Sunday, November 16, 2014

Meat Fight 2014!

Sampled 11/16/14
This was the second year Scott was lucky to grab us VIP tickets to Meat Fight in Dallas. This is a charity event to raise funds to fight MS and sells out very quickly.  The concept is they get celebrity chefs from various restaurants in town to form four teams to cook brisket, sausage and other meats.  Then celebrity judges pick the winner.  Some of the best pit masters in the State of Texas (meaning The World) were on hand to do the judging this year, including these three captured by Scott.
Last year temperatures were near a hundred degrees but this year they were in the low 40s.  The event was held indoors in a big green barn of a building but they had heaters near every entrance and temperatures were not too bad inside, especially once the masses came in.  We cued up for our goodie bags and wrist bands at 1:30 and stood around in the cattle pen until the gates were opened at 2 o'clock.  
It took awhile for the meat to arrive but there was plenty of delicious beer from Four Corners Brewery and desserts from several venders to start off with.  I started off with some Boss Lady beer and the delicious maple bacon donut from Hypnotic donuts.  Mmm Tasty.
Next up was some Bourbon Banana Pudding from the Swiss Pastry shop.  They had other goodies to try, too, but now I was ready for some meat.  Fortunately the meat started arriving.
The lines were short and moved quickly, which was a good thing as we only had about 30 minutes before the general admission folks came in.  My first stop was the "Qu Tang Clan".  Everything was tasty but not much smoke flavor to be had.

My second stop was the "Meat the Cleavers" team.  Brisket and sausage were on offer here but again were devoid of smoke.  The sausage had a nice spicy kick and Scott thought it was heavy in cilantro.  I liked it, Scott not so much.
 
My third stop was "The Notorious P.I.G." team.  The brisket was bursting with smoke flavor and perfectly tender and moist.  The sausage was just a bit mushy but the surprise inside were nice chunks of smoky brisket.  Outstanding!  The pulled pork and chopped brisket were ok, but needed sauce.
The last meat stop was the "Fearsome Fourcemeat".  Again nice tender brisket and tasty sausage but without the smoke flavor I am always searching for. 
Overall I enjoyed all of the meats and had a very good meal, but the brisket and sausage of "The Notorious P.I.G." team stood way out from the pack to my taste buds.  We didn't stay to see who won the contest.  My feeling is we were the real winners because we had some very good que for a good cause.

We spent another hour wandering around, taking photos and drinking more of Four Corners' wonderful brew.  After a couple of cups of Boss Lady I found they had a few cans of their excellent porter and switched over to that.  I did get a funny caricature done and was on hand as The Snob and Chef Luscher unveiled the longest sausage in Texas.
A very fun event and hopefully a big fundraiser for a most worthy cause.  Kudos to all the chefs who stayed out in the cold Saturday night smoking a mighty feast for all the attendees.
UPDATE:  Meat Fight reports they raised over $100,000 to help fight MS.  Not bad for a bunch of carnivores.

More photos in another post below. As always you can click on any photo for a larger view.

More Meat Fight photos

 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Hutchin's BBQ, Mckinney, Texas

Sampled 11/10/14
So we had some friends in town today and the question came up about where do you go for great evening BBQ in DFW?  That was a noggin scratcher.  Most of the better joints open at 11 and run out of food a few hours later.  Even Lockhart Smokehouse can be iffy after 7 pm.  We finally decided on making the trip up to Hutchins BBQ in McKinney.  They are one of the few joints that keep "regular" hours and yet have very good que.  After a long wait in Central Expressway traffic, we managed to roll up at 8 pm. 

Now 8 pm might not be the best time to go for great BBQ, but Hutchin's did a very nice job.  The brisket was fresh, moist, tender, and smoky.  Fat was perfectly rendered and delicious.  I ordered 2 spare ribs but the cutter gave me more than that and for free.  He said it was the last rack and he didn't want us to judge their ribs on the last rack.  We didn't, and they were pretty good for the last rack.  I made sure to pass them around for all to enjoy.  The jalapeno cheese sausage had a nice beefy flavor but not much of a kick.  Mac and cheese was average.

I thought it was well worth the drive but I could have done without all that traffic.  I still need to fast up one day and head over for lunch for their all-you-can-eat special.  Very friendly service and the best BBQ you can find at 8 pm on a Monday!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Frankenfood Redux

Sampled 10/21/14
Some of you may recall the episode of the Spike channel TV show Frankenfoods that my buddy Dave and I participated in down at Black's BBQ back in May.  Well on our recent visit to Lockhart I had hoped to sample the winning dish again.  Part of winning the contest was an agreement that the dish would be served at Black's for the next 6 months.  Since the episode aired in July I figured there would be no trouble finding some.  Wrong.  Apparently it is a very popular dessert, though time consuming and labor intensive to make.  On our first visit on October 19 they were out, but the friendly server promised they would have some the next morning. 

At the take out register the next day we had no trouble getting our BBQ order filled, but the cookies were not ready yet.  Fortunately they were close to done and it only took about 10 minutes for our cookies to arrive.  They have adjusted the recipe a bit to make individual servings and they sell 2 cookies for $4.25.  I got 3 orders so they just stacked them 3 to a plate for us.
These are just as delicious as they look.  A waffle is covered with chocolate chip cookie dough, then maple cream frosting, then sprinkled with toasted pecans and candied bacon.  It's a party in your mouth.  I was happy to find them still available and glad Scott and my Mrs got to try the winning Frankenfood from my TV adventure.

Black's BBQ Trifecta

sampled October 18 and 20, 2014
Just for grins, during our recent trip down to Gettin Sauced, Scott and I decided we would eat at all 3 Black's BBQ joints.  Now we know they are different companies, but all 3 have roots at the original Black's BBQ in Lockhart so we thought we'd do a comparison.

Our first stop was at Terry Black's BBQ in Austin on October 18.  We had visited once before and got some to-go but we felt we needed to have a sit down meal there to get a better tasting.  The to-go we got back in September was decent que but fairly average in our evaluation.

Inside we we joined a short line, maybe 15 people in front of us.  The line moved slowly and I think it took us about 20 minutes to get our meal.  That was with 2 of their three meat cutting boards in operation.  I got my usual half pound of fatty brisket, 2 spare ribs, and a jalapeno cheese ring.
All the food was hot and tasty but the meat had zero smoke flavor.  The brisket and ribs were a bit overcooked.  When I tried to pick up a slice of brisket by the end it fell apart under its own weight.  The rib bones slid out of the meat, too.  Neither was mushy on chewing.  The jalapeno cheese sausage had plenty of cheese but no hint of jalapeno spice.  I never did see any flecks of jalapeno. Sides were good but nothing to really stand out.  They kept busy for the whole time we were there, from about 7-8 pm.  More photos from our first visit here.

Our second stop on the tour was Kent Black's BBQ in San Marcos on October 20.  We arrived for lunch about 12:30 pm. 
This is a new joint and a separate business from the Lockhart Black's, but run by the same folks.  It has been open a little under a month.  They have a nice spacious set-up with an outdoor eating area and a large dining area inside.  In the parking lot there were several San Marcos Fire Department vehicles.  Usually a good sign.


 
There were just a couple of folks in line in front of us and we quickly got our food and headed to the back dining room.
I got my usual half pound of brisket, 2 spare ribs, and a ring.
The brisket was a tad undercooked with fat that was not quite rendered all the way.  There was zero smoke flavor.  Scott got some burnt ends and he commented there was little smoke flavor in his meat.  The pork ribs left a decent bite mark but some of the bark was a bit chewy.  That might have been a holding time issue, but why would there be issues like that at lunch time?  The jalapeno cheese sausage had good cheese and pepper content and had a nice kick to it.  I think that was the highlight of the meal for me.  The mac and cheese looked promising with bacon bits but surprisingly came across as pretty average. 

One nice touch we noticed was a signed dollar bill from Edgar Black sealed into the flooring near our table.
Our last stop on the Black's Trifecta tour was at the original Black's in Lockhart on the evening of October 20.
This is one of our usual favorites and we have eaten here many times before over the years.  We arrived about 7 pm and quickly got our food.  When they sliced my 2 ribs, they gave me an end piece at no charge because there was not a lot of meat on it.  They also gave me 2 rings but only charged me for 1 because they were small. That's the nice touches we are used to at Black's and the kind of thing many other BBQ joints do not do. 
After I got my usual, I grabbed a chair and went straight to the brisket.  Dang it!  Still no smoke flavor.  That's something that is almost a given on all our recent visits to Black's.  Even frozen mail order briskets I have had from there had decent smoke flavor throughout.  The fat was, again, not completely rendered and was devoid of flavor.  I had to cut it away.  The ribs were good, even the end piece with little meat, but there was no smoke flavor there, either.  The jalapeno rings were nice with good spice.  I think the Mac and Cheese was better here than at Kent Black's.  Strange, because I always thought bacon made everything better and there was no bacon here!

After some discussion, Scott and I decided to come back on Tuesday and get some to-go, figuring we might find the smoke situation back to normal.  Sadly, that was not the case.  I got 2 lbs of fatty brisket to go and found it just as roast beefy as what we had the night before.  The interesting thing about all of this is that at Gettin' Sauced, Black's was one of only 2 samples we got, out of 12 stations, that had decent smoke flavor.  Who says great BBQ is easy?  Not me.

On reflection we'd like to go back and try this trifecta again, but all on the same day.  It would be pretty easy to do from Austin, to San Marcos, and to Lockhart.  None of the 3 joints stood out from each other this trip.  We had plenty of good food but no truly great BBQ.

There will soon be another "Original" Black's in Austin on Guadalupe Street.  However they plan on bringing in the meat from Lockhart instead of smoking on site.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

5th Annual Gettin' Sauced, Austin

Sampled 10/19/14 2:30-6:30 pm   http://www.gettinsauced.com/
This was the fifth annual Gettin' Sauced, but this was the first time Scott and I were able to attend.  We had a great time.  As usual we purchased VIP tickets to get a jump on the BBQ.  We were first in line for check-in at the VIP booth well before the 2:30 pm opening.  Drew greeted us then finished his instructions to the volunteers at the check-in booth.  We hung around the official "milling around area" until he came back down the path and opened the gates right on time.
We followed the path around to the BBQ Barn where 12 fine BBQ joints were in residence with samples for all.
Inside the BBQ Barn we gathered samples station by station.  As usual at these events, the samples varied widely in both quantity and quality.  Some would give you a small sample of meat, others nearly a whole meal.  Pulled pork seemed to be a popular item this day with several offering it either as a sandwich or as just a meat sample.  All the food was good, but I was a bit disappointed in the lack of smoke flavor in most items.  Black's brisket and Snow's turkey were the only two meats with discernible smoke flavor.  
That didn't stop us from scarfing down all the other morsels.  We managed to make it through all the food booths before the general admission folks came in at 3 pm.  Good thing, too, as the lines swelled and the BBQ Barn became a busy place. 
We spent the rest of the day lounging at the picnic tables under the huge pecan tree sampling the tasty craft beers provided by several local breweries.  The VIP ticket included 3 beverage coupons, but the lovely beer fairy passed among us several times passing out extra coupons and leading to a whole new meaning for the name "Gettin' Sauced".  All the beer was excellent but I especially liked the Black Lab Porter served by Middleton.
http://www.middletonbrewingtx.com/
 
Oh, and this one:   http://www.independencebrewing.com/our-beers/seasonal/oklahoma-suks/
The venue was great with plenty of seating and shade.  This was a laid back event with none of the overcrowding present at some other events.  There was lots of room to stretch out and enjoy the live music and the beautiful weather.

The day finished with a beautiful sunset and a designated driver.  Thank goodness for the designated driver!!
Another post follows below with food pictures and a few other shots from the party.  Congrats to Drew and the Man-Up crew for a very fun event.