Monday, November 09, 2009

Highlight #257: Much more than just chili at Chomp & Stomp

Despite having lived 5 minutes from cabbagetown for the past four and half years, this Saturday was the first time that I made it to Chomp & Stomp, the annual festival of chili and bluegrass. Good thing I started early (around 11:15am). By the time the chili service began at noon, the line to get the "chomp" stamp was down and around the street.

Before the crowd showed up, I scouted out the chili vendors that looked most promising. Right away I saw Fox Bro., my favorite bbq restaurant. The ladies with ladles made sure I understood that their brisket chili won the top award last year. I made a note to come back.

On such a gorgeous fall day, there was really nothing better than a festival in the park. By the time I checked out all the art vendors, plenty of folks had already found spots on the lawn in front of the bluegrass band.

I don't like to wait, so while the chili vendors held back their ladles before noon, I checked out the other snacks. This retro cart was dishing out hot dogs and such. I didn't try. My precious stomach space had to be saved for the "must eats."

Before long, I locked in on one of these "must eats." Farmer Mike with his large white beard looked as impressive as his pile of pitch black smoked pork. Pieces are taken off one by one and hand shredded for sandwiches.

I took mine to a sunny spot in front of the band. Once I started chewing, the music faded into the background and all I heard was the humming of heavenly piggies. What's really exciting here was a great mix of pork fat bits with lean shreds. Every mouthful was moist and juicy. The sauce, thankfully, was also not too sweet.

After my pork sandwich, I walked down a few stalls and found my next "must eat." Initially, I didn't pay much attention to this simple vendor setup until I smelled meat charring in the pan. Then I saw the name "Grind House" and a light bulb went off. It's the new burger joint in the Sweet Auburn Market that I have been meaning to check out. They weren't serving burgers, but little sliders for $2. Perfect for a taste.

Being a slider, there was no choice for doness and the slider came preloaded with cheese and pickles. The ketchup was my addition. For a small piece of meat, this was really juicy and worked well with the soft roll. The pickles help to cut through the fattiness a bit. It reminded me of an in-n-out burger. The only area for improvement was the salt level. The patty tasted bland without the ketchup, cheese, and pickles. Perhaps a personal preference, but I like my patty seasoned. Not so seasoned like a meatloaf, but definitely salted.

Of course, I had to get some chili. Fox Bro.'s winning brisket chili was indeed good, in an assertively spicy, tangy, and greasy way. It's not one that I can put away by the large bowlful due to the large amounts of rich brisket chunks, but I also didn't have to worry about popping Beano (no bean inside).

Chomp & Stomp exceeded my expectation by a mile. I'll definitely be back next year and it won't be for the chili alone either.

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