Yesterday I managed to snag a press pass and sneak into the Third Annual Houston Barbecue Festival. The event was co-founded by Houston Chronicle barbecue columnist Chris Reid, my good friend here.
This year’s gathering featured 23 Houston-area smokers according to its website.
While Lockhart in Central Texas is considered the “barbecue capital” of Texas and Austin continues to grow as a hipster barbecue mecca, Houston is emerging as another mandatory stop on the Texas barbecue trail.
In the last five year or so, many new artisanal smokers have appeared and “cult bbq” — with its early-morning waits and long lines — is now an established phenomenon here.
That’s smoked pork belly by CorkScrew, above.
I didn’t visit every stand but CorkScrew’s was my number one for taste and presentation. I loved the Boudin-Stuffed Pork Loin, above, the best thing I tasted at the festival.
Bigger is often considered better in Texas barbecue. That’s the Brooks’ Place beef rib, above (the cut is often called a “brontosaurus rib,” even though it is now believed that the brontosaurus never actually existed).
I overheard one of Houston’s highest-profile food writers say that Patrick Feges’ pulled pork, above, was the best thing he tasted yesterday.
That’s Patrick, above right, with his friend and helper yesterday, Thomas Rios.
Currently, Patrick doesn’t have a brick-and-mortar location but he’s widely considered to be one of the hottest pitmasters on the Houston scene (excuse the pun) thanks to his stellar curriculum vitae (he’s an Underbelly and Killen’s alumnus).
Ray’s BBQ Shack was recommended to me by a member of the Houston barbecue cognoscenti.
The pork rib, above center, was fantastic but the thing that really took their food over the top was the deep-fried corn on the cob. When I bit into the cornmeal dust on the outside, the sweet kernels literally melted in my mouth. Brilliant…
That’s Maxine Davis, above, one of the owners and founders of Ray’s. I also loved their boudin.
It was incredible to see how much food some of the festival-goers were consuming. But, then again, when in
This family had gathered samples from a number of stands before sitting down to eat. Note how each basked is labeled with the smoker’s name.
That’s my friend Chris Reid, the event’s co-founder and organizer, above, to the left, with Reliant Park in the background.
“This is not just another beer festival” masquerading as a barbecue festival, he said to me.
“Houston needed this,” he added when I thanked him for creating this wonderful event.
Houston’s prominence as a major culinary destination in the U.S. continues to grow and the sold-out event, now in its third year, is indicative of the newfound gastronomic spirit here.
Unless you’re a Houston Chronicle subscriber, the best way to follow Chris’ barbecue column is by liking his fan page on Facebook (where he is known as J.C. Reid).
I had managed to finagle a way into the early VIP tasting.
I snapped a photo of the lines for general admission on my way out. By the day before the event, tickets were no longer available and I didn’t see anyone scalping.
Congratulations to Chris and the Houston Barbecue Festival for another smashing event!