March 16, 2011

Ask Rolando about Moist Brisket

When Rolando and I were down in Texas the other week our most important mission was to understand Texas BBQ. There’s this crazy website called Full Custom Gospel BBQ and this guy is nuts about BBQ. So we used his guide and hit 6 of the top 10 BBQ joints in TX.

Why? We’re going to start making our own BBQ sauce and spice mix. It’s one of the only things we don’t make right now and we’re going to change that.

Before you Texans start off with your “we don’t mix sauce and BBQ” it’s just not true. Only one of the joints we hit didn’t have BBQ sauce. And even that spot has hot sauce.

What is true is that Texas BBQ doesn’t use sauce when cooking (smoking) the meat. Only after, as an accompaniment.

The first stop was Virgie’s in Houston. We loved Virgie. He heard my camera and came running out worried that his server might not have plated everything perfectly. We let him look and told him we thought it looked great. It does. look at this packaging. I love how tidy it is.

Next up was a joint that was closed, at 7pm. We found later that many of these places close even earlier, like 1pm. And see that sign? We didn’t invent sold out. I don’t know if there is any aspect of Clover we’ve gotten more flack for over the years. People get really mad that we sell out. I didn’t get a chance to ask the BBQ joints if they deal with the same rage. I doubt it. People seemed pretty relaxed down there.

The next day we went to Lockhart, TX, BBQ-mecca. When we were driving there I was wondering why this place was BBQ mecca. Then I saw the huge silos, the farm supply, and the cattle exchanges. I get it. We hit Black’s first, which is on a side street. Then the enormous Kreuz’s market. That place was huge. Check out all of the cool little plastic baggies with pickles and stuff in them.

Then on to a place called Franklin’s. The BBQ gospel guy thinks this place is nirvana. We were the last people in line of the last day before he moved into a full restaurant. So I guess we were sort of lucky. He actually put up a sold-out sign before we came in, but Rolando was pretty full at that point, so we didn’t need more than the final scraps. See how the portion size is shrinking vs. our first stop?

And now Rudy’s. This joint is something of a chain, attached to gas stations. Really fun to see how they set everything up. I love seeing restauranteur’s solutions to problems, especially at high volume places. At this point the portion sizes looked like a postage stamp. I think the samples they gave us were larger than what we paid for.

One of my favorite things about these places was the atmosphere. They were like family picnics in the best way. Relaxed, many actually out doors with tables, people setting up picnic cloths.

Before this trip I didn’t understand this, but we really don’t have BBQ up North. Not what people down there have. Texas doesn’t have lobster and clam shacks. They might have a restaurant that sells lobster, but that’s not the same. And I think that’s how I see BBQ up here. We have some places that sell BBQ, but it’s just not anything like the BBQ culture down there.

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