Tuesday, July 25, 2006


Q Haven did not compete at the Harpoon New England BBQ Championships in Windsor, Vermont this past weekend. However, Sheila and I traveled up on Sunday to enjoy the day as a “civilian” and take it all in. I’m so glad we did. After spending several hours at the event, I made the executive decision that we HAVE TO attend this competition next year.

We just had so much fun. We spent most of the day with the Yankee BBQ Boys, who are a Connecticut team like us. Their pit boss Mike Lee hosted a competition BBQ class this past April, and I attended knowing that I was going to start competing and figured I would pick up a thing or two. His class gave me the confidence to go ahead and start competing, and it was informative and helpful.

Mike Lee

Mike’s team had not scored very well in the BBQ competition Saturday. When we got to their cooking area, they were working on the grilling competition entries. They let us get our hands a little dirty and Sheila loved helping on their turn-ins. However, we take no credit for their final products, and they scored really well. Maybe we just brought them some good karma.

They got three calls and finished third overall. I was very happy for them, and I was glad to be able to share in their day. Mike has been the most supportive person on the circuit for us, and has been very happy our team’s early success. I know they will enjoy more success in the future.
Also got to spend some time with Rich Decker and the Lost Nation Smoke Company. Rich is just a flat out great guy. He’s a big dude with a long goatee, and he always invites us into their camp for a beer and to shoot the breeze. People like Rich Decker and his team are what is good about the BBQ circuit. They score well, but don’t take it too hard when they don’t win and they always seem to have a good time.

Rich Decker

Also got to spend a little time with Dave from Qkwannabees, Andy King from the Bastey Boys, Lunchmeat, Purple Turtle and some of the other teams there that we look up to. We also met the Porkaholics, a team that hails from Haddam, a few miles from our home in Norwich.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention that we were honored as Rookie Team of the Year by the New England Barbeque Society. It’s a great honor, and we beat out a few really good teams, including BS BBQ and Sean McCabe and Bourbon and Beale. Hopefully we will prove worthy of the title as we compete more in the future.

Also, it was nice to see I Smell Smoke celebrate their Team of the Year victory. Sheila had the observation that it was a great moment for them, to watch them all celebrate the victory with their families. They are clearly an awesome team, as proven by their massive table of trophies in front of their site.

Overall, Harpoon was a lot of fun for us, and is clearly a well run, well attended event. It is absolutely the crown jewel of New England competitions. Next year, we want to be a part of it. Hopefully, we will be able to get in.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Now What?

Haven’t posted anything in a while, figured I’d say hello to the two or three of you that actually look at my blog.

We decided not to go to the Grill Kings competition in Long Island, NY this past weekend, and apparently that was a good decision. Very hot temperatures, and other apparent problems (including no water from Saturday afternoon until 10 Sunday morning) made it seem like this was a difficult event for the teams. Some New England teams did really well, including iQue taking grand champion and Purple Turtle taking third overall. Great job!

Our next competition isn’t for more than a month. I really want to get back to it. We didn’t do particularly well at Lake Placid, our last event, but looking back I made too much of that showing. Sure I want us to score well and win every time out, but that’s not going to happen and I realize that. I guess we had so much success so early that we figured we wouldn’t have any adversity. Wrong…..

But I have put this all in perspective. We had a great time, continued to make friends with our fellow competitors and learned some things. We had a huge feast Monday night with Ward Mann from Hog Heaven and a friend of his, along with my parents who made the trip to Lake Placid to see us in action. The organizers went out of their way to make it a great experience for us.

This weekend, Sheila and I are planning to head up to the Harpoon BBQ Competition as civilians. We have volunteered to judge in the grilling competition Sunday, but will probably just end up hanging around and taking it all in. I am looking forward to spending a little time with Mike Lee of the Yankee BBQ Boys, who was one of the people who helped me make the decision to compete in the first place. I have a feeling they will have a strong showing at Harpoon.

Interestingly, even though we have competed in three events, Sheila and I have never been to a competition as a paying visitor. Also, some of the teams will be vending, so it will be a good chance to sample some of the stuff other teams are making. However, I’m sure they are not going to put their competition level food out there for "spies" like me.

Maybe, we will take "Rookie Team of the Year" honors, which will be awarded after Harpoon. According to my calculations, if the Qkwannabes do not score a 625 overall in either the grilling or the BBQ competition, we will win RTOY. Not sure what (if anything) we would get for that honor, but just the recognition would be just fine with me. However, a trophy would be better!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Reality Check

Well, the honeymoon is over.

After taking third place in Rhode Island and Grand Champions in New Hampshire in our first two competitions, Q Haven finished a disappointing 9th place out of 16 teams in the first annual I Love BBQ Festival in Lake Placid, NY July 3rd and 4th.

We got no calls, which means we didn’t finish in the top 5 of any of the four categories, which are chicken, pork ribs, pork shoulder and beef brisket. I know that “you can’t win ‘em all,” and that we certainly aren’t going to have success every time out, but this one hurt.

All along, I have been telling the team that we shouldn’t really worry about the results, and that we just need to put our best foot forward and do our best every time out and let the chips fall where they may. We all worked really hard at this contest, and really felt that we gave the judges some great food. Maybe that’s why I still have a knot in my stomach, more than 24 hours after the award ceremony.

However, we had a really great time at this event. The people who organized the contest really wanted to make it about us, the competitors. They made sure we had everything we needed, and just seemed excited about the whole thing. Lake Placid is a neat little town, and we competed right in the Olympic skating oval where history was made in 1980 and Eric Heiden won five gold medals.

We met some really great people, including Rick Pruitt from North Carolina and his wife. They traveled a long way to be at this event, and I hope they enjoyed the northern hospitality!

Rick and his wife.

We also got to spend some time with freinds we met at the New Hampshire competition, including Ward Mann from Hog Heaven. We also finally got to meet the famous Waldo, Ward's loyal teammate.

Ward and Waldo

I promise that if they hold another competition next year, I will definitely come back. It’s a long drive for sure, but Lake Placid is a place I want to visit again.

Back to the cooking.

Everyone who tried our ribs raved about them. Everyone, that is, except the judges. We finished seventh in ribs. Here’s the turn in.

I think the ribs were a little overcooked, and the presentation could have been better, either of those things or both probably cost us a call.

Chicken, the skin remained a problem for us. The taste was really good, but we need to solve this rubbery skin issue. Took 9th in chicken.

The pulled pork, we decided to just use shredded, sauced meat. Mistake. Looking back, we didn’t include enough bark in the turn in, and we completely tanked pork. Finished 15th out of 16. We had tons of leftovers afterwards from cooking two eight pound butts, and everyone who sampled the pork afterwards told us that it was great. I guess a lot of people were just being nice. Here’s the pork.

It was the brisket that really bothered me. It was a little on the dry side, but it had such a good flavor and smoke ring, I didn’t think there was any way in the world it wouldn’t get a call. We just missed the call, taking 6th, but when they called I Smell Smoke (again) as the winner for brisket it was like someone stuck a knife in my back. I still don’t believe it that we didn’t get a call. One judge gave it a perfect score of 9-9-9, another gave it an 8-9-9. Two others didn’t like it as much and gave it 6’s and 7’s, and that did us in. Here’s the brisket.

Even though we didn’t do very well, I’m not planning to make huge changes for our next competition, which will be the Hudson Valley Ribfest in New Paltz, NY August 19th and 20th. Hopefully we will get back on track at that event.