A few days ago one of our readers emailed us the following message after we blogged about the Sarasota Winefest:
“Darn, I missed it! Being new to Florida I’m still learning what’s what. What would be nice of you guys, is to post before an event happens so we have a heads-up what’s coming and can plan accordingly. Keep the great posts coming!” Beth C.
Sorry Beth. We are going to respond to your request with an “Out and About Calendar of Upcoming Foodie Events” but we haven’t met with our web designer yet, so . . .
To all our readers, please accept our sincerest apologies if you didn’t have the good fortune to attend this past weekend’s 5th Annual Suncoast BBQ & Bluegrass Bash. We’ll make sure it’s on next year’s calendar, to be sure. Believe me, you don’t want to miss this foodie orgy of smoky, tasty, all-American vittles and family fun. (Yes. I did it. I used orgy and family fun in the same sentence!)
Where do I start? There’s sooo much going on at the Suncoast BBQ & Bluegrass Bash, even WE didn’t have time to take it all in. Let’s start by noting this is no ordinary food-fest. This is a Florida BBQ Association sanctioned competition, with both the winners of the BBQ contest, and the winner of the Chili Cook-Off qualifying automatically for the Food Network’s World Food Championships this November in Las Vegas. When I say seriously good food, I’m being sincere and serious.
There were several cooking competitions going on at the same time. Unless you have the appetite and metabolism of a teenager on a growth spurt, you may want to focus on one category and just taste a bite or two from the other competitions. The Chili Cook-Off had a “people’s choice” component, where they cleverly sold $5 “tasting tickets”, entitling you to 5 samples of delicious chili, while getting your ticket punched along the way. Once you choose your personal favorite, you simply deposit the spent ticket in the vote box at your favorite’s booth!
There were about 15 or more chili competitors, so Jill and I each purchased a $5 ticket, and shared 10 delicious variations. I thought it would be easy to choose, but it really wasn’t. Jill voted for Curry Creek’s Grouper and Shrimp Chili with cilantro sour cream. A gluten free, light colored chili, one of the guests argued that it wasn’t really a chili, because there was no beef, pork or chicken. “Fish isn’t meat,” she explained to us, “So that’s not chili.” I kept my mouth shut on that one. What do you think? Isn’t fish a meat? It certainly isn’t a vegetable, fruit, bread, fat or nut. . . but I’m being picky.
Me? I was as enthralled with the funny tee shirts and clever gimmicks the competitors used to attract tasters to try their chili, as I was with the samples I tasted. I seriously didn’t know who to vote for – it might as well have been a 10-way tie! Every one of them was stellar! I was caught up trying to remember which one was which. You know . . . taste rocking issues like “Which chili had that nice hint of cumin?” “Which chili had the hot sauce on the side?” “Which version was the most classic chili?” “Who had the chili made with buffalo meat?” (Note to self – wear shorts with an expandable waist next year.)
Of the 60-plus contestants in the BBQ competition, we managed to sample but a few – a rib here, some pulled pork there, a bit of brisket to round things out, and wash it down with a cold beer. With the unbelievable and irresistible smell of BBQ everywhere, it’s pretty hard to not want to try as much as we could, but it’s inconceivable how anyone could judge all the entries without passing out in their seat! We tended to be drawn to the booths with the longest lines or the most trophies on display. (That’s you, – Rub Me Tender! – love the char on those ribs!) For our part, it would be easier to judge the team names and come up with 1st-2nd-3rd. Check out the witty array of names here: http://suncoastbbqbash.com/who-is-in/ Some funny stuff, right?
Being that I had a noticeable waddle after trying all that chili and BBQ, so I had to pass on the Bake Off Contest. In fact, you couldn’t make me step within three feet of those great smelling booths! My taste buds have overpowered my will power in the past, so no sense pushing it. Fortunately, the two winners in the Bake Off garnered $500 each for their sweet efforts – no thanks to moi!
The Suncoast BBQ and Bluegrass Bash attracts over 15,000 guests a year – but being that this was the 5th year, it may have been more. Entry was free and parking was free, so this is truly an event you can take your family to. One hint — ignore the endless line of cars rolling into the Venice Airport parking fields. . . the event is so well organized, it takes less time to park than you’d think.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t list some of the other family-friendly activities and competitions. We watched some of the Cornhole Tournament where players of all ages and talents were happily throwing corn bags around. (How’s “Two Old Bags” for a team name?)
When we saw the kids lining up, we had to stop and see the kids potato sack race. How often do you see kids having fun without a video game controller? The squeals of laughter was enough to bring a smile to anyone’s face!
A kid’s park, community corner exhibits, outdoor living exhibits, and some of this country’s finest craft beer makers offering their libations at the event. You could easily spend an entire glorious day (or two) at the Suncoast BBQ and Bluegrass Bash!
Add to everything the pure American Bluegrass music coming from the sound stage, and you’ve got a winner. This year the Bluegrass Bash included 2014 Grammy nominees The Boxcars, (which sadly we missed seeing) and you can see why this event draws folks from all over the country.
When you keep in mind that this amazing event supports the Suncoast Foundation for Handicapped Children, it all adds up to a (guilt-free) foodie-fest, and then some, which will be a must-do every year for us!