Still Looking for Piney Vittles

I have to admit, we were a bit disappointed – but had fun just the same.

When we decided to go to the Pine Barrens Jamboree at Wells Mills Park last Saturday, we were mainly motivated by one line on their website: Taste the “Piney Vittles” we’re famous for! When we heard about the promise of ‘piney vittles’, we got all excited. What would constitute piney vittles? Venison? Squirrel? Roasted pine branches? Quite frankly, we just didn’t know – but our curiosity was piqued.

So you could imagine our disappointment when the piney vittles turned out to be a few food stands that offered hot dogs, burgers, and most everything you’d find at pretty much any outdoor festival. Oh well. I will say that there was a kettle corn stand that was making the real deal in a big ol’ kettle (the guy working had on a welder’s mask, so you knew the stuff was hot). Too bad Lisa and I are not big into kettle corn.

There was one food stand that did grab my attention, though: Smokey’s BBQ. Despite Lisa’s mocking of me (“You’ve got BBQ on the brain!”), I wanted to try their offerings. Smokey’s is located in a local firehouse on Route 72 in Manahawkin, and has developed a bit of reputation for quality ‘cue. While Lisa waited in ‘the other line’ for food, Julian and I queued up for some ‘cue. And I’m glad we did. Trying to get the best bang for my buck, I ordered the 1/3 rack of ribs, a small pulled pork sandwich and a small beef brisket sandwich. While the pork was a little dry and didn’t have much flavor (I didn’t sauce any of the items), I thought the brisket was pretty flavorful. The ribs, however, were very good and clearly the star of the show. We’ll have to check them out again in the future.

To her credit, Lisa did her best to keep the food theme Jersey-bound by getting a pork roll with cheese sandwich and roasted Jersey corn on the cob. The corn was excellent!

After chowing down, we walked the grounds to see the other tents and events while country and bluegrass from the stage filled the air. The Pine Barrens is a hotbed for bluegrass, and the Albert Music Hall in Waretown is a well-known venue to hear this music performed on a regular basis. The vendors and crafts were much more Piney than the food stands: a glassware exhibit from Millville, books on the Pine Barrens, wood carvings (including one of the Jersey Devil himself), a mosquito exhibit, and ‘Piney Power’ T-shirts, just to name a few.

One stand that we could not pass up was a small farm market that had fresh cranberries. We had to take a container of those lovelies home. And Lisa turned them into a very tasty pan of cranberry bread on Sunday.

Well heck, maybe that turned out to be our piney vittles after all!

– John

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