Rib Fest, Nebraska

I am a California girl, born and raised. I know it in my heart, and I feel it even more when I travel. So far in these 26 years on Earth, I’ve gone from growing up in a southern California beach city, where the coldest is 60 and the hottest is 80 – to San Francisco, where the coldest is most definitely lower, but the high is certainly no more than 80. These people around here complain, and they bitch, and they moan – and I’m included in this, don’t get me wrong. I get tired of not being able to wear shorts in the summer, I get tired of my bathing suit gathering dust and lord I get tired of these ghost white gams sticking out from my torso. But, in the end, I would rather bundle up in July for Mark Twain’s coldest winter than question whether or not I should jump in front of a bus because I can’t find air conditioning in the 108 degree, 95% humidity of a true mid-western summer.

Where’s this weather rant coming from? Well, ’bout a month ago, the other half and I embarked on a lovely journey to his old home of Lincoln, Nebraska. Growing up as an only child, my food memories were so different …. it wasn’t a big event for dinner. Though we ALWAYS sat down together for breakfast and dinner, we didn’t have a big dining table, no one had to spend hours to prepare enough for 15 people, and you didn’t have to announce to everyone hours ahead of time what time we were eating so that everyone can be there; you didn’t have to find enough chairs, you didn’t have to cram in, and you didn’t have to make sure you have a little of everything to please everyone, even the kids. All said and done, though, (I don’t know HOW his mother does it, honestly) it is so fun to sit down with a bunch of people, chat, pass food around the table and take a few minutes out of a day to enjoy each others company. This is, after all, what I love food for. It will always bring people together.

Eating at the dining table wasn’t all we did, though.

We also indulged ourselves in the local night life at Brother’s Lounge in Omaha:

Checked out the nicely air conditioned, extremely empty and most perfectly divey Lynx Lounge:

Took in a cold one on a riverboat in Council Bluffs, Iowa:

(safety first!)

Joined in a 2-way petting zoo (you pet the animals and they pet you back):

Visited a natural history museum who says there were sharks that looked like this:

(I don’t believe it)

And last, but not least – the whole reason for this post – we waited all day and night til the temperature dropped below 90 and hit RIBFEST!

There were 6 world-renowned, award winning rib masters and we got to try four. Even though 2 were closed, I don’t feel like we missed out on much. They were all banging, though some were drier than others, some sauces sweeter than others, and suprisingly – none were very spicy, even those claiming to be “scorching hot”.

The first on the tasting menu was Texas Rib Rangers

They had 3 BBQ sauces, ranging from mild to blazing hot – but like I said before, even the ones that claimed to be the hottest of the hot still didn’t meet any of our blaze quotas.

The sauce was good, don’t get me wrong. Look at that glaze: The meat was definitely tender, juicy but not fatty and totally not overcooked (ugh, the worst thing you can do to ribs).

The next taste test was Porky and Beans, defending champs and everyone’s least favorite.

Of course, they too made big promises of hot BBQ sauce.

I’d only give one X to that triple-X sauce. And the original was way too sweet. The meat wasn’t as good as the others, either. A little dry, a little chewy.

You can tell by the greyness, rather than pinky like Rib Rangers’ were.

Next up: The international contestant, Aussom Aussie.

Personally, I’m totally into the laser-show neon lights they have going on. Also, I don’t know if y’all (that’s a little southern slang to go with the ribs, just for you) know this, but Australia is becoming an amazing foodie mecca. They have a really impressive slow food movement in Sydney, and some really amazing farms all over. I used to just think “Fosters” when I heard “Australia”, but no longer, my friends. They’re doin’ it right these days. Just check out their ribs:

I’ll admit, they weren’t the best of what we tasted, but they were in a close second for some of us. Not as drenched in sauce as most ribs are (and, honestly, should be) I worried they’d be dry – but nope. Job well done, Aussies.

Then came Johnson’s. Also good, but second to last in all opinions. (Last, sadly enough, being the defending champ and winners Porky n’ Beans.)

I’m making myself hungry…

A little bit of dry-looking greyness on the meat, like Porky N Beans, but somehow still so tender and juicy. Tasty sauce, but still not spicy! At least they didn’t make any false promises, though.

All in all, nevermind which was good, great or fantastic, I got to spend three lovely – albeit sweaty – hours eating ribs and drinkin’ a couple beers.

Nothin’ better.