Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Waiting for Hoffman-Damn the Citations

So it was back to Smitty's with the Floreanis and Hoffman. Very appropriate, as Smitty's is in Lockhart and is the town that Waiting for Guffman was filmed. I was specifically honored to drive one of the matriarchs of the Floreani Clan, the lovely Mrs. Floreani. It's an amazing little town with a gorgeous courthouse, a clock museum, and 2 stunning barbecue joints.

There was an amazing sighting, the likes of which I had not encountered at a barbecue joint or anywhere else for that matter, and that was a future Blue Man.

The place was a hell of alot busier than anticipated, but we somehow managed to muddle through. The only dissapointment was that they were out of the Prime Rib that we were able to check out before the trek to El Regio a week or so back.
We went with sausage, brisket and end-cut porkchops with some slightly under-ripe avacados. It was like a frenzied scene of orgiastic debauchery straight out of Quest for Fire, followed by some bizarre ice cream social which sequed into a diatribe on proper, appropriate and acceptable manners of citation. Mercifully Mike forced himself asleep.

At any rate I was glad that in preparation for the sortie that I forced myself into a grueling 2 hour fast. I may need more in order to make it through Coopers in Llano tomorrow.

Monday, December 29, 2008

El Regio Pollo Magnifico, Next time Siberia

When a vegetarian suggests a meat restaurant, pay very close attention. Don't be thrown when they tell you it's in a Shell Station, as the rewards can be great.

This wonderful place in San Marcos serves up some of the best chicken that I have ever had, and is mopped down with a rub that includes an endorphin releasing substance that must either be illegal or simply unknown to the FDA.

Not only is the chicken otherworldly, but they also have a condiment that is simply called 'Green Sauce' that is some combination of jalapenos, sour cream and who knows what else that perfectly compliments the bird.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Okonomiyaki where can I find you

So the food in Japan was amazing as you would expect. The Sushi was amazing and I had my share. The best sushi I had in my life was at a little stall with maybe 10 seats at a counter that was in the sets of shops by the Tsukiji (pronounced ski-gee) Tokyo Fish Market. All of them had lines outside, and it doesn't get any fresher, literally hours off of the boat. They also had the best Miso Soup that I've ever had.

There were a number of foods that I have never had before that were absolutely mind-blowing, and that I have not come across here in the States. There were a number of restaurants that specialize in a single dish and have no menu at all. There was a wonderful place in Kyoto that did a chicken and egg mild curry with a bit of rice, and another in Hamamatsu that only sold BBQ Eel.

Although I had Sukiyaki, some amazing Sushi and all manner of Street Foods, my favorite experience and the one that I crave the most is Okonomiyaki. It was a rainy, drizzly, windy day, and we were walking through Kyoto's Nishiki Market marveling at all sorts of dried fish and produce when we came across Mr. Young Mens. I'll have to say that this could be the perfect comfort food on a cold wet day. I have heard it called Japanese Pizza; this doesn't begin to describe it, nor does it do it justice.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Shall We Riding?

My recent trip to Japan showed me that although we may have put a man on the moon, they were by far the most advanced civilization.

They have done away with the need to dominate a 1 ton animal with the brain the size of a walnut when they need to exercise. This is clearly a superior approach.

Once you are done exercising and need to replenish your valuable electrolytes, you don't simply reach for water or gatorade, no-no-no. You grab a bottle of cool refreshing....

But there is so much more to the technological marvels of Japan. They have perfected the art and machinery of defication. They have a remote that is on the borderline of being as advanced as my Dish Satelite remote control.

The seat is already pre-warmed so as not to be a shock. This allows one to properly relax into the poo, or to be the poo as Bill Murray might say. Once the process begins and a turd hits the water it's 'soft-flushed' back into the plumbing. Each time another turd drops this processed is repeated making the procedure nearly odorless. When you are finished you hit the proper controls that apply temperature and pressure controlled water to clean things wonderfully. There is then a reassuring jet of air that dries you off. When you stand, the seat senses that weight has been removed and does a full flush, sprays a small amount of pleasant smelling deoderizer, and then shuts the lid.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

If there's better BBQ in Texas, I haven't found it

We decided that it was time to visit what is deemed by Texas Monthly Magazine as the best BBQ in the state. I'm usually quite dubious about such honors and awards. There is some absolutely amazing barbecue in the Texas Hill Country and surrounds and that is one hell of a bold statement.

We agreed to depart from Mike's at 7:30AM for the drive to Snow's. They are only open on Saturdays, open at 8, and close when they run out, which is apparently always before noon. We headed off on a scenic route that took us out of Wimberley and past more single wides that I've ever seen in a stretch. We rolled into Lexington, TX at about 9:20, and there was a line out the door.
As we made our way up through the line, we kept hearing reports of what they were out of, first ribs, and then pork butt. This torture was exacerbated by Saul who was right in front of us, and seemed completely unfamiliar with commerce on every level. He also had acute spatial and social issues, not to mention the joy he seemed to take in trying to order the last of everything.

When Edmond and I finally made it to the front of the line we were relieved to find that they still had brisket, sausage and chicken. We made our way out to a picnic table adjacent to their pits, and were quickly transported to gastronomic bliss. Simply put, consensus of all four put these three items at the top of what we had experienced, and overall Snow's had admirably earned the distinction of being the best in Texas. The only single item that rivaled and perhaps bettered anything that we had at Snow's was the beef rib at Cooper's in Llano.

Lessons learned:
1. Texas monthly is reputable and accurate at least in matters of BBQ.

2. If you want any selection at all, get to Snow's shortly after 8AM when they open

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Baptism of the Stranger in a Strange Land-Luling City Market

It was an early start by any ones standard for barbecue. I picked up Martin just before 10AM on Saturday. Martin, originally from Manchester UK, by way of LA is new to the Hill Country and we took it upon ourselves to show him some of the best bbq that it has to offer. We hit Mike's house to pile into the cherokee, collected Edmond (big-ups for the coffee fix Edmond) and headed off in a most circuitous route to Smitty's in Lockhart. Mike donned his lucky PETA shirt for the event, which added a certain charm to the festivities.

Smitty's has what has become my favorite hallway on the planet to photograph. It is where I once met Smitty himself (photographic evidence withheld). You walk in from the harsh light of day into a dim light with the glow of the open fires on the floor. It is flanked on either side by long wooden benches with an amazing patina with a small counter to eat from. Every several feet there is a chain that hangs down and allegedly used to have a knife at the other end that could be shared in a communal fashion. To the right at the end of the hallway is the pits where your gastronomic adventure begins.

Click on this photo below to see the full version of just what I'm talking about.

Smitty's in my mind has the best sausage, taste-texture-balance all of it there in spades. The end cut pork chops were great as ever, and the brisket stellar as well. I have covered Smitty's previously, so won't go on here, but if you haven't been yet go. After downing our beers and orange soda. It was off to City Market in Luling.

Just a few miles down the road from Lockhart is Luling, but it could have been the other side of Texas. Where Lockhart seems to have sprung from agronomy, Luling was decidedly an oil town and possibly the architecturally least significant Texas town that I had come across. There were yards of delapidated oil equipment and pumps still in service smattered throughout. There was a smell of oil in the air that was unistakable. Some of the working pumps had been dressed up with silhouettes of Shamu diving, or kids on teeter totters. Other than City Market BBQ, Luling's claim to fame is the Watermelon Spitting Championship, and Thump Queen. There were a number of corrigated steel shacks that served Mexican food that looked quite promising, but they would have to wait for another day. We were on a mission........

We rolled into downtown Luling for our second lunch. Mike had either cheated or scouted the previous day depending on your perspective. He claimed to be stuck by a train and left on option in the matter. At any rate we feasted on Ribs, Sausage and Brisket. The Pork Ribs were the best that I've had thus far in Texas, where other cuts are king. The sauce at Luling was also an absolute standout. A very interesting balance of spicy, savory, smoke and sweetness. A contrast to Smitty's that offers (and needs) none. The brisket was good, although not as good as Smitty's, it was a solid representation. The sausage was of a smoother consistency than that at Smitty's and a milder but still great taste. Absolutely worth the drive from Wimberley, but possibly not from Lockhart if you get my meaning.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Reverand Bubba's triumphant return from the dark continent and more Hill Country shenanigans

As hurricane Ike threatened to destroy Houston, Mike Edmond and I made our way to Llano and Blanco for bbq, beer and croquet. It seemed like another great Trifecta.

Our first destination was Cooper's barbecue in Llano. We pulled up at exactly the right time, they had just loaded up for the lunch crowd and we were among the first there. By the time we had made it down the gauntlet a line was forming around the corner of the building. As it was a Friday there were many more locals than tourista filth like ourselves.

The place had the right smell to it, and these folks clearly knew what they were doing when it comes to searing and smoking the flesh of various and sundry hill country mammals and birds.

During our lunch we clearly asserted our place at the top of the foodchain, and partook of:
Beef Ribs
Pork Loin

Jalapeno Sausage

All of it was amazing, succulent and deserving of the accolades that have been bestowed upon them by others. Even though it was a larger operation than any of the other places visited, everyone was attentive, and clearly put pride in their work. The sauce was different than those that we had encountered on previous outings. They also opt for the choice of having your meet dipped in the sauce at the end of the pit instead of offering it on the side or at the table. Simple and exceptional!

The Beef Ribs were far and away the best that I have ever had, and everyone's pick for the #1 spot that day. It was one of the best servings of beef that I have ever had. It clung to the bone and had the taste of marrow that complimented the mesquite smoke. This is the only thing that we went back to for seconds.

Edmond and I gave #2 to the Chicken. It was half a chicken that tasted as if it had been fed nothing but butter for the last weeks of its' life. It was dusted in Cooper's rub and perfectly grilled. Moist and just the right balance of moisture, spice and mesquite goodness. The rest was all great, and is down to personal preference. It should be mentioned that the Sirloin was shockingly moist and a perfect medium. It was only my second time having cabrito, so I don't feel that I'm in a position to comment further than to say I liked it and would order it again from them without hesitation.

On our way to Blanco we decided to stop off in Johnson City (not named for LBJ, but his uncle) where we saw LBJ's boyhood home had an ice cream cone and got directions to the Benini Sculpture Ranch.

The Sculpture Ranch is one of the cultural jewels of the Hill Country and absolutely worth a visit. They don't only have over a hundred acres of land with sundry different styles of sculpture, they also have a gallery featuring Benini's paintings as well as a rotating group of other artists. Not only that they without fail offer a free cup of espresso to enjoy while you take in the art. Pretty civilized ladies and gentlemen. They don't take donations and they don't charge admission either.

After getting our quota of culture for the day we headed to Blanco for a tour of the Blanco Brewery. Every Friday they open their tasting room from 2-5 and give a brewery tour at 4. They generously poured a number of their selections for us to try, but it soon became clear that we needed to get the hell out of there as it was far too crowded and the rooms average IQ dropped significantly with the new arrival of each guest. If I heard 'like' to describe something actual I would be tempted to throw elbows. We asked the hostess where in town we could acquire their Sisyphus Barley Wine, and hit the road. About a half mile down the road we picked up our Barley Wine.

Mike then directed us to what was absolutely one of the most absurd and unexpected sights that I have seen in the Hill Country. A world class croquet court, complete with spectator stand. This is right in the town square and is behind a 10' wall to keep the riff-raff out. It could have been straight out of Alice in Wonderland. We made it to a restaurant across the square and when I inquired if they got much trouble from the croquet crowd, I just got a confused look. It quickly became clear that lifetime residents had no idea whatsoever what transpired on the other side of the walls in the center of their own town. Clearly a class-divide. We had a couple more beers before heading home to Wimberley.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Serious Coffee and Organic BBQ, The Sun can wait

I had planned on attending a workshop this past Saturday with Marc at Hubbert's Peak on designing a solar system, or a solar power system, I'm unclear which. At any rate things got delayed, and I ended up carting furniture, loading my pickup and wondering what the universe had in mind. Wimberley's market days proved to not be a dissapointment in the least as a consolation prize, and I ended up with an amazing cactus and a phenomenal plan B.

We decided to hit Austin maybe take some pictures, and find something to eat. We decided to hit Ruby's BBQ as our first stop. The placed reeked of intrigue and seemed to have been decorated in 1973, and left to rot since then, but in a slightly manufactured way somehow. The smell was right, and we plodded on and took the cashiers suggestion of a brisket plate with beans and slaw and a local beer.

Ruby's had the best beans I've ever had with a hint of habanero, the cole slaw had curry in it, and I couldn't decide at the bottom of the bowl if it was intriguing or godawful, on further pondering I choose the former and would be forced to order them again if for no other reason than to make a final judgement. The brisket was a bit dry but flavorful, and a distant cousin to any of the greatness experienced in Lockhart a few weeks previous.

After a few passes, we finally found a parking place near enough to JP's to make a run at it. JP's is one of the few homes of the $12k plus Clover Coffee Machine. It allegedly makes the finest cup of joe that can be had. Apparently it was a little too good, as Star*ucks has bought the company, refuses to sell to any other coffee shops, and service is apparently not quite as easy as it used to be.

We both opted for a cup of Ethiopian. It was absolutely sublime and the most complex flavors that I have ever experienced with almost no bitterness at all! Absolutely without a doubt the best cup of coffee that has ever passed these lips

What I'm Reading


What I'm listening to lately

  • Ben Kweller-Changing Horses
  • Trojan Country Reggae Box Set
  • The Grand Archives
  • Sun is Shining- Bob Marley vs Lee Scratch Perry
  • A.C. Newman-Get Guilty
  • Justin Townes Earle-The Good Life
  • Bon Iver-Blood Bank
  • Breathe Owl Breathe-Ghost Glacier
  • Noah and the Whale
  • Conor Oberst
  • Frightened Rabbit-The Midnight Organ Fight

Smitty's Barbecue

Smitty's Barbecue