Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Snowshoe

For the 3rd straight year, Q Haven cooked the Snowshoe Grilling Challenge in Abington, Massachusetts. We have never done well at this contest, but it always proves to be a great time, and this year was no different.

The temperatures were cold but the sun was shining bright when we arrived at the contest site Saturday morning. I'm getting better at thinning out what I bring to grilling events. They pose a challenge, as I do not bring the camper, which is packed with all our BBQ gear. There is no reason to bring it, as it is not really a kitchen trailer like other teams have. It is more for comfort during overnights, so I don't bring it.

We brought two cars, because Max would be joining us. We were on the fence about bringing him, as we were worried that he could get sick because of the cold. But we decided to bring him anyway, knowing we could always bring him inside the VFW hall if he got cold.

So we were one of the last teams to arrive, and got set up towards the back of the contest area. We were next to Lakeside Smokers, so it was all good. We were also next to the Porkaholics, who live very close to us in Eastern Connecticut and are a really nice group of people.

The first category was fish, steak or fillet. We did a couple of practice cooks leading up to the contest, and the recipe I settled on was a grilled salmon with a maple mustard glaze. The prep and cooking went well, and the fish was cooked just right as the turn in time approached. While I liked the entry, I never thought it would have a chance to take first place. But it did. Go figure.
This is the only picture we have of the fish, courtesy of

Next was pork tenderloin. I thought that turning it in as a BBQ type entry may do well, as many of the people who judge grilling contests are BBQ judges. I hit the tenderloins with BBQ rub and smoked them for a few hours, then finished them with a vinegar based BBQ sauce (three guesses).

I overcooked the tenderloins and they were dry. The entry overall was just blah. Finished 13th out of 19, probably right where it belonged.

Next was sausage fatty, which also came in 13th. This was disappointing to me, as I really thought the fatty came out great. I will just assume that either I hit a lower scoring table, or that there were some really great fatty entries and mine just didn't stack up. Either way, I was disappointed, as I felt that this was our best entry of the day.

The final category was burger. I decided after kicking around some ideas to make it with bacon, smoked cheddar and scallion mayo. This is a burger we have made at home and really liked. However, I decided to use Omaha Steak burgers, which may not have been the best idea. They are thin, and I overcooked them trying to get a perfect melt of the cheese. I'm sure the judges thought they were just pre-made frozen crap burgers, and scored them accordingly. 16th place, probably right about where it belonged.

So we finished 10th overall. A disappointing finish for sure but I was really happy to take the 1st place fish. Taking 1st in any category is an accomplishment, especially with the stout list of teams that were on hand. One of those were the guys from Wildwood BBQ NYC, who won grand championship honors.

Max had a great time with his BBQ friends too.

Thanks to Gary and Michelle Taft for running the contest. They run it with the cooks and the community in mind, a complete volunteer effort. They charge low entry fees and came up with some awesome trophies, one of which we are proud to now own. Awesome job guys!

Now it looks like we will have a little bit of a layoff. I have decided not to cook Salisbury, Maryland, and there are no BBQ contests in the Northeast until New Hampshire. We may cook the Oyster Bay grilling contest in May, but childcare logistics may make that impossible. Kind of a bummer in the short term, but the Summer schedule looks great, and it is not that far away!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Back From Snowshoe

Cooked the Snowshoe grilling challenge yesterday. Got a great call, first place fish, but otherwise tanked with a 10th place finish out of 19 teams. Despite the finish, it was good to be out there again. I'll post a full recap in the next few days.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The 2009 Schedule

Our 2009 season is starting to take shape. These are the contests we are definitely doing:

March 21: Snowshoe Grilling Challenge, Abington, MA
June 19-21: New Hampshire Rock-n-Ribfest, Merrimack, NH
July 24-26: Harpoon New England Championship BBQ, Windsor, VT (if application is accepted)August 7-9: Mainely Grillin and Chillin Country BBQ, Eliot, ME

These are the possible ones:

April 16-18: Pork in the Park, Salisbury, MD
August : Hudson Valley Ribfest, New Paltz, NY

We will probably cook one of the two Connecticut contests in September as well.

In addition, we have some other public events that are not competitions.

We will be cooking the pre-race tailgate party at both of these events:
Sunday, May 31: TLG Travel/Bokoff Kaplan Travel trip to the NASCAR race at Dover.
September 20: TLG Travel/Bokoff Kaplan Travel trip to NASCAR race in Loudon, New Hampshire

Saturday, June 6: We may also vend at the Norwich Riverfest, an annual event in the city where we live.

Wow, the year is filling up fast....should be a fun summer!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The BBQ Bailout

We had planned to cook the Freeze Your Butt Off contest when it was initially scheduled for February 14th and 15th. That was a weekend we had free, as this is the time of year when Sheila travels for work a lot. However, the contest was moved to February 28-March 1, and I was out, as Sheila would be away and I would have baby duty.

Then, the FYBO collapsed and was cancelled. While I was bummed for my friends who I know were excited to cook it, I wouldn't have been going anyway, so it was no big deal for me personally.

Then, the bailout came.

It wasn't in the form of the federal government stepping in and handing a blank check to those who mismanaged things like the current financial industry bailout. In this case, it was three like minded individuals who decided that they wanted a contest to happen to shake off the winter doldrums, and didn't understand why it had to be so difficult.

So Steve Farrin, Brendan Burek and Mike Boisvert stepped up and pulled together a contest in a little more than two weeks. They booked the Maynard Rod and Gun Club for March 1, set up a web site, laid out a loose set of rules and ordered trophies.

And the BBQ Bailout was born. It would be a one day, BBQ/grilling hybrid event, with the categories of chicken, sausage, flank steak and ribs. Unlike the overpriced, disorganized FYBO, this contest was for fun, with an entry fee of only $50. That's why 13 teams cooked the Bailout, while you could count the number of people who signed up for the FYBO on one hand.

Since Sheila would be away, we had arrangements for a friend to watch Max until Sheila got home Sunday. She caught an earlier flight and was home Saturday night, which was even better.

Another wise move by the organizers, they pushed the turn in times back, with the first one at 2 PM. This allowed me to get a good night's sleep before the contest, as I didn't even get up until 6:30 AM. Left at 7:30, was on site at 9.

I decided to make this a real practice cook. I decided to cook small amounts of food, leaving little room for error. I only cooked two racks of spare ribs and one sausage fatty. I also decided to try something different with the chicken, cooking whole birds and turning in white meat instead of the usual competition thighs. My brother Cristiaan was going to cook the flank steak category.

Chicken was first. I decided that I didn't want to cook thighs, as I usually do for a contest. I personally prefer white meat chicken, and decided to do whole chickens in the Backwoods. I hadn't smoked whole chickens in a long time, so I was a little worried about getting them fully cooked. The thermometer said they were done, and I turned in chunks of breast meat with a little sauce. The meat was very moist and juicy, but this entry was not a hit with the judges. 13th place out of 13 teams, dead ass last! Consider that experiment over.

Next came sausage. I retired my old sausage fatty recipe at the end of last season and have been working on a new one. So far, so good, 4th place. This was the only turn in that we have a picture of. We all forgot cameras, this is courtesy of Kim's cell phone.

Flank steak came third, and my brother Cristiaan handled this category. He made small flank steak sandwiches with a cheese mixture and sauteed onions. I'd list all the ingredients but I have no clue what they are. Whatever they were, it was good enough for a call, 5th place.

Ribs were last. I decided to challenge myself and only cook two racks of spares. The timing worked out just right, and the tenderness was almost exactly where I like it to be. All but two of the ribs came from the same rack. New sauce. 3rd place.

Overall, we were 5th for the contest. I haven't crunched the numbers to determine how much the last place chicken hurt us overall, but it couldn't have helped.

This contest was a good time. Just positive vibes all around. Let's do it again next year. Or next month...

Sunday, March 01, 2009

A Good Start

Cooked the BBQ Bailout, a one day contest in Maynard, Massachusetts today and got the 2009 season off to a pretty good start. 3rd place ribs, 4th place sausage and 5th place flank steak, 5th overall. Might have been even better if we hadn't come in DEAD ASS LAST in chicken! That's a first for me, I had never come in dead last in a category before. Long story short, I tried something different and it failed miserably.

Overall, it was a great time. Thanks to Steve Farrin, Mike Boisvert and Brendan Burek for slapping this together on late notice and making this a fun event for all!

I'll put up a full wrapup of the contest in the next day or two.
Photo shamelessly stolen from BBQ Bailout web site. Visit that site for more photos.