Check out my pre-BBQ-fest post here for info on this event and my thoughts before attending!
I woke up on Saturday and was quite bummed to see that the weather was NOT cooperating for the outdoor Mohegan Sun BBQ Fest. I received an email notifying me that the start time was being delayed until 3PM, since the weather was calling for the rain to stop by late afternoon. All day long it kept pouring down, and I have to admit I was doubtful, but I still hit the road for the casino with my foodie-friend Jeff by my side. We planned to get a drink and play a little craps before the festivities began.
Anyone who has ever been to Mohegan Sun Casino is surely familiar with the gorgeous waterfall by Todd English’s Tuscany. We sat at the bar outside the waterfall and ordered unique cocktails from Tuscany’s drink menu, which I was very pleased with because I’d already stalked that menu online and knew it was right up my alley.
The cinnamon sea salt rim on the Pisco Pumelo called to me! I ordered it sans grapefruit juice, so it was just Pisco Porton, lime juice, and ginger-spiced syrup (which I sadly couldn’t taste at all). It was essentially like a margarita with a cinnamon kick. I loved it, so refreshing!
Jeff’s loved his Black & Blue Mojito: Malibu Black and Passion Fruit, Absolut Berry Acai, pomegranate juice, lime, and a TON of mint and blueberries. Seriously, there were so many left after he’d finished it, and we transferred them to my drink and “muddled” them into it with a straw, which gave it a nice addition!
After winning $15 on the craps table ($10 of which I turned over to Jeff to pay him back for my beverage), we went to get my media pass and Jeff’s will-call ticket. (Un)fortunately I found out Jeff didn’t need to buy a ticket in the first place because I got a guest pass too, but since I didn’t know that initially, and he’d already paid for his ticket, we just decided to see the silver lining – which was that we did get 8 extra food tickets out of it!
Despite the rain, the crowds were lined up at the booths, both those from Mohegan Sun restaurants and those from outside vendors, to get in some tasty BBQ eats. Jeff and I wanted to peruse everything first before deciding where to spend our food tickets. We started out at the farmers’ market.
The nuts we sampled from The Nut Lady were super tasty, but we wanted to save room for BBQ and I wanted to save my money for another farmers’ market trip I had coming up!
Some of the market booths weren’t open yet because we arrived right at the 3PM start. That included this extremely sad-looking Italian ice cart…I thought the Porta-Potties made it look extra lonely, ha!
Around this time we received word that members of the media had a tent they could go to for eats, and some custom-mixed drinks (in exchange for some tickets). Yes, please! Especially nice since it was still drizzling off and on and the benches outside were slightly damp.
Seriously nearly died over how smooth and delicious our drinks turned out – made with a little ginger ale and Spiced Cinnamon Red Stag Whiskey by Jim Beam.
The food spread in the tent was pretty impressive!
We felt pretty smug when we set up our plates and cups and chowed down in the media tent. It’s fun to be a media member 🙂
The verdict? The biscuits were OK, but could have been crispier and warmer. I had the kinda-crunchy exterior but left the rest. Jeff said the cornbread was northern-style – sweet and soft. NOT a fan, glad I didn’t waste stomach space on that, I needed all I could get (you’ll see). My mom’s cornbread is perfect, so savory and I have it burnt to a crisp.
Obviously I loved the veggies, but I have to mention the vinaigrette coleslaw because it really stood out to me, especially since I had expected every booth’s coleslaw offering to be mayo-smothered. This coleslaw was light, fresh, and different than any other kind offered at the BBQ Fest. I legit could’ve had a whole plate of it!
Jeff and I agreed that the ribs were tasty, but not fall-off-the-bone impressive. I liked the sauce on them! But we had some more booths to attack…we surveyed the outside vendors and searched for the one with the cheapest sampler platter, which we ended up saving for last. I love the fun carnival vibe the outside vendor displays gave to the BBQ Fest!
I was psyched to see Tennessee BBQ represented at the event, complete with UT decor. GO VOLS!
Eek – vegetarians/vegans may want to look away now! Jeff and I were jealous of those with access to the VIP tent, who were apparently the only ones who got the chance to sample the BBQ fresh off this roasted pig!
There was a special rib-cooking demo going on around this time!
We hit up the Mohegan Sun food and drink booths and their affordable offerings.
Our first Mohegan munchie (Meg, do you love that alliteration?) came in the form of two fabulously flaky BBQ Spring Rolls from Michael Jordan’s 23 Sport Cafe. Only 1 ticket for 2 rolls, and there were 2 foodies present…perfect! And that green aioli they were served with? TO DIE FOR.
The offerings at the below booth from the Mohegan Sun Banquet & Catering Team were so low-priced and so delicious looking. We simply could not pass up 2 of the 3…the Grilled Chilled Jumbo Shrimp and CT Oyster Poboy with Cucumber Slaw and Herb Aioli! I LOVE AIOLI (*cough* mayo *cough*)
Despite the fact that our tickets purchased three shrimp, the vendors noticed we were two people sharing them, and gave us four. Jeff was the one who pointed that out, and it really impressed me. All it takes is a little something like that to feel true appreciation! And it’s true that I had been wondering how splitting that third shrimpie would go for us #foodieproblems
The shrimp were really good! The cocktail sauce was…well, it was cocktail sauce. I preferred eating the shrimp on its own and enjoying the flavor.
Story behind the above photo…the first time I ever ordered shrimp at a restaurant (yes, I remember), I was at Catsup and Mustard with my boyfriend at the time as well as Jeff, who was there on his inaugural Corey Wry restaurant visit after I insisted that any real Hartford area foodie couldn’t be called a foodie until trying Catsup and Mustard (which has been featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives). Anyway, Jeff had to get a burger since that’s what they’re famous for, but I’d already tried them and ordered shrimp after recently discovering that I liked some seafood (I was still branching out). I proceeded to eat my first two shrimps off the skewer – including the tails. Joe and Jeff realized I was, well, crunching my shrimp and asked what the HECK I was doing. I was quite embarrassed when I found out I was supposed to remove the tail before eating it.
But I knew what I was doing this time – see how psyched I look? I also realize that it took me way longer than it should have to tell that story above, but I was enjoying my path down memory lane 🙂
I’m also notorious for raising my eyebrows hardcore when I bite into anything. It’s a weird reflex, as if I think it’ll help get my mouth open wider (that’s what she said).
Other evidence of this habit…
Clearly the habit was contagious to Jeff.
Raised brows or not, the poboy didn’t stand a chance. The oyster was so well fried, but not too much so that I couldn’t taste the seafood. The cucumber slaw added such a satisfying crunch to the fried exterior and the aioli was, again, dynamite.
Next up, Jeff and I decided to split a brisket slider from Big Bubba’s BBQ and a spicy pork slider from Geno’s Fast Break. The brisket slider had some tasty meat but the bun was plain, white, and big, which is my usual beef (hardy-har) with sliders. I enjoyed the spicy pork slider much more because it was served on a nice flatbread with a soft, pita-like texture and also contained some crunchy, fresh veggie action.
We decided to take a food break (pacing is required at these kinds of events) and go to the main stage to watch the rib-eating contest!
The contest was headed up by an announcer dressed in his Southern best, including a fancy straw hat, which had its own hat box. We know because we spotted it in the media tent later!
Jeff liked the crazy high-energy of the announcer and thought he was very charismatic, but I just found him a bit ridiculous and long-winded! Still, it was funny to listen to his out-there intro for each contestant, accompanied by “get your game on” music like “Lose Yourself” by Eminem.
The judges lined up and then the contestants took the stage, including one randomly-chosen member of the crowd named Mitch.
Most competitors showed up with a ton of different liquids! I would not want to fill up on any of those if I was participating in an eating contest, but I Googled it and I guess they help lubricate the throat. Still, I’m not sure what the purpose was behind all the different liquids this guy had! The article I linked here also only mentions water, but most competitors opted for something different.
Mitch ended up taking a slow pace in the contest and looked very content the whole time. Jeff and I joked that he was using it as a free dinner and seemed quite smug about it.
When this girl came on stage, there were gasps from the crowd and cries of, “She’s so skinny!!!” But don’t judge a book by its cover – I had a feeling she was going to be tough to keep up with.
Of course the famous competitive eater and current Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest champion, Joey Chestnut, came on stage last and received the biggest cheers (and most long-winded, hyped-up intro from Mr. Announcer).
And then they were off! The competition was so graphic that we could NOT look away. And I really mean graphic in some parts…one of the contestants ended up projectile-vomiting on the announcer, who had been standing right in front of him at the time!
It was also graphic and hard to look away in the sense that these guys were just SO into their rib eating. Joey especially didn’t have a care in the world except getting down as many ribs as possible, no matter how gross he looked doing it or how messy he got!
In the end, Joey Chestnut was crowned champion of the Sun BBQ Fest Rib-Eating Competition, though the female contestant came in second place and lost by only about 1/4 lb of ribs!
Watching all that rib-eating made Jeff and I not hungry, but also not stuffed any longer, so we decided to get a sampler plate from one of the outside BBQ vendors. My readers know I love my sampler plates!
We ended up being completely unable to finish this, but at least Jeff had leftovers to take home. The platter came with pulled pork, ribs, coleslaw, beans, and Texas toast. The mayo-laden coleslaw paled in comparison to that light and fresh vinaigrette coleslaw served in the media tent, and the Texas toast wasn’t toasted at all – but Texas-sized hunks of bread! However, the protein of the platter – the beans, pork, and ribs – was all very good. Definitely better ribs than in the media tent, and a better BBQ sauce. Still, despite how good the meat was, there was a lot left after we filled up!
We shared a cup of red wine and a cup of white since it was only 2 tickets per cup, but we didn’t even have room in our stomachs to finish that! Competitive eaters, we are not. The Authentic Red was pretty good but I actually preferred the Pinot Grigio, probably because I just wanted something REALLY light.
We left with fun memories and full bellies – just what we were hoping for. Congrats to Mohegan Sun for putting on a great event despite the rain, and thanks for having us!
What was the best BBQ meal you ever had? How about the best BBQ sauce?
Have you ever had a REALLY good bourbon or whiskey? I’m becoming a big fan lately!
Have you ever watched a competitive eating contest? What do you think of them overall?