Spotlight: Power to the pig

(l-r) Green Button Farm owner Ryan Butler, Chef Ben Adams and Pig Whistle owner Wyatt Dickson on Green Button Farm in Bahama, N.C. The three have partnered with Green Button Farms to form Picnic, a BBQ restaurant opening Fall 2015 in Durham, N.C.

From left: Green Button Farm owner Ryan Butler, Chef Ben Adams, and Pig Whistle owner Wyatt Dickson, on Green Button Farm in Bahama, N.C. All three are partners in Picnic Durham. All photos by Sara D. Davis.

by Jessie Ammons

Eastern-style, Western-style; bar-b-que, barbeque, BBQ. Whatever type you like, and whatever you call it, barbecue is a big deal around here. You can go whole hog on understanding it at the inaugural N.C. Barbecue Revival Oct. 28 – 30 in Durham.

The celebration is the brainchild of chef Ben Adams, farmer Ryan Butler, and barbecue extraordinaire Wyatt Dickson, the trio behind the recently opened modern-meat-and-three restaurant Picnic Durham. “The weekend is really about North Carolina’s whole-hog barbecue tradition,” Butler says. “That’s going to be the backbone of everything.” A diverse lineup of events kicks off with a seated dinner at Butler’s Green Button Farm, where he raises pastured pigs, followed by a pig-picking the next day, complete with pies by chef Phoebe Lawless of Scratch in Durham and drinks mixed by Southern Living’s barbecue editor Robert Moss.

Since “not everyone is a pork addict like me,” Butler says, Adams and Asheville chef Elliott Moss will prepare a vegetable-focused Saturday lunch of traditional barbecue sides, from mac-n-cheese and potato salad to braised collards, slaw, and pickled cucumbers. Then, a Saturday night locally sourced oyster roast preludes s’mores and dancing to hometown bluegrass bands.

Wyatt Dickson, of Pig Whistle, douses whole hog with his signature sauce during the Farm to Fork event

Wyatt Dickson, of Pig Whistle, douses a whole hog with his signature sauce during the Farm to Fork event.

Meanwhile, Dickson and a handful of other barbecue pitmasters from across the state will work together to tend and slowly cook pigs from Butler’s farm. They’ll be served at a “BBQ Church” picnic event on Sunday which begins with a panel discussion led by the pitmasters. “These are sort of the ‘keepers of the flame,’” Dickson says, “and we’re getting them together to talk about why we do it, where North Carolina barbecue has been, and where it is now and where it’s going.”

As a way to pay it forward, the entire three-day revival is also a fundraiser for the nonprofit Triangle Land Conservancy. “A big part of the way I do barbecue is what I call using real pigs from real farms,” Dickson says. “To us, conservation and ethical farming practices are one and the same, and a necessary part of this conversation.”

While events throughout the weekend have different ticket prices, the Sunday discussion is free and the pig-picking following it is $25 per plate. Bring a blanket to hang out in the way Butler remembers growing up – memories that likely resonate with many longtime North Carolinians: “We had a pig-picking for every occasion in life. If someone was born, we had a pig-picking; if someone died, we had a pig-picking; if someone got married, we had a pig-picking. It was a special way to feed a lot of people.” pig-whistle-sauce-with-whole-hog-bbq-sandwich-and-slaw