Houston Rodeo's Dutch Oven Desserts Competition Cooked 'Em Low and Slow

Categories: Game On, Q, Sweets

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Photos by Molly Dunn
Sticky bread pudding desserts, like this one, were popular entries.
Some judge barbecue and some judge food and wine at the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo. But me? I judge Dutch oven desserts.

On Friday, February 28, the World's Championship Bar-B-Que Contest hosted the fifth annual Dutch Oven Desserts Competition, and nearly 145 teams entered their sweet treats made entirely in a Dutch oven.

The competition was separated into two tasting rounds, each table of judges received eight different desserts in each round. As the desserts were passed around the table, each judge placed a scoop of the sugary creation onto a plate, sampled it and gave it a ranking of from one to ten (one being the worst and ten being the best).

It's like Thanksgiving desserts on steroids.

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Killen's Barbecue Pop Up and Syrahvolution at Paulie's and Camerata Wows the Crowds

Categories: Last Night, Meat!, Q

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Photos by Carla Soriano
This photo of the five-meat plate from Killen's Barbecue doesn't do the delectable barbecue justice.

Houstonians must be doing something right, as the barbecue gods have been really generous to our city as of late. A couple of weeks ago, Q for a Cause brought Austin-based barbecue legend John Mueller, his pits, his food, and his team to Cottonwood. This past weekend, Killen's Barbecue was served inside the loop not once, but twice: Saturday at Haven, during a benefit for the fire-ravaged My Dee Dee's Pie Shoppe, and Sunday at Q the Wine, a "Killen's Barbecue Pop Up & Syrahvolution at Paulie's and Camerata."

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5 Houston-Area Barbecue Joints Top Texas Monthly List of 50 Best BBQ Spots

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Photo by Joshua Justice
Trent Brooks, pitmaster and owner of Brooks Place BBQ, earned a well-deserved spot on the list.
The last time Texas Monthly released its list of the 50 best barbecue joints in Texas was 2008. During that five-year interim, a lot has changed. Namely, the Austin-based magazine now boasts its very own barbecue editor -- the only publication anywhere to have a single person devoted to the cuisine.

That barbecue editor is Daniel Vaughn, the much-discussed and highly respected former barbecue blogger who's noted for two fairly amazing accomplishments as of late: First is his book, The Prophets of Smoked Meat, which is the debut title under Anthony Bourdain's line of books for publishing company Ecco.

The second accomplishment is driving more than 10,000 miles for that book as well as for Texas Monthly's latest barbecue guide. Indeed, between Vaughn and longtime food editor Pat Sharpe, the team covered an accumulated 33,168 miles and visited 658 places across the state before deciding on the final 50.


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Celebrity Pitmaster Neil "Bigmista" Strawder Heading Back Home for One-Day Barbecue Extravaganza

Categories: Edible Events, Q

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Photos by Groovehouse
The Rev. Chester J. Makowski, Vicar of St. Augustine and Neil "Bigmista" Strawder share a laugh in the church's kitchen.
Good things always come in threes: First, it was the smashingly successful Houston Barbecue Festival. Then it was the annual Foodways Texas symposium, which spotlighted barbecue. Now it's news that California-based celebrity pitmaster Neil "Bigmista" Strawder is headed back to his hometown of Galveston for a one-day-only meat-filled extravaganza that barbecue devotees absolutely should not miss. I hear Texas will even revoke your Official Barbecue Fan® permit if you do.

This is the third year that Galveston boy-done-good Strawder has returned to the island to host the 3rd annual BBQ Fundraiser for his childhood church, St. Augustine of Hippo. As the oldest African-American Episcopal church in Texas, the old lady needs continual repairs and renovations to keep her looking her loveliest. Strawder's fundraiser brings in financial assistance the good, old-fashioned way: with a community barbecue on Saturday, April 27.


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Barbecue, Onions and Red Soda: Dispatches from the 2013 Foodways Texas Symposium

Categories: Q

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Photos by Katharine Shilcutt
Restaurants from across the state -- including Houston's own Goode Co. Seafood and Revival Market -- catered the meals during the symposium.
When I first heard about the theme of the 2013 Foodways Texas symposium, I was wary: two-and-a-half days of barbecue panels, meals and talks. Two-and-a-half days? Not that there isn't fertile ground to plow for topics, but the sheer amount of time devoted to discussions of smoked meat seemed excessive.

I like barbecue a whole lot, but I don't have quite the same passion for it that my predecessor, Robb Walsh -- former Houston Press food critic, current food editor of Houstonia and founding member of Foodways Texas -- does. Walsh has written entire books on the topic of barbecue. I've never even once taken a barbecue road trip. There was an entire panel at the symposium devoted to barbecue road trips. What was I getting myself into by attending?

I quickly found out that the symposium was less about meat-wankery and much more about what Foodways Texas itself is devoted to: preserving and sharing our state's food heritage. I didn't just learn about smoked meat. I learned about the history of Central Texas abattoirs and the reason Juneteenth celebrations always feature red soda. I learned how the 1015 onion was developed by Texas A&M and where the word "barbecue" itself came from.


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Inaugural Houston Barbecue Festival a Smoking Success

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Photos by Joshua Justice
Trent Brooks brought his entire barbecue rig up to the Houston Barbecue Festival.
Trent Brooks, a second-generation pitmaster, packed up his entire barbecue operation -- smoker and all inside a trailer the size of an Airstream -- and headed south from Cypress. Ronnie Killen stayed awake for 19 hours straight, tending to 1,000 pounds of meat smoking in his pits overnight. José Luis Lopez made a rare appearance outside his family store, Gerardo's, located in Lindale Park, to serve his famed barbacoa to a hungry crowd.

These men and more -- from a total of 15 barbecue restaurants, joints, shacks and trailers across the greater Houston area -- devoted themselves fully to the inaugural Houston Barbecue Festival at the Bayou City Event Center for one reason: to finally prove once and for all that Houston does have good barbecue. It's just a matter of knowing where to look.


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First Look at Oak Leaf Smokehouse, Replacing Pete's BBQ on Telephone Road

Categories: Q, Restaurant News

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Photos by Katharine Shilcutt
I honestly don't remember when Pete's BBQ closed. The little barbecue shack on Telephone Road was utterly unremarkable aside from its fantastically retro sign, and waving cowboy above the entrance who beckoned people inside for chopped beef sandwiches and baked potatoes. If I was in the area, it was to eat at Kanomwan or Taqueria Alma Latina or Bohemeo's or any number of other, more interesting establishments.

But I always wished that Pete's was good, if only because of the general dearth of good barbecue in Houston -- and if only to have a reason to visit the cute red restaurant with a fabulous sign.

It looks like the old place may finally be home to some good barbecue now, however, thanks to new tenants Oak Leaf Smokehouse. Owners Brian and Lisa -- a husband and wife team whose only real restaurant experience prior to embarking on this barbecue adventure was as silent partners in The Hay Merchant and Underbelly -- have moved in, fixed the old place up and are committed to exploring not only Texas-style 'cue, but the many other permutations across the nation as well.

It's an interesting move, and one that I'm curious to see expanded on. For now, though, Oak Leaf Smokehouse is still in its soft-opening stage and only open for lunch.

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New York City as a Barbecue Capital? According to the Village Voice, It Is

Categories: Q

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Photo by Wally Gobetz
Native Texan Hugh Mangum slices a Mighty Quinn's brisket in New York City.
There's no denying that New York City has a slate of truly terrific barbecue joints -- moreso, certainly than Houston itself -- including spots such as Mighty Quinn's from Texan pitmaster Hugh Mangum and Hill Country Barbecue Market, which seeks to emulate Central Texas-style brisket and ribs as closely one can in Chelsea.

But do a few great barbecue joints merit the Big Apple's inclusion as one of the nation's barbecue capitals? Robert Sietsema, food critic at the Village Voice, thinks so, despite an outcry from traditionalists.

"[T]he city must be accounted one of the country's 'cue capitals, up there with Kansas City; Memphis; Lockhart, Texas; Owensboro, Kentucky; and Lexington, North Carolina," Sietsema wrote in a controversial article last week. It's one that Sietsema knew would attract criticism, but he stands by his opinion nevertheless.

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The Rest of the Best: Houston's Top 10 Barbecue

Categories: Q, Top 10

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Honorable mention: Thelma's
For the next 20 weeks, we'll be rounding up the runners-up to our 2012 Best of Houston® winners. In many categories, picking each year's winner is no easy task. We'll be spotlighting 20 of those categories, in which the winner had hefty competition from other Houston bars and restaurants.

Just yesterday, Anthony Bourdain told us all about how he'd become a recent convert to Texas barbecue while eating with barbecue blogger Daniel Vaughn in Central Texas. "I'd previously taken sort of a dim view of Texas barbecue," the chef said, "but Franklin and J. Mueller showed me how good it really was. I had a religious experience there."

Now, Franklin Barbecue and J. Mueller BBQ are both a bit of a drive from Houston. And while both are arguably some of the absolute, all-time best barbecue you can get in Texas, what we have in our own backyard isn't too shabby.

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100 Favorite Dishes 2012: No. 13, Ribs at Gatlin's

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Photo by Katharine Shilcutt
This year leading up to our annual Best of Houston® issue, we're counting down our 100 favorite dishes in Houston. This list comprises our favorite dishes from the last year, dishes that are essential to Houston's cultural landscape and/or dishes that any visitor (or resident) should try at least once.

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