Big T’s BBQ
2138 Crowchild Trail NW
Barbecue. Definitely one of those forms of cooking that is greatly underestimated for its difficulty, precision and variety…
Here in North America, its roots go back to the 1800′s when pork was the staple item used in outdoor cookouts in the southern United States, and it remains one of the most favoured ingredients even today. Its true magic how skilled barbecuers can take lower quality cuts or portions of beef and pork, infuse them with flavour from intricate spice rubs and wood smoke over long periods of time cooking at low temperatures, to make them absolutely tender and full of flavour.
There is no end to the number of die-hards who proclaim their version of barbecue the best in the business. Just do a basic investigation into the annual calendar of barbecue cook offs, contests and competitions in the US, and you’ll easily see how much reverence barbecue holds down there. Among the better known regional differences are from places like Texas with its focus primarily beef brisket seasoned with dry rubs, North/South Carolina with pork (shoulder a popular item) and states like Missouri and Tennessee are well known for their pork and pork ribs.
Barbecue also holds an interesting social context in the modern era. In an of itself, it is more than just the act of having a meal of slow cooked, smoked meats. Traditionally, it is often connected to a celebration or momentous occasion. As a social activity, it brings people together, all under the umbrella of sharing a feast… be it the backyard of a neighbour or in a public park. And when people gather, you always need good food to keep them happy.
Despite the deserved reputation of Alberta as producer of some of the country’s best quality beef and pork – much of it going to export markets around the world – the rich culture of barbecue as a culinary art form has not developed as much as it has with our southern neighbours. My memories of outdoor summer meals growing up in Alberta consisted simply of grilling.
Sauces are another element full of depth and breadth and differs by region when it comes to barbecue. Some base elements in these flavorings might involve the tartness from vinegar, the body from tomato/ketchup, the bite from mustard, and sweetness from things such as molasses.
Additionally, sides such as macaroni and cheese, cole slaw, baked beans, etc. help to round out barbecue meals.
Now Big T’s tries to do its part to showcase the prevailing image of southern barbecue by emphasizing the ‘wood smoked’ and ‘slow food’ components of this tradition. Its interior design includes relevant elements such as album covers of blues artists from yesteryear, a rich earthy color scheme and predominant use of natural wood in its furniture and wall structure.
I debated going all out as my dining partner did, but balked. They ended up ordering the Flintstones-sized prime beef ribs pictured above. They were a task to try and eat cleanly with a knife and fork, but my companion gave it a valiant effort. I managed to snag some bits off it for my own tasting. I’d rate it as very average tasting and on the overdone side with a dried out texture. The one redeeming quality was that it had a nice bark on the outside.
The pulled pork plate was my main. Again, by all appearances looked good but something was lacking. I tried it on its own for a few bites but was just not getting much excitement, flavour-wise from the meat. The hints of smoke were there but the meat itself was bland. So I added some sauces from the accompanying bucket that was brought to our table. Sure, it jazzed it up a bit, especially the richer original sauce (I think it was called), but that kind of defeated the purposes of the wood smoke that was supposed to flavour the meat.
And normally, I’m not a huge fan of baked beans and cornbread, but I managed to finish both of these. The beans were so-so, but I was pleasantly surprised with the cornbread. Perhaps it was the slightly sweeter taste of them that intrigued me. The cole slaw was almost bitter in nature, and had none of the rich creamy texture that I desire in such a side.
I honestly wish I had a solid base of experience gained through a personal trip to some southern American state that specializes in traditional-style barbecue in order to make an accurate comparison. But alas, I have yet to venture to the home of North American barbecue south of the border. Even still, I can probably predict and speak on behalf of those who have, that what you get at Big T’s, is still not even remotely close to the “real thing”…