1st Annual BBQ Festival
Every year I get to work in Sandusky/Huron Ohio during the same week as the Huron, OH Irish Festival. Last year was the 26 Annual Irish Festival, and this year was going to the 27th. There is the beer garden, fair food with corned beef, cabbage and potatoes, artists selling Irish themed items, vendors selling Irish themed goods, Irish themed music and Irish themed dancing. This has been going on long before I ever stepped foot in to Huron, OH, and I thought it was going to be a tradition to look forward to every year. This Irish Festival was held in the Huron, OH Boat Basin, which is lovely grassy amphitheater with the Huron Marina boat channel in the background.
This year, to my dismay, the Irish Festival was 86ed for the Huron, OH 1st Annual BBQ Festival. My first thought was, what do this lily livered northerners know about BBQ? There is no tradition of BBQ in Northern Ohio, so the BBQ cannot possibly be good. I went for dinner , with great reservation, to the BBQ Festival. I mean, I live in Nashville, there is a tradition of slow cooked over wood and coal foods. There are plenty of BBQ pit joints in Nashville, and heading on to Memphis, there are even more! We dabble with our BBQ rig in the backyard, and we got it down to a 4 day process with preparing the meat, aging the meat, dry rubbing the meat and a couple of days on and off low smoldering wood coals. We never put BBQ sauce on our BBQ because sauce just destroys the natural smoky flavor developed over the long slow smoking time, and any delicate spice that might be in our dry rub. Sheesh, after 4 days of work, I will be hard pressed to destroy the flavor.
So, I get to the 1st Annual Huron BBQ Festival, a bit mad that the Irish Festival was nixed, and not expecting much. There were 3 or 4 BBQ vendors, all of them are caterers in the area. None of the vendors are full-time BBQ pitmasters. The 1st vendor I went to had no line, and that should have been a tip off of what was to come. I am not going to mention any name, or show the product because it was so bad. The ribs were boiled first, then grilled and then smothered in a tomato based sauce that tasted like spaghetti-o red sauce. Spaghetti-o sauce good on spaghetti-os. These ribs were not even cooked on site, they were made somewhere else, and brought in vats of that nasty sauce. NOT good on ribs. NEXT!
I went to the next vendor, Mesenburg's Catering. I watched them pull out racks of ribs from the smoker, chop them up, and then dump them into a giant vat of sauce. I cringed. I went up to the counter and asked for dry ribs. The girl looked at me and said I would have to talk to the boss.
So I did. I asked him about his rig, and it is a new rig that he bought recently, and he has not been BBQing long. The rig is a wood and gas hybrid. Of course, being from Nashville, I "poo-pooed" the gas portion of the rig because real pitmasters would never heat their ribs with gas. But, the guy was really nice, and I he pulled out a rack for me, and he chopped up ribs for me to taste dry. He added a nice rub with a nice crust. There was enough hickory wood in the hybrid smoker to add to the smoke ring and smoky flavor. I believe he said he smoked the ribs for at least 6 hours, and there was a smoky flavor. I give this guy a few more years to make these ribs, a few more years to not sauce his ribs, and I will expect to see him in Memphis for the World BBQ championships.
The third vendor I went to was the Culinaire Gourmet caterer. These people too are caterers, not BBQ pitmasters. They too have a hybrid wood and gas rig, about 3 times as large as Mesenburg's rig. They had a different way of serving their ribs, they put the ribs in the rig, sprayed apple juice on the ribs for moisture as well as sweetness. I don't think they let the ribs hang in the smoke too long, maybe for 2-4 hours. When they wanted to serve the ribs, they put them on a regular Kingsford charcoal grill to grill the ribs, not wood to heat the ribs up. I would call these ribs grilled ribs, not BBQ. They were better than I expected.
They too then chopped up the grilled ribs, and dumped them into a vat of sauce. I did ask for the ribs dry before they dumped the ribs into sauce. I did like the sweetness the apple juice spray gave to the ribs.
The festival was fun, but my heart and tastebuds are still with Tennessee BBQ joints. Tennessee Pitmasters, start your pits and get that wood to a low smolder, I will be coming visit.
technorati tagged with:
Huron Ohio BBQ Festival