Another season winds down
Well, it's been quite a while since I added any updates, guess I should close down the year!
Since I last wrote, we attended the Chicago Gourmet event in Chicago's Millennium Park, sponsored by Bon Appetite magazine, in late September. We have done this almost every year since it started as kind of a mutual anniversary gift to one another. Always some great chefs, the best in Chicago and guests from around the world, great spirits, and just a great day to spend eating and drinking in a beautiful setting.
In October, we competed in our last 2 contests of the season. First was Central Illinois Bragging Rights, in Arthur, IL.
Always one of our favorites, this is a big contest in a small town. Arthur is a small town not too far from Champaign/Urbana, with a fairly high Amish population. The contest is held right in the heart of downtown Arthur, and is done in conjunction with a bluegrass jam. It's a great little town
This year in particular, the weather was just about perfect, the only exception being a brief rain shower at the start of chicken turn-in's. Once that cleared up, we enjoyed a beautiful day!
Our scores could certainly have been better, but our main goal this year is to get back into a rhythm of sorts. Our previous 2 seasons were marred by outside influences. In 2011, our old 20+ year old pop-up camper began to self destruct on us. We lost the power distribution box the first contest, the following weekend one of our roof support cables snapped, and at our 3rd or 4th, the AC died. (AC unit had a separate power input from the rest of the trailer) Then, on what was to be our last competition, my trucks fuel pump went south, and we never made it to the event. In 2012, we got ourselves a new trailer, and were looking forward to a new, easier season since we would no longer need to set up and tear down our trailer, making setup and tear downs much easier! Instead, our bad luck streak continued, with a season ending (and potentially life threatening) illness.
So, after two abbreviated seasons, our goals were pretty simple this year. Compete in 6-8 contests, hope to get a call or two, but most importantly, get the camper set up to the most efficient configuration, and get our timing back after such a long layoff. I also had to work through some lingering fatigue, the lasting after effect of last years illness.
So, in the end, although we only got one call all year,(4th place brisket at Windy City BBQ Classic) we still regard the season as a success, in that we were able to compete, we had no DQ's, and no disqualifications.
Anyway, getting back to Arthur, our numbers weren't great. Overall, we were 40th out of 53 teams. Chicken was 33 of 53, ribs, also 33rd, pork was 39th, and brisket a godawful 48th! A lot of that was my own fault though. I had a little too much fun Friday night, woke up over an hour later than I'd planned, so just getting all the meats in the box and turned in on time was an accomplishment. On the other hand, we had a LOT of fun, and that's the whole point for us! Awards are great, there's no feeling like hearing your name called on the top 10 list, but we have no delusions of making a living doing this! Oh, our neighbors at Arthur this year were also outstanding, and we hope to see them again! One thing I must say is congratulations to Mike and Beth Wozniak of Quau. To say they dominated this contest would be a colossal understatement. With 1st place overall, 1st place chicken, 1st place ribs, 2nd in pork, and 3rd in brisket, I think they might have scored better than any contest I've seen yet! Also congrats to Rick and Jim of The Smoke Hunters for Reserve Grand
The following weekend was the season closer, at Lambs Farm in Libertyville.
One again, no stellar finishes. 37th of 54 overall. Chicken was improved! Right at the bottom of the top half with a 27 of 54 teams. Ribs were also a bit improved from Arthur, with a 20th of 54. I wasn't happy with my pork, and it showed, with a 48th. Our brisket was a bit confusing. We thought it looked and tasted outstanding. The judges disagreed, and we ended up 41st. So our 2 best meats (normally) fared the worst! Oh well, once again, we had a great time, made some new friends, and had some great neighbors. And it was nice seeing our friends Rick and Jim from the Smoke Hunters take Grand Champion with 3rd in chicken, 2nd in ribs, 6th in pork, and 3rd in brisket. They seem to have "dialed it in" lately!
So the competition season is now over for us in 2013, our next scheduled event will be the Des Plaines, IL Winter Burn off, some time in February of next year! In the meantime, there's still Thanksgiving and Christmas for BBQ, and with the BGE just outside the back door, I'm sure we'll be eating plenty of smoke cooked eats all winter. OH! And with the advent of cold weather, it's almost time to start making sausage! Anybody got a good Texas style hot link recipe?!?
With November starting, we attended what likely will be our last bbq event of the year, but this time, as diners, instead of competitors. On 11/03, we went to Joe's bar, on west Weed street in West Town, that actually includes an OTB on the premises.
The event had Elizabeth Karmel (http://www.elizabethkarmel.com/) as it's MC, and there were a number of demos, given by Barry Sorkin, owner and chef at Smoque BBQ in the city, who did a brisket demo. Duce Raymond, of Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ, and the rest of the Duce's wild team did a competition ribs demo, Phil Wingo, of tailgatecharters.com who did a pig roast demo , and finally a butchering demo by Rob Levitt, of Butcher & Larder in Chicago. http://thebutcherandlarder.com/ who broke down a half-pig.
All but the butchering demos included food that was put out all day as appetizers, and after all demos, and some words from Dave Raymond, co-founder of Sweet Baby Rays, and Barry Sorkin, an excellent bbq feast was served. (even though we were all pretty full by then!)
So now it's time to prep for the holidays, and by January we'll be starting up the bbq machine for the 2014 season!
Wishing everyone a safe and happy holiday season, and a joyful New Year!
Thanks to all that made it a great afternoon/evening out