Saturday, April 17, 2010


Last week I headed down to Tampa, FL to visit my fantastic sister who was freshly home from an overseas deployment. A few weeks before my trip, I was reading through an issue of Bon Appetit, and saw that during the weekend I would be down in Florida, the 2010 Gulfcoast Rhythm & Rib Fest would be taking place in Palmetto. I confirmed with Annie that Palmetto isn't a prohibitive distance from Tampa, and we were in!

I have only recently (in the past few years) experienced ribs. Some good friends of mine here in Brooklyn are pretty astute barbecuers and smokers, and I have had the good fortune to be included in the "I've had ribs on the smoker since 10 am, come over and bring beer" call-to-action texts that circulate before spontaneous summer barbecues.

As a kid, I don't recall ever eating ribs, so I was excited to take my newly acquired appreciation for ribs to the Rib Fest and see what different Rib Masters had to offer.

It was a hot and sunny Saturday, we got in the car and headed out to Palmetto. We arrived at the Fair Grounds, parked the car, showed our tickets (only $5 when purchased in advance at the 7-Eleven!) and were welcomed through the gates by some vendors, and a very cool car show. The car show was key for two reasons: It provided a good "Let's take a lap around the car show" ambulatory rib-break, and it allowed me to fall completely in love with the Corvette Stingray.


But I digress. Cars were beautiful, Boss Hawg was playing, the air was perfumed with smoke and meat, we got ourselves a beer and got in line for ribs!

Aside from the greatest onion rings I have ever had (they cooked each order fresh upon ordering) we tried ribs from 4 different Rib Masters:
Johnson's BBQ
Porky N'Beans
Carolina Rib King
Big Boned BBQ

All the ribs were really tasty. What I prefered were the ribs where the meat was drier, where it really fell off the bone and had a consistency that would have worked well for shredding the meat.

Without question, all the sauces were yummy, especially the spicy ones, and messy in that perfect rib-way (being somewhat an amateur at cooking and consuming ribs, my descriptions might be a bit amateurish as well, please forgive me). We ended up getting a 3-4 rib sampler from each vendor. We took some breaks, but only made it through 4 of the Rib Masters before we were too full to keep consuming. I know you are also disappointed to hear that we weren't able to stay for the Charlie Daniels Band playing later on that evening (we went to see Hot Tub Time Machine).

So in the end I thought Porky N'Beans and Big Boned BBQ were the best, but Porky N'Beans edged out Big Boned a bit. Factoring into the Big Boned loss was their attempt to bring religion into my rib-eating experience:

"Is what you're living for worth Christ dying for?" Um. Ribs? I am not sure I can decide based on the rib selection at the Golfcoast Rhythm & Rib Fest. Sorry Big Boned BBQ.

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