Three summers ago our friends started what has become a July tradition. “Big Mike” as my kids call him, has been brewing beer and smoking meat for years, and his girlfriend is a fabulous cook, gardener, and all-around party planner. When these New York City mice decided to buy a New York country house, they put their talents together and Smokefest was born.
Of course the highlight of the party is the meat. Mike gets up at 7am to start the smokers and prepare the 16 racks of pork ribs and 15 lbs of brisket. The brisket and half the ribs are prepped simply with salt and pepper, and the other half of the ribs get a dry rub the night before. He may be a barbeque weekend warrior, but he’s no hack. In fact, while smoking ribs for a charity event in Connecticut, Jacques Pepin stopped by for a taste and proclaimed “THOSE are some great ribs!”
Daniela makes a wide variety of side dishes—fresh from the garden. This year she had a 6 foot grill loaded up with summer squash, zucchini, eggplant, onions, and 4 dozen ears of corn. If that wasn’t delicious enough, she and Mike make a Cilantro-Lime Butter sauce (see recipe below) to brush on the corn which is De. Licious. There are also salads galore—from potato, to tomato-peach, to cucumber, and more. This year one neighbor brought some killer mac-and-cheese which you just couldn’t stop eating.
My favorite thing is the “Tavern”, a quaint little outbuilding (which Mike says is a character itself for this party), where little lights are strung along the ceiling, and coolers are filled with homebrewed beer (I loved the “6″ a blonde beer), chilled whites and roses, water and soda. Out back is a fire pit—where my kids spent most of the day filling s’more orders (you could choose from ‘burned’, ‘golden brown’ or ‘plain’ marshmallows, and could have your chocolate ‘very melty’ or just ‘kind of melty’).
It is so much fun to go to a party that’s all about the food. It’s not anyone’s birthday and no one is being feted. It’s just a gathering of people who love food, hosted by people who REALLY love food. I can’t think of a better reason for a celebration! Go Meat!
Smokefest Cilantro-Lime Butter
Courtesy of Mike and Daniela
3 limes, juiced
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 small bunch cilantro, chopped
In a small saucepan, reduce the lime juice until it is syrupy. Add butter, and melt. Season to taste with salt and add cilantro at the end. Brush on grilled corn or any veggies (also makes a great topping for clams!)
Hint: Mike says you can spice it up by adding 1/2 tsp of chipotle!