Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Meat-Fest: Texas Monthly's BBQ Fest

Hubby Bruce, me, sister Mary and her hubby Jeff, sister Robyn and her hubby Chris
Twenty-one invitation-only barbeque masters (all from TexasMonthly’s Top 50 list) provided the draw for the third annual Texas Monthly Barbeque Fest @tmbbqfest on September 23. (See my sister’s Festival story at CraveDFW.) Texas Monthly cleverly limited the crowd; otherwise the smells of meats smoking on multiple pits on the breeze would attract half of Austin and the entire UT student body.
Pits were arranged around the perimeter of the site, so the smoke lent an intoxicating aroma without driving festival-goers for oxygen and cover.
During this meat-fest, most plates were unburdened by sides. As expected, the much-buzzed-about Franklin Barbecue @franklinbbq (recently featured on No Reservations) and Pecan Lodge @pecanlodge (Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives) generated the longest lines (and sold out the quickest).
One rare exception to the “no side” rule was Goode CompanyTexas Bar-B-Q @goodecompany, who served their popular jalapeno cheese bread. Tender and redolent of roasted chiles, their distribution of extra loaves later in the afternoon drew a swarm of locusts.
Just so you’re prepared for next year: you cannot sample everything. Even the most hollow-legged TV show host (Adam Richman and Tony Bourdain come to mind) couldn’t mow through everything. We paced ourselves and took small bites, and even then, our glazed eyes and bulging bellies around 3:30 belied our satiation.
City Meat Market (top left) and Buzzie's (bottom left)
Giddings’s City Meat Market served up my favorite sausage, crumbly and beefy.
I found my favorite brisket at Buzzie’s Bar-B-Que. Moist, tender, and not as smoky as the others, it had just the right amount of fat.
Vincek's turkey sausage
Good barbeque screams for good beverages. The “Watering Holes” stocked several varieties of Shiner (their Ruby Red sold out early) and mixed drinks. I found the Texas Mary (Dripping Springs vodka, Shiner Bock, spicy tomato juice) quite refreshing.
The Texas A&M BBQ Team braved hostile Longhorn territory to man a booth. They haven’t participated in any competitions…yet. In addition to online advice, they offer a one-credit-hour class (growing in popularity after four years), where students learn about different meats and cooking methods.
Complete strangers shared tables and exchanged opinions on “what’s your favorite,” giving the event a fun atmosphere of camaraderie.

@BBQSnob and me
I set out to meet @bbqsnob Daniel Vaughn and found him right behind our table. His favorites of the day: the “@PecanLodge beef rib, Cousins brisket, @stanleysfamous brisket, and Vincek's sausage.  Franklin brisket was gone” so he didn’t get to try it….this time.
Aaron Franklin and me
And a surprise meeting: The Man himself, Aaron Franklin. While I didn’t get to sample his heavenly brisket, he was very gracious and said nice things about San Antonio.
The Palmer Center provided a great, easy to get to location, with reasonably priced (and covered) parking, indoor air conditioning, and plentiful comfortable restrooms. Festival organizers wisely set up on the west side, so the needed shade only grew as the warm day progressed. The volume of the various bands allowed spirited conversations about the merits of different pitmasters.
If you want to attend next year’s event, start visiting the Texas Monthly website in late spring to find out when tickets go on sale. You’ll need to purchase your tickets within two hours of the opening bell, or you’ll be out of luck.
Congrats to Texas Monthly for a tasty and well-run event!
(Photo credits: Laura Bray, Chris Folmar, Robyn Folmar….and one helpful stranger)

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