By Suzanne Parker
We believed the stars to be in perfect alignment when we heard the next Queens Dinner Club event would give us a preview of the soon-to-open Mothership Meats Long Island City barbecue joint. We drooled with anticipation thinking about the Queens Dinner Club boys, Joe Distefano, Jonathan Forgash and Gabe Gross teaming up with Josh Bowen, Queens’ premier barbecue maven.
“I’ve been dreaming of this since we started QDC. A BBQ fest with Pitmaster Josh Bowen and all my friends,” said QDC co-founder Chef Jonathan Forgash. “Life doesn’t get any better than that.”
Queens Dinner Club, founded last April, convenes to socialize over unique Queens eats. Its events fall somewhere between a gourmet club gathering and a church social. It is free to join, the only prerequisite being a love of food and conviviality. The ticket price is set according to the venue and scope of the event. This all-you-can-eat meatfest was $60 per person.
About 140 or so barbecue devotees showed up at the site of Josh Bowen’s impending barbecue spot for the dinner. Bowen already operates LIC’s John Brown Smokehouse, known for its Kansas City style barbecue, and he also briefly ran the Alchemy Texas Barbecue pop-up. When a friend bought a building on 40th Avenue in Long Island City, he saw it as an opportunity to continue dabbling in Texas-style barbecue. He fixed up the ground floor and adjoining lot, and installed a J&R Oyler pit—a smoker that can handle 2,000 lbs of meat—which he feeds, one log at a time, with native Long Island white oak and some honey locust. He claims he “isn’t doing fusion,” but says he still wants to mix up his recipe a little bit with some Asian spicings. Although Bowen was raised in Kansas City, he also lived Austin for eight years—long enough to earn his Texas barbecue chops.
While the smoker smoked, the John Brown All Stars warmed up the crowd with some bluesy sounds. The music howled and tummies growled, but no ‘cue was served before its time. Lines formed as succulent short rib pastrami made an appearance. It was joined by slaw, and heavenly cornbread pudding, a sort of mashup between cornbread and mac ‘n cheese. After a lengthy wait, subtly exotic yuzu smoked duck landed, but much to our sorrow, the divine cornbread had been replaced by white bread, a Texas barbecue staple. With continued patience, we made the acquaintance of Mothership Meat Co.’s Signature Brisket with garam masala pepper rub.
Just when we thought our stamina was exhausted, a perfectly lacquered whole hog emerged from the massive smoker. Although we would have liked to catch Josh Bowen taking his place with the band, we grabbed a generous portion of oinker, scarfed it, and called it a night.
The evening was something of a dress rehearsal for the Mothership. The quality of the meat was superb, but the pacing of the meal was trying. We are confident by the time they open for real, they will have the kinks worked out and will be serving (oh please, please, please) alcohol. We’ll be waiting.
For all the lines and waiting for food, the evening can be considered a success, especially if, like us, the fellowship of foodies is high on your list of pleasures.
Suzanne Parker is the TimesLedger’s restaurant critic and author of “Eating Like Queens: A Guide to Ethnic Dining in America’s Melting Pot, Queens, N.Y.” She can be reached by e-mail at qnsfo