Sunday, December 19, 2010

Still Around

Hello there, I'm still alive!

I just haven't really had much to write about lately. I have not done a whole lot of BBQing over the last few weeks. I did go to Big Bubba's BBQ a couple of weeks ago and it was really bad. I usually have pretty good food there but not this time. I hope it was just a bad night, because Big Bubba's is the only half way decent BBQ anywhere near our current home in Norwich, CT.

My friends Brendan Burek and Steve Farrin opened a new place in Canton, MA, New England BBQ and Catering. I hope to make it there for a visit soon.

The place is a retail BBQ store, which is something we sorely lack in the Northeast. When I was at the American Royal last year in Kansas City, we went to Oklahoma Joe's, which has a BBQ store attached. It was so cool, all kinds of cookers, rubs, sauces and other BBQ tools and items. I immediately said to myself that we could use a store like that in New England. Well, here it is.

Hopefully I will get to visit them up there soon. They also are doing catering and cooking classes.

In the meantime, I will be cooking some stuff to give to family and friends for Christmas this week, I'll post some pictures or something.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Rose City BBQ Festival

A new BBQ/grilling event is coming to Connecticut! The Norwich Rotary Club is organizing the Rose City BBQ Festival, which will be held Saturday, May 7th at Dodd Stadium in Norwich. The event will feature a New England Barbecue Society sanctioned grilling contest, a people's choice chicken wings contest, food vendors and more.

The good folks at Dodd Stadium have agreed to let us use the entire facility for the day, and batting practce will be available for the children. Hopefully they will let some of the big kids like me take a few cuts too!

The grilling contest categories have not yet been finalized, but will likely be chicken, pork ribs, sausage and chef's choice. The entry fee will likely be $100, and we hope to offer at least $3,000 in prize money.

The people's choice chicken wing contest: teams will be given enough wings to cook to fill a foil half pan , which will be delivered to a central location for sampling and voting by the public. This will be a blind judging event with an even playing field.

The application for teams and judges should be out soon. We think this is going to be a great event!

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Well I broke down and tried the McRib at McDonald's yesterday. Can't say I was all that disappointed.

I remember having the McRib back in th early 1980s. I was maybe ten or eleven years old, and recall enjoying it. I'm not sure what the motivation was for McDonalds to bring it back now after all these years, but here it is.

The sandwich was pretty much as I remembered it. The meat is essentially a ground pork patty, doused with the BBQ sauce they serve with the McNuggets. The sandwich was topped with pickles and sliced onions. The meat was actually pretty juicy. No smoke flavor at all though, clearly cooked on a griddle.

Long story short, it ain't BBQ but it's ok.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Rough October

I'm glad it's November, because it has been a pretty rough October. Lost my father October 18th at the age of 82. One of his great joys in the last few years of his life were to come to the BBQ contests with us. He was at our first contest in Rhode Island in 2006, and even traveled with us down to the Jack that October. He really loved the Lake Placid and Harpoon contests though. It gets a little better each day but we all miss him a lot. Cancer Sucks!

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.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Norwalk, Reserve Grand Champs

I went into the Norwalk BBQ Competition with a lot on the line. While Q Haven had some recent success in grilling contests, the BBQ results had been less than stellar to say the least. The lone exception being 1st place ribs at Harpoon this year. Aside from that, I had not had a really successful BBQ contest since 2008 Harpoon. Sure we had calls, but were never really competing for the win.

That all changed in Norwalk.

I went into this contest with an "all in" mentality. There was over $20,000 in prize money and I wanted to bring home as much of it as possible. There were 15 different categories over the course of the three days, and we entered all but two, whole hog and people's choice chili. I needed to have some success, not just for the winnings, but because my morale was sinking with each mediocre finish.

One positive from the start, we had a good contest site. We had a vendor selling frozen lemonade next to us, and he basically gave me an extra 7 feet of his site. Gave us much more room to maneuver. The Chili Bomb lemonade guys Peter and Roger were great to hang out with and also kept us drowning in tasty mixed slushes all weekend.

Our site.

We started Friday with the people's choice chowder contest. It appeared at first that our team was doing well, but then I realized that we were located behind most of the other people's choice teams. We had much less foot traffic than the other teams on the main drag had. However, we did our best and finished 6th, receiving 17 votes from the public.

Friday had also brought an Iron chef category. Sheila and I had only done an Iron Chef once before, and it really didn't go very well. It went much better this time. They gave us skirt steak and asparagus as the ingredients. We made marinated grilled skirt steak with asparagus risotto. The dish was really very good, but the risotto needed another five minutes of cooking. Ended up 11th out of 17 teams, but this was a definite improvement from our first Iron Chef attempt in 2008, more in process than results.

Saturday was grilling, and the people's choice wings. The grilling went quite well overall, which is why I was fuming after the awards ceremony, where we got no calls. However, this was partly because they only called to third place. When we got the scores, it turned out we were 4th in sausage fatty, 5th in ribeye steak, 6th in dessert and 7th in seafood, and 5th overall. If they had just called the names of teams in the top five we would have heard our names twice and felt a little better about ourselves.

People's choice wings we finished 11th.

Anyway, I felt better when I saw the scores. Got the brisket and pork on Saturday night, got in better spirits and had a fun late night.

After midnight, I was walking around with a few friends visiting other sites, and my feet were just killing me. In the middle of the road between rows of teams, there was a folding chair. I sat down, and Steve Farrin sat in another chair that was there. Mike from Lakeside Smokers and Brendan from Transformer BBQ then pulled up chairs, then Mr Bobo and people from other nearby teams brought over chairs as well. Before we knew it, there were around a dozen people sitting around a fire that had been carried over, a bottle of Jack was going around the circle, and we had a great time.

Also early Sunday morning, reinforcements arrived. My brother Cristiaan and his fiance Kim arrived to provide much needed support Sunday. Cristiaan also was cooking the sauce category.

Quietly, my sister Kathleen has also become an integral part of our team. She helps out wherever needed, whether it is watching Max, doing dishes or anything else. She is also part of our garnish team, which gets better every contest.

Sheila really gets credit for our improved appearance scores. She has taken the garnish role and ran with it, and every contest our boxes get better.

Sunday morning, I was able to sleep an hour later than usual. I changed my timeline so I did not have to wake up until 6:45. My old timeline called for me to wake up at 5:45. It is amazing how much that extra hour of sleep helped me, I felt great.

The cook was very smooth and relaxed. Chicken was about as good as I am capable of cooking it, and came in 5th place out of 35 teams. The ribs were solid too, but I botched the appearance, which really hurt the scores. Ribs were 16th.

My pork has been improving. Since it bombed in New Hampshire and at Harpoon, I made some changes that appear to be helping. The pork box was probably the best one I have ever turned in, and it came in 4th.

Brisket, well, you just know. While you never really know how well it will score, you sure as heck know whether you have cooked the brisket well or not. This was a good brisket. I really nailed the timing of the brisket cook, and it showed. First place. Felt awesome.

That call got us close to winning the whole deal, just not close enough. Normally, when you have three top five calls in a contest with 35 teams you have a pretty good chance of winning. However, when a team like I Smell Smoke takes a 3rd, a 2nd and a 1st place in three of the four categories, it's hard to win. However, we were reserve grand champions, which was awesome. A real shot in the arm for me and for our team.

Since I was off work for the whole following week, I decided to stay over with Mike and Kris of Lakeside Smokers and celebrate the great finish and extend the weekend a little longer. After everyone cleared out Mike and I went to a local bar and had a few Jack and Cokes, a satisfying way to end a great weekend.

Thanks to the organizers who run this contest. They have been bashed on forums for certain aspects of the event, which I found cheap and unfair. Overall, they really try to run a great contest, and for the most part are very successful. What other contest in New England offers $23,000 in prize money? Free lobster dinner with clams, fries and corn? These guys didn't go to Dunkin Donuts, they cooked breakfast for the teams each morning themselves. Is the contest perfect? Of course not, there is no perfect contest. But these guys should take a bow, then start planning for next year.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Scenes From Norwalk

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Time Lapse Turn In Box

Message from Ted:

A lapse look at Q Haven building our turn in box for the seafood category at the NEBS grilling contest in Norwalk CT 9/10/2010. My Flip cam has this "magic movie" time lapse video feature and here is my first offering.

Oh and we cooked grilled salmon with maple mustard glaze and it came in 7th out of I believe 16 teams.

Click on a video below to watch it:

Q Haven Building A Seafood Turn in Box
Video Length 1:39
Click here to watch

Flip Video

To learn more about the Flip Video Camcorder, click here.

Some Pictures From Norwalk

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Q Haven Takes Reserve GC At Norwalk!

Q Haven took 1st place brisket, 4th place pork and 5th place chicken and earned reserve grand championship honors at the BBQ Pit at the Norwalk Oyster Festival. Was a great weekend for our team. Congrats again to I Smell Smoke for another strong victory.

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


It has been three days since I got back from the Hudson Valley Ribfest, and this is the first time I can bring myself to start writing about it. Here's the short version: Friday was great, Saturday was great too, Sunday could not have sucked any more.

Details to follow. This post is just to say that I have not completely abandoned the blog just yet.

Sunday, August 08, 2010


Wish I was up there cooking. But I decided to cook New Paltz in two weeks instead of Maine this weekend, sticking to my plan of only cooking one contest a month this year. I would have liked to do both but just wasn't in the cards this year.

New Paltz should be a fun weekend. They actually call it the Hudson Valley Ribfest and it's actually in Highland, NY, but we all call it New Paltz. It's a really big event, around 70 teams are expected. We have cooked here three times before, and it is easy to get to for me. There is a swimming pool on the fairgrounds that the teams can use as well.

Unfortunately, I have not really done that well at New Paltz over the years. in 2006 we got shut out for the whole weekend, 2007 got a couple of grilling calls but tanked BBQ, 2008 tanked grilling and got a good rib call, 2nd or third place, but that's all. Didn't go last year.

But the Maine contest is a pretty big deal this weekend. For several teams, this is a last chance to get automatically qualified for the Jack Daniel's World Invitational BBQ. Since this is the only Maine contest, whoever wins can start booking their hotel rooms and submitting their vacation time for work, they're going to the Jack.

Kind of sucks to be home working today while that is happening in Maine.

But the good thing is that we got to go spend some quality time with my parents yesterday, who are doing much better despite ongoing health issues.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Early Morning Smoke

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


I will be the first to admit it, I did not go into this year's Harpoon New England BBQ Championship with the best attitude.

When I applied for the contest, I made it clear that I was expanding my vending operation and was looking for a high volume vending spot. They assigned the spots in some kind of non-transparent lottery, and when I got my assignment it was on vending "death row." behind the main drag, out of sight and way out of the foot traffic. When I inquired why and asked if there was anything that could be done to change this, I was politely told that if I didn't like it, they could send me my entry fee back and I could stay home.

So I decided to basically not vend, only selling leftover competition meat for the most part. But it did not really put me in the best mindset going into the contest. I didn't even bring my modest collection of trophies.

Also, Sheila is swamped at work these days and made the executive decision not to come up at all for the weekend. While we clearly would not need vending help, Sheila handles garnish and is my wife and partner and #1 supporter. She knows my program inside and out, so her not being there hurts on a competition and a personal level. And being away from Max for three days is always rough too.

Sheila and Max

Complicating things, my company denied my time off requests for Thursday before the contest and the Monday afterwards. At least I got Sunday off (I work Sunday to Thursday these days).

Oh, did I forget that my mother had triple bypass surgery the day before I was scheduled to leave? (She is doing great and went home from the hospital Tuesday!)

So with all that as a backdrop I packed the camper Thursday night, and around 9:00 Friday morning I climbed into the Ford Imploder, I mean Explorer, alone, for the three hour drive to Windsor, Vermont.

The drive was uneventful, and there was no traffic at all, which was great. Well, uneventful until I crossed into Vermont.

Between exits one and two, I'm going down a hill and I see the cars in front of me all slam on the brakes. At the bottom of the hill, the road eases to the right and starts heading back uphill. At the bottom, I see that a camper that was being towed by a pickup truck had jackknifed. The pickup was on its wheels in the median, perpendicular to the road. The camper was on its side, and was on fire. I immediately recognized the camper, and the people outside as a fellow BBQ team.

The accident had just happened, and the first responders had not yet arrived. I got out and ran over, and thank god everyone was ok. The camper, well not so much. But seeing it really affected me. As someone who tows a camper that scene is one of my biggest fears. Needless to say I drove very carefully the rest of the way.

Arrived at Harpoon and did the setup by myself, which I am getting used to. Because of the location of our site off the beaten path, nobody really came up and visited, so I had plenty of time to take care of all my prep and get things ready for the KCBS contest Saturday.

The Site

The bummer was that I wasn't situated anywhere near any of my friends, especially Lakeside Smokers. They are our great friends and I always want to be next to them. We were kind of on an island in the back of the contest site.

Friday night seemed kind of mellow by Harpoon standards. My brother Cristiaan and sister Kathleen arrived to round out our team for the weekend. We all needed the time away, especially Kathleen who has been doing a great job handling things at home with Mom in the hospital. If anyone needed a little Harpoon fun, it was her.

Got a few hours of sleep, and was up at 5:30 to start cranking things up. The team next to me had about a hundred people there, and there was a tent city literally a couple steps from my cooking operation. I'm sure I woke them all up, but sorry folks, it's a contest, not a campout. If you want to have a campout, go sleep in the woods.

Anyway, the cook went pretty well throughout the morning. The chicken came out well, finished 12th, although I thought it would do better. The brisket was great too, it finished 12th but overall I was happy with the meat and the presentation. Pork, well I am kind of struggling with pork these days. It used to be that my pork would finish around 10th consistently. Not lately, 25th place.

Then there were the ribs.

The rib cook was coming along great. Nice flavor, big and meaty ribs, and the recipe I have been working on is really coming along. However, when I returned them to the smoker for the final stage of cooking, the temperature spiked. I had added some charcoal a little while before and the result was that the ribs were all really dark. Really dark. I had trouble finding six ribs that I was comfortable putting in the box. So until awards, I was telling people that I ruined my ribs.

That's why I pretty much lost it when Q Haven was called for 1st place ribs. I spiked my beer like a football (giving a nice leg shower to the sister in law of Mike from Lakeside Smokers in the process). Sorry!

But first place ribs in this crowd is a big deal to me, especially this year when I haven't been cooking a lot of contests, and not scoring very well when I did.

I have not cooked as many contests as I would have liked over the last year, and this call has really energized me.

While I am not really happy with the other categories and a 12th place overall finish, I feel like I'm close to putting it all together and having a great day sometime down the road.

An interesting thing also happened on Saturday. I was running my rib turn in box and heard my name on the way. It was my former girlfriend who I had not seen or heard from since 1995. While those situations can be very uncomfortable, it really wasn't. It was nice to see her and to hear that she and her family are well, and I'm glad she is happy. The whole experience was surreal, made me think of the Harry Chapin song "Taxi."

Also Saturday, we were visited by new friends Larry and Evelyn Pointbriant, who live in my new home town of Norwich, CT. Larry is very close to being ready to compete on his own, and I hope seeing the excitement of Harpoon will give him that extra nudge.

Saturday night we got pretty tore up. The local product was free flowing and ice cold, and the damn dip was stellar. There is nothing better than damn dip after an evening of drinking.

Sunday was the grilling contest. Chicken wings, sausage, shrimp and chef's choice were the categories. Chicken wings, I did smoked BBQ wings that have scored well for me in grilling contests in the past. Not so much here, 22nd place. That's exactly where my shrimp came in too, 22nd. The concept I had for the shrimp was a good idea, but I don't cook a lot of shrimp, and in this case I overcooked it. That's the bad news.

The good news is that we got a call for 5th place sausage and 6th place chef's choice. I did short ribs, and based on my calculations I was the 1st place among teams that did not do desserts.

I wish chef's choice did not include desserts. My opinion is that if you are going to allow desserts, you might as well make the entire category desserts. It's really strange from a judging perspective to have a cake, a creme brulee, an ice cream sandwich, then a filet mignon or a beef short rib. When I organized the Cape Cod contest this year, I made the chef's choice category "no desserts." It just works better in my opinion.

Or I am going to have to start learning to make some desserts.

So overall, we were 9th for the grilling contest. Although that's not awful, the Harpoon grilling contest is really a "winner take all" kind of contest for me. There is no money in any of the categories, only ribbons, with money payouts only for grand champion and reserve grand champion. But if you win, you get a coveted Harpoon tap trophy, $500, plus a free entry fee for next year, which was $325 this year. That combined makes the grilling contest worth taking a shot at, but you've really got to nail it.

The big winners of the weekend were Feeding Friendz. I am very happy for Wendy, Tim and the rest of their crew, they have been getting better and better and they really nailed it this weekend. Congrats! You're going to the Jack!

I used to linger after contests, sometime being the last team to leave. But lately I get sad when a contest is over, so I think it's better to just hit the road.

I get especially sad leaving Harpoon. Harpoon has something special that I have yet to really experience at any other contest, and it is not the free beer. To me it's a magical place for reasons I can't 100 percent explain. So if I'm lucky enough to get selected to go back to Harpoon in 2011, I will be there. And I will not complain about where my site is either.

So anyway, I got the heck out of there and made it home before Max went to bed. I told him that I won first place ribs and he told me that he wanted to watch Calliou.

Harpoon 2010 Pics

Click the pic below for the photo album from a great weekend at Harpoon!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Back From Harpoon

Had a nice weekend cooking the Harpoon New England BBQ Championships this past weekend for the fourth year. The temperatures were hot, the beer was cold, and Q Haven took 1st place ribs!

Overall it was a great event. Full post coming soon!

Saturday, July 03, 2010


Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

More On New Hampshire

Cooked the New Hampshire Rock-n-Ribfest a couple of weekends ago. I haven't written about it yet because I've been trying to block it out.

This was our first KCBS contest in 11 months, having not cooked a contest since Harpoon. There was clearly some rust involved in our pedestrian finish, but there were some crucial mistakes that didn't help either.

I'll start with grilling. We went into the grilling contest with a plan, especially for the presentations. We had taken reserve grand champions of the last two grilling contests we cooked, and part of it was based ons the presentation s we had developed for our grilling categories. However, those presentations were based on a 9 by 9 inch turn in box.

The organizers of New Hampshire, however, provided the teams with 7 by 7 inch turn in boxes. This threw us off completely, and while I know it is a meat contest, it didn't help us at all. We got two calls in the top ten, but nothing in the top 5 or in the money.

Then came the BBQ contest Sunday. The chicken came out great. I'm really pleased with my chicken overall, it's a recipe I developed myself over time and I really like the way it is working out. 4th place.

The ribs were really bland. This is unusual for me because usually my ribs are very spicy. I didn't realize just how bland they were until I had one on Monday after returning home. The tenderness was there but they were just average. 12th place I think.

The pork, long story short it was done way too early, and by the time I went to pull it the meat was really dry. An easily correctable problem. I sauced it hard and tried to mask it, but the pork ended up in 20th place.

Then came brisket. In a nutshell, I ruined the brisket. It had great flavor and the tenderness was right on, but for some reason I was dead set on saucing it. I did, and I oversauced it, and killed it. As soon as I heard that we didn't get a brisket call I knew that I had made a major mistake. Lesson learned.

In the end, it was a decent weekend. We had a good time with friends, but I have never cooked contests with the goal of coming home with a 4th place ribbon and a check for $20 as the weekend's winnings. Unfortunately will have to wait until Harpoon to improve things. But other teams take note: I'm pissed, and I'm practicing.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Max's First Rib

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Saturday, June 12, 2010


Pizza ready for the grill for the grilling contest.

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Cape Cod BBQ Contest

After months of planning, the BBQ contest I organized on Cape Cod has come and gone. Overall, the event was a success in my eyes, but there is plenty of room for improvement on my end as the organizer. However, I'm really happy overall, and the contest was wwell received by most of the cooking teams.

The decision to try and organize this contest really came last summer. The previous organizer had decided not to have the event, but had booked the venue, and refused to release the date so someone else could continue the long running contest. Previously known as the Peter's Pond Rib and Brisket Festival, this was one of the original BBQ events in New England. The demise of this contest was a real bummer for many cooking teams.

So, I thought this might be a good chance for me to try my hand as an organizer. The key for me was really just to have it be a BBQ contest. I had no interest in trying to land bands, face painters, craft vendors etc. I knew that would be an impossible thing to organize from 200 miles away. So I just focused on the contest.

The contest attracted 33 teams, mostly from New England, but teams from Maryland, Florida, New Jersey and Long Island also made the trip. The unique thing about this contest was that there were RV spots available for teams. I thought as a cooker myself to have access to their own water, electric, sewer and cable TV hookups would be nice, and the teams that took those spots thought it was great.

My biggest mistake was not having enough portable toilets, and mismanaging them. They had already been placed when I arrived Friday, and they were not where I wanted them to be. Instead of being together in between the contest area and the judging area, one was right on top of the contest area and the other a far walk to the other side of the judging tent. Because of this, one got major use and the other just sat there for the most part. There are real bathrooms, but a looong walk away. Next year, this situation will be rectified.

Also, I will be working with the manager at Peter's Pond on expanding the event so they can bring in more public. There is so much room to grow this event. But to me, the key will be the cook-off. Hopefully by raising the scope of the event, we can bring in some sponsors to drive up the prize pool.

Overall, this was a great experience. I tremendous amount of work and no financial gain, but I think the team who attended really appreciated the return of this contest, had a great time and will certainly return in 2011!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Yankee Stadium Visit

Yes, they served BBQ...

Bbq at Yankee Stadium.

I didn't try it during my first ever visit to the new Yankee Stadium, but we shared a table in the food court with someone who had it. They shared a fried pickle with us and it was actually pretty good. They seemed to like the pulled chicken and pork sandwiches.

Overall the new Yankee Stadium has a crazy assortment of food choices. Here are just some of the other concessions, each with their own space: Nathan's hot dogs, Johnny Rocket's burgers, Famiglia's Pizza, sushi, Chinese food, Philly cheesesteaks, NYY Steak, italian sausage, ice cream, and others. And that's just the booth concessions, then there are the actual sit down restaurants. There is of course the Stadium Club, a Hard Rock Cafe, NYY Steak, and Mohegan Sun Sports Cafe. Our seats were in the Mohegan Sun Sports Cafe seating area.

As a baseball fan who wants to see the game, I did not particularly care for these seats. They are supposed to be the Yankee answer to the Monster Seats at Fenway Park, offering fans a chance to literally sit on the center field fence and watch the game. Just like the Monster seats, there is table service at the seats. here's the view.

Unfortunately, these seats miss the mark for me because they are completely indoors, behind darkened glass. It is very difficult to see the baseball, and the only sounds you hear are sports bar chatter and the piped in sounds of the Yes Network broadcasters. Thank god it is YES and not the radio disaster of John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman.

Ironically they pipe the radio broadcast into the bathrooms. That makes sense to me.

You are better off going to a sports bar and saving the $90 before having your actual seats in the Mohegan Sun Sports Bar. Just my opinion.

The good news is that you can come in to the Mohegan Sun Sports Bar to eat without having tickets for it. I would go and check out the view, and the lollipop chicken wings ($14) were very good.

I can hardly say the same about my "steak" sandwich at the NYY Steak concession stand. At $15 this was the most expensive sandwich I saw in the stadium, so I figured this would be really good. Couldn't have been more wrong. Was basicly deli roast beef. sliced too thick rendering the meat tough, submerged in beef broth, then served on a bare kaiser roll. Dry, flavorless. And all they had on the condiment table was mustard and ketchup, so I had to put ketchup on it to make the sandwich edible. Sandwich and soda, $21. What a disappointment. Here it is.

My sister had a Philly cheesesteak. At $10.50 this was a bargain. Large sandwich on a sub roll with plenty of steak umm on there, and you can choose your cheeses and whether or not to have grilled onions. This is a far cry from Johnny Rockets, where they will not give you a $10 hamburger without American cheese on it (was told "we don't cook to order here.")

On the positive side, all the concession lines moved super fast. You can see the field from pretty much anywhere in the concession concourse. If you don't like your seats, you can pretty much watch from anywhere if you are willing to stand. The huge screen in center field is probably the coolest thing ever, this massive TV screen with the picture quality of the best HDTV you can buy.

I personally preferred the original stadium. It was all about the baseball there. It ias been reduced to a huge debris field next door to the new money making machine.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Charity Event

Sheila and I cooked pulled pork sandwiches for around 200 people at a Norwich Rotary ribbon cutting for a new playground Saturday. The event was in the Greeneville section of Norwich, an area we knew little about. While it was a Rotary event, the vast majority of those at the event were neighborhood people.

I had cooked a lot of pork, as I wanted to make sure we didn't run out of food. Service started slow, but once people realized that the food was free the crowds started coming. I was so pleased with the way the people responded to the food. People were coming back for seconds, even thirds. One ten year old boy came up to me and said "I could eat this forever!"

Got one complaint, a girl probably eight years old or so. She said "this is making me sick to my stomach. I don't like this at all." There's one in every crowd....

But overall we had a great time. When we got home afterwards Sheila and I both really felt great about it. We had never really done a big charity event like that before and it was really satisfying for both of us. I'm sure we will be doing this again.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Lobster Rolls!

Some lobster rolls I whipped up in honor of my sister Kathleen's visit today. She's hardcore when it comes to lobsters, even bagging the carcasses to bring home and pick through later.

Oh, and the lobster rolls came out pretty good.
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Friday, May 14, 2010

Busy Busy

Hey there, been too long between posts, sorry about that. So much going on BBQ related lately too. For the last two weeks, Q Haven pulled pork has been on the menu at Buddy's Dugout in Norwich CT where I live. It has been an interesting learning experience to get a taste of the retail food business. I have been doing my best not to get lost in the sea of food cost percentages and been trying to put my best product forward. So far it has been pretty well received by people and has been selling, which is great.

Also, I have been busy as the organizer of the 1st annual Cape Cod BBQ Championship, which takes place in three weeks. It is being held at the Peter's Pond RV Resort in Sandwich, Massachusetts. I have put a great deal of time and effort into trying to make this event a success, and so far things are going great. I have 27 paid teams and am expecting to surpass 30 before it is all said and done. This has been another good learning experience for me, and I hope to use this experience to organize other events in the future.

My number one priority will be to find someplace in Rhode Island to hold a contest in 2011. Rhode Island has not had a state championship since 2006, and it's a shame to have no qualifying contest from a New England state.

In the meantime, anyone interested in visiting the Cape Cod contest is welcome to come on down Saturday June 5 or Sunday June 6. The admission is $5 for an all day pass at the RV resort, with complete access to the contest site and to the entire resort for the day. The Bastey Boys will be vending BBQ to the public.

This Sunday, I'm cooking the tailgate party for the TLG Travel bus trip to the Nascar race in Dover, Delaware. The menu consists of pulled pork, burgers, hot dogs, cole slaw, and pasta salad. There are 45 people coming, should be a great time!

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

New York Adventure

During our annual trip to upstate New York last weekend for Sheila's job, we decided to hit a couple of BBQ restaurants. One was Route-7 Grill in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, the other was Dinosaur BBQ in Syracuse. Since we were going to be eating out for three straight days, it seemed only fitting to work in some BBQ too.

So we left Friday and took the back way through Litchfield County and into Great Barrington, a neat little Berkshires town where antiquing seems to be the biggest economic driver. We had hit Route-7 Grill a couple of years ago, and I was looking forward to another visit.

No dice.

It might have helped if I had checked their web site. Closed for lunch on Fridays. I considered pulling a Clark Griswold at Wally World and storming the place, forcing the kitchen staff to cook us a great meal before being taken out by a swat team. Decided not to do that.

Sheila was expectedly steamed, as we had passed probably a dozen places that would have been great for lunch along the way. It didn't help that it was 2:00 pm either.

So I said "we're eating at the next place we see, regardless of what it is." That totally worked out.

We rolled up on a place called "Bizalion's Fine Foods" about a mile up the road. We walked in and it was clear that we were going to have a special lunch.

This place is a little French cafe and food shop owned by Francois and Helen Bizalion. They bring a lot of the great things about France to their shop, and we had a great lunch served by Francois. I had a prosciutto, brie and butter panini that was just outstanding. Sheila had a quiche Lorraine that she loved. Francois created a special cheese and baguette plate for Max too, choosing a cheese that I don't remember the name but he said was the favorite of his four year old daughter.

We loved our stop here. We will be back next time we pass through the region.

Saturday, we decided to hit Dinosaur BBQ in Syracuse, which was on the way to our destination of Canandaigua. I could do a whole post on this place, as this was the fourth year I had a day to explore this town while Sheila was busy with work. Strange place.

Anyway, the plan was to hit Dinosaur early Saturday night before it got too busy. Again, a little research might have been helpful. The St. Patrick's Day parade had been held that afternoon in Syracuse, and by the time we got there it was packed with hammered people with green painted faces, dumb hats and green head to toe. At least an hour and a half wait. See ya later....

So after Sheila's work function Sunday, we hit the road and I decided to give Dinosaur one more try. Took a different tact this time, called ahead when we were 30 minutes out. We got there and were seated immediately.

A wait had already started when we got there, so it was good that we called ahead. We ordered fried green tomatoes as an appetizer, which were probably my favorite thing of the meal. probably because I had never tried them before, and they were awesome.

For dinner, I got something called Tres Hombres, which is a three meat plate of spare ribs, beef brisket and pulled pork. The pork was the best part of the plate for me, very moist and flavorful. I only got a little bit, because Max was grabbing fistfuls of pork and jamming it into his mouth.

The ribs were very good. Sheila got a half rack dinner so we had plenty of them, and they were pretty moist and tender.

The brisket was just ok, one piece was really tough but a couple of others were tender.

Sides were good, Sheila enjoyed the mac and cheese, I had chili and fries, both were fine.

Overall, I liked Dinosaur. The place is clearly doing great business, it's nice to see that it can be done to make a killing in BBQ.

After we left Syracuse, we stopped at a travel plaza and I got a venti Starbucks coffee and two of those canned double shots, and I drove the entire way home without stopping (around 250 miles). It felt good to do a monster driving shift, it had been a long time since I had done big miles like that. Was good to see that I could still do it....

Saturday, March 13, 2010


We started the season off right last weekend at the Snowshoe Grilling Challenge, taking reserve grand champion honors for the event. It was a lot of work to get there though...

For weeks before the contest, I was torn about what to cook. The categories were ribeye steak, chicken wings, sausage fatty and chef's choice. I debated a lot of different things, but in the end I followed my gut and it paid off.

I decided that we were going to travel absolutely bare bones to this contest. I always bring way too much crap to contests, which is a pain for several reasons. One, things get confusing and hard to find when you have so much unnecessary stuff. Also, loading and unloading is made more difficult when there is too much stuff. So I brought my smoker, portable gas grill (allowed at the Snowshoe), two tables, one bin, one cooler and the three bin wash station. That's all.

The contest itself is just a great time. While the prize money is not huge, most of the big New England teams are there, so the competition is very stiff to say the least. So to do well at this contest is significant for us, and hopefully sets the tone for a great 2010 season. There were 21 teams at the contest. The weather was perfect, and organizers Gary and Michelle Taft did a nice job putting things together.

For the ribeye steak, I changed my mind numerous times before we settled on the final recipe. At one point I considered just slapping A1 on the steak and turning it in. In the end, I decided to grill the steaks with salt and pepper, then finish it with a gorganzola horseradish cream sauce. The sauce was ok but tasted too much like bleu cheese dressing. The steak took 11th place.

Next was wings. This was a no brainer for me, just used my KCBS flavor profile, smoked the wings and finished with BBQ sauce. No garnish made this category easier. Took 5th place.

Next was the sausage fatty category. I had been working on something that I was calling a "pizza" fatty. Unfortunately, I really wanted to put pepperoni into it, but when I found out it could contain no pre-cooked meats I abandoned this plan. Without the pepperoni it just tasted like a meatball. Went back to my core fatty recipe, breakfast sausage, cheese, peppers. Finished with a maple chipolte glaze. Came out really good, better than expected. 2nd place.

Chef's choice. What the heck do you cook here Ted? My first thought was that since the turn in was at 1:30, I would do ribs. If I did baby backs, I could probably get them done with plenty of time to spare. However, it would have required us getting there extremely early by my standards. So after much deliberation, I took Sheila's advice and decided to go with ABT's. They came out pretty good. We had a whole elaborate plan for the turn in box, but it never came together. However, Sheila made the box look pretty good, and the judges gave it 6th place.

So three calls in the top six and one 11th place was good enough for reserve grand champions. Couldn't top I Smell Smoke though, Charlie and Carlotta put up a monster score and won the contest. They must have cooked some awesome food.

So in the end, it was good to see a lot of friends and make a few new ones at the Snowshoe. Can't wait to get out there and cook again!