Even before I get into the deets, I'd like to thank the Meyers family for putting on an extraordinary affair that keeps getting better each year. I can't even fathom what next year will bring, but one thing's for sure, an elastic waistband is an absolute must.
A brief recap about Ribfest... Currently in its 6th year, the event started as a casual competition between close family and friends of the Meyers' (who Dan knows from his hometown), but has evolved into more than that.
Extending the competition across state lines, anyone who's a friend of the Meyers' can now enter. There are no stringent rules for rib preparation, except that you provide enough to feed everyone and put your best foot forward in terms of creativity and originality. The sky's the limit for what you can do with your sauces, rubs, cooking technique, and the true nature of competition really comes out each year, as the stake's get progressively higher.
A formal judges table, consisting of three individuals with a food penchant is integral to the event. Judging on taste, creativity and overall technique, the fate of each competitor rests in these capable hands. Judges rotate each year, and you can't be a judge more than once, to keep things objective and fair.
The judges work hard at choosing a winner, who is announced at the event, about an hour after all the tasting takes place. A King or Queen of Ribs, if you will.
In addition to our regulars who participate each year such as Adam, Tom and Bobby, we also had Adam's friends Chris and Ashley and family friend, Laura bringing out the big guns.
There were five types of ribs this year and all of them were the "wet" variety.
All competitors used some variety of proprietary sauces and techniques that can't be revealed here, but some of them I've gotten permission to cover.
BBQ Sauce Based Ribs - Three out of the five ribs were dressed with homemade BBQ sauces that have been perfected by each competitor. Some were on the sweet side, others tangy and some used non-traditional ingredients such as Coca Cola and bourbon. I won't say which, again to protect the competitors, but each sauce added something special to the tender pork meat, which in all instances separated beautifully from the bone.
Sous Vide Ribs - Tom used a non-traditional technique for preparing his ribs, in which he sous vided them for 18 hours with a homemade immersion circulator and then finished them off on the smoker. (Tom will actually get into this specific technique in a future post).
Asian-Style Ribs - I liked that Chris and Ashley put a new spin on the ribs we typically see at Ribfest with their drier, Asian style variety. Consisting of fragrant Asian spices and a flavorful kick at the end of each bite, I overheard many guests complimenting them. It also has to be noted how lovely the texture was - tender, succulent and perfectly separating itself from the bone.
The side dish throwdown, as they called it this year was also fierce. There were about 8 competitors in the mix and everyone put their best food forward.
I participated too, with my crab boil potato salad, and was happy to receive nice feedback, placing as the second runner up.
Two favorites stood out for me in terms of sides:
Randi's Chipotle Corn - Anything but your ordinary corn, Randi's version included individually sized pieces, rubbed to capacity with chipotle spice butter and further topped with crumbly queso fresco. I loved the well-done char marks on the outside and the juicy consistency of the corn's inside. The chipotle butter completely penetrated the corn's kernels, producing a most colorful and interesting sensory experience. It absolutely rocked my world.
Diane's Carrot Spoonbread - This was the best side dish of the night, in my opinion because it felt more like a dessert. Its texture resembled your favorite bread pudding and the topping was crunchy, sugary and absolutely delicious. Diane revealed that the recipe is a hybrid of a Passover dish she often makes, which intrigued me even more. I can't wait to get the recipe, and hopefully share it with you folks.
Mac n' Cheese:
In addition to the side dish competition, we naturally also had a Mac 'n Cheese throwdown, as it's the perfect accompaniment to any great BBQ. There were two competitors in this category - Randi and Jess. Both produced fabulous renditions of this comfort food, Randi going with a gourmet cheese mixture of gruyere, cheddar and parm, whereas Jess also threw in Dave's famous bean chili. I thought both were lovely in their own way and both ladies received great feedback from guests and judges alike.
The grand winner in the rib competition was big dog Bobby Cohen. He couldn't be more thrilled to receive this esteemed honor, and you can see his glee shining through. It was nice to see such as a passionate meat lover win, and he graciously accepted the pig trophy, which he promises to proudly display at home.
As for the sides, the big winner there was Bobby's wife, Diane. Another proud and talented cook, and it was nice to see such a cooking powerhouse couple dominate the event this year.
The Mac 'n Cheese crown went to Randi's classic Mac 'n Cheese, which she wore with class and modesty. Doesn't she look fab?!
Thank you to everyone again for making this year's Ribfest the best ever. I can't wait to see the meat debauchery that next year brings...