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Mohegan Sun here in Connecticut’s Mystic Country held its first annual BBQ Fest, and I was honored to be invited and check out the festivities, running Friday, June 1 through Sunday, June 3. I picked a Saturday visit, which turned out to be the rainiest! Originally scheduled to start at 10:30 a.m., gates didn’t open until 3 p.m. when miraculously, the clouds stopped dripping and actual shafts of sunlight were able to occasionally poke through. Within minutes, lines were snaking from 6 venerable rib purveyors from across the country. Out of the 3 I tried, it was tough to vote for a favorite, but Chicago BBQ Company’s thick, sauce-laden ribs won out for flavor and extreme tenderness.
Since the day was condensed, the festival's rib eating contest began quickly giving me just enough time to lick the sauce from my fingers and rush up to the stage for prime video and picture taking. This was an event that I was determined to see from beginning to end. Little did I know that I was in the spray zone...which the MC assured us was nothing to be apprehensive about. Perhaps...as long as contestants keep what's in their stomachs to themselves. For one competitive eater, this proved impossible and the MC suffered the results on the back of his sport jacket. World renowned Joey Chestnut took first place with the lovely Juliet Lee not far behind him. After intently watching the contest unfold, I can tell you with confidence that munching as many ribs as possible in 12 minutes is simply an exercise in endurance rather than a pleasurable gastronomic excursion. Who knew that an International Federation of Competitive Eating exists with top ranking champions? They come to the table with backpacks filled with bottles of energy drinks and water which they strategically drink in between face cramming bouts. Joey Chestnut even periodically jumped up and down as he swallowed to hasten digestion. Personally, I would have liked to grab those trays of ribs and savor them over the course of a week!
Among the grilling demonstrations and live music performances like Robert Cray hitting the stage throughout the weekend, another stellar foodie personality making appearances was DJ Chef. Starting off DJing house parties at age 16, DJ Chef (real name Marc Weiss) also held down restaurant jobs and later attending New York Restaurant School. Learning the finer points of culinary art, Marc worked a string of famous restaurant gigs but still moonlighted as a DJ. With the advent of the Food Network, Marc found that he could successfully combine his musical and culinary expression in the kitchen whether it be a Vegas shindig or rowdy bachelorette party.
At the Sun BBQ Fest, DJ Chef enlisted some audience participation in whipping up a mean banana flambe. With the preparation so entertaining and deceivingly carefree, the resulting samples reflected anything but simplistic crowd pleasing sweetness...the panoply of the festival's fiery ribs met their match with this rich soothing dessert that would fit in just as well on the menu of a 5-star eatery!
Photos and video courtesy of Steve Mirsky and Mohegan Sun