Friday, July 24, 2015

Collaboration of Smoke II: "Fire in the Hole"

It was billed as the “Collaboration of Smoke.” In 2014, Patrick Feges, young up-and-coming Houston chef, and Wes Jurena, proprietor and smoked meat master of Pappa Charlie’s Barbeque, joined forces to showcase their respective talents in the first Collaboration of Smoke. Due to the popularity of the first time these friends came together for a special event, and with a bit of prompting from their fan base, a second Collaboration was convened on Saturday, July 18.

L to R, Patrick Feges, Wes Jurena, James Lestrer, and Jim Buchanan

Feges, the named sous chef for the imminent Southern Goods opening, brought to the occasion his experience on the line at Brennan’s, Underbelly and his recent year-long stint at Killen’s Barbecue in Pearland. Jurena, fast becoming known for the best Houston barbecue inside the Loop, and who has his own big plans in the works, hosted their second event together at his current regular location, Jackson’s Watering Hole in the Montrose area.

Collaboration of Smoke provides a perfect opportunity for these two US Army Veterans to showcase their respective abilities. Both are veritable experts at the helm of a wood-fired smoker, and getting better all the time. Feges has shown his talents at numerous highly-regarded “Feges BBQ” popups over the past two years (at Ladybirds and D&T Drive In, for example), and is already regarded for his proficiency in fusing smoked goods with tricked-up Southern staples. Jurena, who honed his skills on the competition BBQ circuit, consistently delivers exceptional brisket, pork spareribs and peppery smoked turkey at Pappa Charlie’s, and is skilled at bringing out well-executed familiar comfort foods to pair with his barbecue offerings. His velvety macaroni-and-cheese alone is worth the trip to his trailer (try it topped with chopped brisket and offered as a main course).

Feges and Jurena each showcased an offering of brisket and pork ribs, so guests were provided with a unique opportunity to compare the styles of the two side by side. Black pepper-laden, Central Texas-style briskets were provided by both, and Feges was curious to hear feedback on his attempt at a version of the “hot-and-fast” brisket style Jurena is known for. Each of their briskets were well-rendered and flavorful, but Jurena, the master of the “hot-and-fast” method in Houston, with hundreds of briskets using this method under his belt, still has the edge here. Each delivered tender and flavorful ribs, but they varied slightly in execution. Feges provided a sweeter glaze, while Jurena’s were smokier and more savory; a bit of a departure from his “every-day” ribs that might be familiar to his regular customers.

Jurena's brisket and rib

Feges' baby back rib and brisket

Feges’ smoked boudin (his own recipe) and bacon-cheese grits topped with crumbled chicharones was popular with the attendees. He also served up slices of smoked pork belly, along with a tangy and cool red quinoa salad which incorporated cilantro, red onions, halved grape tomatoes and a light vinaigrette.

Feges' smoked boudin with bacon-cheese grits and crumbled chicharones

Smoked pork belly and quinoa salad

Jurena brought out smoked prime rib, coupled it with a mashed potato, cheese and horseradish blend he calls “smashed taters,” which had enough horseradish heat to enliven the gentler-flavored prime rib. He also introduced Pork ‘n Greens, consisting of individual serving sizes of smoked collard greens (developed and refined by his son, Jared), with a cap of pulled pork.

Smoked prime rib and smoked collard greens

Fans of Pappa Charlie's will recognize this brisket

Despite the sweltering summer evening and outdoor deck venue, a line formed early and was steady throughout the event. The rising popularity of these two with the recent surge in press for each of them was undoubtedly a factor in bringing out the masses. The result?--sold out in 1 hour and 20 minutes.

Great turnout for "Collaboration of Smoke II"

Hopefully twice makes for a tradition, and we’ll see this fusion of Southern comfort food and barbecue by these two become an annual occurrence. In the meantime, you’ll soon be able to sample Feges’ creations on a regular basis at Southern Goods in The Heights, scheduled to open in August. Jurena is still open for lunch on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Jackson’s Watering Hole, and thankfully will be open more than just 3 days a week for lunch AND dinner service at his new EaDo location at 2012 Rusk St., currently planned for some time in September.

Follow Southern Goods and Pappa Charlie’s on social media or on the web for details on their respective openings as they develop.

Feges BBQ:

Pappa Charlie's Barbecue:
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