Saturday, 27 September 2014

Pork Life / Ribstock at Dalston Yard

#PorkLife at Dalston Yard
#PorkLife at Dalston Yard
This event was kind of a culmination of the final weekend for the year (26-27 September) of Street Feast at #DalstonYard, with #Ribstock and #PorkLife all occurring simultaneously and, in many ways, overlapping.

The #Ribstock competition returned for its third year with seven competitors creating their signature ribs for the lucky 200 #Ribstock ticket holders to sample and vote which dish was to be crowned Best Rib of 2014. The 2012 winner (Redhook) and 2013 winner (BBQWhiskeyBeer) were both excellent dishes so expectations were high this year.

#PorkLife was a celebration of everything pork where over a dozen vendors sold pork-driven dishes; some were specific to #PorkLife, some specific to #Ribstock, some have been on offer all season at Street Feast. To make matters a bit more confusing, #PorkLife ticket holders could purchase the #Ribstock competition dishes if the vendor chose to. Most did, some did not.

To be honest, I did not have much of an appetite that night and attended solo so I did not really expect to be tasting many dishes.  But I hate to miss a good Rib or Pork event so I came anyway to take in the fun. As I was not one of the lucky 200 to score a #Ribstock ticket, I was a bit unsure what ribs I would actually get access to with my #PorkLife ticket. In actuality, I was blessed to have access to most and though I only tasted a few dishes, was pretty impressed with most dishes.


Hot Box menu at #PorkLife
Hot Box menu at #PorkLife
I had some pork ribs from HotBox earlier in the summer and I was not overly impressed. They sure have come along way. I liked the true St. Louis cut (not too thick), the sauce was spicy but not too hot, their pickles nice and not too sweet. I was impressed and thought they were real contenders for victory. Well done.

Roti Chai

I was surprised to see these guys here, and happily so. They were one of the vendors who opted not to offer their competition ribs for sale to #PorkLife ticket holders. I asked anyway and they did in fact have a few additional portions of their Himalayan Baby Back ribs to sell. Thank God I asked: these ribs were excellent! No, they were not smoked but their rich Coca Cola and hoisin-flavoured sauce was incredible. I was told their burger at a recent burger festival in Battersea was very impressive so they seem to be quietly beavering away in the kitchen coming up with some impressive dishes. Again, well done!

Turner and George

I love the T&G team. All very nice and very good at what they do. I had just been at their shop on St. John Street earlier in the day and lo and behold, here they are at #PorkLife, with Richard Turner cranking out an amazing pork cheek sandwich. Smokey, rich and generously sized, this was an amazing sandwich, perhaps the best dish of the day. I really liked this and, again, love Team T&G.

The New Milwaukee

Well, well, well. What do we have here? A native Wisconsinite, selling real German bratwurst on a bun with some traditional and modern toppings. They boil them in beer and onions before finishing in the grill, the way they are supposed to be cooked. Topped with mustard, fennel kraut and a few other toppings, this was excellent. Most people get this completely wrong, dry, and burnt.  Not here. This was the real deal and a real treat. And, guess what?  This Wisconsinite is Tim Anderson!

The Rib Man

The Rib Man is a bit of an institution in London and perhaps the first guy selling BBQ on the street. I have never had his food before and, as a winner of Best Sauce in the past, was excited to try his wares. I must admit, I struggled with this. The pork had no smoke flavour at all, was tough and all I could taste was this insanely hot sauce. I am not sure if this is supposed to be BBQ or not but I simply could not finish this dish. I don’t know if this is what he serves daily on the street but this really did a number on me. Not my thing. But he has a huge following so he seems to know what he is doing.

Overall, I was a bit surprised that given the current state of BBQ in London, there would have been more competitors at #Ribstock. Granted, most BBQ restaurants in London serve a pretty average-to-poor product, but I really would have expected more guys to want to participate. In the end, the big man with the big smoker at Smokestak took home the prize. I did not taste their offering this time around but no doubt Dave offered a quality product to beat HotBox and Roti Chai. Well done to the SmokeStak team and all teams for some truly excellent pork and rib dishes.

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