As a San Diegan, I sometimes forget that weather can affect your travel plans, even derail them. Of course, that’s not always a bad thing.
When my birthday/Memorial Day weekend plans to Stanley, Idaho got quashed by a snow storm, we had to quickly regroup. Southwest had good fares to Denver, so we went there instead — with absolutely no plans of what to do.
While taking an early morning drive through the countryside, we made a pit stop at a tiny coffee shop, where someone had left a local paper on the counter. On its cover was a brown-eyed, pig-tailed little girl, whose face was painted with bbq sauce. I read the first few lines. It said that Beaver Creek’s 9th Annual Blues, Brews & BBQ festival was taking place that very day.
“I know where we’re going today,” I said to my husband.
The first thing we noticed upon arrival was the enticing smell of smoked bbq that hung in the air like a curtain. We scanned the festival, and everywhere we looked, there was beer and bbq. We purchased our Beaver bucks (tokens to buy bbq and beer), bought a couple of cold IPAs and started surveying the bbq booths — over a dozen of Colorado’s best pitmasters were serving up various styles of smoked pork with flavors ranging from smoky mesquite to fruity apples and peaches. We felt like kids let loose with lots of money at the amusement park:
“OMG, did you see that pulled pork sandwich that guy was eating? We have to ask him where he got it,” I said and began walking after him.
“No, no,” my husband interjected and pulled me back. “We can’t fill up on bread. It’s too early in the day. Let’s get some ribs instead.”
Our first ribs were a disappointment: a stingy serving of baby backs lightly brushed with a too-sweet berry-beer sauce. 4 Beaver Bucks wasted. We needed a strategy. So we sat at a picnic table, sipped our cold IPAs, listened to the live music, and scoured the crowd for the best-looking dishes. Then we’d ask the people the names of the bbq joints and head over to their booths.
Things got tastier. We headed to Moe’s Original BBQ which may have been the best deal of the day. Each serving included 5 to 6 behemoth ribs, with meat so buttery soft you barely needed to chew. They were even better when liberally dunked in the spicy mustard sauce that came on the side. While we were there, I talked my husband into getting the pulled pork slider. “It’s smaller than a sandwich, so you don’t have to worry about filling up on the bread,” I said. Score.
From there, we got a sausage on a stick that was good but not life-altering. But what’s a food festival without eating some food on a stick?
Then we got the piece de resistance of the entire festival: pork wings from Kirby Cosmos BBQ Bar. Apparently pigs do fly.
These meaty “wings,” (actually meat cut from the fibula) were frighteningly good. With a solid piece of bone to hold on to, you can tear into the meat with abandon, which is exactly what we did. Sticky fingered and bloated belly minutes later, I pleaded for a break.
“OK, let’s get something light then, like grilled corn,” my husband said.
Corn seemed virtuous at the point, so I said, “Sure.”
On the way there, I said, “Look! It’s the little girl on the cover of the newspaper.”
“It can’t be,” my husband said. “What are the chances? There’s thousands of people here.”
I walked over to her and asked her mom. Sure enough it was her. When I asked if I could take her picture while she held the paper up, she suddenly became shy, a character trait her younger sister didn’t share. The little one snatched the paper from her mom’s hand, opened it up to page 6, and proudly exclaimed, “I’m in there too!”
We didn’t stay for the bbq competition results. After four hours of finger-licking pork eating, we still had a two-hour drive back to Denver.
“Wait!” my husband said as were leaving. “I’ve got two more Beaver bucks left. We can’t waste them.” So we got a couple of pork-stuffed jalapenos.
On the way out, we passed this guy below. We weren’t the only ones who had eaten a lot of pork.
As we were leaving, I said to my husband, “I know where I want to spend my birthday next year.”