Monday, October 28, 2013

2013 East Cambridge Rib Fest

I'm not going to lie to you- there are few better smells than the smoke that comes off of a charcoal barbecue.  There is something about the smoke that immediately makes my stomach grumble and I know that whatever is going to come off of those trivets will be incredibly succulent.  This was the smell that greeted me as soon as I got near the East Cambridge Rib Festival last week.  My nose picked up the scent and I knew I was on the right path.  

For the past three years the East Cambridge Business Association has been bringing together restaurants from the area to come together for one afternoon and showcase their best rib creation.  Variety is the key here with each restaurant putting their own spin on their ribs, creating an entrant that embodies the personality of their restaurant.  18 different restaurants were represented, and 18 completely different ribs were tasted.  

There were definite highs and lows throughout the competition.  There were ribs
that were perfectly seasoned, ribs that had full smoke flavor, ribs that were tender and fell from the bone, and then there were ribs that fell far too short.  There were ribs that were pure gristle and fat, ribs that didn't stuck to their bones as though they were glued on, ribs that were so wet they were inedible, and ribs that didn't taste like much of anything.  

Let's concentrate on the stand outs:

#3:  the CRLS Culinary School:  Sweet and Sour Chili ribs.  These were the first ribs I tasted that day that were completely spot on flavor wise.  Every bite held a deep smoke and hickory flavor and were then coated in a sweet and spicy sauce.  The combination of flavors was the perfect contrast of heat with
delicate sweetness and then the savory beauty of smoke.  I did wish it was a bit more tender, but over all a great offering.

#2:  Bambara:  Sweet and Sour Chili ribs.  It really wasn't until I sat down to write this article that I realized that two of my top three held the same descriptor, I attribute that to the unique twists the chefs prepared them with.  Bambara had a wonderful orange/citrus flavor to their sauce along with a gentle heat in the background.  The standout portion of this rib though was the incredible smoke ring it had, signifying the depth of the smoke penetration.  The combination of the two made for a fantastic rib.

#1:  ArtBar:  Baby Back Ribs with an Apple Cider BBQ Sauce.  Plain and simple- ArtBar nailed it.  As soon as I tried to pick the rib from my plate, the bone we all use as a holder cleanly tore away from the meat and left the most tender meat behind on the plate.  I knew right then that we had a serious contender on our hands.  The flavor did not disappoint.  The BBQ sauce was classic, but the meat itself
seemed to be enhanced with an herbal rub which created an incredible extra layer of flavor beyond the smoke and sauce.  There was no doubt- this was the rib to beat!  

No matter your preference when it comes to ribs, the East Cambridge Rib Fest is the place to be!  The smoke hangs in the fall air like a delicious cloud, and with the live bands, beer gardens and general merriment -there is nothing quite like it!

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