The Shack’s Rib Cook-Off

Hey readers! I know it has been a while, and I hope you are still with me. As you know, I have been writing regularly about positive restaurant experiences for The Beach Reporter. However, I’ve decided that I miss blogging and want to devote more time to getting back into “Megan’s World of Food”. Obviously my voice has changed since I started publishing my writing online at age eight, but I intend to keep updating the blog for as long as possible.

The experience that inspired me to write today is one that you have not yet seen on my blog. Last Saturday, my dad and I entered a rib-making contest at Playa Del Rey’s The Shack, along with our friends Ken and Eric. Our team of four had never entered a BBQ competition before, but we were excited and ready to take on a challenge!

The way this competition worked was that competitors would get supplied with nine racks of ribs on Friday night, and would come to the bar the next morning to actually smoke them. The winner was decided by judges, but a “People’s Choice Award” was given to the BBQ team with the most votes from visitors. If interested in the rib contest, a customer could buy tickets and go around to the teams. A ticket per rib, visitors would taste their way through the parking lot and decide on their favorite.

However, like all good competitions, there are ways to cheat. But at this one, bribing and getting on the voters’ good side are actually encouraged! Each team made treats for throughout the day to make a good impression on the voters. Ours consisted of homemade New Orleans Chaurice sausage, my dad’s grilled wings, and pralines.

Preparation for the “big day” started days in advance; my dad stayed up late making sauces and I assisted in making the pralines. My dad’s new smoker was painted (with the face of former University of Iowa football coach Hayden Fry, of course) and our friend Travis’ truck was ready to transport our supplies to the bar. Everything was in place, it seemed, but I knew so much could go wrong…

My dad told me weeks in advance that my job on the day of was to smile, pass out bribes, and get the voters on our side. Well, that would be easy if I were the least bit charming. Naturally, I woke up on Saturday and put on a waitress’ attire: jean shorts and a black shirt with converse and, of course, a fresh coat of sunscreen. I was convinced I was ready to face the day!

The morning of the competition, Eric, Ken, Travis, and my dad were all standing in front of our garage loading and packing. At 7:30, we got the truck ready and piled in three cars to head to the bar.

Our team’s name was Tailgate Trail, so aside from focusing on BBQ (obviously), our theme revolved around sports (mostly college). Besides the painted smoker, we also advertised a love for sports in our clothes. With Eric’s University of Virginia shirt, Ken’s Kansas City shirt, and my dad’s Delta State University hat, we were supporting plenty of teams!

my dad's spicy New Orleans Chaurice

my dad’s spicy New Orleans Chaurice

The first thing we did after we set up under the tent we were given was to light the smoker and get things started. At 10:00, we were allowed to put the ribs on, and we let those cook until about 3:00. Next to the ribs, we put on my dad’s homemade, hand-ground spicy New Orleans Chaurice sausage, shaped into small bites for sample sizes. When they were done, Eric stuck toothpicks in each individual sausage and I cut them apart. We served them alongside little cups of garlic aioli, and they were a crowd favorite for sure. A friendly competitor from the tent next to us was named Antonio, and he loved our sausage so much he said we should sell them!

Next up, my dad grilled some wings on our make-shift grill (the smokebox– see left) and tossed them in his home-made buffalo wing sauce. A wing per plate, we handed them out as samples and got just as good feedback as we did on the sausages. People chose between Ranch and Bleu Cheese dressing on the side, because the wing sauce definitely had a kick to it.

My pralines were given out last, a sweet reminder to “vote for Team Tailgate Trail”. It was a nice treat to have after standing in the sun for a few hours, and the crowd seemed to like them a lot. The leftovers went to me and Emma, a girl I met at the event and really liked.

Finally, it was time to get the ribs plated and to the judges! We took the foil off of them and sliced up all nine racks, putting 8 ribs on a single plate to give to the judges and keeping the rest for customers. A ticket per rib, we gave away every single rib except the last one (which we ate). People chose between our South Carolina mustard-style sauce or our original Red, and both were well-liked. My personal favorite is the mustard-style, but my dad’s friend Ken (being from Kansas City) preferred the red BBQ sauce. All we were waiting for now were the awards!

After we cleared up a bit and socialized, the owner of the bar decided to announce the awards. Antonio’s team, next to us, won the People’s Choice Award, which I think was the real winner. Another group, who we hadn’t talked to, won the judges’ pick. Last up, the host chose his own favorite… “Team Tailgate Trail”. He said that our team was what The Shack was all about, and that he was glad we had come and hoped to see us next year! We may not have really won anything… but we weren’t there for a trophy. We were there to make good food that the people enjoyed, to have this experience as a memory and (hopefully) the first of many rib trials, and just to have fun! What can I say, we did just that.

The Shack’s Annual Rib-Off– see you next year!

Push-Up Pop Throwdown!

The Assembled Contestants

On Saturday, January 19, my dad and I froze some homemade push-up pops!  My dad and I have made these before with Cutie clementine juice, pudding, etc., but as we made a variety on that day, I decided to blog about it.

But this post isn’t just a blog… it’s a throwdown!  Which of the following dessert pops sound best to you?  Comment or email me ( with your vote.


Split Decision

Flavor #1:  Banana Split


Bottom:  Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix Ice Cream

Middle:   Homemade Banana Ice Cream (using fresh fruit, of course!)

Top:  Homemade Strawberry Ice Cream


Whipped Cream

Maraschino Cherry


Critic:  Me!

“Creamy and rich like a dream!  The pop held together really well, and the flavors melted together!  I would definitely suggest this dessert.”



Flavor #2:  Sun and Moon (A Light and Dark Smoothie Pop)


Alternating layers of …

Light smoothie (including strawberries, raspberries, and clementine juice), and

Dark smoothie (including blueberries, banana, and mixed fruit juice)


Critic:  Tabitha

“I like that there are two different fruity smoothies.   I like the light smoothie better.  It’s a good one to vote for.”


Supreme Slurping

Flavor #3:  Brownie Supreme


Bottom:  Ghiradelli Brownie

Next:  Homemade Banana Ice Cream

Next:  Ghiradelli Brownie

Top:  Homemade Strawberry Ice Cream


Critic:  Dad

“I especially loved the brownie and banana layers.  I thought the brownie would be too frozen, but it was great!”


This was much like the banana split, but not as good in my opinion.


Perfect Pudding

Flavor #4:  Stripe-O-Rama


Alternating layers of …

Vanilla pudding, and

Chocolate fudge pudding.


Critic:  Mom

“It’s refreshingly delicious.  I like the alternating flavors and creamy texture of the pudding.”

Which one fits your liking?  We are all eager to hear!  Please tell us your opinion.

Pouring the Pops!

(Now that we love to make push-up pops, we are always searching for new recipes. Do you have any suggestions?)



Border Grill Dessert Challenge!

The Dessert Nominees

The Dessert Nominees

Last Friday, my family (including my grandparents) went to Border Grill, where I have been wanting to go ever since my cooking class.  When I was there, I was lucky enough to see Chef Susan Feniger!  She came over to our table, and we talked about my blog!  She seems to like it, and I thanked her for tweeting it out and putting it on Border Grill’s Facebook page.  Unfortunately, right when I walked into the bathroom, Chef Mary Sue Milliken walked up to our table and guess what … I MISSED HER!  (My dad thinks this is hilarious, but I do not.)  She talked to my whole family, and by the time I came out, she was gone!  I was very sad, but I had already met her, so it was OK.  The nice waiter who served our food took me back to the kitchen (Eeek!), but Susan told me that Mary Sue had already left for the day.   It is so painful to tell my sad tale!   

That night, we ordered an entire satisfying meal, but this story is about dessert!  We ordered four delicious desserts, and here is what each dish was like:

The Pastel Rufina ... Heavenly!

The Pastel Rufina ... Heavenly!

Grandpa had my favorite dessert.  It was a chocolate puff pastry dish that reminded me of the mini-eclairs that I have had for dessert sometimes.  It was so delicate and chocolatey, and it had delicious fresh berries on top.  His fantastic dessert was called Pastel Rufina.

Our Churro Tots

Our Churro Tots

Mom, Grandma, and I all ordered the Churro Tots with Dulce de Leche.  They are bits of dulce de leche-infused churros.  So good!  They came with chocolate and caramel dipping sauces and whipped cream.  After the cooking class, I have the recipe for these, so I can have them whenever I want!

Banana Cream Pie of a Lifetime!

Banana Cream Pie of a Lifetime!

Dad ordered the Banana Cream Pie.  The thick graham cracker crust crumbled with each bite, and the flavorful banana cream melted in my mouth!  It was a well-made dessert that will come to mind whenever I think of banana cream pie.

Sweet and Creamy!

Sweet and Creamy!

My sister, Tabitha, enjoyed a scoop of “smooth” and “yummy” (as Tabitha put it) dulce de leche ice cream, which came with a coconut and berry macaroon.  It was full of the sweet flavor of dulce de leche caramel.  It was so pleasantly sugary! 

Do you have an idea of what each dessert is like?  Please vote for your one favorite dessert by commenting below.  Which one sounds best to you?  Thank you!

Border Grill's Decor

Border Grill's Decor

Border Grill Downtown LA

445 South Figueroa Avenue

Los Angeles, California 90071

Telephone:  (213) 486-5171

Twitter:  @BorderGrill  and @eatatstreet

Ice Cream Champion!

The champion of the Ultimate Ice Cream Throwdown was …

The Winner and Me!

The Christmas Cookie Sandwich with Toffee, with 6 votes!    Coming in second were the Creme de la Crepes (4.5 votes), followed by the Chocolate Lovers Only (4 votes), Raspberry Swirl Crunch (2.5 votes), the Cookie Lovers Delight (just Bill), and finally the Delectable Dirt Cup (who no one voted for).  Thanks for voting!  I really appreciated it!  I will think about another contest, so please keep checking back!

The Ultimate Ice Cream Throwdown

This holiday season, my dad came up with some pretty good ice cream sundae specials, and I named them. 

Tabs Enjoying a Delectable Dirt Cup

 I would like to share them with you, and you can try them for yourself.

Here is our first one:  Cookie Lover’s Delight.  This luscious sundae had creamy vanilla ice cream rolled in crushed Smores Goldfish cookies, with a chocolate cookie stuck in it, and a cherry on top.   It was delicious, but we are just getting started!

The second sundae was our Raspberry Swirl Crunch.  It was, again, creamy vanilla ice cream, this time with crunched-up vanilla wafers, raspberries, chocolate sauce, and fluffy whipped cream on top.  But wait!  It was missing something.  My dad added a chocolate chip cookie, dipped in melted white chocolate.  That was perfect!  Yum!!!

Who loves chocolate?   I know I do!  If you do, you are going to like this.  Our third sundae was our Chocolate Lovers Only.   It was chocolate ice cream, whipped cream, a cherry, and loads and loads of chocolate sauce.  It wasn’t the most chocolatey thing I’ve ever tasted, but I liked it.

Christmas Cookie Sandwich With Toffee

Here comes some holiday spirit!  The Christmas Cookie Sandwich With Toffee was huge!   Even I couldn’t finish it.  It was two crunchy chocolate chip cookies, with vanilla ice cream between them.  It was on a Santa-shaped plate and was covered in green and red sprinkles, with a hunk of toffee on the side.  It was so good, but I just couldn’t finish it.  Even with how full I was, I had to eat that toffee.  It was from an amazing company called Top Notch Toffee, and we bought it at our local farmer’s market.  When I took a bite of the delicious toffee, all I tasted were its wonderful main ingredients:  nuts, toffee, and chocolate.  Yum!  It was a true Christmas special (just not on Christmas).

Delectable Dirt Cups

Second to last was our Delectable Dirt Cup.  Do you like to play in the dirt?  If you do, I’m sorry, because this dirt isn’t for playtime, it is for dessert time!  This delightful dessert is crushed chocolate creme Oreo cookies, colorful gummy worms, and “Chocolate Moose Tracks” ice cream (which is chocolate ice cream, mini Reese’s peanut butter cups, and fudge).

It was absolutely delicious, and I really loved it!  I didn’t know dirt could be as luscious as that!

Daddy's Creme de la Crepe

Last, but not least, was a sundae that will blow your mind.  It is called Daddy’s Creme de la Crepes.   It is a french crepe, rolled around strawberry ice cream, with whipped cream, chocolate fudge, and a cherry on top!  It tasted unique, tempting, and sweet, all at the same time.

Now, before you leave my blog, I have something that I want to ask of you.  Could you vote on which ice cream sundae sounds the best?  I’d really appreciate it.  I will be counting the votes on February 19, 2011, and then I will post the winner!  I hope you try some of my ice cream specials at your own house!