Sunday, February 5, 2012

Book Review: Barbecue Lover's Guide To Austin

I wanted to make some Texas style chicken wings for this post.

But I couldn't find such a thing - "Texas hot wings".  Even on the Google-net-web-thing.  That's not to say they don't have great wings in Texas, just not a particular style that I could find. 

So instead I just fire roasted some wings and a basic butter/hot sauce buffalo sauce.  I won't do a recipe since it is such a common recipe but I will give my one tip -

Wing Tip:  Take the leaves from your celery and finely dice them.  Add a tablespoon to your buffalo sauce and use another tablespoon for garnish.  It bridges the flavors between your wings and veggies.

What this post is really about is a book.

You can find great BBQ all over the country but there are a few locales that are considered "Destination BBQ".  Kansas City, MO.  Lexington, NC.  Decatur, AL.  Memphis, TN.  And of course, Austin, Tx.  

Austin, Texas is the mecca of Texas BBQ and is the focus of Gloria Corral's book...

This book is not a collection of subjective reviews of BBQ restaurants in the Austin area.  You can get that on Yelp, TripAdvisor, or a million other review sites.  And then you don't know if the review is by someone that is neutral, works for the restaurant or works for the competition. 

Instead Barbecue Lover's Guide focuses on the facts about these establishments.  Locations, operating hours, specialties and peculiarities.   That might sound like standard fare for any website but not with these joints.  For example, Snow's BBQ is only open on Saturday's at 8am and can sell out as early as 11am.  Some places only have outdoor seating.  Some only take cash.  Some have special sides that you have to try.  

In other words, you need a guide.  And Gloria Corral's book can be that guide for you.  I recently was able to interview Gloria about her book.

NMT:  Who is the intended audience of your book and how is it to be used?
Corral:  The book is intended for locals and tourists. When I moved to Austin and asked new friends where to eat they would suggest BBQ joints. It seemed they each had a favorite, so I set out to try them one by one and soon realized that it would be a fun project to put them all in a guide.

NMT:  Did you personally visit each of these locations?  On average, how many times did you visit each?
Corral: I personaliy ate at each and every one. Sometimes more than once and sometimes multiple times. I learned I love BBQ more than I thought!

NMT:  How did you find all of these places?
Corral: Research! I looked on the web, in phone books, on web sites for dining options. But most discoveries came from people I met along the way. If you ask anyone in Austin where’s their favorite BBQ joint you will get plenty of recommendations. 

NMT:  While writing this book, how often per week were you dining on BBQ and did you ever get tired of it?
Corral: I often ate BBQ every day. Once I started I just kept going. I spent my first 6 months researching in the library. I read every book they had on BBQ. The history, legends, books on meat, smoke versus fire, how to build a pit, different types of wood, the different cultures, styles and techniques across the United States. (Even BBQ styles and techniques from Argentina, Africa, Australia!)

NMT:  Was Rudy's REALLY the "worst BBQ in Texas" as they proudly proclaim on their sign?
Corral: I like Rudy’s for lots of reasons. Like the book says, it’s a clean well-lighted place for BBQ. If you happen to have a team of rowdy 11 year olds with you celebrating their most recent football victory, it’s the place in Austin. Plus, their chopped beef sandwich tastes like old fashion sloppy Joes.

NMT:  Honestly, I had a preconception that Texas BBQ was all brisket, sausage and white bread.  The amount of turkey and pork ribs in these joints surprised me.  Did you have any preconceived ideas about Texas BBQ going into this project and if so, how did this experience change that?
Corral:  Being new to Texas, I was delighted with the smoked brisket. The smoked mutton was a new taste and I guess I saw the many ways the BBQ operators could make a buck with all the other meats. Many of them moved here from other parts of the country, not to mention the guys with their heritage from Germany and Czechoslovakia, making killer sausage. I was familiar with southern style pork BBQ with the tangy vinegary sauce as my family is from Alabama, so I didn’t have any preconceived ideas about Texas BBQ. 

NMT:   With all of this exposure to great BBQ, have you caught the bug and thought about trying to smoke some of your own?
Corral: I love the romantic notion of smoking meat. I think of it as a craft and something that I greatly admire. I know my limits and sadly smoking meat is not in my scope of talents.

If you are traveling through or living in the Austin area and want to navigate the rich BBQ fields of Central Texas, I recommend checking out Barbecue Lover's Guide to Austin