My boss Ric had
scheduled a meeting for the 17th and invited me to attend as an SME (Subject Matter Expert, for those not in
the know). While work business was discussed, we also were having BBQ. Namely,
he was bringing in some from Franklin BBQ and was inviting me as well (my BBQ
bribery Thursdays are paying off!).
(Scott's comment: The real
definition here is Somehow Maintains Employment.)
But I saw an
opportunity here. After checking with Ric to make sure I wasn't stepping on his
toes, I saw the chance for a little taste test. After consideration, I chose
Valentina's BBQ. Since I knew he was getting brisket and pork ribs I picked up
(Scott's comment: *Ahem* No one
brought ME BBQ today while I worked! *Plays Portishead's:
The items were put
out on two different colored plates (red and blue). Only I knew what was on
each plate (not even Ric did).
Tasting today were
Ric, Janine, Sherrie, Matt, Cindy, Reggie, Erika, Stephen, and Amanda. However,
not everyone tried both items.
Brisket: Pretty much everyone who tried them
agreed that both briskets were excellent. There seemed to be a slight
preference for the flavor of the blue plate, but for the tenderness/moistness
of the red plate. It should be noted that the final deciding factor for
everyone seemed to be flavor.
The final score: Blue won 5-3.
Ribs: Again, of those who tried the ribs
everyone thought they were all good. However, there was definitely a clear
preference here. While both received comments about tender, and both received
good comments about flavor, a substantial majority preferred the flavor of the
ribs from the red plate.
The final score: Red won 5-1.
much everyone thought that the color they picked for brisket was Franklin,
which goes to show how much Franklin has imposed itself on the BBQ
consciousness. Franklin is supposed to be the best, their choice tasted the
best, and therefore that one must be Franklin.
But this appears to
confirm some things we've been saying about BBQ since we started this blog:
First, when it comes
to the top-tier places (and both of these clearly qualify) it's likely to come
down to preferences in taste as opposed to quality. Both places are turning out
high quality BBQ, and your individual flavor preference is going to decide
which place is best. Arguing about it can be fun, but let's not get too serious
about it. Heck, my wife and I do not have the same place as our favorites.
Second, accept that
your favorite place may not be the best at everything. I have my "favorite
place", but what I mean by that is "If I could only ever go to one
BBQ place again, this is the one I'd pick". It doesn't mean I think they
are best at everything, and it doesn't mean that I go there every time I want
BBQ. Heck, of all the different items you can smoke I'd only pick them for two
items as the best. There are other places I'd pick for other items. And if you
are willing to move out of your comfort zone and try a few different places,
you can run into some nice surprises.
Finally, when trying
your BBQ, remember that just as perception can color belief, so can belief
color perception. For pretty much everyone it was: this brisket tasted the
best, Franklin is supposed to be the best, therefore this brisket must be
Franklin. It's why the test had to be blind, because otherwise perception would
color the results. I tend to have the opposite problem: anything that has
gotten a lot of praise can't live up to the hype. Franklin has shown me that
they are actually outstanding BBQ. But then, so has Valentina's.
Let's be clear:
Aaron Franklin has earned all the attention he receives. From the trailer
beginnings in 2009 to the present, he's become arguably the most recognized
name in BBQ (and certainly in Texas BBQ). He's probably brought more attention
to Texas BBQ than anyone else, with the possible exception of Texas Monthly's
Daniel Vaughn. He's created a business that has become one of the biggest
social experiences in Austin (two people got married in the line on 2/8/16).
Everyone needs to try his BBQ at least once (and experience the line at least
But then, don’t be
afraid to expand out and try some other things. What we've discovered when
starting this blog is that there's a lot of excellent BBQ in this area, some of
it in places you wouldn't expect. Case in point: Valentina's has shown it can
hold its own.
PS: What's that? I
didn't tell you which plate was which? Well, of course not. How else do I make
sure you read to the end? If I was really cruel I could argue that it doesn't
really matter because you're probably going to put your own spin on it anyway.
After all, one place won brisket by a small margin and lost ribs by a large
margin. But brisket is considered the poster child for Texas BBQ. But the
brisket vote was close and the rib vote wasn't. But the sample size wasn't
large. But not everyone voted on every item.
The point is, this
only means what you choose to take from it. Hopefully it's got you thinking a
little more about your BBQ experience. If so, then our work here is done. For
my two cents, I'm calling it a push.
Oh, and since you've
stuck with it this long: The blue plate was Franklin. The red plate was
(Scott's comment: It's the BBQ
Matrix: Do you want the Red Plate or the Blue Plate?.)