Saturday, October 29, 2016

Texas Monthly BBQ Brisket Brunch  (Austin, TX) 

Texas Monthly Event Site 

Juliet Ristorante Webpage,  Facebook, & Twitter  

The Beast Paris Smokehouse Webpage,  Facebook, & Twitter 

Barbecue Wife Webpage, Facebook, & Twitter

On October 29th, 2016, Texas Monthly BBQ held their first annual BBQ Brisket brunch. And they started off with a bang, hosting a collaborative event with Pitmaster Thomas Abramowicz from The Beast Paris Smokehouse (Paris, France) and Chef Jacob Weaver from Juliet Ristorante (Austin, TX). A shout-out also goes to Aaron Franklin, who loaned out a pair of pits so they would have smokers available.
2nd from left - Thomas Abramowicz; Far right - Jacob Weaver
Free mimosas and Bloody Maries (with the latter courtesy of Barbeque Wife) were served at the beginning. After a brief speech by Daniel Vaughn (Texas Monthy's BBQ Guru), they began serving.  
First course consisted three dishes: Smoked red beets with pickled gold beets, Dijon Chantilly Culatello, and chervil; Beef Tenderloin Carpaccio with Parmigiano, fried capers, pea tendrils, and Tonnato; and Grilled Beef tongue with Black truffle hash browns, shaved red onion, pickled jalapeno, and Balsamic BBQ sauce.
The beets had a wonderful smoky flavor. They had some moisture but were not overly juicy. Smoking seemed to make them a little less sweet than normal (which is a plus in my book). I normally don't like beets, but I liked these. 
The Carpaccio was extremely tender and had a wonderful flavor. Fried capers were an interesting touch.
The grilled beef tongue also tasted wonderful, and was easily cut with a fork. The balsamic BBQ sauce made a nice contrast. I did not try the hash browns (allergy issue).  

Second course consisted of: Jalapeno cornbread muffins; a greens salad; sliced brisket; pork and duck liver terrine, Dijon, Cornichon, and Mostarda; and a Cassoulet with Duck, Tarbais beans and other wonderful things.
The jalapeno cornbread muffins and the salad were both good for what they are. The salad had a dressing that had an interesting bitterness to it. I liked it, but noticed that not much got eaten by the rest of the table.
The brisket had an excellent smoky flavor, as well as some nice pepper. Having said that, it was definitely on the tough side, as it had to be cut with a knife. This was commented on by others at the table. If I was scoring it on a Recon scale, 6.5/10. Flavor is excellent, but for a Texas style BBQ it needs to be a lot more tender.
I've never had pork or duck liver before, and to be honest I expected to not like this one. But this tasted really good. It looked almost like slices of bread, and had a nice slightly sweet flavor. You could taste both meats in there, and this was my favorite dish so far….
Until the Cassoulet. Oh my goodness. The Pitmaster and his team would come out later and talk about this dish. It was prepared in the smokers, and had homemade sausage, smoked duck, what appeared to be pork belly, and some wonderful beans and onions. Honestly, if I had gone home having had just this dish, it would have been a worthwhile event.
Third Course: Apple pie with a cheddar crust and caramel whipped cream. The apple pie part itself was very good, as was the whipped cream. I've never had a cheese crust in pie, and this just didn’t appeal to me. I know apples and cheese are a popular combination with some, but I'm not a fan of that flavor combination and it also made the crust a lot tougher.
This was an excellent first brunch. The food was outstanding and the combination of styles made for some interesting dishes. Hats off to Thomas, Jacob, and their staff, and a big Thanks to Texas Monthly for setting this up. See you there next year!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Review of Pecan Lodge (Dallas, TX) 

Pecan Lodge Webpage,  Facebook, & Twitter 

October 21st, 2016. Friday. About 1:30pm. In less than 24 hours I'll be participating in the Dallas area Tough Mudder. Given that I'm 47 and not in the greatest shape, where should I have what may be my last meal? Let's try Pecan Lodge.  

Located in what I believe is called the "Deep Ellum" area of downtown Dallas, Pecan Lodge still manages a rustic feel on the inside, as well as a decent-sized outside dining area. You order at one counter and pick up at another, and they also have a separate line for large orders (5 pounds or bigger I believe).
(Scott's Comment: Deep Ellum is actually east of downtown.)

Their smoked meat menu isn't as large as some places, as they offer brisket, beef ribs, pulled pork, pork ribs, and sausage (original and jalapeno). But I do see a sign inside for burnt ends, and they also serve fried chicken. I decide to get a three-meat plate (moist brisket, pulled pork, pork ribs), and add on a link of original sausage.

Sausage: The original sausage is a pork sausage. The casing has an excellent snap, and there is plenty of moisture inside. It has a nice smoky flavor and a touch of heat from the spices. Call it 9.0/10.

Pulled pork: The pulled pork is moist but not greasy. It also has a nice smoke flavor, but there's a touch of sweetness in there, as well as some pepper. It stands quite well on its own without sauce. I give it 9.0/10.

Pork Rib: The rib had a very nice crust, but was still tender inside without being overdone. There's a lot of meat on the one I got. Again, there's a lot of smoke flavor, some nice pepper, that touch of sweetness, and just a bit of heat. This rib is excellent. Call it 9.5/10.

Brisket: The brisket has an excellent bark and is incredibly tender. It has a very strong smoky flavor (always a plus), and a nice strong pepper flavor as well. It practically melts in the mouth. Call it 9.5/10.

I'd heard good things about Pecan Lodge, and it certainly lives up to the hype. It's easily a contender for one of the best places in Texas (and the lunch lines seem to support it). Jeremy (the Pitmaster) is certainly turning out some of the best BBQ in the state.

Is it worth a visit? Absolutely.

Is it worth a trip? Again, absolutely. I'd come to Dallas primarily for the Tough Mudder, but if I'd turned around and gone home after eating here, I'd still have considered it a day well spent.

One thing to note: As near as I can tell, there's no free parking in the area. Plan on paying (I spent $2 in the lot a block over).


PS: It wasn't pretty, but yes, I did survive the Tough Mudder.
(Mudder's response: "You survived this time... Next time however...")

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Visiting the Gettin' Sauced Festival (Austin, TX - Shady Springs Party Barn

Gettin' Sauced Festival Facebook, Twitter, & Webpage  

BBQ Festivals come in all shapes in sizes. At one end you have Texas Monthly’s BBQ festival, which will have 27 participating BBQ joints this year and will have thousands of visitors (with correspondingly long lines). On the other side you have Gettin’ Sauced . 

A smaller and much more laid-back affair, Gettin’ Sauced held their 6th annual festival (and their 5th was held in 2014) this weekend. A grand total of 12 vendors were there, and two of them were sauce only.  

Yes, Gettin’ Sauced is a BBQ sauce festival as much as a BBQ festival, with a sauce judging contest. So we will actually be discussing sauce in this posting.   

You wonder: For a cost of $40 is it worth going to? Well, not only do you get to sample (mostly unlimited) BBQ from some of the better places around, but there was also live music AND free beer. Several breweries including Independence, Middleton, Infamous, and St. Arnold were there, and if you bought a BBQ pass the beer was free. There was free Topo Chico mineral water as well. In short, you actually got a lot of extras for your $40.  

You can see the list of BBQ places on the website above. It should be made clear that there was nothing bad there. Everything ranged from at least good to excellent.

Six of us went to the festival: Myself (Tom), Tish, Scott, Sherrie (whom you may remember from TMBBQ Fest last year), Stephen, and James. What we’ve decided to do is ask each of us what three food items and sauces stood out the most from the festival. (Not everyone replied).  

Tom: For Food, the three items that stood out the most would have to be BBQ Brotherton’s Blackened Shrimp boudin (which was awesome), the pork rib from Milt’s (which had a delightful bit of heat), and the boudin from Tin Roof (which was also excellent)! For sauces it would have to be Mikey V’s Cherry BBQ Sauce (at the BBQ Brotherton table) which has an awesome flavor but would seem to go best with pork, chicken, or seafood;  Louie Mueller’s Mustard -based sauce; and Slab BBQ’s Mustard based sauce.  

Tish: For food it was the pork rib and the boudin from Tin Roof BBQ, and the serrano cheese sausage from 2M Smokehouse. For sauce it was Louie Mueller’s Jalapeno sauce, the Mikey V’s Rasberry Reaper, and Tin Roof’s original sauce.  

Stephen: Brotherton's had the best overall. This includes meat and sauce. Their raspberry sauce was amazing. Only thing is that if I had a BBQ at home I would still need some other sauce. As good as the raspberry sauce was I don't think I could have eat it with a whole meal. 
Louis Miller had a great mustard sauce. I'm not a huge pulled pork fan. I don't hate it I'm just ambivalent. But that mustard BBQ sauce was the perfect compliment. 
I wasn't particularly impressed with any of the brisket. Maybe I'm spoiled with having Valentina's right down the road but they all could have been rendered a bit more. That said the very first booth (Tin Roof) had some great ribs. But their sauce wasn't good.  It was way too “tomatoie”. I like my BBQ sauce thin. I also like my spaghetti sauce thin and I couldn't tell which of the two this was supposed to be. 

Sherrie: (Sherrie only commented on one of each). For sauce it was Slab BBQ’s mustard sauce (hot and tangy without being sweet). . For food it was Louie Mueller’s pulled pork (moist and tangy).  

I will say that a low key festival like this is really nice. TMBBQ offers more selection, but there’s a lot more to enjoy in a quiet atmosphere like this. We all had a good time and it is definitely something we hope to go to again. 

-Tom (writing on behalf of all of us)