One of the most endearing characteristics of summer is the mouth-watering smell of outdoor cooking. Whether it's on a grill, in the pit, on a spit, or over an open fire, the aroma conjures warm thoughts of sun, fun, games and gatherings of friends and family. The air around Heritage Port in Wheeling last weekend was thick with this tantalizing scent as area folks gathered for the second annual Bikes, Brew and Barbecue Rib Cook-Off.
The two-day event featured a custom bike competition, local food and craft vendors as well as some from Zanesville and Cleveland, and loads of free music and entertainment. There were even special activities for children. This family-friendly weekend event was the perfect way to kick off summer.
A vacationing Bud Em and her crew were on hand Friday during lunch to sample the fare of local barbecue masters. Local soul food guru Chef James of Cafe Burress was among the vendors at the Rib Cook-Off, but Bud Em planned to sample vendors with whom she was not familiar. She already knows he can cook!
First on the list was Holy Smokes BBQ from Barnesville. Owned by Ben Burkhart, Holy Smokes took home the grand champion award at last year's event, so Bud Em was eager to get a taste. From the menu she selected a chicken dinner. The meal, which rang in at 7 bucks, included half a chicken, baked beans, coleslaw and even a cup of sweet tea. The chicken was divine! The meat was perfectly tender and had a deep smokey flavor. The sweetness of the beans and coleslaw was the perfect complement. The sweet tea was even remarkable as it was not overly sweet as many of them tend to be. Bud Em will surely hit this place up if she winds up in Barnesville.
Next, Bud Em and company stopped by to see the folks at Ribs-N-Things. This mobile catering unit operating out of Wheeling is owned by Ron and Tracy Mountford and picked up the People's Choice award at last year's cook-off. The Bud's group was immediately drawn to the smell of their specialty: barbercue pulled pork, which they ordered along with an ear of grilled corn and some coleslaw, which totaled just $6. The pulled pork sandwich was excellent. The meat was lean and the sauce was the perfect mixture of sweet and tangy. The group soon realized that they should have ordered more of the sandwiches as everyone ended up fighting over the last bite. Delicious indeed! The corn and slaw were also amazing. The Buds will certainly keep their eyes peeled for this mobile unit at future events.
Finally, it was decided that ribs should be tasted since it was a rib cook-off after all. The group approached Rocks' Smokehouse BBQ trailer from Toronto, but sadly, he was out of ribs! Instead they settled on a large briskett sandwich for $6. The sandwich was loaded with meat that had a wonderful smokey flavor, although the Buds would have preferred that the fat had been trimmed a bit before serving. Doused in his spicy sauce, the sandwich was soon gobbled up.
After eating and browsing, browsing and eating, Bud Em and company decided to hit the road. They really enjoyed the festive community event and can't wait to return next year. One can never have enough good barbecue!
The Buds may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org