Saturday, May 2, 2015

Red Dirt BBQ Festival, Tyler 2015

sampled 5/2/15
This was the second annual Red Dirt Fest and we are 2 for 2.  So, we're driving 100 miles east from DFW to sample 18 BBQ joints at this fest.  What do you think we would do?  Stop and buy some BBQ, of course!  As usual we timed things to arrive a bit early and we used part of that time to drop by Stanley's Famous for Scott to pick up a pound of brisket and a half rack of ribs.  We had to test some and it passed.  Scott packed it up in  his cooler for later.  I passed because I still have many pounds of meat in the fridge and freezer from our trip last week.  However on sampling the brisket I sorta wished I had bought some.
We got checked in easily and found a nice shady spot to hang out while we waited for the gates to open.
As usual we sprang for the VIP tickets, which gave us the golden hour to hit all the joints before the general admission folks.  Always worth the price.
While hanging out we met some nice folks from Shreveport who we had visited with last year.  After a couple of failed attempts at a photo with their phone (operator error on my part), I convinced them we should use a real camera.  If y'all read this, e-mail me and I'll send you a big jpg.
If you peered through the fence you could tell from the license plates that we were in the right place.
After what seemed forever, they finally let folks start trickling in about 5 minutes early, which was great.  What followed was the usual feeding frenzy of grabbing 2 or 3 samples, finding a table, sampling and bagging any leftovers, then striking out once more to repeat.  I ate a lot more of the samples here than in Houston.  It was all excellent.  Standouts included brisket from Opie's, Riverport, Black's and Lockhart Smokehouse; ribs from Slowbone, Hutchin's, Riverport, and Stanley's; and sausage from Kreuz, Opie's, and Hays County.  Lots of standouts because there was a lot of good BBQ.
I got to running around so much trying to make the most of the magic hour that I missed a couple of photos.  Oh well.  Rest assured I did not miss the meats.  The single complaint I had this year was the lack of t-shirts in the sizes that real BBQ eaters might need.  I think the general admission folks might have more to crab about.
Cutting things down to a single entry gate had a mighty long line backed up even after general admission had been open for over 30 minutes.  The folks in Houston had solved that problem by sending folks down the line with portable scanners, handing out credentials, and having most folks checked in before they even opened the gate.  Something they might want to do in Tyler next year.  Other than that, we had a great time and look forward to being 3 for 3 next year.

On the way out we passed by the Subway sandwich shop on the square, adjacent to the BBQ fest.
Wisely, they had closed for the day.  I think they had some pretty stiff competition on May 2nd.

A couple of posts of just photos follow.  As usual, clicking on any photo will give you a larger view.

Red Dirt photos 5/2/15 part 1

Red Dirt photos 5/2/15 part 2

 Yes there was brisket from Black's, but I ate it before I thought to take a photo!  It was good, too.

Red Dirt photos 5/2/15 part 3

Monday, April 27, 2015

More stops on the way back from Houston 4/27/15

On the way back to DFW we stopped by Kreuz Market in Lockhart plus the Taylor Cafe and Louie Mueller's in Taylor.  I came away with 25 jalapeno cheese links from Kreuz, 2 pounds of brisket from Vencil Mares' place, and a "Texas Dozen" of jalapeno sausage from Louie's.  We also made a short stop at Slovecek's in West where Scott grabbed me one jalapeno cheese link to try out later.  I have a very happy freezer and I believe I may remove the welcome mat from the front door until it is empty again.  Can you blame me?

Black's BBQ, Lockhart, Texas 4/27/15

sampled 4/27/15
Take me back to Black's.  While we had fun at the Houston BBQ fest, this was the real deal and this meal alone made the entire trip worthwhile. Every bite of this was excellent with deep smoke flavor in the brisket.  I was tasting smoke flavor for hours afterwards.  Click and enlarge that photo at your own peril.  The fat just melted away when chewed.  I also grabbed 2 pounds of frozen brisket and a giant beef rib to go.  Something to look forward to, later.

2015 Houston BBQ Festival

Sampled 4/26/15
Three years in a row for us at the Houston BBQ Fest and things seem to be improving on the Houston BBQ scene.  However Lockhart, Taylor, Austin, and even Dallas have far better smoked meats, based on this sample of 23 different joints.  Still it was another fun trip and a day well spent with even better food to be found on our trip down and back.  As usual I fasted the day before, knowing we had 23 joints to sample.
We got out to the fest at about 11 am, an hour before the VIP entry.  Scott and I ended up 11th and 12th in the VIP line.  They were very well organized with volunteers coming out to the line, scanning our tickets, then fetching our goody bags and t-shirts.  Great friendly service.  The weather was a bit steamy but much improved over the gale force winds of 2013 and the occasional downpours of 2014.  There was just enough cloud cover that I never even got out the sunscreen.  It wasn't long til the VIP line snaked far back in the parking lot.
The gates opened for VIP ticket holders right at noon and Scott and I made a beeline for the far side of the festival with a plan of making our way back towards the gate after the hordes had passed.  The plan worked well and most of our samples were acquired with little or no waiting required.  The goal was to sample all 23 joints during the "magic hour" before the general admission crowds descended and the lines got stupid.  We made it in the nick of time and settled in to visit with friends as the general admission ticket holders lined up for their first samples.
The food this year was generally better than the first two fests.  We did our usual method of taking a bite or two of each sample, then either bagging the rest or tossing it, depending on how much we liked it.  We bagged way more food this year than the first two fests combined.  We still tossed plenty of undercooked or overcooked brisket, tough ribs, and yucky sausage.  As usual the size of the samples varied greatly with some joints passing out tiny morsels while others filled a paper boat with food.  I had only one sample of brisket with discernible smoke flavor.  Louie Mueller's had an excellent beef rib sample and a very nice lamb popsicle.  Kudos also to Feges who went whole hog, the first we have seen at any of the BBQ fests we have attended.  I'm not a big pulled pork fan but it was a nice idea they had to do something different.  Scott noted a number of joints had noticeably small brisket samples and instead pushed pork, turkey, and sides, possibly in response to the high cost of beef.  None of the brisket compared to the small sample I had the day before in Huntsville or the goodness to come in Lockhart.
The only two problems we had with this year's fest were the long beer lines after general admission and the disco music which blared through the speakers during most of the VIP magic hour.  The Texas Monthly Fest does an outstanding job of combining different genres of Texas-made music between bands.  With all the great music that has come out of Houston I'd think it would be easy to compile a similar soundtrack and leave the Michael Jackson stuff alone.  Puhleeessee!!!
Posts below shows the booths and food samples we tasted.  As usual you can click on any photo for a larger view.