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The Pit, Raleigh, NC
The Pit, Raleigh, NC
The Pit, Raleigh, NC
The Pit, Raleigh, NC

Bum's Fare is as Big a Hit in Raleigh as in Ayden

The Pit turned the second Barbecue Heritage Dinner menu over to its guests of honor for the event, the Dennis family of Bum's Restaurant in the Pitt county community of Ayden, near Greenville. We wanted guests to experience a true sampling of the kind of food served at Bum's for the past 49 years, so attendees feasted on a typical meal: chopped whole hog, wood-cooked barbecue (complete with Bum's own sauce), the restaurant's signature Pitt county cabbage collards, traditional 'red potatoes,' coleslaw, cornbread and Bum's famous sweet potato muffins, and — to finish this coastal plains tour de force — meringue-topped banana pudding.
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Incidentally, Ayden bills itself as the collard capital of the world and hosts an annual Collard Festival, so next to the wood-cooked barbecue, the flavorful greens are probably Bum's best-known dish.

(For a sampling of the other country-cooking classics served at Bum's, watch the video shown at the dinner to celebrate Bum's 49 years as Ayden's favorite community gathering place.)

A lot of Dennis family relatives and friends, as well as a contingent of former Ayden and Grifton-area residents, showed up to join other barbecue fans who know of Bum's by reputation. A Dennis ancestor was already pit cooking whole hog barbecue in the Ayden area by sometime in the mid-1800s, and — happily for the succeeding generations — the method for producing this magical, wood smoke-infused pork has changed very little during the last 140 years.

The Pit is devoted to preserving and staying true to the tradition of authentic North Carolina barbecue, pit cooked for hours over live coals. We salute the Dennis family and many others for outstanding contributions to this special legacy. We couldn't do what we do without their example and their hard work over the years, and we hope you'll join us at future Barbecue Heritage Dinners as a way of saying a heartfelt "thank you!"

First Barbecue Heritage Dinner

The Pit's first Barbecue Heritage Dinner on July 12, 2011 was, simply put, a sellout and a smash.

It starred pit cooked, whole-hog, Eastern North Carolina barbecue, as only The Pit does it, with a supporting cast of inventive appetizers, salad, vegetables and dessert highlighting North Carolina's best and freshest bounty, all created by The Pit's executive chef Darrell Brown. I added generous servings of North Carolina barbecue history and lore by exploring the role of North Carolina barbecue as our state's long-standing food of celebration.

Chef Darrell outdid himself with the menu for the evening. As guests arrived, servers passed attention-grabbing appetizers: beef brisket roulade stuffed with perfectly-crisped fried onions and sauced with spicy mustard-mayo; a delicate North Carolina smoked trout canapé topped with green apple relish and horseradish créme; and a chopped lettuce crostini with tomato, avocado bleu cheese and crispy bits of pork cracklin'.
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There was a lot of nodding, eye-rolling and lip smacking.

"We had a fantastic time. We were thoroughly entertained, we actually learned a lot, and the food was incredible, from the appetizers to the awesome pulled and chopped pork. Please put us on the invite list for the next event."

Seated (and already impressed into a reverent near-silence), we all dove into a tender, jumbo sea scallop, cooked medium-rare, wrapped in North Carolina cured ham and topped with a local silver queen corn relish. The salad course that followed featured a local cucumber and heirloom tomato stacked with red onion, fresh basil and citrus vinaigrette. Fabulous!

Platters of roasted fresh North Carolina seasonal vegetables, served family-style, announced the entrance of the centerpiece: The Pit's signature smoked whole hog, slow-roasted over live coals and served pig-pickin' style for pulling. The succulent meat had been hand-seasoned in The Pit's traditional freehand manner with salt, apple cider vinegar, red pepper, black pepper and sugar.

Throughout the dinner, guests learned that whole-hog barbecue dates back to the prevailing customs taught by Native Americans to the English and Scotch-Irish settlers. The vinegar-based sauce was a common table condiment of the Colonial period for all roast meats and was developed during a time when tomatoes were not commonly consumed and were thought by many to be poisonous.

In contrast, the barbecue that developed in the Piedmont, primarily featuring pork shoulders and a more sweet-and-sour sauce containing tomatoes, reflects preferences and tastes of North Carolina's many German settlers. These immigrants poured into North Carolina during the middle to late 18th Century by way of the Great Wagon Road from Pennsylvania through Virginia's Shenandoah Valley. Their early 20th Century descendants gradually developed the barbecue traditions and characteristics of the Piedmont region, and they incorporated the general taste of German sweet-sour sauces into their barbecue "dip" recipes, as well as a general German preference for the pork shoulder over the leaner, "whiter" section of the pig such as the loin and hams.

Odd bits of barbecue esoterica I shared included the fact that the chopping of barbecue originated because our forbearers tended to lose their teeth relatively early in life, so that a host never knew how many teeth any particular guest might be bringing to a barbecue. It was considered thoughtful to sort of "pre-chew" the meat by pounding it with a cleaver so that everyone could enjoy it!

Dessert was a light, airy seasonal berry trifle with vanilla whipped cream. The wine pairings for the courses included a rose, white, red and secco selections from Austria, Spain and New Zealand.

We all went home warmed by the company and exhilarated—perhaps even gently stunned—by the perfection of offerings of food and drink.

I can't wait for the next Barbecue Heritage Dinner on Tuesday, August 16 when we welcome as guests of honor members of the Dennis family of Ayden, which may have the oldest barbecue lineage in North Carolina. Be sure to get signed up early, and I look forward to seeing you there!

Other Past Events

July 2011 - Ludo Bites America

CueGrass '11

Big Apple Barbecue 2010

CueGrass '10

March 2010 - Throwdown with Bobby Flay

Big Apple Barbecue 2009

April 2009 - CueGrass '09

March 2009 - Man vs. Food

June 2008 - Appearance on NBC's Today Show - Watch Video

June 2008 - Big Apple Barbecue Block Party: New York, New York

May 2008 - Franklin Food and Spirits Festival: Franklin, Tennessee

March 2008 - Charleston Food and Wine Festival: Charleston, South Carolina