Never touch another man’s grill!
The most formal, yet informal tasting of pork ribs I’ve ever had. Six different styles of pork ribs, plus The Cured Ham/Lamb’s contribution of lamb riblets and a snack of pork skewers rounded out the selection of barbeque fabulousness last Saturday afternoon at The Mermaid Lounge.
An amateur and professional exhibition/competition pitted Green Egg Zealot, Fresno Bites versus a slew of Weber Kettles, a BBQ Pro and even one gas grill against each other for the 2013 Rib Fest Champion. Competitors cooked pork baby back and St. Louis style ribs.
Our host, Tony, would often come through the BBQ Garden, the space of grass and concrete designated for pork products, for a Belushi inspired speech about the German’s attacking Pearl Harbor or a more Chris Farley channeled rant focusing on the finer points of the Brotherhood of the Grill or some such thing. Regardless of the comedic performance, Tony and his wife Linda are the inspiration for the gathering of friends and lovers of barbeque and we all thank them for it.
A note on my lamb; I only used Colorado and Sonoma County lamb; nothing from New Zealand. I know a few people mentioned it didn’t taste gamey or too strong. Additionally, I season my lamb heavily with a variety of spices, including nutmeg, turmeric, paprika, freshly ground coriander and fennel seed and a wide variety of dried herbs.
The broad brush stroke on barbeque is the need for time and smoke. But what about the little flourishes and what defines great barbeque? Wrapping in foil? When to sauce if at all? The application of dry spices and the length of marination? How often does one open the lid of the barbeque? What types of wood? One thing that was noticeable at Rib Fest 2013 was the type of rib used by the competitors, St. Louis versus Baby Back.
The top two vote getters were trimmed St. Louis style ribs cooked by Fresno Bites and Tops BBQ. All the other competitors chose to use baby backs. I personally chose, by secret ballot, #4 Fresno Bites offering, the winner of the competition. My second choice happened to be #5 Tops BBQ, the runner-up.
Why? Texture, the “pull” of the meat from the bone, flavor, smoke flavor and moisture.
What put Fresno Bites over the top was a hint of sweetness combined with a whisper of heat. Fresno Bites chose to wrap his ribs in foil and press in some brown sugar near the end of the cooking process; again, the little flourishes and attention to details beyond just general technique.
Tops BBQ in terms of smoke quality was A+, but just missed on that “saucy” quality I was looking for; otherwise, the pull and texture was spot on. I will say, Tops "Dexter" gloves kinda creeped me out.
I gave honorable mention to coffee aficionado Leo from Café Corazon for his #6 ribs for using mustard in his sauce. Some people in the crowd didn’t like mustard, I happen to like it. Leo always pays attention to details and was sampling and observing Bites and Tops.
It was a great afternoon and evening with friends, fellow lovers of pork (and lamb), and an educational experience on what defines barbeque.
And not one mention of tri-tip all afternoon...AMEN!
In fact, I learned what starts a great barbeque fire...old phone books!