Archive for the ‘food’ Category

As regular readers may have noticed, I’m a big meat-eater. And though I don’t hunt anymore, I hunted as a kid in Texas. So I was interested in Steven Rinella’s new book Meat Eater: Adventures from the Life of an American Hunter. (And since Rinella went to graduate school in Missoula, where I’m on good relations with the local weekly, I had a venue to review it.) It’s a good read, and an effective corrective to what you probably think of when you think of hunting adventures as told by hunters.

A tangential excerpt:

Too many hunters—Montana reader-hunters excepted, of course—are assholes. I’m thinking of the hunters I grew up with on deer leases in Texas, who use electronically timed corn feeders to train trophy bucks to arrive at their predetermined opening-day doom at 7 a.m. sharp. I’m thinking of the hunters I ran into in the wild and scenic lower canyons of the Rio Grande this spring, zipping up and down the remote river in a jet boat with a sawed-off aoudad sheep’s head strapped to the bow, leaving a glittering string of discarded Coors Light cans in their wake. I’ve never seen Rinella’s shows, but anyone who’s ever flipped through the low-budget hunting programs on a slow TV day will recognize the hyperventilating kill-thrill that characterizes hunting’s lowest common denominator. Giddy bloodlust may not be hunting’s driving evolutionary force, but it’s real, and it isn’t a character trait likely to draw many converts.

To hunting’s credit, and his own, Steven Rinella is not that asshole.

You can read the rest of the review here.

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I love jerky. I really love jerky. Beef jerky, buffalo jerky, turkey jerky, venison jerky, all of it. Earlier this year I started collecting jerky labels. That’s a scanned sampling above, a scrapbook in the making. It has long been an ambition of mine to write and photograph a coffee-table book on jerky, which would sell in every truck stop and interstate convenience store in the land, which is such a transparently brilliant idea that I wake up every morning wondering why nobody has yet transferred a million dollars into my bank account as an advance on the mere concept. Someday.

In the meantime, I had occasion recently in the Texas Observer, bless ’em, to write about the related pleasures of BBQ and jerky. You can READ THAT HERE.

In the meantime, if you know of any really good jerky — and I’m not talking about that gelatinous mass-production crap — pray do tell.

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51iEtpA44TL._SS400_Every year (at least it seems like every year), Texas Monthly magazine puts out a servicey cover story on the best BBQ n Texas (to go with their servicey cover stories on the best swimming holes in Texas and the best tacos in Texas, etc. etc.)

Requisite snideness aside, these listicles are super-useful, not necessarily as reliable assigners of superlatives — feel free to like some other taco better — but as catalogs or, even better, suggested itineraries.

Despite the photographic primacy of Wyatt McSpadden’s gorgeous work (he’s really good at conveying the medievality of the retail meat-cooking business), that’s how I’m presently using the new book Texas BBQ, too. Back on pages 156 and 159 there’s a handy index of the establishments photographed in the book, including addresses and phone  numbers. Though some of these joints obviously have them — and the inevitable mail-order meat and tourist-trade merch that comes with them — no websites are listed. 

photo by Wyatt McSpadden, from Texas BBQ

photo by Wyatt McSpadden, from Texas BBQ

Screw surfing. These are roadmaps made for the Sunday drive, and though it’s Saturday, that’s what I did this morning. Got up just before 7 a.m. and left the house a little after 8 and by 9:30 I was sitting outside at a picnic table in Lexington, Texas, at Snow’s BBQ, shooing away flies and eating, all in all, the best BBQ I’ve ever eaten. No question about the brisket. Sausage, definitely. I might like the pork ribs at Smitty’s just a little better, and am looking forward to making a confirmation run to Lockhart soon, but it’d be close.

In a surprise move, Texas Monthly named the relatively new and more or less unknown Snow’s the best BBQ in Texas last year. The New Yorker thought that was interesting enough that it sent Calvin Trillin down to take a sniff. Neither Calvin nor I seem to be able to find any reason to quibble.

Snow’s isn’t in Texas BBQ, but Louie Mueller’s BBQ is, and three and a half hours (and two good bookstores) later I was 31 miles north in Taylor, at an indoor picnic table there, rain pounding the steel roof, eating more brisket, more sausage, and a beef rib that weighed almost a pound and looked like something I could kill a possum with.

I’m not passing final judgment on Mueller’s yet. It looks right, and everything’s got a heavy peppered crust and they give every plate a charred piece of brisket heel, and that beef rib is like a steak built from butter, but 1) I was already pretty full, so I didn’t have the seasoning of appetite, and 2) there’s still the Taylor Cafe’s highly reputed BBQ around the corner from Louie Mueller’s to try before I even know what BBQ I like best in Taylor, never mind Texas.

photo by Wyatt McSpadden, from Texas BBQ

photo by Wyatt McSpadden, from Texas BBQ

So far I’ve tried Austin’s Salt Lick (meh), Lockhart’s Black’s (great pork chop, pass on the sausage), Meyer’s Elgin Smokehouse (not so much), and Luling City Market (pictured on the book cover above, and plenty good enough to go back).

I’ve got to try Lockhart’s Kreuz Market (that’s their woodpile at left) soon. Texas BBQ essayist John Morthland says their pork chop is the best BBQ in Texas, and though I’m a little uncertain about a pork chop being BBQ, precisely, few Texas BBQ places seem to share the qualm, and John Morthland should know better than I.

I’ve got pounds to eat before I’m well e’t enough to judge, but so far it feels like a statistical dead heat between Snow’s, in Lexington, and Smitty’s, in Lockhart. Smitty’s get extra points for the dungeonality of their premises.

I’m trying to eat as much Texas BBQ as I can before I leave for Michigan this fall. They didn’t know BBQ in Montana and I’m betting they won’t know it in Ann Arbor, either. I may get Snow’s to mail me some meat up, but I’m betting it won’t be the same.

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