Thursday, November 13, 2008

2008, The Year In Review

2008....this has been a great year, complete with high highs and low lows. The highlight obviously is the birth of our first son Max, but there were a few BBQ highlights too. Here's the recap of 2008.
In what seams like forever ago, the season got underway at the end of February with the Freeze Your Butt Off contest, held at the end of February in Maynard, Massachusetts. While most think it is nuts to go cook out in the cold in the New England winter, I disagree. This type of event is great for so many reasons. It allows teams to get a competition under their belts after a long layoff, and try out those recipes we have been working on all winter to see how they fare with the judges. We got calls for 4th place chicken and pork, along with 5th place brisket and finished 5th place overall. Pretty much all the top New England teams were at the contest, so 5th was OK. It was my first contest cooking on the new Backwoods Party as well.

Brrrrrr.... Next came a couple of grilling contests, and some especially bad results. First was the Snowshoe Grilling Challenge in Abington, Massachusetts. Just missed the mark here, no calls, although I was pretty happy with what we cooked. There were 17 teams, and we finished 9th overall, just missing calls with 6th place sausage and vegetable.

The following event was the worst we have ever done in a contest. it was the Oyster Bay Smoke N Steam grilling contest on Long Island. I'm trying to forget this contest. We finished second to last, and probably would have had our first DAL if one of the teams had not been disqualified in the steak category. In summary, the steak was awful, the pork wasn't much better, I burned the wings and apparently got a table that hated oysters Rockefeller. Here are the oysters, which I thought were very good, followed by a very pregnant Sheila at the contest.

The highlight of Oyster Bay was seeing our good friends Brendan and Julie Burek turn in a truly dominating performance, taking home almost all the trophies and being grand champions.

In between those two grilling contests, I attended a judging class and became a Kansas City BBQ Society certified judge.

After Oyster Bay, it was a long layoff for me. Sheila was pregnant and due in mid July, so I didn't want to schedule any contests for June or July. That meant events that we had cooked in previous years in New Hampshire and Lake Placid, New York were taken off the calendar.

I did get to wear my judging hat for the first time in June, however. I judged the Peter's Pond rib and brisket festival in Sandwich, Massachusetts. It was a good learning experience to be on the other side of the table for the first time.

Meanwhile, we didn't want to lose our spot at the Harpoon New England BBQ Championship at the end of July. So we entered, even though it was on July 25th, and Sheila wasn't due until July 22nd. The plan was to have my brother Cristiaan cook the event himself if I couldn't make it. The good news was that Max was born healthy and early on July 11th, which allowed me to be able to go to Harpoon for the whole weekend.

And it was sure worth it.

We got calls for 9th place chicken, 7th place pork and 1st place brisket, winning reserve grand champions in a field that featured all the top New England teams, and some big national names such as the Slabs from Kansas City and the Smoking Triggers from Texas. We missed taking grand champion honors and an automatic trip to the Jack by 2.2 points. Oh so close....but what a great time regardless. Even if we had finished last, this was an awesome time. The only regret was that Sheila was not there to enjoy the moment.

A few weeks later brought our next contest, the Hudson Valley Ribfest just outside of New Paltz, New York. We didn't cook the grilling contest at Harpoon to focus on vending, so this was our first grilling event since the disaster at Oyster Bay. While we didn't get any calls here either, the showing was a lot better for sure. With 33 teams cooking, we took 7th place in pork chop and fish, and 12th place in steak and were 9th overall. Not great, but nowhere near DAL. As for the BBQ, 53 teams cooked. We got a great call for 3rd place ribs, chicken was 10th place, but pork tanked at 23rd place and brisket REALLY tanked at 40th place. Overall, we were 11th out of 53 teams, not our best showing, but it could have been a whole lot better. Life goes on....

Here were the ribs cooked for Saturday night's dinner for friends.

The best part of the contest was again being located next to our good friends Mike and Kris Boisvert from Lakeside Smokers.

This was also our first contest bringing Max along. He was a huge hit with the crowds. While I'm sure his presence was somewhat of a distraction, I am so glad that our BBQ friends were able to meet him. They will be seeing a lot of him in the future for sure.

After another month, our last contest of 2008 was the Blues, Views and BBQ in Westport, Connecticut. In our two-plus years of competing, this was our first contest in our home state. Our tight site:
Long story short, we got called for 3rd place pork out of 45 teams, and finished 9th overall. We struggled on a lot of levels at this contest. Max was difficult, and we didn't work very well together on the iron chef entry. But like every contest, we learned a few things that will help make us better down the road.

So in summary, 2008 was an interesting and exciting year. We didn't get to hit all the contests we would have liked, but it is hard to be upset about that because of the awesome life changing event of having a child. We got to spend a lot of time with friends and family, and made some new friends as well. To me, that is what BBQ is all about.

1 comment:

WhiteTrashBBQ said...

An amazing year, made all the better by MAX. Enjoy it!