Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Beckham & Mandel Rib Fest

Last week, I was invited to attend the Rib Fest at the law office of Beckham & Mandel. In addition to being an accomplished litigator, Blake Beckham is an amateur pit master who wanted to get an honest read on his 'cue abilities from the BBQ Snob. His huge mobile smoker was parked behind an extended cab pick-up in the parking lot for all to see from the fifth floor terrace where the party was held.

With Blake and Roger as my guide, we snaked through the crowd to make our way to the grand table where the meat was ready for serving. Before I dug into a hand picked rib, Blake explained his test for a great rack. If you peel back the rib membrane, and it comes off cleanly in one piece, then the ribs will be perfect. He then cleanly removed the membrane from the rack and tore off a few bones to try. These were baby backs which can get very dry, but the meat one these bones was moist with just enough of a fat layer left on. The meat came off the bone a bit too easily showing that they may have spent a touch too long on the smoker, but the meat had good texture and was far from mushy. The pecan smoke was evident along with the black pepper and salt rub that was applied with the proper restraint. These were some very good ribs.

After the rib tasting, I made my way back into line to check out the other offerings. A whole hog (a boar from Blake's ranch) was being pulled and chopped, so I went for all the crusty bits I could find. Since we were eating whole hog, some of the meat was chewy while others were meltingly tender. All of it was smoky and flavorful, and didn't need anything from the large bowl of sauce that sat next to the serving trays. I watched as Blake cringed every time someone reached for that ladle to taint the beautiful meat.

To round out the plate, there was a venison sausage that was made from a deer that Blake had processed at Kuby's. The flavor was so unique and any gaminess was easily tamed with cheese and jalapenos. The sausage was dense with a nice snap to the casing. I only wish Kuby's could actually sell this stuff, but there's no legal market for reselling deer meat.

Beckham & Mandel hosts these rib-fests a few times a year. Any 'cue lover would be happy to find themselves on the guest list, but these parties are thrown by the firm to thank their clients. If that's the only way to get on the list, I might consider suing someone to get some more of that smoked meat. I hope they'll have me back either way.

- BBQ Snob

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Each joint is judged on the essence of Texas 'cue...sliced brisket and pork ribs. Sausage is only considered if house made. Sauce is good, but good meat needs no adornment to satisfy. Each review can only be based on specific cuts of meat on that particular day. Finally, if the place fries up catfish or serves a caesar salad, then chances are they aren't paying enough attention to the pits, so we mostly steered clear.