meal ticket. Does that sound right to yall?
Mostly I think the criticisms of the event posted on this site have been fair, even downright generous. Thanks to all of you who took the time to write. If we have a 2006 event, your comments will surely help us to focus and enhance the good, fix the bad, and focus on the meat, heat and beer.
A very mixed blessing and not a bargain at twice the cost of last years affair.
The good: The beautiful setting, the friendly and helpful staff, the excellent band who deserved to be better heard through amplification, the 300 old and new friends, and the plentiful, surprisingly delicious cole slaw.
The not-so-good: Pretty much everything else. By the time I reached the head of the buffet line, I found mostly empty trays of cold, tough, dry brisket, cold, tough, congealed pork, tasty sausage in a leathery casing, the aforementioned excellent cole slaw, memories of beans, and a rumor of pickles. The chicken suffered least, so I ate lots of that (and the fine salmon), but it was still not as good as last year, when it was served late, hot, and fresh. All the beer I could drink consisted of a single cup. The salsa tasting was congested but fun.
I had a great time, but not really because of the food. I believe that the organizers overreached.
It seems to me that this year's BBQ-NYC was bigger (and I thought better) because there was demand for it. I heard that there were over 100 people on the waiting list last year, and I think it's great that rather than have to turn that many people away this year the organizers tried to accommodate everyone. I wouldn't have wanted to be someone who missed out. You might say that's overreaching but dude they're volunteers, doing this for the love of fun and good 'cue. I saw them running around working their asses off, and a few of them have even posted here to say that they missed out on eats and had no time to really relax and enjoy. So to everyone who helped make this thing happen I say thank you. Great cue, nice location, and a fun day.
At $40 this year's BBQ-NYC was still a bargain even if you only got one cup of beer. People who say otherwise only further my belief that Chowhound has become synonymous with cheapskate. I hope the organizers don't get discouraged. You guys are performing a public service, and I for one am grateful.
Having attended last year's feast in Flushing Meadows, this year's BBQ saw a big drop off in quality. Here are the highlights
Volunteers - Gooooooooooooo Team!!!!
Location - Great site!
Alayne (Sangria Lady w/ smokin' body)
Great vibe of community spirit
Hot Links that exploded w/ flavor
Aprihop IPA - Dogfish head absolutely rules!
3 kegs of beer for 350 people - Basic party math is 1 keg = 40 people
No Nina W. - Did not see her and her pigtails.
Ridiculous serving process - If you blinked, you missed the line for food going from zero to 100 people
Cold food - Blame the wind
Brisket - Horrible, especially when cold!
The Flanks - the band needs to buy an amp so those more than 10 feet away can hear their groovy tunes
All in all, I will not be attending next year unless they scale back the attendance....I am willing to pay more per person, for a better experience.
re: The Guvner
re: The Guvner
I tried some of brisket when they were just starting to slice it and hand out samples over by the cooker and thought it was great. It didn't taste the same when it got to the serving line and cooled off, but was still good IMO.
I liked the peppery coleslaw, and there seemed to be an adequate amount of that. Running out of beer is really kind of sad.
As far as the amplified music, maybe the parks department has some regs prohibiting that and/or the generator that would be required.
this was my 2nd time attending the bbq and after a great time last year was especially looking forward to this year's bbq, so i volunteered to help out, which unfortunately made the whole experience less enjoyable for me. i volunteered for set up/clean up, but found myself running food and doing other things i had not expected, which meant i missed out on the salsa sampling and sausage and like others not enough beer. it was quite a disappointment for me not to be able to relax with the boyfriend and dog during the bbq. on a happier note, i did have fun with the other volunteers struggling to tape down the paper on the tables with the wind fighting against us, as painful of a task as it was i did get a good laugh with the others. suggestion for next year is to ditch the paper and invest in plastic tablecloth and clips to secure it down, since taping down the paper and sharing one pair of scissors among all the volunteers was a little crazy. also on a happier note, i enjoyed baking the cake and cupcakes. although another suggestion is to encourage (not mandatory since rules are no fun) more attendees to bring something to pass along, as i don't think there were enough contributions to sides and desserts and it definitely would not hurt to have more variety. overall, i love the whole idea. i think it's a great thing to have a large group of people get together for food and drink.
Were you under the impression that the organizers specifically asked for "deserts only" this year as opposed to last year when any and all side dishes were encouraged? Last year I brought some homemade roasted peppers, but I took it to mean they only wanted deserts this time around and then people ended up being asked to go easy on helping themselves to the available sides. I thought maybe the donated side dishes were looked at as a liability where someone could get sick with no refrigeration, etc., and too difficult to plan for.
Still this year was a great effort by the organizers and very appreciated.
re: Hal S.
hal- i was not under the impression that the organizers wanted desserts only. i baked a lot because i wanted to but i also brought a pan of marrakesh carrots as a side as a contribution to the bbq. i am sure if you brought more of your homemade roasted peppers it would've been more than welcome. i for one would've loved to try some, as i don't remember seeing it the year before.
I will say that I wish the salsa competition had been better organized. Perhaps the judging could have been done simultaneously with people sampling? I didn't try any salsas because it was just a mob scene, but I heard that by that time all the chips were gone anyway.
re: Chorus Girl
I'm sure that everyone has considered what kind of effect this kind of petty negativity has on the organizers.
No one is making a cent organizing this event, it was done out of a love for bbq. It takes hundreds of hours of precious free time... If this was the reward and you were doing it, would there be another BBQNYC?
No Profit? Then what is the cash breakdown for the event? I could be wrong and would love to be proved wrong but I figure that the "organizers" grossed around $14-15,000. The cooks made a few grand, and a grand here and there for permits, chair and table rentals, soft drinks... but all the beef (3-400 pounds and chicken(3-400 pieces) were donated, as was the beer and drinks... I think that the organizers netted $5,000-$8,000.
OK Abbilovi as you requested, here's my supportive comments.
First of all, I am one of the people who thought that this was the best of the three events. I thought the meat was great this year. Perhaps (being at the end of the line) we just hit what was perfect for the brisket and the pork, but I really doubt that we just lucked out.
People forget the pricing, it was $20 the first year, but it was $25 last year in Flushing Meadows. And the site this year was so much better than the first Randall's Island site and last year's Flushing Meadow one.
As to cost to the NYCBBQ people, how about the renting of all the equipment. The tents, the portasans (must have been big bucks), the chairs, the serving stuff, etc. And there were plenty of plates, cups, napkins, etc. that were lacking in the past.
Again, I think that this was their best event, although the beer flavor and amount was the biggest disappointment. And, as I said in an earlier post, if it had been normal August hot, the shortage of beer could have proved to be a disaster.
In any case, I am looking forward to the BBQ people doing this again next year and, if they could pull it off (indoors) for $40 or less with beer in November/December as they threatened, we'd be there with bells on.
"Petty negativity"? That comment says a lot about why this year's BBQ was far less successful then the last two.
How about a reality check? Now that all the comments are in the picture is pretty complete.
Last year's event was almost universally praised by everyone who went, not just the friends of the organizers. There was plenty of beer and the food was superb, all for the friendly price of $20, the same as 2003's event.
This year, with no explanation, the price doubled to $40. In exchange for this doubled price the food quality declined according to numerous posts. The "all you can drink" beer, the bizarrely selected Aprihop, ran out almost immediately.
As compensation, there was a salsa contest and a band. With all respect, the people came out for BBQ and beer, not salsa and music. If you don't get that right, nobody cares about the rest.
It looks like the organizer's earlier successes went to their heads. What else could it be? After all, it's not like they were doing this for the first time. Instead, they lost touch with what made the previous events successful and added things that didn't really matter. And they charged double the price.
Last year, when everyone was praising the BBQ, the organizers were glad to take the bows. This year, when there are numerous and well founded reports of dissatisfaction, it would be nice if they stepped up and assumed some responsibility instead of dissing their paying guests.
On the up side, maybe the problem really was with scale, and this will help "self-select" the right - smaller - number of participants for the next event. These kinds of things can only work up to a certain size in my experience.
People are just being (brutally) honest because they've paid $40 and had "paying-customer" expectations, and maybe having some of them say they won't be back isn't the worst thing in the world. There were plenty (majority it seems) who loved it, and at least at some other boards you'll read nothing but praise.
re: Sir Gawain
There's another element in all of this that hasn't been commented upon yet - and that is that the event is done in the spirit of guests at a barbeque. I'm sure that many have paid more than $40 per head at certain restaurants in NYC - BBQ and otherwise, had worse food and less drink, waited on line for hours for the "privilege," been crammed into tiny dining spaces, and declared it an enjoyable NYC experience. This event gave participants the opportunity to dine alfresco (rain or shine, but that's what makes a picnic), walk around freely, play outdoor games, fly kites, watch kids laugh, run, and enjoy themselves (and isn't that a wonderful image in view of those we have sadly seen in recent days), pet some friendly dogs, meet some nice people that they wouldn't have met otherwise, and generally have, IMHO, a "small home town" experience in the vast, often isolating, impersonal metropolis we know as NYC.
Heck. Where else could you have Yodels and Ring Dings for dessert and laugh with tablemates about the last time you had them as a child?
I had a great time. Events are what you make of them, and the spirit of this one, I feel, was the inquantifiable and uncalculable aspect that has not been fairly assessed...and at no extra charge.
Looking forward to next year.
THERE WERE RING DINGS?! NOW I'M PISSED. (although the bread pudding and brownies were excellent)
Seriously, I think you nailed it. For $40pp, we got a great day, food & company included. The specific criticisms that are constructive are, it seems, welcome & well taken. The other, mean spirited stuff is way off base & completely uncalled for.
Ah, yes...BBQ NYC, love it or leave it.
No one thinks twice about blasting the struggling restranteur who, despite pouring his blood, sweat, and tears, is likely LOSING money on his establishment. So please do get off your high horse.
The organizers did a great job, and I think that's reflected in the comments (certainly my own). But there was PLENTY of room for improvement, which is reflected in the comments, as well.
"No one is making a cent organizing this event"
Are the organizer's publishing a financial statement somewhere? I'd love to see it, because I don't beleive that statement. I've organized several (non-food) events in NYC parks. The permit is $25 or $50 for our events. Port-a-Pottys are $125 a day. Insurance? I didn't see any insurance certificates. Board of Health permits? None of those either. I thought that the whole reason for doing this thru "donations" was to avoid having this viewed as a business and getting the required vendor's permits and insurance. I've been told that if I hold a "party" in the Park that my homeowners and umbrella insurance would cover any liability claims (up to the limits of my policies, of course).
Restaurants all have many additional costs. They pay rent and taxes. I can go with 3 friends to Dinosaur BBQ and for $125 (tax and tip would bring it to $160, or $40 apiece) we'd get more food than we could eat. It would all be hot, they would have plenty of sides, no one would ask/expect us to bring anything, and they'd never run out of beer.
The question at the end was "If this was the reward and you were doing it, would there be another BBQNYC?" Of course I would.
I enjoyed myself, but won't go again.
1. Beer-not enough!!! I have had several interactions with Dogfish at events and am quite surprised they ran out.
2. Brisket--fatty was great. Lean was inedible.
3. Pork--wish it was just smoked and not in the saucy juice. In fact, it was tender, but it wasn't really smoky at all. Have made better smoked pork butt at home!
4. Chicken--tasty, but not really why I came.
All in all, we figured we could make our own at home,
buy brews from the store, and spend a lot less and enjoy the food more. The best part was really the location. Really nice to be outside. And the volunteers were great!
Being one of the volunteers at the food prep table, I wanted to offer a few comments:
Wind -- was a major problem, as you already noted. We did our best to maintain the heat via sterno cans (you might have noticed the tinfoil wrapped around the sides in an effort to protect and retain the heat) but apparently to no avail. Another minor (perhaps contributing factor) was that the grill was a greater distance from the buffet table than last year. So it seems nature was against us in this respect, although I'm sure the organizers would be open to suggestions for the future.
Sides -- Just from observation I think there were considerably less sides. If they have another event with this many attendees, I'd personally recommend a stronger emphasis on contributions from everybody -- perhaps even a requirement.
Of course "it's all about the meat" and that's what we're paying for -- but it's a picnic as well, so I'm sympathetic to those who missed out (I was among them).
Beer -- What happened? Was it the volume of people this time? Were there the same number of kegs as last year?
BBQ -- got the scraps (last in line), but hey, absolutely no complaints here, especially when they brought out the rest of the pigs to pick from at the end (best part). And I'm pleased that they brought out the sausage at the beginning this year.
The band, salsa competition, wine and complimentary Inko's White Ice Tea -- very nice perks, thanks for that as well. =)
Anybody else see those Chinese roasting boxes they prepared it in? -- Those were cool.
It was OK, but not worth the $40 each. Like the others, I found it inexcusable for them to run out of beer, and every other liquid by the end. Two porta-potties were totally inadequate, with 15 minute waits. 10 units would have been more like it.
They should have doubled the number of chairs, too.
It was a long trek from 1st Ave. and 106th St. over the footbridge, which was probably the shortest walk.
By the time we got there, at 5:45, the roast pig was gone -- only backbones left. Also, there were no more hot links, and only a few chinks of kielbasa. Again, we didn't get what we paid for.
I went over to the brisket carving table and got a bunch of burnt ends -- the best part. The large pieces of chicken were also quite good.
Only decent, and I don't think I'll do it again.
I'm still full!
This was my 1st time and I certainly ate more food and drank more tasy beer than I needed to. I usually don't drop $40 for 'cue, and definately thought I got my $$$ worth.
Funny thing about the comment on food temp. Typically, cold/lukewarm food is my usual complaint when dining in BBQ restarants. On Sat, I guess I enjoyed everything so much that the food temp never even crossed my mind.
The BBQNYC folks put on a fine event, especially considering they are all volunteers. Sure, the beer ran out a little quick but that probably was best for me, the lightweight.
Though, I was hoping at that point to switch over to the sponsored Iced Tea but that seemed to run out around the same time.
Perhaps next year they could stagger the Iced Tea and beer availability. That and a bit better signage are the only recs I would suggest.
THANKS AGAIN for a great event.
Thanks for all the responses. I had a great time last year, and I'm sorry to hear about the brisket. That was my fave, and I'm sure had I been there this weekend, I would have headed straight for that.
Do you think the bigger crowd compromised quality? Maybe it compromised quantity, since the beer ran out too soon. Think the organizers can get something going with Brooklyn Brewery?
Still wish I had been there. Glad you folks had fun!
First of all, I hope that the BBQ thread rests in one board. Either it should remain here or moved on mass to the Manhattan board. After all Wards/Randall's Island is in Manhattan.
I have attended all three BBQNYC events and thought that this one was clearly the best organized. Despite the wind, the weather was perfect and this was a very nice space on the island, a lot nicer than the site two years ago. We thought the meat was wonderful, the brisket juicy and the pork perfectly cooked. (Those pork smoker tubs are a wonderful contraption!) There certainly was enough meat for us. If it really was a bit cold, I certainly didn't notice it.
The donated stuff was a bit lacking, but heck, we didn't contribute anything, so why should I complain? We were on the back of the line, but did manage to get a bit of the wonderful baked beans and there turned out to be plenty of slaw. I agree that the beer was a real problem. Aprihop is a little too gimmicky for me. A nice Dogfish IPA like last year would have been a real pleasure. And running out of it before the food was served was a problem. If it had been the normal dog days of August weather instead of just being in the upper seventies, the shortage of beer could have been disastrous. As it was, it was only a mild disappointment. If BBQNYC does this again, they will have to beg Dogfish (or another brewer) for a bit more supply.
All in all, the staff was great, there were plenty of chairs, parking was much easier than predicted, and the two port-a-potties on site were a vast improvement from the past setups. Much of this cost money, and, I guess, contributed to the higher "donation", but I think they were worth it.
All in all, a very good BBQ afternoon.
I'm starting to think that luck played a big role in one's perception of the food. I thought the meats this year were superior to the first two years.
The brisket I had was outstanding, comparing favorably to the brisket I had at all three of the vaunted BBQ places in Lockhart and in City Market in Luling. I don't go to the event for chicken, either, but it was outstanding.
I did miss the S&W brats from the first two years, and although I prefer spicier sausages, thought these samples were wonderful for their genre, delicate and light. The pork seemed to vary for me. First trip through the line -- ehh. Second time, darn good. And then there was the pork skin.
There were two pound cake/bundt cake type desserts. One of them was sweeter with lemon, and I thought that was outstanding.
re: Dave Feldman
one of my dessert contributions was a bundt cake- tomato soup cake sprinkled with confectioners sugar- that i have never made before but i got the recipe from a great cookbook i had and figured it'd turn out decent. since you mentioned the bundt cake dessert, was wondering what you thought of the tomato soup cake. i didn't get to try it, so i have no idea how it came out. and don't worry, i take criticism well.
I thought it was very good, but not as good as last year. Pulled pork and chicken were fabulous, as was most of the brisket. Unfortunately, the first few pieces of brisket I picked were overcooked to the point of being inedible. Once I discovered the fatty pieces, however, my concerns vanished. Hot links were fabulous, though I missed the kielbasas(?) from last year. Shortage of sides didn't bother me--my plates were comprised solely of meat.
As others have noted, the strong winds seemed to cool down the food (and I was one of the first served). Also didn't help that they left the stuff sitting covered for quite some time. Also, running out of beer was inexcusable. As someone else noted, the wine was a nice idea, but not at the expense of beer. One thing I did prefer about this year was the location. While Ward's Island was not exactly convenient, it sure was easier to find than last year's spot in Flushing Park.
I love this event. I think it's very well organized, and truly appreciate all the effort that went into it by so many people.
That being said, I found the food disappointing. As Ron S. said, the sausage was excellent. However, I was there for the brisket, and I found it dry and cut too thin. The pork was a mixed bag. The first small piece I had was like a dry piece of roast pork--completely underwhelming, seconds I got some juicier "pulled" pieces, but not stellar. The fish was tasty, but not a revelation. I didn't try the chicken. I was surprised that they ran out of sides (e.g., beans, pickles), esp. things that are cheap. I didn't drink any beer, so that wasn't an issue, but for $40 . . .
re: Alex Halsey
They might have been counting on people to bring sides (as opposed to bringing dessert), so that might be poor planning. Can't explain why the Sterno didn't keep the food hot, but the brisk winds could have cooled things down quickly.
I thought everything was good, though the sausage was kind of greasy. Chicken was moist and I got a great piece of brisket. Later, they had the skin and bones of the pig available.
re: Alex Halsey
It's tough to review an outdoor bbq for over 300 people. I absolutely agree that the event was great, the hard work evident. I'm not sure I agree with the food assessment.
I, glutton as I am, had 3 plates of assorted meat and chicken, so I got quite an "overview". Depending on which trough (oops, line) and when, the meats varied considerably. There was some really great brisket in there (not that the rest was shabby)which was warm upon delivery and not cut too thin & the chicken was excellent. The pork that was pulled was absolutely my favorite food of the day, as it was moist & flavorful. The skin was also perfect.
Bottom line -- with the wind as it was, I cant see how anything could stay hot outdoors long enough to make it to a table. But, with the quality of the meat that high, I was fine (and very full).
By the way, I'm not much of a beer drinker or sides eater so that didnt really get to me -- I can see how it could be an issue to others. I'll go again next year.
I would have to give it a big "eh", as I just think it is too difficult to make quality bbq for so many people. I tried everything and everything was decent, sausage was excellent. But everything was cold. I'm not sure what the reheating process was but I couldn't get even a lukewarm piece of meat.
there was only one type of beer (as opposed to 2 last year), and it ran out by the time the food started. sangria is a fun idea but all you had to was look and see the line of 20 people for beer, and you know what the majority wanted.
live music was fun, but hard to hear unless you were sitting directly in front.
well organized, and ward's island wasn't too inconvenient.
worth 40 bucks? eh, if the food was warm and beer more plentiful definitely.
re: Ron S
It was my first time, so I have nothing to compare it to, but I had a blast. Sure, the salsa competition was a tad disorganized. (I actually had a decent sampling of salsa, mainly because I got turned around several times and went in from the "wrong," ie, shorter, side of the line.) But it was fun in a country fair kind of way. I am not a beer drinker, so I was perfectly content after two cups of the (delicious and not too sweet) sangria. The weather was gorgeous, if breezy, and I enjoyed my introduction to Ward's Island.
As for the food - perhaps I'm not discerning enough, but I thought it was tops. The hot links were snappy and delectable. I really loved the smoky and almost sweet brisket (though I hear there were some burnt ends about - would have loved some of those. Guess I'll settle for RUB). Chicken was tasty, as was the salmon (I preferred the darker one - smokier?) Funnily enough, the corn was one of my favorite things, so sweet! Volunteers were sometimes harried but always helpful and I think they did a great job. All in all, as a lovely, tasty outdoor experience, I had a great time and look forward to next year.