Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Snow's BBQ

To say any place has the best BBQ in Texas is to invite argument. Each year, Texas Monthly puts together a comprehensive list of the best BBQ in the state—not an easy task. Their inboxes must have a special section for angry letters generated from that issue. I’ve always found their judgment to be fairly reliable.

A handful Central Texas BBQ joints usually dominate the upper ranks. Luling City Market, Kruez Market, Smitty's Market, and Cooper's have long held a slot at the top. This year, Texas Monthly picked a wildcard as #1: Snow's BBQ in Lexington. Once the article was published, people from all over made a pilgrimage to see if Snow’s truly was the best. This is not an easy task since Snow's is only open on Saturdays. To top it off, they close when the meat runs out—sometimes as early as 10 a.m. BBQ for breakfast.

This past Saturday, I drove out to Lexington to see if there was indeed a new king. At 9:15 a.m. there was still plenty of meat and a surprisingly small crowd. I walked right up to the meat counter and ordered pork ribs, beef brisket, and beef sausage—a 1/3 lb. of each. They also offer pork and chicken, but I chose to focus on the BBQ trinity.

I first sampled the brisket, which was some of the fattiest brisket I have ever eaten. Since fat=flavor, and it was perfectly seasoned, I quickly devoured most of it, fat included. The sauce was sub par, so I neglected to use it. Having not eaten anything up until this meal, I quickly moved on to the ribs. They were everything small-town Texas ribs should taste like: There was so much care evident in the succulent and yielding meat. It must have taken a long time to break down the connective tissue and fat to taste just that way.

The ribs warranted savoring, so I took my time, not knowing how delicious the sausage would be. Many Central Texas BBQ establishments make all-beef sausage. It's pretty unique in it's high-fat content and coarse ground. I've had a lot of beef sausage, but Snow's stuck out. There were more spices than usual and less fat. I couldn't get enough and had to force myself to stop after one link. A friend let me taste the pork shoulder, which the women behind the counter suggested. While the meat wasn’t exactly juicy, I wouldn’t call it dry. It was seasoned to perfection, with a nice balance between pork flavor and spices.

The biggest surprise came when people at a nearby table couldn't finish their food and gave us part of a chicken. I usually regard BBQ chicken as a waste of time and space, since it isn't actually barbequed (and everything tastes better). Snow's chicken is neither a waste of time nor space. The meat was slightly dry, but intensely flavorful. I ate the skin, meat, cartilage, and anything I could suck off the rib bones. Needless to say, I was miserably full.

Was it the best BBQ in Texas? That's a matter of opinion. I still think Luling City Market is the best in the state. Snow's was fantastic, but lacked. They buy their sauce, which is almost sacrilege and the meat was not as affecting as some other places in the State. When asked what I meant, I simply replied, "moaning and cussing." BBQ can be a religious experience that causes you to ecstatically moan and cuss aloud. Snow's was damn fine BBQ and I will be making many return trips. It may not have been the best, but I love living in a state where second—or even 20th—best is still one of the best meals of your year.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Birthday Surprise

Last Wednesday was my birthday, and it might be the best birthday I have had in a long time. I celebrated it with a couple of friends at Lambert's and enjoyed a perfectly charming night out. But this isn't about how perfect Lambert's is; that's another piece all to itself. This is about my gift.

I awoke on my birthday disappointed to not see a birthday present in my room. With a sad face, I grabbed my towel and walked towards the bathroom and while doing so, stepped on a piece of chocolate. There was a trail of chocolates leading into the other room. There I found a table covered in almost every food I had ever expressed a love for: brioche; a baguette; Proven├žal olives; Haribo gummi bears; cookies from Quack's, Tiff's Treats, and Cipollina; blue cheese; seaweed salad; Nathan's hot dogs; boudin from Donn's in Lafayette; champagne; dark chocolate; Topochico; heirloom tomatoes; and a few other things I can't recall right now. It was overwhelming. So many great things in one place. And I couldn't possibly eat it all at once.

After the initial excitement passed, I was touched by the thought put into each item and how much legwork had to be done. I'm really particular in my tastes and am not the easiest person the find a gift for. This was the perfect solution. The best gifts are those born from listening and not the Sharper Image catalog.

Each item I received reminded me of when I expressed an interest in it, and from now on I will associate it with my birthday. By giving me all of those things, my girlfriend gave me a year's worth of conversation and memories, each food representing a different moment we have shared. It also says a lot about what I spend the majority of my time talking about. I've always said that food is love--for better or worse--and this proves it.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


I can never remember whether or not you should feed a cold and starve a fever or starve a cold and feed a fever. When in doubt, I eat a bunch of healthy stuff. The day I realize that I'm sick, I stuff myself with vitamins, smoothies, juices, the requisite chicken soup, sushi, and anything else I can think of. There isn't that much logic to my choices. If I can bend it to be healthy, it goes down the hatch. I don't know if this ever makes me feel better, but the placebo effect might be worth it if nothing else works.

Yesterday, I took all sorts of juice shots and smoothies from Daily Juice at 45th and Duval. A rather healthy looking vegan behind the counter said to eat a lot of raw garlic. I went home and minced seven cloves of raw garlic, put it in a shot glass, and topped it off with some orange juice. I don't know if it made me feel better or by how much, but I was able to measure how much it made me smell like garlic. At least it forced me to stay home and avoid all aquaintances. My skin is finally starting to smell less like an Italian dish and more like me.

I'm feeling better as well. It's uncertain whether or not anything I ate or drank contributed to this, but I will continue to down all my traditional sick foods for fear that leaving one of them out will doom me to a hopsital bed.

(If you have any remedies, I like to try them out.)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Texas Wine Aint' Too Bad

Today I went to this month's installment of Appetizers with Addie Broyles out at Spicewood Vineyards. Several Austin food bloggers were there to drink free wine; feast on cheese, fruit, babba ganoush, and hummus; and ooh and aah at what sexy lighting can do to a room full of barrells. Ron Yates, the president of SpiceVineyards, introduced us to their many wines, and gave us a tour of their cellar and fermentors. The main attraction was getting to meet so many people, espcially those whose blogs I have been reading.

Addie brought some tasty babba ganoush, while others brough delicious snack bars, hummus, and pita bread. My affinity for simple tastes--and laziness--made me bring apples, pears, and cheddar. All of the food complimented the wine. Honestly, I don't know much about wine, but I do know good from bad. Many of the wines we tasted seemed to go well with Texas: They went well with the climate and what you would want to drink in each othe the seasons. Ron mentioned wanting to produce wines that grow well in Texas, and I think he's on to something.

All in all, it was a great day with new aquaintances.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Chili fallout

I've been eating chili for the past week. This is a bad idea (a) for obvious reasons, and (b) it tastes so good that I can't stop eating it. Every meal ends in a food coma. It doesn't help that I add Fritos, rice, onion, beans, and cheese to my chili. That's how a whole pot has lasted for longer than a week. Today might see me set free from Chili. Split pea soup might be a good idea at this point, especially if I put cream in it.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Chili Breeze

Today is even colder than yesterday. I played my meatball hand too soon. Time to up the ante. Doughy chicken and dumplings? Steaming Frito pie? Or hearty Chili?

Chili will most likely win, I just need to figure out where to get it. Homemade or restaurant? There aren't many places in town to get chili that I know of. Chili can be a sensitive subject in Texas: Beans, No Beans, Crackers, Rice, Fritos. Strong opinions abound. I personally like my chili with beans, cheese, rice, onions, and Fritos. That meat will go as far as possible--if there were only places that had my combo.

The Texas Chili Parlor is the only place that comes to mind, but after an unfortunate evening involving mediocre chili and getting attitude for requesting a Lone Star--it is the TEXAS chili parlor, after all--I refuse to return. Who needs chartreuse with their chili, anyways? I prefer a tall glass of milk.

It's sad that there aren't more chili options in town. You would expect there to be chili carts on the street. This is Texas.

I'll have to settle for homemade to get my Frito-bean-rice-cheese-and-onion chili. Maybe I'll open up a cart.

* Photo by Stephanie Gamble

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Has autumn finally arrived in Austin, Texas? Everyone is pulling out their scarves and hats, excited about the first time this year to wear them. I forgot mine at home, along with the piece I had written for today. That's OK, because I am focused on the weather here and what it makes me crave. Today, more than any day in the past few months, makes me crave chili, a meatball sub, German food, and beans. So many beans.

Hopefully this isn't just a Texas tease and autumn has really begun. For good measure, I'm getting a meatball sub for lunch. It's time.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Things I keep in my room:

I'm particular about my kitchen. All the knives, pots, whisks, and other utensils all have a home and manner in which they are to be treated. Anal retentive? Absolutely. But my equipment stays pristine and fit for use. That was until recently when I acquired a roommate who doesn't share my attention for detail, which is probably for the best: I don't think I could stand someone just like myself.

A few problems have arisen recently when I noticed how he treats his knives (in the sink with other dishes and flatware) and that my silicone spatula had gone missing. I couldn't stand to see my Shun knife dirty, wet, and cast amongst other hard objects. My solution was to keep it in my room, an act I thought immature until I told a friend. He said, "Unless you are sleeping and living with someone, you should never trust your knives with anyone." Words of wisdom? I believe so. At least they make me feel that I'm not alone in my obsessiveness.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Summer Eats: Going Fast

Every summer I have grand plans for all the summer dishes I will plunder. 50 snow cones, endless strawberries, 30 corn dogs, 200 lbs. of BBQ, 90 hot dogs, etc. I rarely make a dent in my wish list and am left with a season of regret. While I didn't eat the desired amount of summer cuisine, I fared pretty well. There were enough grill-outs; BBQ trips didn't happen as often as I would have liked; and I ate more than my fair share of lobster--in many forms--while in Maine--the amount of seafood I consumed in Maine was enough to qualify this summer as splendid.

I still feel as if I missed a lot. Snow cones, hot dogs, strawberry shortcake, funnel cakes, and tequila lime chicken are a few of the dishes that will soon feel out of season. They're already out of season, but Texas grants us with a few extra months of summer.

Most of the food I did consume wasn't seasonal. Rice and beans took up most of my meals, due in part to me being poor, but mostly because of my family's Louisiana heritage. Each of those meals could've been gazpacho, okra and tomatoes, or cobbler. Wasted opportunities. The best I can hope for is to learn my lesson for the next season of food choices. Unfortunately, the extra months of Texas summer weather are deceptive. Mother nature is producing fall foods, which will soon be out of season as well.

But I'm not done with all the delicious summer foods. These next few weeks will be all about righting the missed opportunities of this past season. That means about two weeks to eat as many snow cones, ice cream, and grilled [everything] as possible. While it will be bittersweet, I am already looking forward to the foods of autumn, if I catch them in time.