June 10, 2010

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Take some ribbing
Barbecue competitors lay it on thick at Rock N’ Ribfest
By Madeleine Staub food@hippopress.com

The Rotary Club of Nashua West will hold its eighth annual Rock N’ Ribfest from Friday, June 11, to Sunday, June 13, at the Anheuser-Busch Merrimack Brewery. The event features live music, barbecue vendors from up and down the East Coast, and the New Hampshire state barbecuing competition.

The event’s chairman, Randy Smith, expects this year’s event to draw 30,000 to 35,000 people. Last year, around 26,000 people attended, and Smith expects “a good solid growth.”

Ribbers will be selling ribs in a variety of sauces and rubs. Vendors will come from as far as Florida and Ontario to participate. This year’s ribbers include Gator BBQ, Firefly’s Bodacious Bar-B-Que, Jack’s Down Home BBQ, Famous Dave’s Bar-B-Que, Florida Skin & Bones, and Uno’s. Former winners of the People’s Choice Award, T-Roy’s Barbecue and Big Moe’s M&M Ribs will return this year. The Rotary Club decided not to hold the People’s Choice Award this year because the voting process was cumbersome.

The rib vendors will also be selling other barbecued meats and side dishes that go well with ribs. “The biggest thing we’re doing this year is we came up with this idea of bellies and bones. We sell a fried clam along with ribs. It’s kind of my take on a surf and turf,” said Steve Uliss, owner of Firefly’s Bodacious Bar-B-Que.

There are some advantages to having vendors from around the country and Canada.

“Anytime we get people from outside the region, we get a little bit of their style. We like that diversity,” Smith said.

For those who don’t like ribs, there will be plenty of food options, including seafood rolls, hamburgers and hot dogs, and treats like ice cream and fried Oreos.

Several bands will perform live on the main stage during the weekend’s events (see line-up on page 64) and there will be activities and entertainment for children to enjoy at the Ribfest. On the children’s stage, karate, dance and musical groups from the area will perform. A wildlife educator will be available to introduce a collection of wild animals to children. The kids’ area will include a rock climbing wall, inflatables, sand art and face painting. Admission to the area will cost $10 for unlimited use for the day or 50 cents per ticket. “Put a wrist band on them and let the kids enjoy the rides,” Smith said. “The parents can go off and enjoy the food and the music.”

A whoopie pie eating contest will take place on Sunday at 2 p.m. Sixty contestants will compete to eat the most eight-inch whoopie pies for a significant cash prize. The first 20 people to sign up on each day of the Ribfest will compete in the contest.

RE/MAX Properties will offer tethered hot air balloon rides from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday for $10 per ride.

While most people attend the Rock N’ Ribfest to enjoy the barbecue offerings, 36 teams descend on the festival grounds to compete in creating the best grilled and barbecued items in the state. Governor John Lynch declared Saturday’s grilling competition and Sunday’s barbecue contest as the official barbecue championship for the state of New Hampshire. This means the overall winner will be eligible to compete in the Annual Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational Barbecue in Lynchburg, Tenn.

Because the number of teams is limited to 36, people come from all over to compete in New Hampshire — they have a higher likelihood of winning on the state level and moving on to the national competition. This year, teams will come from as far as New Jersey and western New York state. Anyone who registers before the 36-team maximum is met may compete, but competition organizer Roland “Pete” Petersen said, “[Teams] are well advised to read the rules and be familiar with them.”

The average backyard griller might be surprised by the intensity of the barbecue competition. The grilling competition follows New England Barbecue Society (NEBS) rules, and the barbecue competition is regulated by the Kansas City Barbeque Society (KCBS). These organizations train judges how to assess the different foods prepared in competition and create rules that competitors within their jurisdictions must follow.

Judges look for three elements in each food item: texture, appearance and flavor. Petersen explained that the texture “shouldn’t be mushy and it shouldn’t be too chewy.” For appearance, judges look to make sure that the sauce hasn’t been applied in a manner that hides ugly meat and that the meat is held together on its own, without the help of toothpicks. Judges also check that garnishes are amongst those allowed by KCBS rules. Taste, the most subjective of the three categories, is scored based on how well the sauce or rub enhances the taste of the meat. Petersen said there is a common misconception that spicier is better when barbecuing, but he recently judged a competition in which one entrant used jalapeños. He said that this entry was scored poorly because the judges could not taste the meat with such an intensely hot sauce.

“There are some regional preferences. In the South they like a lot of mustard-based sauces and rubs ... New England prefers relatively bland. Competitors are well advised to be aware of those,” Petersen said.

Petersen said that one of the greatest difficulties for competitors is getting the timing right. Each team must cook four items and they must be on the judges’ tables at a specified time. If the meat isn’t on the table at the correct time, the contestant is disqualified for that type of food.

On Saturday, teams will compete in the grilling contest. Petersen explained that the key difference between grilling and barbecue is that grilling is cooking over direct heat, whereas barbecuing requires the use of a smoker. The grilling competition tests contestants’ abilities to cook shrimp, rib eye beef steak, sausage and chicken wings. Competitors can win up to $150 for each dish, in addition to the grand prize for the whole competition of $600.

The same teams will compete in the barbecue contest on Sunday, during which chicken, pork ribs, pork shoulder and butt, and beef brisket will be cooked. The prizes for the barbecue competition are higher, up to $225 per dish, with a grand prize of $900. This year, the grand prize winner will also receive the Jim McGrath Memorial Trophy, which honors the memory of one of the event’s coordinators who passed away this year — “Jim was an ardent barbecue promoter,” Petersen said.

“It’s just an incredible event. There’s great quality food,” Uliss said. “If anyone wants any wants any barbecue tips, I would be happy to guide them through the barbecue world.”


BBQ ideas
Recipes from Steve Uliss of Firefly’s Bodacious Bar-B-Que. Uliss has participated in the Rock N’ Ribfest since it started eight years ago.

Dry Rub
2 Tablespoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
1 teaspoon lemon pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon light brown sugar
½ teaspoon garlic powder
pinch cinnamon
In a small bowl, combine all ingredients. Stir to mix. Use immediately or cover tightly and store in a cool dry place.

Blackberry BBQ Sauce
½ cup blackberry preserves
1½ cups ketchup
1/8 cup brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon dry mustard powder
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
In a medium bowl, mix all ingredients together. Use to baste while grilling.

Family entertainment
Friday, June 11
• 6 p.m.: NStep Dance Studio

Saturday, June 12
• 11 a.m.: Tokyo Joe’s Karate
• Noon: Ameri-Kids Baton Academy
• 1 p.m.: Independent Karate School Demo
• 2 p.m.: Bedford Youth Performing Company
• 3 p.m.: Cunniffe Academy of Irish Dance
• 4 p.m.: Bedford Youth Performing Company
• 5 p.m.: Cunniffe Academy of Irish Dance
• 6 p.m.: Mark J. Lawrence Karate

Sunday, June 13
• Noon: Broadway Bound
• 1 p.m.: Mark J. Lawrence Karate
• 2 p.m.: Whoopie Pie Contest
• 3 p.m.: Kickin’ Chicks/Nashua Line Dancers

Rock N’ Ribfest
When: Friday, June 11, 4 to 11 p.m.; Saturday, June 12, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Sunday, June 13, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: Anheuser Busch Brewery, 221 DW Highway in Merrimack
Admission: $5 (kids 8 and under get in free); bring additional money for ribs and other food as well as for kids’ activities and more.
More info: ribfestnh.org
Parking: Parking is available at Elbit Systems of America, BAE, Fidelity, and GT Solar on Daniel Webster Highway. Additional parking can be found just off Industrial Drive on Spartan Way at Fidelity. All the lots will have a complimentary shuttle to bring attendees to and from the Ribfest.


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A year of eats

All-you-can-read guide to breakfast
A bagel by any other l
abel
A picnic — it’s romance with ants
A sweet burst of summer, in stages
Beef, It's What's For Dinner, Lunch, And Dessert
Be it ever so humble, the burger rules
Blockbuster snacks for your movie
Box Of Chocolates
C Is For Cookie And Christmas And Cool Combo
Celebrating A Holiday For The Rest Of Us
Celebrate Easter In A Sugar Coma
Chat And Chew

Chinese soup is magic
Chocolate cake makes everything better
Chocolate, Part II
Competition flows like chocolate
Corn Flake Chicken, Honeycomb Salad
Dining at the "Your House Bistro"
Don't Dread The Bread
Dress Up Your Next Meal
Drinking Out Of The Box
Eating Your Way Back To Health
Empanadas
Enter Soup
Experiments With Very Bad Brownies
Feeding A Crowd The Morning After
Follow the cider house rules
Fresh Herbs
Go ahead — run silent, run deep
Goodbye corn syrup, hello organic oatmeal
Go Indian for Thanksgiving
Grilled Cheese Junkie

Halloween candy for grown-ups
Have a Happy Meal and a happier wallet
Holiday Cookies - The Easy Way
Holiday Potluck 101-Tips For The Kitchen Novice
Home-Based Date
How do you like them apples?
In-A-Pinch Love Feast
It's not easy to be cheesy
It’s not Christmas without tamales
Lest We Forget The Humble Squash
Keeping your cool while you eat
Living through your salad days

Looking Beyond The Hot Dog Stand
Lunching your way to a less toxic you
Meat's meat and a man's gotta eat

Moist and delicious chicken — no, really
Oatmeal Cookies, The Miracle Cure
Oscar Night, When The Stars Come Out To Eat

Offering Up A Slice Of Teriyaki Pie
Pot Pies Are Darn Tasty
Pumpkin-Flavored Treats
Small Plates Are The Next Big Thing
Speedy 'za not pie in the sky
Steak: it’s what’s for dinner, again
Summer coolers, just add sunlight
Summer Squash
Super Bowl Grub
Take A Walk On The Dark Side
Taste of Manchester Event
The Cosmopolitan
The joys of a simple oatmeal breakfast
The return of comfort food
The One-Note Cook Book
The New American Plate Cookbook
The Stickiest, Hottest & Sweetest Of Love's Labors
The taste of retro
The Unheralded Peanut Butter Cookies
The union of sweet and heat
The Weekly Dish (12-16-04)
The Weekly Dish (12-23-04)

The Weekly Dish [1-13-05]
There's a Barbecue Bonanza Next Door
Week Four: Adding Diet To The Mix
What Was Hot And Haute In 2004
When $$ trumps urge to dine out
When in doubt, go for the organic
When nothing else will cool, Slurp it
You Say Potato, She'll Say Potato,Too
You say tomato, writer says lunch