We kicked off the year with the New England Barbecue Society sanctioned Snowshoe Grilling Challenge on March tenth, which is the annual beginning of the competition season in New England. We started the season off by scoring second place in the burger category, ninth in strip steak and eighth overall.
Next up was Grilling on the Bay in Brooklyn, New York two Saturdays later, which was also a NEBS event and ended up being Q Haven's first grand championship of any kind since 2006. We took first place in the vegetable category with stuffed jalapenos, and also got calls for sixth place chicken wings and ribs and eighth place chef's choice to win grand championship honors. It was awesome to finally win a contest, after cooking over 50 events between wins.
|First Place Vegetables|
We had more than a month off after Brooklyn, with our next event coming in May and Smoke in the Valley in Green Lane, Pennsylvania. This was our first KCBS cook of the season, and our first since reworking the entire cooking program over the winter. While we did not get any calls, our brisket was 13th and all four categories were in the top 23 in a field of 54 strong teams. We finished 17th overall. The bad news was that I forget that my slicing knife was in the dish water and I got a nasty cut, which required five stitches to close. However, this was a great event, and we will certainly return again in 2013.
|Greenwich Set Up|
It was another few weeks before we cooked again, making the annual trip to the New Hampshire Rock-n-Ribfest in late June. We collected calls for third place brisket and ninth place ribs, finishing tenth overall. It was also the first contest I used a new chicken process, and at 27th place it didn't work out too well. But I learned a few things that served us extremely well in the next four contests. We finished fifth overall in grilling in New Hampshire, including first place in the burger category.
|Turn your head sideways|
We cooked the Troy Pig Out in Troy, NY and took first place in chicken and brisket, fourth place pork and fifth place ribs to win our first KCBS grand championship since 2006. We also took custody of Victor, the large plastic pig that serves as the Troy traveling trophy. It was the first time Victor had not been owned by a Massachusetts team, and we were excited to bring him to Connecticut!
That's 2,257 days between KCBS victories for those of you scoring at home.
After a week off we headed to the Harpoon Championship of New England BBQ at their brewery in Windsor, VT. Q Haven's roll continued with another first place chicken, second place pork ribs, fourth place pork and sixth in brisket, and once again we were grand champions. Combined with a fourth place overall finish in grilling, strong vending sales and a great time with friends and family, this was by far the highlight of our season. It also guaranteed us an automatic invitation to the Jack Daniel's World Invitational BBQ in October. We finally made it back to the Jack!
|The Harpoon Team|
Two weeks later it was back to Long Island for the first round of the Sam's Club National BBQ Tour event. The top six teams would move on to the regional final in Virginia, and we made it with a fifth place overall finish. Also, we took first place chicken for the fourth straight contest.
We made it to the Sam's Club regional final in Chesapeake VA, but might as well had stayed home. We finished 25th overall out of 30 teams, including a dismal 29th place brisket. The only bright spot was a call for 7th place chicken. The other bright spot was that we had a really good time. It was just myself and my brother Cristiaan, and we had a nice trip. Enjoyed a beautiful late summer day in Rehoboth, Delaware on the drive down, then had fun hanging out with some of the teams. We had an especially interesting dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant with Tim Rohrs of Stubborn Bull BBQ, then got to watch him celebrate a strong 3rd place finish.
Our final event before the Jack was again in our home state of Connecticut, an event on the New London pier. We again had a great time, and again got to watch Stubborn Bull have a great day, as they were grand champions. We had a decent tune up before the Jack, getting calls for third place ribs and fifth place in both pork and brisket to finish 5th overall.
Then there was the Jack, where we got two calls and finished 18th overall, but I recently posted all about it and don't need to cover it further.
So what happened to turn the ship around?
Well, a few things. First and foremost, sponsorship. My brother Cristiaan's restaurant Le Jardin du Roi in Chappaqua NY stepped up as our sponsor in 2012. They have covered the cost of much of our meats, rubs and other supplies, which has been a huge help. It also helped to take Chris Hart's class, where I picked up a few tricks that certainly helped us take it to the next level. It also helped that Sheila changed jobs, and now has a lot more time and flexibility in the summer, allowing her to be there and to be focused a lot more than in years past.
So now what? Practicing in the cold, getting ready for 2013 is the winter plan.