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Monday, April 19th, 2010
5:39p - Rib Cage BBQ
On Saturday, Lori and I drove down to Monongahela to visit Rib Cage BBQ.

We had found about Rib Cage BBQ from a thread on Roadfood.com. The thread started with a drive-by advertisement, but we started talking about barbecue, and the proprietor showed up and talked in a friendly way about his wares.

The proprietor had said "If you are ever planning on coming down with some friends please let me know beforehand and we will make sure that we take care of you." I had dithered a bit about whether it was appropriate to accept that sort of special offer for a visit that I intended to report on. (Amateur reporting to LiveJournal and Roadfood, that is.) I concluded that it was okay for me to get the "special Roadfooder treatment". My journalistic standards are that my work should be both honest and interesting, and a report of special Roadfooder treatment would be interesting to Roadfooders, and could be honest as long as long as it was clearly labeled as such. So I sent him a private message that we were planning to come down.

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Final conclusions:
- I would not come here for smoked meat; this is open-pit BBQ, cooked over a hot fire.
- The food was good, and the portions are so massive that the food-to-cost ratio is off the scale.
- I had a great time talking with John; if possible, I recommend talking with him about the restaurant and the food, because it really added to our enjoyment.

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6:23p - Forest Hills Chili Cookoff
Went to the Forest Hills Chili Cookoff yesterday. I don't feel that I have time to write about this in depth, but it deserves a few notes.

I tried to take the chili cookoff seriously, taking notes after every chili I sampled. Unfortunately, it was crowded enough that it was hard to step back from the chili to let other people get their samples while I wrote notes, so my notes ended up very abbreviated. I asked every cook "what do you want me to notice about this chili?"--that's how I have all these details about particular seasonings.

In the order I tried them:
#12: Chimera chili. Made with bison, beef, and turkey, with curry powder and Indian chilies among normal chili seasonings. This was the spiciest chili I ate, and it definitely had an Indian-food tone. The cook was a gamer; he was wearing a Kenzer and Company t-shirt, and his display included miniatures set up in combat.

#11: Kevin McGuire's grilled chicken chili. Grilled chicken and dark kidney beans in a mild, rich broth. This was by far the best-tasting of all the chili, and it had the most attractive presentation, including a punch fountain.

#2: Dragon's Breath Chili. A good standard chili, with smoked paprika and cinnamon. Made by Tara, who was wearing blinking LED jalapeno earrings. Much milder than I expected from the name.

#1: Headhunter Chili. Made by last year's winner, who was by far the most self-hyping of the participants. He was like a stereotypical used car salesman. "No filler, just killer!"

#4: Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice: Very sweet, particularly in the beginning, then a late heat.

#9: White Chicken Chili: Very mild, with some flavor developing after a couple seconds.

#6: Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili: not much flavor, but a bit of heat developing after a while.

#8: Coconut Chicken Chili. This had no beans or tomatoes, but it added coconut milk and Asian spices. This isn't chili. It had a sign saying "Better Homes and Gardens Contest Winner"--if that contest was a chili contest, Better Homes and Gardens is just wrong.

#7: Yummy Chili: No whole beans, but some refried beans stirred in for a change in texture. Nice smoky savory seasonings, plus a bit of honey that I felt was too much honey.

#10: Sean's Tree City Chili: ground beef, kidney beans. Mild.

#5: All Saints Chili: a whole lot of bell pepper. Slight heat, but not much flavor.

I ended up voting for #7--I actually liked the flavor of #11 better, but I felt that #7 came closer to my ideal chili.

I chatted with Kevin McGuire (maker of chili #11) and praised his chili, and he really warmed to my praise--so much that he offered to send some home with me. I greedily accepted. But he couldn't find a container. So he gave me all his leftovers, in a metal container that he had used to feed Army troops in Iraq:

I swear, if I look for culinary adventure, great stories like this drop into my lap.

I think the best way I can thank Kevin for his kindness (besides making an extra donation to the Rotarians running the cookoff, which I did) is to praise him with contact information for his catering. I'll edit in that contact information when I get back home to his business card.

McGuire's Catering
Specializing in Southern Delights
Office Phone: 412-271-8332
Email: mcguirekevinjr@yahoo.com
Manager: Melissa Chef: Kevin

Based on the one encounter I've had with Kevin, I would strongly endorse his catering.

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