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."
Together with a crowd of more than 100 people, I attended Sunday's incredibly successful Pop Up & Syrahvolution. I say incredibly successful because people were so excited to have Killen's Barbecue inside the loop (currently, the only way to obtain it is to trek over to a barbecue pop up at Killen's Steakhouse in Pearland) that they bought pounds upon pounds of meats, happily waiting in line for an hour or more.
As my line companion -- a friendly Paulie's employee whom I met at the back of the line and chatted with throughout the wait -- and I approached the counter to place our order, we compared the line that filled Paulie's and extended all the way to the door of Camerata to the lines at Disneyland. There, you wait so long for the reward of a fun, song-filled ride, or the thrill of a roller coaster. Here, we were waiting with the same delight and anticipation, but for the pleasure of hopping aboard a meat roller coaster.
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Thrilling the food was, but it would have been more apt for us to compare the barbecue eating experience to coasting happily along on the "It's a Small World" ride, with cheerfulness abounding and a merry song to accompany the whole thing, rather than jolting through the scream-filled highs and lows of a roller coaster.
Yes, Ronnie Killen's barbecue was pure happiness. Fatty brisket, beef ribs, turkey, sausage, pulled pork, baked beans and coleslaw made up my five-meat plate, which was piled high, and a steal at $21. A lovely char and plenty of large specs of cracked peppercorn and salt flavored all of the meats (except for the sausage) ever so perfectly. The fatty brisket, which had been cooked for 18 hours, had a heavenly, silky fat cap on it whose flavor lingered pleasantly. A small village could have been fed on the gargantuan beef rib that I was served -- this is not a complaint.
The grains of the meat ripped off piece by piece, producing tender, char-studded bites that I didn't want to stop eating, ever. Moistness was prominent in my thick, oval slice of turkey. Thin flecks of pulled pork had a hint of sweet flavor and light consistency. Freshness was evident in all the meat, as was the love with which they were smoked. Meat after meat, I tried hard not to smile with my mouth full, and I'm pretty sure I didn't succeed. While I had originally planned to take my husband my leftovers, I thought it inappropriate to take him half a sausage and a rib bone, the only remnants onmy plate.
Complementing the 'q' were Syrah and Syrah blends hand-picked by David Keck, Camerata's sommelier. He's been advocating for a Syrahvolution -- a cause that he's invented, and one that urges people to "move past the glitz of Cabernet, the cheap thrills of Malbec, and the slutty charm of Zinfandel, toward the prestige, pedigree, and downright sexiness of Syrah." I chose to sip on Saint Cosme's Les Deux Albion, a beautiful blend with the typical earthiness and spice found in Syrah, plus fruity notes, and hints of espresso and cassis. It was a perfect match, flavor and prestige-wise, for the bold flavors of the barbecue.