Monday, September 15, 2008

LA BBQ Fest Debriefing

Looks rather grim and not that impressive, huh? I think that's the general sense I got from the long-awaited barbecue festival. Strangely enough, the weather seemed to match the mood of most of the participants. All around me people seemed stuffed, but not particularly satisfied.

See why after the jump...

Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't say that the festival was a failure. I just felt that the hype surrounding it definitely deflated some of its impact. For one thing, the vendor list of pitmasters seemed to change several times. Of the eight barbecue tents, there were only three from out of town. Granted, LA might have some excellent meats, but I was looking for something I couldn't get locally. The fair itself also seemed rather small, taking up just a corner of the Santa Monica Beach parking lot. I could smell the smokers from Ocean Boulevard, but there wasn't one sign pointing me down to the festival. If it wasn't for the aroma, I couldn't be sure this was actually it.

I tried three places with HC, Will and Thi: LC's Kansas City Spareribs, Southside's Elgin Texas Hot Sausage and Brisket, and Bandana's St. Louis Spareribs. The crowds of lines were good indicators of which barbecue tasted the best, and LC's line was by far the longest.


As you can see, LC puts a lot of work into their ribs. What I liked best is the care that went into the ribs themselves rather than heavy reliance on heavy sauce. Tender, but still with enough resistance to the teeth is exactly how I like my ribs. Spare ribs tend to have more fat, thus being more tender than baby back, so they are actually my ribs of choice for barbecue. Although you're more likely to get a rack of baby back here, St. Louis and Kansas City have healthy traditions of using the spare ribs. Tastewise, the ribs had balanced flavors that you don't find in most bad barbecue. All too often meat is usually too salty or cloyingly sweet. The spare ribs at LC's tent were savory with a coating mouthfeel and a hint of smoke. Call it umami or call it whatever you want, but these ribs had a ton of it. I'm not sure what kind of recognition LC's has in Kansas City, but they certainly made an impact with their barbecue in Los Angeles.

Bandana's BBQ

LC's was a tough act to follow. They were indeed some of the best ribs I've ever had. I turned to St. Louis for some competition. For some comparison, I got to the fair right when they opened and there was hardly anyone there. We still waited ten minutes or so for LC's line. When I turned to the Bandana tent, the ribs were lined up on the table waiting for the customers to come. If you look closely at the picture, you can see how dry the ribs are. They were overcooked and flaky. It occurred to me that this was not that much different than beef jerky. Only a variety of sauces made it palatable. Yet even with a whole bottle of their spicy bbq sauce, I still would not pay $10 for their ribs again.

Southside Market and BBQ

From Elgin, Texas comes this Southside barbecue truck spitting out hot links and beef brisket. The brisket was terrible; even doused with sauce it was tough and flavorless. The sausage was not as hot as I had hoped. It was definitely greasy though. I thought it was a juicy frank when I bit into it, but it just coated my mouth in oil. Eating it with raw onions helped take the edge off slightly.

Leyna's Babycakes

Although I only had a piece of the strawberrilicious cupcake, it was indeed as light and fluffy as advertised. Even the frosting didn't weigh me down. I wonder what they put in these things to obtain that consistency. As of now, I think Leyna only does catered orders, but maybe one day you'll see a Leyna's Babycakes least until Sprinkles sues it out of existence.

All in all, some things I would've liked to see done better:
-Display of instructions and banners for the event
-Smaller portions and cheaper prices
-Better representation from outside the area
-Something to cleanse the meat palate. Maybe a salad?
-Other bbq type activities besides just eating

Maybe I missed out by not going to the local pitmasters, but I can always check them out on my own. For more event details, refer to my previous entry


1 comment:

H. C. said...

You hit the nail on the head about the onions taking the the greasy edge off! I just knew it tasted better with the onions but couldn't quite place my finger on the 'why'. But I didn't mind so much that the sausage was greasy as that it was nearly spicy enough even with their hot sauce. The snappy, crispy casing was nice though.

For an inaugural event it's not bad but I agree with your recs, particularly more out-of-state pits. Bring the Salt Lick here, man!