Yesterday, Slice queen and Somerville resident Meredith and I headed out to East Cambridge—along with over 5,000 other barbecue-loving meatheads, students, parents, kids, dogs, and the occasional marching band—for the third annual Smoke This Rib Fest.
Along with other guest judges, including Tony Maws of Craigie on Main and Dave Andelman of The Phanton Gourmet, I had to plow our way through 21 bones to determine a winner. Scores were weighted based on flavor (50%), texture (30%), presentation (10%), and originality (10%).
Among the contestents were local favorites like Abigail's, Area Four, ARTBAR, Atwood's Tavern, Bambara, Catalyst, CRLS Culinary School, East Side Bar and Grille, Lord Hobo, Midwest Grill, New Deal Fish Market, Ole, Portugalia, Lizzy's, Trina's Starlight Lounge, and Tupelo.
The variety of flavors and cooking techniques employed was astounding. There was a fair showing of traditional dry-rubbed, sweet-sauced barbecue from teams like Redbones and New Deal Fish Market (who knew the best fish market in the Boston are can also put together a killer smoked rib?), but from there we went all over the map. Sweet braised ribs with beans from Portugalia. Ribs in a peanut-chipotle sauce from Olé. Cherry and mustard-glazed ribs from Catalyst. Preserved lemon and rosemary-rubbed ribs from ARTBAR.
In the judges' panel, the best ribs of the day went to Bambara, closely followed by Tupelo (my personal favorite). Their ribs were perfectly cooked and seasoned, with a dusting of five-spice powder and a Thai chili glaze that had a nice balance of sweet and savory flavors.
Fan favorite went to East Side Bar & Grille for the third year running, for their oak-smoked, sweet mopped ribs.
Take a look through the slideshow above for some snapshots from the day.
About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.