Article first published in The Bite Magazine http://www.thebitemag.co.uk
A rather wet and grey weekend in May in vibrant Bristol plays host to ‘Meat, Music & Mayhem’. Grillstock Festival, a celebration of Barbeque culture, is now in its 5th year. Combining a variety of mouthwatering food stalls, competitions, bars, demonstrations, BBQ craft and great music it really brings the deep south to the southwest. If you managed to miss it Manchester hosts their own Grillstock on 8th & 9th June, details can be found on http://www.grillstock.co.uk
I attended the Sunday so I didn’t get to see the festival in its full swing and I feel the damp, cold weather probably diminished the footfall considerably. However the spirits of those there remained high and there was a real party and community vibe. The James Hunter Six and Seasick Steve providing my musical favourites for the day on the Jim Beam Stage. Such laid back, soulful sounds kept the crowds warm as they swayed their hips and clicked their fingers.
As we wondered around eyeing up all the amazing local (and not so local – zebra, crocodile, camel etc) produce we were tempted with enticed aromas from everywhere. It was a tough choice but I eventually settled for a pulled pork fajita with peppers, onions, salad, cheese, sour cream, guacamole and jalapeños from Los Amigos (http://www.losamigoseventcatering.com ). Fiery, filling and bloody lovely! Of course I followed this up with some Churros and chocolate from Churro Garcia (http://www.churrosgarcia.co.uk) For those of you that don’t know Churros are a Mexican snack, kind of like a donut, they are made from a rolled pastry stick that is deep fried and sprinkled with sugar and often cinnamon. They are usually served with melted chocolate.
Drinks were in no short supply with Brooklyn Brewery’s, who sponsored the Dive Bar Stage, Red Wolf Vodka and Orchard Pig around. Fine ale’s, craft beers, ciders, vodka and freshly squeezed juices, what more could I need. We particularly enjoyed ‘Summer Ale’ a fruity, floral number that our friend Simon said tasted like they had ‘hopped the shit out of it’.
One of my favourite stalls was blues enthusiasts Drummond and Hammett (http://www.drummondandhammett.com ) from Bristol who have made an unusual and quite beautiful Box Guitar. They even sell ‘build your own’ kits for a mere £65. They are gorgeous instruments with a traditional sound, a must have for the muso in your life!
Weber master griller Dan Cooper demonstrated cooking methods and recipes in the BBQ Academy and the bravest (stupidest) visitors entered the chilli eating competition. But the real star of the show is the ‘King of the Q’ competition, sponsored by Mac’s BBQ and judged by master certified judge Dr BBQ aka Ray Lampe. Seven rounds are formally judged by a team of foodies including Matthew Burgess Head Chef at Jamie’s Italian, Ben Bartlett, author of The BBQ Manual and Levi Roots.
The rounds are Cook’s Choice, Ribs, Lamb, Brisket, Chicken, Dessert and Pork Shoulder with a winner in each category. Four key rounds (chicken, ribs, brisket and pulled pork) give a cumulative points total to the winners. The overall winner is then crowned ‘Grand Champion’. 27 teams competed and only one won, they were Bunch of Swines – repeat winners, defending last years title. The prize includes £1,000, a qualify into the prestigious American Royal World Series of BBQ ‘invitational’ in Kansas City and an invite to the World Food Contest in Las Vegas.
Belly full, feet sore, hair wet and smiling I headed home, ears still ringing with hillbilly sounds and taste buds still tingling from smoky low n’ slow BBQ meats. We loved our day out to this piece of America right here in Bristol’s harbourside and I can’t wait till next year! My only consolation now it’s over is that St. Nicholas’ market has a Grillstock stall where I can fill up on pulled pork, slaw and corn bread on rainy English days.