THE BBQ BELT: AUSTIN, TEXAS

Originally posted at You Only Live Once.

Earlier this year my wife Bianca and I embarked on the Honeymoon of our dreams, driving through the Southern states of America, eating as much food as we could. We found out that Bianca was pregnant just before we left Australia, so luckily Bianca was eating for two – while I ate for at least five.

Throughout our trip we ate a tonne of Tex Mex, Cajun, soul food, all things grilled, fried and most importantly: smoked. For it was our desire for Barbecue that took us to Texas, then to Mississippi, Memphis, and North Carolina, to sample their finest slow smoked meats. Australia views itself as a BBQ nation, simply because we know how to burn a dozen Coles sausages and wrap them in saucy bread. But Barbecue in the States is so much more advanced, with every state we visited holding tightly to what their interpretation of BBQ is, never backing down from the belief that their way is the absolute best, with the assured cockiness usually reserved for only the richest of rappers.

I’ll be writing about our smoky adventures for the next few weeks, starting in Texas and making my way north. This is not so much a guide to best BBQ that America has to offer – I’d have to spend years eating my way through the South to claim any authority on the subject, and what a horrible experience that would be. Consider this a sampler plate – a beginners introduction to some incredible places to eat in the South. Please tie a bib around your neck and we’ll begin.

Austin, Texas

We fly into Austin from Phoenix – where it had been a dry and murderous 46 degrees celcius. Austin is good 8 degrees cooler. Maybe we should’ve packed thermal underwear. Staring at us from a stand at the airport is something that would become somewhat of a bible during our time in Texas – the latest issue of Texas Monthly, which boasts ‘The 50 Best BBQ Joints In The World‘ on the front cover. Inside is a hilarious editorial which claims that Texas style BBQ is the only BBQ worth a damn in America, therefore the 50 best BBQ joints in Texas are the best BBQ joints in THE WORLD. The balls on this magazine! Following the editorial is a tight list of Texas’s finest ‘cue, put together by a secret society of greasy reviewers – and at the top of this list is Franklin Barbecue.


Franklin BBQ900 E 11th St, Austin, TX +1 512-653-1187

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It’s 8:30 in the morning and we are dropping my sister Emily off to get a spot in what is soon to be a ginormous line out the front of Franklin Barbecue in Austin. She runs out of the car, secures a place about ten people from the front of the line, and we drive off to get tacos for breakfast. When we return with a bag of Veracruz All Natural at 9am, there’s about 50 people behind Emily and two hours to go before Franklin opens it’s doors. The sun scorches everyone in line and we consider paying five bucks from the evil vendors renting out chairs.

The line is about 250 people deep by the time Franklin opens at 11am. The people at the end of the line may not even get any food as Franklin closes as soon as the meat runs out! Thankfully we’re the 4th group served, and since we left our restraint in Sydney, we order too much of evey single item on the menu, and a t-shirt. The friendly staff pile the glorious meat onto brown paper and tuck the tiny serves of slaw, beans and potato salad on the side, cowering beneath the huge serves of beef brisket, ribs, pulled pork, sausage and turkey. We get a few bottles of my favourite new drink as well – Topo Chico Mineral Water, and a cold mug of the beer brewed specially for Franklin.

The meat here is cooked to perfection. The staff start cooking at 2am each morning and every hour of smoke is evident in the beautiful smoke lines in the meat – especially the ribs. The beef brisket, the piece of meat that all Texans use to judge good ‘cue is out of this world tender, fatty and juicy. All the meat at Franklin is all kinds of adjectives that people use when they write about food on the internet. Some of the adjectives are in capitals, some of them are even bold and underlined, it’s that good.

One of the defining factors of Texas BBQ is that the meat is the star. Only the meat though. Texans rarely take pride in their sauce like other states do, and they only ingredients in the rub the apply to the meat is salt and pepper. In this hilariously condescending article from Texas Monthly, ‘Why Beef Brisket Is The Apex Of Smoked Meat, the writer bemoans any other meat besides beef, saying that “anybody with half a brain a cook pork” that’s “hacked to pieces and slathered with sauce”, slaw and a bun. Here’s the thing though – I love pork, I love sauce and slaw, and more than anything, I love vinegar with my BBQ. So while this meat is without a doubt perfectly cooked, and as good as Texas BBQ gets, I realise that Texas BBQ isn’t my kind of BBQ. Thankfully this is just the beginning of our BBQ pilgrimage, and there are so many more kinds of BBQ to be eaten.

These adventures will continue each week on You Only Live Once!

5 GREAT PIZZAS IN NAPLES

Originally posted on You Only Live Once

Disclaimer: This list should actually read “5 Great Pizzas, 1 Kinda Bad Pizza and an Amazing Bowl of Pasta in Naples”.

My wife and I spent 3 days in Naples, Italy at the beginning of this year. It was bitterly cold but we had no fear, because everywhere we wanted to go had a woodfire oven cranked up high. Naples is the home of pizza, arguably the best food in the world. Although I grew up loving a bastardized version of pizza, a fat cousin with bbq sauce and stuffed crust, in my grease-clogged heart I knew that in order to pay my true respects to the pizza gods, I had to eat the purest pizza as they intended. I had to go where pizza was invented and devour some of that OG pie. No hot dog stuffed crust or shwarma meat, just simple ingredients cooked to perfection. This was our pizza pilgrimage.

Il Pizzaiolo del Presidente, Via Tribunali 120, 80138 (see map)
We started our pizza pilgrimage here and I recommend you doing the same – this is a great all rounder pizza. A simple but great margherita. We ordered the Margherita con Bufala, which comes covered in buffalo mozzarella. These small circles of white cheese bubble with oil and stretch as you bite them in half. The crust is nicely charred, one of the best things about pizzas in Napoli! If you are one of those “I don’t like eating pizza crusts wahhhh” kind of people maybe you should lock yourself in a cupboard for a week and punch yourself in the face instead of coming to Italy because you are a bad person.

L’Antica Pizzeria da MicheleVia Cesare Sersale 1/3, 80139 (see map)
A few hours later we had made our way over to L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele, which is the pizza place most famous for being in a Julia Roberts movie called Eat, Pray, Love. It is widely regarded by all reviewers as the best in the city and by god did I want to prove them wrong. I wanted this place to be so shit! Who wants to agree with a Julia Roberts movie? I wanted to come home, walk over to the nearest Video Ezy, find a copy of Eat, Pray, Love and yell “WRONG!” in its face! Unfortunately my fantastic and mature plan was never to be because man alive, is the pizza at da Michele perfect. The soft, charred and chewy dough resembles naan bread a little, and the oily cheese mixes with the sauce in the middle of the pizza to create an incredible soup that’s impossible to eat with your hands. You gotta use cutlery with this pizza but goddamn is it worth it. We ate one pizza each which may have been a mistake since we planned to check out another pizza place later that night and the pies at da Michele are MASSIVE. They are so good though. Honestly you could come to Naples and only eat pizza from here and you could leave with no regrets. This was in my top 5 of things I’ve ever eaten. I owe Julia Roberts an apology. Just kidding, fuck Julia Roberts.

Da Pellonevia Nazionale nr 93, Quartiere Vasto (see map)
Have you ever been drunk off pizza? After two pizzas to ourselves from two different spots in a couple of hours we were delirious and decided to walk off our pizza induced stupor by heading to the other side of the city, where we would eat more pizza at a place called Da Pellone. We played it safe here and ordered one pizza to share. The problem was that this pizza was a monster – slightly wider than the pies at da Michele but almost double the thickness! I wish I could go into more detail but we were hammered off pizzas by this point in the night. All I can remember is that 1. this was a pizza and 2. we didn’t eat it all. We put ourselves on a pizza ban for the next 12 hours.

Pizzeria BrandiSalita S. Anna di Palazzo, 1-2, 80100 (see map)
Remember how I said that one of these pizzas was kinda bad? Here it is. Pizzeria Brandi is credited with inventing the Margherita Pizza. We figured that while we in the town that invented pizza, why not go to the spot that invented the Margherita? The pizza here doesn’t hold a candle to the other pizza joints in Napoli. It’s by no means bad, in fact it’s better than almost every Margherita Pizza I’ve had in Sydney, but there are much better pizzas in this city to spend your money on. The biggest difference that Brandi offers is service. Where other pizza restaurants in Naples are very laid back and you can see your pizza being made while you wait, Brandi awkwardly tries to offer fine dining service with your pizza. Yes they have a much larger menu on offer too but the overall vibe was really offputting. You should skip this one!

Di MatteoVia del Tribunali, 94, 80138 (see map)
See this glorious pizza above? This was breakfast on our last day in Naples, and ranks up there as one of the best breakfasts I’ve ever had. The pizzas here are excellent. The sauce is a little chunkier than other joints and best of all, this was the only pizza we had that wasn’t just charred around the edges – the dough at Di Matteo bubbles so much that patches in the middle get charred as well! As good as this was, Margherita pizzas aren’t even what people rave about when they talk about Di Matteo – it’s all about the Pizza Fritta:

At some of the pizza spots we went to there was a huge deep fryer near the pizza oven. It looks like a giant beer keg filled with oil. Mostly these are used to fry arancini balls but some geniuses use them to make Pizza Fritta – a whole deep fried pizza! This isn’t battered or anything though – they put the toppings on one disc of dough and seal it shut with another, then drop the pizza into oil where it cooks for a few minutes, the dough bubbling and expanding while it swims in the oil. When it gets to your table it’s this glorious puff, as you can see above. As soon as you touch it with your knife it deflates and reveals the ricotta, sauce and meat inside.

Obviously this was ridiculously good. The kind of thing that you just keep nibbling at even though your stomach is about to burst. Honestly I could just eat deep fried pizza dough with some sauce to dunk it in for the rest of my life. What a great life that would be.

Europeo di MattoziVia M. Campodisola 4-8, 80133 (see map)
This was the last pizza of our trip, at a place that we weren’t going to go to until my friend Cam saw I was in Naples on the Instagramz and stressed how important it was that we come to Europeo di Matozzi before we leave. So, with 90 minutes until our train left Napoli Stazione we headed there for lunch. We were worried when we sat down though. This place was pretty la-di-dah. After the not so great pizza at Brandi, this was a bad omen. Thankfully, Europeo di Matozzi delivered like Dominoes (as in it delivered on it’s premise of good food, not as in delivered to your door at 3:30 on a Sunday arvo, maybe Dominoes was actually a pretty bad choice of comparison point). This pizza was topped with a few cherry tomatoes, plus a nice glug of oil to swim alongside the oil from the melted cheese. It wasn’t quite as good as the other pizzas we’d had in the last few days, but the real reason we were here wasn’t actually the pizza – it was for a little pasta dish called Frutti Di Mare, which means ‘fruits of the sea’.

This was, without a doubt, the best bowl of pasta I’ve ever eaten. The pasta was handmade, al dente and salty with the simple sauce – butter, parsely, garlic and the taste of the ocean – which came from the prawns, clams, octopus, crab and scampi in the bowl. All these creatures were cooked perfectly, they must’ve been cooked separately because not one bite was over or undercooked. It was so fresh, simple and goddamn good. Almost as good as the pizza at da Michele. Almost. I wouldn’t dare anger the pizza gods by putting a bowl of pasta on the same level.

So there you have it. A solid couple of days in Naples. Some other things worth doing that aren’t pizza or pasta related include trying to cross the street at night while yelling absurd claims like “This place is like the European Vietnam!“, visiting the ‘Castle of the Egg’ and filling what little room is left in your stomach with rum babas, the cute dessert that is native to Naples.

DINER / PHOTOBOMB UPDATE

Hey so my book Diner is out! Did you read about it yet?

One crushing piece of feedback that I keep getting is that there aren’t enough photos of me in the book! To help rectify this situation I have put together this sheet of stickers of me for you to photobomb all your favourite recipes with! 

The stickers are free when you buy a copy of Diner from The Dip. The stickers will also be coming away with me on tour at my launch parties in Perth, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide! Those dates will be announced in the next few days!

I WROTE A COOKBOOK

Hi, welcome to another instalment of THINGS I DID.

One night in late September last year I had just finished DJing at Goodgod. I was sweaty and the dulcet tones of R Kelly were ringing in my ears. A lady approached me and instead of congratulating me for what was surely the best DJ set she’d ever heard, she told me she liked The Dip and that she wanted me to write a book for her. ‘Of course!’ I exclaimed, thrusting a business card into her hand before I made my way to the bar and forgot what a book was forever.

The next week I received an email from this lady and she was legit! She wanted me to write a cookbook for her – in 3 months! So I didn’t write shit for two and half of them, then stayed up till 6am every night for 2 weeks writing what would become Diner, a book coming out TOMORROW. 

Diner features pretty much all the recipes for the dishes I serve every night at The Dip – pulled pork, hot dogs, burgers, nachos etc – plus a stack of recipes I used to cook at all the wild BBQs I used to host before we opened The Dip. Really fun recipes that are good for parties, groups or just being a fat glorious turd by yourself. 

So I’m an author now! What a slashie asshole I’ve become. You can pick up Diner at bookstores WORLDWIDE or order it online at Amazon or Book Depository. We’ll also be selling it at The Dip with a special something that you only get it you buy it from us!

I’ll be going on tour next month doing launches in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide where I’ll be DJing, cooking and signing books! Triple threat! I’ll be putting these dates up here in the next week so stay tuned! It would be good to see some cool people like you there being cool like you always are. Also if you’re overseas and think I should come there maybe I will!

Please buy my book. I would love some of your money.

YO MELBY

Hey mates of the slightly more south!

Me and my friend Radge are coming down this weekend to play some shows. We were actually coming to see Lil’ Wayne’s sideshow but the dick promoters cancelled that yesterday so I feel you as a city owe me a decent weekend. Please join hands and attend these wonderful events.

SATURDAY – Favela Rock at Ms Libertines – I’m DJing. So is Radge and a tonne of Melbourne homies.

SUNDAY – BUNZ & GRILLZ at The Mercat – this one is big time. I’m gonna DJ and man the BBQ for a few hours. Check out the terrifying poster up the top. Radge, Mat Cant and Evet aka Juicy Jean are DJing too and all we are playing is good time West Coast & Southern rap. 

On the menu will be:

LEV’S DAWG a grilled kosher frankfurt with tomato salsa, pickled yellow peppers, chipotle mayo and mustard on a steamed brioche bun
GRILLED WATERMELON & BACON BURGER with onions, rocket & lime mayo (available without bacon for our vego pals)
GRILLED CORN with lime mayo, chipotle salt and coriander

Entry is free and the food is cheap. 

Come be a pal, Melbourne pals! Come pal around and shit. Krillin‘s coming down too. Fun!

ME PHOTOBOMBING ME

Dan Boud of Boudist took my picture for this month’s Time Out Sydney. Ever the smarty pants, Dan thought it would be a cool idea to have me photobombing my own photo. I obliged and some magic (and photoshop) went down. 

You can read what Dan had to say about the shoot here. Thanks to him, and to Myffy of Time Out for awarding my hot dog 2nd place in her countdown of the best dawgs in Sydney. Come eat one at The Dip some time!

WHAT’S UP HOT DOG

DO THE DIP

Oh hey! I opened a restaurant with my gal Bianca inside Goodgod Small Club aka the greatest club in Sydney (which is now even greater thanks to us!).

Our little diner is called THE DIP and you can do the dip every Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday night. We’re grilling roo burgers, smoking pork shoulders and filling hot dog buns with all kinds of awesome.

We opened last week. It’s been a crazy first few night with surprisingly few fuck-ups. We’re getting a hang of this thing! Come by for a feed if you’re near by.

Oh and check out our sweet ass website designed by the same sweet ass who designed this one, Mr Bennett Wong.

Do the dip motherfuckers!

I made these bad ass banh mi’s for my birthday. Thanks to Boz for taking photos like he does every time! What a legend.

sandwichface:

Roast pork belly, head cheese, pate, pickled daikon and carrot, cucumber, coriander, fresh chili, shallots, soy sauce and mayonnaise on baguette. Made by Levins.

http://yolevins.com/i-made-these-bad-ass-banh-mis-for-my-birthday/

HALF BAKED: THE STONER DEGUSTATION

Half Baked: A Celebration of Stoner Food

On the 6th of December, I joined forces with Dan Hong from Lotus & Ms G’s plus Mitch Orr and Tom Lim from Duke Bistro (all pictured above sippin’ an Arizona Stoner Iced Tea) for a night of unbelievable excess; a tribute to stoner food. We called the night Half Baked. 60 lucky people sat down at Duke Bistro and were treated to 9 courses (with matched drinks by Andy Penney) of greasy, cheesy, fried, chocolately ridiculousness.

First course was an after school stoner classic – a chip sambo with french onion butter, made by Mitch. Mitch cut and fried the chips himself.

Limbo made the second course – a corn flake milkshake with deep fried corn and bacon pancakes. The pancakes were battered and rolled in crushed up doritos before they were fried!

Third course was a genius creation by Dan Hong – a cheese, bacon and sauerkraut spring roll with butterscotch mayo. Biting in to the spring roll and discovering the molten cheese was insane.

I made the fourth course – deep fried pickles with ranch. I made sure the batter was extra thick and these were super crunchy.

Fifth course: instant noodles with bong water, made by Mitch.

This one was hilarious – a bowl of noodles with a fried egg and shallots was given to each diner and a bong was put in the middle of each table. The bong was filled with a dark mushroom broth which you poured over the noodles! It was so funny watching everyone cringe at the idea of adding steaming bongwater to their bowls. It tasted delicious though!

Limbo’s sixth course was a meal in itself! Mac & cheese fondue with fried chicken and French onion toast.

Everyone got two pieces of fried chicken and a fried bread roll spread with cornflake sprinkled french onion dip. Next to the plate was a bowl of mac and cheese fondue to dip your chicken and bread into. It was ridiculous!

Not quite as ridiculous as the seventh course though: Hongy’s Juicy Luther.

A beef patty cooked juicy lucy style – with the cheese inside the patty, served with fried bacon, pickles and sauce on a Krispy Kreme doughnut! People lost their shit!

By now everyone was so full but they still had to squeeze in two desserts…

Seventh course: Mitch’s dessert – peaches and panna cotta ice cream with a Chomp bar!

People were breathing a sigh of relief when they saw that Mitch’s dessert was relatively small. They weren’t safe yet though…

I made the ninth and final course – a deep fried banana split with peanut butter ice cream, raspberry sauce, chocolate fudge and spicy peanut brittle.

This was so rich I felt guilty serving it as the final course. We heard that at least one person threw up after eating everything. Success!

Limbo and Mitch plating up Limbo’s fondue course.

Limbo’s mac and cheese fondue was epic.

Hongy putting the Juicy Luthers together.

We put a bunch of the bunch of Juicy Luthers in the Krispy Kreme box and ate them ourselves. I made sure I got a photo of the moneyshot as we bit into the burger and the cheese exploded out of the patty!

Limbo

Mitch

Hongy

Me

Andy Penney, who put together all the amazing cocktails for the night, which included Arizona Stoner Punch - mint, gin and peach iced tea; a fanta and campari ice cream spider and Caucasian Jugs - his tribute to The Dude’s favourite drink – a White Russian, complete with Milo around the rim of the glass! Unfortunately I couldn’t get out of the kitchen to get a photo of his drinks but trust me, they were killer.

This is what the floor looked like after all the cheese had gooped out of our Juicy Luthers!

We put together a little ‘stoner sampler’ plate for the kitchenhand, if you could buy this plate anywhere I would probably eat it every day and would be fat as shiiiit.

Kylie Javier had been working the floor all night and once all my desserts had been plated and served she piled the leftover bananas, chocolate fudge, raspberry sauce and peanut brittle on top of each other and the front of house crew got stuck in.

Kylie was a super important part of the Half Baked crew too – she lit weed incense sticks all through the restaurant, but the necessary eye drops in the bathrooms and put the mull leaves on the menu below.

So there you go, that was the first ever Half Baked! Thanks to everyone who came and passed out shortly after eating. We’ll be back with some more hectic shit in 2011!