After receiving an invitation for a Texas size barbecue lunch at 3 Stacks Smoke and Tap House, there wasn't one thought of turning it down. It was an event for local food lovers to help ( in Pitmaster Trace Arnold's words ) spread the gospel of great Texas barbecue. Because of course, "once you've had the best, you won't go back to the rest."
Trace Arnold is also the creator of a massive 18-wheel smoker known as "The Ultimate Smoker and Grill," which is sponsored by the History Channel. Winding down from his recent Cross Country Cook-off, he is ready to focus his efforts at the Frisco located restaurant.
I had the pleasure of working with Trace when he volunteered his services in West, TX following the fertilizer plant tragedy. During this event, a physician from Boston had pizza delivered to the local hospitals to feed their staff who were working tirelessly around the clock. In return, Trace flew up to Boston with coolers full of ribs to repay the generosity to the Massachusetts General Hospital which was the main hub for treating the Boston Marathon bombing victims. Human spirit at it's finest.
Along with other local food writers or the overly saturated term "foodies", we gathered at one of the community tables located parallel to the bar which offers 30 craft beers on tap - the majority of them being locally owned. The majority of them which my weekend spending habits help maintain their brewing operations.
As we sat there, he educated us with his barbecue gospel in the form of three rules. And like a preacher, I was scolded for paying more attention to the food than his word. It's the ADD folks.
RULE #1: NEVER put sauce on your ribs. Good ribs don't need sauce. And if the ribs are great, then it's just a crime.
RULE #2: If you come to 3 Stacks and love what they serve, it is your duty to go out and bring a friend or a coworker back with you to share the knowledge.
RULE #3: If you ever eat anything you don't 100% love, find Trace Arnold or anyone who works at 3 Stacks and let them know so they can fix the problem and make it right.
First to bat were the brisket and zesty sausage pizzas, both of which include fresh jalapenos, red onion, and 6 cheese blend over their house BBQ sauce. Topped with fresh hand-torn cilantro. I would have to say they were both admirable but let's cut to the chase, where's the barbecue?
Next we were entertained with the entire appetizer and side menu. I shuttered at the thought of being bloated before one pull of meat from a rib was ever taken but as a lover of stuffed peppers, I couldn't resist the Jalapeno Fire Crackers. As described by the menu, "Fresh jalapeno halves stuffed with our slow smoked brisket. Cheese, cilantro, and red onion. Wrapped in bacon, oven roasted, and then topped with our plum chipotle glaze. Served with a side of zesty waffle fries and our avocado ranch dipping sauce for a spicy, cool combination." Skip the dressing folks - these are good naked.
Among the plethora of sides, the tangy cilantro coleslaw, Nena's cold potato salad and 6 cheese mac and cheese were the my personal winners. Opinions vary as we did have one vegetarian among us. Unfortunately, I'm not up to par with her level of agriculture knowledge to maintain an intelligent discussion about grass and peaches.
I began to get jittery in my chair as my ADD started to kick in again, but two massive platters of smoked protein appeared and calmed this self-diagnosed characteristic of mine. I was nearly knocked over by the mad rush of "foodies" b-lining it with Apple products in hand to photograph this heavenly descent of meat.
After all the commotion and dust settled, we feasted. Served were slices of jalapeno sausage, meaty ribs, smoked turkey and brisket. One thing I was kitten-facing about was the brisket. It was lean, trimmed and resting woefully on the platter. Trace then asked if we needed anything - yes please sir - fatty brisket. If you ask, you shall receive and two bountiful plates of burnt ends and savory moist brisket appeared. Ok, now we're as happy as a camel on hump day. All protein had an uncanny smoke flavoring which is appreciated by a meat enthusiast like myself.
Just when we were starting to believe the food assault comparable to D-Day was coming to an end and we were ready to raise a white flag of surrender, desserts from everywhere propelled themselves onto the table. Why must I continue to be bludgeoned with such good food? To keep it short, the Texas Pecan Pie Ya'll and Banana Pudding were Grandma quality stuff. That's a pretty good measurement tool in my world. Don't leave without trying them.
I would have to give it to Trace and Cynthia Smoot for a successful lunch to educate customers on the difference between good barbecue and great barbecue. In his words, "people are addicted to bad barbecue because they haven't had great barbecue." Well said Trace, and you're among many kickass Texas Pitmasters who are winning us over - one smoked meat at a time.
This article was originally posted on WoodSmokeMeat.com.