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Aussie needs advice - US meat trip!


Doc-G
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Hi there folks,

I work in the Australian meat trade, have a food blog called 'The Foodologist' and am currently studying for a Masters degree in Gastronomy from Le Cordon Bleu so in short, like the rest of you, I love my food.

I will be travelling to the US in October for a meat conference in Chicago (I own a business that manufactues, sausages, burgers etc) and will have a week to travel after he conference finishes.

I want to get a good overview (in the time that I have) of regional cuisine in America, good BBQ and of the types of meat products that are available in retail outlets.

So, I am thinking that apart from seeing Chicago (where the conference is), I should travel to Kansas City and Texas (Kreuz in Lockhart). I am also maybe thinking Memphis and North Carolina.

I would like to hear some thought on how I can piece this trip together (given that I only have one week). I know I can go to all the fancy restaurants in the world and will probably visit Trotters place in Chicago but my main emphasis needs to be on what meat products do Americans eat at home and where can I eat the best BBQ? Does this expectation seem realistic? Do these expectations marry up?

Your thoughts would all be most valuable,

Thankyou

George Ujvary

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One week only? The entire middle of the country? Yikes!

Unfortunately, "what meat Americans eat at home" and "best BBQ" are not typically the same thing. Will you have a car? I hope so: without a car, you're going to be stuck in major urban centers and unable to get out to the very sorts of places you'll regret missing.

Your only hope would be to meander south in a car out of Chicago and choose either to head into Texas or veer east. I guess you could do both, but that's some serious miles in a short amount of time.

Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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As for Texas, you should plan to spend one day in the Austin area. Central Texas was settled by Germans (among others) around the turn of the last century and their love of smoked meats, including sausage, is what made this area the home of the best barbecue in the world. The Austin airport is on the side of town that you need to visit. I'd suggest you plan to arrive early, rent a car, and hit Elgin (the brisket and ribs aren't worth eating, but the sausage is legendary and a great many other bbq joints serve it), Taylor, Lockhart and Luling.

You can google "Elgin sausage" and get lots of info. Elgin is the name of a town and there are two places there that constantly battle it out as to who's best - Meyer's and Southside Market.

So visits to Lockhart, Luling, Elgin and Taylor are really all you'd need to do in Texas and you could do that in one day, flying back out that evening. There are local folks that would happy to show you around.

Including me.

Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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George,

The distances between Chicago, Texas, Kansas City, Memphis and North Carolina preclude driving around looking for BBQ.

Smoque BBQ an excellent resource in Chicago that provides wonderful Texas brisket, Kansas City ribs, Memphis and Carolina BBQ. Read the Smoque BBQ Manifesto understand their commitment to providing all of the important styles of BBQ in an authentic manner.

My guess is that an email to the owner, Barry Sorkin, will provide you with an opportunity to learn about American BBQ. barry@smoquebbq.com

The owners of Smoque BBQ spent a number of years studying and traveling to learn about various styles of BBQ. They have made adaptations that allow them to providd authentic BBQ using the woods that are available in the Chicago area. This may be a challenge in Australia.

At the very least, he can provide you with suggestions on where you should travel in the US.

Good luck to you,

Tim

ps: Have you ever thought about Cajun/Creole cuisine? That would translate wonderfully to Australia and a trip to New Orleans would be wonderful.

Edited by tim (log)
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Hi everybody,

Thanks for all for he replies so far.

I will be in the US for a total of 2 weeks but will only have 1 week for travelling.

I will be in Chicago for the first week of which 3 days will be a conference. I have seen the Smoque website and will certainly be contacting them and going there perhaps a couple of times (Thankyou for the reference tim!).

During this time I will also getting a visit to where they make the burgers for McD's as we deal with the company that makes the machinery (ie the main reason for going to the US).

Then I will have 1 week to travel having already done Chicago. I was under the impression that I could do Kansas city and Austin Texas pretty easily in a week but was wondering if I could (or should) try to fit in Memphis and/or North Carolina during this time too? My understanding is that Lockhart in only 45 miles from Austin? I dont know if I could trust myself in a car (we drive on the other side of the road) but there must be some way to get there (bus, train etc). Is this an incorrect assumption? I may have to take up Jaymes's offer (thankyou Jaymes!). Similarly with Kansas city, I thought that most of the BBQ joints would be a taxi ride from the city centre?

I apologise for my lack of knowledge on US geography. My previous visits were strictly tourist in nature so I have only ever been to LA, San Francisco and NY although I do understand how big the US is!

Lastly, I assue I will be able to arrange for travel quite easily by plane from Chicago to Kansas City and Kansas City to Austin?

Thanks again to everyone,

Regards,

George

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In Kansas City & Memphis, you can take a cab.

In Austin, the only places you'll want to visit are miles from the city. US mass transit in this part of the country varies from terrible to non-existent. You could hire a cab, but it'd be very very expensive.

Yep, you'd best take me up on my offer.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Having tried a fair amount of BBQ from all these different styles, and having lived in Texas and North Carolina, I have to put in a word here. I know this will get a rise out of people FROM all these places, but honestly, Texas, Memphis and Kansas city "red sauce" BBQ do not vary from each other nearly as much as North Carolina "white" BBQ. If you really want to give yourself a wider range in flavors and economize on mileage/time, my suggestion would be to head for North Carolina and hit Tennessee (right next door) on the way out there. These two states offer two very different styles and nothing replaces pulling up a chair at a mom and pop place in either location and experiencing it first hand.

my .02

Edited by Fantasmagoria (log)

Come to the edge, he said. They said: We are afraid. Come to the edge, he said. They came. He pushed them and they flew. ~Guillaume Apollinaire

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Lastly, I assue I will be able to arrange for travel quite easily by plane from Chicago to Kansas City and Kansas City to Austin?

George

George,

This will be very easy through any e-mail travel site or through your own travel agent.

Tim

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Having tried a fair amount of BBQ from all these different styles, and having lived in Texas and North Carolina, I have to put in a word here.   I know this will get a rise out of people FROM all these places, but honestly, Texas, Memphis and Kansas city "red sauce" BBQ do not vary from each other nearly as much as North Carolina "white" BBQ.  If you really want to give yourself a wider range in flavors and economize on mileage/time, my suggestion would be to head for North Carolina and hit Tennessee (right next door) on the way out there.  These two states offer two very different styles and nothing replaces pulling up a chair at a mom and pop place in either location and experiencing it first hand.  

my .02

Although I've never had really great "Texas-style brisket" anywhere outside of Central Texas (and unfortunately that includes the rest of Texas) and therefore would argue vigorously that it's distinct from the heavy, sweet, syrupy "red sauce" BBQ elsewhere, I'd agree that it's not as different from the others as is the North Carolina vinegar-based pork BBQ.

Frankly, and I say this as someone that's lived in Texas and Missouri and belongs to the Kansas City Barbecue Society and has even taken their BBQ Judging class, the one I'd skip is Kansas City. I know it's famous, and that they actually think they're something unique there, but the truth is that the Kansas City BBQ tradition was started by a good ol' boy from Texas. I've eaten at all the famous joints and while I'll certainly agree it's tasty and the ribs are probably on average better, and the burnt ends come close, the brisket, generally speaking, is nowhere nearly so good. And since, as I say, a Texan started the Kansas City tradition, it's very similar. The main difference I can tell (other than the brisket being better in Texas) is that Kansas City seems to love that thick sauce, often so heavy and sweet that it probably should be called BBQ syrup rather than sauce. In Central Texas, many joints don't serve sauce at all, believing, correctly, that heavy sauces just hide the flavor of perfectly-smoked meat.

And I've never once in Kansas City had anything even close to the snap, crackle and pop and juicy flavor of the famous smoked sausages of Central Texas. As Doc-G specifically mentioned that his company manufacturers sausage, that settles the tie.

So I'd agree with Fantasmagoria in so far as getting to North Carolina. Obviously, it'd be best to hit all the barbecue Meccas but, blasphemous though it may be, if I had to skip one, it'd be Kansas City.

Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Hi George

Just read this thread for the first time and thought I would add a couple of comments.

First, visiting all of the areas you mentioned would be very difficult in 1 week. Most of your time would be spent traveling instead of accomplishing you goal of sampling a number of BBQ vendors. I would focus on one, or no more than two, locations.

As with Jaymes, first off my list would be Kansas City. I've never had any BBQ at a vendor in KC that has made me want to return for a second visit. Not all bad, but nothing very good. Personally, I think KC BBQ is overrated. Next off the list would be North Carolina. Some very good BBQ, but it's far too spread out in many different rural areas. Plus I have a hangup about going East when my ultimate goal is to go West

Based upon your profile, the Austin, TX area would be my first selection. Also, you have a pretty good offer from Jaymes as a tour guide. If you really had to add a second location, then I would pick Memphis. A lot of in-city choices that are easily accessible by cab.

For travel between Chicago and Austin, I would recommend American Airlines. They have 4 or 5 direct flights daily priced ~ $200 USD RT. They have 50+ at similar prices connecting through Dallas Fort Worth.

Since you're in Adelaide, I assume you'll be on Quantas, and leave Oz via Sydney or Melbourne, connecting to Chicago on American in Los Angeles or San Francisco. I don't know if you have made your travel arrangements yet, but I'm assuming your planning an RT such as ADL > ORD > ADL, with the standard connections (BBQ side trips not included). If you're going to do Texas, an efficient option, flying Quantas and American, might be as follows:

ADL > SYD/MEL > LAX/SFO > ORD > AUS (or DFW > AUS) > DFW > LAX/SFO > SYD/MEL > ADL. Since they are both members of the OneWorld alliance, you can book and coordinate the entire trip on either airlines web site. And, if you want to throw Memphis in the mix, that's easily done.

Final reminder, don't disregard the offer from Jaymes. I know I wouldn't if I were in your shoes.

Cheers

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If you want more than barbecue during your second week, you might want to spend a few days up in Wisconsin and enjoy the various sausages and wursts made up there. Milwaukee, the home of Usinger's, is quite close to Chicago and there are other sausage makers in the SE part of the state. Of course, if you go north, you would have to eliminate one or more of your potential barbecue destinations. Whichever direction you go, you can't lose.

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Hi George

For travel between Chicago and Austin, I would recommend American Airlines. They have 4 or 5 direct flights daily priced ~ $200 USD RT. They have 50+ at similar prices connecting through Dallas Fort Worth.

Since you're in Adelaide, I assume you'll be on Quantas, and leave Oz via Sydney or Melbourne, connecting to Chicago on American in Los Angeles or San Francisco. I don't know if you have made your travel arrangements yet, but I'm assuming your planning an RT such as ADL > ORD > ADL, with the standard connections (BBQ side trips not included). If you're going to do Texas, an efficient option, flying Quantas and American, might be as follows:

ADL > SYD/MEL > LAX/SFO > ORD > AUS (or DFW > AUS) > DFW > LAX/SFO > SYD/MEL > ADL. Since they are both members of the OneWorld alliance, you can book and coordinate the entire trip on either airlines web site. And, if you want to throw Memphis in the mix, that's easily done.

Final reminder, don't disregard the offer from Jaymes. I know I wouldn't if I were in your shoes.

Cheers

Well for personal reasons, I always recommend American Airlines as well, and while travelling on an international ticket you are often allowed a number of stopovers either free of charge or at a very low cost so I would recommend checking your ticket to see what the story is here. The carrier you fly over the water will govern the rules on your ticket.

There is also something called a Visit USA (VUSA) ticket that can only be purchased outside the U. S. and are extremely economical tickets. Often as low as $65-70 one-way. These also do not require a round-trip to get a very low rate, but often you must stop a minimum of two or three times. So you could do something like Chicago-Kansas City-Raleigh-Dallas (or Austin)-Chicago (or whatever cities you decide on), where you would pick-up your international itinerary again. This might be just the ticket for you! ( :raz: ) I know we have them on American Airlines--you can probably talk to someone in the Australian res office about them--but there are probably similar devices that can be used on other local U.S. carriers as well.

Ha! Didn't know I would be travel agenting on a food blog!

~Tas

Edited by Fantasmagoria (log)

Come to the edge, he said. They said: We are afraid. Come to the edge, he said. They came. He pushed them and they flew. ~Guillaume Apollinaire

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Thanks again everybody for the replies. I havent made solid plans yet other than the one week in Chicago so I am still able to make decisions as to where and when.

Thanks to everybody regarding details for flights. It looks like the getting around America bit will be quite easy.

I will however let you all know via this thread where I go and how it all works out!! I may still be go to KC as I have a contact there (a fellow Gastronomy student who lives in KC) who will show me the 'in's and outs'. It does however look like Austin TX is a definite as it just looks and sounds too good to miss!!

I will try to find out a little more about North Carolina.

I just wish I had a month or more to do it a bit more thoroughly!

Thanks again everybody, your help in this matter is much appreciated.

Regards,

George

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