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Curious Pig in spotlight

GREG HUTSON, LEFT, a host for “America’s Best Restaurants,” a YouTube program that highlights restaurants across the United States, discusses how they want to film a segment at Curious Pig in Crystal Falls with owners Scion and Pam Petrick. The restaurant that specializes in smoked meats and other dishes “with a twist” will be featured on the program later this year. (Betsy Bloom/Daily News photo)

CRYSTAL FALLS — A national audience soon could be curious about Curious Pig.

The Crystal Falls restaurant that specializes in smoked meats and other dishes “with a twist” will be featured later this year on “America’s Best Restaurants,” a YouTube program that tries to spotlight independent eateries across the United States.

A crew from America’s Best Restaurants was at the former Mac Donald house at 117 S. Fifth St. in Crystal Falls on Sept. 12 to film a profile on the business and its background.

This was the program’s first trip into the Upper Peninsula, said Austen Turner, a videographer and field producer for the Cincinnati-based America’s Best Restaurants. He and host Greg Hutson had most recently come from Jack’s Restaurant in Rapid River and were next headed for Waukesha, Wis.

The program chooses restaurants based on nominations, either from the public or the business itself, they said. They then evaluate the establishment to determine if it’s worth scheduling a stop.

CURIOUS PIG pizza maker Maxx Gumulauski, left, watches as America’s Best Restaurants videographer/field producer Austen Turner, center, films cook Guy Yott assembling a platter that includes beef brisket, pulled pork and ribs, all smoked. It was one of the signature dishes the restaurant prepared for the YouTube program. (Betsy Bloom/Daily News photo)

The YouTube show is somewhat similar to the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” in that the host for the segment tours the establishment and details what makes it special.

“There are so many great restaurants that have great stories across America,” Hutson said. “That’s our focus.”

The pair had the restaurant make three signature items that could highlight its menu, then filmed interviews with Curious Pig’s owners, Scion and Pam Petrick, while Hutson sampled those dishes. They also did some filming at the heart of the business — the smoker.

The first dish sampled was the restaurant’s version of the Reuben, which has smoked corned beef along with cole slaw rather than sauerkraut and a horseradish mustard sauce instead of Thousand Island dressing. Pam said she isn’t fond of sauerkraut, so was reluctant to add a Reuben to the menu but did so with, again, their own interpretation. While some Reuben purists don’t like the alterations, others have appreciated the sandwich on its own merits, she said.

The Reuben got high marks from Hutson, as did the Luau pizza, a combination of smoked ham, a white sauce with coconut milk, plus pineapple, roasted red peppers, mixed cheeses — and coconut flakes.

“This is not supposed to work,” Hutson said while trying the pizza, which he recommended featuring because he knew it would be controversial online due to the long debate over pineapple on pizza. He was surprised, he said, that the pizza was more savory than sweet.

“We’re really good at flavors and putting things together that don’t make sense,” Pam said in explaining the Reuben and Luau pizza.

Curious Pig also specializes in blending teas and lemonades with fruit they puree themselves — such as blackberries — in lieu of serving alcohol, Pam said. They grow some of their own peppers and herbs as well.

Curious Pig started as a catering operation in February 2017, when they invested in a smoker from Kentucky. They relocated to the Mac Donald house because they “fell in love with the property and we really think it’s a great area,” Pam Petrick said at the time.

They remade the interior of the Crystal Falls site with reclaimed barn wood, antiques and salvaged barn lights. They opened in March 2018 with a menu that includes beef brisket, pulled pork and chicken, sausage, ribs, corned beef and turkey, all put through the smoker. Sides have a touch of smoke as well, such as mac and cheese with a smoked cheese blend and baked beans with vegetables that all were slow roasted and smoked.

America’s Best Restaurants will have the segment ready in about four to five weeks, Hutson said.

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