Big Texas Adventure, Big Appetite!
Ian loves exploring Texas. He’s covering a lot of miles documenting the carnivorous plants of Big Thicket National Preserve; searching for a whooping crane, one of the rarest birds in the world, in Aransas National Wildlife Refuge; and climbing the highest peak in the Chisos Mountains in Big Bend National Park.
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And he’s still gotta eat! Big Texas adventures mean a big appetite, and la Barbecue in East Austin is the perfect pitstop.
Chefs LeAnn Mueller and Ali Clem know how to dish it up. In a state famous for its barbecue, how do they set themselves apart? It starts with their inspiration. LeAnn says traveling in the U.S. and beyond has been a major influence on their food. For example, Korean ingredients show up twice on the menu: la Barbecue’s new hot dog includes gochujang for a spicy-sweet twist, and the restaurant’s coleslaw incorporates cucumber kimchi. Like Ian, LeAnn is also a photographer and believes that food and art have a lot in common. They’re both visual mediums (we eat with our eyes first, after all!) that are about bringing people together and sharing.
Lucky for Ian, he and his camera are getting a closer look at the barbecue process — by getting into the pits with Ali. He follows along as she stokes the fire to just the right (secret) temperature, builds a rich Texas post oak smoke in la Barbecue’s custom-built smokers, and takes the restaurant’s signature brisket through the steps of trimming, seasoning, smoking, wrapping, resting and finally serving.
LeAnn and her wife Ali are a true team who are passionate about their craft. They make their own rules in the barbecue world, as evidenced by the caviar and champagne for sale in the market inside the restaurant (who says you can’t pair barbecue with more luxurious ingredients?). Food is as much about the personality of the people making it as it is about the flavor, and if there are extraordinary people in the kitchen, you are in for an extraordinary meal.
After a day learning about and photographing la Barbecue, Ian not only smelled like la Barbecue’s famous brisket, but he also couldn’t wait to have it for dinner. Starring smoky, juicy meat, tangy housemade pickles, and crunchy white onions, the restaurant’s brisket sandwich is truly worth the trip to Austin, no matter where you are (pro tip: don’t sleep on their ribs or sausages either!). Now the question is, are you ready for another adventure…or a nap?