Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Bridgeton NJ, King Pig BBQ, September 19-20, 2008

…what is this?

Thursday morning I received an email from Dan Hixon, 3 Eyz BBQ. Dan was cooking in Bridgeton NJ on Friday and needed some help. Mutha Chicken Dan was going to help on Friday but could not stay the night due to a previous commitment. Dan would be by himself for turn in’s on Saturday and was inquiring if I would like to come on down.

I glanced at the schedule and found nothing pressing. A quick call to the boss and I was clear for take off. Dan said I wasn’t needed until the morning, but I was welcome to come down on Friday. As soon I was finished work I was bound for New Jersey. After a few stops I made it on site by about 7:30.

I helped make the boxes and eat the chicken wings, it was a good time. It was nice being at a contest without the pressure. Don’t get me wrong, I still wanted to do a good job, but it was a different feeling than the usual Friday night stressing that I have come to know.

Dan and Dan had all the meat prepped before I arrived. After the boxes were made, we only had to light the cooker and load in the big meats at the appropriate time. After the meats went in, MC Dan took off for home, while 3E Dan and I wondered over to visit with the Dizzy Pig gang.

When the DP team is at a contest, their site is always a gathering place for many of the cooks. Chris and the crew always make everyone feel welcome, often times passing around samples of some really tasty camp grub. This time they made lettuce wraps and grilled pizza, good would be an understatement. Followed with a sip or two of some really smooth tequila and I was ready for the sack.

The next day I slept in and didn’t get up until after 8:00. If I could only sleep like that when I am cooking at a contest. Dan and I went over what he wanted to do when it came to crunch time. I would assist and run boxes, everything was in place. His meats came off on time and all was well, we were working together without a hitch. Chicken time came and our box went in with time to spare.

Pork ribs were next, into the box, then off to the judges, two down. Dan had asked if I would like to build the pork box, sure I would. His pork was tasty and I was working on separating my selection for placement into the box. Things were humming along.

I looked up from my task and saw the contest rep, Linda, heading our way carrying a turn in box. Correct me if I am wrong, but aren’t the boxes supposed to be going TO the judges, not away from them? I froze; Dan whose back was facing the rep could only see my face, which I am sure showed an expression of absolute shock. “What’s the matter?” He had barely uttered the words as Linda came to a stop along the work table. Soon, we both would know what was up.

Linda lifted the lid, lying in the box were two ribs. Stuck on the end of one rib was something sticking straight up. “what is this? “ asked Linda. Dan and I both were speechless, my mind was racing, my mouth dry. As you know, anything other than the meat and garnish in the box is an automatic disqualification. What could it be? I looked closer; it sure wasn’t anything we PUT into the box. Then it hit me, the item looked like a slivered almond.

Dan had encountered a crooked set of bones while slicing his ribs for the box. I remembered as he was not happy with the look of the rib on the end, if you looked, you could see the slice into the cartilage/bone. The sliver was a piece of bone that had apparently surfaced when the top layer of ribs was removed during judging, whew, that was a bit stressful.

Linda returned the box to the judges’ tent. When I dropped off the pork box and inquired, she advised the box had been accepted, as a bone sliver was part of the meat, wow, a close one.

The brisket box went in at 1:30 and we got everything cleaned up in pretty short order. The only hitch was the contest organizer decided he did not want a mass exodus of the cooks after the awards, so he announced the awards wouldn’t be given until 5:30. The contest reps had the results ready by 2:30 and everyone had to sit around and wait. The awards, as late as they were scheduled, were even late getting started, beginning at 5:45. As the awards began, it was announced if a team wins any prize money, they must report to the judges tent AFTER awards to have the check written. I thought that perhaps, the checks could have been written in the extremely long down time between turn in and awards, but that is just me.

The contest was won by Stumpy Coal BBQ, reserve was Jacks Down Home, Dizzy Pigs were a close third. The best part of the event was the trophies for reserve and grand. A local chain saw artist carves King Pigs from a whole log. Then there is the King Pig Crown, really cool.

Stumpy Coal, along with the winner from the contest held this weekend in Westport CT, R2BQ, were both graduates of the Steve Farin, ISS cooking class that I attended this past June. It seems that folks that have attended his class improve their scores, just an observation.

The weather was great, the food was tasty, the venue was nice, (along the banks of a large pond), and the festival music was rockin, who could ask for anything more. (Other than a more timely awards presentation) I had a great time cookin and hangin with Dan and Dan, Overall, a great weekend spent on the Jersey shore.