Tuesday, March 25, 2008

What's in a Name?

Every once in a while when we're at a contest someone will ask us what's up with that line "& the Sue Dog Smokin' Crew" near the bottom of our competition team banner.

Does our team really include a legion of culinary trained canines all named Sue?

Sue is my dog. When I entered my first BBQ contest, I couldn't think of a name for my team. So I named the team after my dog. I think the first name I used was Smokin' Sue's BBQ. We cooked in 6 contests that first summer. I used some combination or variance of the words Smoke and Sue in almost all of them. In addition to Smokin' Sue's, there was Sue Dog's BBQ and then Sue Dog's Smokin' Crew. I could never quite settle on a name that I thought fit just right.

Toward the end of our first year, I entered a contest in West Point, Nebraska - just a few miles from my hometown in Dodge County, Nebraska. My Dad knew a local beef producer, who also held a seat on the Dodge County Cattleman's Board, and a sponsorship for that contest in West Point sounded like a good possibility. So I entered as the Dodge County Smokers BBQ team.

Well, the sponsorship fell through, but not before another friend of Dad's made me a banner that said "Dodge County Smokers and the Sue Dog Smokin' Crew." Now I had already entered another contest happening after this one, so I asked the guy to include that Sue Dog line on the banner when I learned he was making it. That way I could use it at both contests. It was kind of an ugly banner. It was yellow and had blue and red letters. But it was free and I was happy to have it. By the way, I think it was free because the guy was using up banner materials that no one else would pay for.

Now that we had a banner (no matter how ugly), I didn't want to pay for another - and the Dodge County name was starting to grow on me anyway...plus the name kind of paid tribute to where I grew up and also the smoker that my Dad had just built around that time. So the name stuck...and so did that Sue Dog line.

When we designed our current logo, we kept Sue in there and we finally retired that ugly yellow banner last year. Sue still comes to the occasional contest, but more often you'll find a little Sue Dog look-a-like hanging in our tent at a contest. BBQers are full of superstitious little quirks...I guess that's one of ours.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

North Kansas City

Our second contest of the year was in North Kansas City. It was our third time cooking this one and this contest has had a few organizational problems in the past. This year they moved locations and fixed a few other issues and put together a pretty solid event. It's a shame the weather wasn't a little better.

With the new location the sites were all centrally located around Finnegen's, a bowling alley and event center in Northtown. This put us all closer to cleaner restrooms and it allowed them to hold the cook's meeting and awards indoors as opposed to outside as in years past. We also got a our full results print out instead of waiting for them to be posted online. There were some other issues with alcohol consumption that were worked out with NKC officials as well - which is good because I like to drink beer.

After braving the cold, wind, rain and snow we got everything turned in on time - but just barely...I took way too long on our pork & brisket boxes but Chris literally ran our boxes in just in time and in the end we faired pretty well - finishing first in ribs and ending up fourth overall. I was a little disappointed in our pork score as I thought it was pretty good. Chicken was OK. We tried a new recipe and it will need some tweaking, but we are on the right track. Brisket continues to weigh us down. We actually scored better than I thought we would, but I think it was just luck.

All in all it was a good weekend...we got to hang out with our ol' pals The Slabs and took in a few of the Big XII Basketball tournament games over at Pork Me Purple's site (nice brisket call, Jerrod), had a nice dinner with fam and friends on Friday, then we got a surprise visit from my buddy Officer Jon Going and we even came home with a little bit of money, which will help us keep feeding our BBQ habit.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Butt to Butt X Teams Announced

The cooking teams that will compete in the 2008 Butt to Butt(c) Invitational were recently announced in the March issue of the Kansas City Bullsheet. We are excited beyond words to be part of this group of fantastic teams! Cookers like Johnny Trigg of Smokin' Triggers (pictured with his wife, Trish after his Butt to Butt win in 2007) and Chris Lilly of Big Bob Gibson's are legendary on the competition circuit and you will be hard pressed to find better competition cooks than Bad Byron of ButtRub.com and Rod Gray of Pellet Envy...hell, every team in this group is threat to take home a Grand Championship every time they fire up their pit!

The Butt to Butt Invitational is a truely unique event...Every July for the past ten years, cooking teams from nine different events across the country and the Pork Team of the Year have all been invited to Shannon, Illinois (pop. 900) for the opportunity to cook and turn in one category and one category only: pork butt. Every year the winner scores a cash prize and a handsome plaque, but the most coveted prize is the boar's tooth that contest organizer Mike Lake personally harvests.

Here are the 2008 Qualifiers and the event at which they each qualified:
(which one of these teams doesn't belong?)
Wild Bunch Butt Burners....BBQ & Blues Challenge; Hammond, LA
Pellet Envy........................Capitol City Cookoff; Jeff City, MO
Dodge County Smokers......Great American BBQ Invitational; Kansas City, KS
Weekend Smokers..............Iowa St. Championship; Marshalltown, IA
Smokin' Triggers.................Butt to Butt IX Winner; Shannon, IL
Chi-Town Smokers.............Illinois St. Championship; Shannon, IL
J-Mack Cookers.................Amazin' Blazin' Cookoff; Lebanon, TN
Big Bob Gibson's.................American Royal; Kansas City
The Heat Is On....................Jack Daniel's World Championship; Lynchburg, TN
ButtRub.com......................KCBS Pork Team of the Year

These guys are on a whole 'nother level! Chris and I are real proud of our pork and I always feel like we have a chance to win when we turn it in, but we are going to have to really nail it to have a respectable showing in this field. We can't wait to give it a shot!

I should also note that the regular KCBS contest that follows the Butt to Butt competition is one of the most highly regarded contests on the circuit. I have heard nothing but good things about Mike Lake and the top-notch event that he runs in Shannon. We are really looking forward to competing in the Illinois State BBQ Championship and Butt to Butt X on July 10th, 11th & 12th.