Saturday, September 15, 2012

Ironically enough after going for a very "dainty" lunch/High Tea at Morocco Chocolat, my day went changed from chic boutiques and shops of Yorkville to the suburban parkgrounds of Burlington. 

No joke, this is serious business
For those who are unaware, Burlington Ribfest prides itself on being the LARGEST rib festival in Canada. Running strong for 17 years, The National post dubs this carnivorous event as the "Superbowl of of Ribfests". For this usually quiet Halton region city, there was no shortage of crowds flocking to Spencer Smith Park to get their hands dirty when trying offerings from 18 "ribber" teams from across North America vying to get crowned for the best ribs title and bragging rights over their competitors. 

This finger licking good event was made possible by the organization of Rotary Club of Burlington Lakeshore. Over the past 16 years, The Burlington Rotary has made this a tremendously successful community event that welcomes over 100,000 people and has raised over $2.3 million for local, national and international charities! I will definitely eat to that! 

Accompanied with my friends Kasia and Vince, we made our way to the burbs and faced our first challenge of the night: PARKING! After nearly going insane, we went from car to line to get into the actual festival, which was fortunately fast because we were all ravenous! Making our way through rows of vendors selling homemade jewellery, candy apples, temporary tatttoos, we headed straight for the meat and potatoes of where all the ribber teams were located cooking away. Having only been on the park grounds once before, it was easy to find our way over to the rib stations as all we had to do was just follow our noses and look for the billowing clouds of smoke from all the smokers, slowly cooking, hundreds of pounds of pork ribs, chicken and pulled pork. Let me tell ya... for quiet suburb city, this was sensory overload!

After see the scale of the setups these rib teams display, its no wonder that these events can only be held out in suburbs and not in the city, its the only place with open space! As you can see from the pictures, all the competitors showcase the various awards they have won in the array of competitions they have entered. 

Through all the BBQ smoke and herds of hungry people and members of various rib teams screaming, yelling and wielding giant knives like crazy people, we needed to get some ribs of our own. Kasia and I being veterans of TUM (Toronto Underground Market) , we followed the same strategy as if we were at the Evergreen Brickworks for TUM: Divide and Conquer. We opted to not bother with the "filler" of chicken and pulled pork (although I'm sure it was all delicious) we went straight for the RIBS!

The plan was for each of us to pick a Rib stand and order a half rack of their ribs. After a few minutes, what was expected to be 3 half racks turned into 3 full racks! I went to Boss Hogs and I must of said something right because she she gave me a full rack even though I paid for half! Call it bribery, but I call it smart marketing ;). Vince also ran into a friend who was working for the Pork Company supplying the ribs to all the vendors and scored us a full rack of ribs from Silver Bullet for FREE! Vince also grabbed a half rack from Kentucky Smokehouse and Kasia went for a half rack at Sticky Fingers

The tasty offerings are as follows:

1. Silver Bullet: These free ribs were absolutely wonderful.   These meaty ribs had a healthy slathering of sauce that was full bodied ending with a nice little zing at the end.

2. Kentucky Smokehouse: These ones were definitely the ugly duckling of the pack. The initial flavour was nice with a strong Asian undertone with the taste of hoisin sauce coming through almost tasting like something you would get from a Chinese BBQ house in Chinatown. What really through me for a loop was the way they were cooked. Kentucky Smokehouse really took Smokehouse to heart as these ribs were exceedingly overcooked (and I didn't even think that was possible). In fact they were smoked/cooked so long, Kasia took a bite into one and went down to the actual bone marrow, not really an appetizing feeling I'm sure (judging by the look of displeasure on her face). 

3. Boss Hogs: Again, I have to thank the woman who generously gave me an additional half rack for free, these ribs were smoked and finished with just the perfect amount of sauce which was delightful. Rich and perfectly balanced and a nice slightly sweet finish. For an extra dollar, I opted for the BBQ baked beans and coleslaw. Beans were good but it was the coleslaw that was PHENOMENAL. It was your basic traditional mayo based coleslaw, but it was executed perfectly with the right amount of dressing while keeping a nice crunch on the shaved carrots, cabbage and red onion. Sooo good that Kasia ate all of it :P !! 

4. Sticky Fingers: These were also very well cooked ribs. A little on the dry side, but you can definitely taste the tomato base of the sauce and similar to Boss hogs, it also ended with a sweet finish. 

Verdict: All the vendors we sampled were indeed delicious and a very tough decision but the 3 of us felt like Silver Bullet and Boss Hogs were on top. Kasia leaned more towards Boss Hogs as she isn't a big fan of spice and Vince is so it left me on the fence of which Ribber reigned supreme. In the end, I would have to say Boss Hogs takes the cake in terms of execution of cooking of the ribs and the depth and flavour of sauce. The beans and coleslaw was just icing on the cake (since no others were purchased to be compared in all fairness) 

If you take a look at the Burlington Ribfest website results, our preferences weren't too far off from the rest of the rib eating crowd as Boss Hogs came in first and Silver Bullet in third for the People's Choice award. You bet that I won't pass up the chance to go to future ribfest events and you should seriously considering attending next years Burlington Ribfest as well. Great food for a great cause, you can't lose!


Post a Comment