You know that Picnic loves a good hybrid as soon as you sit at one of the new Durham barbecue joint's square, dark-stained pine tables. There, in the gleaming condiment rack, towering above the salt and pepper shakers but level with the bottles of Texas Pete and ketchup, stands a true Tar Heel oddity—Pig Whistle, a barbecue sauce that blends the thick, sweet ketchup-based stuff of the West with the stinging, vinegar-and-pepper of the East. It's like Rameses sporting Duke blue, Mount Mitchell standing suddenly alongside a lighthouse.
Weeks before Picnic opened in early February, sous chef Isaac DeBoer, then in the throes of finalizing the place's appetizers, decided to dump some of the sauce into a brine designed for deviled eggs. A brine for deviled eggs, you say?
That's right: Rather than simply boil them, slice them, and turn the bright yolk into the tallow-colored filling, DeBoer opted to boil and then pickle the eggs before deviling them—like the sauce, a strange, perfect Southern combination.
"It just made natural sense to me," says DeBoer.
The brine gives the skin the light brown look of a marinated egg you might find lurking amid a mess of ramen. But the taste is strangely, exquisitely, and indelibly suggestive of smoked mozzarella. The pickling solution gives the albumen a little extra firmness, too, enhancing that brilliant cheese feint. When I first tried it, I wondered if it had somehow been grilled. It's a subtle, stunning reinvention of an aged staple.
After letting the eggs rest for six hours, Picnic's kitchen cuts them, scoops out the brine-soaked yolk, and combines it with a mess of ingredients—whole-grain mustard, Duke's mayonnaise, Texas Pete, and (alas!) a touch of rendered pork fat. They're topped with pickled shallots, adding a pop of crunch to the cream and chew.
"When you grow up, deviled eggs are just egg yolk and mayonnaise and maybe some mustard," says Picnic co-owner Ben Adams, who never liked them until he encountered DeBoer's reinvention. "But this gives you a little more texture. I like it a lot."
So does most everyone else, it seems: since opening two weeks ago, Picnic has depleted its daily supply of five dozen by the end of almost every night. When deBoer says Picnic will soon up the quantity, he grins proudly—the smile of a peacemaker between the pickle and the devil.