Monday, April 27, 2009

'Cue A Palooza Fest, Part II

Part II
The plan on Sunday was to hit up one place for “brunch”, and then another place for dinner before heading to Austin for the concert that night. Sunday morning I got to Smitty’s Market about 11 AM. I wanted to beat the church crowd.

Smitty’s is the original site of Kreuz Market. According to who’s telling the story, either a family feud or a shrewd business decision led to part of the family splitting off and starting a new place (the current Kreuz Market).

After arrival I walked right up to the ordering area and asked for a quarter pound of brisket and one link of sausage. The dining room had a good number of people in it, but it wasn’t crowded by any means. The brisket had lots of smoky flavor and was moderately moist. I used to forgo eating the fat on the outside of the brisket, but not here. Pairing a bit of the creamy fat with each bite of meat was a great combination.

The sausage had a little bit more pepper bite than Kreuz’s, and it was quite a bit greasier. Cutting through the casing was not an issue. I had read some reviews that mentioned Smitty’s sausage practically squirting grease halfway across the room when you cut into it, but it wasn’t nearly that bad. I liked the pepper flavor.

Smitty’s has wonderful atmosphere. Everywhere except the dining room is dimly lit, mostly by the light from windows and open doors. Each pit has a fire burning at one end to provide the smoke. In the front of the building is the original meat market that was Smitty’s in the old days, including the ancient butcher block and much of the old equipment and fixtures. After I ate I spent a good deal of time just hanging around and taking photos. I could have stayed there all day, I think. The crowd seemed to be steadily building as morning turned into afternoon.

For dinner I went to the “new” place in town. In this case new means it’s only been there 30 years. Chisholm Trail Barbecue (no website) is supposed to be a favorite of locals, and if the crowd there at 4:45 on a Sunday was any indication then I suspect that is true. They have a drive-thru which had a long line of cars. I had to wait in line a total of about 20 minutes to get my food and pay.

One of the draws of this place is that they have a more extensive selection of sides than the other places. I decided to get the beef and sausage plate, which consisted of 3 sides selected from a buffet, about a quarter pound of brisket, and half a sausage link. To ensure that I would at least eat something green during the weekend, I chose some broccoli salad, green beans, and fried okra to go with my meat. Since I knew I likely wouldn’t be eating again before the next day, I also got some peach cobbler for dessert.

The Chisholm Trail brisket was surprisingly moist. I guess I say surprisingly because the atmosphere of the place made me think of a Luby’s. It was flavorful and reasonably smoky. I had to trim the fat a little bit in a couple of places. The sausage was decent, but it was greasier than Smitty’s and not packed particularly densely. The sides were good, as was the cobbler.

Read Part I

To see any of the photos larger, click on the image.

Meat and bread. The foundation of any nutritious breakfast.

Really nice brisket. Check out that smoke ring.

The wood at the end of one of the smokers. I can't help thinking this would never fly in Dallas. The fire marshal would have a cow. That's one of the entrances to the restaurant at right!

You place your order, they pull the meat out of the smoker and slice it on this butcher block, and then they wrap it up in butcher paper.

This is the original butcher block.

Here's their woodpile out back.

This was my meal from Chisholm Trail.
Look - vegetables!

The restaurant wasn't all that photogenic, and I was in a hurry, so I brought it back to my motel room across the street.

Peach cobbler

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

'Cue A Palooza Fest, Part I

Recently I went on a bit of a barbecue pilgrimage. My reports from this excursion will be broken up into 3 parts. Vegetarians may want to skip this series of posts!

Part I

Having grown up in Texas, and having spent a lot of time visiting family in the Southeast, I’ve come to develop an appetite for barbecue. There are several different styles of barbecue in the Southeast (mostly pork), and Texas even has its own distinct types of barbecue (mostly beef). The type of barbecue that most people associate with Texas is the Central Texas style. Wikipedia describes Central Texas barbecue thusly (from the book Legends of Texas Barbecue by Robb Walsh):

Central Texas was settled by German and Czech settlers in the mid 1800s, and they brought with them European-style meat markets, which would smoke leftover cuts of pork and beef, often with high heat, using primarily native oak and pecan. The European settlers did not think of this meat as barbecue, but the Anglo farm workers who bought it started calling it such, and the name stuck. Traditionally, this barbecue is marinated but served without sauce, and with no sides other than saltine crackers, cucumber pickles, and onions. This style is found in the Barbecue Belt southeast of Austin, with Lockhart, Texas as its capital.

I can’t remember where I first heard about Lockhart, Texas and barbecue, but I had been dimly aware of it for quite a few years. Then a couple of years ago I came across this blog post, and my curiosity was piqued for good. I’ve wanted to go there ever since reading that blog post, and recently I had the perfect opportunity to do so since I was going to Austin for a concert.

I made a plan to hit 4 well-known barbecue places in Lockhart over the course of one weekend. After making the 4 hour trip on late Saturday afternoon, I arrived at my first stop, Kreuz Market.

Unfortunately I arrived with only about 20 minutes until closing time. They were out of brisket and out of jalapeno cheese sausage. I was a bit flustered, especially by the fact that I had my camera with me so I could photograph my food, so I panicked a bit and ordered too much food. I ended up with probably about a quarter pound of beef shoulder, one link of regular sausage, and for good measure I ordered a pork chop. They asked me if I wanted bread or crackers, and I went with bread. I guess since they were about to close they pretty much gave about a quarter loaf of Butter Krust bread, including the bag.

I’m very self-conscious about standing out from the crowd, so I was a bit nervous to whip out my camera and take some photos of the food since I needed to use the flash. But I knew I just had to have photos, so I pressed on ahead and took a couple of shots before digging in.

Kreuz Market takes great pride in the fact that they don’t provide forks. They only give you a knife. Being the dork that I am, I actually brought my own plastic fork. After a few minutes though, I realized that eating with your hands really isn’t that big a deal. So how was the food? The shoulder had a good amount of smoke flavor to it, and was pretty juicy. After eating a few bites I was struck by how salty it was though. The pork chop was pretty good. Much juicier than I’m used to, which was good. I ate the whole chop. The sausage was excellent. Not greasy, with a nice peppery kick and wonderful smoked flavor. The casing wasn’t too hard to cut through, and the meat was packed fairly densely. I ate all of that too.

I was quickly getting full, so I wrapped up the remaining bits of shoulder to take with me since I knew I would have a refrigerator in my hotel room. First impression? Yep, there’s something to this place!

All photos can be viewed larger by clicking on them.

OK, this photo is pretty much a rip-off of a shot from the dallasfood post. I think it should be thought of more as an homage.

This is not the original building. More on that in Part 2.

They've actually mellowed a bit. You can now use credit and get various side dishes.

My meal. You can tell how moist the shoulder and chop were. Good stuff. No sides for me (except bread)!

The sunset as I left the restaurant.

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Monday, April 13, 2009

It's The Easter Vulture, Charlie Brown!

OK, technically I didn't take these photos on Easter. It was actually last Thursday. But I figure it's close enough, right?

When I got home from work last Thursday I saw a huge bird sitting on the top of the telephone pole at the end of my street. I wasn't sure what it was at first. I got my camera and walked to the end of the street to snap a few photos. Turns out it was a black vulture. I see them soaring high overhead quite a bit, but I don't often see them perched. He or she eyed me suspiciously, but didn't fly away.

Click on photos to view larger.


Thursday, April 09, 2009

Bizarre Sunset

The sky looks crazy tonight. First we had a bunch of dust blow in, and then a bunch of fires started to the west. There are little pieces of ash floating around. It also smells like a campfire.


Wednesday, April 01, 2009

How Grows It

Decidedly mixed news in my growing efforts. My rabbit-gnawed maple is making a splendid comeback. I had to make a new enclosure for it because it was getting too big for the previous one. I’m not sure that a rabbit would eat it now that the leaves have fully opened, but I don’t want to take the chance. So now all I need is 30 years so I can have a real tree!

Now for the bad news. So far my herbs and vegetables aren’t doing so hot. My Thai basil seems to have given up the ghost. I think maybe it just got too cold. After all, Thailand is tropical! It was exposed to temps around 35 degrees or so, and it has gone steadily downhill since then. I have bought and planted a replacement.

Not so good, Al.


My grape tomato plant started getting brown spots on the leaves that have slowly spread up the plant. It actually has two tiny tomatoes on it right now, but the brownness continues to spread. My best guess as to what’s going on is that it’s some type of soil-borne disease. All the tomato stuff I’ve read says that you have to be careful not to water so that dirt splashes up onto the leaves, and not to get the leaves wet when you water. The week after I planted it there were extremely heavy rains for a couple of days. Like 3 inches worth of rain. I think the leaves may have been splashed up from the soil during the heavy rains. (update: I wrote this post at work (no way!), and after examining the plant while taking photos I’m thinking maybe it’s in better shape than I thought.)

Tiny tomatoes!

I looked for a replacement grape tomato plant, but there were no more at the store where I purchased the original. So I ended up buying a cherry tomato plant. I don’t like cherry tomatoes as much as grape tomatoes, but they’re better than no tomatoes. So far it looks OK.

I thought for a while that my pepper plant would be OK. It even has a couple of tiny peppers starting to form on it. But the last few days the leaves have been looking kind of yellow and droopy, so I’m starting to worry about it. I’m hoping the warmer weather will perk it up a bit.

It ain’t easy being a farmer!