If there’s one thing I love, it’s BBQ. But here in the Northeast, finding a good barbecue joint is pretty much impossible. But down in Texas, there is amazing ‘cue everywhere you turn. Heck, there’s even a Salt Lick BBQ in the Austin and Dallas airports, so you can get your BBQ fix the moment you touch down in Texas!
So when our friends at Chevrolet invited me down to Houston to join them for a BBQ road trip to Lockhart, Texas (the Barbecue Capital of Texas), behind the wheel of some rugged Chevy Silverado and Colorado trucks, it took me exactly 0.0005 seconds to say YES.
Our adventure started in Houston, at the world-famous Gator Pit of Texas, which was featured on Discovery’s King of the Grill. This small metal fabrication shop makes custom-made, hand-fabricated BBQ pits that are second to none, and award-winning pit master Ritch Robin was kind enough to take time out of his day to give us a tour of their operation.
When it comes to Texas BBQ, it’s all about the offset smoker, and cooking that meat (brisket, pork shoulder, ribs, etc) low and slow. Ritch gave us a behind-the-scenes look into how BBQ pits are built, what makes his pits so desirable, and how customers can customize their pits to the smallest detail.. Like adding a Texas shaped brake light, because why not?
You don’t see workmanship like this very often (everything is made by hand, with one person working on your pit from start to finish), and it’s clear to see why there’s a 1+ year waiting list to get one. Needless to say, if you’re serious about barbecuing, you should definitely consider having them build you a custom pit of your own. Pricing starts at $1,200 for an entry-level pit and goes up from there depending on your needs.
After our crash course in barbecue pits, we hopped into our trucks (thank god for A/C, because Houston was HOT!) and set a course for Kyle, Texas, where we would be spending the night. Along the way, I made the obligatory stop at Buc-ee’s, a Texas rest-stop that has become a rite of passage for anyone traveling between Houston and Austin. Trust me, it’s a Texas institution that everyone should experience at least once in their life.
For this first leg, I was driving a ruby-red Chevy Colorado Duramax. Had I been towing one of the Gator Pits, I would have had no problem, as the Turbo-Diesel engine offers best-in-class towing, with 369 lb-ft of torque and a 7,700 pound towing capacity. This was actually my first time driving a Colorado, and I quite liked the mid-sized pickup. Not everyone needs a full-size pickup, and I could totally see myself driving a Colorado (but make mine a ZR2).
Roughly 2.5 hours later, I finally arrived at the Twin Cabins Hotel, our home for the night. As you can see, this was a rather unique spot for us to spend the night, a Victorian-style country cabin that is off the beaten path, with cows, bulls, and even some mini horses roaming around out back. It’s hard to believe that this place is just 20-30 minutes from Austin.
Once everyone arrived, we embarked on a BBQ cooking class, courtesy of the folks at BrisketU, where we learned from accomplished pitmasters the art of smoking brisket (the toughest piece of beef to master) from start to finish. They showed us how to pick the right brisket, trimming techniques, rubs and prep, wood selection and smoke profiles, starting/managing a firebox, timing the cook, and slicing the end product.
Afterwards, we got to eat all of this amazing food they made for us (brisket, ribs, chicken, and more), and everything was delicious. And I’ve gotta say, after seeing how much time and effort went into preparing this meal, I had a newfound respect for the pitmasters out there. My belly nice and full, I decided to get some sleep so I’d be nice and refreshed for tomorrow’s activities.
The next morning, I had a light breakfast (no reason to fill up when there’s a ton of BBQ ahead of us) before heading to Lockhart. My buddy James wanted to drive the Colorado, so we traded and I took the keys to his Silverado. The ventilated seats were a welcomed addition, as it was still crazy hot, even at 9:30 in the morning.
Then came the tough part, deciding which BBQ joint to hit up first. After consulting with the experts at Google, we decided to start off at Black’s BBQ, which has been in operation since 1932, and is thought to be the oldest barbecue restaurant run by one family in Texas. They’re known for their Brontosaurus-sized “Giant Beef Rib”, so naturally we had to try that, along with the brisket, which is smoked in a most unique way.
OH. MY. GOD. I thought I had experienced great Texas BBQ before, but Black’s just blew my mind. The beef rib (which is insanely huge) is so tender, moist, and delicious. My stomach is growling just thinking about it. And the brisket was perfection, so full of flavor that you don’t even need any BBQ sauce to go with it. My suggestion? Bring some friends, order everything on the menu, and eat it family style.
Next up was Kreuz Market (pronounced “Krites” by the locals), another Texas institution that opened back in 1900 (though it’s only been in this location since 1999). Since Lockhart is all about brisket, I decided to see how theirs stacked up to Black’s. I really enjoyed the black crust of the brisket, which was loaded with flavor, but I thought the meat itself was a little on the dry side. Next time, I’ll have to try their smoked ham, as I hear it’s really good.
As you can imagine, I was in a bit of a food coma by now (and it was only 12:15pm), so I hung out here for a bit while I got my second wind. Then I hopped back in the truck and drove over to Chisholm Trail BBQ, which is “where the locals go”. Sadly, my digestive system was crying Uncle by this point, so I just took a quick peek inside before driving off. Amazingly, they even have a drive-thru for those who don’t want to leave the comfort of their A/C.
Overall, Lockhart really lived up to the hype, and it’s no wonder that they hold the official title as the Barbecue Capital of Texas. I wish I could have stayed longer so I could have sampled some more delicious BBQ, but I had a flight back to Philly that I had to catch.
As you can see, if you’re a barbecue enthusiast, you absolutely must come check out the BBQ scene in Lockhart, TX. Come hungry, and bring lots of napkins. 🙂
Chick-fil-A Is America’s Favorite Fast-Food Restaurant For The Third Year In A Row
When it comes to fast-food restaurants, Chick-Fil-A reigns supreme for the third year in a row, that according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index’s annual study, which surveys 22,500 Americans on their experiences at chain restaurants.
Yes, Chick-Fil-A has had their fair share of controversy over the years, but that clearly hasn’t affected consumers’ love of their delicious chicken sandwiches. The ACSI study polled 22,500 Americans on their experiences at chain restaurants, rating them from 0 to 100 in categories such as food quality, restaurant cleanliness and layout, and waitstaff behavior. Those scores are averaged out to come up with an overall score.
With a score of 87, Chick-Fil-A was the winner, beating runner-up Panera Bread by six points. As for the other giant chicken purveyor KFC, they slipped 1 point down to 77. Time to step up your game, Colonel Sanders..
Just imagine how high Chick-Fil-A would rank if they were open on Sundays. 🙂
Domino’s Celebrates Summer With 50% Off All Pizzas Through July 15
Spent all your money on fireworks for Fourth of July? Not to worry, because Domino’s Pizza is giving you 50% off all menu-priced pizza ordered online today through July 15th.
Now don’t call your local Domino’s store for this deal, because it is only available for online orders, which includes Domino’s website and their various mobile apps. Heck, you can even text or tweet your order to them, it’s crazy how many ways you can order a pizza from them!
Not at home? Not a problem! Customers who are ordering delivery to a Domino’s Hotspot may also take advantage of the 50% off menu-priced pizza deal.
Sadly, this deal doesn’t include any of their non-pizza items (wings, pasta, etc), which are all pretty awesome in their own right. But for me, it’s all about their pan pizza, which is freaking amazing. Never had it before? What are you waiting for, order one (or two) for dinner tonight and prepare to have your taste buds blown away!
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve gotta go place an order for a pizza. 🙂
Photo credit: Domino’s Pizza
How To Cook The Perfect Lobster At Home And Impress Your Date
Nothing is more impressive than a man who knows his way around a kitchen – except one who also dishes out lobster as the meal of choice. That guy is a beast.. and the best part is that guy can be you.
Lobster tends to make people crabby in the kitchen, but it doesn’t have to be that way. These simple steps can help you cook the perfect carapace, and impress any girl you’re cooking for.
First and foremost, if this is your first date, don’t have her over to your place yet.
She’s still getting to know you — take her out a few times before you actually have her over for dinner. You don’t want to be creepy. So unless she’s one of those girls that thought Hannibal was hot, eat at a restaurant first.
If you’re past date three, you’re in the clear. Here’s how to create an awesome lobster dinner.
Tails Never Fails
If you’re new to the kitchen or the critter, stick to tails. They’re tasty, prepared in a pinch and you don’t have to commit a crustacean killing in front of your date.
If you want to be really impressive, get your lobsters directly from Maine. Maine lobsters have a whiter, sweeter meat that is more tender than those found in warm water.
A great way to prepare lobster tails is by baking them.
With a cook time of around 15 to 20 minutes and less mess to clean up, you’ll have more time to talk and enjoy each other’s company. That’s better than trying to figure out how to get the rubber band off the claws without losing a finger.
All you need is a baking sheet, some butter, lemons and an oven. Make sure that if the tails were frozen, you give them 8 to 10 hours to thaw in the fridge before you cook them.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Take some kitchen scissors, dig the point of the blade into the shell and cut down the back without cutting the tail fin at the end.
Pull the meat out of the cut you’ve just made, and lay it onto the back of the shell. It’s kind of like a Viking blood-eagle, only the lobster already went to Valhalla.
Put your tails on the baking sheet, brush some melted butter onto the meat, bake for about 15 minutes and make sure the internal temperature reaches 140°F to 145°F.
Be sure not to overcook it. It will be tough and chewy — no one wants lobster bubble gum for dinner.
The lobster should be a creamy-white color, with no translucent meat. Be sure if you’re not eating it immediately, you put it in ice water so it stops cooking.
Congrats! You’re a Chef!
OK, you may not be Guy Fieri, but you did just create an excellent meal with a great date. While there may be a lot of fish in the sea, you’re the only one that took a lobster out of it and baked it for her.