Twin City Rib Fest

Katie and I celebrated our 6th wedding anniversary in style at the Twin City Ribfest in Winston-Salem, NC. We attended the event last year and really enjoyed ourselves. It's definitely the premier rib competition in the area.

This year's festival offered seven different BBQ competitors and about a dozen other food vendors who were serving up typical carnival fare. Our focus, of course, was on the "Q". Last year we attempted to sample ribs from every competitor, but that turned out to be quite expensive. Each competitor offered 3 bone rib samplers for $6.

With a budget in mind, we each decided to pick up a pulled pork sandwich platter. Each competitor offered a sandwich with 2 sides (usually beans and slaw) for $8. I chose to get my platter from Camp 31 (Castleberry, Al) because they were one of the few competitors that we didn't sample last year. Katie opted for Two Fat Guys BBQ (Massillon, Oh)who was new to the competition this year.

I have a few gripes about the "Pulled" pork sandwich from Camp 31. First, the meat was chopped, not pulled. I know this is a little gripe, but when you advertise pulled pork, it ought to be pulled. Second, the meat was kept heated while drenched in sauce. It was more like something you'd get from a diner that had been sitting in a slow cooker. Finally, I found some pretty tough chunks of pork.

On the positive side, the sweet sauce was actually pretty good. The baked beans were even better. In fact, they were some of the best beans I've tasted. They had a surprisingly complex flavor. They featured a multi bean blend and balanced sweet with an earthy spice. I can only give the "pulled" pork from Camp 31 2 stars out of five, but the beans are worthy of 4.5 stars.

It didn't take long for me see that Katie's sandwich looked a bit more appetizing than mine. Luckily, she's a kind woman and suggested that we split our sandwiches and share them. On appearance alone, the meat from Two Fat Guys met the expectation that I had for a pulled pork sandwich. There was a good mixture of crispy dark bark and tender smoked meat. The sauce at Two Fat Guys is served on the side. I could devote an entire blog entry to the sauce and still not adequately convey my admiration. Two Fat Guys featured three different sweet sauces with varying degrees of spice. All three have tremendous flavor, but I found the medium sauce to have just the right amount of heat. If you like sweet and spicy (like I do) you'll be hard pressed to find a better BBQ sauce. The pulled pork at Two Fat Guys was a solid 4 stars on its own. As far as I'm concerned, there aren't enough stars to quantify that sauce, so we'll just say 5.

After finishing our lunches, we strolled the grounds and visited some lovable new friends from a local bassett hound rescue. We eventually found some seats in the shade and took in some live music while enjoying a hand squeezed lemonade.

Those that know me know that there is absolutely no way I could go to a rib festival and not actually get ribs. I used our time of relaxation to decide which competitor's ribs I would sample. With a stomach nearly full and a wallet nearly empty, I figured I'd only get one shot a picking a winner. I considered each competitor carefully, but I couldn't stop thinking about the sauce from Two Fat Guys. In the end, it was an easy decision. I picked up a 3 bone sampler and applied a generous squirt of the medium sauce.

I can say, without hesitation, that I made the right choice. The ribs from Two Fat Guys were eye opening. The ribs are smoked using apple and cherry wood for a sweeter, more subtle BBQ flavor. They were finished on the grill and brushed with a bit of sauce. When you get the ribs, there is only hint of sauce visible. The rub forms a flavorful crust when they are grilled.

Before this weekend, I had always thought that ribs should be served covered in a thick tomato sauce. The Two Fat Guys have changed my philosophy on ribs. Falling somewhere between Memphis and Kansas City, Two Fat Guys BBQ has created a rib recipe that is tailor made for my tastebuds. I'm not ashamed to admit that I made a return trip for a second sampler before leaving the festival. I give their ribs 5 well earned stars.

The Twin City Ribfest has become a must attend event for us. The festival provides a great time and the food never disappoints. Be sure to check it out next summer. Also, I highly recommend checking out Two Fat Guys BBQ. You can view their competition schedule and order sauce on their website

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