Black’s Barbecue

Austin, TX | https://www.blacksbbq.com/

Black’s is known for their massive beef ribs and that’s what we were looking to check out. We arrived about 19:30 by taxi. There was a queue, of course, but only about 15 people — about 10 people inside and five outside. We get down to 12 people when someone comes from behind us and hangs up a piece of butcher paper saying they were now out of chicken, pork ribs, and, of course, beef ribs!

Once inside you could see why Black’s would be popular. You have an amazing smell of smoke and a great ambiance. Brick and old barn wood walls, concrete floors, country music and American football playing on a big screen in the corner. It looks like you expect a BBQ joint to look. It was full of people chatting, laughing and having a good time.

We work our way up to the counter a bit disappointed but determined to enjoy it regardless. We decided on some brisket and pulled pork. Perhaps decided is the wrong wording — they had brisket and pulled pork left. We added on a few sides since we didn’t have any meat options so we could feel like we were making choices. We ended up with sweet potato mash, pinto beans, potato salad and mac ‘n cheese.

I was taken back to my childhood as soon as I tucked into the pinto beans. They were just like my mom makes – simply beans with some onion, garlic and I’m betting a ham hock for that smoky flavour. I loved them but felt the need for some cornbread and turnip greens. They definitely were not what you would normally think of as barbecue beans.

The mac ‘n cheese didn’t rate as high. You would really have to describe it as pasta with a nice cheese sauce. It was a bit too saucy with no crust at all.

The sweet potato mash was Adrian’s favourite. It was smooth with just the right amount of butter and a bit of melted marshmallow. I enjoyed these as well but the were a touch sweet for my taste. They were a great compliment to the rich meats though.

The potato salad was a typical southern style with a mix of chunks and mash with some red onion and a touch of roasted red pepper. Mild in flavour with none of that mayonnaise gooeyness that many commercial potato salads have. It was good but there was no wow factor.

But the sides are nothing without the meat are they? So here we go:

Meat TypeAppearanceTasteTexture
Brisket778
Pulled Pork67.58

They offered a nice selection of beers focusing on local and Texas brands and wine in an aluminum can with a monkey on the label simply called White Wine or Red Wine — no pretense here.

Tasting notes

Brisket

Nice level of smoke with a very basic bark – just a light touch of salt and pepper. The meat was a somewhat overdone but it was after 19:00 so that is not really surprising. The cut of the meat was more like we get in the UK with smaller, thinner slices. The meat had a nice beefy flavour without being too rich. The sauce complimented the meat nicely without overtaking it.

Pulled Pork

This had a nice, strong pork flavour with a goodlevel of smoke. There was a thin, simple bark (again just a light coat of salt and pepper) which added a perfect level of seasoning. There was obvious signs of smoke ring and the meat had a nice bite to it while still being tender. The main negative was in the serving of the meat — it was chopped up a bit too finely so there we very few pieces you could really sink your teeth into.

Overall a great experience; they made you feel welcome and want to go back.

BBQ Discovery – Day One

Our road trip of BBQ Discovery kicked off with Franklin’s BBQ in Austin, TX. We arrived at about 06:45 to join the queue. We were number 24 in the queue–people had begun arriving from 05:30!

Franklin BBQ, Austin, TX

We were expecting mild Texas weather but instead found it to be only 34° F (1°C)! We were not quite ready for that. We had only light coats and empty coffee cups to start. Just after 07:00 they opened up the taco truck and we were able to get some hot coffee. At 07:30 they distributed chairs to people and we could finally sit down — the prepared one’s had chairs and blankets.

Continue reading “BBQ Discovery – Day One”

Heckofadish has landed

Our long flight from London to Chicago went smoothly enough. We had a very tight connection to our flight into Austin so rushed from one side of O’Hare to the other to make the flight. Of course when we arrived at the gate we found the flight was delayed for an hour–which became two hours.

We finally got in the air about 21:40 local time expecting to arrive into Austin by 23:30. Thanks to thunderstorms we had some of the worst air turbulance I’ve ever gone through. Flight attendants were kept busy handing out air sickness bags and we were stuck in our seats the entire flight. Finally got into Austin’s Austin-Bergstrom airport at 00:50. And the car rental company closed at 01:00!

I left Adrian to collect the bags and I ran through the airport to the rental agency office arriving just after 01:00. Fortunately the one person left at the counter stayed to deal with all of the people off the flight trying to pick up a car.

We finally got to our motel about 02:30 and it was almost 03:00 by the time we were in our room and ready to get to bed.

Tomorrow our first stop is the infamous Franklin’s BBQ. We have to be there by 07:00 to start queueing to have a chance of getting food. Going to be a short night.

BBQ Discovery

Adrian and I are off to the USA for a road trip to discovery some the best barbeque that the USA has to offer. This is all in anticipation of our participation in the KCBS competition, Brew-n-Q, in May in Coalville, UK.

We’re taking a 6-day road trip through Texas, Arkansas and Missouri to sample some of the top award winning BBQ joints. We’ll be starting in Austin, TX – home to some of the best brisket around. You can pretty much throw a rock and hit a BBQ joint in Austin. From Austin we’ll head to Lockhart, TX then to Taylor and Dallas. From there we’ll head to Hot Spring and Littlerock, Arkansas and then up through Missouri via Springfield, Branson, Osceola and finally into Kansas City.

Our goal is to sample the best barbecue has to offer from some of the top BBQ spots in the heart of America. We’ll try out different styles of ‘Q and hopefully learn a bit from some of the masters. We will be keeping careful notes at each place we go using our “Tasting Note’s” pages put together by my wife, Angela.

We’ll also be scoring the food at each location in the same manner as KCBS competition. For those that have not been a part of barbecue competitions, there are some very strict rules and specific judging methods.

In competition, you are graded against three category: Appearance, Taste, Texture/Tenderness. Each category has a multiplier applied with taste being most important (57%, 2.2972), tenderness/texture next (28.6%, 1.1428) and appearance last (14.4%, 0.5600). You are scored 1 to 9 points for each category and then the multiplier is applied to get a final score.

Scoring lines out like this:

9 – Excellent6 – Average3 – Bad
8 – Very Good5 – Below Average2 – Inedible
7 – Above Average4 – Poor1 – Disqualified

So you apply the multiplier to each score and then add them up. Let’s say your brisket scores 9 for appearance, a 9 taste, and an 8 for tenderness. Use the multipliers and add this up and you get a score of 35.44/36.00. There are always six judges and the lowest score is thrown out giving a maximum of 180 points (36*5). Complicated isn’t it!

You can see the full KCBS rules here: KCBS 2019 Official Rules and Regulations

Appearance

This is all about how the meat looks. Are the slices cleanly cut? Are the ribs even? Is the pulled pork in nice chunks or shredded until its mush? And the meat should be what shines – not the sauce. In short, it needs to look appetising.

Taste

This is the most important element of the judging. This is all about the flavour of the meat and the way it is seasoned. Surprisingly, great barbecue in a restaurant does not often earn a great score. That’s because the judges are looking for the exceptional and so something a bit different. This is the biggest element of the score though so you have to get this right.

Tenderness

This is the second most important element. And again it isn’t easy. Tenderness for brisket is different than for ribs. With ribs, they are looking for the meat to have enough texture to bite through without falling off the bone — most of us are looking for ribs that do fall off the bone when we go to a restaurant. And brisket should pull apart easily, but not crumble. Pulled pork needs to have a bite, not be soft or mushy.

Getting all of these perfect on any given day is the challenge! One or two is not so tough, but all three can be far more difficult.

So we are going to see how some of the best BBQ joints in America measure up and see what we can learn from it all — while trying to still make it home fitting into the clothes we take with us; I think that is going to be the biggest challenge of all!

So a strip of bacon and an egg walk into a bar…

The bartender says, “We don’t serve breakfast here.”

I overheard my work colleagues talking about bacon today. One of them is on a low cholesterol so can’t have any bacon. Of course, that means bacon is what he thinks about every morning!  Anyway, a big debate began about the best kind of bacon. I was surprised how little consensus there was.

It all starts with the simple question…what is bacon?  After lots of ‘googling’, it seems the agreed answer is that bacon is a meat product (usually pork) that has been cured, usually with salt, and then further processed by smoking or air drying.  Doesn’t tell you much does it?

Continue reading “So a strip of bacon and an egg walk into a bar…”

Hangover Cure? Not likely, but…

hangover-eggs

Will this Saturday morning breakfast cure a hangover? Probably not, (ok, definitely not) but together with a bloody mary or ‘hair of the dog’ it might just start you down the path!

Start with half a bagel. Add bacon, a layer of avocado, some chopped tomato with red onion (not too much) and a generous squeeze of lime juice. Perch two poached eggs on top and season with cracked black pepper and celery salt.

Serve with some skillet potatoes and a couple of mango slices.

Yum.  Had two happy girls this morning when I served this up.