As I mentioned in our Meat Week introduction yesterday, we’re just days away from the start of this year’s festivities. We’ll be starting things off at Urban Bar-B-Que in their new Norbeck Road location (which is their old Urban Burger location). And as much as we loved kicking off the first two Meat Weeks at their other Rockville spot, they’re going all out to welcome us to the new space.
For starters, they’re tempting us with food – free sides to go with our ‘cue. As they put it, “Come for the meat, stay for the sides!” Urban is also offering a free commemorative gift to everyone who joins us on Sunday night at 6.
And the cherry on the sundae is Happy Hour bar pricing Oh…did we forget to mention that this Urban puts the “bar” in “barbecue?” Add that to the extra space and their best Southern Pride smoker (brought over from the Silver Spring location), and we’ve got every indication that this will be the best kick-off event yet.
Need some more to whet your appetite? We asked our Captain, Jenelle Dennis, and our First Mate, David Gootzit, a couple of questions about Meat Week. These are their answers…and just to be fair, we’ve answered them as well.
1) What is it about barbecue that appeals to you most?
JD: Obviously, the taste. There’s nothing that can match the complexity of flavors that infuse into meat after a low and slow experience in a smoky environment.
DG: Real barbecue requires a committment to craftsmanship and an
investment of time that is absent from many of modern life’s
day-to-day activities. Throwing something on a charcoal grill and
cooking it quickly can be fun and, if done right, even tasty.
However, the amount of sweat (both literal and proverbial) that goes
into real barbecue reflects an attitude that the cook cares. It’s a beautiful thing.
MB: There’s something really impressive about the way barbecue turns some of the toughest, least desirable cuts of meat into something so tender and tasty. There’s a lot of skill that goes into getting it just right, and the combination of smoke, spice and richness results in a flavor that you can’t get any other way.
JD: The KCBS judging standards, but with a personal twist when I’m not in a judging environment. Taste: Has to appeal to me personally. I tend to prefer the sweet and tangier flavors. Texture: Has to come of the bone easily, but not completely fall off (for ribs), pull apart easily (for brisket). Nothing turns me off more than tough or dry meat. As far as appearance, I’m pretty forgiving. But a nice bark on a rib really turns me on.
DG: The three criteria in a KCBS-sanctioned contest are appearance, taste and tenderness. In a restaurant, the barbecue shouldn’t be arranged in too fussy a fashion. It’s barbecue, not haute cuisine. Without the right degree of smoke, it isn’t good barbecue. You can go overboard on smoke and miss the mark, but overall there’s a window with degrees of smokiness, and anything in that window is “good.” Tenderness is tricky for many cooks. In my experience, if you find a good smoke ring, you are much more likely to find a tender piece of
barbecue. I look for barbecue that gives a little resistance to my teeth, but even that once it yields still provides a touch of chew. To paraphrase the Supreme Court – good barbecue is like pornography – you know it when you taste it.
MB: I want my barbecue to taste like meat, first and foremost. The smoke is important, and I definitely like a good sauce, but I want to be able to taste the pork or the brisket as soon as I bite into it. As far as texture, I just can’t stand dried out barbecue. I know that restaurants have to prepare their meat in advance to be able to handle crowds, but the way a place rests it ‘cue before serving can make all the difference. I’m pretty forgiving in terms of appearance, but a nice crusty exterior always makes me smile.
3) How would you describe Meat Week to someone who has never heard of it before (and isn’t necessarily a barbecue junkie)?
JD: A gathering of energetic, friendly and hungry people with a love of BBQ or an interest in learning about BBQ.
DG: It’s a week of meat, what else do you need to know? Seriously - I would say we’ve identified eight of the best barbecue restaurants in the DC-VA-MD metro area and all eight places are working to put their best foot forward for anyone who wants to stop by.
MB: It’s a low-key, week-long celebration of barbecue and you can attend as many or as few nights as you’d like. I’m with Jim Shahin on the name, though. If it were “Barbecue Week” people would know exactly what we were talking about as soon as we said it – Meat Week conjures up images of steak.
4) What’s the best barbecue you’ve ever had outside the DC area ?
DG: It’s a tie between Smitty’s Market in Lockhart, Texas and Cooper’s BBQ in Lano, Texas. Both were incredible experiences and I’ll consider myself fortunate in life if I ever get to return to either.
MB: To me, the best barbecue in the country is in Kansas City. And the best barbecue in Kansas City is at Oklahoma Joe’s (the original location, at the gas station). Even Anthony Bourdain has acknowledged its superiority!
With that, we wish you a happy Meat Week and we hope to see you at one or more of our celebrations. Look for the big red-and-white banner with our new DC flag-inspired logo and the crowd of smiling faces smeared with sauce.
And when you’ve finished with Meat Week, think about participating in DC Meat Free Week. Also in their third year (they started in direct response to our inaugural Meat Week), they’ve put together a terrific lineup of meat-free menus to enjoy all over town from Monday, February 6th through Monday, February 13th. They’ve convinced ten of the best local food trucks to offer special deals on vegan and vegetarian menu items on Wednesday, the 8th, and they’ve even got a book signing with John Schlimm, the Tipsy Vegan, on Thursday at Meridian Pint.
Trust us – after a full week of barbecue your body will thank you for some down time.