Mike and Nicole

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Blues on Beale Street

We said goodbye to Houston by mid-morning, but it wasn't until much later that we said goodbye to Texas and finally got on our way heading north and east (two important directions considering we're on our way to NYC). It took us just shy of ten hours thanks to Wilson encouraging us to take 59N, which definitely saved us some time.

After a long day of driving, we arrived in Memphis in time to enjoy a good, hearty meal accompanied by some Blues on Beale Street. It was a rainy night and we were both exhausted, so it was nice to sit down and eat some warm soul food. Mike and I split an appetizer of green fried tomatoes (which are almost as good as fried pickles) and a sample platter of Memphis BBQ food that consisted of ribs, pulled pork shoulder, and baked beans. It was very spicy, but very delicious. Garland, we did some research on the difference between Texas and Memphis BBQ, here is what we found out (plus a little more):

"The Differences Between Different Styles of BBQ Food by Region http://www.articlesbase.com/food-and-beverage-articles/the-differences-between-different-styles-of-bbq-food-by-region-1478176.html)

Every region of the United States has its barbecue specialty: pulled pork sandwiches in North Carolina, racks of ribs in Memphis, "burnt ends" in Kansas City and chopped brisket in Texas. The roots of American barbecue run deep in the South, where even neighboring counties can have different approaches to barbecue, not to mention different states.

BBQ in North Carolina: Consider North Carolina, a state with a long barbecue tradition. In eastern North Carolina, you would probably find shredded meat from an entire pig, doused with a peppery vinegar sauce, and if you chose to drive West a few hours from the coast, and you will most likely be served meat from just the shoulder of the hog, with a tomato based sauce. Throughout Carolina, there is a clear preference for barbecue pork and thin vinegary sauces, which is a distinguishing style echoed throughout the state.

BBQ in Memphis, Tennessee: Memphis, Tennessee is another superb barbecue location, home to "Memphis in May," which is the largest barbecue competition and festival in the world. The city boasts over 100 barbecue restaurants and several different barbecue styles. Like North Carolina and much of the South, pork is the barbecue meat of choice in Tennessee and pork ribs are the most common cut, but the city is divided between "dry-rubbed" and "wet rib" versions. Dry-rubbed ribs are generously rubbed with a mixture of spices, smoked and then served with sauce on the side. Wet ribs are lacquered with tangy barbecue sauce before, during and after cooking. Another Memphis favorite is the pulled-pork sandwich - smoked pork shoulder stuffed inside a hamburger bun and topped with coleslaw.

BBQ in Kansas City: Kansas City is the barbecue capital of the Midwest. Like Memphis, it's also home to over 100 barbecue restaurants and hosts an annual barbecue competition an an event called American Royal. In Kansas City, both pork and beef are barbecued and it is best known for its BBQ sauce, which is traditionally heavy on tomato and uses molasses as a distinctive sweetener. The traditional thick barbecue sauce you buy in supermarkets is based on Kansas City style sauce. The bottled varieties are much different from the small batches of sweet zesty sauce cooked up by Kansas City pitmasters. For those that aren't familiar with the term, "Burnt ends," are the crunchy, charred ends of brisket slabs, are a Kansas City specialty not to be missed.

BBQ in Texas: Texas is famous for its cattle, and beef brisket is the barbecue meat of choice. But chopped beef and beef ribs are also state favorites. Texas barbecue isn't only about the beef, it is also about spicy pork sausages, called "hot links," and pork ribs are also common barbecue fare. Almost all Texas barbecue is cooked without sauce. The meat is rubbed with spices, known as BBQ rub, smoked and, sometimes, a sauce is served on the side. Barbecue in other states is most often smoked over hickory, oak or a handful of other similar hardwoods. But Texas barbecue usually uses mesquite, which gives the meat a distinct and unique flavor."

Mike's personal take is that Memphis BBQ sauce is browner and spicier than the more red, sweet Texas BBQ sauce. Keep in mind the source though. Mike believes in a "mind over matter" food consumption policy. What it looks/tastes/feels like doesn't really matter to him. Sustenance is king. I have never had Texas BBQ, so I really can't say. I personally enjoy the Carolina BBQ in comparison to the Memphis kind. So, I will personally take it upon myself to eat a lot of each kind and report back.

We ended up calling it an early night. We were exhausted from all of the visiting and driving in Texas.

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