Have you ever gone out of your way for a meal? I mean, really gone out of your way? I have. In fact, I’m constantly challenging myself with some ridiculous new quest. Before a vacation, I’ll spend hours plotting where to stop. Like the time when I discovered there were three taquerias close to my hotel (yup, tried them all in the same day). Or when I found out a nearby restaurant made their pasta from scratch and I made a 10:30 p.m. reservation as “second dinner.” And, no matter where I am, I’ll probably find a pizza place to stop in. I’m a little obsessed with ’za and I’m relentless in my search for sauce that doesn’t taste like tomato paste.
The point is, I find myself looking for a combination of the best hole-in-the-wall joints and the finest dining the industry has to offer. The goal: To become a better cook. You see, with every bite of someone else’s cuisine, my own cooking grows and expands. It’s like “research” and my senior thesis is building a flavor catalog in my mind, cross-referencing seasonality, tradition, aroma, savoriness, and the dish’s general essence. Then, I fuse those thoughts into my own food – like taking a traditional Italian cacio e pepe pasta and turning it into stir-fried ramen noodles with miso butter and togarashi. Because, why not?
This journey takes time and effort, though, which means I take a lot of foodie trips. A brief glance at my Instagram feed (@linzdmattison) might make you feel disgusted … or completely jealous … or a weird mixture of both. It’s not unusual for me to drag my husband along for two lunches, two dinners, and a happy hour in between (sharing meals, of course – I’m not a monster!). I’ve also been known to plan a three-mile walk through a shady part of town or insist we take the stairs while sweating in 100-degree weather, just so we’ll be hungry when we arrive.
In December, I did something I had never done before – the layover meal. On our way to Costa Rica (for some rice and beans research, of course), I found myself staring down a five-hour layover. Just enough time to venture into the world for some barbecue. Correction, not just some barbecue – Dallas’ best. Cattleack BBQ is only open for four hours each Thursday and Friday, and it just so happened to be Friday! While it wasn’t exactly close to the airport, it wasn’t too far, either. After calculating the Uber fare, we decided to rent a car.
So there we were, standing at the rental car counter making sure there wouldn’t be any early-return penalties when I felt the need to disclose the nature of our trip. “We have a long layover,” I explained, “so we’re going for BBQ. That’s why we only need the car for two hours. It’s not like we’re selling drugs or anything.” She clearly didn’t care why we needed the car and pretended not to hear my bad, babbling drug joke as she informed us that the only penalty was for toll roads. Since we declined the transponder, an infraction would result in a $25 charge. No worries, we’ll just avoid the toll road.
Ah, crap! The road we were on just turned into a toll road. Who designed Dallas anyway? It’s like a concrete jungle out here! Well, that sweet $40 rental car deal just turned into a $65.20 expense. I might have even been mad about it, but as timing would have it we turned the corner and the sweet aroma of hickory wood drifted through the open window. My anger vanished and all I could think was: drool.
The hour-long line twisted and curved until it breached the door. We stood outside and waited patiently, using our time wisely to debate our order. I mean, brisket and hot links of course, but how many pounds was enough, and should we get one link or two? Normally we would restrain ourselves and split a meal, but we were about to spend the next four hours on a plane. If we drifted into the meat sweats and an inevitable food coma, who would care?
We finally made it to the front and ordered way too much food. We carried our butcher paper-wrapped prize to the indoor picnic tables and celebrated that first bite of moist, juicy, melt-in-your-mouth tender brisket. All I can say is that it was totally worth it. The meal may have cost a pretty penny considering our toll road misstep, but we left Cattleack happy. We had bellies full of BBQ, a pretty cool story, and were already scheming and plotting about smoking a brisket that would compete. The only question in my mind is whether I’ll spice it with Thai curry or Jamaican Jerk seasoning first.
Do you have a crazy food adventure story? Drop us a line and let us know!Lindsay D. Mattison is a professional chef and food writer living in Durango. She enjoys long walks in the woods, the simplicity of New York-style cheese pizza, and she’s completely addicted to Chapstick. Contact her at [email protected].