I have been accused of using my community travel as an opportunity to seek out the best barbecue, steaks and beer the country has to offer. I can't say that wasn't a consideration when applying for this job, and I'm more than happy to share the journey. So here for your enjoyment are my First Annual Travel Food Awards. I'm including one entry from 2010 because it deserves to be mentioned. If you see me at any of the listed events, be sure to ask about my dinner plans, we're probably going to have some fun! One thing's for sure, 2012 will involve much additional research. Best Barbecue The barbecue category is the largest, and is very difficult to judge. More research will be required to crown a Universal Champion one day. Surprisingly, I went to Texas twice, and didn't get any barbecue either time, so I have something to work for next year. Here are the contenders, in no particular order, and the event which brought me there: Albert G's, Tulsa, OK (Tulsa TechFest) Full Moon BBQ, Birmingham, AL (BugDotNet) Dreamland BBQ, Birmingham, AL (BugDotNet) Porkers BBQ, Chattanooga, TN (devLink) Miss Leatha's Bar-B-Que Inn, Hattiesburg, MS (Hub City .NET UG) Double Wide Grill, Pittsburgh, PA ("The Tour") Famous Dave's, New York, NY (Code Camp NYC, or any of 100 other events in NYC) Apple Valley BBQ, Parkdale, OR (Portland Code Camp, plus a scenic train ride) Georgia Pig, Davie, FL (South Florida Code Camp) Rudolph's, Minneapolis, MN (Tech Connection Live) Williamson Bros. BBQ, Marietta, GA (TechEd) Best Sauce The best sauce was surprisingly Apple Valley BBQ. It's homemade in small batches, and is delicious with just the right amount of heat. Unlike any of the other sauces, there are small chunks of onion and other ingredients, which I think is fine. They don't bottle their sauce, but they filled a quart jar for me. Unfortunately, the jar popped open on the return flight, which ruined my favorite duffel bag and is the stuff of corporate legend now. I was disappointed to lose that jar, I thoroughly enjoyed their sauce. Worthy of mention are Full Moon, Rudolph's, Porkers and Famous Dave's (yes, I know it's a chain). Famous Dave's has the widest selection of sauces, and I am partial to their mustard and Devil Spit sauces. Best Meat This could easily be considered a three way tie between Albert G's, Porkers and Georgia Pig. All three featured a great selection of pork, brisket, chicken, ribs and sausage. All meats were smoked, delicious on their own, and very tender. Best Dessert Georgia Pig's banana pudding. Hands down. It's not available every day, it's made as a batch, and you're served a big gloppy scoop. If you don't think there's room after your meal, there actually is for this. Best Overall It's a toss up between Porker's and Albert G's. Both had delicious sauces and a good selection of well cooked and flavorful meats. Fantastic, highly recommended. Microbreweries In my younger days, the stouter the better. Anything less than Guiness was just too wimpy, I preferred dopplebock or triple bock when I could find them. Most of a decade of field work, lawn maintenance and fire ants in Alabama (not to mention beer festivals in Atlanta and Sloss Furnaces) turned my tastes to the lighter brews, and today I prefer a hefeweizen or witbier. Hoegaarten is my standard these days, but I also love microbrew root beet. Just so you know where I'm coming from. Terminal Brewhouse, Chattanooga, TN (devLink) Big River Grille, Chattanooga, TN (devLink) Copper Canyon Brewery, Southfield, MI (GANG Monthly Meeting) Bohemian Brewery & Grill, Salt Lake City, UT (Utah Code Camp) Bridgeport Brew Pub, Portland, OR (Portland Code Camp) Upstream Brewing Company, Omaha, NE (Heartland Developer Conference) The winner here is Bohemain Brewery. Bohemian is a brewpub and restaurant, and their specialty is Czech cuisine. Since they focus on Czech cuisine, you'd expect some good pilsners and weiss beers, and you'd be right. Delicious all around. Upstream Brewing and Terminal Brewhouse had awesome root beers, we bought growlers to have at the tables at HDC and devLink. Steaks The Drover, Omaha, NE (Heartland Developer Conference) Anthony's Steakhouse, Omaha, NE (Heartland Developer Conference) Twin City Grill, Minneapolis, MN (Tech Connection Live) Crave, Minneapolis, MN (Tech Connection Live) Big River Grille, Chattanooga, TN (devLink) Hands down, not even close, The Drover is the best steak I've ever had. Ridiculously good, this is the gold standard of steakhouses. This may be the best steak in the galaxy. No other steak comes close. For sheer size, something close to what John Candy consumed in Uncle Buck, is a porterhouse at Big River Grille consumed by Griff and also Joel Cochran. It's currently his Twitter avatar.