Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Greenwood Festival of Discovery

April: The Food Network was actually set up on Main Street in downtown Greenwood, SC for this festival. I couldn't believe it. This festival made The Food Network??!! It sure did and for good reason...fantastic BBQ as much as the world's widest main street would hold. Of 77 competitors in the Kansas City Barbeque Society sanctioned event, 28 participated in the Taster's Choice Cook-off. For $1, you could sample each groups BBQ, hash, ribs, and/or sauce. This was the best deal ever. With my mom and dad as co-accomplices we worked our way through 24. By this point, the temperature has climbed to a balmy 95 degrees and the crowd had swelled to over 1,000. All that mixed with a belly full of BBQ meant a quick departure to home and central air conditioning. Below is a listing of some of our favorites, some worth a mention, and the few that were barely worth the $1 sample price. Check out the festival link for the official winners and see how our reviews stack up to the "pro" judging.

1) Papa Eddie & The Hoggy Bottom Boys, Plum Branch, SC: These guys had some of the best smoked pork that I tasted all day. Almost every bite had a nice taste of the "bark" carmelization that was smoky, sweet, and salty. The meat had just the right amount of moisture and was not chopped too fine. Great extra: they added a mini-brownie to their sample tasting tray. 2) Backyard Barbeque Boys: Not only did these folks have some excellent chopped pork, they pitched a sauce infused with chocolate. Now, before you turn up your nose, let me say that it was excellent. It was so good together that I gave them one of my votes for the Taster's Choice! 3) Catchafire for Q, Fort Mill, SC: We were pleased to see a competition team from so close to our Rock Hill home. These folks allowed us to sample a rib. It was salty yet moist and sported a tasty dry rub. I could have eaten a whole 1/2 rack of these ribs. Ken Ramaley can be reached at for any of your catering needs.
I found that it was possible to taste bad BBQ at this festival. Palmetto Moonlight Smokers somehow managed to serve cold pork that was absolutely tasteless. Carolina Grub also produced a pork sample that was extremely greasy and oily. Thankfully the good stuff outweighed the bad.

Lane: I had a fantastic time, even when I got an eye full of smoke that blinded me for a good 7 minutes. I was still able to enjoy the carnival like atmosphere and the splendor of small town South Carolina. The Greenwood, SC Festival of Discovery is everything good about South Carolina. Sure we have Mark Sanford and his shenanigans but for these particular few hours, South Carolina was the best spot on Earth for the best example of what it means to enjoy southern culture on a hot summer day. I enjoyed my cue immensely by washing it down with a Cheerwine. So, without further adieu, my picks for the top three:

(1)Pigture Perfect BBQ from Tallahassee, Florida was one of my favorites. It had a great sauce and a really spicy rub on the ribs. It gave their ribs a delicious flavor and texture. It was one of the few samples that was salty or at least tasted saltier then the rest. After tasting this sample April and I looked at each other and said "WOW!" (2)Beer, Beans, and Bar-B-Crew Newberry, SC. Their cue had an amazing smoky flavor and taste. This is my pick for who should open a restaurant and if they did I would keep coming. And my last pick for the day was (3)Rubbing Butts BBQ They served their samples as mini pulled-pork sandwiches. Their pork was tasty and delicious and it didn't need sauce but there was some nearby (a standard peppery red sauce). Visiting the Festival of Discovery was a unique opportunity for this barbecue enthusiast. It was truly exciting to be around the smoke, the noise, the heat, and the sense of good cheer and fellowship of the crowd. The competition between the professionals however was a completely different situation altogether. Competition barbecue is a 20 hr work day commitment. Waking up at 2, 4, and 6 am to add wood to the smoker is not uncommon. You have the stress of tending, basting, turning, checking, chopping, and serving then waiting for the judges all the while making sure your crew and equipment are working correctly. I do not envy the competitors but I do envy their wares.

Distance from home: 96.63 miles

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