Thursday, August 09, 2007

Maine BBQ And Grilling Festival

When I was deciding what BBQ contests to cook this season, the event last weekend in York, Maine was not even on my radar. It was plastered all over the cook's packet that RV's and campers of any kind were strictly forbidden, so I immediately dismissed the contest. Why go somewhere that we would not be able to bring our new trailer?

Then, a few things changed.

The contest we planned to cook August 11th and 12th in New Britain, CT was cancelled. That left us with an open date. Also, the camper issue was raised, and the organizers allowed us to bring our toy hauler. Those changes and a little message board "encouragement" led to the decision to go up and cook Maine.

The event was only one week after Harpoon, which was a lot of work and a huge contest. Maine was a little different.

We arrived after dark Friday night, April 3rd. We pulled up the narrow road to the farm and it was pitch black. I took a chance and veered right off the driveway towards some pop-up tents. Fortunately, this was the correct way to the contest site.

The bad news.....the entire contest site was on a slope. It wasn't that bad a hill, but there was not a single site that was level. We were right in the middle of a working farm, with huge cornfields on either side. It was great scenery.

We were sited right next to our good friends at Lakeside Smokers. We were really looking forward to this event being laid back, where we could just enjoy friends and cook up some great food. That's exactly how it went down.

Bob, Kris, Mike, Lakeside Smokers

Friday night, once we got situated, we settled in for a night of drinking Mike's beer. He was the only one around who had iced his beer, and no ice was available at the venue yet, so his supply took a beating. We had a great time just shooting the breeze with Brendan and Julie of Transformer BBQ, and Sean McCabe of Que Ball. The girls went to bed early, but the rest of us pulled a real late nighter. It was around 4AM that we all finally retired after a great night with a lot of laughs.

It was especially nice to better get to know Brendan and Julie at Transformer BBQ. They started competing a little bit after we did, and they have been coming on strong lately. Much like Lakeside Smokers, I see Transformer as a team to be reckoned with in the near future. They won the grilling event at Harpoon, which is a big deal. Brendan and Julie drove cross country last year, eating almost exclusively in BBQ restaurants across the nation. That kind of dedication shows me that they're really serious about BBQ. Click HERE to read about their journey.

Brendan, Transformer BBQ

Friday night's drinking made Saturday morning a little rough. Once we got through meat inspection we focused really hard on cooking some great food for Saturday's grilling competition. I had delegated some of the grilling categories; Sheila was going to handle the pork tenderloin and bluebery dessert, Cristiaan was doing the pizza category and I was handling sirloin steak and wings.
The first category was wings. They were marinated for several hours, then grilled with a dusting of Plowboy's Yardbird Rub. They were finished with a nice BBQ glaze. I thought these would hit for sure, but they only took 11th place out of 19 teams that competed in grilling.

Next up was steak. I've tried bearnaise sauce and bourbon maple sauce in previous grilling competitions, but since this category was wide open, I decided to do it the way I like steak at home. Brushed with extra virgin olive oil, rubbed with a Montreal steak seasoning, grilled to medium rare, then melted gorgonzola cheese on the top. Four of the six judges gave this entry a perfect score, and it took first place.

Pork tenderloin was next. Since we will be using this recipe again soon I am withholding it for now, but needless to say it was delicious and took 2nd place. I will post the picture though....

The next category was pizza. Cristiaan did pretty much the same recipe that took 2nd place in the chicken category in Lake Placid. However, it missed the mark here, 15th place.

The final category was blueberry dessert. After going through a few recipes, Sheila settled on blueberry crepes. We made the crepes over the charcoal grill, which was interesting. The filling was a saute of blueberries, maple syrup and butter folded into cream cheese, topped off with a homemade blueberry sauce. Took 3rd place.

Here's where the fun started. At the awards ceremony (which was delayed until Sunday) we were called as reserve grand champions for grilling. We were given a large trophy and $250 in cash. We were really excited, but it didn't last for long. It was later determined that they had counted the blueberry dessert towards the overall score, which was not supposed to happen. When the dust cleared, we had to give the trophy and money back, and we were 3rd place.

It was an honest mistake. Onward and upward....

I entered Sunday's BBQ competition with a lot of optimism. We had taken 7th place overall in a very tough field just a week ago at Harpoon. I wanted to make a serious run at grand or reserve grand champion in this event, which was only 21 teams, with several of them competing for the first time.
It was not to be.

Chicken: I have been developing a new chicken recipe, having given up on the old one after only getting one call in nine events. Grilled instead of smoked. Ysing the new Yardbird rub and a new sauce. Missed again. I definately over-rubbed the chicken and it came out really salty. Chicken placed 11th place.

Ribs were next. While they were good, the tenderness was not exactly where I wanted it to be. Also messed up the appearance, and couldn't fit the last rib in the box, making it look uneven. Ribs were 8th place, which got us a call and a "consolation prize" mini-trophy.

Pork was next. I thought it came out really good. It took 7th place but I really expected it to be higher. That's how it goes sometimes. Just ask Sean McCabe of Que Ball about his brisket this week, he thought it was a true winner and it only took 9th. He didn't even want to go and get the trophy. Anyway, here's the pork.

The brisket just flat out missed. I used a different rub than I had in previous events, and it didn't come out the way I would have liked. The meat was tougher than I have ever had it come out before. 13th place.

Chef's Choice had to be 50% lobster, so I did bacon wrapped lobster with seafood remulade. Swing and a miss. 15th place.
Overall I was very disappointed with our BBQ scores. Disappointed with myself, not with the judges. I need to practice more.

After the BBQ turn ins were complete, we were all hanging around in the Que Ball tent. Somehow the discussion came up that Q Haven, Que Ball and Lakeside Smokers would all merge together and become a "MegaTeam." The MegaTeam would only cook in backyard BBQ competitions. Throughout the afternoon and awards ceremony, shouts of "MegaTeam" could be heard echoing through the farmland of Maine. Whether or not the MegaTeam will actually compete in any events remains a mystery. But look out....if MegaTeam does go public, the other teams at that particular event will be in big trouble.

Not from our cooking, but for their own personal safety!

I have fond memories of our weekend in the farmlands of Maine. I'm sure a lot of other competitors feel the same way.


alex said...

Wow while looking to the photos which you have provided in the site water is trembling in my mouth the photos are so nice and topic is so different
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Ted Lorson said...

Thanks...too bad there was no Maine contest this year. Hopefully competition BBQ will return to Maine in 2009!

Thanks for reading....


chris said...

By seeing the photographs which are kept in this site, water is trembling in my mouth,i can expect how the contest made grand success.This is a good contest i want to see this contest throughout the world.

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