Thank you Porkapalooza!

12768351_10207088807872287_1156544506309325381_oOr is it Porka-PO-looza? Who cares. I’m a mailman when it comes to this event. Meaning, “Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night. . .” will keep this courageous courier from delivering copious amounts of lard fried chicken into my gaping maw.

Every February, Chef Craig Hartman and his strong, steadfast, fearless crew at the BBQ Exchange in Gordonsville celebrate the restaurant’s anniversary by offering up an all-you-can-stuff-in-your-craw extravaganza over two days. It’s a popular event. And like I said, one I NEVER miss. One year we hacked our car out of an ice block, braving the slick roads to eat our fill of chicken and barbecue. Another year the winds gusted near 40 mph bringing the wind chill to -6. No bother. That’s what long johns are for.

This year? Sunny and 65. The first nice day we’ve had in quite a while. Pair that with all you can eat and you’ve created a perfect storm of pig. Which meant 3,998 had the same idea we did. Which meant the crew cooked up close to three tons of food. And that was just Saturday!

Why lard fried chicken at a barbecue event? Because lard. And because Chef Hartman only makes his special fried bird one weekend a year. This past weekend. Never had it? I feel sorry for you. Seriously, you haven’t lived until you’ve eaten the BBQ Exchange lard fried chicken. Did I mention it was fried in lard? The char is perfect. The amount of salt and crunch covers a thick layer of meat that is beyond juicy. Even the breast. In fact, that’s my favorite part. Other places? Never the case. And this chicken is even better cold. How do I know this? Because The Hubby went back Sunday to stock up. I’m nibbling on a leg right now. Be jealous. Very very jealous.

Chef Hartman also creates special dishes just for the event, things you won’t see on his daily menu. In past years that has included Hoppin’ John, Jambalaya, bacon doughnuts. This year? Kentucky Burgoo, a version of our own Brunswick Stew. Sweet and spicy, full of vegetables and I believe, his pulled chicken. So damn good. Other special dishes included Brisket Ends, Scrapple with Fig Jam, and Cheese Grits with Smoked Tomatoes and Okra Ragu. Oh yeah, and s’mores. Bacon s’mores sprinkled with bacon dust. I even saw a guy create a sandwich with two Carpe Diem doughnuts, a piece of the fried chicken, and a bacon s’more. Gained 10 pounds just looking at it.

Craig and all of his crew work SO hard to plan and bring this event to the community. It’s my favorite food event of the year and a big reason why is the people. And the attitude. Despite the numbers everyone working was pleasant, smiling, enjoying themselves. Folks in line were patient and doubly excited when a crew member walked down the line with handouts of bacon or pork belly smoked 15 hours with cherry wood. Sound good? It was. Melted in my mouth like butter!

The upbeat attitude paired with the food and the weather made for a perfect afternoon. Sadly, because of the long wait we couldn’t stick around. Had to feed the fur babies before seeing David Cross at The Paramount. But when I got my takeout container home? I attacked it like a wild boar. Which is weird when you think about it. And the chicken. That chicken. I’m putting it in print right now guys. This is my death row meal. Forget the foie gras, the caviar, the lobster. Just give me that damn chicken. With a side of hush puppies.

Thank you to Chef Hartman and the entire crew at BBQ Exchange! This year’s Porkapalooza was the best one yet. Pat yourselves on the back, pour yourselves a beer, then go take a LONG nap. You’ve earned it.

Wanna get hungry? Go look at photos from Porkapalooza 2016 on Instagram. Most are not mine. I was too busy eating…

A video posted by Jenée Libby (@edaciouspod) on

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