Hudson Valley Ribfest (versus Maine Lobster Festival)
Almost exactly a year ago, I drove up to
Nonetheless, I very much enjoyed my experience at the Maine Lobster Festival (who can ever reasonably complain about simple, sweet, and succulent
First, the negatives; Big Moe's was perhaps my least favorite, which is not to say it did not have its own positives and character. It was clear that the ribs were pre-boiled because the pork had an almost watery quality to it. The smoke flavor was present, but Big Moe's ribs were cut and served only with a drizzle of sauce on top. For me, this made a bad combination. Sauceless ribs with the sauce added upon serving only works when the ribs are dry, caramelized, and well seasoned. These qualities made Hickory House stand out, and Big Moe's seem like you were eating roasted pork rather than ribs.
I would return to the Hickory House again for a meal, since it is the local joint. I would enjoy their ribs for what they are; simple, decently BBQ'd dry ribs. The texture was quite nice; you put a little bit of work into it in order to get the meat to fall off the bone. In contrast, one can have ribs where one bite would give you all of the meat from the bone, or ribs where you work hard to clean the meat off. Hickory House was perfect in that respect, as were the other vendors. However, as I mentioned before, their sauce really blew, and their ribs in no respect stood out from the crowd.
Elia's Texas Connection was the best, in my opinion, in terms of meat texture and smokiness. The smoke flavor permeated the meat beautifully. Elia's fault was that the sauce, while added to the ribs on top of the grill (my favorite method), was not as caramelized as it could have been, leading to a more saucy, rawer flavor than a crispy sweet flavor. The sauce was also MUCH too sweet.
Which leads me to my favorite, by FAR, Smoke N' Dudes. Texture, color, caramelization, quality of sauce, level of sweetness to savoriness, all were absolutely perfect. The ribs had a crispiness to them, not just where the MEAT was caramelized, but where the SAUCE was caramelized also! No burnt spots, neither too salty nor saucy, they were the perfect ribs. I also attended a demonstration done by the guy from Smoke N' Dudes, and, it turns out that simplicity is everything. Equal parts salt, pepper, sugar as the base of your rub, paprika and garlic to your taste, and that's it. I had the sampler platter from Smoke N' Dudes, and they had the best pulled pork also, great cole slaw, and great baked beans. The beef brisket was good for what it was, but nowhere near as flavorful as the other items.
As for Jack's Firehouse, I am sad to say I did not try their ribs. However, I did have their pulled pork, smoked sausage, and bbq chicken breast. The pulled pork was awful. The meat was almost like mashed potatoes, small and fibery like baby-food. If the texture wasn't bad enough, the sauce was much too vinegary; it tasted like someone put red salad dressing onto mashed pork. Jack's redeemed themselves with their smoked sausage and BBQ chicken breast, but they get demerits for going the chicken-breast route...who goes to a BBQ for chicken and asks for the breast? The answer, all you white coastal Americans, since you have all convinced yourselves that you do not like dark meat....you are delusional. Dark meat is objectively better tasting. Fattier, more chicken flavor, more bone. I'm going to have to side with the Southerners, Midwesterners, and foreigners on the chicken meat. Dark meat is the way to go. For a mesculun salad with a light Balsamic (puke) vinaigrette, get yourself some grilled chicken breast. For BBQ, it’s a big fat leg with the skin on, preferrably with back meat.
I look forward to the RibFest next year. Good luck on the People's Choice Award, Smoke N' Dudes! You had my vote!