The smell of smoke filled the air Sunday afternoon at Brenham's Rockin' Star Ranch as 13 chefs joined forces for the first-ever Butcher's Ball. Conceived by Rockin' Star owner Elaine Dillard and popular Houston chef Jason Kerr, The Butcher's Ball allowed the chefs to celebrate meat and the ranchers that raise the animals they serve. Proceeds from the event benefited Urban Harvest and Foodways Texas.
All of the participating chefs offered their version of barbecue or barbecue-inspired dishes, and many used high quality beef from event sponsor 44 Farms. Attendees selected Willow Villarreal of Willow's Texas Barbecue and Typhoon Texas for the Golden Cleaver thanks to his smoked beef rib with pickled onions. Brek Webber from Tin Roof BBQ in Humble took second place with a classic Texas barbecue plate of brisket, sausage, and pork ribs (the smoked bone marrow he served to early arrivals couldn't have hurt, either). Acclaimed Dallas John Tesar took third place for his beef ribs with chimichuri sauce.
Some of the more unusual items included duck pate from Harlem Road Texas BBQ, which will open in Richmond next month, and pulled pork tacos from Albert Vasquez (formerly of The Del and Ritual). Chef Nathan Lemley of Parkside in Austin impressed attendees (including me) with his beef cheek pastrami served over house-baked rye bread.
Great fall weather and the bucolic setting helped provide a memorable experience for the almost 500 attendees, who, in addition to the food, enjoyed cocktails prepared by Grand Prize bar director Lindsey Burleson and a talented team of Houston bartenders that included Double Trouble owner Berwick and Bad News Bar's Elyse Blechman.
Once attendees filled up on meat, they could lounge on the lawn and take in music by bands including Fiddle Witch & The Demons of Doom and White Ghost Shivers, watch Black Hill Ranch owner Felix Florez butcher a whole elk, or head inside to examine the work of photographer Galina Kurlat, whose series The Eye and The Implement depicts Houston chefs and their favorite ingredients and/or utensils. Those who missed the event can see Kurlat's work at MKT Bar downtown through December.
Spotted in the crowd: Michael Fulmer, Robert Lerma, Jenny Wang and Jerry Hou, Lea and Haig Tcholakian, Ashley and Tyler Horne, Lauren Barrash, Jakeisha Wilmore, Lindsey George, Ryan Hildebrand, Eoghan Dilman, Alice Levitt, Adam Brackman, and Camella Clements and Brad Moore.
Kerr confirms that he and Dillard are already making plans for next year. Given the success of the first, we can't wait to see what an even bigger, better Butcher's Ball looks like in 2017.