Friday, February 19, 2010

Great Bend, KS: Kansas Winter Q

I meant to get something up about our first contest of the year a little sooner, but it's better late than never, right? Maybe not. Nevertheless, our first contest of the decade happened last weekend in Great Bend, Kansas.

We have become quite fond of Great Bend. We went there for the first time in 2008 for the inaugural Winter Q and have been back several times since, as organizer Kent Romine puts on a summer and winter contest.

We arrived fairly late - around 6pm - and set up shop inside the building. Due to the cold temps, teams have the options of roughing it outside or leaving their pit out in the elements, and setting up tables and prep areas indoors. We took our spot next to Steph and Kyle of, with our pit just outside the nearest door.

We had a good time, as we usually do at Winter Q. Kent organizes a pretty cool side deal where teams can make a little extra cash. It's a Calcutta where teams are auctioned off and payouts are based on a team's finish. With 60 cook teams at the contest, the auction took quite a while...and with Chris and I arriving so late, we were the second to last team to be auctioned off. There was some big money being laid down on some of the top teams. I believe the top bid was $230 or $240 for Munchin' Hogs (Rob bought himself). The big spender of the night was Donnie Teel of Buffalo's BBQ. I am not sure how much Donnie threw down, bought he bought Pellet Envy for at least $200, and added Parrothead Smokers and few other teams as well.

I thought we might have a chance to buy ourselves for a bargain basement $40 or $50, but the bid was up to $100 before we knew it and I barely had enough money to cover the toll for the turn pike on the way home. Donnie ended up buying us as well for $150 or something. That's more than we spent on the meat to cook in the contest itself! So much for scoring that bargain.

Despite the temps dipping into the low 20's, our cook went pretty well and everything stayed pretty much on schedule. I liked our chicken, but didn't love it and it finished in the top third...probably about right. Pork was great and we took 3rd place for it. Brisket was very good too and we won a 10th place ribbon for it. I thought the Brisket deserved better, but it was a real tough crowd of cooks so we'll take whatever we could get.

Now, onto our ribs. Ribs. Hmmm. How do I put this. The judges absolutely destroyed our ribs. They hated them. They must have spit them out and tried to clean wipe their tongues with napkins like Tom Hanks in Big when he tried the caviar. So Chris and I must have known the ribs were crap, huh? Nope. Not even close. I liked 'em. He liked 'em. We've had worse finish in first place. So where did these finish? 52nd. Ouch.

That rib score really cost us. We finished a disappointing 23rd overall. The guys from Reservoir Hogs bested the field, scoring an impressive Grand Championship. Rod Gray continues to dominate as Pellet Envy scored a Reserve Grand. We ended up making enough money to buy gas for the trip home and get a tasty burger and shake at DQ. And Donnie made a little money off us too, as that 3rd place pork was enough to score him some cash in the Calcutta.

Great Bend's own Kelly Wertz of 4 Legs Up BBQ pours shots for the assembled crowd of cooks.

Steph from The Slabs and rod from Pellet Envy pucker up for a shot of Gentleman Jack.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 Year in Review in Pictures

I know we're well into January and hopefully you are have a pleasant start to 2010. I meant to do some sort of year in review post closer to Jan 1st, but never got around to it. So I guess I'm going with a better late than never theme here.

This is a BBQ year in review for Dodge County - in pictures. I am going to take one photo from each month of '09 and keep the captions to a few words. Some of the pics have been posted here already and some are new. I hope you enjoy them.
Late January - Cooking ribs in the snow for my boy Jack's birthday party...six racks of spares squeezed in to the Weber Kettle.

My brother made this really cool (functioning) little smoker for Jack's 2nd birthday on February 1st. Maybe the best present ever...

The month of March in Kansas City means St. Patrick's Day parades and partying. In North Kansas City it's also an excuse to BBQ. The Snake Saturday BBQ contest is the first contest of the season in KC. This is my favorite picture from that contest. This is Big Mo Cason of Ponderosa BBQ in Des Moines, IA. I just really like BBQ pictures like this one.

In April Chris and I had the opportunity to cook at Texas Motor Speedway in Dallas at a contest held on race weekend. It was a small contest with only 13 (top notch) teams and we were lucky enough to finish as Reserve Grand Champs. This is the cook's meeting. Some of the cooks pictured (L-R): Waldo from Lost Gonzo (pony tail), Bart Clark of Twin Oak (sunglasses), Jamie Geer of Jambo Pits (water bottle), Bill Milroy of Texas Rib Rangers (black hat sitting), Lee Ann Whippen from Wood Chicks and Tommy Houston from Checkered Pig.

In May Chris and I competed in the Great American BBQ Contest in Kanasas City - a big event with almost 200 teams. We didn't do well at all. In fact the only member of our team to win anything was my nephew, Kyle. He won 4th place for his pork chop in the Kid's Q!

Born May 29th, Megan June Nickelson made her first trip to a BBQ contest (Tonganoxie. KS) in June at just 13 days old. Here she is with Dad. We went on to win this one too. I think Megan needs to come to more of her Dad's contests!

Over the July 4th weekend Jack and I spent a few hours cooking some ribs on his little smoker. He kept trying to ride away on his tractor while we were cooking.

In August Chris and I cooked a whole hog for my sister's engagement party. It was a lot of fun and we fed just over a hundred or so hungry guests. My Dad is never content with eating cooked pork on a plate pulled from the whole animal. He finds it much more efficient to "graze from the running rear" of the hog.

In September we competed in our hometown contest in Mission, KS - where we cooked for the first time in 2005. Here Chris is walking up to accept an award with Megan and Jack thought he needed to go too. Our awards emcee stopped to talk to Jack...all we could make out was "BarQ meat!" and "Dodge County Smokers!" The emcee is Sports Radio 810 host Kevin Keitzman.

October always means cooking in the biggest contest of the year: the American Royal. The buzz at the Royal this year was all about the taping of the now-famous TLC reality show PITMASTERS. Here is the crew interviewing Johnny Trigg, one the show's stars.

5:30am on Thanksgiving morning. Cooking turkeys for Thanksgiving dinner.

Just about a month after the above picture was taken, we were hit with a Christmas snowstorm in Kansas City. The cooker is in the exact same place. But there's nothing cooking this time!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

(Way more than)
One Minute Monday
(One Day Late)

It's always good to end the year on a high note. At the same time, it kind of stinks too.

See, we have generally cooked so bad at the Royal (or I should say that we SCORED so bad), that we needed another contest to end the year on. October gets pretty late to find a good competition, but there are still ample opportunities around KC. A few years back we did a little unsanctioned one day bar contest and for the past three years we have cooked The Fountains Blaze Off in Independence, two weeks after The Royal.

Our scores at the American Royal have been so horrendous, that we needed a confidence boost so we didn't have to spend the next 4 or 5 months with a 350th place finish hanging over our heads. Even though we actually pulled out a respectable finish this year at the world's largest BBQ contest (16th place), we decided to cook one more contest anyway and we ended up finishing with a reserve grand at The Fountains.

The only problem is that winning (or just doing well) makes me want to keep cooking as much, or maybe more than performing poorly. When we don't do well, it's like I need to prove to myself that we can win. And when we do do well, it's kind of the same feeling - only we need to prove that we can win again and achieve that feeling Not sure what the word is, but you know what I mean.

So I guess we're done with 2009...maybe.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Fountains Blaze Off and Senior Q

Chris and I competed in what most likely may be our last BBQ contest of 2009. The Fountains Blaze Off and Senior Q is a really nice event held at the senior living community in Independence, MO - just about 30 minutes from home base.

This is the 3rd year of the KCBS contest held at the facility, and it's our 3rd time competing there as well. We were fortunate enough to come out of the weekend with a reserve grand championship. That finish was a big surprise to both Chris and I as we weren't exactly blown away by anything we turned in on Saturday.

An even bigger surprise might have been our 1st place score in chicken. We were struggling to get our chicken right that morning, and I guess we did better than we thought. Funny thing is our neighbor at the contest, Todd from Ployboys BBQ, said his chicken didn't come out the way he had planned either and he ended up with a 2nd place bird. Todd also ended up winning the contest, putting the hurt on the rest of the field by a 15 point spread (that's a lot).

We flew solo for this event - no family on Friday or Saturday until Chris' wife Jenny came just in time for the awards along with his two daughters, Emily and Baby Megan. I shouldn't say we were completely on our own - we did have my chocolate lab, Sue Dog with us. This is the first time Sue has stayed at a contest with me since May 2006. Interestingly enough, that was also our first grand championship. I guess she is good luck!

Here are a few pictures from the contest. I hope to have some more up on the picture page of our site in the next few days.

(photos below courtesy of Todd Johns - Pork Pullin' Plowboys)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Busy or Lazy?

I'm not sure if I'm really busy...or just a little lazy. I had some ideas for a few posts to make this week and I haven't gotten around to them. I spent last week decompressing from the Royal along with work, normal chores and starting a Halloween costume project for the Boy. This week it's more of the same...only I have been ramping up for one more contest.

Chris and I will be reporting for duty to cook The Fountain Blaze Off in Independence, MO Friday. I have been slowly but surely knocking off items from the "to do" list in preperation for the weekend, but stuff just keeps getting in the way preventing me from getting it all done. Tonight it was my soon-to-be brother-in-law's car dying on I-35. I had to go meet up with him and tow his Neon back home. Not a big deal...just another thing to do.

Hopefully we'll be ready for the contest. I am looking forward to the potlock on Friday night organized by Steph from It's all soup. That will be a nice treat for a cold weekend.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The American Royal

I can’t really write much about the American Royal that hasn’t been written before. It’s was big. It was loud. There was a lot of action and a lot of people. Beyond that, I can’t really explain it. You really pretty much have to see it yourself to get a feel for what the Royal is.

I think Chris and I may have been the last team to arrive to the contest and I am nearly certain that we were the last of the invitational teams to check in. When we called for meat inspection around 4:15 on Friday afternoon, we were told that all inspections were complete. Really?

We didn’t do a party this year and that was nice. It was good to not have to worry about bringing extra stuff to feed everyone. Instead, we just had my wife, little boy and my sister and soon-to-be brother-in-law along with Chris and I. Chris’ wife was not feeling well so she stayed at home all weekend along with the kids. We spent time at a few other team parties and that was quite enjoyable. Friday night we ate and visited with the Pork Me Purple gang and Saturday enjoyed a fine meal from the Ribs 4 U boys (what a great steak!)

As for our results in the contests, they were mixed.

In the Invitational there were 119 teams competing from all corners of the country. In our opinion, this is the most prestigious event to compete in and win in competitive BBQ. You had to have won a Grand Championship in the past 12 months, and they take champions from all sanctioning bodies. The best competition in BBQ is at this contest. Our lone award in this one came in the pork category where we placed 15th. We checked in at 31st overall.

We expected to do a little better, but there was nothing left to do but concentrate on the Open the next day.

The Open contest saw 473 teams. I thought it would be hard to top the food we cooked the day before, but we did. I had a weird feeling in the pit of my stomach that got worse as each box was completed and turned in, with each category coming out better than the last. So as we sat through the Open awards, not receiving a call, we were both feeling a little down. I might even say we were borderline disgusted as we fruitlessly waited to hear our name called.

Adding to the frustration, this is our 5th year of cooking in the Royal, and we have yet win anything in the Open. In fact we have gotten progressively worse each year we have competed there.

We were just about ready to get up and head back to our site to finish cleaning up when the top 20 overall teams were announced. What a relief to hear our name called in 16th place. Turns out we just missed calls in brisket (24th place) and pork (27th).

So while the monkey might not be completely off our back as we have yet to get an Open call, we do now have a nice overall finish to hang our hat on.

Monday, October 5, 2009

One Minute Monday

I plan on having a more in depth recap of the American Royal in the next few days. But until then, I just wanted to get a quick post up here. Chris and I finished 16th in the open out of 473 teams. That’s far better and feels much nicer than our 353rd place finish last year! We received no category calls in the open, so when we heard our name in the list for the overall finish at 16, we were pleasantly surprised. The invitational contest was OK for us. We received one call, squeaking in at 15th in pork and finishing 31st overall. All in all, we had a really nice weekend. Pics and more on the weekend coming soon.