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.