I had the great honour of being asked again to be a judge at the 2010 London Ribfest. I had such a good time last year and took my role very seriously and there was no way I could say no. And this year they really helped promote Lord of the Wings.
My name tag (slightly blurred by me) not only had my name, but my title too. I felt pretty special sitting down to such a throne.
Laid out for me was my booklet with instructions (similar to last year) with all my score cards, a Ribfest booklet, napkins, plate, judging t-shirt, ribfest glass (which I forgot to take when I left!), some water, and some pretzel sticks, which turned out to be for the sauce judging. I also had some beer (generously served by Mill Street Brewery) which I normally don't partake in, but decided when in Rome. I sampled some of ther Sweet Lemon Tea Ale (not a particular fan of it) and an Organic Lager (not too shabby).
One of my favourite parts about judging is the people I get to meet. Above sitting with me is Captain Jim Lockwood of the London Fire Department. A proud Londoner and great guy, we had some fun conversations about firefighters, food and what an honour it was to judge.
Paparella, A-Channel reporter and someone who was generous in announcing the Lord of the Wings blog to the crowd. The gentle man with the white beard and Tilley hat is Al Hillier, who ran the operation of Ribfest this year. Also in the photo is another hard working volunteer. The next photo has Barry Orr, standing, who I sat with last year and I was glad to see again (you might know his father, Bobby Orr, famous hockey player). Finally in the pig hat (that had wings that flap) was Ian Sterling from 103.1 Fresh FM who was quite a character.
Doug Hillier is a busy man, but he had a few minutes to chat with me. It was great hearing about how well the festival was doing and how I actually influenced a decision; I mentioned last year driving in the middle of the night and seeing a limo drive by with Ribfest on it. It belong to an organizer from the days prior to Family Shows Canada, and when Doug saw my post, he had to have it. So he bought it, and plans to paint it pink and use it for future events! I really have to thank Doug because he's very supportive and without him, I would never be up there in the special tent.
On to the judging!
This year judges were asked to judge in 3 categories: Rib Sauces, Chicken Wings, and Ribs.
We were each brought a tray with 10 cups, each with a different BBQ sauce. We were also given a cup filled with pretzel sticks to dip to taste the sauces. Each cup had a number on the bottom, but we had no idea which cup belong to which ribber.
I don't know if these were the same sauces that were used on the ribs, because they didn't necessarily taste like it, but when you caramelize the sauces on a grill the flavour would definitely change. I wrote down some notes in case it was a month later before I would get to write this review. But please forgive if it doesn't make any sense, I apparently write notes like chicken scratches.
- nice heat, little sweet
- bite, but a little blah - more of a hot sauce
- dark flavour, like a Bullseye sauce
- slight honey taste
- tastes like McD's sweet & sour sauce
- tastes like McD's bbq sauce
- pineapple, sweet
- tomato peppery
- dark, thick, blocking
- dark, bullseye like
I also don't remember and didn't write down which sauce I liked best. I put smiley faces besides #1, # 2 and number #4, so I guess it was one of those. There certainly was a diversity in sauces, and some groups went for unique like #7 with it's fruity pineapple or #2's hot sauce approach.
1st place Sauce was sauce # 8 – Texas Rangers.
2nd place sauce was sauce # 9 – Horn Dawgs.
The main event. The reason for being here. The ribs. The following is the list in no particular order of ribbers for this years competition:
- Boss Hogs BBQ
- Crazy Canucks
- Fire Island New York
- Horn Dawgs
- Jack the Ribber
- Kentucky Smokehouse
- Pistol Pete's
- Ribs Royale
- Texas Ranger
- Tony Roma's
It was a lot of ribs. Some good, some bad. A lot in between. When judging we took into account taste, tenderness, texture, flavour etc. It's not just sitting down and eating ribs. You really need to take into account each rib.
Again, at the time I had no idea which rib came from which vendor. Even though they are all supplied the ribs from the same place, there was definitely a difference in what each group did with them. Here's my notes on the ribs:
- sweet, smokey, tender rib, gooey
- smokey, slight car on bark, but soft
- Hot - pull, smokey sweet, hint of cherry? alcohol (whiskey?)
- Jack Daniels? dark, fall off the bone, salty
- meaty - falling apart, sweet but blah (no definition of flavour) - saucy
- super blah - no flavour, no meat
- TOUGH, campfire smokey flavour
- warm, savoury - a good sauce
- saucy, tough, no zip
- smooth - sauce, slightly sweet, little tough - but good all around rib
1st place ribs was rib #3 – Pistol Pete’s.
2nd place ribs was rib #8 – Boss Hogg’s.
The People's Choice award went to Kentucky Smokehouse.
CHICKEN WING JUDGING
While most of the judges are mostly interested in the Ribs, I gotta say, wings are my thing. And while there are only three vendors competing for best wing, this year was definitely a tough choice. I almost cried at the end as I watched the volunteers take away unfinished/untouched chicken wings - I hate wasted chicken wings! The competitors this year were:
with pepper flakes and a kick. There were certainly quality wing. Unfortunately they were a bit cold by the time they were served.
Wing #2 was, by my calculations, from Roxbury. The wings were dusted and really reminded me of KFC chicken. They were warm, juicy, salty and a little oily. No real sauce, but a tasty piece of chicken.
By default I figured wing #3 was Ring-A-Wing since I knew last years winner, and I have had Ring-A-Wing before. These too were dusted, deep fried with a really nice BBQ sauce. The sauce was thick and sweet, and very saucy.
Each vendor brought a different flavour and a different wing to the table. They were all winners on effort, but there can be only one winner:
1st place wing was wing – Ring A Wing.
Sauce judging: pretty cool. Rib judging: awesome. Wing judging: spectacular! I love London Ribfest. They really treat the judges well and I am so thankful for all they do for me. Thanks again. It's a tough job, but someone has to do it :p
- 2nd Annual Backyard BBQ Ribfest