The Posse cook team celebrates after the first Blues, Bandits & BBQ festival in 2010. (Photo@R.J. Hinkle)

The Posse has always loved Blues, Bandits & BBQ, the food and music festival held in Oak Cliff.

Loyalty is a factor. Some of us lived in the O.C. and the festival does a good job of showcasing a great part of Dallas.

We also liked the fellowship of close friends cooking together around the clock and competing against other barbecue teams. Occasionally, winning was a side benefit.

So with the seventh annual BB&BBQ coming soon (Nov. 11 and 12 at Kidd Springs Park), allow us to reminisce, beginning with a lesson learned.

One year we cooked near Rob Shearer,  a creator of Blues, Bandits and the unofficial honorary consul of Oak Cliff. While we hunkered near our offset smoker, ready to feed it wood all night long because that’s the way real barbecue is made, Rob tinkered a bit with the vent settings on his Big Green Egg and headed home to catch a few hours of sleep.

We poked some fun at him as he left. He just smiled.

The next morning, the Posse was tired and Rob was well rested. His brisket looked wonderful. The Egg, indeed, can be an excellent barbecue machine.

The Posse crew unloads smokers at the first Blues, Bandits & BBQ festival in 2010. (Photo@Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)

For many in the Posse, our favorite Blues, Bandits was the first, held in 2010. It was our initial barbecue competition and there was a special energy as the festival blended itself into the everyday life of the O.C.  Jason Roberts even grafted one of his Better Block projects onto the festival.

We cooked on the street near The Kessler and napped on cots on the ground between the buildings. Posse co-founder Chris Wilkins blogged live and we proudly flew the “Texas” state flag at our site. One problem. Fellow BBQ blogger Don O. informed us that it was Chile’s national flag, close but definitely not Texas. (How the mix-up occurred is a long story.)

Oops.

While we loved being on the street, the police thought competitors blended a little too intimately into everyday life, i.e., we obstructed roadways. So, after some intense negotiations, everyone had to move their pits, with fires blazing, a few feet onto the sidewalks. We had two pits, with a couple hundred pounds of meat already on the grates. Moving was a job.

It was also the year — the only year, thankfully — of what I’ll call the organic experiment. Contest rules required us to cook grass fed and organic meats supplied by Urban Acres. The racks of ribs — and I’m exaggerating only a little — looked like strips of bacon connected by bones. Cat ribs, we joked. How do you produce great-tasting barbecue with skinny meat that has no fat?

Ricky Lawson’s infamous Big Red chicken in 2010.
(Photo@R.J. Hinkle)

Competitors tried different techniques. Ricky Lawson brined his chicken in Big Red. The photo of him holding his scarlet bird remains a classic.

Justin and Diane Fourton of Pecan Lodge competed that first year. Their joint was still at Dallas Farmers Market; they hadn’t yet moved to Deep Ellum. They won for best ribs. The next year, with the reputation of Pecan Lodge booming, I asked Justin if he was going to compete again and he said no. He couldn’t afford not to win. Success has a price.

All in all, the Posse did well that first year. Marshall Cooper’s brisket placed second. And Bryan Gooding won best chicken. We still call Bryan the Chicken King of Oak Cliff.

In 2012, we invited Clyde Biggins, who long ago owned “Clyde’s Old Fashion Hickory Smoked Barbecue” on Westmoreland Road, to compete with us. After nearly 17 years in prison for drug conspiracy, Clyde had gotten out a couple years earlier and was dispensing barbecue again from what he called “Clyde’s Rolling Barbecue,” essentially his pit on wheels. We had eaten his food a couple of times and it was good.

With Clyde, who once worked for West Dallas barbecue legend Chester Hardeman, tending to most of the meats, the Posse won People’s Choice. It was fun to see Clyde holding the trophy.

Gooding made his own sausage that year but couldn’t attend the festival so I cooked for him. I managed to burn every link but one, which we carefully turned in to the judges. It won, but all these years later, my Posse mates still kid me mercilessly. How can you burn sausage? (It’s a long story.)

In 2013, Martha Gooding, Bryan’s wife, devised some special culinary treats as we went all out to defend the People’s Choice title. During the public tasting period, teams serve regular barbecue and other items to festival goers. The people then “vote” for their favorite with tokens.

One of our appetizers was a homemade crostini topped with a smear of brie, peach preserves, and a slice of smoked pork belly.  “Bribery on a crostini,” one Posse member said.

It was, admittedly, a little high brow for normal Posse tastes, but the bribery worked as we won People’s Choice again.

Sheriff Lupe Valdez poses with her Posse at the 2011 Blues, Bandits & BBQ festival. (Photo by Daniel Vaughn)

The event in 2014 is still a blur of cold and wind. Shivering for much of two days is not fun. It’s much better to cook barbecue and listen to music when the weather is nice.

Last year, we retired and moved to Austin. My wife, Sherry, and I did return to Dallas in November for one more Blues, Bandits with Bryan and Martha. We competed as the O.C. Sausage Co., not the Posse (another long story).

Bryan made his sausage again and had high hopes. It was good and had a nice, subtle aftertaste. But subtle doesn’t work in contests, where it’s all about the judges’ first impressions. While his sausage didn’t even place, Bryan did win again for chicken, using his terrific vinegar brine. The Chicken King of Oak Cliff still reigns.

This year, the Goodings moved from the O.C. to Lopez Island, Washington State, where they already are building a food reputation for themselves. Before next year’s big island cook off, Bryan promises to perfect rabbit sausage. Lopez has thousands of the critters running wild.

So the Posse (and O.C. Sausage Co.) won’t be at Blues, Bandits this year. But we will be thinking about all of our friends there and remembering many good times. Have fun!

Bryan Gooding, aka: The Chicken King of Oak Cliff, at the 2010 festival.  (Photo@R.J. Hinkle)
The Posse cook team works the crowd in 2013 serving homemade crostini with brie & pork belly, winning the People’s Choice Award.
Chile’s national flag flies over the Posse cook camp at the first Blues, Bandits & BBQ festival in 2010, oops! (Photo@Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)

 

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Don O.

6 months ago

I will take plenty of pictures for ya! I had a blast last year so we already have our tasting tickets.

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