Thursday, October 9, 2014

Ribstock, 27th September

I have wanted to go to a Ribstock for about three years now but things beyond my control, rather than inability to get a ticket have always got in the way. Not this year though. I was there, at noon, finger on the mouse, ready to get my ticket, and before 12:01 I was one of the lucky 200 to have nabbed one. They did things a bit differently this year – previously tickets are around £50 and that entitles one person to try all the competition ribs  and cast their vote for their favourite. Being a Tweat Up event, they normally throw in a free drink or two with that, and I think there’s normally about ten competitors.

This year, the ticket was a whopping £79!! BUT, it was a plus one ticket – so you could go on your own and eat ALL the ribs, or you could bring someone with you for ‘sharesies’. And believe me, doing ‘sharesies’ did not mean losing out. There were only three competitors who served up a single rib, and these were gargantuan examples of a rib. Otherwise you would get at least two ribs, or, where they were baby back (by Roti Chai) we actually had four! I was stuffed by the end of it, and we had to seriously slow down our eating after four servings to make sure we didn’t ruin our judgment by being too full to enjoy them.

On top of this each ticket got you a pint glass which entitled you to unlimited refills of Frontier lager. I’m not a beer drinker myself, but Stephen made ample use of this and got through five pints in the evening before we called it a night and headed off at 9:30. Had we stayed until the end he could easily have made that seven.

On top of this – yes, there’s more! We got a free old fashioned, and a free shot of tincup whiskey – lovely stuff – smooth and sweet. But wait, there’s more!! With each ticket you also got a free bottle of The Ribman’s Holy Fuck Bacon sauce, plus some pork scratchings.

But wait, there’s EVEN more!! Some of the stalls had other freebies they were giving away with the competition ribs. Roti Chai had an apple and cinnamon whiskey shot, Breddos had a pickleback (love them!) and Texas Joe gave away packets of his fruity, lip tingling, chewy jerky (seriously – it’s delicious). Yeah, I did the math and we got our money’s worth that day that’s for sure. (I literally did the calculating as we were going along and we easily ate and drank £80 worth.)
Roti Chai's baby backs with apple and cinnamon whiskey shot
So. The Ribs. There were seven traders taking part and I won’t go into detail on them all or this post will last as long as it took to eat them. For Stephen and I there was a definitive Top 3, and we were actually split between our two favourites, it was such a close call. We enjoyed all of the ribs but there was something we couldn’t quite define yet which we knew we were looking for when it came to choosing the best. It couldn’t be too much like any old slow-cooked meat. It had to have some BBQ char, flavour and texture to it. A bit of bite, a bit of its own unique taste, not relying simply on its sauce. For us, Smokestak and Hotbox ticked all these boxes. I slightly preferred Smokestak with the rib tips it came with and a very good hot coleslaw and pickled chillies.

Winning ribs from Smokestak
Stephen preferred Hotbox, which came with some delicious pickled onions and also chillies. In the end, I voted for Hotbox in the name of romance.

Our third choice were Breddos tacos, although the public chose otherwise, with Roti Chai coming in third. We both liked the Roti Chai ribs but we felt they were more about the sauce than the rib – a lovely satay-esque sauce with a good hit of chilli. I really loved the Breddos boys’ short rib offering though, topped with the best mole I’ve ever had. I had thought I was running out of room and yet I got that in my stomach without pausing for breath. What kept it from the top spot for us was that it seemed more like a slow cooked pot roast than a barbequed beef rib. Damn tasty though!

We began our feasting at 6 and it took us three and a half hours to get to the final rib, and I’m sad to say we were far too full to try any of the other porky offerings for sale as part of PorkLife which was running concurrently. The pork belly croquettes from Breddos looked delicious, and I think Stephen was sad he couldn’t fit in a Bleecker burger. But what an amazing event. I’m now in my semi-non-drinking month so apart from all the free shots, I didn’t buy any drinks, and Stephen had his beer refills so we didn’t spend any money the whole night. Tweat Up, I salute you (again).

Here are the rest of the competitors’ ribs:

The Ribman's with Holy Fuck 'slaw

Texas Joe's beast

Q Grill's sticky ribs

Smokestak's pig

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