It is that time of the year when we are all outside using our barbecues. Ribs are one of peoples favorites Barbecued food…Fans don’t mind spending money for ribs. Everyone seems to be looking for the best tasting ribs … that combination of smokiness, the tender texture and bark, not too fatty, wet rub, dry rub, what type of wood to use, how long to cook it, which ribs are best? It continues to be one of the great ongoing food forums … the traditionalists and the rib upstarts. My mother boiled her ribs and then cooked them in the oven. Others insist that baking them is the best …I have eaten ribs that claim to be wood -smoked but I knew it was a gas fire- I am looking for the real deal and paying for it too!
On my way to Maine for a lobster indulgence, I stopped off at the legendary Bar-B Barn in Montreal where they invite you to” relaxez” Their web site is modern but the menu we were handed was laughable …a throwback to the 70’s … who has the nerve to offer Black Tower these days? My companion had insisted that the ribs and famous sauce, made with applesauce, were the best he had ever had! He first experienced them as a Montreal Alouette in the late 1970’s. We arrived around 9 o’clock and the restaurant was empty. We were one of two occupied tables. Seeing staff wash the floor should have been a hint. The wine and beer list brought me back to being a teen …Dubonnet? Martini Rossi? Mouton Cadet? I recall when that was our family house wine- in the days where you filled out a form … a LCBO wine list of about 8 French wines. You then handed the paper to staff that fetched the bottles from some mysterious back room that you were never quite able to see.
Even Swiss Chalet has a better list- and much better ribs, chicken and salads and yes you can get gravy. Barb-B Barn did not have either of the two beers beer I asked for. The wine was strictly out of the question … I settled on soda water …not like me! I looked at the food list and found it hard to find anything that appealed to me- the prices were far too high . The salads arrived- indifferent and made at least a day or two before …no real choice in dressing so I settled for carafed wine and vinegar. I ordered the chicken. It was cold, tough and not even the sauce could rescue the meat. The French fries were cold and crinkle cut … in this day of chip trucks everywhere – restaurants should serve better fries and they did not sell gravy, the fries needed something! I didn’t eat my meal. My companion ordered the ribs- they were cold – fatty, tough poorly butchered and tasted gamey The service was not just indifferent but rude – they were happy to see us leave as they made it clear they wanted to get home. While I am usually a generous tipper, not so in this case, I left disappointed and hungry!
On a recent trip to Colorado I got a hit of the Q-experience that I have been waiting all of my life … to attend a bbq competition … the chance to eat the real deal! Now its hard to believe that I left hungry from a bbq competition but I did- The location was Frisco, Colorado- the setting was a mountain and it was hot as all hell when the sun came out and cool when the clouds covered it. There was a sun shower that fell on me as I drank my sauvignon blanc- Yellow Tail- owned by Coors- one of the beloved American Beer Companies!
I was surprised at how busy it was and how long the line-ups were. You can’t rush smoking or barbecue you just had to wait. Lots of the booths had little to do with meat and focused on popcorn, huge drinks, funnel cakes and even beignet – with a posted translation Ben Yay! There were fried pickles and jambalaya- alligator on a stick and brisket, bbq ribs, frog’s legs, salmon, pulled pork sandwiches, and curly fries made with a special machine. Although I saw people staggering about with turkey drumsticks, surprisingly there was no chicken-
Cheesecake or Fruit on a stick for 6 dollars … 3 strawberries and 2 bananas drizzled with chocolate. No food for the weight conscious here. They were also serving baconade … there was corn slathered in butter … it was delicious but hard to walk, eat and drink at the same time.
I finally got to taste the pulled pork sandwich I have been waiting for. I shared it and I shouldn’t have because when I lined up at the end of the day and waited for the 30 minutes the vendor told me it would be- they were sold out!
I also got the chance to taste the fall off the bones ribs that I had expected and after 2 fails in Denver and one in Montreal these were as close to what I had dreamed of … however they were fatty! I loved seeing the real wood being used and it makes a huge difference in the flavor.
All the food was expensive and the ribs perhaps rushed to meet the crowds were tough and fatty.
Country music was playing and it was crowded like the running of the bulls as we strolled along BBQ lane … lots of cowboy hats and crazy clothing! This excursion is not cheap – bones were 2 dollars each – half a rack was 18 dollars! It was hard to walk around with a glass of wine or beer and eat. It seemed as if everyone was drinking Coors beer, wine and having a great time- Plenty of dogs at this NO PET EVENT! Health regulations are in place to prevent that- I guess the enforcers were at the Coors tent.
The crowd was eclectic- everyone loves barbeque- Lots of mega strollers and, in this state of cyclists, lots of bikes pushing through. Common sense gets left behind at these types of food events. It was the lineups that were the most bothersome – it was hot and to line up for half and hour to get a rib or two seemed excessive. I hate lining up to pay for something. In fact there were not that many vendors of meat and the event was not ergonomically designed. The pig run contest had the sense to locate out of the main stream.
Shrimp and kielbasa on a skewer … grilled lobster at 30 dollars …grilled salmon. I loved the idea of tasting portions for 2 dollars … definitely the best deal of the day! Drinks were 6 dollars and there were trucks lined up with spigots on the side, the beer barrels were in the truck.
Lots of sticky fingers … wet naps or running water would have been nice. They truly needed more places to sit, some shade would have been great-and more garbage cans – my partner busted one vendor when he was told by the trash nazi security that the forks were supposed to be biodegradable. He quickly pointed out the culprit who just happened to have had the best “Q” on the block.
There was no sign of a competition or who was the winner. It is always rewarding to be able to attend an event that one has dreamed of … a barbecue competition was one of mine! I was lucky to taste the pulled pork and ribs and it was fun – eventually the crowds and the lineups made me feel claustrophobic. The atmosphere was like a midway and just like the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) near closing, the barbecue carnies came out … people stood right in the middle of traffic chatting and stopped the flow. I felt like a little kid when I went to the CNE desperate to get rid of those precious tickets – searching for a way to spend them Hog Bucks … I even wanted to give them away –
I left determined to cook my own ribs and I did just that- If you would like to read the recipe for Bucky’s Barbeque Ribs, Rub and Sauce- here is a link to my website EPCulinary.com I am just launching my food site- thank you for your patience and I look forward to your feedback.
Sante, Chef Elizabeth