You get the invite: "Come over for a cook-out." Some will say Barbecue. Some call it just grilling. Then you get there and suffer through poorly prepared and over- cooked burgers that some rookie Suburbanite has pressed down with the spatula to make things flame...yeah...press down...would not want those burgers moist and juicy or anything. Sub-par hot dogs rendered black from neglect on the back of the grill. Store bought 'tater salad swimming in too sweet mayo and a basket of chips greasing up a paper towel. Over cooked corn and and iceberg with bottled dressing. Not the scene from vacation with Eddie cooking "Helper" and the kid swirling Kool Aide with her arm....but not too far.
Now, I like a burger over charcoal and do a mean one. I select top quality white corn and cook for max of 5 minutes. I am not saying that traditional cook-out fare sucks, it is usually poor execution.
I am a fan of dogs and ribs and chicken. I have a large charcoal unit on the patio and I worship at the altar of meat and flame many evenings in Summer with Meyers's and tonic in or icy beer in hand and the Phillies on the radio. However, when we invite guests I often like to strive for something a bit on the higher end of the cook-out spectrum.
To wit, this Saturday I rose at 7:30 a.m. and was down on 9th street in South Philly to scour the Italian market for some serious flesh to dance above the coals. I entered Esposito's in search of Rib Veal chops. A minute of haggling at the counter brought me the old man...one of the owners...an Esposito. He remembered me from my Restaurant days, "You look like yer in the mood to break balls this morning...come ina back."
He and his blood spattered white coat led me into the butcher's room and he brought out the Veal. We talked about the thickness and color of the rack and how bad the Phillies are playing. He then had his guy cut me 8 gorgeous chops from the rib I selected. He wrapped them and hit me for 6 Jacksons. He also threw in a pound of grass fed ground beef gratis because I knew my shit and he wants me to come back.
I crossed the block and hit a veggie vendor for some white and red boiling potatoes and some arugula and radicchio. Then to DiBruno's to select appetizers from the stunning olive bar...pickled cippolino onions, stuffed artichoke hearts and fresh white anchovies in lemon and oil; some excellent cheese, Sopresetta salami and Sarcone's bread. Mission complete.
That evening I dazzled our guests with arugula and radicchio salad, Veal rib chops grilled over hard-wood charcoal and a French potato salad with scallions, Dijon/Champagne vinagrette and shallots. Pistachio macaroons from the Italian bakery completed the dinner. Sadly the Phillies lost in 10 innings.