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October 10, 2013 / theyellowbungalowla

a spirited competition…

I think the photo says it all: Lee's Donut on Granville Island.  Vancouver, BC.

The photo says it all: Lee’s Donut on Granville Island. Vancouver, BC.

The Yellow Bungalow is spending some time in Vancouver, Canada. Each Thursday, I’ll be sharing a more personal account of my adventures there. Join me as I discover this delicious city!

As you may have guessed, the real reason behind our Vancouver scouting trip has to do with food. Of course I wanted to spend the weekend getting to know the town and checking out our new digs. More importantly, though, was an invitation to compete in a rib-off.

What is a rib-off, you ask?

A rib-off is a spirited competition among friends who love ribs…as in the kind you eat…pork, beef, and even lamb. The rib-off takes place in a park, grills are trucked in and lots of meat is cooked, eaten, and then voted on. There is a winner. Good reason to spend a weekend in Vancouver? I think so.

Before I share all the sticky, porky details (our team made pork ribs), I must first share the story of how it all came together. Trust me, the days leading up to the rib off are chock full of food adventures, brilliant strategy, and fried treats.

The story starts off where last Thursday’s post ends. That evening, we met up with our team (6 of us in total) to brainstorm ideas and discuss strategy for the rib-off. Over dinner and a Caesar (the drink, not the salad…it’s like a Bloody Mary but made with Clamato…it’s delish!), we brainstormed different strategies for our ribs. A (paper) placemat was sacrificed in the name of creativity as we settled on our own version of the McRib sandwich: we’d smoke pork ribs, cover them in homemade bbq sauce and caramelize them on the grill, then take them off the bone and stuff the meat onto a little slider bun which would also be layered with (real) McDonald’s french fries and our homemade “special sauce.” The two bite-sized sandwich would be served “Happy Meal style” in a bag with a homemade fried apple pie and a toy. Once this brilliant plan was hatched, we divided up duties and grocery lists, and agreed to meet back at our friends’ place the next day to get to work.

The evening ended with a walk over to Japadog, a local hot dog vendor that serves a donut version of the hot dog: a sweet, deep fried hot dog bun filled with ice cream. I’m not making this up! It’s true, and you too can experience a Japadog dessert if you come to Vancouver. Or New York. They’re expanding…

Hornby Aquabus Stop.  Vancouver, BC.

Hornby Aquabus Stop. Vancouver, BC.

In keeping with the donut theme established the night before, we boarded the Aquabus the next morning for Granville Island, where we indulged in a sweet treat before scouring the market for items needed to carry out our rib mission. While we munched on sweet, fried goodness, we wandered the Public Market in search of the items on our list. For our part, we needed to buy ingredients for the bbq sauce. I wanted to incorporate some local products into our homemade sauce and balance out the addition of McDonald’s fries. I figured that we could pick up some Canadian maple syrup. Instead, we found even more unique (locally made) options:

Edible Canada, a restaurant that specializes in local fare.  Headquartered on Granville Island.  Vancouver, BC.

Edible Canada, a restaurant that specializes in local fare. Headquartered on Granville Island. Vancouver, BC.

Edible Canada is a restaurant with a small marketplace located inside, where one can purchase local Canadian food products like maple syrup, jams, pickles, and a whole lot more. We bought pickles to add crunch to our sandwich, as well as birch syrup (like maple syrup but comes from a birch tree) and a savory onion & cranberry confit to incorporate into our bbq sauce.

Tacones from Go Fish! taco stand near Granville Island.  Vancouver, BC

Tacones from Go Fish! taco stand near Granville Island. Vancouver, BC

Granville Island is massive, so by the time we found all the ingredients we needed, we had walked for what felt like miles and were ready for lunch. Go Fish! is a local fish shack along the water that sells fish & chips, soup, and their famous tacones. Taco + cone = tacone, which you probably figured out without my help, but I didn’t realize until they were in front of me! One bite of the salmon taco and you won’t care what they’re called. Crazy fresh fish, crunchy slaw, and special sauce make these tacones some of the best and most unexpected tacos I’ve ever had.

That evening, our team gathered in the kitchen and began turning our vision into reality. We smoked the ribs indoors using lapsang souchong, a smoky tea, then braised them with apple juice to yield “fall-off-the-bone” tender meat. Meanwhile the homemade bbq sauce, created using local onion confit and birch syrup, bubbled away on the stove, reducing into a sweet, tangy, and slightly spicy sauce. The rest of the team produced pie dough by the pound, then made a small amount of apple filling to test out the fried apple pie. The evening carried on into the late hours and culminated with several tastings of our McRib sandwich, each version improving until we finally settled on the version we’d present at the contest the next day.

At this point, my fingers are starting to cramp and I’m guessing you might be antsy to move on with your day. A final installment will reveal how this trilogy ends! Please tune in over the weekend to find out the results of the 2013 Vancouver Rib-Off. And thanks for joining me on this delicious adventure. I assure you, this is only the beginning!

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