Archive for the ‘Barbecue’ Category

On September 6th 1995, I began to realize that professional photography wasn’t my calling. That was the day that Cal Ripken Jr. broke Lou Gehrig’s “Iron Man” record, playing his 2,131st consecutive game.

I wasn’t exactly a big baseball fan, let alone an Orioles devotee. This was the pre-Nationals, post-Senators days, when the Orioles were the de facto home team of the DC area. So I possessed at least a vague allegiance. Add to that the fact that the Iron Man record was one of those big deal, unbreakable records, and you had a game worth watching. Unlike like DiMaggio’s 61 56-game hitting streak though, Gehrig’s record did break, taking my photojournalistic aspirations along with it.

A baseball game becomes official after the completion of the 5th inning. At that point in this game, the applause began. And it kept going. And going. After a solid ten minutes of applause and one curtain call, Ripken’s teammates shoved him out of the dugout, whereupon he took a victory lap around the field, waving to fans and giving high-fives. It was completely spontaneous, which made it seem all the more special.

But amid the celebration, there was one element that seemed out of place. As he finished his lap around the field, a gaggle of photographers crowded around him, shoving their lenses in his face. They seemed to be in the way. I looked at these grown men chasing another grown man around and began to wonder: do I want to chase people for a living? I loved the idea of photojournalism, but I had always been uncomfortable with the idea that most people didn’t actually want their picture taken by a stranger.

Writing this blog has given me a new lease on my photographic ambitions. After all, you never need to worry about getting food’s permission before shooting, right? Well, that’s what I thought until I went to Texas Rib Kings.

Texas Rib Kings is located in a run-of-the-mill strip mall in the shadow of the 183 decks, near Burnet Road. But once you walk inside, you definitely feel like you’re in BBQ country.

While I was in line, I started shooting, capturing a few shots of the cutting board. I usually feel pretty comfortable taking faceless shots like this with someone’s permission. It’s face shots that make people start to feel uneasy. The cutter didn’t seem to mind. The cashier, however, was a different story.

When I got to the checkout. He growled at me, ”ARE YOU TAKIN’ PICTURES OF MY MEAT?”

“Yeah,” I said. “Is that okay?”


“Well, can I post some on my blog?”

“Oh, a blog I can’t do anything about,” he said with a sigh. Smiling now, he added, “As long as you write good things.”

“I’m sure it’ll be good,” I assured him.

He then went on to explain that someone had previously used pictures of “his meat” and logo for some kind of for-profit use without permission. He hadn’t seen any money, a fact that he was not okay with. I wondered if maybe part of the reason he hadn’t worked out a deal was because Charm School here didn’t exactly know how to ingratiate himself.

So how was “his” meat? The beef ribs were a little dry. They had probably been out a little too long. But the brisket glistened with ample fat. It was excellent. I’d go back for the brisket. I may leave my camera at home next time, though.

NOTE: Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak was 56 games, not 61, as my friend (and actual sports fan) Rob informed me.


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Franklin Barbecue, Austin TX

Yesterday, we finally ate at Franklin Barbecue, a bbq trailer on the I-35 access road. We tried to eat there once before, and were devastated to discover that they had sold out for the day. When we pulled up around noon yesterday, there were already a dozen hungry bbq lovers waiting in line. As we waited, our excitement building with each smoky whiff, I admired their trailer.

I have been trying to figure out what color to paint the front door of our new house, and there at Franklin Barbecue I think I found the answer. I love the combination of the turquoise and white trailer with the vibrant red Coke sign. It made me realize that the perfect complement to our red brick house with white trim would be a turquoise door. Perhaps it was an unlikely source of inspiration, or maybe yet another example of food ruling my life, but I’m pretty thrilled about this new color scheme.

As we neared the front of the line, I asked Ben what he was going to order.

“Everything,” he quickly responded.

They slice up everything right in front of you. It’s tantalizing.

Here is our tray of everything: brisket, pulled pork, ribs, sausage, a pulled pork sandwich, potato salad, and pecan pie.

It was everything we dreamed it would be – fatty, moist, well-seasoned, and smoky with a nicely charred edge. We poured on the rich espresso sauce, ate ourselves silly, and then wrapped up our leftovers to do it all over again later.

Thank you, Franklin Barbecue for satisfying my palate and my palette. Onward to Home Depot.

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Madangsui, New York NY

One freezing cold night during our New York trip we met a group of friends at Madangsui for Korean bbq. We had to eat at 5:30 because The New York Times recently wrote it up as “Manhattan’s best Korean barbeque restaurant”.

One of the things I love most about Korean bbq is the variety. I’m sure I’m not combining the right things or using the appropriate sauce for each dish, but it always tastes good to me. Here is our kimchee selection.

A delicious pancake. I used the wrong sauce on this one but it was still pretty tasty.

My friend Young referred to this dish as “Korean party food.” She said it’s what your Mom makes you for your birthday. She also added that she never orders it at a restaurant unless she’s with white folks. I guess I’m pretty predictable because it was one of my favorite things on the table.

Our beef, ready to be cooked on our tabletop grill.

This seafood and rice dish was served still cooking in a clay pot. It was kind of like Korean paella.

The cold noodles with mustard and vinegar were awesome. They would be perfect for a hot summer day.

The aftermath.

Little Willie Nelson was a trooper and a very impressive eater. Jeff and Elizabeth were going to take him ice skating after dinner, but he seemed to lose interest somewhere around dish #98.

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Vandy’s, Statesboro GA

We made it to Statesboro just in time for a mid-afternoon lunch at Vandy’s Bar-B-Q. This beloved cinderblock Statesboro institution has been serving up bbq plates (small or large – those are pretty much your only choices) and sweet tea to locals for 80 years. Though we live in the land of great bbq here in Austin, I often long for Vandy’s. The pork is chopped vigorously (and loudly), so that the meat, fat, and charred bits are perfectly combined. It’s all smothered with a slightly sweet vinegar and mustard sauce. The Brunswick stew is so thick and meaty you can eat it with a fork. And though Ben often shuns carbs, I like my Vandy’s with a healthy stack of white bread.

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Here is the smokehouse around back. Not to be confused with that awful place in Greenville. This is where all the magic happens. I think they may have been burning some old shipping pallets in there, but it sure smelled amazing.

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Ben loved Vandy’s so much, he ate it two days in a row. I think it may have been his favorite part of our weekend in Statesboro.

Vandy's 2

Vandy's 1

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