Whenever someone needs an expert on Chicago barbecue he or she seems to turn to Gary Wiviott. The cookbook author has some definite opinions about smoked meat, and he isn't afraid to share them. So we were kind of shocked yesterday to learn that he had signed on as the pitmaster at the upcoming Barn & Company. Though he's consulted at various places around town, he told us that this is the very first place he's let his name be associated with, which is a pretty big deal. Barn & Company is set to preview some of the smoked meat options this weekend, so we decided to briefly chat with Wiviott about what to expect.
What makes this Gary Wiviott-approved barbecue?
So much of barbecue in Chicago is the fall-off-the-bone kind, which has been simmered, baked, or braised. Even some of the legit places that use smoke have expediency problems, though there are obviously some exceptions. We want a nice smoky flavor — not fall-off-the-bone barbecue.
How did you go about creating the menu?
I developed the rubs and the sauces, and we are working through all the meats to find the optimal combinations. We'll actually be open this weekend for Taste of Lincoln Ave., where we'll serve ribs, pulled pork sliders, slaw, and fries, along with some sauces. Then we'll close down on Monday for 10 days, so we can fine-tune everything.
Why is that?
As you probably know, I have very defined ideals on what good barbecue is, and I wouldn't want to comprise my barbecue integrity. So, it's great to see that we're sitting down and tasting everything. It's not just, 'What do you think will sell?' It's, 'What do you think tastes better?' That says a lot about the commitment of the owners.
What do you plan to have on the menu?
Nothing is 100 percent, but we're hoping to offer brisket, pulled pork, baby back ribs, and smoked chicken. We'll also have rib tips for the Chicago barbecue aficionados. We'll be pairing the rib tips with Mikeska's sausage, which is a little different than the Chicago-style hot links. We'll also have some lighter fare, like salads and sandwiches. I'm really excited about a smoked chicken Cobb salad.
What will all the meat be cooked on?
We're cooking on Fast Eddy's by Cookshack. It's a rotisserie pellet cooker. There is no gas, and the only electric used is to turn the rotisserie. They are used a lot on the competition circuit, as the gas smokers are banned. The heat comes from wood pellets.
Is anyone else using a Fast Eddy's?
The only place is Jeff Shapiro's Real Urban Barbecue in Highland Park. I could be wrong, but I've been to just around every barbecue joint in the city.
Anything else we should know about the barbecue?
The sauces will be terrific. We'll have a mustard-based sauce, bourbon-based sauce, and a tangy seven-pepper citrus sauce, which is kind of my signature. We'll probably have a different name for that last one.