Anyone else go to the Texas Monthly BBQ festival at the Long Center yesterday?
We were pleasantly surprised at the setup. They had 19 vendors there, each under a tent spread around the patio circle. The vendor's smokers were behind the vendors and down the sidewalk; no meats cooked in other cities here. You stood in (short) line to get a vendor's food. Depending on the vendor you might just get a small sample or a full plate. Some vendors also allowed you to be buy extra stuff like T-shirts, whole briskets, or sausages. How anyone could buy more meat after gorging on the all the meats is beyond me.
I sampled 18 of the 19 vendors--skipped Cooper's in Llano which I've been to 10 times in the past 10 years and have not enjoyed in some time. From what I could tell some vendors really brought their A game while others mailed it in. Some vendors had sliced up their brisket into bites, put into warming pans, and doled it out when you came up. Those vendors' brisket were always too dry. Others were slicing it up fresh onto your plate. Fresh, warm, slightly fatty brisket.
From the bites I had, Kreuz, Smitty's and Louis Mueller were all good as expected--though Smitty's was not slicing to order. Some notes from the places I'd never been were:
* Cousin's in Ft. Worth had a very nice Memphis-style dry rub rib. Their cheese sausage had too much cheese in my taste, but not for others as it won the sausage contest. Their beef rib won the beef rib contest though I saw maybe one or two other beef ribs and didn't have any at any place.
* Giddings Meat Market is classic Central Texas 'cue--strong smoke taste with salt & pepper rub. Mueller's, Luling, Kreuz style. Their 'cue was not as fresh as some places, but I'd like to go there in person and get it fresh and hot and hopefully tasty.
* Stanley's of Tyler had the winning pork rib and my vote for favorite pork rib. Very much a southern style rib with lots of sauce basted on while cooking. It was served warm and delicious. My favorite pork ribs I've had in Texas have been from Country Tavern in nearby Kilgore. That part of Texas should be considered the pork rib capital it seems.
* Snow's. Much vaunted but I've never had a taste. They were in served from a warming dish line so I couldn't taste it fresh but the brisket I had was smokey enough and I can see their Central Texas influences. The brisket won for best brisket, but I really don't know how. My favorite brisket bite was from Mueller's. Their sausage was not bad.
Final note is Buzzie's of Kerrville tied Snow's for best brisket. My taste of brisket there was completely unremarkable. I don't know how they got a placement unless they were serving up better morsels before or after I went through.
Anyone else have any thoughts to share? The Texas Monthly crew said they hoped to start small and build it up and I'd say it was a whale of a good start. Prices and crowds will no doubt go up, but hopefully they can keep the focus on vendors serving fresh 'cue.