Scarborough Ribfest 2012 ~ Camp 31 – Sweet Without Heat
I love the smell of barbecue first thing in the morning! Scarborough Ribfest is one of my favourite Summer rituals. Every year I pull up my stretchy pants and throw a handful of moist toilettes in my pocket before heading out for the annual meat-acular event at Thomson Park.
This year, I went to Ribfest just as the gates were opening on Saturday morning to beat the busy crowds that takeover the park every year. They’ve changed the setup a bit this time. After you walk through the opening gates, now you’re forced to walk through an aisle of vendor booths selling everything from baseball caps to fudge, and contracts with modeling agencies to car dealerships selling their latest “models”. There’s even a reserved parking lot for Honda cars only- of course sponsored by a Scarborough Honda dealership. It’s clear the event organizers have stepped up their marketing strategies to build up revenues. As a marketer by trade, I’m actually quite impressed, but as a hungry foodie, I find it really annoying that I have to wade through so many booths. It’s a foodfest, not a tradeshow! Then even after you make it past the vendors, you have to walk through a mini-carnival before you can get to the BBQ! It’s times like these that I’m thankful that I don’t have kids, because prolonging the anticipation of smoked meat to stop for a ride on the merry-go-round is just more than I can take. Anyway, that’s enough ranting, let’s get to the food!
Walking into the food area is overwhelming. There are about a dozen different barbecue stands to choose from surrounded by tables of trophies to entice you to choose them. Last year I chose Hawgs Gone Wild because they had the most trophies flaunting their numerous accolades. (You can read about my experience at last year’s Ribfest on Foodnetwork.ca.) This time I chose Camp 31 because they had a sign on their booth that said “We won here last year – Best Ribs!” Also, they were offering a “Grand Slam” combo that featured 1/3 rack of ribs, 1/4 barbecue chicken, pulled pork, and beef brisket. SOLD. It covered all 3 of my favourite meat food groups, so the decision was easy.
How was it? Well… it was okay, but I don’t think it was better than the food I had from Hawgs Gone Wild last year. I also had a taste of the ribs my cousin picked up from Uncle Sam’s, and those were better too. Camp 31′s rib sauce was sweet, but lacked any heat. There wasn’t enough smoky flavour for my liking. And the rib tips on the rack I got were charred to a crisp. I wasn’t impressed.
The BBQ Chicken was much better. It was moist and the sauce that it was glazed with was sweet. I’m not sure if it’s the same sauce that they use on the ribs, but whatever it was, it worked much better with the chicken.
The Pulled Pork had a nice moist and tender consistency, but the flavour was a bit too saturated for me. I think I would have enjoyed it more if I had it in a bun or with some rice (can’t help it, I’m Asian!) or even a stalk or two of broccoli. It was just a bit too overpowering and I felt it needed something to balance out the overwhelming sauce. I didn’t enjoy it.
The Beef Brisket was a little bland in comparison to the rest of the meats in my combo. A little salt and pepper would have gone a long way with the flavour. But it wasn’t all bad. The meat was tender and juicy and cooked well, I just thought it lacked seasoning. Or maybe the beef was too lean without enough fat for flavour.
For a little veggie content, I also shared a deep fried onion blossom with my cousin. Can’t go wrong with fried onions. It was crispy and delicious! And the spicy chipotle dipping sauce it’s served with just takes it to the next level.
All in all, I had a great time at Scarborough Ribfest. I’ll definitely go back next year, and the year after that, and after that, and after that… but I probably won’t ever go back to Camp 31. Great effort, but not enough spice to keep me interested.
Check out my slideshow below for more pix from the Scarborough Ribfest.