HouBBQ 2014: A View From The Other Side Of The Table

Last year, I went to the Houston Barbecue Festival as a ticket holder and had a blast. In fact, last year’s HouBBQ was one of the primary motivators for really getting BrisketMan off the ground.

This year, however, I went a completely different direction. I wanted to experience the festival from the other side of the table.

Continue reading “HouBBQ 2014: A View From The Other Side Of The Table”

Win $75 To An Epic Barbecue Joint

Yes, you read it right. Go to a barbecue joint from my Barbecue Tour Guide between 1/17/2014 and 1/26/2014 and you could win $25 $50 $75 to any joint off the list.

Robert Strickland, the man behind Come and Brisket, has also chipped in $25. That brings the total purse to $75!

Clark Wimberly (@clarklab), fellow barbecue fanatic and WordPress genius, kicked in an extra $25! So, that brings us to a whopping $50 to spend at the barbecue joint of your choice.

Here’s what you do:

  • Take a picture of yourself (yah, a selfie) at any barbecue joint from my barbecue tour guide.
  • Tweet it to @BrisketMan and add the hashtag #BrisketMan
  • On Monday, 1/27/2014 I’ll randomly pick a winner who will receive $25 to any restaurant in my guide.

If there are less than 30 entries, the contest is off. So everyone you know who eats barbecue the next two weekends needs to enter.

Good luck!

Austin Barbecue Society — September Dinner

Don’t miss the upcoming dinner with Tom Micklethwait!

If you aren’t familiar with the Austin Barbecue Society, it’s a group that was formed by Evan LeRoy and me this past summer. The last dinner we had was in September with John Lewis of la Barbecue.

John did a fantastic job and proved that he is even more talented than any of us expected. Rather than blabber on about the event, I thought I’d explain this one in pictures.

Tuna tartare on a house made wonton.
Tuna tartare on a house made wonton.
Peach and tomato summer salad with barbecued shallot vinaigrette, tarragon and preserved lemon.
Peach and tomato summer salad with barbecued shallot vinaigrette, tarragon and preserved lemon.
Pan seared scallop, hickory smoked sweet corn puree, red pepper, corn and basil pico.
Pan seared scallop, hickory smoked sweet corn puree, red pepper, corn and basil pico.
Bay leaf and champagne sorbet.
Bay leaf and champagne sorbet.
Oak smoked pork belly confit, roasted figs and string beans, mustard seed gastrique.
Oak smoked pork belly confit, roasted figs and string beans, mustard seed gastrique.

Austin Barbecue Society

Not long ago, Evan LeRoy (chef/pit master at Freedmen’s Bar) and I were talking about the direction of barbecue. What does the future of barbecue look like? Who will be cooking and what will they cook? Who is advancing the cause of smoked meat in Texas?

All of these questions (and many more) led us to form the Austin Barbecue Society.

On June 24th, 2013 we held the inaugural dinner of the Austin Barbecue Society. It was a resounding success and had some really awesome folks attending.

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Images From Houston Barbecue Festival 2013

It’s no secret that the Houston Barbecue Festival was a smashing success. I was fortunate enough to attend the festival and was rewarded with great ‘cue, beer and the opportunity to meet some new friends.

While I was there, I happen to snap a few pictures of the barbecue I was eating, along with a few other cool shots. Here are the fruits of my labor 🙂

Ronnie Killen's beef ribs on the smoker
Ronnie Killen’s beef ribs on the smoker
The Brisket House brisket, sausage and pulled pork
The Brisket House brisket, sausage and pulled pork
Virgie's brisket and pork ribs
Virgie’s brisket and pork ribs
Corkscrew BBQ brisket and pulled pork
Corkscrew BBQ brisket and pulled pork
Gerardo's barbacoa (right) and carnitas tacos
Gerardo’s barbacoa (right) and carnitas tacos
Gary Burns Bar-B-Q pork rib, sausage, brisket, sliced pork
Gary Burns Bar-B-Q pork rib, sausage, brisket, sliced pork
Ronnie Killen's Beef Rib as served
Ronnie Killen’s Beef Rib as served
Tin Roof BBQ brisket, pulled pork, potato salad and baked beans
Tin Roof BBQ brisket, pulled pork, potato salad and baked beans
Lenox Bar-B-Que brisket, sausage and coleslaw
Lenox Bar-B-Que brisket, sausage and coleslaw
Ray's BBQ Shack sausages, pork rib, brisket and corn fritters
Ray’s BBQ Shack sausages, pork rib, brisket and corn fritters
Brook's Place BBQ brisket, ribs and baked beans
Brook’s Place BBQ brisket, ribs and baked beans
Fainmous BBQ pulled pork and sausage
Fainmous BBQ pulled pork and sausage
HouBBQ vendors getting ready to open
HouBBQ vendors getting ready to open
Prophets of Smoked Meat coozie
Prophets of Smoked Meat coozie

Houston BBQ Festival 2013

At 10:50am, I had just pulled in to the Bayou City Events Center in Houston. My grandfather always said 10 minutes early is an hour late. I figured an hour and ten minutes early was right on time.

As I stepped out of the car I was hit by an Arctic blast of death: 30mph wind gusts and 55º temperatures. That’s similar to below freezing in other parts of the country.

Nevertheless, I was ready to eat barbecue come hell or high water.

First, let me tell you the bad news. There were two places I did not try: Pizzitola’s and Gatlin’s. Many of you may wonder why I missed Gatlin’s. Well, I’ve been there before AND the line was sickeningly long. Gatlin’s had a grease fire earlier in the morning and didn’t open up until the general ticket holders came in. Let me tell you: fighting with 1200 people over barbecue is not my style. I’d rather eat grass than stand in a long line for ‘cue I’ve already sampled.

Pizzitola’s just didn’t make it in my mouth. Maybe I peaked. Maybe it was the beer. Maybe it was the sun. Whatever the case I didn’t get to taste it. C’est la vie.

Favorites

Folks, every joint that participated did a stand up job. Trust me, most parts of the country would be overwhelmed by the quality of barbecue found at HouBBQ. But this isn’t most parts of the country. This is Texas. You’ve got to bring it here.

  • Brisket: Brisket is what I almost always eat first, no matter where I go. HouBBQ is no exception. For me there was a hands down winner: The Brisket House. I got served a slice of moist that just absolutely slayed. It had a good amount of smoke, a nice bark and a ton of flavor. They use a mix of pecan and oak and that seems to work. I’ll definitely need to visit them to make sure they are putting out brisket of the same quality on a daily basis.
  • Pork rib: Houston is really competitive when it comes to pork ribs. When I look for the best I want meat that separates but doesn’t slide off the bone under its own weight. I want a black pepper face punch. And I want smoke. Lots of smoke. Virgie’s was the clear winner here. I loved that rib so much, the first words I wrote in my notes were “mouth sex”. I’ve had the ribs at Gatlin’s (ok, I ate the hell out of them) and really liked them a lot. But I think Virgie’s was slightly better. I can’t wait to pay them a visit.
  • Pulled pork: Pork butt is, in my opinion, one of the more forgiving meats to cook. For that reason, my criterion for awesome is fairly strict. You cannot make a mistake. I want smoke. I want moisture but I don’t want it dripping on me. When I get a bark/fat piece I want sweet smoke candy flavor. There were a few joints with pulled pork that was awesome, but Fainmous BBQ did it for me. My notes say “soft and supple” and it was that times 1000. I had a bark/fat piece that was sublime. I hope they serve that level of pork every day. I’ll find out soon enough.
  • Sausage: This was by far the most difficult category for me. I didn’t feel like there was a clear winner here. I liked a couple of the sausages but since I had basically peaked on sausage at Zimmerhanzel’s the day before it was just difficult for me to make a choice here. I thought Blake’s BBQ and Burgers, Ronnie Killen and The Brisket House were all great. I want to see more focus on casing with everyone at the festival. Sure, I’m being super nitpicky, but at this level of barbecue that’s all there is.

Overall Favorites

There were two things I ate at HouBBQ that really left an impression on me.

  1. The ribs from Virgie’s.
  2. The beef rib from Ronnie Killen.

Beef rib, ftw

Killen was one of two people who cooked all their barbecue on site. Yes, that’s right. He cooked it all ON SITE. Under harsh conditions no less. With 30mph+ gusts of wind and temperatures that dipped into the 30’s. And Killen came out with a beef rib that was great. I can’t imagine what he’ll be able to do in a highly controlled environment. My prediction is that Killen is going to take Texas BBQ by storm when he opens a barbecue joint.

For those of you unfamiliar with Killen, he has a steakhouse in Pearland, TX that consistently ends up on top 10 steakhouse lists across the country. I got to chat with him for a while today and the dude knows so much about food it blew my mind. He was telling me about how he sources beef and that alone could take up a whole book.

I don’t want to rant too much about Killen but I just knew when I was talking to him that he is committed to perfection and will give 110% on the barbecue he makes. Restaurant know how, commitment to perfection and encyclopedic knowledge of food and cooking can only lead to success.

Conclusion, y’all

HouBBQ was a ravishing success. It seemed like the organizers had done this 100 times before. From my perspective every detail had been worked out and all the barbecue joints representin’ Houston were ready to go with the right amount of ‘cue. I was really impressed.

I was also massively humbled when a few people told me they read my blog. I hope I can provide a fresh perspective on Texas barbecue as I mature on this site. I have a lot of really awesome stuff planned and soon you’re all going to know just how much I geek out on ‘cue.