Monday, July 25, 2011
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!
Thursday, July 14, 2011
Time to make a decision. Either post more and keep this blog going or shut it down. Posting only a few times a year isn’t going to hold anybody’s interest. It may be therapeutic if this was a private diary, but as a public blog it stinks.
Let’s give this another shot. I’m not going to promise to write X number of time per week, month, or year, but I’ll promise to post more often. And if I break my promise, I’ll shut it down.
We are in the midst of preparing for the grilling and barbecue competitions in Fryeburg, ME. It was a late decision to travel the 3+ hours up that way to compete. For the record, we have nothing bad to say about Harpoon. I wish everyone competing there the best of luck. I know everyone will have fun, as always! For us, the decision was between either judging at Harpoon or competing in Fryeburg. I convinced Suzanne that we should give Fryeburg a shot and see what happens. I know she would rather be judging at Harpoon, and I’ll definitely miss it too. But I’m excited to try something new, and I’m having fun practicing for the grilling categories.
The grilling categories are chicken wings, sausage, beef ribs, and dessert. Suzanne is handling the dessert category solo, as she did when we won first place in Harvard last year. She is coming up with some super ideas this time as well, and I’m having fun being more of a “consultant” than a cook. Suzanne is also helping with the sausage category, and I’ll tell you we are both entirely sick of eating sausage and chicken wings.
The chicken wing practicing is done. I’m trying something completely new with them, and I have no idea how the judges will score them. Time will tell. One thing I learned about chicken wings is to be very patient when grilling them.
Beef ribs are something I’ve cooked a grand total of one time in my life. Well, two times as of last week. Last week’s run was barely edible, so I’m trying something different with them tomorrow after work. We hope to be able to actually chew them this time. They felt like butter with the Thermapen. Dagnabit.
The barbecue portion is all set. I practiced the ever elusive chicken one more time, and I’m confident with the formula. Chicken has definitely improved for us, but it’s still the only barbecue category for which we haven’t gotten a call. In fact, we’ve gotten 1st place calls in every other barbecue category. Hopefully that will change up north. I’m also hoping to get our brisket mojo back. I’m switching to a different product, and I’m confident we will do better. We can’t do much worse!
Besides the competitions, I had the pleasure of helping Jed Labonte and many others with the NEBS cooking class in May. It was a lot of fun, and I taught my group of students as if we were doing an actual competition. I didn’t hide anything…I did everything as I would normally do. It was very rewarding to see two of my students competing in their first KCBS competition at Peter’s Pond. Not only did they NOT finish DAL (Dead Ass Last, for you non-competitors), but they got a couple of calls and finished 15th out of 35 overall on their first time out. Great job Deb and Gary. I’m proud of you guys!
For those who are interested in how the competitions have been going for us so far this year, here is a quick summary…
7th out of 24 overall
Strip Steak – 3rd
Pork Tenderloin – 18th
Sausage Fatty – 11th
Chef’s Choice – 6th
Rose City (Grilling)
3rd out of 18 overall
Chef’s Choice – 2nd
Chicken – 3rd
Sausage – 3rd
Pork – 10th
Cape Cod (BBQ)
7th out of 35 overall
Chicken – 12th
Ribs – 1st (first 1st in ribs for us!)
Pork – 3rd
Brisket – 29th (ouch, but expected…it was awful)
More after Fryeburg!