This past Saturday was the second coming of @Tweat_Up’s Ribstock. I honestly can’t think of a better event for a guys’ day out – 10 rounds of fresh, juicy ribs each a different Chef’s take on this BBQ classic. I gave up a Royal Ascot ticket to make it to this epic feat celebrating meat. I regret nothing.
The boys and I decided to rock up at 12pm on the dot in order to maximise our rib eating time. We were one of the first through the door, so to speak – so early in fact that the first keg was still being tapped so we had a slight wait for our beer. No worries, the ribs were cooking, the smell divine, and it was time to eat.
Round 1: BBQ Whiskey Beer
These guys have residency in Marylebone and have been on my meat radar (meatdar?) for some time now but I’ve never found the time to make the trek. They put up a low and slow mesquite smoked beef rib that was all juicy marbled meat with a sweet smokey flavour. The spicy bloody mary was a nice counterpoint and added some heat that I just love.
Round 2: Blue Boar Smokehouse
I’d heard of these guys, but mainly for their boozy Sunday brunch which sounds like a steal at £45. This time we have a pork rib with a reasonable spicy dry rub. You could taste the chilli (presumably cayenne?) and the slight sweetness of the glaze. Sadly, our ribs may have been on the grill a little too long as the meat had dried out – no match for the beef ribs we had just demolished.
Round 3: Carl Clarke/Rotary Bar & Grill
Wow. I enjoyed the first two but this one was incredible. If memory serves, this was a Korean BBQ style pork rib and the flavours really stood out. Each bite started with a sweet juicy mouthful of pork with just a bit of heat. But as you ate, the heat built until it warmed you inside out but stopped just short of fiery burn. The accompanying chilli peanut praline was good enough to eat on its own and added a crunchy texture layer and enhanced the sweetness of the rib – the counterpoints of sweet and spicy were brilliant. This quickly smashed it’s way to the top of my list – but more was yet to come.
Round 4: Cattle Grid
Cattle Grid was serving up thick cut baby back ribs with a heavy sweet BBQ glaze. This was a potent almost overwhelming taste that was just too sweet for my liking. Now I’ve got a sweet tooth or ten, but I prefer my meat to be a bit different from dessert – I’m apparently in the minority though given that they won 2nd place! The meat was cooked perfectly though – they know their way around a grill.
Round 5: Namban/Tim Anderson
I had been looking forward to trying out Chef Tim Anderson’s cooking every since I read about his burger offering from one of Young&Foodish’s events a little while ago. I’m intrigued at his take on traditionally asian flavours combined with more european cooking styles. However, the ribs didn’t sit well with me with taste being a little over acidic. This could have been just due to the stark contrast with the sweet Cattle Grid ribs but it just wasn’t for me. And compared to the other competitors the presentation was lacking – I know this shouldn’t matter, but the look of food does form your initial impression of the taste! Disappointing, but I’ll wait to give Namban a go before rating Chef Anderson.
By now we were half way through and starting to feel it. I mean really feel it – that point where you start to wonder just what you’ve got yourself into and that you are only half way through. The feeling that Adam Richman must have far too often. Were we going to quit? Hells no!
The beer provided by Frontier was an excellent choice – a lightly carbonated and lightly flavoured lager that went down easily without taking up too much room. They were generous with two free pints included with the ticket and we took full advantage of that!
@Tweat_Up had set up an excellent event – major points for the massive tent covering most of the grounds which protected us (and more importantly our ribs!) from the sporadic down pours. I’m impressed at the well designed layout which kept the lines moving and we punters fed and watered.
Stay tuned, 5 more rounds of ribs and of course the hot sauce tasting still to come!
<Go do something. Eat. Drink. Be Merry. Then come back>
Alright, we’re back for more ribs. Just thinking about all we ate is making me feel both full and hungry at the same time. Damn why is Ribstock only once a year? Heads up, Carl Clarke is serving up some limited portions of his killer Korean ribs this Friday (June 28) only – get stuck in!
Round 6: Neil Rankin
Chef Rankin served up the definite beast of the day – a Texas/Korean mash up concept that was manifested in a chicken fried pork rib. Take a moment and let that sink in. We’re talking chicken flavoured batter surrounding a massive succulent pork rib. And if that wasn’t enough he doused it in a Korean BBQ sauce and a bit of garlic and lime mayo. It looked almost too good to eat and tasted even better. I could eat this for breakfast – in fact, I wish I could! Chef Rankin – could I please have the recipe?
Round 7: Prairie Fire BBQ
I had never heard of these guys before so they easily won the wildcard spot in my opinion. Boasting a Kansas City style BBQ sauce, these guys were sticking to a traditional smoked pork belly rib. Now, I spent six months in KC sampling the best of the BBQ joints in the town. Pork is definitely something they know how to do well, but more in the pulled variety rather than ribs. The KC sauce is also thick, spicy, and smokey whereas Prairie Fire’s sauce was tasty but too light to pack much punch. All this can be forgiven except that the ribs were served up cold. Epic fail.
Round 8: Red Dog Saloon
RDS moved a little East from Prairie Fire to end up in St. Louis. As I whiled away 4 amazing years at WashU there, I’m not stranger to St. Louis BBQ. I love this stuff, and on any given day I’d happily devour a rack of these smoked pork ribs. Yet, they are pretty traditional and not up to par with the level of creativity shown but the other chefs. I stripped it down to the bone for old time’s sake, and extra points for the shot of Buffalo Trace served along side!
Round 9: Roti Chai
I confess, when I heard about an Indian shop doing ribs I was skeptical to say the least. I love curry – hell its my go-to comfort food – but curry ribs just didn’t sound quite right. And I’ve never been more wrong. Roti Chai’s rub was a complex mix of flavours with a nod towards Indian cooking (good taste of cumin in there) without falling prey to the standard curry house fare. They also get uber cool points for having the best paired drink (a mix of apple juice, ginger, and cognac) which balanced the dry savoury spices with sweet and spicy high notes. The crunchy mix as a side added another texture layer and despite my protesting belly I may have stolen a bit from my friend’s plate. Yes, after a mammoth rib feast I wanted more – enough said.
Round 10: The Ribman
No Ribstock could ever be complete without the Ribman. Mark has built up a devout following that is willing to wait for the better part of their lunch break just to get their hands on some of his ribs each week. Without fail, his stall has a monster line that puts all other lines to shame. And yet they keep on coming. The ribs are good, but where he really makes his mark is in the sauces. The base level Holy Fuck is a potent beast with a heat that hits hard and keeps on coming. Next up is Christ on a Bike which sends even the most leather tongued veterans searching for the nearest gallon of milk. I’m slightly scared to sample the higher levels of heat with Holy Mother of God, Judas Is Scary Hot, and the special all naga monster he’s making for his Kickstarter supporters. (Dude when are we getting those?!)
For once, instead of the beast on a bun that he usually serves up, the Ribman toned it down with a tortilla (handmade by the man behind Buen Provencho), some seasoned bones, and of course a good drizzle of Holy Fuck. It was the perfect (and really only appropriate) end to the 10 course rib tasting menu.
Finally, all the ribs were eaten, the score cards submitted, and the votes tallied up to the following results:
2. Cattle Grid
3. Roti Chai/Carl Clarke
The people have spoken.
Oh, and the Ribman won the hot sauce tasting competition – but really, was there any doubt?