I live in the greatest city in the USA: New Orleans, Louisiana, but there is one city in my former home of Texas that I miss deeply: San Antonio.
The foodways of that town are unmatched, the women folk strap on their stiletto heels just to go to the HEB, the citizens could not be friendlier and the city is beautiful in a dusty, forlorn sort of way,
And I love the “Keep San Antonio Lame” shirts that all the neo-Bohemians wear around town. San Antonio is many things, lame is not one of them.
Then there’s the barbacoa. The western and southern regions of San Antonio are littered with dozens of barbacoa parlors vending copious amounts of slow-cooked cow heads, served on handmade tortillas and garnished with some of the finest hot sauces in all of USA.
You haven’t eaten Tex Mex til you’ve worked your way through San Antonio’s restaurant and taco truck scene.
Now, 15 of the biggest heavy hitters in town are all preparing to gather in one place, at one time, to show and prove who makes the best barbacoa in all of Texas at the Barbacoa and Big Red Festival set for May 3 2015 at R & J Music Pavilion in Thelma, 30 minutes south of San Antonio.
The event was founded by Tony Villareal in 2012 as a way for the community to gather as one under a united love for cow head meat.
There are few food and beverage pairings that can equal barbacoa and Big Red soda. Although Big Red was invented in Waco, Texas in 1937 by Grover C. Thomsen and R.H. Roark, I grew up hopelessly addicted to the stuff over a thousand miles away in the Cumberland Highlands of Eastern Kentucky.
For decades Big Red was only available in parts of Texas, Kentucky and Indiana.
Big Red also extends itself to other areas of popular culture: One of the centerpieces of my record collection is The Return of Doug Saldaña by Doug Sahm, the greatest musician to ever come out of the great state. Big Red is featured on the album cover.
And who can forget the red soda wars of the 70s when Big Red squared off with Tiger Red, a regional soda pop maker with deep roots in the Midwest and upper South?
You can guess who won that contretemps.
While the 2015 edition of Barbacoa And Big Red Festival will undoubtedly be a fun party let’s not forget that it’s also a competition. At the debut event in 2012, Rio’s Barbacoa emerged as the winner. In 2013 Pepe’s Barbacoa walked away with the title while Celorio’s Barbacoa has won the last two events.
Could we possibly see a visit from the much vaunted Vera’s out of Brownsville? They’re the only outfit in the whole of Texas still permitted to cook the cow’s head buried in the fertile soil of Texas. This is the centuries-old technique that is now largely forbidden by modern health codes.
I’ve driven to Brownsville for the sole purpose of eating at Vera’s and I can tell you there is no barbacoa finer and their dragon’s blood salsa is the apogee of Texas hot sauce.
Unfortunately I will not be able to attend this event. It’s 500 plus miles from my new home and while I would love to cue the Stone Cold Steve Austin entrance music, quit my job and rush to San Antonio in my beloved Ford Econoline van, it’s just not going to happen.
Any San Antonio bloggers reading? Feel free to write a scene report and file it through the contact button. It will probably make you famous.
Event: 2015 Barbacoa And Big Red Festival
Date: May 3rd 2015
Place: R & J Music Pavilion 18086 Pleasonton Rd, 78221
I tweet from the Upper 9th Ward in New Orleans, Louisiana, the finest eating city in all of USA @rlreevesjr