Monday, March 24, 2014
Woodshed Smokehouse (Fort Worth, TX)
To commemorate my last week at work, the firm let me pick out a spot for a farewell lunch. I knew it would be barbecue, but I wanted to try something less run-of-the-mill. Woodshed Smokehouse was the perfect choice.
Woodshed is owned by chef, restaurateur, and urban cowboy Tim Love. My fondest memory of Chef Love was watching him compete on "Next Iron Chef," despite getting the boot on episode one. In a moment of complete awesomeness, Chef Love began the competition by pounding white wine and taking tequila shots from a soup ladle. He then proceeded to grill himself a steak, whilst serving the judges a delightful "screw you" kale salad. At least he went out in style, and to his credit, Chef Love did beat Iron Chef Morimoto in a chile competition a few years ago.
This place is situated right on the Trinity River, with a huge outdoor patio overlooking the riverbend. I noticed a small stage area, though no one was jamming mid-afternoon on a Monday. Woodshed has piles of categorized wood out front and throughout the dining area, including apple, mesquite, and hickory. In addition to being a really awesome decor choice, they also sell the wood if you're so inclined.
My tablemates were quite anxious to sample some of Woodshed's appetizers, although I wasn't fast enough to snap pictures of them all. First up were their Crispy Smoked Brussel Sprouts, which are prepared with lemon, chili, and pecorino.
Brussel sprouts typically aren't at the top of my list, but these looked pretty good. The crispy sprouts had a flavor similar to oven roasted potatoes and had a texture that reminded me of artichoke hearts. Basically, eating them made me forget that they were brussel sprouts, and that's a good thing. The pecorino cheese was a nice addition, and the acid from the lemon added a pleasant zing.
I also got to sample the Crispy Potatoes, along with a well-paired smoked garlic aioli. These were really tasty. The potatoes were similar to large Southern-style hashbrown potatoes, but smaller than home fries. I'm a fan of mayo-based sauces in general, and the creamy garlic aioli was excellent.
Just before the waitress started to clear away our appetizer plates, I snagged the one remaining bite of Smoked Hummus, complete with pit master fat (yum!). There was a surprisingly high degree of smoke here, which I'm assuming was of the liquid smoke variety rather than from the pit fat. I like a lot of garlic, and this stuff definitely had a garlicky bite to it. It was tasty enough, but maybe a little less smoke would have been better.
Once we had polished off the vegetarian appetizers, I couldn't help but add on an order of Brisket Stuffed Piquillo Peppers, which come with bone broth and cojita cheese. My boss scooped one up as soon as the plate hit the table, but the picture should still give you a pretty good idea of this dish.
The peppers came swimming in what I assume was the advertised bone broth. The piquillo pepper was a nice serving vehicle for the brisket, but added no heat whatsoever. As expected, the piquillos did add a nice sweetness to the meat. The chopped brisket was very tender, though a tad greasy and oily. The peppers themselves were softened to the point of falling apart, so a fork was definitely needed here.
I saw several sandwiches that sounded good, but I just wanted meat without the unnecessary addition of bread. Their traditional barbecue entrees are available a la carte, so I ordered a half-pound of Beef Ribs and a quarter-pound of Lamb Brisket.
At $2.50 an ounce (that's $40.00 per pound), the lamb brisket is a bit pricey. Fortunately, the firm was buying today. These meager slices didn't have near as much bark as I'd hoped for, though the crust did appear to have a rosemary rub on it. There was also a slight smoke ring, but despite visual suggestions I only caught a mild smoke flavor. The fatty cut of lamb added to the tenderness of the meat. I wish the fat had been rendered a little better though. My slices were also a little oily and had a touch too much salt. All in all, it was more like a pot roast than barbecue.
The beef ribs came complete with a massive amount of bark, some of which was too solid and hard to actually eat. The sprinkling of herbs in the crust also seemed unnecessary and a bit hoity-toity for barbecue. I found a good smoke level at least. The unfortunate decision to leave the rib membrane intact made things a little difficult to navigate. It seemed like most of the weight here came from the bone rather than from meat, which even then was a bit gristly. Though I'm not 100% certain, I think these were beef back ribs. Perhaps some meaty plate short ribs would have been a better choice.
One of my compatriots was kind enough to share a few pieces of "Today's Sausage" off of her sandwich. The sausage du jour happened to be boar. The finely-ground meat had a creamy pate quality to it, though I prefer more of a coarse grind in my sausage. It had an interesting sweet flavor to it, cinnamon I think. It was unusual to say the least, but pretty enjoyable overall.
Much as it pains me to say, I found myself somewhat underwhelmed by this place. I think Woodshed tries too hard to think outside the box and has forgotten the basics of barbecue in the process.
3201 Riverfront Dr
Fort Worth, TX 76107