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Controlling the Fire: America Eats Tavern's New Barbecue Menu

July 2018

“One of my earliest memories of cooking was with my father. On weekends, we would make paella for our family and friends. He always told me to watch the fire, tend it and keep it burning hot. But I didn’t want to tend the fire – I wanted to stir the paella. I watched him cook and thought that cooking was holding the spoon, not playing with sticks. I got angry with him, but he was actually teaching me a lesson. Cooking cannot be done without fire, and to have fire we must learn to control it before we can really understand how to cook.” – Chef José Andrés

Knowing how to properly control the fire - this was one of José’s first lessons in life. Which is why it makes perfect sense that his newest opening in Washington, DC, America Eats Tavern, specializes in one of the most primal and original applications of fire: barbecue. Barbecue is, at its most basic, smoke and meat. It can get a lot more complicated than that, but the two most intrinsic ingredients that make barbecue special are meat – usually pork, beef, or chicken – and the wood smoke that cooks and preserves it over a long period of time.

The barbecue at America Eats Tavern follows this pattern, but deviates from many of the standards set out by classic regional barbecue. Traditionally, Texans smoke beef brisket, Carolinians specialize in pulled pork, and ribs are king in Memphis. The regionalism breaks down even further: rubs, sauces, and sides vary from city to city, town to town, and even between neighborhood BBQ joints. Regional variation, though, is a relatively recent innovation in the long history of the country: salt and smoke were used by native Americans to preserve meat after a hunt well before enterprising pitmasters sought out ways to distinguish themselves and their territory.

To create a completely new take on BBQ appropriate for the ever-experimental José, his R&D team - a culinary Delta Force - teamed up with Adam Cole, who once worked with ThinkFoodGroup before launching his own barbecue joint in Los Angeles. Cole comes to barbecue honestly, having grown up in central Texas and North Carolina, two of the most iconic barbecue regions. His control of fire was so masterful that his little shop in LA - not generally known as a barbecue town - was pronounced to have California’s best brisket by Texas Monthly’s barbecue writer, a notable distinction.

Adam and the R&D team put months into research and testing out different barbecue styles before settling on a winning formula – nothing regional, all original. They smoke brisket, ribs, chicken, and pork over local cherry wood – a nod to one of DC’s most famous resident and namesake, President George Washington (himself a man who enjoyed BBQ!). Each meat is given its own twist: the chicken is brined to maintain juiciness, grilled, and glazed after smoking; the pulled pork is served with a complex 25-ingredient sauce inspired by Cole’s favorite sauces; the brisket with a José-approved Spanish mojo verde; and the rib comes in two pieces, a whole rack plus tips. Each are served with rye bread, an unconventional side: rye is a grain with a strong American identity, and its spicy earthiness goes surprisingly well with the rich, smoky proteins.

Smoke and meat: it’s such a simple recipe with deeply American and truly human roots: controlling fire is one of the oldest things humanity has ever done, and some believe to be human is to control fire. We can all rejoice that José’s father taught him such a profound lesson: the barbecue at America Eats is something to celebrate, an all-American original.

To try out AET’s barbecue for yourself, make a reservation here or come on in - the restaurant is located in historic Georgetown at 3139 M Street NW, Washington, DC 20007.