Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Milwaukee, WI - Ouch!

Well, the judges didn't like us much in Beer Town! But I'm getting ahead of myself.

For some reason, although I usually prep all our meats on site, this time I decided to do it ahead of time at home. To clarify, I'm talking about trimming meat, not seasoning, bringing, etc. That has to wait until after the meat is inspected. But many folks, the smarter ones, it could be argued, do all thier trimming at home. I may join that camp after this one! For whatever reason, as I said, I decided to get it out of the way ahead of time this time, and it was a fortunate decision! The 22 lb. package of "bone in" pork butts I'd purchased turned out to be bone-less! And looked as though it'd been boned with a cherry bomb! To those who bought boneless pork with the intent of making sausage, or something similar, that wouldn't be an issue, but for barbecue, it presents a huge problem, because it's difficult, if not impossible, to get the meat to cook evenly when it's cut that way. So, another quick trip to the store for a real pair of bone-in butts.

Got everything else but chicken trimmed up, decided to do those on-site, finished packing up, and relaxed a bit for the busy day to follow.

We rolled in about 2 or 3PM Friday after a relatively uneventful ride up to Wisconsin. Temps were not bad here in IL when we left, but when we got to Milwaukee we were met with temps in the low 50's, winds steady around 20 MPH, cloudy skies spitting rain here and there....and it was cold! 

We were told we were to be next to our freinds Nick and Beth, of team Moose BBQ, where we requested to be, so we quickly set about moving the trailer into place and setting up. Once set up, Diane stayed with Ember in the trailer, and I went to grab us some dinner at the pot luck organized by some of the teams. It was also a surprise anniversary party for Andy and Kim of Smoke On Wheels BBQ, who were celebrating thier 12th last weekend. The event organizer, Marjorie, was thoughtful enough to purchase a cake for them as well! The cooks meeting followed, and it was at that point that I'd forgotted to pack our lettuce and parsley for our garnishes!

I didn't allow myself to panic, but knew we might be in big trouble. Fortunately, June, from Bearcat smokers was kind enough to give me a ride to a grocery store (my truck was boxed in at this point) and our greens fiasco was resolved. I trimmed up our chicken, and at that point we went on a little visiting trip, to just go say hello to our fellow competitors, have a few libations, and try and enjoy the cool Fall-like evening.

The only down side to the whole day was the wind. Many chose to put up thier canopies in spite of it, but we opted to keep ours down until the wind died down. Well, there was another down side. The number of teams this year was just over half of the number of teams last year. I felt really bad for the organizer Marjorie, who works so hard to put on this event. I really hope she has a better turnout next year!
With only 16 teams competing, that meant there wouldn't even be three full tables of judges.

Saturday morning, got up, checked on the pork, and began the usual Saturday routine. Boxes done, meats on schedule, everything looking good! Turn in went pretty smoothly, and I was happy with all our meats, with the possible exception of the ribs, which, although tasty, were just about 10-15 minutes shy of being done perfectly. I'd have left them in longer, but there just wasn't time, so we went with what we had.  With turn in's done at 1:30, we set about packing up as much as possible before the award ceremony at 3. A member of the Barbecue Brethren forum, Jamie, had stopped by earlier to say hello, and offered to help tear down, and we gratefully accepted his help. We managed to complete all but about an hours worth of packing up prior to awards, and went off to see how we did.

Well, coming into this contest, we've been having what we feel is a good year. We'd done 3 comps and recieved 5 top ten calls, with 4 of those being "money" or top 5 calls that came with a check. As I'd mentioned, I was pretty happy with all of our entries, and with such a small field, expected to do reasonably well.

Well, for chicken, we were DAL - Dead A-- Last, as the expression goes. We hadn't had that dubious honor since our second contest ever, coincidentally enough, in chicken! However, our freinds from Moose got thier first call ever at 7th, and our neighbors on the other side, Taming of the Q, for whom this was thier first ever comp, got first place! We were very happy and excited for them, and that took some of the sting of not hearing our name away.

Next was ribs, again, we weren't called at all, and later found we'd once again taken DAL.

Pork remained good for us, although not good enough for a check, we came in at 6th, and Moose cam in 2nd, their day was shaping up nicely! At least we've been top 10 pork every time out

Finally was brisket, and once again, no call.But, no DAL either, so I guess that's something! In the end, we were 15th of 16 overall. But we saw our freinds Walt and Theresa, Smokin' Scotsmen take Reserve Grand Champion, and our other freinds Moose get 3 calls, thier first ever, and it was great to see them walking on air!

As for us, our scores, compared to my feelings about our meats just didn't add up, so I'll credit it to a fluke and we'll move on. I certainly wouldn't change much that we're doing as I don't believe we need to. At the end of the day, we still had a great time, and now just need to dust ourselves off and hit it harder next time.

Two more comps to go before we call it a season.....