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.
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 – Excellent
6 – Average
3 – Bad
8 – Very Good
5 – Below Average
2 – Inedible
7 – Above Average
4 – Poor
1 – 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!
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.
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.
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!
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?
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.
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