Feb 27 2005

Smoked. Red. Exotic. Meat.

Fig. 15. Rattlesnake cakes on a slab of granite

Fig. 24a. Giant Meat Plate: 1) elk backstrap 2) wild game sausage 3) rabbit nuggets 4) two quail halves 5) buffalo tenderloin

Thirty-five minutes northwest of North South Austin by car lies the swishily rustic Hudson’s On The Bend, the most expensive barbecue joint I have ever loosened a belt in. Squeeze Hudson’s and out will ooze thick, picturesque, lone-star-shaped globs of Texas Hill Country mystique. I would advise anybody in need of a giant meat plate there to hie at once.

I wasted no time in ordering Hudson’s Famous Mixed Grill: two square feet of assorted exotic game accompanied by big, assertive, barbecue sauces (see fig. 24-A, above). With the exception of the rabbit chunks, which were hard as little stones and afflicted with a sugary sauce, the dish was superb. I never met a hunk of smoked red meat I didn’t like, but the buffalo exuded a particular attraction. Exquisite! Somewhere under all the meat was a shovelful each of beer-flavored mashed potatoes and an excellent corn pudding. The entire affair was topped with a petunia. It cost 38 bucks.

Hudson’s pecan-crusted rattlesnake cakes with chipotle sauce are storied. I cannot recommend them. Though the palate’s first impression is one of fish tanks, this association is mercifully fleeting; the real problem is their textural similarity to instant mushroom burgers, or dirt. What gives? Why weren’t there discernable chunks of rattlesnake? Is the meat so nasty that it must be pulverized and hidden? Or so scarce that it must be pulverized and stretched? Either way, the preparation raises doubts about the suitability of rattlesnakes to cakeal applications.

I must also question the wisdom of combining duck with scallops. Until further notice, my position is: two great tastes that don’t taste great together.

On a technical note, the parking lot is hilarious. It was a dark and stormy night when I presented myself for my giant meat plate, and there was nowhere to shove the SUV but in an ancillary lot at the top of a muddy hill at the end of a very steep, very unlit succession of craters. Hudson’s idea of pavement appears to involve chucking a few truckloads of river rock over an unexcavated armadillo colony, after which they probably smiled and went inside to skin a couple of wild hogs . Do not arrive in stylish footwear, is all I’m sayin’.