Weekend Take-Out: From the Sublime to the Ridiculous
Okay, we get too much take-out. I know it. I feel guilty about it. Not that guilty, though.
Saturday night had me craving rice balls and red sauce. Our favorite place, Carlo's, usually doesn't have rice balls, but I figured their red sauce was good enough to squelch two cravings. Coincidentally, one of their appetizer specials (always ask for their specials, people!!) was rice balls (made with clam risotto, I was told). Okay, sounds interesting. I'll go for it. Oh, my. Unbelievable. Gorgeous. Expertly made, lightly fried, crunchy outside, creamy inside, and every friggin' grain of arborio was perfect. Made with love. They came on top of a freshly-made marinara, almost a pomodoro. I haven't been able to get them out of my head. I told them so. Twice.
Then Sunday night rolls around. My son is craving BBQ pork. I suggest pulled-pork sandwiches from Ribs on the Run in Yonkers, which are usually okay (way too sweet, but I tart mine up, literally and figuratively, with a little cider vinegar and sometimes some mustard). Granted, we hadn't ordered those sandwiches from them in about a year, but we had ordered them on-and-off for about, oh, 8 years. I mean, how much can change?
My scavenging dog was next to me when I opened my sandwich box, so I figured, let me find a piece of meat to give him now so I'll have a good minute or so to eat without feeling selfish. When I took off the bun, the first thing I noticed was that the meat was not shredded. It was a mix between chunks and flat, thin slices, cut with a knife rather than "pulled" from the shoulder. The second thing I noticed was all of the white bits. White bits? Yes, otherwise known as bone. It seemed to me that they had cut the ends off of ribs, bones and all, and put them in the sandwich. The third thing I noticed was all of the unrendered fat throughout the meat. Long strings of fat. I have to say that it was one of the most unappetizing-looking sandwiches I've ever seen. My son, who eats like a vacuum, had already realized that much of the sandwich was inedible and had pulled out the offending pieces of "meat." He showed me, and more than half of the filling of his sandwich was left over.
I called them. I said, "When did you change the pulled pork sandwiches?" They said they didn't. I said they weren't pulled pork sandwiches. They were chopped spare ribs with the bones left in. "That's how we always make them." Uh, no, it's not. It's usually made by slow-cooking pork shoulder so it falls off the bone. Similar in texture to ropa vieja. Pot roast. Pernil. This was chopped spare ribs WITH THE BONES left in ON A SANDWICH. Did you guys change owners recently? Uh, yes, we did. Okay, now I get it. After recommending that the cook go to another BBQ establishment to try the pulled pork to see what it's supposed to be like, we brought my uneaten sandwich and my son's inedible non-meat bits back to the store and they did give us a refund, but dang, that was just wrong.
For the record: a) We've had hit-or-miss experiences with the pulled pork at Q in Portchester and mostly enjoyed it at Southbound, but the best we've ever had in the northeast was from a portable smoker cart parked in the Aubuchon Hardware parking lot in Waterville, Maine. Absolutely amazing without a dab of sauce, though the sauce was equally fantastic. b) I've had sandwiches with bone matter left in, like goat roti, but I was expecting the bones and the taste was so intriguing that it overshadowed the extra work I had to do to avoid breaking a tooth.
Your pulled pork experience doesn't surprise me, especially for Westchester. Very few places in our area do it correctly, preferring (as you mentioned) to steam their ribs and shoulders and then just add some fake smoke flavor. You should try to prepare your own at home, its really not that difficult and I guarantee you will think its better than anything you can get from a local bbq place.
We went to Carlo's tonight. They were packed by 4:30. We got osso bucco with risotto and really enjoyed it.
Re: Ribs On the Run: Oh, it was horrible. I mean, before they were at least edible. Remember, we started going there 10 years ago and things were different. I knew they didn't slow roast their products (they were obviously pressure-cooked and then grilled off), but they were close by and satisfied a pork rib craving. We had Brother Jimmy's last night (the original location) and there was a world of difference.
1485 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10075
Ribs On the Run
2215 Central Park Ave, Yonkers, NY 10710