We arrived Friday to a fairly small number of other competitors already being set up. But by 4:30 PM, the organizers were getting ready to close down access to the street we were parked on. Our freinds from Moose's BBQ in WI were already onsite when we arrived. Once they had thier site set up, they set off for dinner, and an evening in a hotel, before returning for the comp.
I set about getting everything leveled, wheel chocks locked up, power run (no water was available yet, but I'd brought in about 40 gallons). Set up the tables, cookers, etc. Wandered around a bit after dinner to say hello to freinds and visit a while, and had a very nice visit with the brothers from BBQSauceworks.com
We spent a while talking with them and then settled into the new QCasa for the evening. Unfortunately, the exitement of finally being out in the new trailer made sleep difficult, and we ended up talking until 3AM, only to be awakened at about 06:40 to the sound of something rattling outside the door. Turned out it was our banner, flopping fairly wildly in the wind, and trying to pull off the canopy of the trailer! Turned out the wind had kicked up pretty well, and was gusting up to 30 or so mph. I quickly cut down the banner and retracted the canopy, and then noticed my surroundings were a bit...dishevelled!
The first two photos were the shelters of a first time team, who set up their gear Friday, and left. Apparently, they weren't anchored will enough.
The last photo belongs to another first time competitor, who was nice enough to help us out back in February at the winter burn off, and we'd had located as close as possible to us so we could help him out as needed. His stuff is on the left. When I first saw it Saturday, the pole structure in back was a twisted mess. The tarps tie wrapped to it were just yanking it every which way. So we cut the tarps down, lowered the canopy in front, and tucked things away as securely as we could until he and his crew could get things back up and stabilized.
I believe that this was the 6th or 7th annual Westmont event. I know it was our 5th cooked, and we judged the year before that, so we have been involved in one way or another, almost since the beginning. I believe that it is now one of the largest, if not the largest, in the state of Illinois! And they did a phenomenal job this year, especially considering the 66 professional and 47 amateur teams they had to cram into one space!
One of Diane's childhood freinds came by and surprised us! They wanted to say hello, see the new trailer, and also had a relative competing that they wanted to say hello to. We were fortunate enough to have been asked to cook for their 25th anniversary party, and will be doing so again this weekend for their daughters college graduation! I would congratulate her by name, but not sure she wants that.
By Saturday afternoon, the bands were jamming, we had most of our meat prepped, and we were getting ready for some of the side competitions, which included sauce, sausage, wings, and dessert. Other than dessert, all 3 other sides were to be turned in Saturday evening, after the cooks meeting.
So we did them all. And in retrospect, I think it would have been better to do one or two, and keep a closer eye on the main 4 categories, but what's done is done.
Sauce, well, no photo there, red stuff in a foam cup, not real exciting.
For sausage, we thought we'd do something a bit different. Instead of stuffing our spicy jalapeno sausage into a casing, we packed it into corn husks, tamale style. garnished with a few sweet and spicy pickled jalapeno slices...
Then came the wings, and although they tasted good, I won't even bother to show a photo! When the sides were done, I finished brining, injection and leftover prep of the main meats for the next day, got the pork butts in the cooker (much later than I'd hoped) and wandered around to visit a bit.
There was a pretty good crowd Saturday night, which hopefully meant that all the vendors, the carnival, and the concessionaires had a better year than last, when the weather rudely interrupted the proceedings!
Normally the wife and I do something that has come to be known as the Shot Fairy Rounds Saturday evenings. It was started by my wife Diane 5 years ago, at the Westmont comp, our very first time competing, coincidentally! It was conceived as a way to break the ice and meet all the teams without being regarded as "shiggers" (Note: Shigging means that you are lurking around other folk' site trying to observe, and potentially steal methods and secrets from. We've always made it clear, or tried to, that we generally go against what is "standard practice" anyway, so we don't care about shigging. But it is fun to meet as many new folks as possible, and we try to see old freinds as well. The "shots" are flavored like apple pie, and we've been told, are a pretty good approximation. While they do contain a little alcohol, they are in no way meant to knock anyone off their game. They are merely a little something. Many teams these days actually will come by and ask "where were you" if she doesn't show up!
Well, this time, Di stopped a a few sites a little longer than normal, and before we knew it, it was after 1, and time to go home, especially after the late night Friday. So to those who the shot fairy missed, we're sorry, and will try to catch you next time!
On Sunday, time came for the "big 4" Chicken, ribs, pork butt, and brisket.
Unfortunately, I didn't get photos of all categories.
Chicken, I got, but won't be showing it as it is a new box for us, and we want to work on it a bit more.
We managed scores of 878 878 889 988 889 and 987 on it.
For those unfamiliar, the groupings of 3 each relate to 1 of 6 judges. The first digit is the score for appearance, the second, for taste, and the third for texture. The allowed scoring is from 1 to 9. One is a DQ, and is only given on the direction of the KCBS rep in charge of the event. A one is only rewarded in the event of a disqualification for breaking a rule. Beyond that, scoring is from 2 (bad) to 9 (excellent) It is a weighted system, meaning that taste is weighted more highly (at 2.2858) than is tenderness/texture (at 1.1428) or appearance (at .5714)
That doesn't mean appearance or tenderness/texture are any less important. Any of them that aren't decent can tank you.
Anyway, on to ribs. In my opinion, our ribs this time weren't the best. And this isn't to reflect on the meat, but on my own failings. I found them a bit underdone, and with 958 689 888 877 789 and 876 scores, the judges agreed. No big surprise.
Pork wasn't much better. I had 2 beautiful Duroc butts from Standard Market, one of the sponsors, and there wasn't a thing wrong with either of them. The problem was I let myself be distracted by sides, and didn't get them on until after 9 PM. Something I try to not ever do. The result being that I had to push them to get done Sunday, and wasn't happy with the end product.
But I still had brisket left. And that gorgeous, 30 day aged, 14lb Choice Angus brisket from Standard was looking every bit as good as I hoped it would!
It was done right on time, and had I not been distracted a bit, I think I'd have remembered to put the burnt ends back in the cooker a while, add a few ingredients to punch up the flavor, and maybe taken it a notch higher. But when all was said and done, we took 3rd place brisket! I guess since I explained the scoring system, I should post our scores for brisket as well. 999 988 887 879 999 899
We have a busy few weeks coming up. We have 2 events to cook for this weekend, the following weekend, we will be competing in the Firin' up the Fox challenge in St. Charles IL on Friday and Saturday, then heading to my brothers place in Bensenville to cook for my neice Autumns' high school graduation party on Sunday
Then there's Jimmy Buffett show 6/30 in Tinley Park, where we'll be tailgating (but not with the trailer) Our BBQ schedule through the summer is fairly light. We will be catering a wedding in the Traverse City MI area for the son and soon to be daughter-in-law of some of my oldest high school freinds, an event we're really looking forward to!
Our comp season won't pick up again this year until late summer, early fall. We'd intended to do the Kenosha, WI event on 8/24-25, but a conflict came up, and the Debuque, IA comp was cancelled. So our next scheduled comp after St. Charles will likely either be Murphysboro, IL (if we can swing it) 9/22, and/or Arthur, IL in October, followed by Libertyville, IL. We missed Arthur last year for lack of a decent power system/heater, and then we had the fuel pump issue that killed our season Libertyville weekend.
5 or 6 will be plenty this year, and we'll see what comes at us. We are still waiting to hear from the Chili Pepper folks about thier rib contest faceoff in Houston, I suspect that will be in the fall as well