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On October 8, 2014 By

For anyone looking for any of my current writing, please head on over to  There you’ll find:- Interviews with pitmasters and others in the world of barbecue- Weekly round-ups of barbecue news- Reviews of barbecue joints across Texas- Fea…

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2013: A Very Good Year

On December 31, 2013 By

My year started like everyone else’s back in January, but my new life really began with an article on Eater National announcing my new role as Barbecue Editor for Texas Monthly. That was Thursday, March 21st. I still had six days left of my six year tenure at Good Fulton & Farrell, a Dallas architecture firm. You can imagine how productive that final week was.

This jacket arrived in the mail on 04/08

Before that day I had spent a couple months of the year editing my book, The Prophets of Smoked Meat, for publication. It was to come out two months later in Anthony Bourdain’s new line of books with Ecco, but Manny Fernandez of the New York Times wanted to talk about this new Barbecue Editor position the evening of the Eater announcement. When that story went live on May 23rd, things went from crazy to surreal.

Photo by Rex C. Curry of the New York Times

I had three weeks off between jobs to do some barbecue exploring, so I convinced my photographer Nick McWhirter to tag along on a Carolina barbecue road trip in early April.

We ate plenty of pork, and got to chew a little fat with some of our counterparts on the East Coast. Author John Shelton Reed and blogger Dan Levine met us for a meal at Allen & Son in Chapel Hill, NC, while author Robert F. Moss met us on our final day in Charleston, SC.

Dan Levine & his children, me, John Shelton Reed, and Nick McWhirter

4/12: I got home to find the first real copy of my book in the mail.

4/15: I officially started my new job as Barbecue Editor of Texas Monthly…

…and they gave me these cool business cards.

4/25: The first official event for the book launch was the TLA Conference in Fort Worth where I shared the stage with a friend and Texas BBQ mentor, Robb Walsh.

5/5: Texas Tech student Kristen Witherspoon made this drawing of me for a class project, which now is my Twitter avatar.

5/7: Interview with Nightline’s Meredith Frost at Pecan Lodge.

5/8: Interview with NBC’s Kevin Tibbles during a Dallas BBQ road trip.

5/9: Book event in Seattle catered by my friend Jack Timmons

5/13: Travel to New York with my wife for the official book launch events. We spent the day going around town on a BBQ tour with New York food critics Pete Wells and Robert Sietsema.

Robert Sietsema, Me, Pete Wells

Helen Cho, David Hale Smith, Jennifer Vaughn

5/14: The Prophets of Smoked Meat is out! I spotted the first copy “in the wild” at a Barnes & Noble in Manhattan. The book’s designer, Suet, and my editor Libby were both excited for launch date. That evening I had an interview with Anthony Bourdain at the Barnes & Noble in Union Square.

Suet and Libby

Tony and me with matching shirts

5/15: The Texas Monthly Top 50 BBQ Joints list is revealed while I’m still in New York making it my busiest day on Twitter ever. That night I had a book signing party catered by my friend Daniel Delaney of Brooklyn’s Delaney Barbecue.

Daniel Delaney, David Hale Smith, and me

5/16: Celebration lunch at Le Bernardin with my agent David Hale Smith. There was a strict no photo policy that we enforced on ourselves.

5/17: A ridiculous party was hosted by Steve and Anne Stoghill at their house in Dallas. Hundreds of people including the Dallas mayor came to enjoy barbecue from some of Texas’s best pitmasters. I signed books through the entire party.

5/19: In Chicago with Tony.

5/21: Interview on NPR’s Think with Krys Boyd.

5/23: Interview at KUT studio in Austin where I met Robert Earl Keen and Lyle Lovett in the kitchen.

5/24: San Antonio book signing at Two Bros. BBQ Market.

5/25: Book signing party at Four Corners Brewery in Dallas.

5/28: OKC book signing at the Semtner house.

5/30: Book signing party at Fox Bros. BBQ in Atlanta.

6/1: Texas Monthly BBQ Bus Tour to Snow’s, Louie Mueller and Franklin Barbecue.

6/6: Interview with Dan Rather and Texas Monthly BBQ takeover with Aaron Franklin at Hill Country BBQ in New York.

6/7: This morning was the worst event of the tour. I went on the Opie and Anthony Show and it bombed. But the bonus was that I brought one of Aaron Franklin’s briskets that was warmed in the kitchen of Le Bernardin. The interview later that day with an Austrailian morning show made up for it when the host ended the segment showing concern for my colon.

6/8 and 6/9: Big Apple BBQ Block Party.

With burger aficinado George Motz

With 17th St BBQ’s Amy Mills


John T. Edge, me, Jimmy Hagood

With Frank Ostini

With John Markus
6/?: Sometime in June my book showed up on the desk of Geoff who is the co-star of the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. I have no idea how it got there.

6/10: BBQ University with Steven Raichlen in Colorado Springs, CO.

6/14: Book signing in Cleveland where they cooked a few cow heads for me at Greenhouse Tavern.

7/10: I smoked beef ribs for a cooking class put on by Tom Douglas in Seattle. Later that night, Sir Mix A Lot raved about one of the leftover ribs at another Tom Douglas restaurant.

8/29: Took Todd Blackledge on a “Taste of the Town” scouting trip to BBQ on the Brazos in Cresson. It was featured in the LSU v. TCU game a few nights later.

9/4 and 9/5: Cooked with Adam Perry Lang in Los Angeles. Got to chat with restaurateur and author Roy Choi and writer Lolis Eric Elie as well.

With Roy Choi

Adam Perry Lang, Lolis Eric Elie, me

9/19: Spoke in a panel discussion on American food at Feast Portland with chefs Christopher Kostow, Naomi Pomeroy and Hugh Acheson.

Photo by Jay Friedman

10/3: Sat in on a press conference with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and asked a few barbecue questions.

10/5: Met Nina Sells of Smitty’s BBQ in Lockhart during a book signing. Despite my harsh words for Smitty’s, she was very gracious and even gave me this Smitty’s shirt to cover the Kreuz Market one I was wearing.

10/10: Andy Langer sent me this photo of ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons.

10/15: Filmed a segment with Frank Stewart and Wynton Marsalis in Lockhart for CBS Sunday Morning.

10/25: Talked with Rick Schmidt, former owner of Kreuz Market, at the opening of Schmidt Family Barbecue in Bee Cave, TX.

10/26: Attended the Texas Book Festival in Austin. Spent and evening with a bunch of authors at the Paisano Ranch outside of Austin and witnessed a great party trick with grain alcohol.

11/2: Met my nemesis, Josh Ozersky at Meatopia Texas.

11/3: Texas Monthly BBQ Festival in Austin.

11/17: Judged Meat Fight in Dallas with Nick Offerman, aka Ron Swanson.

11/21: The BBQ Audi that had been my trusty road companion was totaled.

11/22: The most sparsely attended book signing I had was saved by these nice folks from Tyler, TX.

11/23: I drove to Longview to get a new BBQ Audi and stopped for barbecue in Tyler on the way back.

12/7: Judged the Linn-San Manuel cook-off and ate the finest cabrito of my life just north of McAllen.

12/13: Learned that The Prophets of Smoked Meat was listed as one of the ten best non-fiction books of 2013 by the Wall Street Journal.

12/14 and 12/15: Filmed Bizarre Foods America with Andrew Zimmern in Dallas and Fort Worth.

12/18: I received the January issue of Texas Monthly where my interview with Kreuz Market pitmaster Roy Perez appeared. What an incredible end to an incredible year.

I met so many incredible people and made some great friends along the way. There are too many people to thank of making this such a fulfilling year, but I mostly have to thank my family for their patience. Their absence along the way is glaring in the photos above, but they know I’ve gotta keep working.

– BBQ Snob

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A Fork in the Road

On November 20, 2013 By

It’s not often that a book comes out that I had a hand in. The Prophets of Smoked Meat that came out this May was my first. A Fork in the Road was my second. The book’s editor James Oseland asked (or maybe it was suggested to him) that I provide a short account of a food/travel story for the collection. I was excited to write it, and even more giddy when it arrived in the mail this week.

I quickly read throughout the story of traveling through Georgia eating barbecue. These trips took place over several months as my architecture career wound down, and the possibility that I might write about barbecue for living started to take shape. I got to the final line. “We were already late for the next stop.” I gasped. There were several paragraphs missing.

A call to James Oseland was met with the same baffled response that I had. He hadn’t made the change, and the publisher who had worked on the project was no longer with Lonely Planet. There was no quick way to find out what had transpired, and regardless of the answer the book was already on the shelves. Below is the final sentence that made it into the print version and the four missing paragraphs. Enjoy, as this is the only place you’ll see how the story really ends for the time being.

We were already late for the next stop. 

A new location of Grand Champion BBQ had just opened and our friends Dustin and Steven were waiting patiently with owner Robert Owens, who had been kind enough to leave the joint open just for our meal. A feast was laid before us on a large platter and we clawed at the meat, whose quality at this late hour was remarkable. Slices of brisket were well above respectable, pork ribs were tender but in need of smoke, and the pulled pork was so loaded with well-rendered fat and caramelized crust that it was downright decadent. A dip in their thin spicy sauce heightened it. I could have kept eating, but the hour was now late and I was a long way from Warner Robins. I said goodbye to Bill and we both hoped my next visit to Atlanta would be just for the barbecue.  

The final inspection for the project went off without a hitch the following day, so I again found myself with a few extra hours. I drove straight north, right back to Marietta, where Dave Poe’s former business partner Sam Huff manned the pits at Sam’s BBQ1. The menu was a replica of Dave Poe’s, but the only item I preferred here was the stew.  

I dreaded the idea of having eaten at Heirloom Market BBQ only once, so this became my final stop. I thought I was just going to reminisce over a few old favorites, but this time I noticed the chunks of meat in the Korean pork sandwich were chopped rib ends rather than simple pulled pork shoulder. Their tighter muscle structure made for meat with a bit more resistance. I didn’t think the stew could be topped as a side item until I took a bite of the bacon creamed corn, which was richly flavored with smoked pork belly. When I tipped the bowl back to get the last drop, I noticed the banana pudding. It was dense with bananas and had an elegant topping of the lightest meringue. I consider myself a connoisseur of banana pudding and I haven’t had much that matches this. 

Back at the airport I said what will probably be my final goodbye to Roosevelt at the rental counter. This was my last Georgia trip that I would expense back to the firm. I passed him a container of still chilly banana pudding. I didn’t get to see the look on his face when he took a bite, but I’d like to think he licked the bowl. That wasn’t the only unanswered question. What of this Georgia barbecue style? The old tradition of pork, slaw and Brunswick stew still has a solid grasp in rural Georgia, but the new joints in Atlanta put just as much stock in their brisket and Mac N Cheese. Some of these innovations will fade and others will become just as entrenched in tradition as the chopped pork at Fresh Air, but the thread that ties them all together is that wonderful omnipresent stew.

This is one of those situations where there’s no need to cry about it. Nothing can be done unless there is a second printing. If you bought the book and wondered why I can’t finish a story properly here’s your answer. I’ll also remind you that there are thirty-three other great, and complete, stories in the collection that is A Fork in the Road. Thanks again to James Oseland for including me in such great company, and here’s to a second printing.

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5/9 Seattle – Book signing and Seattle Brisket Experience dinner. Ticketed event, sold out.5/14 New York – Book launch at Barnes & Noble in Union Square with Anthony Bourdain. Public Event5/15 Brooklyn – Brisket party by BrisketTown. Sold out.5/17 …

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On April 22, 2013 By

KENTUCKY: Hammerheads921 Swan St.Louisville, KY 40204502-365-1112Open M-Sat 5pm – 10pmwww.louisvillehammerheads.comDriving down a residential street in Louisville I thought I may be in the wrong part of town, but soon I noticed the glow coming out of t…

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Texas Monthly, Here I Come

On March 21, 2013 By

Starting next month this barbecue life of mine will no longer be a hobby, a part-time job or a distration from my day job. On April 15th I will become the Barbecue Editor at Texas Monthly magazine. Hell yes! For the first time since 1996, I will not b…

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Black Diamond Smokehouse

On March 13, 2013 By

NORTH RICHLAND HILLS: Black Diamond Smokehouse3900 Rufe SnowNorth Richland Hills, TX 76180817-284-2374Open Sun-Thur 10:30-9, F-Sat 10:30-11blackdiamondsmokehouse.netUpdate: This joint is CLOSED.2013: It was several months ago when I made my first visit…

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Polak’s Sawsage Farm

On February 27, 2013 By

KARNES CITY: Polak’s Sawsage Farm2835 S Highway 181Karnes City, TX 78118830-583-2113Open M-Tues 8:30-8:30, Thur 8:30-8:30, F-Sat 8:30-9, Sun I could judge this joint on sides and items on the menu besides the barbecue,…

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Lil’ Joe’s Bar-B-Que

On February 27, 2013 By

ROSEBUD: Lil’ Joe’s Bar-B-Que212 N 5th. Rosebud, TX 76570254-583-7383Open Thur-Sun 11-6You wouldn’t think that a town the size of Rosebud, Texas (population 1,412) could support three barbecue joints, but then you find the small painted wooden sign for…

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ROSEBUD: Jake ‘N’ Boo’s Backdoor Bar & Grill341 W Main St.Rosebud, TX 76570254-583-7827Open Thur 11-8, F-Sat 11-9, Sun 11-6There’s something ironic about the feeling I get after seeing the walls of a barbecue joint lined with competition trophies. …

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