Friday, June 24, 2011

Ottawa's Chicken and Ribfest 2011

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Just like many other Ottawa residents, our family had ribs from Ottawa’s 20th Annual Chicken and Rib Cook-Off for dinner.

I brought my wallet, a camera, and a re-useable shopping bag (for the ribs) and met Lucy downtown earlier today. Our goal: To bring some delicious ribs back to enjoy at home. But before we met up, I did some scouting. I started from Elgin Street and Sparks Street.

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Keep walking down Sparks St and you’ll see a porta-potty and a porta-sink. This was a great addition this year, since there wasn’t anything last year. Well done organizers. Well done. I think I saw one more porta-potty and two more porta-sinks on Sparks St.

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Texas Outlaws.

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I think if you cross Metcalfe Street, you can find Bibb’s BBQ. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

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Gator BBQ Company.

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Cross O’Connor Street and you’ll find Silver Bullet.

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Then I think it’s the Alabama’s Freshly Squeezed Lemonade stand.

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The two-time defending champs of the best ribs at the Ottawa ribfest; Camp 31. The photo at the top of this post was from Camp 31.

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And finally, the last competitor this year is Uncle Sam’s BBQ.

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Here’s the breakdown; in total, Lucy and I bought two and a half racks of ribs and a quarter of a chicken from three different places. Six people helped to eat everything. We got a full rack of ribs with coleslaw and beans for $24 at Billy Bones. Lucy probably added three or four pumps of their BBQ sauce. Most of it is hiding underneath the ribs.

When we lined up for the ribs, they had just changed the coals so we had to wait until they were hot again. Good thing they had a mechanical fan to speed things up. The downside was that all the smoke blew in our direction. They had put a few racks of ribs on the grill when they were heating up the coals, so the ribs were extra smoky.


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Doesn’t it look tender and tasty? Billy Bones’ sauce was quite sweet. Lucy said that if the ribs hadn’t been smoky, the sweetness of the sauce would’ve been “…sickening.” The beans were really sweet, but that’s probably from their sauce. As you can see from the two pictures above, the tender and moist ribs were slathered with their sauce.

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Jimmy made a spinach, mushroom, bell pepper, and red onion salad to eat on the side. We definitely needed some veggies, especially I ate too many ribs and felt sick afterward in 2009.

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We got a full rack of rib combo at Camp 31. Camp 31 was one of our favourites last year, but the ribs we were given were mostly tough and dry. There were only two or three moist ribs – which only Mom and Dad were able to enjoy. The beans had a more rounded flavour than the beans from Billy Beans Bones. The beans from Billy Bones was sweet at first and then there wasn't much flavour after that.


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Jimmy was unlucky and got a really tough piece. It looks like jerky.

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I also picked up a bottle of the Ragin’ Cajun BBQ sauce ($6) at Camp 31. It was pricey, but we all really liked the kick it gave. I liked how the spiciness also lingered and cut through all the grease.

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This was the chicken and rib ($15) from Silver Bullet. The sweetness of the ribs reminded her of the Chinese ribs (the one on the roast pork) we get, because hoisin sauce is brushed onto the roast pork ribs. Most of the ribs had a lot of tender meat. Silver Bullet’s rib pieces were the most consistent in both size and amount of meat, but they can’t really control the latter. I believe the organizers provide the chicken and ribs.

The one thing that I found funny was that out of the ones I walked by, I think Silver Bullet was the only place that had some kind of branding on the white boxes. I’m surprised no one else has picked up on it.

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The chicken had no flavour. One of the reasons why we got it was to try out the Rajin’ Cajun sauce I bought at Camp 31. The chicken from every stand is and then finished off on the grill with a bit of their sauce. If you decide to buy a bottle of BBQ sauce from one of the competitors, you should get some chicken to mop up the sauce. That’s what we did.


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After everyone had a chance to try everything from each of the three boxes, we chose our favourites out of the three stalls:

1st place: Billy Bones
Dad, Lucy, Richard, and Andrew all liked the ribs from Billy Bones the most.

2nd place: It was a tie between Silver Bullet and Camp 31

It was hard to judge the ribs from Camp 31 because most of the ribs were dry and tough. Mom’s favourite was Camp 31, but that's cause she got a rare piece of rib with tender meat. It's too bad their ribs weren't consistent. Jimmy mentioned that this would’ve been his favourite if the ribs were as moist and tender as Silver Bullet’s. Since Silver Bullet’s ribs had a lot of tender meat, Jimmy was able to enjoy this more.

I didn’t cast a vote because I barely ate anything. After spending two hours walking back and forth on Sparks Street, the perfume of the smoke and ribs just got to me and ruined my appetite. I’m also not a big fan of ribs. You can see my empty plate at the bottom of that picture. I struggled to finish everything (at least I was able to finish my salad).

This is probably the end of this year’s ribfest for us, but they’ll still be around for you all until Sunday, June 26th. I'm not sure when the official judging begins, but I'll update the article whenever I find out.

We have a few tips on how to conquer the ribfest this year... 
  1. Bring cash, patience, a raincoat and maybe an umbrella.
  2. Go with at least one other person. You’ll be able to cover more stalls that way.
  3. If you are planning to enjoy ribfest with a group of people, you should try getting some things from a bunch of the competitors.
  4. Unless you plan to eat on one of the patios on Sparks Street, you should bring a re-useable bag that you can get at the grocery store. You can enjoy your chicken and pork products along Spark Street if you don't want to take them very far. You can only sit and enjoy your meal at the various patios if you buy a beverage from them.
Despite the weather, I hope you can all go downtown and enjoy the chicken and pork stuff this weekend. I know it’s still early in the event, but what was your favourite place this year?


Update: Here are the winners of Ottawa's Chicken and Ribfest 2011...

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Billy Bones knocked off Camp 31's powerhouse and took home the best ribs and sauce title and trophy.  Camp 31 did place second place in both categories though.

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Bibb's BBQ took home the trophy for the best chicken. Texas Rangers and Boss Hog's came second and third respectively.




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3 comments:

  1. Mmm ribs, can't pass out on that. The porta-sink is extremely clever! I'm surprise you got a photo with no one standing in it.

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  2. looks delicious and thanks for posting all the pics, I'm planning to go to it tonight so now I know what I can expect, can't wait!

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  3. @Elle: I hope they keep it up and bring the porta-sinks back for the future ribfests. It would be nice if they had a long roll of floss somewhere, too.

    @Pop: I'm glad you enjoy the pics. The descriptions weren't very helpful. I wrote it late last night. But hey, try to stay dry tonight and enjoy the ribs!

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