Thursday, July 17, 2008

Beef. It's What's for Summer

New Yorkers have to put up with a lot: a lot of people, a lot of funny smells, a lot of gum on the sidewalk, and not enough fresh air. New Yorkers are resilient people – they can take a lot on. That’s why when the Big Apple BBQ came to town in 95F weather, New Yorkers were not deterred. They came out in droves to stand in line for hours. No awnings, no shade, no pool to jump into… and at the end of the line? Hot meat, from the best BBQ joints from all over the country – brisket, ribs, short ribs, sausages, slaw, and all the rest.

Turns out that my composition is nowhere near as strong as a New Yorkers. I lasted through one line for just one vendor (and that with downing two bottles of cold water, constant fanning, and copious complaining). That vendor, Salt Lick from TX, must have been the best one of them all because everyone and their mother was standing there with us. My friend Neha assured me that they serve the best beef brisket she has ever had in her life. In fact, she eats beef just once a year – when the Big Apple BBQ comes around and the Salt Lick tent offers up with it’s Texas-style brisket. A forty minute wait was worth it after that intro.

Or so I thought. I blame it on the heat, on my inherent crankiness, or perhaps on my white T-shirt, which quickly became a see-through white T shirt from all the smokey sweat that it was absorbing (how’s that for appetizing?), but this brisket was just alright. Not mind-blowing, not life-changing, but good. You could see the pink smoke ring on the outside of the meat, indicating the amount of time it spent in the smoker.

You could see the crust of spice rub and char on the very outside. I could have used a bit more of both. The meat itself was flavorful and meaty, but a little on the tough side. While I myself and everything around me was melting, the meat did not. That was ok though. The cole slaw slayed me. It was dressed very simply, with vinegary dressing full of celery seeds. It was a light, crunchy, acidic counterpoint to the heavy and warm meat.

Next time I’m in NY for the BBQ fest (and I will be back, there is no doubt), I am going for the ribs. They looked amazing – blackened and charred and ginormous. I will also be wearing as little as possible, will have a beer in each hand, and someone to fan me while I wait for the food. A girl can dream, can’t she?

P.S. Crap. I can't believe it's been a month since I last posted. This new job of mine... turns out I have no more time now than I did when I was in grad school. What's up with that? You mean the real world isn't any easier than the academic one? Who would've thunk it. I promise to do better. From now on.


aimee said...

I think our summer is over already, so I'm not sure if I'm more jealous of the sunshine or the barbecue. I guess they go hand-in-hand.

Hope the new job is going well, despite the fact they actually require you to work for your money, obviously. Bastards.

Karl said...

Well I don't want this to discourage folks from eating brisket... It's by far the best type of bbq out there! Wood smoked overnight with indirect heat, that wretched piece of meat turns into melt-in-your-mouth bliss. Mix it with the right sauce (or non at all if it's truely well cooked) and enjoy! Yum, one of the many foods you just can't get up north.

Anyways, I don't care if Salt Lick is a famous brisket joint with a coveted spot in the austin airport (which actually has a lot of the best local eateries)... all I can think of now is, "New York City!?! Get a rope!"

Go to texas if you want the real stuff :) I'll join you

Aisha said...


Jason's family swears by the brisket from Edleman's in Grande Prairie, TX. In fact, his mom ships it in dry ice to his aunt in MD. I have to admit, when I finally tried it, I wasn't wowed either.

I love beef short ribs though, my mom's are killer. She cooks it with only salt, pepper, and flour, and cooks on the stove with potato. Talk about melt in your mouth...

When I told Jason you were eating "Texas" BBQ in NYC he just snorted and laughed. Just like Karl- those Texans are so proud of their BBQ and think it all goes to hell once you cross the state line.

Anna said...

Aimee! D'oh. Didn't realize that summer in Scotland was quite so truncated. Ours is still in full swing, as you can tell. It would be great if Boston hadn't turned into a tropical rain forest all of a sudden - we have the most vicious thunderstorms and down-pours almost every day! I don't know what's going on. Work is going well indeed, but I do need to figure out how to turn it off in the evenings. It has the potential to be really stressful, but I am so done with being stressed.

Karl - Get a rope? What now? I don't get it. Is there really no place that can do it well outside of TX? I so want the good stuff. I do. Neha said the brisket wasn't as good this year as it was last. Maybe it was just an off day for them. Maybe the beef got too hot! These people actually came from the brisket motherland to make it for me, in NY. That's as close to TX BBQ as I am going to get for a while, I am afraid.

Aisha - Do you ever feel like you are stuck in a Pace Picante sauce commercial? What does that salsa say? New York Citay?? Hilarity ensues. I am so jealous! VA doesn't have any such culinary heritage for us to be proud of, does it?

Your Mom's short ribs sound amazing. Do you ever make them yourself? Got a recipe for me?

JC said...

What? No pics of you in the smoky sweat-soaked T-shirt? A shame, that.

Some Austinites think that Salt Lick is the best barbecue in the Austin area, but others say no way. I've not had it myself. I would think that even if it was awesome, it would be hard to get it to taste the same in a portable location.

Lots of people think Texas is barbecue heaven, but sadly it isn't. Dallas is a shockingly bad barbecue town. Houston isn't much better. It's mostly mediocre to bad chains in the big cities. You can find some OK sausage in Dallas, but brisket? Fuhgeddaboutit. The real deal is in Lockhart. Like here, here, or here.

mehdi said...

Hi Anna,

I was thinking of the very same thing: less posting post grad school!

Do you know how many times I checked in and saw the same port bottle?!

Hope everything else is going fine!


Anna said...

JC - ;) Sorry to disappoint on the shirt front... and back. So little towns are the place to be? Eh. Guess I will have to make a trip. I really do want to go back to TX soon. The food is just so good. Thanks for the links to the good places! Salt Lick certainly had the longest line at the festival in NYC. Seems like they have quite a rep. They brought a giant smoker with them and everything, but no, I don't see how it could taste just the same.

Mehdi - Heh. Yea, I had to get used to my job and how to stop working when I get home. Now I feel better about my work/life balance. Back to blogging! Yay!