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On Pastrami and BBQ Brisket

Pastrami and Eggs at Katz's

I had breakfast at Katz’s Deli on my recent visit to New York. (The Katz’s Delis in Houston and Austin have no association with the original New York Katz’s, by the way.) While I was eating this plate of smoked brisket and eggs, I couldn’t help thinking about a smoked brisket and egg taco I had at the Plantation BBQ trailer on 90A outside of Richmond a few weeks earlier.

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National Spotlight on BBQ Burgers at Guy's

BBQ burgers on the smoker

The barbecue burgers at Guy’s Meat Market on OST are remarkable. In a city of great burgers, they stand out because of the smoky flavor. To make them, half pound partially-cooked ground round patties are placed on the rotisserie in the barbecue smoker and smoked with hickory for about an hour. When they come off of the smoker at 11 a.m., there is already a line of people waiting. This Thursday, a famous food writer from New York was one of the guys waiting in line.

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At Barbecue Inn, You Order Fried Chicken

David Skrehot

“You know that’s gonna take 25 minutes,” the waitress will warn when you order fried chicken at the Barbecue Inn in North Houston. Just smile politely and tell her that’s fine with you. And be forewarned–nobody orders barbecue at Barbecue Inn.

The legendary restaurant at the corner of Yale and Crosstimbers opened in 1957. The waitresses have all been there for decades. And the cooks make the best fried chicken in the city. The chicken-fried steak in evaporated milk-spiked cream gravy is also sensational. And so are the “French-fried shrimp.” Get a baked potato and the waitress will bring you the stainless steel condiment carousel loaded with sour cream, green onion, cheddar and bacon bits.

I asked David Skrehot, the third-generation manager to fill me in on the history.

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Gil Vrazel's Czech Barbecue Shack

If you’re driving hungry on Highway 71 this weekend, consider skipping the burgers and kolaches at Hruska’s in Ellinger and visiting Gil Vrazel instead. Gil’s Bar-B-Que Shack is that little place just south of Hruska’s that’s only open on Saturday and Sunday. Gil and his wife work at the auction barn in Columbus on weekdays. They smoke their homemade Czech sausage, pork roast and brisket on the weekends only. The old smoker is tucked away in a screened-in shed behind the “main shack” which houses a couple of tables, a fridge for the drinks, and the cash register.

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Texas Pulled Pork BBQ

The pulled pork sliders at Little Big’s aren’t causing Carolina pit bosses like Ed Mitchell to lie awake at night, but they are pretty good for Houston, Texas. Try one next time you visit–and don’t forget to get the Sriracha remoulade dipping sauce for your french fries–that stuff is awesome.

Nobody’s pulled pork sandwich beats the one made by my buddy Ed Mitchell. But then again Mitchell single-handedly revived the whole hog style of barbecue in Raleigh, North Carolina. He mixes some crispy skin in with the creamy soft pork and barbecue sauce when he makes sandwiches. If you are ever over there, visit him at The Pit barbecue restaurant.

But the pulled pork sliders at Little Big’s got me thinking about smoked pork barbecue in general. Maybe some more Texas barbecue joints with good pork ought to consider making these kind of sandwiches. Maybe Clarence Pierson at Pierson & Company BBQ on T.C. Jester in Houston could come up with a Texas version of a pulled pork sandwich with his excellent smoked pork.

I’m just saying…

Eating Seriously in Texas

Ed Levine, the founder of the James Beard-nominated food blog Serious Eats, is on an eating tour of Texas this week. Yesterday, I picked him up at the airport and rushed him to the Shipley’s on Ella for a hot glazed doughnut. Our second stop was Pierson and Company in Acres Home for some East Texas-style Q.

Ed was so impressed with the falling-apart tender ribs and the mashed potato salad with pickle relish that he tried to kiss Clarence Pierson. The Houston eating continues today.

Foodways Texas (FTX)

Foodways Texas

Watch for more information about this Texas foodways group in the making.

The New York Times Seeks My Financial Advice

photo by Robb Walsh

photo by Robb Walsh

My wife says I’ve got to be the brokest guy ever quoted in the New York Times Financial section. Here’s part of what John Schwartz wrote in There’s No Future in Being an Oracle (Sunday July 12):

I DECIDED to take one more crack at this: divining the future by means of the old entrails-of-a-goat routine.

Now, goat guts aren’t part of my usual shopping run, but a food writer I know, Robb Walsh, noted on his Facebook page that he had recently bought a whole baby goat to grill up. I sent Robb a note asking if he had gutted the goat himself and, if so, whether he had happened to see the economy’s future in the aforementioned guts.Robb said the goat came pre-gutted but that the kidneys were still attached. While it cooked, he said, the fat around the kidneys melted and dripped, “which caused my mesquite fire to flare up and scorch the loin a little.”

“So if I had to extrapolate stock market advice from the little bit of goat entrails I had to work with,” he wrote, “I’d say when things get cooking and the fat hits the fire, you better move fast or your loin is going to get burnt.”

I might not make the grade as an oracle, but Robb shows real promise. If Ben Bernanke doesn’t work out as Fed chairman, Robb’s got my vote.

If they appoint me Fed chairman, I recommend you bury your money in a coffee can in a place where the goats can’t get at it.

BBQ 101 Class at Texas A&M

Luling City Market Sausage Smoker---Robb Walsh

Luling City Market Sausage Smoker---Robb Walsh

I’ll be giving the BBQ history lecture for students taking BBQ 101, a three-day professional training session sponsored by the National Barbecue Association at the Texas A&M Meat Science Center in College Station. The course begins on the morning of Tuesday May 12 and ends on Thursday May 14th after lunch. The class is intended for barbecue pros, but open to anyone.
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Texas Barbecue: A Metaphor for Life?

SXSW Texas BBQ Panel

SXSW Texas BBQ Panel

The first thing visitors to SXSW in Austin want to know is: “Where is the nearest barbecue joint and what do I order when I get there?” So this year Joe Nick Patoski organized a Texas barbecue panel at SXSW featuring John Morthland from Texas Monthly, Rick Schmidt from Kreuz Market, the Kitchen Sisters, photographer Wyatt Spadden and myself. The panel discussion focused on the basics, but there was still plenty of room for debate. Afterwards, I signed a whole lot of copies of the Legends of Texas Barbecue Cookbook at the SXSW bookstore.

Reactions were swiftly posted:
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