Wednesday, July 7, 2010


for $1, I will both taste and judge your barbecue.

The theme of the event was "Patriots, Pride, and Preservation," which seemed a stretch at alliteration.   Also written down the side... "all-America Celebration," to reinforce the role of Independence Day in our culture, I guess.  In case you're new.

Commemorating the Revolution in Revolution towns is always a little extra-patriot/pride/preservation, isn't it? I think it's the Mohawks in full battle dress that do it.

Now, if it is a thousand degrees and the 4th of July, and you are wandering the streets of Saratoga in search of entertainment, why not throw yourself into the BBQ & Dessert Fest to a degree absurdly disproportionate to the task?  We could only have outdone ourselves by wagering on the outcome.

12 Restaurants
10 categories
a pile of singles
a fork shortage
a party of 5
a fat black dog
an afternoon

You know how these things work.  You get a ballot and sometimes a pile of taste tickets, but in this case tickets are sold at the sites in this walking tour of Broadway and its feeder streets.  We started with cake supplied by Saratoga Gaming, which had missed the opportunity to be called Firecracker Cake.  If your festivities this year did not feature Pop Rocks in some frosting, your neighbors are not subscribing to the right magazines.  This got our tasting out of the gate (which do you want, racing puns or firecracker puns?) just as the sun hit its peak.

The worst BBQ I have ever experienced was served at the Holiday Inn.  You know how I love my judge's comments.  I found a pen and jotted on my ballot, "inadequate, dry, not tender, bun is inferior" (inferior!) and then I took off points for their being disorganized at our first BQ stop.

And the game was on.  We passed that pen around at each stop and talked each other out of complacency when we stumbled and decided something was "the best so far."  I challenged myself with new adjectives for each taste, but could not get anyone else to catch onto the word "whimsical."

The main entertainment in downtown Saratoga (after being seen and dog wrangling) is bar hopping.  I expect this comes from a culture of spending long wait times between short races.  So the set-up is right for this sort of event, and in the winter is a good old-fashioned chowderfest, hundreds of miles from where oysters are grown.  The off-Broadway spots were better at accommodating this, as they are the smaller bars, glad to have you come in and rest a spell.  On Broadway, they tended to be set-up outside, so as not to waste valuable table space on the dollar-holding riff-raff.

The lines for ribs at the salsa and spice company (because when I think Saratoga, I sauce) trailed to the street, because the owner/manager wanted to chat up each participant about his potato chip rub.  He was dismissed by his 20 year-old staffer who told him to go back to stocking pretzels and stop jamming up the works.  Her words may have varied from those.

Barbecue is not a finger food, despite what the staff at the Cantina had to say. "Old-fashioned!" said the waitress who had run out of forks.  I am not sure if that is Pride or Preservation.  I found it messy, and passed.  While dousing ourselves from our water bottles, we were stopped by a stranger who sidled up and told us not to miss the chocolate lemonade cake at the Hampton Inn. 

It was a festival of desserts, all right.

The taste at gourmet italian ice was too small.  The cobbler at Circus cafe too autumnal.  The Grey Gelding served meatballs,  without irony, in a confusing palate of apricot and jerk spices and possibly too many meats.  K McK chastised herself for unknowingly eating veal.  I gave them all 3s (out of 5 - the Netflix scale) but with constructive criticism they would never read.

Seven Horse Pub outclassed the competition by serving a complete plate - pork, slaw, and cornbread, though they too were running out of forks, and I didn't help by dropping mine on the floor.  The gigantic Parting Glass,  the center of all things competitive darts,  looks like your college Rathskeller in the cold light of day.  They bravely served Celtic Cabobs and apple bread pudding (Preservation! Pride!) but it came too late in my tasting menu to be tolerated.  Bring on the Lemonade Cake.

I won't build that into a third act - you have the gist of it already, and I have to get dressed -- but when we got to the Hampton Inn... it was gone.  Not the Inn.  The cake, I mean.  All out.  The Brigadoon of cakes.  (I just found a recipe for Brigadoon Cake.  who knew?).  We actually pouted about this for a while while we stomped to the Bread Basket Bakery and ate what looked like a cupcake and tasted like a scone.  I downed an iced coffee.  Skip took issue with the balloting system and almost withheld his votes because of it.  We recommended he get on next year's committee.

And call it "Festivity, Food, and Forks."


  1. Nice recap! It was also sent to K McK - is our dog really fat? :)

  2. Mrs B calls me on the fact that I would not call her daughter fat in a public forum, and I shoiuld not call Midnight so either, even if she can't read.

  3. I'm SO doing the PopRocks in frosting at my next party!


    I am flattened with the results!


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