Friday, November 11, 2016

Inflation watch: Franklin's barbecue and Austin home prices on same track

All sold out at the original Franklin Barbecue trailer in Nov. 2010. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)
Posse co-founder Chris Wilkins sent me a photo the other day from a trip we made to the original Franklin Barbecue in November of 2010.

It shows the front of Aaron Franklin's little trailer in Austin and his barbecue prices at the time.

"Sweet memories," Wilkins said in his email subject line.

Indeed.

Franklin then sold his terrific brisket for $13 a pound. Now it's $20 a pound, a nearly 54 percent increase.

Ribs were $11 a pound then; now $17, also a 54 percent increase.

Franklin, of course, has since moved to a permanent building near downtown, which increased operating costs. And there was a huge jump in the price of raw brisket a while back.

Still, that 50 percent barbecue increase occurred over a period when overall consumer prices in the country rose by only about 10 percent.

But compared to another staple of life, shelter, Franklin's prices appear right in line. Since 2010,  the median price of an Austin-area home has jumped more than 50 percent, from about $179,000 to about $275,000.

So, Austin not only has one of the hottest residential real estate markets around but also one of the hottest barbecue markets.

More Franklin price comparisons:

Pulled pork, $11 a pound in 2010, $17 now.

Sausage, $9  vs. $12.

Tipsy Texan sandwich, $4.95 vs. $8.

Single serving sides (potato salad, slaw or beans),  $1.35 vs. $2.50.

Quart-size sides, $8  vs $9.

I'm certainly not an economic expert. But I would think that there is still some upside to both Franklin's prices and Austin homes.
Gary Jacobson carries the Posse's first-ever Franklin brisket to the table in 2010. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Going whole hog at CattleAck BBQ on Saturday

Tray of whole hog, brisket & pork ribs with sides at CattleAck BBQ in north Dallas (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)
The Posse first caught wind of CattleAck BBQ in May 2013, when Jim Rossman picked up some Twitter buzz on a new joint in north Dallas near the Galleria. Jim headed up on the tollway to investigate, finding a promising new player on the DFW barbecue scene.

After success in the catering business, owners Todd and Misty David decided to open on Fridays from 11am until the meat ran out. A full Posse contingent made a followup visit  to CattleAck a few weeks later for a rare Saturday opening and was blown away. Gary Jacobson wrote, "After eating at Cattleack Barbecue last Saturday, the Posse declared the Dallas joint the equal of any in town."

Over three years later, the Davids are still catering but are now open Thursdays and Fridays at 10:30am, and starting last month are open the first Saturday of each month. They also recently expanded their restaurant by adding a large dining room in the space next door. As the lines will attest, CattleAck is far from a secret for hard core BBQ aficionados.

We met pitmaster Marshall Cooper out front on Saturday at 9:30am, where we were first in line. Our timing as good, the line started building almost immediately behind us. There was a lot of anticipation in the crowd for Todd's whole hog offering, not a regular menu item and something you don't see a lot in Texas BBQ.

Along with the whole hog, we ordered brisket, pork ribs, turkey, sausage, beef brisket pastrami and sides. Every meat was cooked to perfection, moist and full of smokey flavor. By 11am I counted 80 people in line, which ran from the back of their new dining room, snaking into a queue for the serving line in an adjacent room. The line seemed to move pretty quickly though.

If you haven't been to CattleAck BBQ yet, check your calendar for the first Saturday of the month and plan a journey to have some of the best BBQ in the state.  And if you're lucky, Todd might just be smoking another whole hog, you can check "What's Cooking" on their website for any special offerings that day.

Cattleack BBQ, 13628 Gamma Road, Dallas, 972-805-0999. Open: Thurs & Fri 10:30am-2pm & the first Sat. of the month 10:30am-3pm. Website: www.cattleackbbq.com
The line of customers winds through CattleAck BBQ's new dining room. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The day the Posse flew Chile's national flag (oops) and other tales from Blues, Bandits & BBQ

The Posse cook team celebrates after the first Blues, Bandits & BBQ festival in 2010. (Photo@R.J. Hinkle)
The Posse has always loved Blues, Bandits & BBQ, the food and music festival held in Oak Cliff.

Loyalty is a factor. Some of us lived in the O.C. and the festival does a good job of showcasing a great part of Dallas.

We also liked the fellowship of close friends cooking together around the clock and competing against other barbecue teams. Occasionally, winning was a side benefit.

So with the seventh annual BB&BBQ coming soon (Nov. 11 and 12 at Kidd Springs Park), allow us to reminisce, beginning with a lesson learned.

One year we cooked near Rob Shearer,  a creator of Blues, Bandits and the unofficial honorary consul of Oak Cliff. While we hunkered near our offset smoker, ready to feed it wood all night long because that's the way real barbecue is made, Rob tinkered a bit with the vent settings on his Big Green Egg and headed home to catch a few hours of sleep.

We poked some fun at him as he left. He just smiled.

The next morning, the Posse was tired and Rob was well rested. His brisket looked wonderful. The Egg, indeed, can be an excellent barbecue machine.

The Posse crew unloads smokers at the first Blues, Bandits & BBQ festival in 2010. (Photo@Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)
For many in the Posse, our favorite Blues, Bandits was the first, held in 2010. It was our initial barbecue competition and there was a special energy as the festival blended itself into the everyday life of the O.C.  Jason Roberts even grafted one of his Better Block projects onto the festival.

We cooked on the street near The Kessler and napped on cots on the ground between the buildings. Posse co-founder Chris Wilkins blogged live and we proudly flew the "Texas" state flag at our site. One problem. Fellow BBQ blogger Don O. informed us that it was Chile's national flag, close but definitely not Texas. (How the mix-up occurred is a long story.)

Oops.

While we loved being on the street, the police thought competitors blended a little too intimately into everyday life, i.e., we obstructed roadways. So, after some intense negotiations, everyone had to move their pits, with fires blazing, a few feet onto the sidewalks. We had two pits, with a couple hundred pounds of meat already on the grates. Moving was a job.

It was also the year -- the only year, thankfully -- of what I'll call the organic experiment. Contest rules required us to cook grass fed and organic meats supplied by Urban Acres. The racks of ribs -- and I'm exaggerating only a little -- looked like strips of bacon connected by bones. Cat ribs, we joked. How do you produce great-tasting barbecue with skinny meat that has no fat?

Ricky Lawson's infamous Big Red chicken in 2010.
(Photo@R.J. Hinkle)
Competitors tried different techniques. Ricky Lawson brined his chicken in Big Red. The photo of him holding his scarlet bird remains a classic.

Justin and Diane Fourton of Pecan Lodge competed that first year. Their joint was still at Dallas Farmers Market; they hadn't yet moved to Deep Ellum. They won for best ribs. The next year, with the reputation of Pecan Lodge booming, I asked Justin if he was going to compete again and he said no. He couldn't afford not to win. Success has a price.

All in all, the Posse did well that first year. Marshall Cooper's brisket placed second. And Bryan Gooding won best chicken. We still call Bryan the Chicken King of Oak Cliff.

In 2012, we invited Clyde Biggins, who long ago owned "Clyde's Old Fashion Hickory Smoked Barbecue" on Westmoreland Road, to compete with us. After nearly 17 years in prison for drug conspiracy, Clyde had gotten out a couple years earlier and was dispensing barbecue again from what he called "Clyde's Rolling Barbecue," essentially his pit on wheels. We had eaten his food a couple of times and it was good.

With Clyde, who once worked for West Dallas barbecue legend Chester Hardeman, tending to most of the meats, the Posse won People's Choice. It was fun to see Clyde holding the trophy.

Gooding made his own sausage that year but couldn't attend the festival so I cooked for him. I managed to burn every link but one, which we carefully turned in to the judges. It won, but all these years later, my Posse mates still kid me mercilessly. How can you burn sausage? (It's a long story.)

In 2013, Martha Gooding, Bryan's wife, devised some special culinary treats as we went all out to defend the People's Choice title. During the public tasting period, teams serve regular barbecue and other items to festival goers. The people then "vote" for their favorite with tokens.

One of our appetizers was a homemade crostini topped with a smear of brie, peach preserves, and a slice of smoked pork belly.  "Bribery on a crostini," one Posse member said.

It was, admittedly, a little high brow for normal Posse tastes, but the bribery worked as we won People's Choice again.

Sheriff Lupe Valdez poses with her Posse at the 2011 Blues, Bandits & BBQ festival. (Photo by Daniel Vaughn)
The event in 2014 is still a blur of cold and wind. Shivering for much of two days is not fun. It's much better to cook barbecue and listen to music when the weather is nice.

Last year, we retired and moved to Austin. My wife, Sherry, and I did return to Dallas in November for one more Blues, Bandits with Bryan and Martha. We competed as the O.C. Sausage Co., not the Posse (another long story).

Bryan made his sausage again and had high hopes. It was good and had a nice, subtle aftertaste. But subtle doesn't work in contests, where it's all about the judges' first impressions. While his sausage didn't even place, Bryan did win again for chicken, using his terrific vinegar brine. The Chicken King of Oak Cliff still reigns.

This year, the Goodings moved from the O.C. to Lopez Island, Washington State, where they already are building a food reputation for themselves. Before next year's big island cook off, Bryan promises to perfect rabbit sausage. Lopez has thousands of the critters running wild.

So the Posse (and O.C. Sausage Co.) won't be at Blues, Bandits this year. But we will be thinking about all of our friends there and remembering many good times. Have fun!
Bryan Gooding, aka: The Chicken King of Oak Cliff, at the 2010 festival.  (Photo@R.J. Hinkle)
The Posse cook team works the crowd in 2013 serving homemade crostini with brie & pork belly, winning the People's Choice Award.
Chile's national flag flies over the Posse cook camp at the first Blues, Bandits & BBQ festival in 2010, oops! (Photo@Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)