Posted by: dinaguillen | September 14, 2009

Ribs Glorious Ribs!

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If you want to mix things up a little in your cooking club, I suggest a field trip.  We’ve done a couple now, and I think they are some of the most fun times we have had together as a group.  It gives us a chance to travel together, get outside of the confines of our typical gathering, and enjoy food related events with people who have the most appreciation for them.

I just got back from a food event that I’ve been to twice before, but never considered it as a cooking club field trip opportunity until now.  I’m not sure why not – it would have been up my cooking club’s alley, or any cooking club for that matter.  It’s a ribfest.  More specifically, “The Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-off.”  When I first heard about it three years ago from my good friend and fellow foodie Amber Heischlinger (who was shocked, stunned actually, that I did not know about it), I immediately called Michelle and told her that I just heard about an event we absolutely had to attend.  She packed up her family, and I packed up mine, and we have been going each year since.

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This year, as I was making my way through the throngs of people enjoying the most delicious ribs (about 500,000 people attend each year), I started thinking about how great it would be to organize a trip for my cooking club to attend as a group.  Ever since we began coming together to cook and eat, our palates have slowly become more attuned to a dishes’ flavor profile (some of us are better at this then others, and I admit right here, right now, that I have a long way to go), and what better way to put our palates to the test then judging a cook-off together? Even better, a rib cook-off?  Food is so subjective anyway, so there are no right or wrong results, and it is a new, fun, delicious way for a cooking club to converse food.

This rib cook-off took place in Sparks, Nevada, just outside Reno.  Great music, a lot of alcohol, and some amazing food – all in a never-ending supply for 5 days straight.  As I was walking around, sampling ribs from one place after another, I started imagining my cooking club’s reaction to this event.  We would have closed this place down while passing our own judgment on who deserved to win the best ribs.

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Certainly, there was no lack of opinion on that topic amongst the crowd.  Everywhere I went, there was somebody in front or behind me in line, ready and willing to tell me what ribs I should try next.  Perhaps that was the best part of the whole festival.  Talking to all these people who LOVE talking food.  I mean, isn’t that why I joined a cooking club…so that I can talk food all the time with other people who want to do the same?

While in line at one of the rib booths, I met a guy from Carson City, who is originally from Texas, and he went on for a good half hour (some of the lines are verrry long) on what makes good ribs, good brisket, good steak, and good chili.  I actually started taking copious notes on the back of a receipt I found in the bottom of my purse.  He then told me that I MUST go to Desperado’s BBQ & Rib Co.’s booth (at the far end of the festival from where I was at) and try their beef ribs.  Beef?  I scrunch up my nose and tell him if I’m going to consume calories that’s going to take me a month to burn off, it has to come from pork ribs.  Mr. Carson City looked me straight in the face and said “I’m from Texas, and I won’t stray you wrong – I know what I’m talking about.”  You can’t make this stuff up.  Plus, I walked away totally respecting this man who is very serious about food and wants to share it

So, I get to the Desperado booth, and see another long line.  I look at my husband and announce loudly that I am not waiting in another long line for beef ribs.  I swear, as soon as I’ve uttered those words, a voice behind me says “Oh, but you must.  They’re worth it.” I turn around, and there’s a woman and her mother, munching away on their beef ribs, with this look of euphoria on their face.   And that’s why this festival is so great.  One after another, people blissfully happy talking about food to complete strangers, often while consuming it.  She tells me this is one of the first booths she comes to when she arrives at the rib cook-off every year, and she always comes back right before she leaves to take some home.

So now we’re in line at Desperado’s, waiting to try the beef ribs (by the way – they are worth every minute of the wait and they won this year for best ribs) and someone behind us starts asking my husband and I where we’ve been so far.  I turn around, and before we can even answer, a complete stranger starts counting off the rib booths he’s been to so far, and tells us the ones we have to hit before we go home.  Rasta Joe’s BBQ (which by the way has come up as a favorite from other people who approached us with their opinions) is his favorite, followed by Porky ‘N Beans BBQ.  He tells us he’s from Truckee, and says he comes every year and tries to attend all five days of the festival.  But then, he gives us the tip that excites my husband.  He says that if we come late on Mondays, the final day of the festival, they start giving the ribs away at half price since they need to close down shop quickly. 

Half way between one end of the festival and the other, there is a booth for the “People’s Choice” where attendees of the festival get to vote for their favorite ribs.  In the three years I’ve been attending, I had never voted for my favorite.  But after getting so much good advice, and “testing” so many different ribs on this trip, I felt qualified to vote.  And while I appreciated all the feedback and thoroughly enjoyed all the conversations while getting the feedback, my favorite is the one I’ve been returning to consistently each year…Famous Dave’s BBQ.  The ribs have the perfect amount of smokiness, they’re incredibly tender and juicy, and the sauce…oh the sauce…it has the perfect amount of spiciness and sweetness.  Famous Dave’s ribs are just perfect…in my opinion.

So if you’d like to plan a cooking club field trip to a rib cook-off, here’s what you need:

A rib cook-off.  There are hundreds of them around the country in every state.  Go to http://www.bbq-festivals.com/ to get a complete listing and find one near you.

A scoring card and pencil for each cooking club member.  The card should have four criteria on it: appearance, aroma, tenderness and taste. Using your own personal criteria for judging, each rib sample can be scored from one to ten, with one being the low score. 

A supply of drinks (beer, tea, soda or water are fine), a plate of cheese, crackers and grapes for clearing the taste buds.

That’s all you need.  A trip to a rib cook-off with your cooking club –  seriously friends, does life get more delicious than this?

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