High-brow meets low-brow on BBQ tour

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Sous Chef
Oct 24, 2005
Lindenhurst, NY

When it comes to camping, Greensboro native Elizabeth Karmel has come a long way from her summers at Camp Seafarer in Pamlico County.
The latest project from the cooking instructor, cookbook author and creator of www.girlsatthegrill.com is a series of summer "camps" focused on barbecue in North Carolina (April 22-26), Memphis (Sept. 18-23) and Texas (Nov. 4-8). The trips cost $3,750 per person, excluding airfare. And there's not a pup tent in sight.

"With the luxury accommodations, it combines the highbrow and the lowbrow," said Karmel, author of "Taming the Flame." "That way you get the best of what the area has to offer."

To add to the atmosphere, the trips include such camp staples as making s'mores and giving out prizes to the campers.

"Everybody loves camp, right?" Karmel said.

The Camp BBQ tours are glorified field trips that grew out of Karmel's monthly Southern barbecue class at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City -- so popular that it has a year-long waiting list. Participation in each trip is limited to 20 campers.

First on the agenda, and in Karmel's heart, is the trip here to introduce campers to the glory of pulled pork. Based in the luxurious Fearrington House south of Chapel Hill, the campers will make forays east to Wilson, where pitmaster Ed Mitchell will serve up whole hog barbecue with a vinegar-based sauce, and west to Greensboro and Lexington for pulled pork with ketchup-based sauce at Stamey's and Lexington No. 1. In between, they'll dine at such local institutions as Allen & Sons, Crook's Corner, Mama Dip's and Magnolia Grill.

"People are always asking me, 'What's your favorite place?' so I thought it would be fun to take people down there to introduce them to my barbecue buddies," she said.

But over the years and the miles, Karmel said she has become an "equal opportunity barbecuer." Her second trip focuses on the ribs of Memphis, Tenn., and Murphysboro, Ill. As an added bonus, her campers will form a team with barbecue expert Mike Mills (co-author of "Peace, Love and Barbecue") to compete in the 20th annual Murphysboro Barbecue Contest.

The year's last stop is in central Texas and the Hill Country for beef, brisket and sausage. The area in and around Austin is known for barbecue that has been influenced by immigrants from Mexico and Germany, Karmel said, bringing together jalapenos and sausage.

"I love that sort of cultural mesh," she said.

Hill Country is also the name of the new Texas-style barbecue restaurant where Karmel is developing dishes as executive chef. The restaurant, on 26th Street in New York, will open in May.

Eventually, Karmel would like to add even more regions to Camp BBQ. "I would love to do Kansas City or California during the wine harvest."

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