Fette Sau

Perhaps no other advertising campaign has done a greater disservice to its product than "Pork: The Other White Meat." Borne out of the fat-phobic late '80s, the National Pork Board's campaign reduced the entire animal to the pork chop. If the complex, meaty, by turns fatty and lean pig could talk, she would no doubt tell you: I am so not a chicken.

Twenty years later, our obsession with barbecue and pork's ability to take on and emphasize spicy, smoky flavors may seem new, but it has long been part of the basic vocabulary in Chinese, Korean, Italian, German, and yes, Southern cuisine. Consider this: would David Chang of Momofuku be David Chang without his silent partner, the Berkshire pig?

It requires a certain mania for the fatty beast to see a barbecue joint in an auto body shop, bring in a crypt-sized Southern Queen smoker, make all the right connections with Berkshire pork suppliers, and open your doors for business. But that's just what owners Kim and Joe Carroll of Fette Sau have done.

By now you probably know what's on the menu: pork spareribs, pork sausages, pulled pork, plus some beef brisket to give that guy a nod too. But it's the sau that impresses. Fatty, rich pork belly is like the foie gras of pork products. The ribs are charred on the outside, meaty and tender between the bones. There's an espresso-and-brown-sugar rub on them, but as with the pulled pork, the true deliciousness comes from the unadulterated flavor of smoke. The Southern Queen smoker - and chef Matt Lang - sure can cook.

I'm no barbecue expert, since I come from Maryland, the no-man's-land considered the South by Yankees but disdained by Carolinians and ignored by Texans. But barbecue experts have endorsed Fette Sau's separation of meat from sauce, which you combine yourself at the table. The sweet sauce is the traditional mix of ketchup, vinegar, maybe a bit of Worchestershire sauce, and some other secret ingredients, but it was still my favorite because of my Southern-ish sweet tooth - same goes for the sweet white rolls. Fette Sau's spicy sauce is a much more complex, mole-like mixture that tastes of coffee, dried chilies, molasses, and unsweetened chocolate. The two would taste great mixed together.

The non-meat sides received a drubbing in previous reviews of Fette Sau, so we skipped these - except for the excellent Gus' half sour pickles - and headed straight for the baked beans. Embedded with hunks of brisket, they tasted like the ideal incarnation of Fette Sau's mole-like spicy sauce.

Though the atmosphere is pretty much the polar opposite of Frederick's Downtown, Fette Sau does have that see-and-be-seen scene, Williamsburg version, lots of outdoor seating at picnic tables, and few rules. ("No drinks outside after 11pm.") Walking into the garage, I felt the same kind of relief a teenager experiences upon arriving at a keg party in somebody's indestructible concrete basement. It's the kind of place where you can let your hair down, don some Williamsburg style glasses in weird 80's frames à la Michael Caine, and drink a gallon of beer - literally. A slew of microbrews is dispensed from pulls rigged with butchery tools into gallon-size glass jugs. If that doesn't spell an afternoon of Brooklyn patio drinking, I don't know what does. Just get there early because, like Pies 'N' Thighs, Fette Sau tends to run out of food, usually by 9:30pm on weekends.

The extensive list of bourbon, whiskey and rye is like the bonanza of breaking into the absentee parents' liquor cabinet: Whiskey, all you want! We particularly liked the Tuthilltown rye and the Black Maple Hill bourbon. If you're really daring, knowledgeable bartender Dave Herman will serve you a bit of corn mash liquor that tastes like moonshine: the ceramic jug says it all.

As with a keg party, days later, my clothes still smell like smoke, but this time it's the alluring scent of barbecue. It even makes me hungry, which is no problem, because like addicted regulars at Fette Sau, I ordered more pulled pork at the end of the night - to go.

Fette Sau
354 Metropolitan Avenue at Havemyer Street
Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York

for directions go to hopstop.com


Maryconnolly said...

LOVED this place. The ribs rocked and the BBQ pork belly was very rich & decadent. As you said, very much like foie gras, my other favorite fat on a plate!

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