Goodbye, World Championship Houston Rodeo Once-a-Year-and-Not-Often- Enough BBQ Cookoff. We shall miss you.
Although you make our throats hurt for days to come because we must all yell over Roger Creager, James Earl Somebody, and inexplicably, Ne-Yo, we love you. Regardless of the thick, sumptious bbq smoke that permeates our country-western clothing fresh off the racks of Palais Royal and refuses to be washed out, no matter how many trips to the laundry room, we love you. Even when we show up to your gates with all the best intentions of not drinking ourselves into oblivion, your wild and reckless “open bar” culture beckons, and we indeed leave you some degree of tipsy, and all the while, we love you.
It’s easy to figure out why. Although I was out of commission all of the following day due to all things delicious and sinful, I was happy. The culprit? That fabulous barbecue. I can’t even abbreviate it this time, it’s that good.
Growing up in Houston, TX, we know good bbq. We may not have the Kansas City dry rub tomato-based craziness that’s going on up there, but we have Goode Company, and in the bbq world, that’s all you really need to know. The Pappas Brothers can make a mean chopped beef sandwich that might rival anything outside of Texas, but it’s sloppier, not as pure, as Goode Co. The tangy, peppery, vinegar-based sauce marries perfectly with the smoky, crusty-on the-outside-and-tender-on-the-inside, mouth-watering brisket. But I’m not here to talk about tried and true Houston legends.
Amateur up-and-comers are where it’s at.
Our tent at the cookoff was called Kitchen Kaboose and those boys know how to cook. Like cook with a capital C, cook. It’s amazing. Not only was the brisket fall-off-the-bone tender, but there were no bones on your plate, so it would fall off your fork until you just said “forget being sophisticated at the rodeo” and just ate with las manos. Freakin’ fantastic.
And what’s strange about it is, they served it with molasses-based sauce. My boyfriend and I are what you might refer to as sauce connoisseur-snobs and when we saw that thick glop of molasses mess, we exchanged a look, raised our eyebrows, and sighed. We schlopped it into the corner of our plates and resigned ourselves to a meal of little sauce dabs, in contrast to the sauce-drenching method we normally employ.
Then: I examine my plate more closely, and realize my jalapeño-sausage links have been majorly and permanently compromised. They are quite literally swimming in a pool, no, swamp, of said molasses sauce. And that’s when we realize, this sauce is super delicious. It’s got that sweet heat to it that I love and although it’s definitely full-flavored, it’s subtle enough to compliment my treasured smoked meat rather than overwhelm it, and it was more smooth and velvety than the gloppy, awkward goop I expected it to be. Hooray!
So the unification of vinegar-molasses sauce lovers really set the tone for the night. We had a blast/ball/good time. We spent time with good friends, reconnected with old ones, and met new ones. There was an all-time Friday record of 76,889 partygoers there, so we had plenty to choose from. We met the new girlfriend of one buddy and actually liked her, which almost never happens, and got to debate the merits of my old favorite dork-show, Heroes, with complete strangers. No one had cell service and no one could hear over the deafening music that shifted oddly from country to ’70s mo-town as the night went on, so communication was mostly limited to sign language and, naturally, smoke signals. There was some dancing, but it was not very good and plenty embarrassing, so we’ll leave it at “there was some dancing.”
You’ve left a lot of casualties in your wake as you ride off into the sunset, 2009 Houston Rodeo Cookoff, but for those of us who made it out to the other side, we’re left with fond memories, tingling taste buds, and the kind of satisfaction that only comes from looking the Rodeo full in the face and living to tell about it.
In anticipation of next year,