Friday, September 30, 2011

Jesse's Place

DALLAS: Jesse's Place
2904 S Ervay St
Dallas, TX 75215
Open M-Sat 11-7

Jesse Gross has owned this building for twenty-two years. In that time it has housed a fried chicken joint and a night club. Before then it was one of many Hardeman's locations that have all but disappeared (save one South Dallas location). The place has been serving as an event venue with intermittent band bookings in their event space, but in July Jesse reopened the BBQ joint. There's an old custom Bewley pit back there from the Hardeman days, but Jesse said he's looking for a pitmaster to really expand the smoked meat menu. For now the offerings are printed on some inkjet paper taped to the wall. There's a $0.99 menu which includes a small chopped beef sandwich and frito pie. Larger sandwiches and a hot link are just $2.99. Ribs and sliced beef were nowhere to be found.

After ordering through the bar covered window, I waited for my food while a woman came through the door into the uncomfortably small lobby looking for a free lunch. It's cash only, so my only five dollar bill had already gone through the window. Behind me the prominent signs were informative of the dress code and the consequences for fighting. When my order was handed over I went out to enjoy it on the trunk of my car. Frito pie was cheap ballpark quality fare. Hot links were slightly dried out but spicy Smokey Denmark's on a standard hot dog bun with Bull's Eye BBQ sauce. Chopped beef was sloppy joe quality stuff with sweet sauce and little smokiness. Given the price it's hard to complain, but I'm anxious to return when he finds that pitmaster. I'm sure he'd be happy to know if any of you out there are interested.

Rating - Pending
Jesse's Place on Urbanspoon

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Franklin Barbecue vs. Snow's BBQ

It was early on a Saturday morning and I was on my way from Dallas to have breakfast at Snow's BBQ in Lexington, Texas. Back in 2008 it was named the best BBQ in Texas by Texas Monthly Magazine, based primarily on the quality of their brisket. I've eaten this brisket plenty of times in the past, but just how would it measure up to my current favorite, Franklin Barbecue in Austin? The only way to know would be to try them side-by-side. I purchased some extra brisket to go from Snow's and made my way to Austin.

Franklin Above, Snow's Below

Snow's was at an admitted disadvantage here. Not only it have to travel the seventy-five minute drive, but also had to sit wrapped in my front seat through the two hour line at Franklin. Now three hours old, I unwrapped it for a visual inspection next to the fresh Franklin brisket. The Snow's brisket was noticeably drier, but that was all because it was sliced three hours prior. The colors of the two briskets were vastly different. Where Franklin's beef had a crust of coal black and a faint smokering, the Snow's brisket had a thick pink smokering with a reddish crust flecked with black pepper.

Snow's BBQ Brisket

The texture of the Franklin beef was so tender it nearly melted in the mouth. Snow's wasn't what I'd call tough, but it had some pleasing chew to it. Not helping was the portion of the point included in each slice had been cut with the grain making it stringy. Franklin separates the flat from the point and slices the two muscles separately. Both meats had perfectly rendered intramuscular fat, but the crackle of the crust in the Franklin brisket was much more well defined.

Franklin Barbecue Brisket

The flavor differences were stunning. I had just eaten the Snow's brisket a few hours earlier, but I noticed so many more of the flavor intricacies after eating them together. Snow's dominant seasoning is salt where Franklin is black pepper. Franklin's brisket has a great smokiness from post oak as did Snow's, but the Snow's brisket had a sweetness like I'm used to getting at Cooper's where they use coals for the cooking. While it's tough to declare a winner, and unfair given the timely advantages that the Franklin brisket got, I still prefer Franklin by a hair. My dining mate that day gave it a push and my friend who I delivered a pound of each to preferred Snow's. So goes the very unscientific method of comparing smoked meats, and the real winner is me because I got to eat both briskets on the same day.

- BBQ Snob

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Friday, September 23, 2011

Love's Texas Style BBQ

CHILLICOTHE: Love's Texas Style BBQ
14211 US Hwy 287 S

Chillicothe, TX 79225


Open Tues-Thur 11-8, F-Sat 11-9

Chillicothe, Texas, population 707 is one of the smaller towns I've had reason to stop in, but it has a solid barbecue joint. A metal building sits along highway 287 in the middle of town, and I could smell smoke when I got out of the car. Inside were posters from local tractor pulls and exposed sprayed-on insulation in the ceiling. Homemade sausage was on the menu, so my three meat combo was complete.

St. Louis ribs were well smoked and had a heavy salt, cayenne and black pepper rub for a bold flavor. The meat could have been more tender, but this was good BBQ. Brisket also had good smoke, but it was too tender and even soggy from what was probably a long bout of improper storage. The fat was well rendered and the flavor was fine, but it would have been better fresh.

The best item here was the fresh homemade German sausage. The coarsely ground meat was laced with a good level of spice and herbs, and the casing was slightly charred while retaining a good snap. These deeply smoky links came with some sauerkraut and were made to be dabbed in some mustard rather than barbecue sauce. The people of Chillicothe are lucky to have such good barbecue joint given just how far the decent barbecue is spread out in these parts.

Rating ***

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Dallas is Changing Its Mind About BBQ

A couple of weeks ago I wrote for Texas Monthly about a renaissance in the barbecue scene of Dallas. Today I feel vindicated with the announcement of the Dallas Observer's Best of Dallas Awards. The critics at the Observer bestowed three awards on rookie Lockhart Smokehouse for their sausage, shoulder clod and their indecisiveness, and Smoke was given a nod for the Big Rib. They then saved their big smoked meat award for Pecan Lodge which was named "Best Barbecue". These announcements themselves are not groundbreaking. Any critics paying attention in this town know that these two joints are raising the bar for barbecue. Just two months ago D Magazine beat the Observer to the punch with recognition for Pecan Lodge, but that pesky "Reader's Choice" award in the August issue of D was for Sonny Bryan's once again.

As I read through the results in the Observer today, I wholly expected to see Dickey's or Sonny Bryan's listed in their Reader's Choice section just like they have been since the list began twelve years ago (Dickey's with six and Sonny Bryan's with five). Then I saw it on the page. The readers showed a liking for some serious barbecue, and more votes were cast for Lockhart Smokehouse than any other tired barbecue joints that had stopped striving for excellence years ago. Back in that Texas Monthly column, I said "Dallas diners hopefully will soon demand nothing short of great BBQ", and now I'm beginning to think we all are getting to be a discerning bunch. Good work Dallas, and keep it up. I'm proud of you.

- BBQ Snob

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Paula's Bar-B-Q

DUMAS: Paula's Bar-B-Q
324 South Dumas Avenue

Dumas, TX 79029



Update: The owners sold the place just a few weeks after my visit. It is now a Mexican restaurant that also serves BBQ, but no ham. Paula's is now CLOSED.

2011: Real cowboys occupied the tables in this bright dining room, and looked on with curiosity at the guy snapping away with his fancy camera. The owners didn't seem to mind as they filled our order. After ordering a combo plate the man working the regsiter inquired about our plans and I told him that we were headed to Dalhart for the XIT Rodeo and barbecue. In a parental tone he reminded me that we'd have to wait until Saturday for the event. In a respectful tone, I reminded him that it was Saturday.

Crisp and fresh cole slaw, crisp fried okra and crunchy onion rings were all superb. Ham is not something I generally order. It was moist and very salty with little smoke. Brisket was very average. The gray meat was overly trimmed, a bit dry and needed smoke. Ribs had a bit more smoke, but tasted like they'd been stored for a while. The meat was tender and moist, and the flavor was helped with a dip into the sauce. Given the quality of the sides, I was hoping for more with the meat. Maybe it would have better at the lunch rush instead of mid afternoon, but it just wasn't great meat on this visit.

Rating **
Paula's Bar-B-Q on Urbanspoon

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Barbecue Any Old Time: Blues From The Pit 1927-1942

For decades John Morthland has been writing about music for the likes of Creem, Rolling Stone and Texas Monthly. He has also been part of every Texas Monthly Top 50 tasting team to date, and provided an essay in one of my favorite Texas BBQ books. His barbecue and music credentials are staggering which is why I am so pleased that he chose this blog to express his thoughts on a new compilation released today called Barbecue Any Old Time: Blues From The Pit 1927-1942. Take it away John:

If you think barbecue and blues are inseparable today, you should have been around in the 1930s. It was a time when recordings were finally blowing sheet music away as the primary means of selling music. And it was a time when barbecue joints were replacing occasional family and community gatherings as the primary venue in the South for smoked meats, as pointed out in this CD’s liner notes by Tom Hanchett, staff historian at the Museum of the New South in Charlotte NC. One of the results of the confluence of these two developments is the 24 tracks by various musicians compiled on Barbecue Any Old Time: Blues from the Pit 1927-1942.

Old Hat Records is a specialty label run by 78 rpm record collector Marshall Wyatt out of his home in Raleigh NC. In the past, he has released anthologies of African-American fiddle music, medicine show songs, hillbilly blues and other vernacular American sounds. The music is digitally remastered and exquisitely packaged, with period photos and extensive liner notes; this one is no exception, and it makes for a romping good time.

For one thing, this was also an era when black Americans (then the sole market for this music) didn’t really distinguish between jazz and blues; though more than a few of these tracks featuring horns and piano are what we now label “jazz,” back then they were usually lumped in with guitar blues, and combining them here lends this package both variety and swing. And even the guitar blues are the more ragtimey, Piedmont blues of the East Coast, jaunty and upbeat compared to the darker sounds of the Mississippi Delta (where the musicians, when their stomachs started growling, were more likely to sing about “hot tamales, baby”). Finally, the good-timing tunes here are what the music industry called “novelty songs,” “double entendre” blues even though in reality their entendre couldn’t be much more single. (It does not take a whole lot of brainpower, after all, to figure out what Charlie Campbell means when he sings, over a plunkety-plunk rhythm, “Pepper Sauce Mama, you make my meat red hot.”)

That kind of party atmosphere prevails from beginning to end. Hanchett argues that these lyrics reflect the increased affluence of black Americans recently moved from the country to the city; in his view, barbecue became analogous then to the bling of today’s hip-hoppers, a prestige commodity available to anyone with the bucks to pay for it and the desire to flaunt it. I fear he’s stretching the point a little too far here; these songs could just as easily be celebrating the ability of poor people to make the most out of what little they are able to obtain. But in either case, barbecue is synonymous with good times. In fact, even the bad times are good when they’re described with the sly humor of “Big Boy” Teddy Edwards in “Who Did You Give My Barbecue To, Parts 1 and 2.” Brownie McGhee reworked that song slightly and claimed it as his own on “Barbecue Any Old Time.”

You want wacky? Bogus Ben Covington’s one-of-a-kind, mock-gospel “I Heard the Voice of a Pork Chop” satirizes the Scottish hymn “I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say.” (Covington also worked carnival sideshows as “The Human Pretzel.”) Back on the sexual front, Bessie Jackson (aka Lucille Bogan), supported by Josh White on guitar and Walter Roland on piano, offers her tender “barbecue” for sale “behind the jail” on the seductive “Barbecue Bess,” while Savannah Churchill, over a nifty jazz septet, throws her hat in the ring boasting “Fat Meat Is Good Meat.” Memphis Minnie, with her wicked guitar and lusty vocals, raves about her man’s “Pig Meat on the Line.” Georgia White applies a little more polish to her version of “Pigmeat Blues,” which features a 20-year-old guitarist named Les Paul making his recording debut. Then there’s Vance Dixon and His Pencils with the comical tall tale “Meat Man Pete (Pete, the Dealer in Meat),” Hank Jones and His Ginger (actually, guitar whiz Lonnie Johnson and his brother James) with the ethereal, otherworldly instrumental “Barbecue Blues”—if I die of overeating, this is what I’ll want played at my funeral--and the husband-and-wife vaudeville team Hunter and Jenkins with the insinuating “Meat Cuttin’ Blues.” And talk about your party atmosphere: high-pitched Frankie “Half Pint” Jaxon, arguably the Jimmy Scott of his time, kicks the album off with “Down at Jaspers Bar-B-Que,” an excited survey of the goings-on at an establishment owned by Chicago drummer Jasper Taylor.

But when it comes to the pairing of music with barbecue, one Robert Hicks takes the prize. He was the pitmaster and waiter at Tidwell’s Barbecue Place, in the upscale Atlanta suburb of Buckhead. A nimble 12-string guitarist and expressive singer, he was also the evening’s entertainment there. In 1927, he cut his debut single, the forlorn “Barbecue Blues,” bearing the immortal line “So glad good looks don’t take you through this world.” Columbia Records changed his name to Barbecue Bob and promoted the single with photos of him in chef’s whites and advertising copy that dripped with barbecue clichés (“cooked to a turn,” “plenty of vocal seasoning,” etc.) It was a hit, and Barbecue Bob went on to make a total of 62 recordings over the next three years before dying of pneumonia at age 29. In a more just world, he would be a genuine American culture hero.

(For more information about Barbecue Any Old Time: Blues from the Pit 1927-1942, check out the web site Old Hat Records)

- John Morthland

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Thursday, September 15, 2011

BBQ Book Review: The Art of Beef Cutting

Title: The Art of Beef Cutting
Author: Kari Underly
Published: 2011, Wiley

Raw meat can look pretty good on a page when butchery and artistry come together. This new book by third generation meat cutter Kari Underly is both stunningly beautiful and staggeringly informative. Kari has channeled her twenty-five years of butchery experience into winning meat cutting competitions, consulting with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association to develop new cuts of meat, and now into this book project.

The book takes the beeve down one primal at a time showing diagrams of just how to break down those large muscle groups. Each individual cut get its own page for an incredible detailed look at American butchery techniques. As the author puts it "this book is a comprehensive guide to the latest cutting techniques, as well as the fundamentals of beef merchandising. I designed it to be an ideal reference and training tool for retailers, chefs, culinary schools and even enthusiastic home butchers who are eager to master the basics of meat fabrication." In addition to the guide to beef cuts there is an explanation of cattle breeds, beef grading and the knives you'll need for carving.

A whole shoulder clod from page 62

When the book arrived (gratis) at my door from the publisher, my first target was page where I could find my friend the brisket. This cut is made up of two muscles (deep pectoral or flat and the superficial pectoral or point) and comes from the long winded "Brisket/Shank Plate Flank" primal. Also featured is the shoulder clod (pictured above, and on pages 62-69) that can be smoked whole like they do at Kreuz and Smitty's or it can be broken down into more familiar and manageable cuts like top blade steaks or flat iron steaks (which Kari helped develop). It was also enlightening to explore the rib area to see just where the different types of beef ribs come from. Back ribs (page 80) are those formerly attached to the prime rib, so the meat is cut pretty close to the bone so as to allow that meat to sell for ribeye prices. Short ribs (page 137) are from the portion of long ribs just below the rib primal. They can be cut crosswise like you'll generally see at the grocery store, or kept whole like they do at Louie Mueller, Smoke and Lockhart Smokehouse.

A Short Rib (pre-sliced) from Lockhart Smokehouse

While I probably won't be buying any sides of beef to break down a home now that I have this book, it will certainly prove useful for that purpose to any aspiring butchers. For me it was fascinating to see the whole cow laid out so cleanly on the pages with such great explanations about how to create and use each cut. Now I'm just waiting for Volume 2 so we can adequately explore the pig together.

- BBQ Snob

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Franklin Barbecue

AUSTIN: Franklin Barbecue
900 E 11th St

Austin, TX 78702
Open Tues-Sun 11-meat runs out

Update: The music was blaring and my regard for the speed limit was waning. I'd just finished a hearty breakfast of brisket and brisket at Snow's in Lexington, and I was racing time to get a spot in line at Franklin Barbecue on a Saturday morning. I'd heard from the Twitterverse that lines were still sane one hour before opening at 10:00 am, but I hadn't factored in the start of another semester at UT. Hungry folks had already filled the entry ramp and the line was slinking down the parking area to a spot beyond the building when I arrived at 10:15. I couldn't count how many were in front of me, but when Aaron Franklin spotted me in line and came over to chat, he said that I didn't want to know the truth about when I'd probably eat. A nice girl came through the line asking for orders, but only to estimate how long the food would last. At opening time there were probably seventy people behind me. Some of them would get the bad news that the meat wouldn't hold out that long and had to leave. Just before noon I made it inside the door just after watching a few disappointed carloads pull up to be met with the infamous "SOLD OUT" sign. They had not been informed of the dedication required to get a taste of this meat made famous all over the country by the likes of the New York Times, the San Francisco Gate and Bon Appetit.

Over 100 degrees outside

About 90 degrees inside

I was meeting a Swedish photographer interested in Texas BBQ, but I'm not sure if he knew what he was in for in regards to the line or the food, but the black jeans and boots coupled with the look on his face after the first bite told me 'no' on both counts.

Aaron Franklin, owner and pitmaster

Finally at the counter at 12:25, owner and pitmaster Aaron Franklin was a busy man wielding a large knife. I won't pretend that I was there unnoticed. Aaron and I know each other well after running into one another at various BBQ events and many visits to his old trailer up the road. My friend, on the other hand, was a new face so he suggested we get a taste of everything. I agreed and made a special request for a thick end cut from the coal black brisket.

Photo by C.C Ekström

A few slices of both fatty and lean brisket were included along with a thick pork rib, a juicy sausage link and a generous helping of pulled pork. We downed a few fist fulls of the moist pork that is truly pulled from whole shoulders. The meat has a subtle smoke with great seasoning and a splash of vinegar sauce just before serving to finish it. Thick pork spare ribs are much more aggressively seasoned with black pepper and smoke. The meat came easily from the bone, and it is incredible moist from all that perfectly rendered fat. The sausage isn't house made, but made especially for Franklin to their owns specifications. The links had great snap, were nicely moist and had great beefy flavor.

Photo by C.C Ekström

After plowing through the other meat selections, it was time for the highlight of the visit and the best brisket in Texas. As my Swedish friend reached for the brisket slices, I stopped him short in order to taste a chunk of the burnt end. His eyes had the look of a smoked meat epiphany, and I too was enjoying a moment across the table. The luscious fat, the thick smoky crust, the black pepper and the tender beef made for one perfect bite of smoked brisket. The slices, while a bit less potent, were no less incredible and truly worth the wait.

Photo by C.C Ekström

As I left I wondered if I would brave that line again. I passed that old trailer now on display and remembered a time where my group sat alone in that old gravel lot enjoying some fine brisket. Hopefully that new behemoth smoker really does cut down on that line.

Already garnering the highest rating on this blog, I found no reason to cut their score even with the new location. Aaron Franklin, it seems, can do no wrong with a smoker.

Rating ****** (still 6)

2010: Just before the Texas Monthly BBQ Festival, I met up with John Morthland at Franklin Barbecue to talk BBQ, and get some breakfast. I knew I'd be stuffing myself silly in an hour or so, but I can't rightly pass a chance to get some of Aaron Franklin's brisket when I'm mere minutes away. A line had already formed 15 minutes before opening on Sunday morning, but the line moved quickly once the gate was slid open. With two combo plates between us, John and were able to sample all four meats.

Just watching the brisket being cut here is like having a preview bite. I've seen so many sad looking slices of smoked beef, that I can already tell it's going to taste bad. On the other side of the spectrum, with the smell and the dripping juices, I felt like I could taste this stuff just because it looks so damn good. Thankfully I got a real live taste, and it was glorious. The fat at the end of the thick slice had melted into the peppery rub to create and airy, juicy, salty flavor bomb of a bite. Every bite thereafter was perfectly smokey and silky tender with plenty of rendered fat to keep things well lubed.

Aaron is no less talented with his pork. The salt and pepper rub on each rib acts as the natural compliment to the smokiness that permeates the meat. The ribs are well cooked with a level of tenderness that finds the right balance where just a slight tug is required to release meat cleanly from bone. Pulled pork has even more intense flavor. A mixture of pork, fat, crust and a finishing sauce create the right balance of flavors. It's moist without being soggy, and has just the right touch on the seasoning. I kept shoveling fork fulls even after I'd determined to save room for the meat coming at the Festival.

The sausage is made by the Texas Sausage Company in Austin. After trying dozens of homemade sausages in the area, this one had a flavor I just couldn't pin down. The juiciness gave away the high level of pork, and the flavor of beef was evident, but there was a richness that I could only equate to organ meat (I guessed liver). Aaron Franklin confirmed in an email conversation that he has them add some beef heart in there for the added twist. This surely doesn't please every palate, but I find this bold move a good way to make a personal mark on the local sausage scene. Aaron also mentioned he's still not satisfied with the grind, and they're trying to work out that final kink. Still tweaking in pursuit of ultimate perfection.

Over at the Festival, John and I tried and tried to find a sample that matched the quality at Franklin. I know they were all cooking remotely at the Long Center, but even the best of the best in Texas could not surpass what that little trailer can put out, and it's that good on every visit. Based on such high quality and dogged consistency, this is nothing short of the best brisket in Texas.

With all the success, and the growing lines, I had to ask when the expansion is coming. Aaron's quick response was "Actually, I'm welding on the new smoker right now...should be ready next week....and we are planning on being in a building by the end of the year! That trailer was great way to start but has really become a limiting factor....I can't wait to make things bigger, better, easier and more consistent..." Now that's what a dedicated pitmaster does on his day off, but I'm not sure there's much room for improvement.

03/2010: Just before the Gettin' Sauced event, I stopped in again at Franklin Barbecue to try the ribs and pulled pork. I knew the brisket was stellar from previous visits (I stole a bite or two from the Patron Saint on this trip too), so I wanted to check on the other meats.

The ribs were just as good as the first visit. A well formed bark was covered with a rub heavy in black pepper. The meat came easily from the bone with just a little tooth tug, and the flavor was incredible. The pulled pork equaled the ribs in flavor. The mixture of moist fat, smoky bark and tender meat came together for a taste explosion. This was some of the best pork I've eaten. It seems there's nothing Aaron Franklin hasn't mastered.

01/2010: I stopped in at Franklin BBQ on my way back from San Antonio one Sunday morning about a month ago. I'm just now getting to write about it, but the flavor of that brisket lingers in my mind still. It was 10:45 when I stepped up to the locked chain link gate and Aaron, the owner, was arranging picnic tables in the front getting ready for his 11:00 opening bell. I sat there like a sad puppy dog until he unlocked the gate and happily invited me in for a few slices off the brisket he was just pulling from the pit.

We chatted for a bit as he unwrapped and sliced the meat, but I cut the conversation short knowing he had to get back to work, and I had to have some alone time with this beautiful beef in my front seat (too cold for picnic tables). I took a few bites, and the flavor was incredible. I had ordered the fatty cut on my previous visit, but lean cuts are more suited for brunch. The heavy black pepper rub helped create a crispy crust on the meat that also packed a wallop of smoke. Although this was lean brisket, the meat was incredibly moist and perfectly tender. After a few luxurious slices, I wrapped it back up and headed out onto I-35 back to Dallas.

As the radio played, I contemplated if this was the finest brisket that I've ever eaten as it called to me beneath the thin, greasy, and now transparent yellow paper. As I eyed the interstate with one eye, the other was watching as I carefully unwrapped the meat for another go. As the salty flesh passed my lips, I realized how an appropriate song can add so much to a special moment.

Now there are songs with a manufactured timeliness like playing Brad Paisley's "Alcohol" during an all night kegger. Of course it fits when everyone's already consuming the title. But then there's the true timeliness of a song like when you've suffered through years of mediocre smoked beef and you're driving in the car and a perfect sugar cookie from a perfect slice of brisket melts on your tongue, and as it traces down your throat you hear Eddie Money shout "I think I'm in love!" That's timeliness.

01/2010: It's been a while since I've found an honest "sugar cookie" on my brisket, but as I waited for my order to be filled, owner and pitmaster Aaron Franklin handed me a preview morsel from the fatty end of the brisket and the flavor was transcendent. If I lived in Austin, I would go here everyday if I could be guaranteed a bite like that one.

The other exciting part about this visit was that it became the first official joint review for FCGBBQ and the boys over at Man Up Texas BBQ. Drew and Brad met me in the cold weather to dine alfresco, but our hearts were soon warmed by some excellent smoked meat.

Brisket can be ordered fatty or lean, so we tried both. The fatty brisket had lots of beautifully rendered fat throughout the meat, and nearly melted in the mouth. The smokiness along with the great flavor from the rub created nearly perfect slices...just nearly perfect because the lean slices were the definition of perfection. Each slice had an great crust, a beautiful smokering and a nice morsel of buttery fat clinging to the meat.

A heavy salt and black pepper covered the large spare ribs. Each rib had not a speck of unrendered fat, and the meat pulled from the bone with just a slight tug from the teeth. The texture of the meat was great, but it was bettered by the intense flavor.

Side items included a good potato salad very heavy on the mustard, and some fairly bland pintos. A bourbon banana pudding put a fitting cap on the meal, as Aaron passed out large free samples to the group. Afterward, he showed us his pit enclosed in the sheet metal shed. He brought the pit over from John Mueller's old place on Manor Road, where he got his introduction into BBQ.

Aaron spent a few years perfecting his craft while smoking in the backyard until the crowds that gathered started to outgrow his space. At that point he knew it was the right time to open up a place of his own. Lucky for us.

Franklin   Barbecue on Urbanspoon

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Monday, September 12, 2011

Gettin' Sauced 2011 Recap

It was the hottest day* in the hottest summer in Austin, and I was planning to eat dozens of barbecue sauce. There was no air conditioning, but I was at least in the shade of an Independence Brewery warehouse drinking plenty of their cold brews.

Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue, Austin

Caroline Thornley [Birmingham, AL]

In addition to plenty of sauce, there was a lot of barbecue to consume. Aaron Franklin of Austin's ultra-popular Franklin Barbecue was passing out Tipsy Texan sandwiches and John Mueller of the soon to open J Mueller BBQ had dozens of links of his special recipe sausage. I didn't get to try either, but John's sausage was gone in less than an hour.

Drew Thornley and John Mueller

Caroline Thornley [Birmingham, AL]

The event was the second annual Gettin' Sauced organized by Brad and Drew from Man Up Texas BBQ. This year was on a whole other level from the previous year with what seemed like ten times the attendance. I know the sauce entries shot up from 40ish in 2010 to 185 this year.

Brad Istre and Drew Thornley

Caroline Thornley [Birmingham, AL]

The judge's table was plenty of fun. I met a few new faces and saw some old friends.

Chris Reid, Drew and me

Caroline Thornley [Birmingham, AL]

Big Red was the official beverage of the event.

Judge Robert Sierra and a Big Red

Caroline Thornley [Birmingham, AL]

Across the table from me was the Daytripper himself, Chet Garner. If you haven't seen his show on PBS, then check it out. He travels around Texas to interesting destinations, and most importantly, enjoys a ton of barbecue along the way.

Judge Chet Garner

In all, I probably ate eighty or so samples of sauce. I was ready for some meat.

Sauce Fatigue

After several hours of sauce ingestion, the votes were tallied. Black's in Lockhart had a great showing as did Two Bros. Market in San Antonio.

Fresh Division Winners:
1. Black's Habanero
2. Black's Smokey
3. Two Bros. Sweet
4. Two Bros. Tamarind
5. Shiner R&B The Great White Hope - Alabama White Sauce

Bottled Division Winners:
1. Old Timer Gourmet
2. DennyMike's Carolina Style
3. Desert Smoke Sweet & Spicy
4. Grumpy's Black Label
5. Grumpy's Goodnight-Loving

For a full list of winners, check Man Up's site.

Event Photographer Caroline Thornley

Caroline Thornley [Birmingham, AL]

I'm looking forward to the event getting even bigger next year, and I know Drew and Brad are already planning 2012. I just hope they find a cooler day or an air conditioned judge's chambers.

*It was 110, and would be eclipsed by a 112 degree day the following day when I was judging a hot sauce festival, seriously.

- BBQ Snob

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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Dyer's Bar-B-Que (Amarillo)

AMARILLO: Dyer's Bar-B-Que
1619 S Kentucky St
Amarillo, TX 79102
Open M-Sat 11-10, Sun 11-9

Plaques and awards cover the wall in the entry lobby. Most awards are local and nearly all of them are for ribs. I was here to see if their brisket was any better than the Pampa location. I placed my to-go order at the front counter where a teen punk couldn't find the time to take the Skoal out of is lip before taking my order.

Back in the car, we had a glorious reunion with the onion rings we had come to love on this trip. The slaw and potato salad were great as well, but I do not yearn for them like the onion rings. Texas toast was fresh and that same apricot puree was there for dipping. Brisket was bit better than the other location. The smokiness was there, and the slice was good and moist, but it could have been more tender. Pork tenderloin was an exact replica of the bone dry slices we had in Pampa. As those plaques on the wall were an apt preview for the ribs. The flavor from the mesquite smoke was deep, and the sweet rub and heavyish glaze were a nice counterpoint to the smoke and heavy black pepper. While very similar in style, this location was just a cut above the one in Pampa.

Rating ***
Dyer's Bar-B-Q on Urbanspoon

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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Big Texan

7701 W Interstate 40
Amarillo, TX 79121
Open Daily 7-10:30 (BBQ after 10:30)

No, I did not get the 72 oz. steak or attempt the ridiculous eating challenge that The Big Texan is most well known for. I didn't even get a steak. A large table surrounded by high-backed chairs on raised platform sits just below the timer that would be counting down had some poor soul been attempting the famous challenge. The only challenge I had on this day was waiting until 10:00 am when the lunch menu was finally available. I know this place isn't a BBQ joint, but brisket, ribs and sausage are featured on their menu, it was open on a Sunday, and I happened to be staying at the adjoining motel the evening before. I was even berated on Twitter because this place is only for tourist. I was 500 miles from home, so I guess I fit the tourist definition.

What I quickly realized when the combo plate arrived was that many tourists assume this is real Texas barbecue. Unfortunately, none of these meats had even been licked by smoke. The ribs were tender with plenty of sauce flavor, but they had surely been baked. The same for the brisket that wasn't even a good representation of roast beef. From the salty flavor and overly moist texture, it may have been presliced and stored in broth. Sausage was large and mushy with odd flavors of aromatic spices. Again, any smoke flavor was missing. Sides of fried okra and mashed potatoes were also forgettable, but were at least more indicative of Texas cuisine than the barbecue. For the sake of this state's barbecue reputation, I hope the tourists stick with the steaks here.

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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.