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.
We get food crushes sometimes. It might be a chef whose stracciatella makes our hearts sing (that'd be you, Missy Robbins), a winemaker with a barrel-sized brain and wit to match (cheers, Randall Graham), or a writer out of whom we'd just like to hug the stuffing (we're coming for you, Francis Lam).
This go 'round is Addie Broyles, food writer for the Austin-American Statesman. We had a chance to swing into her orbit during our trip to Austin for our SXSW-centric Secret Supper, and while we'd long been impressed by her mastery of the Austin food scene (the Austin Chronicle named her the city's top "food celebrity") and feminist take on food culture, one more thing quickly became evident.
One of the best parts about going to SXSW is getting a chance to slip away from the fray and venture outside of Austin. iReporter Digithoughts lucked out with a local guide and found her way to barbecue at The County Line.
Flight attendant on a plane home from SXSW:
It should be noted that Team Eatocracy managed to get their paws on two (2) notable plates of 'cue during their trek home from Austin to New York yesterday: a brisket sandwich from Salt Lick Bar-B-Que in the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and a chopped pork shoulder sandwich (with slaw - they ask you, and you shouldn't say no) at Jim Neely's Interstate Bar-B-Que at the Memphis International Airport.
Eatocracy has saddled up in Austin, Texas, all week not only to cover the annual South by Southwest music, film, and interactive conference, but also to prep for the third edition of our Secret Supper. And now, it's officially supper time in Texas.
He's well-known around town for hosting the "Meaty Monday Madness" gathering for his chef friends around the capital city. From there, they gather round and do what they do best: cook and eat. Chefs from fancy white tablecloth places to vegan food trucks to farm-to-table trailers. There is a sense of coexistence, despite varying types of cuisine, and we wanted to bring that same crossroads to the table.
To assist in tonight's meal and in that same spirit of delicious harmony, Chef Northcutt enlisted four of his chef-est friends, including John Galindo, owner of Izzoz Tacos and chef at the Red House Pizzeria; Mat Clouser of Rabbit + Hat Supper Club; Philip Speer, the executive pastry chef at Uchi and Uchiko restaurants; and Plinio Sandalio, the pastry chef at Congress Restaurant.
...roll them into a taco. Seriously, try it - your soul will thank you later. That's what the folks are doing at Lucky J's in Austin, Texas, whose little red truck I just happened to stumble upon in an empty lot.
To quote the guy behind me in line, "Chicken and waffles! Chicken and waffles in a taco?! Is this real life?" Yes sir, yes it is.
And if you're feeling really saucy, order the Ms. M – it's got Swiss cheese and bacon in it for kicks and giggles. Drizzle it with honey. Shower it with hot sauce. Call it lunch.