We arrived in Fryeburg, Maine later than we wanted to on Friday. I was rushing to get everything packed and we left the house around 2:30 rather than between 12:00 and 1:00 as we had planned. Of course, we hit much more traffic going north than we would have if we left earlier. Such is life in Massachusetts.
We finally arrived safe and sound and settled into our site right across from our good friends Eric and Cindi of Yabba Dabba Que. After a lobster dinner which was provided to teams by the organizers, we got our meat inspected for the grilling contest and finished settling in. We were both exhausted from all the running around and driving in traffic, so we called it an early evening and got a few hours of sleep. The heat was unbearable on Friday and Saturday, but that's something you have to deal with as a competition barbecue team.
The organizers couldn't have been better, and the facilities at the competition were excellent. It's always nice to have real bathrooms rather than porta potties and an added bonus was private, clean showers with hot water. Nothing feels better than a nice shower after sweating your nuggets off in 100 degree weather! The fairgrounds were great, and there were lots of interesting vendors to visit. This place also has a ton of room for growth. It could hold a hundred teams or more. For a first-year contest, the organizers did a fantastic job and I can't say enough good things about them. I don't know how they can improve upon things next year, but if there is a way to do it I'm sure they will!
The cooking for Saturday's grilling contest went well. Any time there is a chicken wing category I'm not happy. We also haven't cooked beef ribs very much, so we didn't know exactly what to expect. Here is a quick recap of the grilling results...
Overall: Grand Champion - This was our first ever Grand Champion call. We came close last year at Harvard's grilling competition, but just missed it. There is a great sense of accomplishment when you see all of the hard work and practicing pay off. What a thrill!
Chicken Wings: 1/20 - It's a little too soon to tell, but I think I'm finally figuring out this category. We will do them at the next contest and see if our good showing was a fluke in Maine.
Sausage: 16/20 - The judges didn't like anything about our sausage.
Beef Ribs: 1/20 - Thanks to Ted Lorson of Q Haven for the helpful cooking advice. I did the opposite of what you told me and things turned out great. Just kidding, buddy.
Dessert: 5/20 - Suzanne did a great job once again with the dessert. There was a lot of tough competition and high scores, as is usual for this category.
The cook for Sunday's barbecue contest went pretty much as planned. There were a lot more teams competing in the barbecue portion of the weekend, and I knew it was going to be difficult to repeat our previous day's success. Here is a quick recap of the barbecue results...
Overall: 7/38 - Much higher than I expected. After turn-ins, I felt the chicken was some of our best, the ribs and pork were both overdone, and the brisket was average. Shows you what I know...
Chicken: 22/38 - Totally revamping the chicken for our next competition in Eliot, ME. I don't have long to practice, but I'll make it happen. Something needs to be done before it costs us a Grand. I really thought the chicken was good this time.
Pork Ribs: 7/38 - I'll take it. I expected to be middle of the pack.
Pork: 5/38 - I'm glad the judges liked pork that was a bit overcooked. Luckily, it was still very moist. I always trust my butcher.
Brisket: 6/38 - I was pleasantly surprised to get 6th, and it's a major victory if you consider our last three brisket finishes were 29/35, 27/44, and 33/43. I'll go with this formula again and see how it does.
Thanks again to the great folks who worked so hard to make the Western Maine BBQ Festival a success. We will be back next year!