Sunday, November 11, 2012

Operation BBQ Relief - Brick, NJ

It was my privilege and honor to volunteer my time at Brick, NJ on November 10th. Brick is one of the staging areas for Operation BBQ Relief, a 501C3 non-profit organization that provides hot meals for victims and first responders at natural disaster sites. This organization was founded in Missouri after severe tornadoes devastated that area. As you are aware, parts New Jersey and New York City was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy. The site is located at the Brick PAL center which has a full kitchen and hall set up with tables and chairs. I arrived early on Saturday morning and met with Rob Marion, the OPR organizer for this area. Rob paired me with Bob Berrettini (BBQ Bandit) from Mechanicsburg, PA who has been on site since the relief effort here started. In addition to him I saw Rich Decker from Vermont who I hadn’t seen for 3 or 4 years. Rich has also been on site for the past week. My hats off to these three and all the other dedicated volunteers from all over the country who have made it their mission to help others in these times of need. Audrey, from the Pork council was here with pig farmers from Iowa, Indiana and other states. Their large trailer provided space to cook vast quantities of pork loin, bratwurst patties, rolls and other items. Also on site were KC Masterpiece, Jersey Joes BBQ and others that I did not get their names. About 8:30 or so we started unloading a Southern Pride smoker loaded with pork butts that had been cooking all night. Bob started cooking chicken. Rich and crew started slicing pork loins. My job was pulling these butts for serving later. Man, can that smoker hold a lot of pork butts. By now, most of you who read this blog are aware that pork butts are part of the shoulder of the pig, not the other end where hams come from. After hours of pulling pork, some of it was delivered to the kitchen, along with chicken and pork loins. Even more was delivered to the island to first responders manning the check points along with loads of chicken, pork loin and sides. I helped Rich and crew with more pork loins and then it was time to rub and place another load of pork butts on the smoker. This concluded my only day here, but Bob, Rich, Rob, Audrey and others were staying for more days. I was exhausted after one day and can’t imagine how they are doing it. Another function of the site was is a drop off point for donations of clothing, blankets, water and just about anything else that the victims can use. A steady stream of donations and recipients occurred all day, many of them stopping by to ask where we came from and thank us for our time. I have to say that this was a most humbling experience for me and I have the utmost respect for those who put their own lives on hold to spend days on end volunteering to help others. Some may say that this is a divided and even a dysfunctional country that we live in, but in times of need, this country always comes together to help our own. God bless OBR and other organizations that pitch in to help others and God Bless America! For pictures of OBR, click here: OBR Pictures

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Keystone BBQ Classic

On October 5-6 Pigheaded BBQ competed at the Keystone BBQ Classic. This is our first time at this competition. It was held at the huge PA Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg, PA. We were told that the whole complex is 1,000,000 sg ft under roof. We only saw a fraction of it, more on that later. Norma and Ron arrived at 7:00AM Friday morning and met with Morgan, the organizer who gave us our assigned spot. Since we were among the first on site, it was pretty easy set up. The sites were a very nice size. By 9:00, we were done and headed over to the farmers' market accross the parking lot. I must say that I haven't seen such nice produce in quite a while. Norma just had to have 2 nice sized pumpkins, of course this meant that I had to carry them back to the site. Oh, did I say one at a time? Another venture was into the complex building where the restrooms were. The building closest to us, housed the large horses. Clydsdales, Belgians and Percherons. Magnificent animals bred to pull carriges and wagons. After sight seeing, it was time to start prepping some of the meats. I injected the brisket and trimmed the ribs abd put them away 'till later. Norma started prepping her Pecan Bars for dessertI must say that it was nice being able to do this so early, as there would be more time relaxing. Mike, Trina and the kids arrived soon after and he prepped the butts. Ron v2.0 came awhile later and he started right in prepping for the "Bologna and Ground Beef" categories that were to be turned in Friday evening. Chicken legs would be handed out at the cook's meeting for a Saturday turn in. Friday turn ins went pretty smoothly and we did the final prep for the KCBS meats before settling in for the night. Saturday morning was a bit chilly and went about the final cook. I have to say that everything went very smoothly and we had high hopes that the judges would agre with our assesment. It was all in their hand now and we started the task of cleaning and stowing all of our gear. We would have 2 1/2 hours until the award ceremony and everyone pitched in and we were done in record time and finished in an hour. I was very impressed with the whole crew. Thanks everyone. Now into the main lobby to find out the results of all our preperations and hard work. First up were the ancillary categories and we did not hear our name called once. Not a great start, but now for the KCBS categories: 4th Chicken, 24th Ribs, 38th Pork, 29th Brisket, 9th Dessert and 18th Overall. Not the results we were hoping for, but it is what it is. We havent done to well in pork and brisket this year, so we changed injections and rubs for this competition. Oh well, I can see a lot of practice cooks this winter. I want to thank everyone on the team, because despite these results, we had a very good year. Everyone contributed to help the team improve and we most certainly did. Thank you also to all our friends and family who supported us and cheerted us on. We will be back next year and hope to improve even more. How many days 'till Pork in the Park?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Chesapeake, VA Sam's Club Regional

Well our 4 week BBQ marathon is over. The bad news is we didn't qualify for Bentonville, AR. The good news is we didn't qualify for Bentonville, AR. Yes we really wanted to qualify and go to the Sam's Club National in Bentonville, but we were not looking forward to the drive. We could sit and lick our wounds and wonder about what could have been, or we can get back in the saddle and do another competition. Well, I hope you guessed the latter, we have signed up for the Keystone Classic Barbecue at the Farm Show in Harrisburg, Pa being held on October 5-6. Hope to see some of you there. Now, let's get back to the Sam's Cluc event in Chesapeake, VA. This was by far the farthest we've travelled to compete. Have I mentioned that I hate to drive? Driving puts me to sleep and I've gotten some of my best naps while driving. That's not a fact that I'm not proud of, it's simply a fact. It took us a little over 5 hours to get there and while it was a long trip for me, it wasn't as bad as I though it would be. We met Trina, Mike and Stephanie at the Hampton Inn when we got there and a nice soak in the hot tub did wonders for the tired old body. Sam's Club events don't let you onto the site until 8:00AM on Friday morning as the events are held in the parking lot of Sam's Club stores that are open to the public, and they rightfully so want as little disruption to their members as possible. This gave us a whole night to relax and unwind. A little room service sushi didn't hurt either. It was very good. Friday morning saw us in line and the 2nd ones to be assigned their spots. Myself, Norma and Mike set up the site while Trina and Stephanie joined us later along with Ron v2.0 who drove down straight from Atlantic City, NJ. Whew, 5 states in one day, I'm glad I didn't have that drive. Meats were inspected, site set up and prep work done in a pretty efficient manner. This was afterall, our 4th competition in as many weeks and we had settled into a nice routine. Maybe there was something to this marathon business afterall. I honestly expected it to be much harder than it was. It really is true, the more you do it, the easier it becomes. There were some pretty big names at this competition. For the 2nd week in a row we had Hog It Up for next door neighbors, nice to see Michele & Mike again. Our other next door neighbor was Finn's Finest, who are our neighbors at Wildwood every year. Many other BBQ friends were there as well: LO-N-Slo, BBQ Guru, Wilburs Revenge, Pork Barrel and many others and some new friends. It was very nice meeting Fatback Joe's, Herding Smoke and Q' Haven and others. Friday night we had a very nice dinner, as Sam's Club provided each team with some very nice Ribeye Steaks and Finn's Finest shared their extras with us. Ron v2.0 made a very nice dinner with the steaks with chimichurri sauce. After dinner and the final prep work, the big meats went on as usual without any surprises and I actually got more sleep that night than at any other competition. Saturday morning brought about the usual behive of activity as the ribs and chicken were added to the mix. We were happy with our cook and felt reasonably confident that we did a good job and hoped that the judges would agree. Alas, it was not to be. Our results were: 12th place Chicken, 6th place ribs, 20th place Pork, a dismal 27th place Brisket and 10th Wings. This resulted in a 21st place Overall finish. Far from the 10th or better that we needed to qualify for the Nationals. All we can do is hold our heads high and learn from the experience. We will be back next year.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

2012 Sam's Club Laurel,MD

On September 7th & 8th we traveled to Laurel, MD to compete in one of the 5 locals in Region 5 of the Sam’s Club National Tour. Sam’s Club has partnered with the Kansas City BBQ Association (KCBS) to form a national championship tour. They split the country into 5 regions, with 5 local events of 30 teams and 1 regional final with 30 teams in all 5 regions. The top 6 teams from each local go to that region’s final. From each regional final, the top 10 teams or 50 total go to the national championship in Bentonville, Arkansas which is the birthplace of WalMart. All of these competitions take place in a Sam’s Club parking lot except for the one in Bentonville, which is held in the corporate headquarters parking lot. All of these events are run by Troy Black who has this down to a science. Pretty much each one is identical with the exception of maybe the parking lots. We arrived in Laurel around 7:15AM for an 8:00 load in. Usually there is some leeway in load in times, but not here. There were teams who spent at least part of the night parked on another section of the lot, but not allowed into the competitor’s site ‘till 8:00AM. We actually got out first choice in sites, as we were the second team in line for entry. Norma & Ron went about setting up and were joined later by Mike, Trina and the kids, then Stephanie, Pat & Bertie. We were also joined by Bob Hess who is a judge going for his Master Judge certification. Part of the qualification for this is to cook with a team to see what goes into our side of an event. Bob was a very good addition to the team, as we learned a lot from him and hopefully he learned something from us, at least an appreciation of the time and effort put forth by the teams. Bob’s welcome to cook with us anytime. Friday afternoon prep went as planned and the evening and Saturday morning cook went fairly smoothly with the exception of brisket. Let me say that there is a lot of truth in the saying that the meat is done when it’s done, not when you want it to be done. Nothing was late, but the brisket had a mind of its own. An additional category at this competition was sponsored by Tyson wings. It was the Tyson “Best Wings on the Planet” competition and this was prepped and cooked by Mike. All turn in went as planned and we started breaking down the site while waiting for the awards ceremony and trying to beat the rapidly approaching storm headed our way. The awards were scheduled for 4:00PM and we were notified that they would be early and actually were held at 3:30PM. This is a testament to the efficiency of the organizers as well as the wish to be done before the storm hit. First category called was the Best Wings on the Planet and Pigheaded BBQ took 2nd place in this. Great job Mike. Next up was our best category, chicken but we didn’t hear our name called for that. We did get a 3rd place call in ribs, no call in pork and a 9th place call in brisket. Our final places were: 2nd Wings, 20th Chicken, 3rd Ribs, 11th Pork, 9th Brisket and……………7th Overall. Did I mention that the top 6 teams move on? Oh yea, I thought I did. Needless to say, we were crushed and this would make a long drive home even longer. To add insult to injury, we actually tied in the 4 KCBS categories and lost 3 of those tiebreakers. To sum up, all was not lost. One of the 6 teams who finished above us, couldn’t commit to the regional event in Chesapeake, VA so guess who was contacted to take their place??????????? PIGHEADED BBQ. We will be at the regional this weekend, so if any of you are in the area, stop by. Great seeing our BBQ friends and we met some very nice new ones. Thanks for all the support.

Monday, September 3, 2012

2012 Smokin on the Bay Recap
Pigheaded BBQ just finished the 2nd leg of our BBQ Marathon. We competing at Smokin on the Bay located in Tracy’s Landing, MD. This was our first time at this venue, which was the 2nd annual Smokin’ on the Bay. This is a Saturday/Sunday event and was held over the Labor Day weekend. We decided to arrive a day early in anticipation of a high volume of holiday traffic. We arrived around 10:00AM Friday morning and saw that there were a few teams already there. We had arraigned for an extra large site so we could spread out and enjoy the extended stay. The venue was a large gravel covered lot at Herrington Harbor North, one of the largest marinas on the Chesapeake Bay. I must say that we were impressed with the facilities. This was a first class marina. Norma, Ron, and Mike, Trina and Michael & Maddie all arrived within minutes of each other and went about setting up the site. It didn’t take much effort to work up a good sweat in the hot and humid climate. Temperatures got up to the high 90’s on Friday and Saturday with a heavy surprise downpour late Saturday evening. Sunday brought slightly cooler temperature and lower humidity. Friday night, the organizers had arraigned a boat to take the competitors across the water to Skippers, for a “Welcome Reception”. This was a very nice gesture, appreciated by those who chose to attend. Saturday brought about the usual meat inspection and prep work of the four meat categories. This went pretty smoothly until 10:30 or so Saturday night when the storm hit. The team frantically went about re-arraigning the site, trying to keep everything dry. It’s a little difficult moving our smoker (Raquel) around on a large gravel surface. We may have to look at replacing the front swivel wheels with swivel inflatable ones. After much scrambling, cursing and laughing we were ready to fire up the cookers and get down to business. The big meats went on and the usual routine was restored. Sunday morning meant ribs and chicken were to see final prep and into Raquel. We had a smooth cook and felt good about all our entries. This is usually the “Kiss of Death”, but it was all in the judges hands now. There weren’t any ancillary categories, however there was to be a “People’s Choice” category of pork. Each team who chose to enter, would receive (100) 1oz cups to be handed out to the public who purchased tickets to the event. We were a little apprehensive about participating, because it was to take place after the last turn in and we’re usually very tired and starting to pack up to go home. We actually enjoyed the experience, largely due to the “shilling” of Ron v2.0 who whipped the crowd up into a feeding frenzy, or at least our version of one. How that man’s mind works is anybody’s guess. After cleaning up and packing the trailer, it was time for the awards ceremony and we eagerly walked over and set up our chairs. Chicken was the first category announced and we heard “1st Place Chicken…Pigheaded BBQ”. What a great start, now we wanted to hear our names called again. “4th Place Ribs…Pigheaded BBQ. Now we’re really excited, could this be our time? Alas, we didn’t hear our name called again. Our pork placed 23rd and our brisket 17th. Not the way we wanted to finish, be we did place a respectable 6th overall out of 47 teams. We’re always happy with a top 10 finish, but we’re not satisfied. We are in search of our first Grand Champion and won’t quit until we get it. Next up is the Sam’s Club local in Laurel, MD next week. Hope to see you there. In wrapping up, we would like to thank our great neighbors. JD’s Smokin Misfits on one side, Southern Maryland Smokers on the other and Taste of Grace behind us. We couldn’t ask for nicer BBQ neighbors. Thanks to all the friends and family who travel to see and support us.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

2012 New Holland Recap
2012 New Holland was a fantastic experience for Pigheaded BBQ. Great weather, venue and organizers made this an almost perfect competition. Norma and Ron arrived very early (6AM) on Friday morning and started setting up. We had two great neighbors again with Hidden Fire on one side and a brand new team, Holy Smokers on the other. We couldn’t ask for better neighbors. Thankfully, in New Holland you get the same site year after year unless you ask for a change. Norma started prepping her Chef’s Choice entry as this entry required a very early prep. The rest of the team arrived a bit later and we all set about our prepping of the meats. This is a large spread out venue and during the day most of us had a chance to wander, visiting other teams and getting our yearly fix of Lapps Ice Cream as well as other food vendors. The cooks’ meeting was at 7PM and final prep work was done right after. The overnight cook went smoothly and a beautiful Saturday morning saw the final prep for chicken and ribs and sausage. Sausage was the first entry and Ron v2.0 worked his magic with the Pat LaFreida sausage used for this category. A huge thanks to our sponsor (Pat LaFreida Meats) for the fantastic sausage and Creekstone briskets. The usual KCBS order for Chicken, Ribs, Pork and Brisket was next and Chef’s Choice was out last category. All went as planned and we turned in all our entries on time. This is always somewhat of a juggling act, but we seem to have our timing down. All was in the judges hands now, nothing to do but clean up, pack and wait. Out whole entourage walked down for the awards ceremony with baited breaths hoping for a good outcome. We were very happy with the results because we walked in every category we entered, taking 6th place in Chef’s Choice, 2nd Sausage, 13th Chicken, 4thRibs, 12th Pork,12th Brisket and 4th Overall out for 72 teams. We had a very consistent cook which is all you can ask for and hope to keep this up in our BBQ marathon. We are cooking 3 weekends in a row with a possible 4th one if we qualify. Next up is Smokin’ on the Bay in Tracy’s Landing, MD on Labor Day weekend, then the Sam’s Club event in Laurel, MD the following week. Hope to see some of you there. As usual, thanks to all our friends and family for their support.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

2012 NJ State BBQ Championship Recap

Pigheaded BBQ had a great time at the 14th Annual NJ State BBQ Championship. This is one of the few 3 day competitions and we treat it like a mini vacation. We booked a room at a hotel right across the street from the BBQ venue. What a luxury to be able to just cross the street and have a nice hot shower or a quick nap, not to mention take a dip in the pool if you like. We also enjoyed some pretty nice weather over the three days. We did have a couple of quick showers, but nothing of consequence.

We arrived early Friday morning and were signed in, before the usual 10:00AM time. We wasted no time to start setting up our site and by noon, we just chilled the rest of the day ‘till the 7:00PM cooks meeting. At the cooks meeting, we found out that the Iron Chef ingredient was bluefish this year. While many of the teams had let it be known that they would like the secret ingredient to be seafood, I doubt if bluefish was the first choice of anyone. Ron v2.0 immediately began planning his entry and he and Mike wasted no time heading out to the grocery to pick up some additional items. Some of us spent Friday night at the hotel, while others manned the site for the night.

Saturday morning brought a brief bout of sprinkles, but no big deal. After taking most of the morning off, we stared prepping our Iron Chef, Sauce and Dessert entries, the first of which had a 3:00PM turn in time. The bbq meats were trimmed, injected and or rubbed later that day for the Sunday turn ins. Late Saturday night saw the pork and briskets put on the pit before settling in for the night.

Sunday morning brought the high humidity and it turned out to be a very warm day. Ribs and chicken hit the pits in the morning and the usual turns in times were met with no problems. It was all in the judges hands now and after enjoying a celebratory libation, we starting cleaning up and putting away our equipment whilst waiting for the awards ceremony at 4:30. It was pretty hot out by that time and we walked the 4 blocks to the stage where the awards were to be announced.

The Iron Chef, Sauce and Dessert categories were announced and we didn’t hear our named called. Next up were the BBQ entries and chicken was the first announced. They started at 10th place and we didn’t hear Pigheaded BBQ until they called 1st place. Wow, that was an exciting start for us. We finished 2nd in chicken last year and this year we won that category. Next up was ribs and we again heard Pigheaded BBQ, this time for a 3rd place finish. Not a bad way to start, but alas we didn’t hear our names called again for either pork or brisket. Now on to the top 10 overall and we heard Pigheaded BBQ for 7th place overall out of 66 teams. Not too bad, in fact it was the second year in a row that we finished 7th overall. The bright side was our good friends Finn’s Finest were announced Grand Champions, their first time wining overall. We all yelled and congratulated them because even though we’re all competing against each other, BBQ teams are like a big family and we support each other. Congrats Ferg, Megan and crew for your great cook.

As usual, it was great seeing our BBQ friends, family and old acquaintances and thank you all for your support. Next up for us is New Holland, PA the last weekend of August then Tracey’s Landing and Laurel, MD the first two weeks of September. If you’re in the area, stop by and say hello.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

2012 Swinetastic BBQ Festival Recap

Pigheaded BBQ competed in the 2012 Swinetastic BBQ Festival in Frederick, MD on June 15-16. This was our first year here and the second year for the event. Let me begin by saying that we haven’t set the world on fire or pleased the judges with anything we’ve cooked so far this year. Since we were coming off our best year ever, this had been a matter of concern, for us. We had high hopes of bucking that trend and having a good cook this weekend. Things didn’t start out too good for us. We left the house at 4:00AM on Friday, heading south for hopefully greener pastures. It was apparent from very early on that the truck and trailer wasn’t handling like it should and it was a long 2 ½ hour drive trying to keep the rig from swaying. I’ve seen the trailer sway before and have learned how to distribute the weight properly, but wasn’t used to the truck swaying also. That turned out to be an easy fix, the right rear tire was low on air pressure, something I should have seen before we started out. You can bet that I won’t do that again.

We arrived at the Frederick Fairground around 6:45AM and were shown to our site. We were the 5th team to arrive that morning it seemed and we set up next to the “5 Pigs” team. I have to say that between them and our neighbors on the other side, we couldn’t ask for better neighbors. I hope they feel the same. Norma and I arrived and set up the site. We had plenty of room and leisurely went about our chores in a pretty efficient manner. What did strike us as a little different was the fact that we were right in with the vendors. Florida Skin & Bones and a radio station were directly across from us. The rest of the team showed up  throughout the day and we settled into our routing of prepping the meats for the night cook. Ron v2.0 started on the “Anything Crab” entry, as this was a Friday 7:00PM turn in. After some miscommunication, we received our turn in box and Ron did his magic and turned out an incredible dish of “Crabacado Towers”. See pictures of this on our website. Alas, we’re still waiting for the results of this entry. 1st through 3rd were mentioned at the awards ceremony, but we didn’t receive the scores and placement of our entry with the other categories as is the norm. Not happy about that!!

Late Friday night, our pork butts and brisket were put in the smokers for the Saturday turn ins. Contrary to popular held beliefs, we did experiment a little during the cook. This is usually considered a No-No during competitions, but we had some mixed results with it. Early Saturday morning, ribs were rubbed and put in the pits, followed a short time later by chicken. We were now “All IN” and hoping for a smooth cook. The brisket was taking a little longer than expected and one of the butts, part of the experiment, was dryer than hoped and none of it was used. Well we did have two others that were pretty much what we were looking for. Ribs also took a little longer than usual and just made it into the box by turn in time. Now it was all in the judges hands and we relaxed with a cold beverage for a bit, then started cleaning up while waiting for the awards.

Awards were more than a few minutes late as we sat in the hot sun, but we did listened to a very good band while waiting. Finally the awards presentation was getting underway and we anxiously waited to hear our name called. “Anything Crab” was announced first and they announced 1st through 3rd. 3Eyz BBQ was the winner of that category and Eric did a very good job on that. Next up was Chicken and Pigheaded BBQ was called for a 3rd place finish. We were very happy with that because although this category was our best last year, we hadn’t had a call for chicken this year yet. Ribs and pork were next and no calls for us in those categories. Brisket which had been our nemesis as of late was next and we did hear Pigheaded BBQ called for 5th place. We actually tied for 4th place, but lost the tiebreaker. No matter, we were ecstatic with this call which we hope broke our brisket curse. Brisket cost us a possible RGC last year and much more, so that call was very well received. All in all, we had a very good cook, finishing up in 7th place overall out of 69 teams. The whole team was very happy and we hope that this is a sign of things to come. As usual, it was very nice seeing old friends and we made some new ones that we hope to cook next to again. As of now, Wildwood NJ is our next competition on July 13-15. Hope to see you there.