Friday, August 4, 2017

Summer rib time

Sampled 8/3/17
My Mrs found ribs at a decent price, $1.49/lb, so we decided it was rib time.  We've seen them cheaper, but these were pre-trimmed so there was little prep work required.  As always, we had to cut the racks in half so they'd fit on our little bullet smoker.  A good coat of North Main All N 1 rub and we were ready to go.
After 4 hours in the bullet here's the top rack.  The little bits were some meat saved from the trimming.  They made a tasty crunchy snack.
Here's the bottom rack.
We took them in and slathered them down with Dr Pepper BBQ sauce, wrapped in foil, and into the oven for one more hour at 250.
After an hour we had some pretty nice ribs.  Moisture and tenderness were good, smoke flavor was good, and the taste was excellent.  The sweet of the sauce offsets the saltiness from the rub just perfectly.  After having our fill, the rest went onto the fridge to warm up later this week.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Summer brisket time

smoked 7/2/17
My Mrs found choice briskets on sale at Kroger this week so we're off on another smoking adventure.  This one weighed in at 17.4 pounds before trimming and lost about 3 pounds to fat trimming.
 As usual, we had to split it in half to fit in our little bullet smoker.  The only seasoning was a good coat of North Main BBQ All "N" 1 steak seasoning.
The meat went onto the smoker a little after 2 pm so it should be done about 4 am.  We plan to finish it off wrapped up in the oven so we may just keep it warm til lunch time on Monday before slicing.
Here's the view 9 hours in.  Into the oven they go, wrapped in foil for another 4 hours to tender up.
A few little sample pieces had some very nice smoke flavor.  My Mrs gets the smoke credit. She kept the oak and pecan smoke flowing for 9 hours.

Here's the final product after 5 hours wrapped in a 250 degree oven.  It also makes the house smell wonderful!
The point end was just a bit overcooked and I had to slice it pretty thick.  The flat turned out perfect with just a slightly crusty bottom.  The fat is completely rendered throughout and the bark has a deep wonderful smoke flavor.  After it cools down a bit in the fridge I'll probably bag half of it for freezing.  That's going to be some good eating for $1.67/pound.

Lockhart Smokehouse, Dallas, 6/29/17

Sampled 6/29/17 about 7:30 pm
Our first couple of visits to Lockhart Smokehouse were less than impressive.   However since then we have had some very nice BBQ from them at various festivals.  Jill even called me out at Tyler last year and said they'd improved a lot and I owed them another shot.  I agreed, based on what I have had at festivals.  My excuse to make the drive happened last week when they booked a blues act I really like, E.J. Mathews.

We arrived at about 7 pm and found a line of about 20 in front of us.  My Mrs went and grabbed a table and I waited about 15 minutes to order.  From the conversations I was hearing in line, there were a lot of first timers.  They seemed to have plenty of food on hand so I ordered half a pound of fatty brisket from the end, 2 spare ribs, 2 baby back ribs, a jalapeno cheese ring, and a small jalapeno mac and cheese.  I was happy when the cutter pulled out a fresh rack of spare ribs and cut me two big bones from the center.  Just as I like them and I didn't even have to ask.

The brisket was really nice.  The fat was well rendered and the smoke flavor was good.  The beef was moist but not a bit mushy with a slightly crispy bark that was full of flavor.  There was a big chunk of fat, but that's not surprising considering I asked for a chunk off the end.  I liked what I got and I'd do it again!

The spare ribs were another story.  They looked beautiful but were very chewy.  You had to gnaw the meat off the bone.  The flavor and moisture were good, but they were just tough.  They had another chance with the baby back ribs, but the story was the same.  Yes, it's a fine line between too tender, falling off the bone, and too tough, but I'd vote for too tender every time.   My Mrs agreed and we left one of each untouched.

The jalapeno mac and cheese had nice chunks of jalapeno and a good spicy kick when you got a bit of green. However the jalapenos were few and far between.  The sausage was good ol' Kreuz quality.  I still have a bunch in my freezer and had been eating on them (with some Franklin brisket) over the last week.  However I usually peel off the tough casing before I warm them up.  The exact same sausage costs $2 in Lockhart versus $5.25 in Dallas.

The bottom line though is that they seem to be doing a booming business.  They have a new location up in Plano and have just announced a future location at a big development in Arlington.  They are also top 50 on Texas Monthly's new list and they have food in the evening.  Many other joints sell out and close by 2 pm.

Overall, I wish I'd skipped the ribs and had gotten more brisket.  The music made the trip worthwhile and I'd go back again, when there's some good music.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Smoked Dallas announces BBQ lineup

12 Joints announced so far.  Tickets are already on sale.

CattleAck BBQ on the Food Network.

The Food Network show Incredible Edible America is running an episode called Deliciously Dallas that features CattleAck BBQ from Farmers Branch.  Thanks to Scott for the heads up.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Texas Monthly's new Top 50 list is out

Micklethwait Craft Meats, Austin
Heim BBQ, Fort Worth
CattleAck BBQ, Farmers Branch
Killen's Barbecue, Houston

All made the cut.

The Slow Bone, Dallas

Did not make the cut.

I was happy to see Payne's in Burnet made the list.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Friday, April 14, 2017

Texas Monthly Top 50 BBQ predictions

I had this conversation with Scott so I thought I'd post it here just for fun.  With the latest Top 50 list due out with the June edition of Texas Monthly, here's some first timers I think may make the list.

Micklethwait Craft Meats, Austin
Heim BBQ, Fort Worth
CattleAck BBQ, Farmers Branch
The Slow Bone, Dallas
Killen's Barbecue, Houston

None of those were around when the last Top 50 came out (or had just opened) so it will be interesting to see which of these make the cut.  All are excellent.

Any other great new spots that should make the cut?

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Black's BBQ and Kreuz Market, Lockhart

sampled 4/10/17

On our way back from the Houston BBQ Fest we routed through Lockhart so I could refill my freezer with Kreuz jalapeno cheese sausage.  We met my buddy Dave at Black's on Monday morning and had an excellent meal.  While standing in line, Dave mentioned that Black's now only does pork chops on the weekends.  The guy at the slicing block heard him and said they had put on a rack of chops that morning by mistake and actually had some available.  Dave got the end chop off the rack and was a very happy man.  I got a sample and it was very good.  My order was the usual half pound of moist brisket, 2 spare ribs and a jalapeno sausage ring.  Everything was excellent and we all agreed Blacks was at the top of their game that day.  The brisket was tender and moist with smoke flavor for days.
Dave was kind enough to bring us half of a Franklin brisket and we passed him some goodies from Pecan Lodge in return.  Sort of like BBQ Xmas!

Afterwards we wandered down to Kreuz Market for some of their excellent sausage.  Once that was packed in the cooler we were off to the Pickle Parkway and home.

Monday, April 10, 2017

5th Annual Houston BBQ Festival

sampled 4/9/17
Well I've made it 5 in a row for the Houston BBQ Fest and it just seems to get better every year.  Scott couldn't make it this year but my Mrs tagged along and she said she had a good time, too.  As always we got the VIP tickets.  That extra golden hour before they let in all the general admission folks makes all the difference.
We showed up at NRG about an hour before VIP admission and were about 20th in line.  The weather was wonderful with partly cloudy skies, temperatures in the low 80's, and a light breeze.  Their excellent check-in system was in use again this year with volunteers coming down the line with scanners and handing out the VIP lanyards and goodies.  I wish Texas Monthly would adopt this system.  They had a drink cart pushing up and down the line for anyone who needed to buy a drink.  Once again the goody bag included a small cardboard tray, but we had brought our bigger beer boxes along.  Those are also fun to make.
As opening time approached the VIP line stretched down the parking lot and a few general admission folks were lined up in their own cue.  Unlike last year, they opened the VIP gates exactly at noon.  Actually that was probably a smarter move than letting us in early.  Last year when we stampeded in early some of the booths weren't quite ready.  That wasn't a problem this year.
As usual, we headed to the back of the complex where we found Killen's had already formed a line.  We skipped them til later and worked our way down the booths til we filled our boxes with goodness.  Then we headed to a nice eating tent and staked out our spots for the day.   We stuck with our usual method of taking a few bites from each sample, then dropping the leftovers into a big plastic freezer bag.  Then we headed out to gather more goodies and repeated til we hit all 25 joints.  We managed to hit all 25 in the golden hour, but just barely.  Killen's, Gatlin's, and Louie Mueller's were the last 3 spots we sampled as they seemed to have lines right from the start.
I got sneaky this year and brought along a small voice recorder.  That way I could leave myself audio notes as we hit the different booths.  It worked well and I think I actually got all the food photos credited to the right booths for a change.  If not, let me know.
It does get kind of challenging when you're trying to rush through 25 joints, take pictures, and eat, all within just an hour.  There's just so much to see and do!  At one point we had to "double deck" the boxes to get through everything in time.  Fortunately the lines were short on the ones we had skipped earlier as most folks had already sampled those booths. 
As with all of these fests, there was a wide variety of samples being handed out.  There were a lot more ribs than last year and I consider that a definite plus.  Several booths presented whole hog pulled pork and the evidence was in full display.
There was a nice variety of items beside the standard brisket, ribs, and sausage.  Candied bacon made a couple of appearances, boudin, bacon wrapped smoked duck, lambsicles, beef ribs, several samples of pork belly, smoked wagyu meatballs, prime rib, and pastrami were just a few of the other meats.  Sides were plentiful as well with mashed potatoes, coleslaw, corn, fried corn on the cob, macaroni and cheese (with shredded brisket), and various breads, crackers, and tortilla/taco combinations.
Blake's even brought along their excellent root beer.  I dug that last year and was glad to see it return.
Onstage, John Egan played some blues and slide starting about 1 pm and gained at least one new fan, ME!  I have to admit I enjoyed blues and BBQ more than country and BBQ but that's probably just me.
 At 1 pm the long line of general admission folks started flowing in and the lines got long.
And that's why I always go for the VIP tickets.

There was a lot of good food this year.  In fact I think it was the best year yet.  The improvement in the Houston BBQ scene over the five years this festival has been going is nothing short of amazing.  I think this fest should get some of the credit for that.  Some of the highlights for me were brisket from Brooks' Place, El Burro and the Bull, The Brisket House, Lenox, Tejas Chocolate Craftory, and Spring Creek.  There was a lot of good sausage, but I thought the spicy turducken sausage from Feges and the spicy sausage from Southern Q stood out.  I didn't have a bad rib all day but Killen's killed it.  In the other meats I thought the bacon wrapped smoked duck was outstanding as was the candied bacon from Brooks' Place.  I could have been very happy revisiting those two lines and stuffing myself with those two goodies.  I also enjoyed the meatball from Tin Roof and the beef rib and lambsicle from Louie Mueller's.
We had a pretty good comparison going in as we had just had brisket, sausage, and beef ribs from Pecan Lodge on Thursday.  Then we had a stop at Black's on the way back.  I asked my wife for her opinions, as a check on my own thoughts.  She is not a hardcore BBQ nut like I am, but she's been to a few fests and eaten some very good BBQ from the best of spots.  First I asked her how this fest stacked up with Red Dirt, Getting Sauced, and the Dallas BBQ Fest, all of which feature top rate joints and all of which she has also attended.  She said Houston was right at the same level.  Then I asked her if she had anything as good as Pecan Lodge at the fest.  She said no, but it was close and she really enjoyed the food.  I was right on board with that opinion.
At the end of the fest we had bagged up a lot of great leftovers which we will warm up and enjoy for the next week or so.  It's a lot of food.  I think it would be an interesting experiment for someone to just go through all the booths, collect all the samples, then weigh them.  I'm not volunteering.

Separate posts of food and booth shots will be below.  As always, you can click on any photo for a larger view.

2017 Houston BBQ Fest food pix