The Mainely Grillin’ & Chillin’ competition in Eliot, ME is one of my favorite contests. I get a little sentimental when I think about our first ever barbecue call that happened at the inaugural MG&C. The call was 1st in pork, and walking up to get our award for the very first time was as great as everyone said it would be…multiplied by 100.
While we’ve been doing pretty well lately with our grilling competitions, we haven’t hit our stride when it comes to barbecue. We have been in the top 10 quite a bit, but the top awards are eluding us. While it’s a great accomplishment to win any competition, I feel that more recognition and respect is given to those teams who win barbecue contests. Not to mention more money. Now that we have a Grand in grilling, it’s time to really focus on barbecue and earn top honors with that as well.
Fast forward to this past weekend. We got to Eliot quite a bit earlier than we usually do, arriving at around 2:30pm on Friday. Eric and Cindi of Yabba Dabba Que fame graciously let us borrow their 6X12 enclosed trailer, and it allowed us to pack everything much more quickly for this contest. Usually, I need to rearrange things several times to make everything fit in our Explorer and Civic. Then, Suzanne and I need to drive several hours in separate vehicles, usually arriving very late Friday evening. A big thanks to the Mitchells for making our lives much easier this time! And if anyone hears of a used trailer for sale in the New England area, please let us know (no larger than 6X12).
We got everything set up Friday afternoon, then we settled in and waited in anticipation for Fryday. For those of you who don’t know what Fryday is, you are missing out! Eric “Fry Daddy” Mitchell fires up his Cajun fryer and fries up all sorts of delectable golden goodness at a few competitions each year. On the menu that night: bell peppers, zucchini, onion rings, pop tarts, McDoubles, fresh clams (Patrick), and armadillo eggs (Bill). All battered and thrown into the fryer! We also contributed to the clogged-artery-cause by offering up some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and some chocolate covered strawberries. My favorites were the McDoubles and pop tarts. And if that wasn’t enough, Leslie Lovely broke out her cheesecake for “dessert.” We ate way too much, as multiple trips to the porta potty on Saturday morning would attest.
On Saturday, there were two contests: the Wild Side Challenge and People’s Choice. We typically don’t do the People’s Choice contest, simply because we are usually busy doing other things…like the grilling competition. But since there was no grilling competition at this contest, we decide to do it. We were given two Smithfield boneless pork butts on Friday night, and were asked to turn them in at noon on Saturday. I got the butts rubbed and ready to go Friday afternoon. Then I made a last minute decision to cook them “hot and fast” on Saturday morning rather than doing the typical overnight cook. The product ended up fine, but I’ll stick to “low and slow.” We ended up in 5th place out of 29 teams.
The Wild Side Challenge works like an Iron Chef competition where a secret ingredient is revealed and then teams have approximately 6 hours to turn in their dish. The secret ingredient was potatoes, which was no big surprise being in Maine. We decided to modify a recipe we had done several times before, making potatoes the main ingredient. The entry tasted amazing, but the appearance wasn’t as great as it could have been. Given a little more time, we could have done a better job with it but that’s part of the challenge! Still, we got 4th place out of 27 teams. Congrats to Charlie and the Mighty Swine Dining team for winning top honors, and kudos to everyone who did such an amazing job with their entries. I saw some fantastic looking things on the way to the turn-in table.
The barbecue cooking on Saturday night and Sunday morning went pretty much according to plan. We had a few presentation issues, but nothing to be that concerned about. I won’t go into too much detail, but here is a quick rundown…
Overall – 6/40: Very good, considering the tough field.
Chicken – 15/40: We did a complete overhaul of the flavor profile, and like the way it turned out.
Ribs – 11/40: Scored a bit higher than expected.
Pork – 10/40: Scored a bit lower than expected.
Brisket – 5/40: Right on target.
We usually have at least one “problem” category that simply tanks (typically chicken or brisket). Not so this time around. Our chicken and brisket scores were our highest of the year and the ribs and pork were respectable. I’m going to do the same program next month and see if we get consistent scores. Congrats to our friends Mike and Kris from Lakeside Smokers on the GC and Wendy and Tim from Feeding Friendz on the RGC. It was a close one, with both teams receiving the exact same points total of 666.8566!
Not adjusting much for the barbecue competition will give us time to practice for the grilling competition next month. Even though we earned Reserve Grand Champion last year, I don’t like that the categories are exactly the same this year. One thing that makes grilling interesting is that the categories can vary wildly from competition to competition. But that’s how it is, and we will try to fix the things that didn’t work well last year.
See you in Harvard next month!