Sampling the goods at shade-tree barbecue stands is one of my favorite pursuits. So when I saw a smoking barbecue trailer with a crowd around it in a parking lot on Fry Road just north of the Katy Freeway last Saturday, I pulled over and checked it out. The sign advertised smoked meat and homemade sides, so I ordered a plate to go. It was kind of pricey at $15. When the proprietor opened a roasting pan to get my brisket, my heart sank. The piece of meat didn't have any fat on it, and there wasn't any liquid in the pot either. If I had to guess, I'd say this guy smoked a trimmed brisket without a fat cap. I asked him where he was from.
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He said he was from Long Beach, California, and he was a self-taught barbecue man. As a fan of Flint's BBQ in Oakland, I know from experience that California produces some great barbecue. Unfortunately, this wasn't Flint's. I tried the ribs and brisket when I got home. The ribs that had been submerged in liquid were mush, the ones that sat above the waterline were tough. After a few minutes of chewing the stringy brisket, I ended up with what tasted like a mouth full of cardboard pulp. It was the worst brisket I have ever attempted to eat.
Such are the perils of being a shade-tree barbecue aficionado. Sometimes you hit the jackpot -- and sometimes you crap out.