Reno is less than 3 hours from Lodi, so it works for a getaway within driving distance. To be honest, I never really thought of Reno as a destination, we are usually driving right through it on our way to Utah. And especially if you don’t gamble, why would you be headed to Reno? Because every year Reno is host to “The Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-off”. Our friends John & Karen have been going on this annual Rib Fest getaway for a few years and finally this year we were able to join them. We owe our entire trip itinerary to their expertise. They recommend attending on a week day, since it can get crowded on the weekends. We drove up on a Wednesday and attended the Cook-off on Thursday.
The Rib Cook-off features 24 top rib cookers from all over the country as well as other booths and activities. Each Rib Vendor had huge displays of their menus and banners showcasing awards and bragging rights. Going in a group is great because each couple would go out and buy a half-rack of ribs from a different vendor, then we would set them out on a picnic table and taste them. You could compare the different rubs, sauces and flavors. It’s not cheap, a half-rack will set you back about $11-15.
We were at the Rib Festival for lunch in the afternoon then broke up the day (and got out of the heat) by going to Scheels, a huge sporting goods store nearby. You can literally spend hours in there. Some of the attractions include a Wildlife Mountain, an operating Ferris Wheel, and Sport Simulators where customers can test their skills including basketball, soccer, baseball and football. They also have a café. We balanced out our rib eating by ordering some gelato – the salted caramel is the best.
We followed that with some shopping at the outlets in the same shopping center. Later in the evening, we returned to the Rib Festival for dinner. The weather was cooler and it was fun to enjoy the company of our friends around a table with some great food.
In our informal tasting, we loved Just North of Memphis, a husband and wife team specializing in dry rubbed ribs. Their sauce was a thin, vinegary style that didn’t overpower the meat. Bone Daddy’s was also a favorite and their beef brisket was the perfect balance of sweet, savory and spicy. We also gave high marks to Yazoo’s, BJ’s and Butch’s. We didn’t try the California vendors, since we have access to those eats at home.
One of my favorite offerings was the Kick A Fries from BJ’s. A basket of fries with a sprinking of cheddar cheese, topped with barbecued pulled pork and BBQ sauce. Yum. Definitely for sharing though, because it was huge. Before we left, we had to try the Homemade Peach Bread Pudding and Mike couldn’t resist buying some Alligator on a Stick for everyone to try. Yes. Alligator. I was not a fan. Everyone went home with a bag of Hillbilly Kettlecorn for their kids at home.
Accommodations: We chose to stay at the Peppermill Resort. We booked a room in the Tuscany Tower and were quite impressed. I loved that you could check-in and go to your room without wandering through a casino. The rooms are spacious and clean. The king bed had a comfortable mattress and nice linens. My favorite part of the room was the spa-style bathroom featuring a double head shower, soaking tub, double sink vanity and even a TV. The Tuscan decor and furniture is a little over the top, I prefer a more modern, understated look, but overall I was very happy with our room. We are not gamblers or night clubbers, but we did utilize the pool and fitness center which are state-of-the-art and have all the desired amenities. We loved the homemade gelato from Biscotti’s Cafe.
(photos courtesy of Peppermill)
Spa: My husband and I booked massages at Spa Toscana, the on-site spa of the Peppermill. The spa is truly the jewel of the entire resort. We arrived a couple hours before our appointment and enjoyed the beautiful indoor pool surrounded by luxurious lounging areas. Spa refreshments are provided or you can order room service if you desire. I selected the exfoliating massage and my therapist was Kelly, who was amazing. The massage was perfection. The entire staff at the spa are warm, friendly and determined to make your stay at the spa dreamy. My husband and I spent some time together, then enjoyed the private sections of the spa separated by gender, where I spent a few moments in the steam room before taking advantage of the vanity area to get ready for the rest of the day. With the rooms at the Peppermill at such reasonable rates, adding on a spa experience is completely justified and you won’t be disappointed.
The entire experience was a fun little escape and perhaps become part of our own traditions. If you are interested in next year’s event, visit www.nuggetribcookoff.com. I booked our hotel accommodations here: www.peppermillreno.com.
I was not compensated in any way for this review.