Grill masters and barbecue enthusiasts gathered from Canada and the US on July 14th where they lined Commercial Street for Nanaimo’s first annual Barbecue Festival. Officially sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society, this two day action packed meat extravaganza featured cooking contests, a show ‘n shine, a rib eating competition, live music, an expo and enough smoked deliciousness to make even the most seasoned of carnivores blush. This is going to be a meat heavy post. Vegetarians…you have been warned.
The festival kicked off with a rib eating competition with the proceeds benefiting the Nanaimo and District Hospital Foundation. Our very own Ayaka Nagata threw her hat into the ring along with nine other famished contestants. With one glance at sauce-slathered stack of foot-long baby back racks it was clear….this was going to be a sleeve roller. After setting a good pace through rack #1, our Flirty Foodie hit the dreaded wall during rack #2. Despite being arm deep in barbecue sauce, and having a few “close calls”, she finished the race just barely edging out her competition, taking the women’s title in a time of 14:43. Three racks of ribs later and reeling in a violent meat daze, the solution was simple…to eat more barbecue.
Next up was the main event; the traditional barbecue turn. With prizes for best ribs, brisket, chicken and pork up for grabs, teams came from all over North America vying for the title of Grand Master. The competition was governed by Kansas City Barbecue Society rules, meaning contestants could only cook over wood or pellets. As a result, Nanaimo’s downtown core was covered in an intoxicating smokey haze.
Hungry throngs of people walked around with white plastic forks clutched tightly in their hands as competitors offered up samples of their cherished smoked creations. Long lines formed down the street as samplers eagerly awaited their turn. Some had the unmistakable trail of drool streaming down their face as they got to witness some hot grill on grill action. Infatuation soon turned to panic however, as word spread to the hungry mob that one by one the vendors were running out of samples.
We were lucky enough to sample the swine round of the turn in. Pulled pork was the dish of choice of pitmasters in the all-pork contest. Notables such as Team Memphis Grill served up their pulled pork; a labour of love that was smoked for a whopping 18 hours! They certainly won our vote with their brilliant “bacon is a vegetable” slogan. Brian and Corrine from Team House of Q Barbecue Sauces impressed us with their flavourful sauces. What started as a home based operation out of their kitchen in Surrey, has turned into an award winning line of sauces. Their Apple Butter BBQ Sauce is Alberta’s #1 barbecue sauce and 3rd best in North America. Local entry Team Longwood Brewpub offered up a tender smoked pork butt that was simply piglicious! Pat Maddock and his crew from team Mad Dog proved to be the big winners as the Washington grill masters were voted People’s Choice Champion.
With our hearts warmed and our stomachs filled, it was a perfect end to an overindulgent weekend of barbecue. The festival has inspired the pair of us to bust out our own grilling skills as we plan on experimenting and developing some grill specific recipes in celebration of this fine style of cooking. One thing is certain though, we will definitely be throwing some vegetables into the mix!
What is your favourite thing to throw onto the grill? Post your answers below!