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Nov 3, 2006 06:49 PM

Barbecue... what are the best accompaniments / plating?

True barbecue can be downright sublime... but what do you eat with it? In my experience most eateries & people at home, tend to serve it with baked beans, cole slaw, potato salad & bbq sauces.... all items that tend to be sweet. On top of that... in the South they also serve very sweet ice tea.

Am I the only one that finds this combination of food odd? Does anybody else think that the sweet just keeps on building with no contrasts, no complimentary flavors... and an overall disharmonious crime against the sublime barbecued meat?

To be fair, I have encountered eateries that serve black eyed peas, collard greens, grilled vegetables & fresh watermelon. These I vastly prefer over the more commonly found sides.

My question is... does anybody else object to the more common pairings? Are there other side dishes that better compliment the various barbecues that I don't know about?

How about high end barbecue? Anybody know of nice restaurants that serve it... and what are their pairings?

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  1. high end barbeque is only found in somebody's backyard and haricots verts are not to be served unless they've been cooked in bacon grease for an hour. my personal beverage of preference is chateau coors; appelation golden, co.

    1. I don't like most of the sides you mentioned. With the bbq we eat, we have a homemade bbq sauce which is not sweet, just warm and spicy. During the summer we often have grilled corn as a side. When we have beans, they're not sweet either, usually they're spicy with cumin, onions and chiles.

      In winter (we bbq all year round thanks to an electric smoker) we'll have roasted potatoes or polenta. Or roast vegetables. Or stir-fried greens.

      I don't know what restaurants serve with bbq, the only places I've been to around Boston have pretty bad bbq so we make our own.

      2 Replies
      1. re: cheryl_h

        It would be great if you could post your BBQ sauce on the home cooking board. I, for one, would love to have a good recipe for a non-sweet BBQ sauce.

        1. re: niki rothman

          Sure, I'll have to get it out but I'll post it on HC board.

      2. what about mac and cheese and mashed potatoes?

        1. you forgot the white bread :-)

          I don't think of potato salad as sweet, unless it is made with Miracle Whip. Not all cole slaw is sweet either. There are BBQ sauces to meet various tastes. For example, the coastal Carolina sauce is quite vingary. Plus there are different notions of how sauce is to be served with the meat. Some think the meat should stand on its own, even without sauce.

          Isn't high-end bbq something of an oximoron? Not that highend restaurants can't attempt to cash in on it's popularity.


          10 Replies
          1. re: paulj

            How is high end bbq an oximoron? If people pay big bucks for a Filet Mignon... which is an absolute waste of a good chef's talent... why couldn't BBQ be elevated, since its preparation is light years more sophisticated than any dumb steak?

            1. re: Eat_Nopal

              I agree that good BBQ requires considerable skill, but its ingredients are decidedly 'low-end' - the least expensive, tough cuts (as opposed to the chops 'high' on the hog). The debate may have less to do with 'what is bbq', and with 'what is high end'. Is high end defined more by skill of the cook, or the cost of the ingredients. Can bbq be served as the 4th course of a 7 course meal on fancy china, or must it be served on butcher paper while seated at picnic table in a converted gas station?

              What is the right wine to serve with bbq?

              More relevant to the original question, are there 'high end' side dishes that would complement the meat.


              1. re: paulj

                The relative cost of various cuts of meat is entirely subjective. Up until some Frenchman created the Filet Mignon relatively recent... there was absolutely no demand for it. I like the Filet... its a nice cut of meat & I enjoy it... but it is way overrated & overpriced.

                I know you can come back with a supply & demand argument.... there is just not as many Filets you can cut out from a cow... as chuck steaks for example. But the oxtail is an equally rare meat & absolutely delectable for those in the know.

                The relative prices between a Filet & a an Oxtail are a complete reflection of the society's values & not any absolute grounded in some ultimate truth. As an example, the Oxtail... which in Mexico is a prized cut for high end Barbacoa & Mixiotes sells for about the same price as a Corazon de Filete aka Filet Mignon.

                In terms of what wine to pair with BBQ... I think Texas style pairs nicely with a Cabernet... Central Mexican Barbacoa pairs excellent with Rioja's & other fruity Reds. I bet Cochinita Pibil & Carolina style BBQ would pair very well with a robust, slightly sweet white like a Riesling.

                I know, I know... next someone is going to tell me that Rieslings & Riojas are not high end wines... blah, blah, blah. Again, just because some crazy English person 500 years ago decided that Bordeux are the most upscale wine (basically because that is what was readily available in England due to geopolitical relationships) doesn't mean that a Cabernet Sauvigon is automatically the most worthwhile wine.

                Contemporary Enologists have built an entire value code based on the assumption that the Cabernet has the most meritious qualities... but it is grounded on pure subjective, human values & has nothing to do with absolute reality.

                And the thing about subjective human values is that they can be challenged & changed... it happens everyday.

                1. re: Eat_Nopal

                  Since you mention Barbacoa, I think many Mexican or Tex-Mex side dishes would go well with Southern BBQ. I'd rather have a stack of good flour tortillas with my meat than slices of Wonderbread. I also prefer 'brothy beans' over baked ones.


                  1. re: paulj

                    OK, but American & Mexican barbecues are quite distinct & the American version deserves some good pairings. They don't have to be particularly high end... I love Central Mexican Barbacoa with a side of Nopales salad... the flavors just have to be carefully paired... and that doesn't require expensive ingredients.

              2. re: Eat_Nopal

                Real, good, pulled pork bbq is too time consuming for most restaraunts to add to the menu. Plus there is that redneck thing. (not saying it is a bad thing)

                1. re: atomicdogs

                  There are many things served at restaurants that are very time consuming... Tenderloin in Filo dough & Chile Rellenos come to mind... if we pay good $$$$ at a nice restaurant shouldn't we expect the highly skilled staff to pull off things with great effort & not just mickey mouse dishes like Filet Mignon with Mashed Potatoes that a caveman could pull off? (No offense meant to cavemen).

                2. re: Eat_Nopal

                  Having worked in restaurants, I think it's an issue of economics. What are you going to do with a mess of left over BBQ? It's not going to taste anywhere near as good the next day, so if you try to sell it as "fresh", people will think it's crap and your reputation will suffer. Sure, you can mix some in with baked beans, but how many people order baked beans in a high end restaurant?

                  One place I worked served very good prime rib, which you could order on or off the bone. Most people chose the smaller, off the bone cuts, which meant at the end of the day, we had 50 or 60 meaty beef ribs, perfectly cooked, left over. The solution was to take these, marinate them in a tomato-ey BBQ sauce overnight, and grill them for a few minutes the next night. You could get five of these "Keg Bones", plus a salad bar and a baked potato for $5.95 Canadian back in 1979! They weren't true BBQ by any definition but man, were they good!

                  1. re: KevinB

                    What to do with the leftover BBQ mess? How about better planning? Restaurante Arroyo in Mexico City seats over 2,200 concurrent & barbecues 100s of whole lambs each weekend, not including the specialty cuts like lamb shanks & oxtails... and they don't seem to have issues with leftovers.

                    1. re: KevinB

                      Restaurants price according to food cost, perceived ambiance offered and, ultimately, what the market will bear. Period.

                      As far as waste in BBQ, you could not be more wrong. BBQ can be reused even if sauced, it keeps well since it is usually smoked and the sides can be made ahead and served through a few days without risk of reduced flavor or it going bad.

                3. Cornbread or a nice buttery roll to sop up everything left on my plate.