Monday, March 24, 2008

Mission: Burrito Part 1

The first full day in town found me eager to attack the craving for the ancient foods for which I had been longing for eons. I heard, through critics and friends, that a place near the Galleria Mall had phenomenal and memorable food. Armed with the advice from this month's food and wine, I attacked the restaurant. Luling City Market, located on Richmond, was founded by people who had patronized the City Market in the town of Luling, and were interested in blessing the unknowing people of Houston with the self sustaining gift of brisket. I ordered a 1/4 lb ea of brisket and pork ribs, and a small potato salad. An important tip I took from the reviews I read relayed the importance of going around lunch to ensure freshness of the food, as the restaurant gets most business then and keeps the barbecue in steam dishes after lunch, giving the food a soggy texture. On the way home, I grabbed some donut holes from my favorite donut shop, Shipley’s, and a 6 pack of Tecate (sorry Food and Wine, no Shiner to be found).

3 hours later, my friends found me unconscious on the floor with greasy face and fingers, a half finished beer spilled at my side and the look of sheer Nirvanian bliss on my face.

Ok, that didn't really happen. But another oz of brisket, and it would be very plausible.

I laid everything out on my kitchen counter top-the brisket and ribs served on butcher’s paper with a side of
Mrs. Baird’s bread. I grabbed a knife and fork, cracked open a cerveza, and dug in. The ribs were crunchy on the outside, and though very flavorful, not fulfilling. I really don't have a strong taste for pork anymore, so it takes a more elaborate concoction to please me, but I will say they were juicy and bursting with pure meat flavor - exactly what you want from a good piece of off the spit barbecue. I tried everything with a taste of the Luling brand bbq sauce, which for what I can tell is vinegar based with ketchup, yellow mustard and black pepper. The potato salad was exactly what I wanted - not too heavy or too pickly, no onions, but red peppers and enough black pepper to give it a small flavor and spice outside of the normal mayo taste.

The brisket FLOORED me. Brisket is a term used commonly for beef or veal meat taken from the breast or lower chest of the animal. It is generally a tougher cut, and gains much of its flavor from the fat usually left attached to the cut. Texas brisket is
dry rubbed with spices, then cooked slowly over low wood heat for several hours. Though Texas is home to several histories of barbecue creations, this style was specifically attributed to the Anglo ranchers in West Texas. The two slices looked shiny, almost too moist. The fat gave the meat a juiciness characteristic of a well pit roasted brisket. My knife sliced through it with no resistance, indicating the softness that a brisket should have to be just right. And the taste - beef, a little pepper, and mesquite smoke! How I have longed for you, o smoke flavor, to caress my food, envelop my taste buds, and bequeath my dishes with your essence. The explosion of flavor and satisfaction emanating from my mouth travelled through every nerve in my body, culminating in the indisputably articulate reaction of "...damn". I felt instantly vindicated, as a Catholic after confession. The sins of my New York betrayals had been forgiven and forgotten once I gave myself to the taste of this Texan ambrosia. How dare other people try to pass their horrendous creations as true barbecue? I began taking offense to all the culinaries who attempt to transplant this art to a place which neither has the proper equipment, nor the palettes to appreciate its dynamic flavor.

After plowing through this culturally redeeming meal, I discovered new uses for old personal favorites. The entire time I was washing down this meal with Tecate, a Mexican beer started in 1944, when Alberto Aldrete bought a building in Tecate, Mexico, and began producing beer. After the baptismal of barbecue was concluded, I recessed with a dessert of Shipley’s donut holes – the absolute perfect ending to a huge meal of barbecue. The texture of the donuts were just soft enough to compare to the buttery silk goodness of the brisket, but sweet enough to wash the palette of all the grease. And finally as the crowning glory, Shipley’s pairs perfectly with Tecate. Now, most aficionados will tell you, for heavy beef or pork bbq, go strong, tannic, full bodied red to cut the fatty taste and pair oak / tannins to char, but the wine community has always touted that "if it grows together, it goes together", recommending that grapes and wines that are grown in the same regions as certain foods will probably pair best with said foods, so as the history and present of Mexico and Texas continue to commingle, I would imagine that a little bit of brisket, Shipley’s and Tecate would pass this test, A+.

-The UE


Anonymous said...

I may not like your eating habits (swine and such) but I enjoy your writing style... If nothing else, I eat up every word...

wild cowgirl said...

both informative and entertaining.
glad you got your fix folk!