I’m not going to lie.  When I showed up at Urban Bar-B-Que at 7 PM last night, I figured there was a 50-50 chance that I was going to be enjoying a plate of brisket all by myself and then heading home.  Such is the uncertainty that comes from putting something like Meat Week together.  It’s a feeling I hadn’t had since I stopped planning events as part of my job.

So I showed up with my Meat Week flags and my most recent copy of the KCBS Bull Sheet, ready to greet my fellow Meat Weekers…but I brought a book with me, just in case.

I’m more than a little pleased that the book turned out to be completely unnecessary.  Washington’s barbecue lovers turned out in force to kick off our inaugural Meat Week.  At one point, we had twenty-four people celebrating over plates brown paper-covered trays of ribs, pulled pork and brisket.

The team at Urban were the perfect hosts for our inaugural event.  I had given them a heads up that some undetermined number of people would be arriving to celebrate Meat Week.  Rather than ask “What the hell does that mean?” they actually looked into it and were ready to greet us when we arrived.  They reserved a few tables up front so we’d have a place to gather (we eventually overtook the entire restaurant), and then they stepped back and let Meat Week take its course as everyone ordered whatever they had a taste for.

More photos and details – as well as info on a Haiti relief event tomorrow night – after the jump. (more…)

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. (more…)

urban-exterior

Being the barbecue snob purist that I am, I’ve frequently found myself giving dismissive answers to friends’ questions about where to find good ‘cue in Washington.  Hell…I’ve even said as much here at Capital Spice.  But a few months back the City Paper’s Tim Carman spread the word that Rockville’s Urban Bar-B-Que had upgraded their smoker and that their brisket was much improved for the change.  I had to check it out.

Sure, Urban’s smoked meats are done in the Texas style, so they were bound to be a bit different than the heavily sauced ribs I’ve come to know and love in Kansas City.  But I was eager to see what their new XLR-600 Southern Pride smoker was turning out, so I joined up with Carman and a handful of other carnivores for a taste test.  urban-brisketAnd since there are limits to how much meat even the most dedicated barbecue enthusiast can order in one sitting, I invited Nell to join me so we could try a broader range of items.

So how was it?  On the whole, this was some of the best I’ve had in DC…but there were definitely some missteps in the mix, as well.

Details on Urban’s cooking method, tasty meats and “Ugly Bits” after the jump. (more…)