What to Expect at the Rodeo's Food Events This Year

Guests enjoy foods galore at the Uncorked! Best Bites 2016.
Guests enjoy foods galore at the Uncorked! Best Bites 2016. Photo by Chuck Cook photography

The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is right around the corner, happening March 7-26 at NRG Park with 2.5 million people expected to attend and millions of dollars in proceeds benefiting area school kids. You already know the crazy new foods hitting the carnival this year.  Now it's time to talk  food events, all of which happen to take place before the show even officially starts.

Yes, the HLSR is home to several big events aimed at food lovers, starting off with the Uncorked! Best Bites Competition, which gets underway before the rodeo even kicks off.  Sunday, February 26, folks will gather to sample 400+ selections of wine and judge the 'best bite' in several categories from over 100 competing area restaurants.  Some of the Houston restaurant industry's finest will be in the competition, including Killen's STQ, Beaver's, KUU, Brennan's of Houston and more. Tickets are $165 per person.

click to enlarge Get you some barbecue. - PHOTO COURTESY OF RODEO HOUSTON
Get you some barbecue.
Photo courtesy of Rodeo Houston
Fifteen dollars gets you into The Bar-B-Que Contest at NRG Park, March 2-4, with the ticket cost including a free plate of barbecue beef in the Chuck Wagon, entry into the Rockin' Bar-B-Que Saloon, and live music in The Garden (headliners include Shooter Jennings on Saturday,  March 4, at 9:30 p.m.). The barbecue competition features more than 250 teams vying for top honors this year,  with their pits outfitted to look like everything from covered wagons to gigantic armadillos. The main judging for the brisket, chicken, ribs and overall categories happens on Saturday, March 4, as well.

A representative for the Bar-B-Que Contest tells the Houston Press that last year about 247,000 people attended, with more than 36,872 meals served and more than $5 million earned in revenue. She advised readers to use the Rodeo Express bus system to avoid parking nightmares, and also take note that many barbecue teams' competition tents are invite-only, so not open to the public.

Back in November of last year, sommeliers and wine professionals at the Rodeo’s International Wine Competition decided this year’s crop of champion wines, which will all be up for bid on March 5 at the Rodeo Uncorked! Champion Wine Show & Auction. The judges named 13 winners in select categories from among 2,850 wine entries from 20 different countries,  351 of them from Texas alone. The Grand Champion Best of Show is Arinzano Gran Vino Blanco, Pago de Arinzano D.O., 2010, and the Top Texas Wine is Pedernales Cellars Texas High Plains Tempranillo, 2014.

But even if you can't afford the $6,000-$25,000 it costs to book a table at the wine auction and dinner, you will be able to sample the champion wines at the Rodeo Uncorked! Roundup and Best Bites Competition, and find them by the glass or bottle at the Rodeo Uncorked! Champion Wine Garden,  located in Carruth Plaza at NRG Park. The best day to visit the Wine Garden, by the way, is Thursday, March 9, when Texas Wine Celebration Day goes down from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.

Further information on all Rodeo Houston food events can be found at rodeohouston.com.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Gwendolyn Knapp is the food editor at the Houston Press. A sixth-generation Floridian, she is still torn as to whether she likes smoked fish dip or queso better.