A lady from Delft sits, pen in hand, distracted by the waiter approaching her table with a Boss Tom’s Cucumber Collins, smoked trout brandade and buttermilk fried olives.
Sadly, Johannes Vermeer’s 17th century “A Lady Writing” was distracted by something other than a cocktail and starters at the new Pendergast Smokehouse in Amsterdam, about 43 miles northeast of Delft.
Pendergast, opened by Kansas City’s own Brandon Woodruff almost a year ago, is 350 years too late for Vermeer’s lady. It is just in time for us.
I heard about Pendergast from Chow Town’s Kenneth Woodruff, Brandon’s father, and his wife, Kay. We met for lunch at Johnny’s Bar-B-Q in Mission recently, where they gave me firsthand reports on Pendergast history and cuisine as we dined on ribs, beef and Remus sandwiches.
Ken and Kay, Kansas City Barbeque Society certified barbecue judges, are understandably proud of Brandon’s smokehouse talents, but when it comes to barbecue, they judge with a critical eye and palate. I heard enough from them, and later from Brandon, to make me eager to share the Pendergast story with Chow Town readers.
In 2012, after 12 years as a successful Starbucks executive, Brandon took a one year sabbatical to travel, mourn the recent death of his mother, Lynn, and contemplate his future. He packed traveling essentials in a lightweight mini-backpack and spent four months exploring Asia with his partner, Wouter Onclin. Mingling with everyday citizens in Myanmar made a special impression. They had meager material goods, yet were happy, optimistic and friendly.
As Brandon puts it, there wasn’t an “aha moment” at journey’s end when they went home to Amsterdam. Wouter had to return to work. Brandon had some extra time to visit family and friends in the States.
Brandon’s Kansas City visit inspired a reconnection with his hometown barbecue roots. Although self-taught, he acknowledges “standing on the shoulders of the giants of tradition and many great pitmasters who have taken time to write down their experiences.”
During his visit stateside he met with Kansas City’s blues and barbecue icon Lindsay Shannon and pitmaster Mike Nickle at B.B.’s Lawnside, plus Fiorella’s Jack Stack pitmaster Tom Kupczyk in Martin City. Then he trekked to apple country, Murphysboro, Ill., for invaluable tips on the art and business of barbecue from The Legend, Barbecue Hall of Fame inductee Mike Mills.
Inspired and invigorated, Brandon returned to Amsterdam determined to put his remarkable business and culinary skills, entrepreneurial savvy and passion for barbecue into a small corner restaurant: Pendergast Smokehouse.
Thanks to Ken’s resourcefulness, a new Ole Hickory pit from Cape Girardeau, Mo., was installed in the tiny Pendergast kitchen. “I love the pit,” Brandon told me. “If you keep the firebox swept and the fire clean with the door cracked and build the fire with plenty of oxygen, you get an excellent result.”
A wholesale restaurant supply depot is a short bike ride away, and there Brandon can get Black Angus brisket from the States, Duroc pork from Spain, plus fresh fish and produce. In step with the longstanding pitmaster principle of smoking with local woods, he uses native fruitwoods, mostly apple. Although he misses hickory and mesquite, he likes apple “because it’s an elegant flavor profile and doesn’t give people indigestion.”
Since Pendergast opened in May 2015 for dinner only, it has been discovered by sellout crowds. Locals at first mistook smoke rings for raw meat and trimmed them off until Brandon, who is fluent in Dutch, urged them to sample those trimmings of pit-smoked gold.
Brisket and ribs sell out first, soon followed by the other gourmet smokehouse creations you’ll find by browsing the Pendergast online menu.
Vegetarian and non-vegetarian customers rave about his house-smoked, made-from-scratch seitan. As with other establishments with a creative chef/pitmaster in the house, the menu is subject to change.
Kansas City barbecue and history are a perfect fit in Pendergast’s Staatsliedenbuurt (“Leaders of State”) neighborhood. Only through time travel could we put Boss Tom and Vermeer’s lady at a Pendergast table. For the rest of us, it’s about 11 hours away by air and no doubt worth the investment. Go there soon and tell Chow Town about it.
Meanwhile, “A Lady Writing” is at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, with other masterpieces by Vermeer, Rembrandt and Hals, until her final showing on May 29.
Pendergast Smokehouse is at Groen van Prinstererstraat 14, Amsterdam, NL. Its phone number is 020-845-85-07, its website is pendergast.nl and its email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Ardie Davis founded a sauce contest on his backyard patio in 1984 that became the American Royal International Barbecue Sauce, Rub & Baste contest. He is a charter member of the Kansas City Barbeque Society and an inductee into the KCBS Hall of Flame. He has been interviewed on food shows and writes for barbecue-related publications. His most recent releases are America’s Best BBQ (Revised Edition), with chef Paul Kirk, and Barbecue Lover’s Kansas City Style .