Last year, Tim Carman over at the Washington City Paper called attention to an often overlooked holiday: Meat Week.  So he did what any self-respecting barbecue lover would do.  He spread the word, inviting anyone who was interested to join him in a one-night celebration of the holiday at Urban BBQ in Rockville.

We had a lot of fun and enjoyed some surprisingly good ‘cue.  And, as is often the case with good barbecue, that first taste just wasn’t enough.  I wanted the full Meat Week experience.  I promised myself that when the time came for Meat Week 2010, I would make sure Washington DC was represented with a Meat Week chapter of its own.

The time is now.

In just ten days, Meat Week 2010 begins.  And Washington is no longer cueless.

1949 American Meat Institute advertisement

So what is Meat Week?  Born in Tallahassee, Meat Week is a festival of smoked meats.  For eight days, participants pay homage to that most original culinary combination – meat and fire.  Local chapters organize (I use the term loosely) a get-together at a different barbecue establishment each night for a week.  At the end of the week stories are swapped, awards are given, and plans are made to do it all again the next year.

Here in Washington, as any fan of barbecue will tell you, the real challenge lies in site selection.  We’re not exactly blessed with a plethora of authentic smokehouse options, and those that we do have often try too hard to please palates that grew up with ALL of the various barbecue traditions (Kansas City, Memphis, Texas, the Carolinas, etc).  As a result, we’ve got a fair amount of mediocre ‘cue but not a lot of really good stuff.

So I was careful as I planned out our inaugural Meat Week agenda.  I reached out to several close friends, all of whom have significant experience with barbecue – smoking it, eating it, judging it.  I also tried to keep all of the establishments Metro-accessible or inside the Beltway.  The resulting schedule has a little bit of something for everyone: two establishments in Maryland (Rockville), two in Northern Virginia (Courthouse and Alexandria) and three within the District itself (Glover Park, Penn Quarter and Brentwood).

And I’m especially pleased to announce that one night of Meat Week will feature a real treat – a special sneak preview of an upcoming barbecue establishment put together just for Meat Weekers.

Check out the full schedule – and the special event – after the jump.

Meat Week will begin on Sunday, January 31st, and will continue through to the following Sunday.  Because this is our inaugural Meat Week, we’ve decided to give everyone the second Sunday as a free day, encouraging y’all to spend Super Bowl Sunday with friends, telling them about the great week of barbecue you just experienced.  Maybe someday we’ll be bold enough to compete with the Super Bowl for your attention, but for now we’ll settle for a few days over the course of the week.

We’ll plan to get together around 7 PM every night, but don’t worry about it if you can’t be there right on time.  The only exception is on Saturday the 6th, when we’ll be gathering at 3 PM to make sure we get some of Mr. P’s ribs.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned about barbecue, it’s always a good idea to check out the roadside places that set up shop in the parking lots of gas stations and grocery stores.

(Full schedule and more details are also available at http://www.meatweekisreal.com/chapters/washingtondc)

Sunday, January 31
Urban BBQ (the place that started it all)
2007 Chapman Avenue
Rockville, MD

Monday, February 1
Rocklands Barbecue
2418 Wisconsin Ave, NW (Glover Park)
Washington, DC

Tuesday, February 2
Red Hot & Blue
1600 North Wilson Boulevard (Courthouse)
Arlington, VA

Wednesday, February 3
Pork Barrel BBQ at Mango Mike’s
4580 Duke Street
Alexandria, VA

Thursday, February 4
Capital Q
707 H Street, NW
Washington, DC

Friday, February 5
Branded ’72
387 East Gude Drive
Rockville, MD

Saturday, February 6 – 3 PM
Mr. P’s Ribs and Fish
514 Rhode Island Ave, NE (in the Safeway parking lot)
Washington, DC

For those who didn’t immediately recognize the big Meat Week special event, take a look back at Wednesday night.  That’s right – Local Shark Tank celebrities Heath and Brett have agreed to host a special “Pork Barrel BBQ” evening at Mango Mike’s on Wednesday.  We’ll be able to sample some of the ‘cue recipes that they’ll be serving up at their new Del Ray barbecue joint, but we’ll be able to do so months before anyone else.

If you’re interested in participating in Meat Week, shoot me an email – capitalspice AT gmail DOT com.  You don’t need to attend every night – you can pick and choose where you want to be involved.  We hope to see all of you out there at some point!

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