The week found me heading back downtown in Rock Hill for the Rock the Grill event. Now that fall is here and the temperatures are less hellish the second festival / outdoor event season has arrived as well. This one had all the makings for a great afternoon; classic car show, live music, kids area, wood carving display, a theoretical moonshine tasting, food trucks and the star of the show a KCBS cooking competition with public tasting. I mean seriously that’s a great day.
I went early for a couple of reasons. First I was afraid this might be popular enough the tasting tickets would run out and also there was a football game on at 3:30 I had to be home for. They had this in the same area where the Food Truck Fridays are but they closed off a few more streets so I got to come in along one of the car show areas and there were some nice ones.
I knew the public tasting was $10 but I wasn’t sure how it was going to work until I got there. Turns out they give you 10 tickets and two tokens and I also later learned the BBQ butt samples were 1 ticket each and the ribs were 2 tickets and the tokens were for you to vote for your two favorites. Now you could certainly purchase more bundles at $10 a shot but I figured this would do me and I was right. Now that I had the important part down I headed for what you may have noticed I called a theoretical moonshine tasting. The tasting was supposed to be held at the historic White Home.
I got there and didn’t see any activity which I’ll grant I hadn’t expected a lot since it was 11:00 am. Now I know some of you may be saying “Moonshine before noon, is he a lush?” No, my thought was to give that a try early so by the time I needed to leave and drive home all traces of the moonshine would be gone. So I head into the house that is a museum to focused on a prominent family in the area. I was greeted by a really nice lady who apologized that the moonshiners hadn’t shown up yet even though she didn’t have anything to do with the event. Since I was there I decided to pop for the $5 and tour the house which is a really great old house with displays and infographics in each room. After killing about an hour there and still no sign of the shine I headed over to the beer tent since it was noon and getting warmer.
I wouldn’t otherwise mention the beer tent visit because I just got a Windy Hill Gala Peach cider and I’ve mentioned them before but while I was there I did get a good laugh. As I’m getting my cider a guy comes around the tent with a container of pickles (they had a specialty dill pickle dealer on site) offering to share. One lady at the beer tent waved them away with a shiver but another said “Oh, I love dill pickles I’ll take one”. She grabbed one and was just crunching down on it as the guy says “Yeah, they’re the spicy horseradish ones”. Her face was priceless. Four out of five people there had a little chuckle as she gamely finished the pickle slice. I still had an hour or so to kill before the tasting started and that sounded like some time to spend enjoying the live music.
Based on the two acts I heard; the Maggie Valley Band, and The Drovers Old Time Medicine Show, they could have called it Country the Grill although neither would classify themselves as country I’m sure. In fact according to their respective websites they are dark Appalachian & moonshine fueled bluegrass. Anyway they were talented even if there weren’t a dozen people watching either one while I was there. The bubble guy was busy though.
At last the time had come and the tasting was starting. As I mentioned earlier you were sold tickets and tokens and each contestant was given a number and a table where their entries were served but you had no idea which belonged to a particular team. There were 27 entries although I don’t think they all got their meat delivered on time as there were some empty spots. As a taster you went up to one of the tables that struck your fancy and exchanged one ticket for a sample of butt and / or 2 tickets for ribs. The teams were required to cook chicken and brisket as well but that was not part of the public tasting. I guess those were judged by the KCBS (Kansas City Barbecue Society for anyone wondering) judges. As it happens I am a butt guy and got just one token rib. In any case there were plenty of ribs and butts and not a vegetable in sight.
It was interesting as the table volunteers varied in how full they fill the sample cup. I’ll admit when I first saw the little sample I was thinking “That’s all?” but when you pile 8 of them and a rib on a plate I got my money’s worth. For the most part the little cups provided two or three bites of each, enough to give you a good idea of the flavor and the texture. One contestant though did chop theirs a bit coarse and you can see the one at the top of the plate has a huge hunk of meat in the cup.
Also depending on the volunteer you might get to pick the rib you wanted or they’d just reach in and grab one at random. For my one rib I happened to get a young lady who let you pick so I got a nice meaty one. None of the meat was heavily sauced but most did have some type of sauce or rub. Those ranged from sweet to savory and some had a mild spiciness. My two favorites were one that had no sauce but a great smokey flavor that permeated the meat throughout and not just on the surface and another that was a bit like a Carolina vinegar but not quite as tangy and with some other flavor I couldn’t quite identify but it was very good. Those two got my votes but I was happy with all the entries.
Now lest you think this was a carnivore only event at least two of the food trucks had vegan options as well as normal food.
In closing I also want to mention this is held to benefit Miracle Park Rock Hill which is really cool and worth a click on the link.
Overall I’d say this was a successful culinary outing and I can’t wait to see what next year brings.