On the first official day of the Association of Food Journalists conference, all 125-plus food writers and editors trotted off to Court Square for a “Food Truck Rodeo Lunch.” About a half dozen colorful trucks were parked on the pretty square; customers stood in line, then fought over the few tables that offered shade from the blistering sun.
(Apologies for small photos in this post. Working in the boonies of Colorado with limited internet access and impossibly slow upload times.)
I opted for Central BBQ, which came highly recommended by Memphis-born friends. Fighting off the urge for a BBQ Bologna Sandwich (not!), I opted for the classic pulled pork, a heap of tender meat with crisp, charred edges, topped with cool, creamy cole slaw. CBQ’s sauces – mild and hot -- were sensational. So good, in fact, I didn’t want them to get lost in the unremarkable bun. Instead, I savored each bite of meat on a fork, liberally dunked in the sauces. Homemade potato chips were delicious. "Watermelon Lemonade" from another truck was, well, cold.
Central BBQ was fired up in 2002 by two guys, Craig Blondis and Roger Sapp, who met on the BBQ circuit in the mid-80s. They’ve opened two other Memphis locations since then. The men brag that their meats -- ribs, pork, chicken, turkey, beef brisket, sausage and, yes, bologna --- are rubbed with a secret combination of dry spices, marinated for 24 hours, then smoked low and slow in the pit over a combination of hickory and pecan woods. Sauce is added only after cooking, a fact, I learned, that is almost as important in these parts as using real wood instead of fake smoke flavoring.
Mindful that I’d be eating again in just a few short hours ---- “A Smokin’ Taste of Memphis” at the Stax Museum of American Soul Music was on tap for the evening --- I slipped away from the conference in the afternoon to walk the Mississippi Riverwalk.
With scenic views of the meandering Mississippi, the concrete path runs south for about a mile and a half, then crosses a pedestrian bridge to double back on the Riverbluff Walkway dotted with beautiful homes and pocket parks. With temperatures in the ‘90s and off-the-charts humidity, the exercise was a treadmill-sauna combo that burned up calories while allowing me to see more of Memphis than the inside of the Peabody Hotel conference rooms.
Next up: The Peabody Hotel's Deep-Dish Peach Pie with Maple-Bacon Ice Cream.