barbecue bbq

Windycity Smokeout Recap

Tuesday, July 22, 2014 HALFSTACK MAGAZINE

A couple of weekends ago Halfstack had the opportunity to check out the Windy City Smokeout. It was a great weekend of good music and amazing food. This summer festival was one of the hotspots to hit this season for BBQ and country music.

With locals like Elizabeth Lyons (CMT New Featured Artist) and big names like the Eli Young Band, it's not a surprise that the event was packed all weekend long. The lineup was coordinated in partnership with Ed Warm, partner of Bub City and owner of Joe's Bar on Weed Street.

A slew of interesting, unique and hungry people filled a once empty parking lot at the intersection of Grand and River in the loop not too far from the East Bank Club right along the Chicago River. The event was sponsored by: Coors Light, Jack Daniels, Rib Shack Red, Giesen, Joe's Bar, Pub City, Pitmaster Q3, Uber, Chicago Speedway, Lettuce Entertain You, Martins, Yelp, Red's, Redbull, Leinenkugels, Don, La Columbe and Empire Cooler Service. The event highlighted and featured some of the best pitmasters from Chicago and nationwide.

Of all the spots we experienced, one pitmaster stood out from the rest. Lee Ann Whippen is best known for appearing on "TLC's Pitmasters Series" and "Throwdown with Bobby Flay". Yet, she is also the Chef/Partner of Chicago Q - Chicago's very own modern, urban Barbecue experience. The team was pleasantly surprised to see Lee Ann on site at the event and took the opportunity to speak with her about the process of prepping her top dishes showcased at the Smokeout.

The Halfstack team tried Q's smoked ribs with their house spicy BBQ sauce on the side along with their specialty corn salad. When it comes to ribs, typically the sauce is what carries the dish. Yet, when the Halfstacker team took a bite out of the fleshy smoked ribs, there was  a taste explosion. The meat itself was juicy, flavorful and not bland. The ribs carried their own and the sauce was just the cherry on top. When asked what she did to ensure the meat was so flavorful, she shared some insider tips. Rather than utilize gas, they only use charcoal or wood driven smokes. That is what truly helps to ensure their ribs have that special taste.

They also utilize a special cherry wood for their smokes and they always liberally apply their very own pig powder dry rub to the meat with the back membrane removed. The removal of the membrane allows the dry rub to permeate through the meat and the team uses an apple sauce spray periodically to help add the finishing crunch. This special attention to detail really ensured that the end product was genuinely tasty and cooked well.

What struck us most was the fact that Lee Ann was out there in the field doing her thing. As a successful chef,  she truly takes a hands on approach to her work. Rather than staying behind the scenes or running her business from afar, Lee Ann believes that it is important for her customers to see where their food is coming from and to be there to ensure they get only the highest quality product.

Overall, this was a great opportunity for BBQ enthusiasts and music lovers alike to enjoy a weekend out in the city. Event attendees even had the opportunity to enjoy a special meet, greet and tasting with pitmasters like Lee Ann to learn BBQ tips, tricks and secrets straight from some of the nation's most successful experts. This is one event we will be looking forward to for next year!

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