Saturday, March 30, 2013

I'm a Smoker!

I’ll admit…I like to smoke; the heavier the smoke, the better.  Now I’ve gotten Josh into smoking too.  Even though we rented a non-smoking car in Texas, by the time we were done, it smelled like a five-alarm fire was burning in there…

Before you people get all up in arms, most of you know I’m referring to smoking meat.  Never, and I mean never, would tobacco (wacky or otherwise) be ingested in our family.  But when it comes to burning oak wood and animal fat (of the cow kind…), bring it on.

Josh and I had the pleasure of spending the past several days in Austin, Texas.  Primary mission:  to tour the University of Texas-Austin and to get a sense of whether a Massachusetts Minuteman would be comfortable as a Texas Longhorn.  A not-so-coincidental benefit to this trip:  real Texas bbq!!!! 

For weeks prior to this trip, I scoured the interweb for reviews, watched videos, and visited websites…mostly of the bbq joints we were going to visit.  Having just been down in Austin in April, 2011 for my own personal BBQ quest with charter subscriber and old friend Marty (who’s to blame for this sick obsession), I knew we would head to Lockhart, TX for some of the best bbq in the world, and maybe a few other places as well.  Between the bbq and the University, I was almost happy to be getting up at 3:45am to catch a 7:00am flight in a blizzard…thankfully we made it unscathed, and the bbq awaited!

After getting our car, we high-tailed it down Route 183 South to Lockhart, the literal “BBQ Capital of Texas”, or so the sign claims.  Kreuze Market is not opened on Sundays, so the car took us to Black’s.  With a long line out the door, we opted to keep driving a couple of more blocks to Smitty’s, where we faced a similar predicament, but this time, I was not going to be denied the opportunity to eat Smitty’s brisket, which Texas Monthly magazine claims is among the best anywhere.  I knew we would be coming back to Lockhart again, so we opted to wait in line at Smitty’s; so glad we did.

The thing about Texas bbq is that it is unlike anything we have here in Massachusetts…having been there twice within the past 2 years, I understand better now than ever that bbq there is a way of life; it’s almost religion there.  Never mind whether you are a “reform”, “conservative” or “orthodox” Jew, or a “Roman” or “Irish” Catholic…in Texas, you’re a “Smitty’s”, “Kreuze” or “City Market”.  I really feel as if your preferred bbq joint defines you there.

Smitty's back door

With that in mind, we stood in a long line that slowly snaked in to Smitty’s smoke room.  In these places, you walk up to a counter, about ten feet away from the smoker, and order by the pound.  There’s a cutter custom cutting your meat, and tossing it on to some brown butcher paper.  Toss a few slices of white bread, and that’s that!  To get to this counter though, you have to navigate a fire burning at your feet, because in Texas, no Board of Health or safety commissioner is going to tell them to enclose that fire and protect the public.  This is Texas y’all, and as Davey Crocket famously said: You may all go to Hell, and I will go to Texas.

So true…
Fire in the hole!  At my feet!

Nonetheless, after I grabbed 2 hot beef sausage links, a pound of brisket, extra moist (read: fatty), and a half-pound slab of smoked prime rib, with great anticipation we sat down at one of the communal tables and stared silently at the glistening meat, mouth watering.  The first bite can only be described as “Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh”.  The smiles on our faces said it all.  While we enjoyed all the bbq consumed (including The Salt Lick at he airport, which Josh proclaimed to be the best airport food he’s ever eaten), I think we are now considered “Smitty-ites”.

Greasy goodness-beef sausage, prime rib and fatty brisket