The Big Smoque AAA BBQ festival seemed like one of the most controversial Canberra events of the year. Even if you didn’t go, you would have heard by now the overwhelming bad reviews that drowned out the people who enjoyed themselves.
I didn’t experience a lot of the negativity that these people were angry about as I went to the earlier session but I think a lot of the anger stemmed from a multitude of things ranging from: 1) high expectations of the event because it was ticketed (i.e. “what does $12 get me?”) 2) the wait times for ordering and pickup 3) the limited amount of stalls that were selling food 4) prices 5) running out of food 6) and I also heard some complaints about the food.I wonder how many times a year they bring out this giant cowboy boot.There wasn’t much clarity with how this event was going to run, I didn’t know if they were going to kick me out right on 3pm but they informed me I couldn’t leave the premises after 3pm without buying another time session to come back in, fair enough. I knew that there were going to be 12 competitors vying for ‘Grand Champion’ of the AAA BBQ festival but I didn’t know if they were going to be able to sell food while competing. It turns out that all the competitors were busy perfecting their BBQ before being judged by a panel and as a ticket holder I could only buy food from what looked like commercial vendors. I was a little saddened when I realised there were only 8 food stalls, 3 drinks stands and 1 selling hot sauce, but I only needed one good food stand to satisfy me.
I was excited to see so many tents until I realised less than half of them were selling food to ticket holders *sad face*We were given a wristbands and a bib and we were ready to eat.I grabbed my friend and we headed somewhere for ‘snacks’ straight away before we looked at all the stalls properly. First stop: Smoque stall, it was surprisingly the only stall selling chicken wings. Buffalo wings with blue cheese aioli (3 pieces for $5.00) and pountine ($10.00), not very ‘American BBQ’ but we were happy to try something new. I’ve always liked Smoque’s chicken wings and my friend who has never had them before also enjoyed them. I’m not the biggest fan of blue cheese but the sauce was a nice balance. The poutine was new to us both and we thought it was odd that there was no cutlery available to eat this, it isn’t a first date food but I liked how their left the potato skins on. It was messy to eat but pretty tasty for those who enjoy their chips drowned in gravy. After whetting our appetite and being able to think more clearly without becoming hangry, we decided a platter was the next thing we would purchase. My friend chose the $30.00 share platter from the Smoking Gun BBQ and we were disappointed to see the tiny portions with the most expensive menu item on site. It had bad potato salad, a bland slaw with some brisket, a sausage and a tiny helping of pulled pork but at least it had a tasty sweet pickle. After eating so much meat the crunchy slaw became a welcome palette cleanser and despite the small size the brisket and pulled pork was very moist and tasty. I still don’t understand what made this small portioned box so expensive.The heat was getting unbearable even though we had found a lovely spot under and umbrella so the next stop had to be a refreshing juice from Krave. Small juices were $5, my friend chose strawberry lemonade and I had pineapple lemonade, it was exactly what I needed and I couldn’t scull mine quick enough.We decided to eat one last thing before we headed to another food festival and I chose the Argentinian porky bites from Parrilla Argenchino, signs didn’t indicate how much they were but they ended up being $14.50 for a small portion. There was a line when we were first looking around but this time there was no one and we were served our food pretty much straight away. I liked how there were bones, fat and BBQed crispy edges, we had chosen a chimichurri sauce but it didn’t need anything because it was delicious on its own while it was hot. Definitely the favourite of the event for us.
No lines meant ordering straight away and being served straight away. You can judge from this photo how much pork was in one serve.I think the one thing I was disappointed with above all else was the lack of BBQed ribs, Rangers Texas BBQ might have had them but before 3pm they had sold out of everything with only pulled pork available after 6pm. Do not give me a rib bib if there are no ribs to eat people!
An overview of all the food vendors at the event, they had a mix of Argentinian, Vietnamese, Greek and Indian as well as those who specialise in American BBQ.There are many things they could learn from their inaugural event although I understand that it was their first year so I wasn’t too unhappy with the event overall but if I had come later with long wait times and more vendors running out of food, I would probably be singing a different tune. It did get expensive fast when between the both of us eating, drinking and buying some sauces we spent around $100.00!