Food Frakker

Eating Mutton at Sam’s Barbecue

First of all, I would like to apologize for the quality of this picture. The light in Sam’s Barbecue (the old-style BBQ shop near 12th and Chicon) is low, which didn’t help things any, and I kinda got distracted by my half pound of mutton and forgot to take the picture until I had eaten nearly all of it.

Most of the BBQ places around Austin don’t serve mutton. I presume it’s because Texas barbecue has become a rather prissy and self-important affair. Most restaurant goers in Austin would rather be a few blocks away at Franklins eating a boneless and perfect piece of brisket. They would rather spend a couple of hours in line than spend a few minutes picking juicy and pungent mutton meat from the admittedly perplexing anatomical irregularities of a sheep.

I’ve had mutton several times now, always from an establishment that caters to either Mexican-Americans or African-Americans. And every time I get the mutton I discover some surprising, new, and inedible piece of animal. Sometimes it’s unexplained tubes. Sometimes it’s whole vertebrae. The piece of mutton I got from Sam’s this last time appeared to be a cross-section of ribcage, but there were also pieces of bone, or maybe hard cartilage, about the size and shape of golf pencils. They weren’t a part of any skeletal feature I’m aware of. There was also a sheet of membrane embedded in the meat. I’m thinking that it was part of some sort of sack that held the sheep’s innards, but that might be completely wrong.

Nevertheless, some of the juiciest and tenderest barbecue I’ve had. And it tasted a little bit like a sheep smells, the sort of thing that’s worth top dollar in cheese, so why not meat too?

I should also mention, in passing, the whole “shoplifted pants meat” scandal that had closed down Sam’s last year. I’m glad they’re re-opened, and I hope that being the target of a health department sting operation will only increase the credibility and prestige of the barbecue.

Duck Feet Din Ho BBQ Austin
Food Frakker

Duck Feet at Din Ho

Duck Feet Din Ho BBQ Austin
Whenever I’m eating at an authentic Chinese restaurant, one such as the Din Ho Chinese Barbecue up on Austin’s mid-northish side, I am faced with the dilemma of choosing between ordering a dish that I know will be delicious or one which I know will be interesting. Generally I choose the interesting option. During previous visits to Din Ho this taught me the very valuable lesson that I do not like bitter melon. No sir, I do not like it one bit.

Luckily there is a middle ground. On my last visit, I chose a dish that I could be certain would be memorably delicious, but also weird enough to appall all my dinner companions arrayed around the Lazy Susan.

Duck feet. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

On rare occasions I get the opportunity to eat chicken feet (and it’s only a matter of time before I bring some home from the grocery and try my hand at preparing this delicacy). They say that chicken feet tastes more like chicken than anything else. Duck feet are exactly the same, only they taste more like duck, and we already know that duck simply tastes richer and more flavorful than chicken.

I know you’re thinking about that webbing, the way that it peels off onto your tongue. On top of being tastier than chicken, ducks also have much larger feet, which is not something you would imagine, since they seem to otherwise be about the same size as chickens. But that just means more meat for me. I would pick up the feet one by one, and suck the stewed flesh off the bone like a popsicle. After a little while I was left with a pile of knuckle bones on one corner of my plate.