Barbecue Bros Book Club: Barbecue Crossroads by Robb Walsh and O. Rufus Lovett

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Not that I’m anywhere close to being qualified enough to evaluate books but more so as a public service announcement we will periodically discuss barbecue and barbecue-related books.

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Barbecue Crossroads: Notes & Recipes from a Southern Odyssey, written by multi James Beard Award-winning author Robb Walsh (who I had the pleasure of meeting earlier this year) with photographs by O. Rufus Lovett, is exactly the type of book I’d love to research and write some  day. The two take a roadtrip from Texas to the Carolinas and back, discovering and investigating the traditions and regional styles of barbecue in the American South. Its a travelogue that doesn’t just focus on the restaurants the two visit but also the community barbecues that don’t often get covered in the typical barbecue book. It also contains recipes and some of the most vivid color photography of barbecue culture – seriously, with enough practice in maybe a few decades I’ll be able to take photos half as good as Lovett.

Texas, Memphis, and North Carolina are well represented in the book but Grant of Marie, Let’s Eat! was a little miffed that they only devoted 5 pages to Georgia barbecue due to a perceived lack of effort or trying. This did not bother me as much as it did him, but then again thats easy to say for someone from North Carolina. Who knows what the reasons may be, but I can understand that time and resources are limited and they may have wanted to focus in predestined locations known. In any case, I really enjoyed this book and blew right through it in a matter of  a few days and would recommend it to any barbecue blogger.

Monk

Photo Gallery: Crossroads ‘Cue Supper with Robb Walsh at Midwood Smokehouse

This past Wednesday night, I had the good fortune of attending another barbecue dinner at Midwood Smokehouse (who previously hosted Skylight Inn’s Sam Jones in November 2013), this time with special guest James Beard Award-winning author Robb Walsh. Just like last time around NoDa Brewing (and their head brew master Chad) was in the house, pairing each course with one of their beers. And as it turns out, Ed Mitchell happened to be there too! Now, I was planning to go to this event as soon as I got word of the event but then lucky for me, a marketing coordinator for Midwood reached out to the Barbecue Bros and offers a free press pass. Done and done.

The theme of the night was Tex-Mex, a subject of which Robb Walsh certainly is no stranger – his books include The Tex-Mex Grill and
Backyard Barbacoa Cookbook, The Tex-Mex Cookbook, Nuevo Tex-Mex, and…well, you get the idea. And as I would come to find out over the course of the night, Walsh is no stranger to owner Frank Scibelli – he has consulted on both Midwood Smokehouse as well as his Tex-Mex concept Paco’s Taco’s & Tequila. Seeing as how I have yet to make it back out to Texas in several years (a fact which Speedy and Rudy like to hold over my head), the prospect of a Tex-Mex style barbecue menu intrigued me.

The first course paired tortilla chips with three salsas (one of which was a revelation, unfortunately I can’t recall exactly which one), Frito Pie (a delight which I hadn’t yet experienced in all my years), and campechana (basically, a Tex-Mex shrimp cocktail) with NoDa’s CAVU blonde ale. I must say, if there weren’t two more courses coming, I could have eaten just Frito Pie all night long. Damn, it was that good.

Beef rib and barbacoa served with tortillas highlighted the second course with NoDa’s Black IPA, Midnight Madness. The beef rib was served both on and off the bone, and I came dangerously close to taking the entire bone for myself before realizing that oops, I should actually be sharing with the table instead of being a greedy freaking gus. But man, that thing was smoked to perfection and I’d be curious to see whether Midwood would ever offer it as a special – Frank Scibelli seemed to be taking an informal poll as to whether folks would ever buy it or not, so we shall see.

Finally, we ended the night with a duo of mini pies and Jam Session Pale Ale. Thankfully, the pies were indeed mini and I didn’t have to stuff myself with a big dessert (plus another beer) after the big meal. All in all, the food in each course was new and interesting and fantastic.

For the Sam Jones dinner, I recall them having four courses and I felt like we were constantly rushing to finish the food in each course and chugging beer. This time around, the three courses provided a nice balance between eating and drinking and actually being able to breathe between courses, converse with our table neighbors, and finish beers. So, whether done on purpose or just happenstance, well done by Midwood on the change.

After dinner, I was able to speak briefly with Ed Mitchell and his son/business partner Ryan. I mentioned how much I loved his barbecue and was looking forward to what they would do next. After a period of time they will be making an announcement on what they’ll be doing next, but in the meantime it sounds like he might be doing some things with Frank at Midwood. Logistically, they would have to figure out how Midwood’s Texas-manufactured offset smoker would jive with Mitchell’s brand of eastern NC whole hog barbecue cooked over direct coals, but the prospect of Ed Mitchell smoking barbecue in Charlotte is just too exciting for me to handle.

I also got a chance to briefly speak with Midwood’s Pitmaster Matt Berry and relayed to him and Frank the nice post from our meetup with Marie, Let’s Eat! posted earlier this week. Really nice guys, those two. I gotta say, I love these barbecue dinners (which benefit the Southern Foodways Alliance) and hope Midwood continues to have them when the right occasion presents itself. As long as they keep doing them you will find me there, press pass or not.

Monk