Year three and I was once again honoured to judge at the 2011 London Ribfest. What can I say, it's pretty sweet.
So if you haven't followed my escapeds as a judge at Ribfest in 2009, and again in 2010, the way it works is that there are 10 rib vendors who each compete for Ribs and Sauce. In the past there has been a wing competition as well, but that has been shifted to the London International Food Festival.
Then there are the judges. Celebrities from the community that have to do the arduous task of eating ribs, tasting sauces, and drinking Mill Street Brewery products.
Ya, that's my placard. And I'm up front too. Great view.
To start things off, Town Crier Bill Paul opened the judging. while Nick Paparella successfully MC'd again. You can also see the Ribfest mascot there cheering on the crowd. It was a bloody hot day and I have tremendous sympathy for that individual.
This time I had the privilege of sitting besides London Police Chief Brad Duncan and Queen's Council lawyer Murray Neilson.
Also sitting in the judges areas were the Mayor of St Thomas Heather Jackson-Chapman, London Free Press colomnist Joe Belanger, Wastewater Operation's Barry Orr, London Councilor Harold Usher, and the Attorney General of Ontario Chris Bentley. It was cool meeting such influential people, and then have several of them refer to me as the expert.
Everyone was in really good spirits (and getting full of spirits!) and soon we were starting our first judging task:
Pretty simple - 10 sauces, one from each Ribber, and one scores them from 1-10: not ranked this way, so you could have multiple 10 scores if they were good enough.
It didn't take Joe Belanger long to really get into the sauce. Ya, that's it all over his face - crazy guy.
- Tomato based, vegetable flavouring, bright red.
- Bold, dark flavour, hint of heat, ketchup-y colour and texture. *
- Bold, but no distinct flavour.
- Thick, but like a malty vinegar.
- Smooth, spicy, almost like a hot sauce. *
- Bold, but milder than the others, slight hint of spice.
- Heavy on a Greek-style spice (oregano?) and tomato.
- Fruity, almost like, raspberry?
- Spicy, bold , peppery - like a 40 Creek BBQ.
*Denotes the ones I really liked.
Tasty tasty work. But then the real challenge came on:
Similar situation, similar rules. Basically, looking at Taste, Texture and Tenderness. Total score out of 30.
The brought us out one rib at a time. Each of the ribs are unique. Each ribber sources their own pork ribs and cooks it how they like. At one time they used to all use the same pork but the ribbers each like to use different cuts as you can see below. Again, I have no idea what rib came from what vendor.
- Tender, little pull. Tomatoey sauce, mild but smooth. Very nice start.
- Bold but sweet - scrawny rib, little meat, a bit tender.
- Gooey. Dark flavoured sauce.
4. Tender, sweet (almost like candy - but mild flavour)5. Saucy - but bark was tough. Sweet BBQ like ketchup but not as sugary.
6. Tender but bad texture (mushy). Saucy, standard tasty.
It is said over and over again, its a tough job but someone has to do it.
7. Huge piece! tender, spices, taste like a roast - unique flavour.
8. Saucy, slight tenderness, slight smoke flavour. very mild flavour.
9. Tough! fruity sweet sauce. But so hard to chew. Someone mentioned around me that this should be a rib, not a steak that you need a knife to cut.
10. Roasted flavour, like a rich gravy. Very unique, but underwhelming.
So who won?
Drum Roll Please . . .
BEST RIBS: OLG Gateway, 2nd Place Pistol Pete's .
BEST SAUCE: Jack the Ribber, 2nd Place Fire Island
People's Choice: Kentucky Smokehouse.
Treated like kings, eating pork, hanging out with some cool people, and I got my photo with a walking pig. Ribfest 2011 was once again a success!