Formaggio Kitchen BBQ, Cambridge, MA

Okay, my first thought was skepticism. Barbecue? In my specialty food store? It's more common than you think. But I'd conditioned myself to be indifferent to the delicate burnt ends and prehistoric dinosaur chops because, well, we live in New England. It could only end in tears. Have you ever heard of good barbecue north of the Mason-Dixon line? I had not.When we walked up to the store, a venue worthy of a post of its own, fate intervened in the form of massive, crispy chicken thighs and a large bucket of barbecue sauce. While one could easily make a lunch of their impressive prosciutto selection or snack on an array of worldly cheeses, it had to be done. My third deciding factor? Pork belly. A special on pork belly. I was then indeed caught in the hood, eating barbecue. It was decided. First Tracks, Keepitcoming Love, and I waited in line, anxiously tallying up our orders. In the end, we settled with a half rack of ribs, an order of pork belly, Formaggio's housemade barbecue hot dog, a Texas barbecue beef rib, beans, and cornbread, as well as classy brown-bagged libations.
Ready in five minutes and positively doused with sauce, (or "saw-uhce," as I heard one man mutter) we hunched down to chow. The pork belly and beef rib were filling, but with I imagined the beef rib would have a little more meat than bone. I really had to gnaw on it to get that tender, briskety flesh, and I ended up with sauce going as far as my forehead. The meat really absorbed the sauce, and they splashed a lot on. At this point, I wondered whether I should have stuck with my instinct and tried the chicken thighs, but the pork belly changed that for sure. Man, talk about Southern comfort. The contrast of textures- silky, creamy delicately charred fat with tender, juicy belly were so rich with an excellently crackly outer shell. It needed no sauce. The natural flavors of the charcoal soaked into the piece and I found that a small piece more than satiated me.
First Track's ribs looked delicious and fell off the bone at the slightest touch.Keepitcoming's sausage really impressed me. Everything about it was breathtakingly smoky, all elements housemade, with grilled onions kept hot underneath the hot dog. Fantastic flavoring and texture. The bun gets accolades of its own. It crisped up like a bagel and kept a soft interior. No sauce necessary.
Our sides were great to snack on in the middle of a meatfest. The baked beans, luscious, paprika-heavy forkfuls, true to their origin, were some of the best I'd had. A little extra smoke would have been asking for it, but the molasses was king and the legumes collapsed on the fork. The cornbread had good intentions in mind but was cold when it hit the table. Seeing as it was already wrapped in foil and filled with smoky peppers, would it have ruined it if it was dropped onto the grill for a few minutes? We thought not.

Since Formaggio has so much to offer, it astonished me (on my virgin visit, no less) that they touted some ballin' barbecue. Just proves that you don't have to hitch a ride with a stranger down South or risk the dodgier areas of town to get your meat fix.Happy healthy month, folks. See you on the other side.

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