Monday, October 17, 2011

Season is over, we missed Lambs Farm

Well we sort of went out with a whimper this year!

Everything was packed Friday morning. We had the truck and camper loaded up, lined up the neighbors to watch the "stay-home dog", all we needed to do was run to Jewel-Osco for a bag of ice and some beer. But on the way to the store...disaster!

About 6 or 7 blocks from the house, I rounded a corner, and stalled. Lost power, lost steering, everything. Got out and checked the alternator, belts, everything looked ok. Tried turning it over again, engine cranked, but closes it got to starting was catching and dying. Had to drop the trailer, call a tow truck for the truck, and get the next-door neighbor to come pick up the trailer and reeturn it to the driveway. (Thanks Joe!)

All in all, it's been a very tough season. Power loss (meaning also heat loss) at Westmont, not to mention the "radpidly swirling storm system" that delayed turn-in almost 3 hours, and left behind a field of mud, roof collapse at Willowbrook the very next week, and our first ever missed turn in at Kingsford! Needless to say, we were very dissappointed all weekend. Even though the weather was pretty awful Friday night, windy and cold, we'd rather have been at the comp and cold than home and warm, as odd as that might sound.

So for 2011, our season is done, except for a judges training class in November that we'll be helping out at. We hope to upgrade trailers between now and then, assuming we can sell our timeshare. If not, guess we'll have to live with this one a while longer. Either way, we'll see what happens come spring.
Other than that...time to tweak recipes and methods, try new things, and try to get through another Chicago winter!

Our next scheduled event will be in February, the annual Des Plaines "Winter Burnoff" at Rand/River Bowl. It's usually a great time, and benefits NOAH. (National Organization For Albinism and Hypopigmentation).

We're also scheduled to cater a wedding near Traverse City MI in July, for the son of my high school freinds and his wife-to-be. We are looking forward to working with them and making it the event they're hoping for.

Till next time

keep queuing!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A strange season winds down...and some fun stuff!

Well this has been an odd summer...
Our first contest, we lose power in the trailer, the next, the roof falls in....literally! The third, we miss our first turn in ever, and go off the rails so to speak. And in the end, with one more to go, we're back to 4 comps a season instead of 6, and feeling a lot like we're back in the tent!

But all is not lost. I've secured a new power center for the camper, and will be putting it in before our final comp in Libertyville. Also resecured the wardrobe/pantry in the camper with a new slide bracket, and with any luck might even get the roof cable fixed prior to the 10/14 comp!

We've been sort of non BBQ-centric of late, and celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary last weekend by heading to Millennium Park in the city for the 4th annual Bon Appetit Chicago Gourmet event. We got the early bird discount on the tics back in the spring.  It was a great event this year, and all of the problems that plagued last years were taken care of. I was glad we went Saturday instead of Sunday, as the weather was far more comfortable and dry Saturday. As in past years, we got to chat with a lot of great chefs, see some great demos, (check this, as Stephanie Izards' butcher demos how they prep pig heads for The Girl and The Goats' pigs face dish...    (WARNING!!! not for the squeamish) ate a lot of amazing food, and drank our fill of some fine potables!

Here are some other views of the event. I think our favorites were Chef Trevor Hoyte, of IPO Chicago's pork belly with crispy chicharone dish, and Chef Beverly Kim Clarks'  seafood panna cotta topped with mango gelee, mango relish and tiny chilled mussels. I had three they were so good! And she was awesome! Spent a lot of time with us explaining the dish. Diane went and grabbed her a plate of IPO's pork belly and she was most appreciative. We'll be rooting for her in Top Chef season 9! (starting Wednesday!) Best thing about both of these was you didn't have to wait in the tasting pavillion lines, though those were far faster and smoother than last years event, and the plates included in the swag bags, which featured a slot to hold your glass, were nothing short of genius!

Unfortunately, I didn't get as many good food shots as in years past, but I'm including a few of the event just to help give a feel for the environment.

In the first presentation of the day, Steve Dolinski of Chicago 7 news introduced Chef Rick Bayless, Beard award winner of Topolabampo and Frontera Grill in Chicago, who responded by snapping a photo of Dolinski, since everyone else was snapping photos of Bayless

Next came the dynamic duo of Jimmy Bannos Jr., of The Purple Pig Restauant, and Stephanie Izard, Top Chef Season 4 winner, and owner of The Girl and the Goat Restaurant, Chicago, doing "Beast Feast" Bannos made essentially a pork neckbone confit, while Izard made a take on head cheese with a whole pigs face (see video link above) herbs, and seasonings, and served with a fried egg on top as a VERY high end breakfast type plate! (you can view it here...

I've included a few additional views below to just share the whole feel of the event. I would heartily recommend that anyone who loves great food and drink put this on their calendar for future years!
sign up at their web site to get on their email list here . It's likely your best opportunity to sample some of Chicago's best chefs' and restaurants' fare, without totally breaking the bank.

Yes, at 150.00 per ticket, it's pricey, but they offered an early bird discount that discounted that to barely over half price, AND unlike the Taste of Chicago event in the summer, you get high end food, unlimited quantity, and all the beer, wine and liquor you desire for 1 ultimately reasonable price. Along with great demos, hands-on seminars, and if you go "whole hog" and pay the extra for the Grand Cru feature, even more benefits!

Jimmy Banos Jr and Stephanie Izard with WXRT's Lin Brehmer at the "Beast Feast"

The Main stage

Chef Beverly of Aria coordinates their seafood pannacotta presentation

And finally, the sun sets on a great day!

So as the 2011 season winds down, we're prepping for our last event of the year, at Lamb's Farm in Libertyville, on 10/14. Hope to see many freinds there, as of today, looks like 55 teams are signed! Looks to be maybe the largest one yet!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

We are team #2 in the Chile Pepper Magazine "Quest for the Perfect Ribs"!

How cool is this!?! REALLY!
So when the mail came today, we got something we've been waiting on for for almost 3 months! Why, you might ask? Well, because 2 Skinny Cooks is Chile Pepper Magazines 2nd entry in their "Quest For The Perfect Ribs"! Chile Pepper, for those unfamiliar, is a bi-monthly national publication dealing primarily all things hot and spicy.

This all came about in an odd sort of way. Back in late May, we were thumbing the June/July issue, and noticed a recipe that said it applied, ingredients, and cooking time, to back ribs, spare ribs, and country ribs. I balked a bit at that statement, and emailed the editor, explaining that since they were very dissimilar cuts, they all cooked in different times, and not long after, he contacted me and asked if we wanted to be team #2 in their challenge! At first, I balked, thinking "We're Not Worthy!" There are a long list of teams out there who've certainly won more than we have, especially when it comes to ribs (we did reletively well our second season, but have struggled lately). But when I ran it by the wife, she said "are you kidding?" national exposure? Of COURSE we want to do it!

So what happened next was possibly the most hectic 2 1/2 weeks I've had in a long time!

This all transpired right before the Memorial Day weekend comp in Westmont, IL. (One that I shall forever remember as Woodstock III)

The next weekend, we had Willowbrook, IL, and a 25th anniversary party to cater, and a few weeks down the road was Iron Mountain. The transformer in our pop up failed in Westmont, leaving us scrambling for power distribution, then at Willowbrook, we snapped a support cable for the roof, leaving us with one corner that wouldn't raise (we jerry-rigged it with a length of PVC for Willowbrook and Iron Mountain) Thanks to our good buddies Nick and Beth of Moose's BBQ for the assist!  And also, had to do my normal, "real job". In between, we had to cook at least 2 slabs of at least 2 types of pork ribs, and send them, the recipes, and recipes for at least 3 sides by 6/08! No pressure! Oh, and they wanted me to hire a professional photographer, to ensure the pics were publication ready. Oh yeah, forgot, they needed pics for the magazine Well, I was able to impress them enough with my shots that they didn't require a pro, but it was still a lot to get done!

When all was said and done, we finished everything, did two phone interviews with the editor/publisher, and sent off two slabs each baby backs and spares which they said they loved! In fact, one of the quotes they featured was " Only four years on the circuit? I don't believe that for a second!"

Seeing the actual magazine was sort of the final "pinch me I'm dreaming" moment! We have been keeping this mostly to ourselves for going on three months, because we didn't want to look like dopes if for some reason it didn't happen!

So, pick up a copy at your local newsstand! We're on pages 56-61!
Here are some of the pics...

Update: 9/02 - The online version is posted on Chile Pepper's site. In that version our piece starts on page 59

Friday, July 22, 2011

Midway through the season, and we get a spanking

Seems like Murphy's law caught up to us in Kingsford, MI.

We drove safely to Escanaba on Tuesday the 12, and got some quality visiting time with my high school freinds, Mary and Gary Rogers. Mid-day Thursday, we hauled the pop-up to Kingsford, and set up camp. I still hadn't had a chance to repair either the power issues, nor the cable that popped at our last outing in Willowbrook, IL, but we were able to get things set up with what has become our usual setup for this year. We were in the same spot as last year, close to the judges temt, adjacent to the security guys Winnebago, and away a bit from the rest of the teams.

Friday morning came, and we finished setting up our site, had meats inspected, and began doing all our trimming and prep. In short, everything was going well, and as expected. No real problems or surprises.

Went to the cooks meeting at 3, about 4 we put on some chow, and I got the butts into the cooker about 7 or 8, after which we began the shot fairy rounds. That lasted until about 2-2:30 AM, and after checking the temp and stoking the cooker, it was off to bed for 3 or 4 good hours of sleep.

Saturday dawned, and we could tell it was going to be a scorcher fairly early.  I checked the butts, not yet at the temp I'd have liked, but not too bad. Everything still seemed ok. Took Ember for a walk, went and got a few pasties (pronounced pass-tee for those of you who haven't enjoyed one) provided by The Pasty Oven , and a cup of coffee.

Before I get to turn-ins and awards, I need to give a shout out to Tony and Anita, organizers of Poor-Que earlier this summer in Wisconsin, and co-facilitators of this event. Great folks who I'd be happy to see anywhere we go! They did a great job attending to everyone's needs, and making sure things went smoothly as possible. Also, a shout out to whomever booked Friday and Saturdays entertainment. Great bands!

OK, back to reality!

The reps came by around 11 AM in a golf cart with the official clock. (an atomic clock). I'd set our own to be a minute faster than the events, to avoid being late, and it was still running a minute fast when we checked against the official clock. Cool

Our freinds Mary and Gary from Escanaba, along with thier son, his fiancee, Gary's brother and sister and thier spouses all arrived just before chicken turn in. By that time the temp was way into the 80's, and the only shelter we had for our visitors was either in the pop up or under the EZ-up we were using to do our boxes.  I spoke with the security folks, and they graciously offered the shade and cooling of thier Winnebago! Thanks guys!!!

We were trying something with chicken that we'd only done once before. I won't go into the prep, as I'd prefer to keep it a secret for now, but we sent Diane to the judges tent with the box, thinking we had a minute or two to spare....
WRONG! - and for the first time in 4 years, we missed a turn in, guaranteeing us a DAL position in chicken.

Diane was devastated, and shaking the resulting funk proved all but impossible.

I thought our ribs looked and tasted great, and figured we might even get a call on them, but to my dismay, I found later that we scored dead last! I honestly didn't get it. They looked great. Texture was good as well, biting into the rib, meat came away easily in the shape of the bite, bone dried almost instantly, and the ribs were niether tough and chewy, nor mushy and fall-off-the-bone. All I can think of was they may have lacked some seasoning. And we didn't use a typical, cloying, rib-candy type sauce. Hmmmm, might have to rethink that next time!

Pork was a tad undercooked, got stuck in the "stall" longer than I'd anticipated. So pulling the entire butt was not quite possible. We were able to get a really nice sliced "money muscle" and some good meat from right by the bone however, and the box looked like it had promise. I didn't think it was going to be the 1st place we had last year, as the lettuce was struggling in the heat, but in the end, we came away with 17th.

Finally, our brisket came closest to a call at 11th.  Wow, disappointing day, to say the least!

But all wasn't lost.

First, after the ancillary and before the main awards, this event has a special award for 1 team, usually local, for best demonstrating the spirit of BBQ competition, and the fellowship and fun that go with it.
This years winner? 2 Skinny Cooks!!! Thanks to all the organizers and staff, who apparently voted on us unanimously. We are humbled, honored, and very appreciative! Second, we were also honored that our freinds son and his fiancee requested that we cook for thier wedding next August, to be held at a beautiful resort just outside Traverse City, MI, on the banks of the beautiful lake Leelenau!

All things considered, there is no doubt in my mind, we'll be back! This may be one of my favorite events all year, win or lose. Beautiful country, an event staff that all rock, and a great venue in Michigans' beautiful UP.

Big congrats to our neighbors, Foul Butt BBQ, who took Grand Champion! Bavarian Smoke for Reserve Grand, and to all those who took a walk!

We are now in a mid-season lull. Time hopefully to patch up the old trailer, if this god-awful heat wave ever breaks,  to make it easier to sell and make room for a new one, as well as to provide better heat, and easier setup for the 2-3 remaining events this summer.

And also time to enjoy something really cool coming up....more on that later!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

2 Comps in 2 weeks, plus a little catering!

Well the week after Westmont flew by, and before we knew it, it was time for Willowbrook, IL. Another Saturday/Sunday event.. Hadn't really had a chance to look over the trailer since the weekend before, so we knew we'd be going in with no proper power, but figured it'd be ok.  What made it a bit more interesting was the fact that we had some freinds who asked us to provide some eats for thier anniversary party, which was also Saturday. 75-80 people, Pulled pork, brisket, beans, cole slaw, cucumber salad, tomato/mozzerella salad, and triple chocolate cherry brownies for dessert!

Plan was we'd drop the food off at about 2 PM, come home, hitch up the trailer and go. But nature loves to screw up a good plan! Shortly after I left to drop off the food, the sky opened up and the lightning that accompanied the rain was impressive, to say the least! I was on the phone with Diane most of the drive to the drop walking through closing the trailer as much as possible to avoid any flooding. She did a great job, and I came home to find the pop up raised, but she had dropped the pull outs and pulled in the canvas so we weren't in bad shape. But getting things ready took longer than we'd planned, and we ended up rolling in to the comp site about 6:30 in the evening.

Di went to the cooks meeting with our freind from Mooses BBQ Beth, while Beth's husband Nick and a group of other helpful folks helped me get our trailer into position and unhitched. A bit of help was needed as the ground was quite spongy from all the recent rain. So next was time to set about opening the trailer, and setting up our site...time for fate to strike again!

As I was cranking up the tent, I heard, and felt, a loud pop. Wasn't sure what it was at first, until I noticed that the back drivers side corner of the tent was not going up. Well...guess this happens with 20 year old campers! One of the support cables that connects to the winch that raises the unit had snapped. Fortunately, Nick and Beth once again came to our rescue with a length of PVC pipe the right size to hold up the roof. We duct taped it into place and viola! Temporary solution!

So now it's like 8:30, and I wanted to have my pork butts on at like I'm panicking a bit...but I was able to quickly set up the pork cooker and get it going, then set about organizing the rest of the site. By about 10:30 or so, we'd finished setup, and it was time for the "shot-fairy"rounds. We met a lot of the usual folks, and quite a few new ones this time. There were quite a few first time teams, which would sadly result in some DQ's for things like no meat inspection, pre-seasoned meats, etc...but I'm sure those who made those mistakes won't make them twice! Anyway, back to the rounds...normally, we share a small shot of an apple pie flavored beverage we make, the past two comps we've changed it up a bit, so it's about 50% the apple pie, and 50% bacon infused vodka...I'll tell you's some tasty stuff! Anyway, I digress...

Of the 32 teams at the comp, I'd venture to say we talked with over 20, and by about 2 AM, we were ready to take a 4 hour or so nap before crunch time.

Sunday, I woke up somewhat alarmed that my watch said 7AM!. Yikes...forgot to set the alarm! Ah well, nothing too serious, just put me a little behind on getting brisket and ribs in. Pork butts were still cruising along nicely. Brisket had been injected the night before, so I put a little refresher coat of rub on, and into the cooker it went. Ribs right after that. Tossed the chicken in the brine, and started the now there was a bit of time to get a cup of coffee and a donut, kindly provided by the venue. Also enjoyed a wonderful bloody mary from our neighboring team "You Bacon Me Crazy" - Delicious! I assembled our turn in boxes, and except for one breif little rainshower, the weather proved to be much improved from the previous week in Westmont! So now it was about 9AM, and I had a few minutes before the (usually 9:22) 9:11 shot, provided this time by the fine folks of 4 Smokin' Butts, from Milstadt, IL...almost in MO. Very nice folks, who'd just taken Reserve Grand Champion at the Sams Club, Evergreen Pk. IL event the day before! Talk about a busy weekend!

So now it's getting towards crunch time. Double check all 5 boxes (4 categories + sausage) all good. Chicken out of brine, rinsed, and resting/drying. Pork and ribs seem to be going ok, brisket coming along nicely, ready for foiling. All things considered, including all the trailer issues, we're doing ok it seems. At about 10:30, the chicken went in, so now all 4 meats are looking good. By 11, when I checked the pork, it was just a little more done than I'd hoped, but quickly took it out of the cooker, let it cool/rest about 10-15 minutes, wrapped in foil,  and popped it into the Carlisle cooler till turn in time.  Time gets fuzzy between 9:30 and noon, when chicken is turned in, so I may be off a bit in the retelling.

Sausage was an alternate entry, and I got ours into the cooker too late to make the 11:30 turn in. Ah well, it was great in pasta sauce last week!

 Chicken was ready in time, looked good, but in retrospect the box could have looked better. Perfect bite through skin, done perfectly, but lacking just a bit in flavor. Dang...ah well...move on to ribs...

I'd done something a bit different, as we did fairly well 2 years ago with ribs, but since haven't seemed to be hitting. Well...this was another bad result...and I guess I'll have to do more practice cooks to get it down.
Texture was perfect, they looked nice, but there was a hammyness about them that I didn't care for, and as it turned out, neither did the judges!

After a short rest, it was time for pork. Well, this time it wasn't a total loss. I was correct in thinking it had gone just a tad longer than it should have...the money muscles were past being able to slice. But the overall flavor wasn't too bad, and we turned in a not so bad box.

Finally, we're down to brisket. This bad boy, which had started at 20 pounds, was about as spot on perfect as I could have hoped for! Beautiful bark, gorgeous smoke ring, even if judges aren't supposed to take that into account, and passed the "pull test" with flying colors. Only issue was some of the point wasn't rendered quite enough, so had to be a bit picky about picking burnt ends for the box.

So, big sigh....all the cooking was done. Time now to start cleaning up and getting ready for awards. We take a lot of flack from some folks about being over-prepared, taking too long to pack, etc. But we're there to have fun, and rushing around like a not is not fun in my book. What a lot of our fellow cookers also fail to realize is we are, on average, a bit longer in the tooth than most of them, and we like our creature comforts. So it was no surprise that, when it came time for awards, we weren't done packing up. But we'd made a good bit of progress!

In the end, we placed 21 of 32 overall. The chicken was, while not DAL, 24 of 30 (2 teams dq's)
Ribs, 23 of 32
Pork, 14th of 31 (another Dq or no turn in)
And Brisket....THIRD!!! So no going home empty handed from this one!!!

Given the lack of proper power, struggle with the pop-up tent, etc. We were pretty happy!

Congrats to all who walked! And we're looking forward to the next event, heading back up to the north woods to Iron Mountain MI in July! Hopefully, I can get a few of the issues with the trailer fixed before then!
Hopefully, our next post will include some photos!!!

One final took a while to get this post up. A few days ago, I learned that one of our fellow competitors, Joe McManus, of Joey Mac's Smoke Stack, was taken ill with meningitis. The good news is that he was discharged Monday from the hospital, after over a week. Joe, our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family, and we look forward to seeing you back on the bbq trail.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

After the deluge

Wow! What a season opener! I've seen more rain and wind (Elk Grove IL, 2009), but this was quite an experience!

This was to be a Saturday/Sunday contest, but the organizers were willing to allow setup on Friday afternoon/evening, and we always like to do that when we can so that the first of the two days of competition is a bit less stressful.

We rolled in to Ty Warner Park in Westmont about 7PM Friday evening. I'd forgotten my jacket, so rather than run back home I just picked up a sweatshirt at the Jewel/Osco store a block from the comp, along with a few last minute groceries. Oddly enough, we ran into the folks that sold us our pop-up camper, while loading the groceries into the truck. They asked us how it was working out, and we answered that it had been great! A huge improvement from the tent we had been using. Later, I would wonder if that didn't prove to be some kind of jinx.....

We were directed to our site, and quickly began settling in. We had arranged to be set up next to our friends Nick and Beth of Moose’s BBQ, and saw that they'd dropped off their trailer before we got there. But they weren't, and we assumed they were spending the night at Beths' dads place, which was nearby. Got the pop-up in place, anchored and leveled, and inside cleared out and made livable. Raised the outside canopy, set up the tables, and lighting, and were all set up.

Then....poof, no lights. ???
After about a half hour of trying to figure out what the issue was, we finally determined that the power distribution box in the camper had failed. I'm hoping it will turn out to be just a transformer, but I had no meter with me to check it out, so will have to wait a while to figure it out. We were able to MacGyver a fix, by running a 4 gang ext. cord out through the canvas of the bed we don't use to the generator. Then we ran another inside so we had power at both ends, and one more to the outside to run the hot water heater and lighting. Not ideal, but functional. Problem solved right? Then the rain started.....
We'd been visiting with our friend Joe from Bearcat Smokers, who was working with us trying to figure out our power issue. Having solved that, we were sitting outside when the rain began, and he figured he'd better skedaddle back to his site. Diane took Ember into the camper, while I tried to move our big boat cooler out of the truck and inside the canopy. I took a misstep and slipped a bit, causing me to catch my left knuckles on the very edge of the tailgate. Ouch...but all ok I think. Got it inside the canopy and was topping it off with ice when I noticed the blood. On the table, the top of the cooler, me....Crap! I'm bleeding!

Grabbed a paper towel to wrap around it and headed inside to wash it off and assess the damage.

Once I got the blood cleaned off, I could see that the damage was cuts to 3 of the 4 fingers on my left hand. The pinkie was superficial, the middle two a bit deeper. The "one-finger salute" finger was the worst, having been sliced into enough that it probably could have used 3 or 4 stitches. But no time for that. I just bandaged it up well, and moved on. At this point, the site was pretty much set up so, given that the rain was now coming down pretty hard, so we went inside to settle in for the night. Since the AC control didn't work, we had lights, but no heater. And the outside temp was dropping. But we did have an electric blanket.

While we were awake, we used a burner on the stove to warm up the inside a bit, but turned it off before turning in, as we didn't want to wake up to a fire.

Saturday morning dawned wet and chilly, but at least for a while, the rain had stopped. I set about hanging our canopy walls, our banners, and the other trappings, got all our meats inspected, and began trimming and prepping them. I try to get all the trimming done in advance, but for a number of reasons wasn't able to this time, so had to break down 2 pork butts, a brisket, 3 slabs of ribs, and our chicken entry. Once finished, all of it went back in the Coolers for later finish prep (injections, rubs, etc.). Once the initial prep is out of the way, we had some relaxation time to go visit with our neighbors, many of whom we haven't seen since last year.

As Saturday evening arrived, so did the rain again, on and off for what would prove to be the rest of that and the following day. They still pulled off the peoples choice chili comp, but the rain scared away most of the public, so not a big turnout. I feel bad for the village as they do a great job holding a nice festival with a carnival, live bands, and great vendors. The weather just ruined it for them.

I have to say a quick thanks to Mike from Mike Rib, for lending us a portable heater to keep warm Saturday night. Thanks Mike!

After getting all the meats fully prepped, and getting the pork butts in the cooker and started, we headed out for the "shot fairy" rounds and visited with all the other teams, returning to our site about 1:30 AM Sunday. Unfortunately, a team across from us, who had a large corporate sponsor (we won't mention names, but let’s just say they make food products and cigarettes) decided that quiet time (supposed to be quiet between 11 PM and 6 AM) were only a suggestion, rather than a rule. Yahoos partied all night long, which pretty much made sure that nobody nearby would be getting any sleep that night. Jerks!

Sunday dawned with more of the same, on and off drizzle, and the ground was getting progressively spongier.

Got the ribs and brisket in the cookers, checked on the pork, and brined the chicken, everything was going pretty much according to schedule, until just before chicken turn in. And then it all changed...

The organizers were spreading out to let everyone (61 teams in all) know that there was a warning of a severe storm, scheduled to hit us within 10 minutes. Chicken turn in was to be delayed indefinitely, with the initial estimate being 15 minutes or so. Everyone was instructed to batten down the hatches, and get into some sort of safe shelter. Fortunately, nobody used the T word, just strong winds and rain, but nonetheless, visions of Tuscaloosa and Joplin still came to mind. We lowered our canopy as far as we could and made sure it was weighed down as best as we were able, put our chicken in the Carlisle cooler, shut down the vents in the cookers, and hunkered down to see what would happen. It was eerie, to say the least, to see a flag atop one of the carnival rides was sticking straight out in one direction, but the high clouds were moving rapidly in the opposite direction. As it turned out, the storm actually was moving in something of a circular pattern. The wind blew, and the rain poured, but when it was all over, no one was hurt, and only a few folks lost their canopies. So now everyone was frantically trying to salvage their meats, which had been intended to be cooked to their best two hours before. Now it was likely that much would be overdone, and little would be of the texture desired. But all things considered, it seemed most folks did a decint job salvaging thier entries.

Turned out that the area inside the judges tent was half under water, but at 2:15, chicken turn in began, and from there, everything else followed on an every 30 minutes schedule, without further interruptions, just a little over 2 hours later than anticipated.

Our chicken was ok, a little on the overdone side. Ribs were also ok, just not where we’d have liked them. Pork, well, I think because of the rain mostly, we had some areas that were cooked beautifully, and others that were still underdone and chewy. And brisket was a little underdone as well. We needed that extra hour of cooking time, and I’d let the temps drop too low to complete the cook. We even got a card from one of the judges pointing out it was underdone.
So it was over, nothing to do now but pack up the camper and get ready for awards. Originally scheduled for 5 PM, they informed us they were now shooting for 6 instead. So we got everything we could packed up and ready to go, save for what we estimated to be about 30-45 minutes more to jam the last few things in and lower the camper. Unfortunately, they didn’t really start until almost an hour later, an hour we’d really regret wasting sitting and waiting for awards to begin.

In the end, there would be no calls for us. But many friends did well, and we did manage to get all nines on our pork from at least one judge. and it was good enough to place 15th of 61 entries. Congrats to Cancer Sucks Chicago for thier first Grand Champion at this, his hometown event, and also to Mike and Beth from Quau for their Reserve Grand. BIG congrats to Bearcat Joe for winning the Ranchers Reserve beef contest (We’d planned to turn in top sirloin Wellington, but I just didn’t have time to Rolland bake the puff pastry. I think we could have won that one) . Congrats also to Duce’s Wild, and all others who managed to pull through the mess and come out with calls! All in all, we were happy to have just completed all 4 entries.

Our teardown after the awards was further delayed by a well meaning, but rather annoying mentally challenged man who just would not leave us alone. But we finally made it home, unpacking only what was absolutely necessary, and in time for a couple cold ones before bed.

Next morning, I had to meet my VFW post to march as leaders of our villages Memorial Day parade. Let me tell you, a brisk mile walk carrying a vintage M1 Garand rifle at shoulder arms position isn’t an easy task after the weekend we had! But it was a beautiful (hot) sunny day, and that had to count for something.

So now the weekend is over, time to get back to work, and begin planning next weekends’ event in Willowbrook!

I’ll try to update this with photos soon, but camera is still in the camper.
Thanks for reading

Monday, May 2, 2011

Finally, the BBQ season starts in a few more weeks

Finally, the snow has all melted away, and it's feeling more like spring all the time!
We have 3 weeks (roughly) to get ready for the first two comps of the year (for us)

First is Westmont, the Saturday and Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, and then the following weekend, there are 2 local comps, one as Sams Club in Evergreen Park on Fri-Sat, the second at Araibian Nights Stables, in Willowbrook. We didn't register in time to do the Evergreen Pk. But I'm glad we didn't, as now we have a party to cater that Saturday. Fortunately, it's a dropoff (as opposed to staying on site to serve) so we should still be able to make the comp without issue.

So now it's time to sharpen all the knives, open up, air out, and restock the 20 year old pop-up (shooting to get a newer toy hauler in the not-to distant future if we can swing it) Got to weigh out and vac-pack the injection mixes, restock any seasonings we're low on, and pack it up for the road. Since both the 2 comps in May/June are local, I won't do the wheel bearings until after them, but before the trek to Iron Mountain MI.

We had to break down and buy a portable air conditioner. The built in one in the pop-up died, and since it's so old, we'd need to get a new one which is just too cost prohibitive. Was cheaper to get a portable 13000 BTU unit that we should be able to set up right under where the existing one is. I don't do so good in excessive heat. Have gotten pretty ill at a few comps when the mercury is up there, so need to keep cool! (it so sucks getting old!)

We're looking forward to seeing old freinds, and making some new ones as the summer season gets wound up! I'll try to get lots of photos to add to our next entry.

That's about all for now, except to say thanks to the two folks kind enough to sign up as followers! Nice to know somebody out there is listening, even if only once in a while!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

2011 - A new season begins

Unfortunately, without photos.

We opened the 2011 BBQ season last weekend at the unsanctioned, but still great fun Rand River Road Bowl Annual Winter Burnoff.

This is a fun event put together by Keith and Rebecca Engstrom to raise funds for Noah (National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation) They do a great job every year organizing this event, and, as always, everyone has a lot of fun. To make things better, this year they raised 2700.00 for thier charity.
Keith hands over controls to his freind Doug as of 06:00 the morning of the competition, so that he can compete without any question of conflict of interest. And this year, he won the Grand Champion! Congrats Keith, well deserved!

In past years, we've attended, as judges some years, and as cooks in others. We've seen weather as bad as 5 above with -30 wind chills, snowstorms, etc. But I think this year was a first. Although the weather guessers were predicting snow, and, as we drove to the location at 5:45 AM. the salt trucks were out in force, what we got instead was a day of on and off rain (more on than off) that left everyone thouroghly saturated.

Fortunately, when we arrived at about 6:30, it wasn't raining yet, and we were able to mostly set up without rain. We went with a very spartan setup, even for us, with only an EZ-up a table, and a few essentials, including our Mr. Heater and a dual halogen lamp setup to provide both heat and light. We opted to bring the generator also as power is first come, first serve at this event. That proved to be a good choice, as there were numerous issues with the power due to the rain. We had no problem :-)

Biggest challenge was the weather. The rain just kept coming, and kept keeping temperature a bit of a chore, but in the end, we stayed pretty even, just went through a lot more charcoal than usual.

In between downpours, we did get to visit with some of our BBQ buds. Joe and June from Bear Cat Smokers, Tim, of Windy City Smokers, Alex and Kate (Dr. Porkenstein), Joe McManus (Joey Mac), Pete and Linda (Ma & Pa's Kettle), Mike of Mike Rib, and Kow's Q. My apologies if I missed anyone. And, as always, we met some great new folks as well, including our next door neighbors, Dig the Pig BBQ.

Besides not having KCBS sanctioning, the main difference between this competition and the rest, aside from when it occurs, is that the meats are different. KCBS is chicken, pork ribs, pork butt, and brisket. Due to the potential challenges of trying to cook some of those items as a 1 day event, the burnoff meats are sausage, chicken, pork ribs, and pork loin or tenderloin.

We didn't end up in the money, as cash only went to the top 3 teams in each category, but we did manage to be top 10 in every category. Something we have yet to acheive until now!


1. KRE Smokers
2. Dr. Porkenstein
3. Kow's BBQ
4. Windy City Smokers
5. Mike Rib BBQ
6. 2 Skinny Cooks
7. Hawgs and Hotties
8. Dig The Pig
9. Joey Mac
10 Ma & Pa Kettle

1. KRE Smokers
2. Dig The Pig
3. Smoke Chester
4. Dr. Porkenstein
5. Hawgs & Hotties ( Note: Dr P and Hogs & Hotties tied wit 157.1428 each)
6. Joey Mac
7. Kow's BBQ
8. 2 Skinny Cooks
9. Mike Rib BBQ
10. Bear Cat Smokers


1. Smokin' Tasty
2. Kow's BBQ
3. Joey Mac
4. Windy City Smokers
5. Dig the Pig
6. KRE Smokers
7. Dr. Porkenstein
8. Hawgs & Hotties
9. 2 Skinny Cooks
10. Rub 1 Off


1. Dr, Porkenstein (over 10 points above nearest competitor)
2. Windy City Smokers
3. Kow's BBQ
4. Bear Cat Smokers
5. Smokin tasty
6. Hawgs & Hotties
7. Mike Rib BBQ
8 Joey Mac
9. 2 Skinny Cooks
10. Ma & Pa Kettle

Pork Loin/tenderloin

1. KRE smokers (8 points above 2nd)
2. Mike Rib BBQ
3. Ma & Pa Kettle
4. Windy City Smokers
5. 2 Skinny Cooks - Woo hoo! we got a ribbon at least! And top 5 in pork again!
6. Dig The Pig
7. Kow's BBQ
8. Rub 1 Off
9. Smokin' Tasty
10. Dr. Porkenstein

Another first...we were NOT anywhere close to the last ones packed up. Truck was ready to roll well before the awards ceremony started! Sadly, some of those who poke fun at us for taking so long were not there, as they'd attended a wedding of a mutual BBQ buddy the evening before.

For anyone who might read this that lives remotely in the area, it's definitely an event worth coming out for. The bowling alley donates a number of lanes for folks to bowl and raise funds, Miller Brewing was kind enough to donate a couple of kegs of beer, all proceeds went straight to the charity, an open chil contest, and silent auction were also conducted. It's a very good time, for a very good cause!

So the 2011 season has officially begun. Next up will be Westmont, Memorial Day weekend. We're still filling in our schedule beyond that, but looking forward to another summer and fall of fun!

Until then, hope everybody stays warm and dry!