Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Westport, Connecticut, USA

Q Haven finally got to cook in our home state this past weekend in Westport, Connecticut, the first annual Blues, Views and BBQ. With the drive so short and perfect weather forecasted, it seemed like this would be an easy weekend. It was a lot of fun, but it was also anything but easy.

It started off easy enough. I took Friday off work so I could focus on getting ready for the contest. It was a whirlwind day. Dropped Max off at daycare, went down to BJ's for gas and final meat purchasing, then to Stop and Shop for final groceries, then home to prep meat and do final packing. Then it was off to pick up the camper, take it to a nearby campground to dump the tanks, then home to finish packing up. Oops, I forgot to stop and get beer, zipped down to the liquor store and loaded up, back home, showered and was ready. We hit the road at around 6:30 p.m.

Talk about leaving everything to the last minute....

Sheila, Max and I got to the site, and there were only a few other teams there. got the camper into the site and it was tight. At some contests there is some wiggle room, but here the sites were strictly 20 feet by 20 feet. Paying for the extra large site would have been a good idea.

We got our basic setup done pretty quickly, thanks to Merle and company from Wine and Swine, who all started unloading our stuff, was really nice of them. The bad news is that for some reason, the power was not being turned on until Saturday morning. This was bad for us, as it got pretty cold, and we only had battery power in the camper. When we had to turn on the camper furnace in the middle of the night, we were worried that the power would run out and poor Max would freeze. The battery was about dead when the juice was turned on in the AM Saturday.

Once we got up Saturday, there wasn't a whole lot to do. They wanted the teams to judge for the backyard BBQ contest, and the Iron Chef contest was not until after the cook's meeting at 5PM. We got there to judge and they had more than enough, so we were turned away.

In the meantime, we got to spend a little time with the many teams who made the trip. Lakeside Smokers, Transformer BBQ, Wine and Swine and a few other cool teams were all located right around us. However, it was just me and Sheila, and we were kind of tied to our site because Max was there, and I did not get to really hang around with everyone as much as I would have liked. It was easier with Max at New Paltz, because he was new and everyone wanted to hold him and watch him. This time we felt a little more tied down.


Fast forward to the Iron Chef. The ingredients they provided were a pork tenderloin, a sweet potato, a zucchini and a bottle of Paul Newman's marinade. We really did not go too far outside the box here. I marinated the tenderloin and smoked it, and Sheila made brown sugar mashed sweet potatoes and mixed the zucchini with some red pepper and butter. Overall the dish was OK, really nothing special, and it scored towards the bottom. We were so bummed about it that we didn't even take a picture.

There was a lot of partying going on Saturday night, but I didn't partake a whole lot. For some reason I just wasn't feeling it. Reloaded the Backwoods with charcoal and went to bed around 11:30, was up at 4:30 AM to start cooking.
Finally, Cristiaan showed up at around 9AM. He had to attend a wake Friday night, then had to work until late Saturday night, so he could not make it until then. It was good to have him there, we really needed the morale boost and an extra set of hands.


The chicken could have done really well. It was probably the most well cooked chicken I have made in a while. The only problem was that I used a little too much rub, and we all agreed that it tasted too salty. Finished 25th (35 teams).

Next were the ribs. I was worried before these ever hit the smoker. When I bought them, I thought I had selected two packages of two racks of spares each. However, one of them was deceiving, and actually contained three racks. Three scrawny racks. The other two were ok, so I knew the turn ins would probably have to come from those two.
The ribs missed. 20th place.

Thank goodness for the pork. Just like at New Paltz, one good call salvaged the weekend for us, as we were called for third place. I had experimented with a new pork recipe at New Paltz, and it didn't work at all. I went back to the basics this time, and the old recipe worked pretty well.

Funny story about this call to the stage. We obviously didn't have a discussion about what to do if we did in fact get a call. When we got called, Sheila, Cristiaan and I all headed up to the stage to accept the award. I just assumed that my parents would stay with Max as we went to the stage. I assumed wrong...when we got back people immediately pointed out that we just abandoned our little boy, right there in the crowd! It was embarrassing, but seriously, I would never worry at all with him surrounded by great BBQ people!

Max all alone at the awards!

Next was brisket, and I knew immediately this was not going to win any awards. I cooked a whole packer and a flat. The packer just wasn't where it needed to be, and the flat ended up being shoe leather. We took 12th, which surprised me a little. I thought it would be much lower.
So in the end, we were 9th overall. Not great, not too bad. The one good call really helped though, without it it would have been a pretty lousy scoring weekend.

The grand champions were "Sledneck" Steve and R2-BQ. Was great to see a new face in "victory lane."
So with the Westport contest history, our 2008 season is likely done as well. While we had a good time at Sayville last year, it is a lot of work and expense. Especially with the choices getting there being a $300 ferry across to Long Island, or driving down through the Bronx and Queens, then on the LIE with the camper. As of this writing, I am just not feeling up to it.

But overall, ending the season probably isn't the worst thing right now. We got a really late start because of the birth of Max, but were still able to get Harpoon, New Paltz and Westport in after he was born July 11th. We were reserve grand champions at Harpoon too, which was one of our all time team highlights.
Probably the best thing I can do is start practicing for 2009. I feel like some changes are in order.


WhiteTrashBBQ said...

Go judge Sayville!

lunchlady said...

don't worry Q Havens :>

... it'll get easier having the little man hanging wit you. (although my own little man ended up having X-Rays once we got back from the Oink!)

Congrats on even getting OUT THE DOOR, nevermind grabbing a RGC at Harpoon AND cooking all those other competitions!
Your BBQ will come around, BBQ always does, and when it happens Max'll be running up to grab those trophies, leaving you behind!
happy fall~

Ted Lorson said...


Hope your son is ok! Congrats on winning the Oink again!!!

Best of luck to you guys at the Jack!