Yesterday I returned to the annual Ribfest at the Ulster County Fairgrounds - only about 5 miles from my house.
The fest has grown to 51 contesting teams this year and an attendance of many thousands. A new item was added to the contest this year -something done on the grill made of apples ( apples are a big crop in this area). The gates opened at noon and I got there about 12:30 and should have grabbed a bag of ribs from one of the vendors (Jack McDaniels is always reliable and good, and a local butcher has lately gone into BBQ and does a very nice job- Elias' Meat Market, Highland, NY), but chose to tour the contestants' area first and talk BBQ with the folks there. By the time , an hour and a half later, I got to the vendor's stands the lines had become in the hundreds. Even for great ribs I'm not one to stand in line for an hour or more.
So, I purchased some roasted corn and a jar of local honey and an ice cold tasty lemonade - all turned out to be fine ( not consumed together).
The highlight of my visit was when I stopped to talk to a team from Fairfield, NY that consisted of a man and wife and their 12 year old son. She insisted that I taste her Apple Cake that she had just removed from the grill - a crumbly sugary delight loaded with chunks of apple. Then he offered me a slice of the brisket they were about to turn in for judging - no sauce, just the deliciously moist and smoky slice of brisket after 14 hours in the smoker. I'm usually a bit wary of brisket having had too many tasteless dried out slabs at BBQ's, but this man's offering was as good as it gets, and I told him so.
Then to my surprise and delight he tossed the two ends (about a pound altogether) of the brisket into some foil and into a bag and asked me to please take some home to my wife. I did, and we enjoyed it for dinner last night. I call that, "the generosity of strangers" - I regret I did'nt get their name or their team name.
Visiting with the contestants is always a pleasure; despite being tired after tending their smokers all night and under the tension of competing, most are friendly and outgoing, and some will gladly give you a sample of what they have cooked. I had a lot of samples of pulled pork yesterday and every one was damn good BBQ with individuality - the range of flavors was realy interesting.
This fest is growing rapidly and the size of the crowds is getting to be too much for a guy like me who is not very happy in large crowds, and who hates to stand in line.