Rock the Grill

BBQ Cook-off

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.

Fork in the Road

Food Truck Friday

September’s entry continued the win streak for good food and good music even if it was hot and humid.  This month I didn’t do any pre-planning as to which truck I wanted to hit so I knew I’d be strolling the streets looking for something that struck my fancy.  Since street strolling is thirsty business I stopped by the beverage tent to secure something to enjoy as I roamed.  I wasn’t sure if it would be too heavy in the heat but I decided to take a chance on the Warlock Imperial Stout.

As you can see it was a dark like a stout should be but fortunately it wasn’t as heavy as some stouts and had a nice smooth taste and a cinnamony spiciness.  Subsequently I learned it has pumpkin and pumpkin spice in it.  You can’t escape that stuff this time of year.  As I took the first sip I got an interesting view.

Looked like the moon was rising like a bubble from the clouds.  Anyway from there I moved through the passel of food trucks arrayed around the park until I spotted the Roaming Fork food truck and that seemed like the perfect option since I was roaming too.

The menu board had some interesting looking items and from them I chose the Truffled Mushroom Swiss burger and for my side I decided to stick with the theme and get the Parmesan Truffle Fries.

As the picture shows it was a decent size burger with a generous helping of toppings.  The burger was a thick preformed patty that was served on a quality bun and a bed of lettuce and topped with bacon, swiss cheese, mushrooms, an aoli and crispy onions.  If it sounds good that’s because it was.  The fries were ok.  They had a crunchy coating and some truffle oil and grated Parmesan cheese.  The serving size was generous enough I didn’t finish them all.

I grabbed a spot to eat that had a good view of the band, Radiojacks, and the fountain.

I also had a dead on view of I what I decided to call disappointment corner.  When I sat down there was a lady standing there scanning the crowd and pacing and every minute or so checking her phone.  This went on through Superstition and two more songs before she walked away looking unhappy.  She wasn’t gone more than a minute before another lady showed up and basically repeated the process through All About that Bass and two more songs then walked away with a determined look.  Finally as I wrapped up the burger a guy stopped in the same spot and started checking his phone and looking around.  I didn’t stick around to find out if he left disappointed as well because I was dry and needed another drink.

The after dinner drink was a local brew, Whistleblower Watermelon Wheat, from Legal Remedy.  It was another chancy move as I figured it could only be really good or really crap.  Fortunately it was pretty good.  Nice refreshing wheat beer with a definite watermelon flavor.  The way the carbonation acted it was more bubbly throughout the full glass than most beers.  I wouldn’t want it to be my go to beer but it was a fine accompaniment to listening to a talented band and people watching on a hot humid evening.

Only two more Food Truck Fridays this year and I hope the trend of good meals continues.


Another Friday at the Fountain

FTF August 2018

I love all the Fridays but Food Truck Friday is my favorite and this last one did nothing to change that.  This month’s had a Toto cover band, Bless the Rains and on the way over I heard Hold the Line and when I got out of the car I could hear them playing Hold the Line and they sounded good which was a promising start to the evening.

My plan was to get something from one of the trucks selling tacos after grabbing my starter adult beverage.  That starter was a Blossom Eater hard cider from Blake’s.  It had a nice apple taste but was really sweet and had a faint hint of something else I couldn’t identify. After looking it up it turns out there is jasmine and bergamot in it.  The jasmine was the taste I couldn’t identify and I didn’t get any hint of the bergamot.

With cider in hand I strolled the streets in search of the right truck.  That sounds like the start of a Criminal Minds episode.  Anyway after an exhaustive examination of all the menus of the taco selling trucks I went back to the first one I checked out, Taco Green-Go. This truck has been around for a while and I never really paid them much attention before, my loss.

I like their menu board and the way you can combine the elements to have 60 different combinations in three steps.  I went with the special protein which was the carnitas slow roasted pork and instead of the tacos like I was originally planning on I decided to go with the incred-a-bowl base.  The bowl included jasmine rice and seasoned black beans.  Finally for the last step I chose the Island style which added mango salsa, pepper jack cheese, cilantro & pineapple guava aioli.  I felt like that was a good choice when the young woman taking the order just nodded her head and said “Yeah” enthusiastically.

This really was a great meal.  It doesn’t look like a lot of food but it was piled up nicely in the paper bowl and between the beans and rice was very filling.  The flavors all went together in a pleasing way and no one flavor overpowered the others.  There was enough of everything to get some of the taste like with the mango salsa but never too much of anything like cilantro which can drown out other flavors.  The aioli provided a creamy component that just melded the entire thing together.  I will say I didn’t taste the pineapple but there were enough other flavors to go around.

After enjoying the meal I grabbed a beer to enjoy while I finished listening to the first set of the band.  They had a beer so weird I had to try it.  Funky Buddha Key Lime Pie Tart was that ale and it was in fact weird.  On first sip the key lime taste was very evident then it faded to what almost tasted like a hint of graham cracker crust but then that was overtaken by an odd finish that I’m not even sure how to describe except it was kind of chemical and flat.  So every sip was a taste roller coaster, whee followed by ohhh yeah.  On the plus side the music was good and my views to the left and right were pleasant as I worked through the tart.

I was going to hit one of the dessert trucks but the universe was watching out for me and decided the overweight buy with diabetes didn’t need more sweets and pile up the lines at any of the trucks I was interested in.  That was for the best so despite a minor disappointment it was another fine food truck Friday.





Last week was busy and resulted in posts for successive weeks.

The surrogate for Germany was the Old Town Rock Hill Oktoberfest.  It was held downtown at Fountain Park which is the same area they have the Food Truck Fridays.  I parked a little further out than I do for the FTF’s expecting a larger crown but I needn’t have.  There were more people leaving as I got there than there were arriving, not a great sign.  I have to admit I was disappointed as well.

As I walked up I could hear the band playing something that wasn’t quite German but there was definitely some “oompah” in there.  The first tent in line was the ID check and beer ticket tent and what’s Oktoberfest without a beer?  I got a souvenir stein because I needed one more thing to try to fit in a cabinet.

For the price I would have expected it to come with at least one beer ticket but nope they were sold separately.  Well I had a couple of beer tickets and a mug so I figured I was at least partially set.  So here was my first disappointment.  I was really hoping for a biergarten and I’ll not lie I was hoping for fraus walking around with multiple liter steins in each hand serving up good German bier.  Alas that was not the case.  There were a couple of beer trailers and the one with the better beer had a line that was quite long but I persevered and wound up with a Dream Chasers Waxtoberfest beer.  That was enough to get me through my next disappointment.

There were only two food vendors, a pizza truck (WTH?) and the Wurst Wagen which had a line to rival the beer trailer.  How they could have 20 plus food trucks monthly for Food Truck Fridays and only two vendors for a once a year event is beyond me.

The one positive of standing in the line for my wurst was that I got to meet the winner of the wiener dog race.  For a 4 time champ and 2 time second place finisher Oscar was pretty humble and didn’t care for posing for pictures so you’ll just have to accept my description.  He was a solid brown dachshund with some white around the muzzle showing his veteran status and a pretty laid back demeanor for the holder of so many trophies.

The Wurst Wagen had a decent selection of sausages; weisswurst, bratwurst, knockwurst & kielbasa with sides of bacon potato salad, chips or sauerkraut.  I went with the weisswurst and sauerkraut.

The sausage was good but not really hot enough.  The guys were relying on a steamer they were keeping the sausages in to heat them up as they were precooked.  The problem was they were moving them so fast they didn’t have a chance to get very warm before getting served.  The taste was good and the German mustard and sauerkraut were good accompaniments.  I had just enough beer to make it through the meal and a couple of songs from the Foothills Oompah band.  I spent my second ticket on an Old Mecklenburg Mecktoberfest which tasted more like a good German beer than the Waxtoberfest, which had a hint of fruitiness to it.

That was good for a few more songs as the sun set and the fountain to my left got lit up.

Despite the disappointments it was a good evening and I can hope that next year will be better but I’ll let you know either way.


Nana & The Kids

Oct Food Truck Friday

Well it was another Food Truck Friday in Old Town Rock Hill and out I went looking forward to another good time.  As usual I stopped by the beer tent to get a little something to walk around with.  They had a beer called Ghost Rider Spiced Ale from Palmetto Brewing Co.  I got it because of the name, Ghost Rider being a comic book character appealed to my nerd side.  I took my first sip and it was a bit of a surprise as I discovered where that name came from.  The initial impression “This is just another IP..Hey!”  The Ghost in the name comes from the ghost peppers they add to give it a little bit of a burn.  It was interesting but honestly I’m not a fan.  It did keep me going until I got around to deciding on which truck I was dining from.

This week Nana’s Porch struck my fancy as the place to pick up a comforting meal.  I mean what says homey like Nana’s porch except maybe her kitchen.

They had several things that sounded good but the Barnyard burger won out with a side of smoky mac & cheese just to keep the comfort coming.

It doesn’t look pretty but it tasted good.  The burger looked hand patted and it was a generous portion.  The burger was sitting on top of some grilled onions and topped with pulled pork and homemade pimento cheese all sandwiched in a grilled bun.  The burger was cooked more thoroughly than I normally prefer but it had a good flavor especially garnished as it was.  The mac & cheese got its smoky flavor from gouda cheese plus paprika sprinkled on top.  It was dense, cheesy, filling and tasty.

I enjoyed the meal to the musical stylings of Kids In America playing on the stage.  They played early 80’s music that made you feel like you were sitting in an MTV flashback.  You know, when they actually played music.  I kept expecting Downtown Julie Brown to stroll out and veejay the event.  It’s not easy to see in the picture but the band members were sporting headbands, leg warmers, lab coats, and other style choices straight out of the 80’s.

While I was enjoying an after dinner cider this guy decided he wanted to be friends and unfortunately you can’t get a sense of perspective from the picture but he was big enough and wolf like enough I was looking around for Starks.

Another good FTF with one more to go this year.