Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Part 3 New Holland Summer Fest 2006

1st time

I was counting the days until the Summer Fest. While checking the web site I noticed a BBQ class offered By Smoken Dudes BBQ at the New Holland location on Thursday just before the Summer Fest. My friend Al and I signed up and drove to New Holland early Thursday morning. The e-mail conformation said not to eat breakfast and they were not kidding. The guys at Smoken Dudes put on a great class that included an awful lot of good BBQ to eat. They demonstrated cooking methods for brisket, pork butts, chicken, ribs, prime rib and even a whole hog. The best part was the students could sample everything that was cooked for the class, we didn’t have to buy breakfast, lunch or dinner that day! Meadow Creek BBQ was moving their display cookers onto the fair grounds and you could just feel the excitement building for the weekend cook off.

Friday morning came and I hit the office early trying to clean up loose ends with intentions of taking a half a day off. By 11:00 I couldn’t take it any more and I jumped into my truck for the 1 ½ hour ride to New Holland Pennsylvania. I grabbed a change of clothes and my shaving kit and headed north but not without a stop for a bottle of agave juice.

Steve was already there. He was cooking with his Father Dale under the name of Team Agave. The year before, Steve and Dale won the Grand Champion at New Holland so this year they were the ones to beat. I had no idea what to bring or what to expect as I wandered around the fair grounds looking for Team Agaves site. I eventually located Steves rig and knocked on the door. I was greeted with a big grin and a quick handshake then told, “hand me that brisket…no…not the butt…the brisket…that’s it.” Sort of reminded me of when we ran out of gas on a boat out in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay, when the Captain in the assisting boat was preparing to tow us in, he tossed the line, “tie it to the pointy end” he said. From then on, it was non-stop. It began with instruction, followed by hands on training. I could not believe how much meat we were preparing. While we worked to trim and prep the meat, other cooks and team members would stop in to say hello. There was a lot of talk about recent contests, who finished where, who did what to their chicken ( that doesn’t sound right does it?) and some good-natured ribbing, but overall, everyone I met was very friendly……. and this was a competition?

As evening approached and we were finishing with the meat prep, teams from nearby sites stopped in to invite us to come over and have a bite to eat or a cold drink. Dale had brought some steamer clams from home and he cooked then up with some melted butter, they were great. Folks stopped by and we went visiting, it was just like a big party, this looked like it was going to be fun.

I met many people my first evening on the BBQ circuit. Chris and the Dizzy Pig gang invited us in for a bowl of their “nad” soup. They had the blues playing and the smoke rollin, talk about mojo. I don’t know what was in the soup, but it sure was good. Brett Brown from Free Range BBQ was nearby and cooking alone this weekend, now that is an iron man. I was also introduced to Rich Decker from Lost Nation Smoke Company and his rendition of a clonesickle. (Note to self, stay away from anything presented in a block of ice on an August night in New Holland)

After a few more trips around the fairgrounds punctuated with a couple of nips on the clonesickle, we loaded the meat into the cooker and I went (staggered) off to grab a few hours sleep. (another note to self: bring sleeping bag and pillow to facilitate getting a few hours sleep)
(a third note to self: Attempting to sleep in a Chevy Tahoe without a pillow or blanket on a hot August night after consuming steamer clams and bourbon whiskey from a block of ice does not necessarily make for a restful night…add Rolaids, Tums and Ibuprofen to the must have list) Steve said he would be up early to put the ribs on, I think my reply was, “if I am not there, start without me.”

Saturday morning came and despite the fog in my head, I rolled back to the site and met Dale and Steve for breakfast. I had missed the ribs going into the cooker. The folks from Smoken Dudes put out a good feed, nothing fancy, but very tasty. A few eggs, a cup of coffee and a couple more Ibuprofen and I was as good as new….yea right! Oh, by the way, Steve wants to know if I would be interested in cooking the sausage entry. Sure, I will cook it, do we have a grill? No grill, no problem, Steve calls his friend Jack McDavid of Jacks Down Home BBQ, and presto, I got a grill. A black Weber kettle, now this I could cook on. I was about to cook in my first official KCBS BBQ contest and I was not even nervous.

Sausage was due first, at 11:30, before chicken, I lit an indirect fire and tossed them on. I tried not to burn them or cause them to split. When they were done, I tossed em in a bath with beer and some other goodies and slid em into the smoker until turn-in time. Dale made me up a box and Steve helped me build the box. At the appointed time, I walked the box up to the table. A smiling woman took the box after I sat it down, that was painless.

Back to the site as Steve was getting ready with his chicken turn in and it was off to the races until brisket went in at 1:30. Even though Steve was basically cooking by himself, Dale prepped and ran the boxes, and I did what I was told, he was, in my opinion, very calm and organized. He would ask for an opinion, call for a look-see, or have us taste a product, he moved around like a well-oiled machine. No pressure, no worry, amazing. He even had time to speak to a group of folks that stopped by the site from his hometown, wow, how does he do that?

After the brisket went in it was time to clean up as Steve and Jack McDavid were leaving New Holland after the last turn in for a two day drive out to Las Vegas to film a BBQ contest on the VERSUS network. When we were packed up, Steve and Jack hit the road, Dale asked if I was staying for the awards. Jo had just called and said she picked up some fresh swordfish from the market, when would I be home. After my meeting with the clonesickle and the sleep that I didn’t get in the Hotel Tahoe, I thought it would make sense to go ahead and get on the road. After all, I was really beat. Dale would stay and collect any accolades for Team Agave.

Cell phone service at my home is spotty at best. While sitting at the kitchen island, dining on blackened swordfish and drinking a glass of Merlot, 6:00 PM Saturday evening, my cell phone tells me I have a new message. That’s funny, it never even rang, typical for the service around here, where’s that guy with the black framed glasses when you need him. I dial in to retrieve my message and work through the menu, finally getting to the new one, its scratchy, sounds like the caller is also in a bad cell. I can make out Steve’s voice, as he is somewhere in western Pennsylvania, I can tell he’s excited, Team Agave took the Grand Championship for the second year in a row!!! And to top it off, we got a call for 5th place sausage out of 72 teams! I can’t believe it, amazing.

Upon reflection, I had had a great time and met some great folks. Other than my self-inflicted overindulgence, I had a great weekend. This really looks like something I would like to get involved with. I wonder if I can find a couple of interested people and start our own team.

1 comment:

Bob's Computer Services said...

Hi George,
I guess this is why i haven't seen you around lately. Great job with the blog. keep in touch