After spending the whole week in Cleveland attending OnBase training I flew into Nashville @ 4:30 PM on Friday (April 16th). Richard & Jeff (DoRag Apprentice) had already taken Casa DoRag to the contest site early Friday morning & gotten set up. Gary (aka No GPS) finally joined them after a tour of North Alabama around mid morning. Together with Jeff's help they managed to get meat inspected, injected, & back in the cooler. Richard represented DoRagQ on my behalf at the Cook’s Meeting. I arrived around 6:30 PM & began a brutal interrogation of the DoRagQ Gang to bring me up to speed on what I had missed. To my surprise everything was in order & on schedule! They even had supper on the cooker! Cool, I may have to fly in late for every contest!
After I had a few minutes (& a few beers) to get over my “jet-lag” it was time to begin “socializing”! Our neighbors @ High on the Hog for the past three years were good friends Buck & Lou of “High on the Hawg” the BBQ Team not to be confused with “High on the Hog” the BBQ Contest. We hadn’t seen them since back in February in Birmingham so we commenced to catchin up. Scenic City Smokers were set up next to HOTH. It was great to see Wade & Crew again. As we made our way around the contest site we ran into Debbie & Mike Davis of Lotta Bull, Bad Byron of Buttrub.com, & Theresa & Walt of Smokin Scotsmen. It was quickly apparent to me that the level of competition at this year’s HOTH was second to no other. DoRag runnin buddies Long Dawgs, Team Top Chick, Warren County Pork Choppers, Team Allegro, Swiggin Pig, & Big & Twig were also in attendance & we stopped & visited with them all! I know I have said this before but we are truly like one big family (dysfunctional at times) but we are really glad to see each other. Several of the teams were participating in the ancillary categories. This year the “Anything Butt” was steak & Wampler was also sponsoring the sausage category. As they made their turn-ins we headed back to Casa DoRag for some supper. Joining us were Caryn & Brutha Bob Hatcher & their daughter Campbell, Karen & Mark of BBQ TV, Tana Shupe, Ron Harwell, & of course Buck & Lou of HOTH. Richard prepared wonderful smoked pork tenderloin & a potato & onion casserole. Brutha Bob made some kick-ass slaw & potato salad. For desert we had a healthy chug of “Apple Pie”. It don’t get much better than that! Good food, good friends, Tim’s Ford Lake, & BBQ! What you talking ‘bout Willis?
Richard & Jeff turned in for the night as “G” & me threw back a few “adult libations” while enjoying the sounds of the carnival rides & a nice glowing fire. Gary’s knee is healing nicely & he is almost back to 100%. Rob Marlow of Ulika joined us for some conversation. As I was just getting my 2nd wind I noticed the time! Midnight! Holy Crap-O Batman! It’s time to head for the Bat-Cave & hang from the ceiling! So after one more chug (ok three more) it was off to “sawin some logs”. The night seemed to drag on at a snail’s pace. Maybe cuz I had gotten accustomed to the elegant “Holiday Inn Suite” back in Cleveland but I just couldn’t seem to fall asleep. Another chug or two seemed to help & it wasn’t long before I was dreaming of winning the JACK! I was just about to collect my trophy when BAM! Jeff was climbing down the ladder from the over-head bunk but there was no ladder! Watch out, that first step is a doosie! Ok wide awake again…… Somehow I managed for fall back asleep just in time to hear the alarm. Nice….
As the sun slowly rose the smell of hickory filled the air. The carnival rides were silent & all was peaceful…. until the local fishing tournament launched from the boat ramp located right next to Casa DoRag! It sounded like the Royal Navy in pursuit of a German U-Boat! Oh well it was time to get bizzy cookin BBQ anyway. The brisket & pork butts were just about to temperature as we did final prep on the ribs & chicken. Our chicken & pork results from our last contest in Benton KY were less than desirable so we had made a few tweaks in hopes of a better product. The key here is to keep the adjustments small. Don’t make wholesale changes at a contest. Do that at home when you practice. Take it from one that knows!
After breakfast & our 10:30 Early Times Shot, it was time to put our DoRags on & get serious about getting the product in the boxes & safely turned in. For the most part we have this down to a science. The hardest thing for me is waiting for Gary & Richard to tell me what they think when they taste the product. Richard just mumbles & Gary always says “Not our best”! Ok DoRaggers give me some feedback I can understand & work with. I am sure Jeff was about to bust out laughing as the “Three Stooges wearing DoRags” decided which rack of ribs to go with! The first rack was heavy with heat I was in a panic fearing the other racks would taste the same. After all, I used the same rubs & amounts on each rack so they must taste the same right? Wrong Young Weed-hopper! Each rack is different. Here is a tip for competition ribs: try to determine your best tasting rack & use only ribs from that rack to put in the box. Also be careful not to eat all the frickin ribs before you have enough to go in the box! Yes I am speaking from experience again! Somehow we managed to get the product in the boxes & get them turned in safely & on time without any casualties. A major accomplishment in its own right. All we could do now is to wait for the results.
After judging was complete, several of our judging friends came by for a visit. Most said they had “outstanding” food. Several commented the pork was really good. We could only hope that our’s was among those they were speaking of. Dennis Ricks, Richard Preston, & Fred & Maxine Kilgore all dropped by to visit & to wish us luck. As we normally do, Richard, Gary, & I sat down & reflected on our turn-ins. For chicken we all thought it was the best we had produced this year. Defiantly a step in the right direction with our tweaks. As for ribs, we all thought they were good & had great flavor. We had some mixed signals when it came to pork. We cook two butts & take samples from both to determine which has the best flavor. Richard normally makes that call & we commenced to fixin our box only to hear Nickelback exclaim “WOW”! The problem was he was tasting from the butt that we had not turned in! Fan-fricken-tastic! We still had a few minutes so we broke our rule & added some from the second butt to the box. I must admit the box looked awesome. I only hoped it tasted as good as it looked. Then we discussed our most consistent product which is brisket. We were coming off a win at our last contest in brisket & I had hoped that we could duplicate that effort at HOTH. We all agreed while it had good flavor, it was not comparable to Benton’s brisket. Oh well, not much you can do about it now. Maybe the luck of the table’s would smile down on us. All we could do now is clean up, pack up, & wait for the awards.
Awards began with the ancillaries & it was great to hear Swiggin’ Pigs name called out for first place in the Steak (anything butt) category. General Porktitioners took top honors in the Sausage category while DoRag friends Team Top Chick took first in desert! In the chicken category it was Fowl Butt BBQ (10th), Lotta Bull (9th), Music City Pig (8th) Pals, Team Bobby-Q (7th), Southern HawgsBBQ (6th), The EGGseQuative Council (5th), Ulika (4th), Big River BBQ (3rd), & good friends Long Dawgs (2nd)! At this point I was thinking we hopefully placed in the top 20! Wrong again Captain Krunch! DoRagQ got the call for First Fricken Place! Holy Crap-Ola! I could not believe it! In a field of 47 great cookers, we took 1st place chicken! As the rib calls began Team Top Chick got the 10th place call. We were still makin our way back to our seats when DoRagQ got a 9th place call in ribs. OMG…….WTF?........Sweet…..two calls at HOTH! The calls continued with Buttrub.com (8th), High on the Hawg (7th), Smokin Scotsman (6th), Lotta Bull (5th), General Porktitioners (4th), The EGGseQuative Council (3rd), Bareknuckles BBQ (2nd), & Big & Twig takin first place! Nice! In pork it was Team Top Chick (10th), Warren County Pork Choppers (9th), ZZ-Que (8th), Steel Smokin’ BBQ (7th), Monty Pigthon (6th), Bareknuckles BBQ (5th), Music City Pig Pals (4th), Back Door Smokers (3rd), Long Dawgs (2nd), The EGGseQuative Council taking the win! The DoRagQ Gang managed a 16th in pork. An improvement from our first two outings this year. In the final category of the day brisket, it was Bareknuckles BBQ (10th), Southern Stiles BBQ (9th), Rub Won Out (8th), Long Dawgs (7th), The Golden Hogs (6th), High on the Hawg (5th), Swiggin’ Pig (4th), Buttrub.com (3rd), Steel Smokin’ BBQ (2nd), & Team Top Chick taking the win! Again a 16th place showing for DoRagQ. We said it wasn’t as good as Benton’s & we were right! As they began to call out the overall, I figured we may be in the top 10 somewhere around 8th or 9th. Taking 10th was Rob Marlow’s Ulika, in 9th was Swiggin’ Pig, 8th was Music City Pig Pals, 7th was Buck & Lou of High on the Hawg, 6th was Lotta Bull, ok I was starting to worry now that maybe our no calls in pork & brisket were worse than I had thought! Bareknuckles came in 5th, & Team Top Chick took 4th. DoRagQ snuck in 3rd, Long Dawgs took RGC & The EGGseQuative Council took the Grand Champion! Wait, did they say DoRagQ was 3rd! Yes they did! WOW! Needless to say we were stoked with a 3rd overall in such a strong field. And what a job by Dan & Jen of Long Dawgs taking RGC! Congrats also to The EGGseQuative Council taking the GC & all the teams that got calls in such a tuff field.
So as we complete another year at Winchester’s High on the Hog contest we can hold our head high. Our tweaks seemed to take us in the right direction. We improved in most categories with the exception of brisket. I am not too worried about that. Brisket has been one of our most consistent over that past two years. I am very happy with our chicken. The DoRagQ Gang really stepped up to the plate this week. Richard & Jeff did a great job getting Casa DoRag to the cook site & set up. Gary picked up garnish & collectively they prepped meat & had things right on schedule when I arrived. They were most defiantly the “Do” in “DoRagQ” this week. It is a pleasure to have them as on our team & as friends. Congrats to Dan & Jen of Long Dawgs. You guys are due for a GC. I hope I am there when it happens. And thanks to the High on the Hog organizers. Again you guys set the bar for a well run event. I love the “goodie buckets”! We look forward the next year. As I drove home I reflected on my week. I managed to pass my software certification, was a guest on the BBQ Central Radio show, visited the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, ate at Michael Symon’s Bar Symon & spent time with the Ops Manager & the Head Chef with good friends Robert & Nikki, & came in 3rd overall our of 47 at a BBQ contest. I guess you could say that I am truly living “High on the Hog”!