Where there's smoke, there's barbecue
The BBQ Crash Course 2015 had to be the most international event we've witnessed in seven years of hosting kickoff parties on the first day of South by Southwest Interactive. Picture-perfect weather and music of the Beaver Nelson band welcomed a few hundred guests to Brush Square Park last Friday. Five of Central Texas' most renowned barbecue outfits preached the gospel of Texas barbecue to folks from Sweden, Germany, England, Ireland, Brazil, Egypt, Turkey, Japan, Thailand, South Korea, and all over the USA. Sharing this authentic Texas regional cuisine with the world is something we all do with pride. Louie Mueller Barbecue from Taylor, Southside Market from Elgin, Black's Barbecue of Lockhart, the Schmidt Family Barbecue from Bee Cave, and Opie's Barbecue from Spicewood served exemplary smoked meats and side dishes, while Cutie Pies' Jaynie Buckingham shared award-winning pie bites and I explained to the visitors that banana pudding and cobbler topped with Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla ice cream are the traditional endings to a Texas barbecue feast. Thanks to all our vendors, Pink Avocado Catering, event planner Carmela Hartman of In Style Weddings, and my former Chronicle colleague, Lindsey Simon, for making it happen.
Speaking of barbecue, in an alternative universe out at the Travis County Expo Center (7311 Decker), Rodeo Austin hosts the 34th annual BBQ Cook-Off this weekend. The event raises scholarship money for college-bound kids and provides competition teams the opportunity to demonstrate their hospitality as well as test their skills for preparing brisket, ribs, chicken, beans, Bloody Marys, and a dealer's-choice jackpot dish. Some of the booths are elaborately decorated and feature live music, while others contain just a portable pit and a couple of card tables. It's up to expert panels of sequestered judges to decide who has the best barbecue. Rodeo patrons enjoy barbecue, beer, and cocktails while voting for their favorite booths and dishes by filling donation jars with cash. Teams get prizes and bragging rights. An $8 fairgrounds pass gets you into the cook-off area, but be sure to take plenty of small bills in order to join in the fun. Although the cooking starts on Friday, the best time for eating will be Sat., March 21, noon-7pm.
Dallas chocolatier Katherine Clapner of Dude, Sweet Chocolate will host two pop-up chocolate shops here this weekend. She'll be selling her distinctive chocolate creations at Métier Cook's Supply (1805 S. First) on Fri., March 20, 5-7pm, and at Delish Bakery (209 W. Third) on Sat., March 21, 11am-2pm.
Virginia Willis, cookbook author and traveling cooking teacher, will be in Austin this weekend promoting her new cookbook, Lighten Up, Y'all (Ten Speed Press, $24.99) with a booksigning at Métier Cook's Supply on Sun., March 22, 12:30-2:30pm and at a class at the Central Market Cooking School (4001 N. Lamar) later that day from 5-7pm.
Register for the $70 class online at www.centralmarket.com (sold out).