The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Uncorked! Roundup and Best Bites Competition kicks off rodeo festivities in Houston each year. It’s a Texas-sized food and wine festival that is H-Town’s ultimate culinary throwdown. Anyone who’s anyone in the Houston restaurant game shows up and (hopefully) brings their best. Last night’s event was just as grand as ever, with over 100 best bites competitors and more than 450 wines honored with awards during the recent 2019 Rodeo Uncorked! International Wine Competition. The sold-out event filled NRG Center with thousands of attendees, media guests, food writers and competitors.

Awards were handed out for eight separate categories, including for two people’s choice — and the people decided they like barbecued burnt ends, both with and without grits. Second-place winner Killen’s Barbecue’s unfathomably mouth-watering Pork Belly Burnt Ends drew quite the crowd. So did Grazia Italian Kitchen’s succulent and tender Wagyu Ribeye Burnt Ends over Sharp Cheddar Stone-Ground Grits, which grabbed the first-place spot in the category.

Ronnie Killen’s Pork Belly Burnt Ends are a show stopper. Photo by Carlos Brandon.

Other highlights included Trentino Gelato’s Dulce de Leche Gelato Pop, which took first place in the Tasty Tradition category, and the short rib with poblano tacos from Ouisie’s Table, which took home top prize in the entree category.

While it didn’t land an award, Eculent, the fascinating tasting menu restaurant in Kemah, still wowed attendees with Pigs in a Cloud — pork belly bites hidden inside clouds of cotton candy garnished with a mildly spicy salt blend and served on a stick.

As is tradition, winners were given giant, rodeo-worthy belt buckles and a year’s worth of local bragging rights.