You know spring is here when the swallows return to Capistrano, the cherry blossoms bloom around the Tidal Basin, and barbecue is on the tip of everyone’s tongue in the area.
Indeed, the local barbecue scene seems to be practically staging a grand reopening.
On March 1, Standard came alive again after hibernating for the winter. Word is the itsy-bitsy 14th Street beer garden and ’cue joint is expanding, adding seating for about 30 more people on a new patio. It may also experiment with different meats, such as lamb shoulder and Cornish game hens.
Rocklands Barbeque and Grilling Company is rockin’ the exotic. Starting on Monday and continuing through Saturday, the local chainette will be dishing out its annual Grills Gone Wild menu. This year, the delicacies include alligator brunswick stew, wild beaver sausages and greens served with tzatziki sauce. (Of course, tzatziki sauce! That is what I’ve needed to make my wild beaver taste better.)
There’s nothing exotic going on at Pork Barrel BBQ, unless you consider a middle-aged woman cavorting in a pig costume exotic. Barbara Corcoran, the sole panelist on “Shark Tank” to take a chance on the guys behind Pork Barrel when they pitched their idea in 2009, was in town last November for a “where are they now” piece. She donned the outfit, which is a kind of in-joke between her and co-owner Heath Hall, who, Corcoran says, looks like a pig. (All in good fun. No, really.) The show will be aired at 8 p.m. on Friday, March 9. Pork Barrel’s viewing party goes from 7 to 9 p.m. and will serve special “Bourbon Shark Bite” cocktails. Okay, that’s exotic.
The PORC food truck is opening a bricks-and-mortar joint in Columbia Heights. It could open as early as this spring or as late as — given the way these things typically go — who knows. The restaurant will be in the former Acuario space at 3410 11th St. NW. Don’t worry, PORC fans. The truck will continue to roll even after the restaurant opens.
With all that’s going on, the annual meeting of the Mid Atlantic Barbecue Association, held over the weekend, practically got lost. But Smoke Signals wouldn’t let that happen.
MABA President Michael Fay, re-elected for a third two-year term, presided over the organization’s largest annual gathering, with 125 attendees, up from 82 last year.
In an interview, Fay said barbecue has “just exploded” and clicked off evidence, staring with MABA’s own growth.
●MABA went from moribund four years ago to 141 members last year to 216 at present.
●The competitive circuit in the area starts earlier and has more contests than ever. Starting on March 23, Fay says, “you can cook every weekend. Some weekends have two or three [contests]. Five years ago, you might see about two a month.”
●The opening in the last year of The BBQ Equipment Store in Hampstead, Md., as well as the expansions of Mason Dixon BBQ Services in Greencastle, Pa.,.and Galvinell Meat Co. in Conowingo, Md., which is opening a barbecue supply store.
MABA held a raffle to give away a smoker designed by celebrity ’cuemeister and cookbook author Myron Mixon. Fay says the winner of the pricey, high-end cooker was a 12-year-old boy from Delaware who spent his allowance on five raffle tickets.
The boy, says Fay, plans to compete at the Pork in the Park contest, April 20-22, in Salisbury, Md.
If a boy with a dream isn’t a sign of spring, I don’t know what is.
“BBQ Pitmasters” returns? Word on the street is that the show will return this spring and that the contestants have been selected. Smoke Signals attempted to reach the show’s executive producer, John Markus, for details, but did not hear back.