Thursday, September 30, 2010

Westport Invitational

After a successful weekend in Norwalk, we decided to cook an invitational contest at the Blues, Views and BBQ on September 25th in Westport CT. I was hoping to build on the success in Norwalk, and hopefully win a contest for the first time in a while. Came close.

While there were only six invitational teams in the running for cash and prizes, there were also 23 backyard teams. Most were locals cooking for the fun of it, but there were some teams with a little experience in the field too.

The one complication for me was that because of space limitations, I would not be allowed to bring our camper/trailer to the contest. It is a toy hauler, and is where I keep all my BBQ contest gear. This meant that I would have to get everything we would need for the contest into our Ford Explorer. This meant I had to pack tight.

Got to the site behind the Westport Library at around eight Saturday morning, and it was clear that I was one of the last teams to arrive. In order to hit my marks I had to have my cooker ready by 9, so I wasn't worried about the time. If I knew how tight it would be I would have come earlier.

I ended up with exactly one parking spot to run our whole cooking operation. While it was tight, I packed light so it was not a big deal. What was a big deal is that the team next door did not have a dish station and were washing their dishes under an athletic water cooler, which was running right into my tiny site. I usually don't make a stink but I had to be a jerk and tell them to stop. Three bins boys!

The cook went along well. Categories were chicken, ribs and chef's choice, followed by an iron chef category. My chicken takes less than two hours, so there was no urgency. Got the ribs on right on time, and the day moved along without any problems.

My chicken has been pretty consistent lately. I have developed my own program for chicken that is easy to execute and the results are consistent. It came out about as good as I can cook chicken, and took 2nd place for the invitational, and 4th out of the 29 teams.

The judging was different than what I expected. I thought that the six invitational teams would be judged by the same judges, but our food was mixed in with the backyard teams and sent to different tables.

Ribs were right where I wanted them to be too. They took 2nd place in both the invitational and among the total 29 teams. A little more spice would have helped but I was happy overall with the results.

Chef's choice, I decided to go with filet mignon with Bearnaise. I ended up pushing the envelope with the timing and barely got the steaks up to temperature. While they were cooked properly, I missed the short resting period before slicing, and I think it hurt the overall final product. Chef's choice was 3rd overall and 5th out of 29 teams.

The final category was an iron chef deal. At 3:30 p.m. they have us a pork tenderloin, along with a bag of vegetables that included a sweet potato, an onion a red pepper and a zucchini. We came with a pork tenderloin recipe (they have us pork tenderloin at the same contest in 2008 so we took a shot). Ended up doing a bacon wrapped pork tenderloin stuffed with apple and sausage, finished with apple butter. For the vegetables, we made a risotto. Overall was a solid dish but just missed the mark, finished 6th out of 15 teams that participated in iron chef.

In the end, we missed winning the contest by less than five points, not a lot in BBQ scoring. We lost to Steve Zeravica's team R2BQ, who brought in two established BBQ teams to assist, one to do chef's choice and one to do iron chef. So I keep telling myself that it took three teams to beat us. (Just breaking your stones Sled!) I'm sure they all cooked some great food.

Anyway, it was a good day for us, got some really nice trophies and a little dough for our efforts.

While a lot of teams don't like dealing with the public, there was no way around it here. People were right on top of us all day, and I did my best to accommodate people with their questions and requests for samples. My favorite encounter of the day was when a woman tried our chicken and asked whether I injected it with heroin.

So it looks like that's how Q Haven will end our season. We started it with a reserve grand championship at the Snowshoe Grilling Challenge in March and finished it with a reserve GC at Westport. There were plenty of highs and lows in between, the highlight being 1st place ribs at Harpoon and the low being Black Sunday at New Paltz.

Fortunately, I have one final event this year. My good friend Mike Boisvert of Lakeside Smokers has invited me to come cook as part of his team at the Jack Daniel's World Invitational BBQ in Lynchburg, Tennessee at the end of October. It's the 2nd straight year Mike has invited me to join his team for the event and I am honored to go again.


Sledneck said...

Hahaha, yep it did take 3 teams to beat you! Congrats on the RGC again.

Chef Jay said...

Nice pictures! I'm a bbq lover myself and is actually making my own barbecue recipes. Wish I could share it with you some time. Thanks!