Ray Isle (@islewine on Twitter) is Food & Wine's executive wine editor. We trust his every cork pop and decant – and the man can sniff out a bargain to boot. Take it away, Ray.
There are plenty of Independence Days around the world. July 4, of course; also July 9, when Argentina exited the Spanish Empire; December 1, when Iceland finally loosed itself from the cruel clutches of the Danes; not to mention August 31, when Kyrgyzstan finally achieved independence from the Soviet Union (though they’re still waiting for the day when someone can actually pronounce the word Kyrgyzstan).
March 2, though, is the most significant of them all: Texas Independence Day. Yes, on this hallowed day in 1836, the Texas Declaration of Independence was signed. It's celebrated by hundreds of millions of people across the globe (well, not quite, but as a Texas native, I certainly feel it ought to be). And thus Texas’s career as a sovereign nation began.
A strange phenomenon pervades the signs of barbecue joints across the state of Texas: pigs acting like people. In my memory, nary a bovine graces a barbecue sign that’s not in the cooked or soon-to-be smoked form.
At Big John’s Feed Lot Bar-B-Q in Big Spring, Texas, a painting on the window shows the pitmaster wielding a cleaver in one hand while dragging a dazed steer with the other. This is how the poor cattle are portrayed, while the overt anthropomorphism is reserved for swine - in this, the land of beef barbecue.
Low-and-slow smoked beef likely became a central-Texas tradition after a massive influx of German and Czech immigrants in the mid-19th century. Many were butchers, and once in Texas, these European meat purveyors smoked the cuts that didn't sell so well. But believe it or not, smoked beef is not the last word in Texas barbecue.
You may have heard of Snow's in Lexington, Texas, which shot to statewide fame in 2008 after being named the Best Barbecue in Texas by Texas Monthly magazine. Twenty minutes away, in tiny Deanville, there's another spot that flies under the radar but deserves a visit.
To hear Lakesha Reed describe her cooking talents she's not classically trained as a chef, "I'm just grandma trained."
Reed, a New Orleans native, moved to Houston, Texas, in 2005 as one of the city’s thousands of evacuees from Hurricane Katrina. We met her last month when CNN’s Defining America project hit the trail for Texas to find out how the Lone Star State has changed over the past decade.