Last Saturday, I judged the Grilling on the Bay contest in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, NY. Sheila and I cooked this contest in 2007 and had a great time. I wanted to cook it this year, but I knew Sheila would be in Wyoming for the entire weekend, and it would have been extremely hard to pull it together. I knew that judging, I could just drop Max off at my parents house on the way and pick him up on the way home, no planning, prep, etc. So judging made the most sense to me, I was still supporting the event without the stress of cooking it.
So I left home at 7:15 AM, dropped Max off with my parents in Orange, CT and made it to the contest site right at 11AM, just in time for the judge's meeting. I ended up at a table with a chef from a restaurant in NYC, and with a food blogger. It was an interesting mix.
I took good notes, so I have been able to associate most of the teams with the foods I tried. I will leave out the names for the most part to protect the innocent.
The first category was chicken breast. I had one entry that was really good, one which was just awful, and three that were OK. Nothing really stood out here, a coupe of the entries were stuffed. One was just horrible....a large, skinless boneless, dry breast.
Next was fish. The best entry I had at my table, after some investigating after the contest, turned out to be iQue's. It was a striped bass with a nice sauce that I couldn't exactly place. It took 2nd place and deserved it. One fish entry was really unusual, it was a whole fish stuffed with a bean mixture, and presented with the head in the box. I did not like this at all, but did not punish the cook with really low scores because I am not much of a fish eater, so it would not be fair.
Pork was next, and cooks could turn in any kind of pork they wanted, ribs, loin, tenderloin, etc. We only got 4 entries at our table for this one, and all were quite good. One entry were excellent spare ribs, one was I believe a grilled bone in shank that was my favorite entry of the day. Really different and had just great flavor and texture. The other great entry was a pork tenderloin that appeared to be marinated and grilled. Pork was the best category of the day for me.
The final category was chef's choice. I was disappointed that I didn't get a lobster tail. I figured someone would throw money at the category and submit a whole lobster tail stuffed with hundred dollar bills or a gold bar, but that didn't happen.
We did get a couple of nice entries. One was a short rib slider, which tasted really good but I'm sure it took a hit in appearance, as all you could see in the box was the tops of the buns. Another entry was burgers, and this was the only 9 I gave in appearance the whole day. Just a really nicely prepared box. Another was a stuffed shrimp, which was OK. Somebody turned in six huge, grilled portobello mushroom heads, which I scored very low because of the complete lack of originality and the ugly box.
Overall, it was a great time, until of course the ride home. The Belt Parkway is a disaster, stop and go for ten miles. Between that, getting lost in Queens and later backups on I-95 and the Hutch, the ride home was extremely frustrating. But I was glad to be able to support the only cook-off of any kind this year in New York City. Some day, there will be a BBQ contest in NYC. Some day....