Year three of the World Food Championships in Las Vegas took several steps in the right direction. The annual mega-fest is growing at such a rapid rate, the quality of programming and grub has no choice but to keep up. This year’s event featured 408 competitors in 11 categories, with nine defending champions, eight countries and 25 locals in the mix.
At Bourbon, BBQ & Banjos, bluegrass classics were played onstage as hungry festival-goers roamed the grounds at the new Downtown Las Vegas Events Center, sampling ribs from about 20 cooking teams from all over North America. Hints of fruity sweetness are a natural fit with barbecued pork, but so many teams took the cloyingly sweet route, I felt like my teeth were melting. Surprisingly, the best rib I tasted was from Bad Bones BBQ out of Portland, Oregon, which was heavy on the smoke yet allowed the meat to stand up for itself. It pays to be original. –Jason Harris
At the WFC’s spicy Downtown Chili Throwdown, Barn Goddess BBQ from Dunnellon, Florida brought on the booze with dark beer-infused chili with whiskey-soaked raisins mimicking the texture of beans. Quirky ingredients were in full swing. Farley’s Family Restaurant brought a meat-centric, Minnesota mentality with a five-meat chili (pepperoni, filet mignon, pork sausage, ground beef and bacon) topped with avocado crème fraîche and Fritos. The Wonky Donkey Monsters from the U.K. took a different approach by using anchovies for saltiness with smoked pork shoulder and top round. –Brittany Brussell