Wednesday, June 27, 2007

New Hampshire Rock-n-Ribfest

After much deliberation, we decided a few months ago to compete in the New Hampshire Rock-n-Ribfest this past weekend, despite the fact that an event was scheduled in East Hartford for the same days. The Connecticut event had been cancelled last year, and we just didn't want to end up getting shut out of New Hampshire if that happened. Also, we won New Hampshire last year, and felt we should at least go and try and defend our title.

We arrived on site Friday afternoon. Last year, it rained heavily Friday and Saturday, reducing the entire Anheuser Busch Brewery field where the event was held into a mud pit. We came up with a much more promising weather forecast. However, we pulled on the site, and before we could even unhook the trailer from the hitch, the skies opened up and a massive thurderstorm rolled past. We scrambled back to the truck and all Sheila and I could do is look at each other and laugh. Here we go again....

However, the rain quickly stopped, and we had a weekend of great weather. The crowds were huge, and we were surrounded by friends. Mike Boisvert, Kris Eastman and Lisa Mazzone of Lakeside Smokers were right next to us. On the other side was Andy King and the Bastey Boys. Andy was on crutches because of a knee injury, but fortunately he has a posse of people that came and help him out.
Mike and Kris, Lakeside Smokers
Also, there was no shortage of Brethren at the event. For those not familiar, the BBQ Brethren is a forum where I spend a lot of time at work and home trolling around with some great people from around the country who share the same passion for BBQ that I do. It's a very inclusive group and I really enjoy meeting the Brethren when we compete. Brethren on hand included Clint of Smoke in Da Eye, Lunchmeat, and Chris Hart and iQue.

We also met some Brethren for the first time. Tom and Michelle of Lo and Slo BBQ were really cool, and ended up winning grand champions of the grilling competition. Big Barry was there as well, getting a grilling call in his first ever competition.

As for us at Q Haven, is was just me and Sheila. Cristiaan was in Las vegas for the weekend, so he did not attend. Fortunately, we did have some visitors. My friend Av Harris traveled up for Friday and Saturday, and Sheila's father and stepmom came up for the day on Sunday. It was nice to have some support.

This was the first event we would be using our new camper/toy hauler. We towed it up to the venue without any problems, and after plenty of trial and error, we were able to get it parked in our site. It was so great to have a comfortable bed to sleep in and a shower to clean up after all that cooking.

This was a two day event, with grilling Saturday and BBQ Sunday. For grilling, the categories were Fish Steak, Beef Steak, Sausage and Fruit.

For fish, I did pretty much the same thing as at the Snowshoe and Grillin On The Bay; grilled swordfish with garlic butter. It came out pretty good, finished 12th place.

Next was beef steak. I made filet mignon with sauce bearnaise. The sauce came out really good, but I really messed up the presentation. Once I started putting the sauce on, it just got out of control, and I ended up being unhappy with the end product. Look for yourself. 15th place.

Sausage came next. I cooked two different types of sausage, medium hot links and a wheel of garlic, spinach and parmesan. I ended up turning in the wheel, which I thought presented really well. However, it only finished in 11th place.

The final category was fruit. We did grilled apples with a cinnamon-brown sugar sauce. Came out pretty good. 12th place.

We finished 6th overall for grilling. Not bad, but could have been better.

Now, on to the BBQ....

Prep went well Saturday afternoon and the brisket and pork butts went into the smoker between five and six PM. The brisket was 16 pounds, one of the largest I have ever seen. Overall, I cooked one brisket, two butts, six racks of ribs and 24 chicken thighs. This has become our regular competition cook, but I am planning to cook two briskets in the future.

During the overnight hours, Willy B rolled in. He's Will Breakstone, who owns his own Q place on Long Island and I met at the New Paltz event last year. He's a cool guy, and he came over to our site for a beer after he finally made it up. Willy B is the type of guy that people gravitate towards. Before long, we had around 10 people on our site, drinking, laughing and having a great time. Looking forward to hoisting a few with Willy B again at New Paltz.

Everything went amazingly smooth Sunday morning. This was my 7th KCBS competition, so I have my processes pretty much down. Everything got in the cookers on time, and for the most part I was happy with the results.

First was chicken. I was happy with the flavor, but we had come up with a great system of crisping the skin before turn ins, and I didn't stick to it exactly. The result was rubbery skin on some of the entries. Most scores were decent, but one judge gave me a 7-4-5. Thanks pal... Chicken I believe was 15th place.

Ribs. Ahh, the ribs. I practiced ribs numerous times this winter and spring, and they're right where I want them to be. I thought the tenderness was perfect, and the scores backed it up. Ribs were 2nd place.

Pork came next. I'm extremely happy with the pork these days. I have come up with the rub-injection-smoke-sauce combo that I want. Pork was 4th place and our second call.

Last was brisket. Many people who tried our brisket said that it had great flavor. Unfortunately, it was a little tough, so I knew it would be trouble. Brisket was 19th place. Oh well.

Overall, I was happy with the results. Obviously, I want to win every contest we enter, but to get two calls and finish 7th overall out of 36th place is pretty good. I know what needs to be done to improve for this week in Lake Placid. Also, we will have Cristiaan there as another set of hands, so we should be poised to have a great weekend.

A big congrats goes out to Sean McCabe and Q Ball, who won grand champions for the event. Those guys are a whole lot of fun, and clearly Sean is cranking out some great Q in his assortment of Big Green Eggs. We were two sites away from them, and had a lot of laughs with them over the weekend.

Thanks to Mike of Lakeside Smokers for all the things we forgot to bring that he lent us, including but not limited to: foil, extension cords, twist ties and countless uses of his ladder. Also, thanks to Boneyard Smokers, who lent me the grill grates for their smoker after I left mine next to the trailer while packing.

Now, we move on to Lake Placid. We're leaving Thursday night and driving most of the way there. We'll motel it and head into Lake Placid in the AM. Looking forward to seeing everyone there!

Monday, June 25, 2007

New Hampshire

Had a great time in New Hampshire at the Rock-n-Ribfest this past weekend. We got calls for 2nd place ribs and 4th place pork. The new camper worked out awesome. I'll post a full report in the next few days.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Q Haven In The News

We leave for our first BBQ competion of the summer in two days, and the planning is underway in earnest. We got a write-up in our local paper today, click the link below to read it.

Norwich Bulletin Story

If you don't have anything to do, come up and see us at the New Hampshire Rock-n-Ribfest this weekend. There is a full slate of teams, and a lot of entertaining stuff, including rides and games for the kids, and lots of live bands all weekend. More info about the event is at the link below.

New Hampshire Rock-n-Ribfest

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Getting Ready

The beginning of our summer BBQ season is just around the corner. Our first cook off will be next weekend in Merrimack, New Hampshire, the Rock-n-Ribfest at the Anheuser Busch Brewery. I just can't wait to be there. I am having severe problems focusing on or thinking about anything else these days.

The boxes of sauce, rub, water pans and other assorted competition items have been pouring in. We closed on our new trailer this week, and are picking it up this weekend. Our BBQ Brethren banner arrived this week too, which will surely bring a lot of new people from the forum to our competition site to say hello. I know a lot of "Brethren" will be at New Hampshire, including Mike from Lakeside Smokers, Chris from iQue, Lunchmeat, Militant Squatter aka Vinny from Bad Bones BBQ, Willy B and I'm sure plenty of others not immediately coming to mind.

There is so much nervous excitement about the upcoming season. We had some success early, winning New Hampshire last year, but I still feel we are nowhere near being part of the elite of the BBQ circuit. Winning one competition does not get us to that status. We did take reserve grand champions at the unsanctioned Winter Sizzler in January, our last Q event. Hopefully that is a sign that New Hampshire last year was not a fluke.

The trailer-toy hauler should make a big difference for us. The one thing that was extremely difficult for us last year was the weather. It seemed to rain heavily every event, so we would get soaked, would sleep in rain soaked tents and just be uncomfortable. This will take the weather out of the equation, and allow us to enjoy ourselves at all events.

In the future, the trailer will allow us to hit events farther away from home. Next year, we plan to look for a couple of events we probably wouldn't do without it.

I think our BBQ recipes are ready. I can't wait to start cooking.