Hill Country BBQ

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Hill Country BBQOK, it's been awhile since I wrote. For the 3 of you still checking or on RSS, I'm going to write when I can, mostly reviewing restaurants I've been to.

First up, Hill Country BBQ. What red-blooded American doesn't love BBQ? A couple of friends and I went their last month for Restaurant week. First, the bar was great. I know it's odd to say, but it's good to have an ice cold beer. Some places simply have draft beer cool or slightly below room temperature. Shiner Bock here is ice cold. Good to go down with the dinner of mostly meat.

Which brings us to the main deal. For Restaurant Week, the offer was the Pitmaster, cornbread, a dessert, and a jar of Shiner or a soda.  All for $35.  Most places don't include the drink, so that was a slightly better deal. Yeah, I know sometimes when you look at it, RW isn't ideal for some or certain places. For me, I don't generally order dessert, but I also try to go to places I haven't been or have great deals. This met that standard.

The Pitmaster itself is Lean Brisket, one Pork Sparerib, one Beef Sparerib, and a quarter chicken (white or dark). The brisket was tender and juicy. Maybe a bit more fat than I prefer, but overall good.  I think for the most part either you like ribs or you don't.  Both the pork and beef versions for good, but not the best I had. The chicken was a disappointment. Maybe it's because I prefer white meat and got dark, but it was just not seasoned properly. Cooked well, but if it's flavorless, it does not matter.  Also included wtih the Pitmaster were 2 sides. I got the Mac & Cheese and Confetti Cole Slaw.  Both were excellent and better than I usually have.  The cornbread was a bit dry, but the ancho honey butter that accompanies it improves it to the point I didn't care it was dry.  The dessert I got was the banana pudding. It reminded me of childhood. Nice and cool and not too sweet. A very good way to end the meal.

Overall, I would say the experience was worth it. There were other things on the menu that I need to try like the chops or the Kruez sausage.  I probably won't go back too often, but if you are in the mood for some BBQ or cold Shiner, go there.
So as the world bids adieu to the first tenth of the twenty-first century, the passage of time brought good and bad.  Rather than doing a list, I'd like to concentrate on a very narrow section of one major topic, the economy.

All I want to say here is how important it is to remember the charities you believe in.  Donating money, time, or product to a good cause should be about causes you care about.  Everyone has been affected by the economy, so I made an effort this year to spread the wealth, which I have none of.  But what I have, I make sure it goes around.  In particular, I will admit that I donate a large percentage of my donations to one particular group of organizations, those who help fight cancer.  But that is what I care about, so that is where my money will go.  So with that, here is the list of organizations I donated to in 2009.

I'm sure there are others I've missed, as I've dropped off loose change or cash to the buckets, boots, and boxes all across the region. For many of you, the donation could mean a tax deduction.  But for everyone, just remember to donate to causes you care about.

Happy New Year to All and let's hope for a better 2010 for everyone.
As I'm sure you have heard, John Allen Muhammad, the DC Sniper, was executed yesterday.  And frankly, I'm glad.  Before some of you think I'm a death penalty supporter, let me tell you I'm not.  Indifference is the best description for me.  I have not supported it, nor am I against it.

In the case of Muhammad however, I feel this is justice deserved.  Crime occurs every day, every minute.  Many times there is a reason, a motive.  Then sometimes, like here, there isn't a real explanation.  Crimes happen because of opportunity, need, emotion.  Only opportunity applied in the DC Sniper case and that's a stretch, since the opportunity was that anyone who went out in public was a target.

This series of crimes paralyzed the DC region for weeks.  While I did not personally know any of the victims, the locations of most of the crimes occurred in or near the neighborhood I grew up, worked, or frequented.  Most disturbing for me was October 14, 2002 when Linda Franklin was killed outside the Home Depot in the Seven Corners area of Falls Church, Virginia.  I was at work nearby and drove by there just an hour before she was killed.  During the spree, I had co-workers from the Philadelphia area ask me the best way to drive to avoid the sniper when they were headed to Virginia.  I worried for my parents, brother, and sister who still lived in my childhood neighborhood.

When Muhammad, and his accomplice, Lee Boyd Malvo, were finally captured, we could all rest a little better.  With his execution last night, it seems we can all rest even smoother now.  Sometimes the death penalty may feel right, even if you have no opinion.
macsspeedshop.jpgSo I'm back writing. Work has kicked my ass the last couple of months. I haven't had time to read other blogs, let alone write. But things have finally calmed down a bit.

A couple of weekends ago, The Sports Freak, Q, and I went to Charlotte, NC. We had 2 reasons to go, as we have a friend living there, and the Redskins were playing the Carolina Panthers. Well, this was a great idea in the pre-season when the Redskins looked like a middle of the pack team, not the debacle they have become. If you want to read more about our thoughts on the game, see here. But what I'm writing about here is food.

Our Charlotte friend told us about the great city, how as a Northerner, he loved the pace and lifestyle the South and particularly his current home city provides. The three of us had visited before, but we were barely there a day so we didn't experience the city much. This time, we got to some of the restaurants.

We flew down Saturday morning, arriving just in time for lunch. So after checking in at the hotel and meeting up with our friend, we all headed over to the South Blvd location of Mac's Speed Shop. From the outside, it looks like almost any restaurant. But the tiny parking lot was packed. Always a good sign. Going instead it was even better. The place was definitely full inside as well, but lucky they had a table for 4. While they had regular tables, much of the seating are bar height tables and stools, which is where we were seated. The place seems to be more of a bar with a large bar seating area, but is appropriate for the style. TV's showing sports all around and the diners ranged young and old, from yuppies, professionals, and yes, bikers.

The picture above was what I ordered was "A Little Bit of It All". Meaning literally. There was BBQ Chicken, pulled pork, beef brisket, and ribs for meat. 2 sides and Texas toast accompanied the big plate. For my sides, I ordered the mac and cheese and onion rings. That was a lot of food.  We also made the great choice/mistake of ordering a plate of hushpuppies to start.  The hushpuppies were better than what I've had before, but I only had one, because the entrees came up quick.  The ribs were outstanding.  Some of the best I've ever had.  Just enough sauce and they were meaty and tender.  The pulled pork was good.  I've had better, but the amount they served was unbelievable.  If you imagined a roll to make a sandwich, make sure you have at least 2 rolls, as I think they slaughtered a whole pig for the amount on each plate.  The beef brisket was good.  The Sports Freak ordered just the brisket and he thought it was excellent.  I didn't get to it much until I had already gone through all the ribs and much of the other meat, so I was already full.  The disappointing part of the plate was the chicken.  it was almost as if they roasted the chicken without seasoning then basted and sauced right before serving.  The sides were great.  The mac and cheese was crunchy on top and creamy in the middle.  The onion rings had a nice and crisp coating, but had the snap I like with the onion.

I would definitely go back again, but would order only the ribs.  They were that good.  Oh, "A Little Bit of It All" at $16 implies there is a bigger plate.  Yes, for only $10 more, you can get "A Whole Lot of It All".  I don't know who any one person can eat that much.  I was served enough food to feed a family of 4 for 3 nights.  I left at least a normal plate of food.  As for service, it's not fine dining, but it's good service.  The staff all seem to have some ink on them.  If you have the chance, try one of Mac's Speed Shop's three locations.
Recently I finished Coldest Winter, The: America and the Korean War, the last book written by David Halberstam.  As a history buff, I generally lean toward the Civil War and World War II, but I heard about Halberstam by way of Tony Kornheiser, when he announced on his radio show or ESPN's Pardon the Interruption that Halberstam had passed away in a car accident.  It game me reason to wonder, what have I been missing by not reading Halberstam?

It was not intentional slight, it was just that Halberstam never crossed my radar.  I had no idea the depth of this man's work.  When I searched for a new book to read, I ran across this in a Kindle edition.  Perfect, I thought, as I could read this at my own pace without needing a physical copy.  The Korean War was something I had not really studied since high school.  It seems to be a much forgotten war in America, known only as the event that split Korea into the North and the South.  Or the comedy that is MASH.

Halberstam weaves stories from Washington insiders, foreign hands, and the men on the ground in a story that tells the Korean War from pre-war to post-war and Cold War implications.  The stories from the boots on the ground and how they dealt with it once back home were the strongest, deepest memories.  The pain of going through the war and how some of them had just been through WWII and had to return to foreign lands to fight yet another war.  In a way, Halberstam shows us how Korea was the original Vietnam, a war that nobody really wanted to fight.  Only Korea had no real public face, unlike Vietnams protests.

In the end however, the most fascinating part was the game MacArthur was playing with Washington.  Many military careers and lives were lost over the things that MacArthur supposedly did.  We can only judge from what was stated by those who were there and the sight does not seem pretty.  This is part of the story I had either never learned or had completely forgotten, but Halberstam's book has put it all in perspective for me.

Overall, if you are a history buff like me, you will want to read The Coldest Winter.  It might be a little too much detail for your casual reader.  But fascinating nonetheless.

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