as always, click on the photos for larger views.
Oops we did it again. The TMBBQ Fest, that is. What a time, what a time. This one started like the last one with my buddy Dave in Austin waiting around online to score us some VIP tickets when they went on sale several months back. His good luck continues and we have been salivating towards this date ever since.
We arrived at the Long Center about 10:45 and were quickly informed scanning of tickets would not begin until 11 am. We were instructed to join the VIP line and wait to be called forward. Sorta weird considering they had booths full of people standing around waiting til 11 am. We ended up about 15th in the VIP line and maintained that spot after finally getting called forward to get our tickets scanned. Kind of a weird process, but whatever. Then we sat in for the long wait til the gates were opened at noon. I saw the BBQ Snob, Daniel Vaughn, wandering around, but he seemed to always be in heavy conference so I just hung in our spot awaiting the meat to come. A little before opening, Daniel and the pit master from Snows went over to the start of the line for general admission and upgraded those first in line to VIP status. Pretty cool, and those folks were very happy!
On approaching Snow's booth I saw they did not yet have their food out, so I detoured toward Franklin, only to find a line already wrapping around the side! Gah! So on to Pecan lodge I went. Justin had a line, too, but much shorter than Aaron.
From there we spent the day grabbing food from 2 or 3 spots at a time, then sampling and discussing what we had. My main goal was to get through as many joints as possible before the general admission folks roared in at 1 pm. I managed to get through 17 booths before the hoards descended and the lines got stupid. I never did make it by Franklin's booth. I have had plenty of his food before but I felt my time was better spent sampling all the other places rather than waiting in line for what I knew was good. I think that was a good plan. Especially when trying to score as much food as possible before the general admission folks flooded the place.
The food this year was a mixed bag, as it usually is. The size of the sample varied widely among the booths. Some gave you just a bite, others practically an entire meal. As to the meat, some was great, some average, a few "bleh". Yes that was actually what I wrote in my notes about a couple of the places I tried. I know, that's not a very thorough review, but that pretty much covered it for those two stops. "Bleh!"
The two top stops for me were Pecan lodge and Black's. Both shared greatness in all of their samples. I scored high individual marks for Buzzie's jalapeno sausage, Miller's brisket, a great brisket end from Cousins, Hutchin's rib, and Stiles Switch sausage. I bagged a few leftovers to take home, but not more than a pound total. At the other booths I had some very nice maple finish Crown Royale. They made a sale there. I will be purchasing some of that! The fried pie shop was not around this year, but a developer was offering some free chocolate pecan pie. I don't think it was anything too fancy, maybe just some chocolate chips thrown in with the Karo syrup, however it was mighty tasty. I even went back for a second taste.
I never did see Drew and the Man Up crew or the Texas BBQ Posse folks, but I am sure they were all there somewhere. We did run into Alice from the Meat Fight (Dave was wearing the shirt I got him last year).
The weather could not have possibly been better.
Below are a couple of posts showing booths and food samples from the fest. It is split into two posts to make loading easier for slower connections.