Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Fifth Annual Texas Pete Twin City Rib Fest

Lane: Walking across the parking lot, the humidity hung low in the air suppressed by the sweet sting of smoke. Being the late afternoon, the sun was getting low in the sky and the golden glow of the sun's rays shown through the thick plumes of smoke adding to the haze of the day. The crowds were immense with hundreds of rib lovers milling around, excited by the smell of sweet, savory, smoked meat. The excitement of the carnival atmosphere was contagious and we could all feel a sense of community; a cohesive love of southern culture, that essence of barbecue which is neither a verb or a noun but in this setting an adjective. The first selection was a sample of Bibs Downtown from Winston-Salem, NC. The sampler plate included 3 ribs, red slaw, and baked beans. Ribs were pretty smoky but only had a basic flavor provided by a good dry rub that was only a little on the spicy side, but this was a good meaty spare rib. I really liked the red BBQ slaw even though it was heavy on the vinegar. The beans were more like chili and a little on the lukewarm side. I didn't really like them but April seemed to.
April: The Rib Fest was a lot of fun with a very carnival/fair type atmosphere. We decided to stick to the local entrees and try those ribs only. (A review of the only other semi local entrant can be seen below by our guest reviewer, Summer Hanna.) The ribs were good and smoky but a little on the basic side. They were a dry rib with little spice but offered no creativity or sauciness. The red BBQ slaw was so vinegary that I couldn't eat it. The BBQ beans were fantastic. They contained bacon, tomatoes, ground beef, and lots of other good stuff. While they were only a little warm they were so very tasty.

April: Dr. Brownstone's BBQ was our next tasting. These ribs can only be described one way...saucy! They were super meaty and covered in a very rich sauce. The rib meat fell right off the bone and had a really nice spicy taste. Dr. Brownstone's ribs were a good wet rib to compare to the drier version from Bib's.
Lane: These ribs proved to be very wet with a thick molasses sauce. They had a really good smoky flavor. There was textural crunch which signified a strong glaze on the outer layer of meat but the sauce really complimented this texture giving it a well blended taste sensation.

Summer: Prior to Rib Fest, I had looked through the list of vendors andwhere they were from to get an idea of what I should prepare myself toeat Friday night. This is when I had seen that there was a place fromSpartanburg, SC competing, and regardless my love of North Carolina Lexington-style BBQ, I was elated at the chance to have some SouthCarolina ribs. What I didn't prepare myself for was the time commitment required to eat at the Carolina Rib King, the defending champion of the Texas Pete Rib Fest. While everyone else stood in a 5-10 minute line for their plate of ribs, I and a small group dedicated ourselves to a forty minute wait for our dinner.
While standing in line, we had decided to go ahead and test out the sauces independent of the meat. Two five-gallon buckets with pump tops held your choice of either mild or hot sauce. The mild sauce was okay, a blend of ketchup and vinegar with a few spices, but without the heat provided by the pepper left you with the sweet aftertaste of ketchup. Iwas not a fan. The hot sauce however, was much more pleasing. It also was a blend of ketchup, vinegar, spices, with the addition of a smoky flavor and a little heat which we as a group decided was much morepleasing. Once we finally received our meals, I realized the wait was wellworth it. I had a "Baby King Rib Plate." The Baby King comes at a priceof $10 and includes 4 bones, slaw, baked beans, and corn bread. The Carolina Rib King cooked some of the best ribs I have ever eaten in my entire life. I apologize now to all those who may be reading, I have told cook delicious ribs. They all pale in comparison to what I ate Friday night. The meat was so tender that it easily slid off the bone, which I attribute to the slow par-baking over steam which I observed while waiting in line. They were then finished over a charcoal/wood chip flame where they obtained a slight crisp to the outside and a delicious smoky flavor. Even though I had gotten some of the hot sauce, I barely used it. The meat had such a good flavor that it didn't need the addition of anything else. The slaw and beans are nothing worth writing home about. They were your run of the mill food service sides. However, the cornbread was buttery, moist, and delicious: a perfect companion to the ribs. All of which were easily washed down with a Foothills Brewery Hurricane Hefeweizen, the Winston-Salem brewery which supplied all beer for Rib Fest. My only disappointment was that the line was too long to go back for a second plate.
April: As for the rest of the festival, the beer was good (from Foothills Brewery) but the entertainment was disappointing. Friday was supposed to be a performance by Vanilla Ice at 10 pm according to the program and website. We left at 11:45 pm and he still had not come to the stage. Thankfully the company of friends and food more than made up for it!
Lane: I was a fan of Digital Underground from back in the day and I felt privileged to be witnessing the slightest fraction of hip-hop history in the duo of Money B and DJ Nu- Stylez as they played homage to hip-hop’s golden era but when all was said and done and the clock ticked on, and on, it became clear…..they were the hype-men for Vanilla Ice, his warm up crew and after awhile the luster of this golden facet began to grow dim. Maybe it was the clearing of the delicious BBQ smoke haze or perhaps the sheer exhaustion of the day, but we were done and it was time to go.
Twin City Rib Fest Dixie Classic Fairgrounds Winston-Salem, NC 27105
Distance from Home: 107.12 miles

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