Yummy Pig Takes First Invitational Honnors
No fall foodie edition in Virginia is complete without some discussion of pork. And, in our experience, no single food group gives more rise to the conversation (dare we say controversy?) than barbecued pork ribs.
To help focus that conversation, Leesburg Lifestyle drew on the support of former barbecue judge and professional food marketer Dan Hine of EatLoco.org. Working tirelessly to synchronize the production of five of his favorite local barbecue chefs who agreed to compete, with the schedules of four busy chefs willing to judge the offerings, we together crafted an elite invitational that has all the makings of a regular “happening.”
Each contestant’s rack was judged numerically from one to 10 on the basis of three criteria: appearance, tenderness and taste. Any “home-court advantage” that might have been afforded The Yummy Pig based on owner Jim Thompson’s offer to host the competition was negated by having to wait for the late arrival of a judge, who ended up being replaced at the last minute! (In other words, by the time the judging began, all the ribs were served at room temperature.)
Dan numbered the racks from one to five to mask their origin, and the four judges rated each in turn. No “sides” were included, putting a slightly inordinate burden on the taste and tenderness of the meat itself, without the benefit of balance by, say, the sweetness of baked beans, corn or cornbread. While not judged, “sides” often make the difference in selecting a barbecue provider, and there’s plenty of variety to choose from in Loudoun County.
Each of our contestants puts his own spin on “all the trimmings.” In addition to ribs, The Fermented Pig provides charcuterie, kombucha and handmade bacon at several local farmers markets; ResQ BBQ caters, so he has a range of sides including smoked mac and cheese as well as jambalaya, chili, beef stew and even stuffed Jalapenos; Big Kyle’s BBQ has delectable beef brisket and wings, and can support whole-hog barbecue gatherings; Yummy Pig’s restaurant serves brisket empanadas, sweet potato gratin and quinoa salad with baby spinach, feta and cranberries and does a respectable bread pudding; Carolina Brothers does pork, beef and chicken BBQ from its Ashburn base but also caters and markets four different delectable sauces you can take home.
Each of the racks had something to commend them. Ranging from tangy to smoky, they could either stand alone or be complemented by an accompanying sauce. ResQ BBQ won points for its “killer IPA-infused sauce,” and Yummy Pig won positive commentary for its “really great mustard.”
At the end of the day, the consensus on stand-alone ribs was unanimous, if by a respectably thin margin. The winner: Yummy Pig.
Chef Jim Thompson credits his success with the fact that the former tenant left a smoker onsite when he folded. Rather than pay to remove it, he decided to put his own spin on the classic.
“There was a steep learning curve in the beginning because barbecue is a very subjective thing; people are very passionate about their style of barbecue.”
Jim’s style leverages both meat and sauce. He cooks a “bark” on each rack with a little sauce but then provides several different dipping sauces to taste the finished product.
“When it comes to the meat, it’s important to have the right tenderness and the right amount of smoke,” he says. He breaks down whole spare ribs to a St. Louis cut and pulls the membrane from the back to allow the rips to pull apart easily when cooked. They are then rubbed down with a proprietary mix of spices and grilled over a mixture of hickory, red oak and either apple or cherry wood.
When people ask him to describe his style, he says simply, “We do Leesburg barbecue; that’s it.”
Danny Hurdle and Joey Dundas, Carolina Brothers (CarolinaBrothers.com)
Chuck Meyer, ResQ BBQ (ResQ-BBQ.com)
Kyle Norris, Big Kyle BBQ (BigKyleBBQ.com)
Jim Thompson, Yummy Pig (YummyPig.com)
Josh Plante, The Fermented Pig (TheFermentedPig.com)
Chef Tony Breda, The Cutting Board, Hamilton
Chef Jonathan Clawson, The Wandering Chef, Ashburn
Chef Jason Madden, AhSo Restaurant, Brambleton
Chef Tommy Messina, Lost Fox Hideaway, One Loudoun
17 Catoctin Circle SE, Leesburg