After 16 barbecue contests in 2008 stretching from Great Bend , KS to Shannon , IL starting in February and ending last weekend, we wrapped up the year with a fun contest in Independence , MO. It was the Fountains Blaze-Off and Senior Q held for the second year at the Fountains at Greenbriar – an independent senior living community.
We won this contest last year in its inaugural event and we returned this year hoping for a repeat. It didn’t happen for us, but we still had a pretty good time.
Jon and Clara Williams and their family run this event. Jon and Clara compete as Second Line Smokin’ Krew in KCBS contests and they are also KCBS Reps at quite a few contests around the Kansas City area. Jon is also the food service director at The Fountains. He puts this contest on as a tribute to the residents of the facility and most of the teams cooked an extra brisket for the residents to enjoy at dinner on Saturday Night.
Last year we met one of the neighbors named Eva. Steph of The Slabs wrote a real nice article about our new friend Eva that ran in the November 2007 Bullsheet (you can read it here). Our cook site was literally in her back yard both last and again this year. Eva was back again (see her picture with Steph). She watched us for nearly the whole contest out of her back door and came over for a few visits, but she declined a shot of Gentleman Jack, so Chris and I had to share with Kyle and Steph (below).
The event itself is very well run. It’s one of the rare contests that we do that is just that…it’s just a contest. There is really nothing else going on at the event except BBQ cooks cooking meat. No bands. No vendors. No expos. No carnival rides. Just cooks. Sometimes that is kind of nice.
I wish I could say that not having any of those distractions helped us cook our best and finish well. We didn’t finish as well as we would have liked and I don’t really have any complaints about that. For the most part, I think we were judged accordingly.
It was a strong field of cooks, with 28 teams competing. I think 11 or 12 of those teams have won a grand or reserve grand championship this year. We've made a lot of good friends in that group from cooking at many of the same contests together, so it was fun to cook the last one of the year with many of our BBQ friends like Squeal of Approval, D-Dons Pit Crew, The Slabs, Early Bird BBQ and many more, including a few teams that weren't cooking, but just stopped by for a visit. We were looking forward to the competition and the chance to end on a high note, but we ended up placing 14th overall.
Our one bright spot from the awards was an 8th place call in Chicken. That felt pretty good.
Chicken has been a struggle for us all year. We tried a new recipe for the first time in the Mission , KS contest a few weeks ago. We missed out on a call in the bird category that day, but it didn’t hurt us as we still won the contest. We cooked it again at the American Royal and just missed out on a ribbon in the Invitational and finished somewhere in the middle of the pack in the open. That’s still OK. I liked our chicken last weekend. I thought it was good enough for a call, but I also thought it could have been a little better. I was pleased with the award (only our second of the year), and knowing that we have some room for improvement is also encouraging.
On the other hand, I was miffed by our ribs. We cooked them the same way as we usually do. Neither Chris nor I liked the results. I thought they tasted dry, Chris thought they lacked the “pop” they usually have. Either way you go, it showed in the results.
Our brisket seemed like it could go either way. I was holding out hope that, even though I knew it wasn’t the best it could be, that we’d still get a call. No such luck. We didn’t really deserve it anyway. It’s wasn’t a bad product to in, but it was not the best we could do either. We knew that when we sampled it before turn in.
Pork was actually the category that I think Chris and I both thought we had the best chance in. I guess that’s the kiss of death as we finished 15th. Everything seemed to turn out just right for us in that category. From start to finish, it was on schedule and tasted great. The box looked good and I can say that the entry itself was every bit as good as our 5th place pork in the Royal Invitational. So that was a little disappointing.
Munchin' Hogs at the Hilton claimed the top spot and the Early Family of Early Bird BBQ landed as reserve grand champs. One of the residents at the Fountains made the grand and reserve grand trophies in a ceramics class and Rob from Munchin' Hogs and our buddy Chris from Early Bird had the opportunity pose with the young lady who made them. Rob's GC trophy was even filled with cookies!
Finishing 14th in a 28 team contest was not the way that we wanted to end the year. That said, we still had the most successful year of competition in our short run so far. We cooked more than ever before with 16 contests and we won more than ever before. I think there is a direct connection there. The more you cook, the better you get, the more you win. We’ll be back at next year. I plan to maybe work on a season recap too to post here too.