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Texas Monthly BBQ Festival 2012 c. Mike Hiller-238

Scratch ‘N Sniff: Texas Monthly BBQ Festival, in Austin, Brought Top Texas Cue Masters Together

A sold-out crowd of 3,000 attended the Texas Monthly BBQ Fest. That long line on the left of the shot is the line just to sample Franklin's bbq. The shorter (but still sizable) line to the right of Franklin's line is for Snow's

Pat Sharpe of Texas Monthly is in charge of the magazine's food coverage

Aaron Franklin slices the first of 40 briskets he smoked for the festival

Aaron Franklin wraps his briskets in brown butcher paper to rest once they're cooked

Franklin's brisket

good thing sauce was optional

The Fourtons own Pecan Lodge, which makes the best cue in Dallas

Justin Fourton carving a brisket

Justin Fourton of Dallas' Pecan Lodge

Lou Lambert's cue was pretty damn good, too

Tootsie Tomanetz & Kerry Bexley of Snow's

Don’t say I didn’t warn you last July, but Texas Monthly’s annual BBQ Festival in Austin was the place to be on Sunday.

Drawing from their considerable muscle as the state’s arbiter of Best Barbecue joints, TexMo assembled 21 of the state’s 50 top-ranked barbecue shops together for a fun, tasty festival.  Three thousand attendees bought tickets; attendance meant virtually unlimited samples of some damn good ‘cue.

Brisket highlights for me: Aaron Franklin of top-rated Franklin Barbecue knocked it solidly out of the park, as he always does, with his smokey, impossibly juicy brisket. Justin and Diane Fourton of Dallas’ Pecan Lodge brought their considerable bbq talent and served brisket nearly as good as Franklin’s. Equally good: Snow’s BBQ, from pitmasters Tootsie Tomanetz & Kerry Bexley of Lexington, and Lambert’s, from Ft. Worth chef Lou Lambert. Snow’s took top honors in Texas Monthly’s most recent ranking.

Interesting notes:

Aaron Franklin said he smoked 40 briskets for the festival. The line for his bbq stretched more than 100 people nearly all day.

The Fourton’s never expected to be invited to serve at the Festival. “We were planning to buy tickets just so we could attend,” Diane told me. “Being a part of this is beyond our wildest dreams.”

•The festival is a great day trip. Two hours is all you need. No one can eat more. No one.

•More than a few people loaded up stryrofoam to-go containers with the spoils of the festival. Totally crazy because they’d brought the containers from home.

•Fun to hear Tootsie Tomanetz recall growing up in the country, when”barbecue was something special you ate on Saturdays,” and that the art of low-and-slow is being lost across Texas in the rush to sell volume rather than quality. “Not at Snow’s,” she was quick to caution.

•Dallas Observer’s “Cheap Bastard” columnis, Alice Laussaud, helped Pecan Lodge serve the masses.

Think we should hold our own barbecue festival up here in Dallas? EscapeHatch already has it in the works…

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