I was invited and given a free VIP ticket to attend Boston Magazine’s The Cue – an annual food festival featuring BBQ from some of the best restaurants in Massachusetts and a cocktail competition between some of the area’s best mixologists. The Cue is part of a two-night event where the second day is a fearsome Battle of the Burger between local chefs.
I found my first time at The Cue not only entertaining as a night out in Boston, but incredibly worthwhile because I got to try food and cocktails from so many restaurants at the same time. What might have taken me months or even years to accomplish, I was able to do in a single evening! Some might consider the price of a ticket a little daunting for a food festival, but when you consider the quality of the food, the artisanship of the drinks, and the quantity of both, the ticket pays for itself through the decadent experience (and a 12-month subscription to Boston Magazine included in the price).
In addition to a fantastic evening, I was especially happy to see that some of the proceeds from the event went to Share Our Strength No Kid Hungry, a charity devoted to the noble cause of preventing child hunger in America. In a country where such opulence and pride in the development of our nation prevails, it’s outrageous that children still go hungry here. No Kid Hungry is about preventing childhood hunger, but it also educates people how to cook healthy yet very affordable meals. Learn more about this wonderful cause by clicking here.
The Host – Chef Joe Gatto
Quickly making his mark in the public eye of the food world is Chef Joe Gatto, the creator of From Scratch – a show about literally making all kinds of food from scratch. He hosts The Cue and makes the rounds speaking with guests of the event. I was thrilled to get to meet him, talk food, and get his take on The Cue as well as learn about some of the upcoming events he’ll be participating in.
Chef Gatto’s upbeat personality, welcoming attitiude, and willingness to ham it up for a laugh make him entertainingly personable. Check out the video where he cooked up a storm on the Live Well Network show My Family Recipe Rocks with none other than Joey Fatone of *NSYNC and My Big Fat Greek Wedding fame.
This year’s list of participating restaurants and mixologists blew my mind. There were so many BBQ powerhouses under one roof. The full list is on The Cue’s website, but I wanted to mention a few standout highlights for me.
There was almost no way I could try all of the cocktails and eat all of the food. My stomach and liver just couldn’t handle it. Nonetheless, I made a valiant effort. From the cocktails, I tried, these were my favorite featuring Mount Gay Rum.
The Palm – International Mule by Patrick Foley – This was probably my favorite cocktail of the evening. It was essentially a Moscow Mule made with rum instead of vodka and a tropical twist utilizing pineapple. Rum has a tendency to weigh heavily on the sweet side, so I enjoyed this drier adaptation.
Capo – Chiquita – Kevin Marby – Keeping in line with Rum’s tropical qualities, the Chiquita focused on the rounded out flavors of banana to give the drinker a sense of island life. The banana garnish and crushed ice completed the picture.
Koy – Purple Haze – Patrick Leonard – Still somewhat tropical in nature, the Purple Haze merged tropical with Western by adding in the tart notes of berries. The sourness helped to cut through some of the sweetness and made a juice-like cocktail.
Sweet Cheeks Q
1381 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02215
BBQ Pork Belly
The award for the booth with the most flair probably has to go to Sweet Cheeks Q for the pig head and open fire display. They featured crispy pig skin (I didn’t get to try any!) and a masterfully prepared pork belly highlighted with Asian flavors.
Legal Crossing by Legal Seafoods
558 Washington St, Boston, MA 02111
Hoisin Grilled Shrimp
As far as perfecting a bite of food or a small bite goes, Legal Crossing, a branch of Legal Seafoods really nailed it. The amazing sweet grilled shrimp sat on top of a corn salad mixed with spices, micro greens, and a jalapeno foam.
256 Harvard St, Brookline, MA 02446
BBQ Meatloaf Knish
This was possibly my wife’s favorite dish of the night and I really enjoyed it as well. The tender BBQ meatloaf even had that great ketchup flavor that all comforting meatloafs have, but it all resided in a soft pastry crust to make it stand out as an original take on a classic.
Lincoln Tavern and Restaurant
425 W Broadway, South Boston, MA 02127
Burnt End Tacos
Homemade tortillas stuffed with shredded burnt end beef topped with cilantro and other Mexican spices made an unforgettable impression. Not only was the dish pretty, it was well executed so that all of the flavors stood on their own, but also played well together to vary each bite.
255 Washington St, Somerville, MA 02143
House Smoked Kielbasa
The sausage was tender, smooth in texture, and lightly smoked. The mildly spicy yet sweet mustard that accompanied the sausage really expanded the flavor profile quite a bit as well.
40 W 3rd St, South Boston, MA 02127
Smoked Baby Back Ribs
A spicy, tender, and giant baby back rib that ate more like a beef rib. The charred outside worked really well with the mildly spicy and light sauce, which cut through some of the fattiness.
278 Shawmut Ave, Boston, MA 02118
Country Fried Lamb Rib
Once again, one of my favorite restaurants in Boston pushed the envelope on originality with their country fried lamb rib. The crispy battered outside had notes of ranch dressing and Middle Eastern spices that went beautifully with the meaty lamb rib inside.
The Smoke Shop
1 Kendall Square, Cambridge, MA 02139
Baby Back Ribs and Cornbread
This was my first experience with food from the relatively new Smoke Shop. The baby back rib sample was solid with no frills, but if I’m being honest, the star of the show was the cornbread! My wife and I agreed that it was one of the best pieces of buttery cornbread we’d had out.
Georgetown Cupcake – 83 Newbury St, Boston, MA 02116 – Tiny, soft, delicious cupcakes. What more could you want? Oh yeah, way more cupcakes. These little cupcakes delivered big on flavor and were just the right size to allow me to try more than one without getting a sugar overload.
Stay. Sweet. Macs – Providence, RI – Basic macaroons combined with wonderful flavors like pink salt or mint dark chocolate. Some are half-dipped in chocolate, others have the flavors mixed right in. Very nice, light, and soft with a crispy outside.