King of the Smoker: La Quinta Showdown

The season's about the get a lot saucier as BBQ honchos square off.

SAUCE OVER SUGAR: Tracing the cookie's ultimate domination of December isn't a difficult pursuit to engage in; after all, sugared plums and sticky puddings rose to prominence alongside the modern celebration of Christmas, a transformation that truly took hold in the Victorian era. But while sweets and treats are tops in the taste categories come the yuletide, we still seek our the savory bites, from turkey to green bean casserole to stuffing to ham. One spicier, heartier fare that remains on the lesser-seen side of the season, though, is barbecue. Oh, not in Australia, where barbecue and the holidays go hand-in-tongs, but stateside you're more apt to see ribs and burgers and shanks of rub-covered meat around Independence Day. There is a place where barbecue buffs can get their tomato-lovely, pepper-speckled fill of BBQ goodness and get a dose of Christmas tree cheer, too. It's at La Quinta Resort & Club, which folds a mondo barbecue-themed showdown right into its month-plus yuletide celebrations. That showdown is called...

KING OF THE SMOKER... and it is lights up the coals and wood on Saturday, Dec. 12 in La Quinta, California. The fourth annual competition has a big bag o' prize money -- fifty grand -- and a beneficiary in the Casey Lee Ball Foundation for Pediatric Kidney Disease. Two dozen "of the nation's top level BBQ teams" will flip their ribs and break out their secret rub concoctions to go for the grub-winning gold, but people who want to taste win, too. You'll pay twenty bucks to get in, and the extra cash you spend on the eats helps out Operation BBQ Relief. In the middle of it all are demos, chef hellos, talks, and all of that fragrant smoke filling the late autumn air.

LATE AUTUMN... should also be a reminder that Christmas will still be in the swing at La Quinta, with its festive swags and bows and tree, so there is that to enjoy, too. Could saucy eats soon be a thing we return to each Christmas season? Jars of smoky rub in our stockings? California does have the climate for it, in many regions. Why not roll out the barbie on Dec. 25?

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