Sunday, April 04, 2010

Benton Kentucky Tater Days

Tater Day is a large festival in Benton, Kentucky held on the first Monday in April. It was started in 1843 as a celebration of spring, and a time when all of the townsfolk would get together and trade in sweet potato slips, used to grow the plants. For several years a BBQ contest has been held the weekend before the Tater Parade. In 2007 this contest was our first official contest as DoRagQ. It was also the first contest I did with Gary "Nickelback" Lackey. In 2008 & 2009 we competed in Clarksville but for 2010 Clarksville moved their date so Tater Days was once again on our schedule.

Friday came around & I was not sure if we were going to make it or not! Problems at work had kept me occupied for most of the wee hours of the morning & sleep was the first thing on my mind! It all seemed to work out & after only a few hours of shut-eye we were on our way to Benton. Gary & Richard joined me & made the 2-hour drive seem like 120 minutes.... and soon we were pullin into the contest site. We had heard the contest was full with 38 teams which was great considering last year there were only 13 entries. We arrived right behind our good friends of Shade Tree Cooks. Already set up were J Mack Cookers, Son Seekers, & a few others. We found our spot & commenced to getting setup.

During setup the "Meat Inspector" paid us a visit & gave us his seal of approval so it was time to prep. David & Pam Wilson of Gettin Piggy With It would be driving in from "Elvis Town" to hang out with the DoRagQ Gang. David & I are working on a project together & since they were not cooking this contest we invited them to come & hang out. They arrived as we were starting to prep. As many times as we have done this routine it is still easy to mess up if you don't focus. We seemed to have an issue with one of our ingredients that threw our rhythm off a bit. Some quick thinking & a borrowed kitchen appliance & we were back on track.

With meat prepped & GTG (good to go) we headed to find some grub. Tater Days is like a big midway & Flea Market combined. You can get anything fried (Twinkies, snickers bars, taters, corndogs, GIANT corndogs) & find all kinds of stuff to purchase. We managed to walk past the vending trailers & found a local Diner/BBQ joint. We avoided the BBQ which is their specialty & opted for burgers which are not their specialty. Suddenly a friend Ding-Dong was sounding pretty good! So we headed back to the contest site to do some socializin!

During our Tater Days culinary tour several more teams arrived! It was good to see Podge (MoonSwiners) & Scottie (Cancer Sucks BBQ), Team Allegro, Smelly Butts, Music City Pig Pals, Blues Hog BBQ, Ole Man Larry! We would have to be on our game to compete with these heave hitters! J Mack is fresh off a big win in Mobile & Cancer Sucks & MoonSwiners were World Champions in 2006 & 2007 respectively! Even though I was a bit "star-struck" by these great teams, I knew that we have as good a chance as any of them. That's what is cool (or not) about competition BBQ. On any given day anyone can win! All you can hope for is to do your best & let the taters fall where they may! After a few hugs & catching up it was time for the Cook's Meeting. Ron & Mary Cato who were the KCBS Reps gave us the low-down. Organizer Ed Jones was kind enough to give one of our sponsors Early Times Whisky a shout out! Of course I had to bribe him with some ET SWAG for the "Goodie Bags". But he, we love representin ET! Good Time with Early Times!

After the meeting adjourned it was time to prepare for DoRag's Friday Night Feast! Richard was preparing our usual pork loin, BBQ-baked taters (bought locally), & hot sausage. Several of our Kentucky friends would be droppin by & hanging with the DoRag Gang. The Tabors, Robin, Shawn, & Justin brought some delicious slaw & a fab Carrot Cake! Donny & Tracy Bray of Warren County Pork Choppers joined us & brought more pork & taters. Lisa Apedaile & friends & the Hatchers, Caryn, Bob, & C bell arrived & before you knew it the DoRagQ Gang was in full "Party Mode". Of course after dinner it was time for "Pie"! We had plain, peach, & apple! Aunt Bee would have been proud or at least Buzzed! Mighty fine mighty fine! Once all had left we made a late night stop at WC Pork Choppers to meet Donny's Brother-In-Law Jeff who is also a music freak like me. I had to make myself head back to Casa DoRag if I was goin to get some rest. After all we are here to compete in a contest. You have to be "on-point" to finish well in any contest now days. Concentration & stamina or lack of can make or break you at a contest. So off I headed to get a few hours of shut-eye.

We had been expecting rain during the night but as we woke up at 4 AM it hadn’t arrived yet but by 5 AM the wind picked up & a steady rain began. Pork & brisket were on track as we made final prep on ribs & chicken. Everything was still going as planned! Then suddenly out of nowhere the sky turned blue, the wind died down, & the sun began to shine! I was not sure if we could cook in these conditions! We are so accustomed to cooking in the pouring rain how would we adapt! Except for a few muddy spots & some standing water here & there you could not have asked for a better day! The rest of the cook went off without any major issues. We are still a little rusty & struggling with some flavor profiles. Nothing more cooking won't cure. We had our traditional "Early Times Shot" & managed to get everything in the box & turned it on time! Yippee!

Once we finish turn-ins we sit down for a few minutes & share our thoughts about our product. We always say "not our best .....". I thought the chicken was too spicy & a bit dry. Ribs were just ok.....nothing to write home about. Pork had good flavor & looked great. I was most excited about our brisket. I had heard about Ragu Brisket from the BBQ Pitmaster show on TLC. Ragu seemed a bit out of place in BBQ but he I'll try anything once. So I had injected our brisket with Ragu Sauce. If it didn't work out I could always just add some pasta & have brisket spaghetti!

It was finally time to hear the results! Rick’s Pit Stop took the win in chicken with Kentucky Koolers, De’Boners, Ole Man Larry’s BBQ, Big JT’s Smokin BBQ in 2nd thru 5th. A shout out to our friends Music City Pig Pals (7th), Smokin’ Hose Grillin Team (8th), & Team Allegro (9th). No call for DoRagQ….bummer! In ribs Rollin’ Rumps took 1st with Verner’s Barnyard BBQ, Cancer Sucks BBQ, K&K Kookers, & Shade Tree Cooks coming in 2nd thru 5th. Great job by Son Seekers BBQ (6th), J Mack Cookers (7th), & Smelly Butts (9th). Again no call for DoRag….bummer! In pork it was J Mack Cookers takin top honors with MoonSwiners, K&K Kookers, Blues Hog BBQ, & Steel Smokin BBQ in 2nd thru 5th. Congrats to Team Allegro (7th), WC Pork Choppers (8th), & Cancer Sucks BBQ (10th)….Again no call for DoRag……DAMN! In brisket Cancer Sucks BBQ was 2nd with Smelly Butts, Florida Skin & Bones, & MC Pig Pals 3rd thru 5th. Oh I forgot to mention who took 1st……HELL YES! DoRagQ that’s who! We took first frickin place! No spaghetti tonight! A shout out to Ole Man Larry (6th), Son Seekers (9th) & Redneck Grillers (10th). Congrats to Cancer Sucks BBQ for taking the overall Grand Champion with K&K Kookers Reserve GC. J Mack a strong 3rd, Rick’s Pit Stop, Florida Skin & Bones, Team Allergro, Rollin’ Rumps, Smelly Butts, & Shade Tree Cooks 4th thru 9th. Thanks to that Ragu brisket we managed to squeeze in the top ten with a 10th place finish overall. The 23rd place chicken, 14th place ribs, & 23rd place pork needed a strong score from brisket to save the day.

Ok, plenty of room for improvement. If this was easy everybody would be winning right? We gotta re-think some things. I am not ready to make wholesale changes but we have to make some tweaks here & there. We had great weather, saw some BBQ friends & family, & had a frickin great time cooking BBQ! Livin the dream!

Gotta thank our sponsors, Wireless Plus & Early Times Whisky. Thanks for your support. As always, thanks to Gary “Nickelback” Lackey & Richard “New-Do” Finley for being the Do in DoRagQ! You guys make it fun. Glad you are willin to put up with me for another year.  Also thanks to David & Pam Wilson for hangin out with us all weekend.  You guys are a blast!  Next up, High on the Hog in Winchester! One of my favorite contests. Hope you can make it out. Drop by & visit if you do. We love company! Until then “if your lookin, you ain’t cookin…shut the damn smoker”.

P.S. I got to thinkin if the Ragu worked so well on the brisket maybe I should try Ragu on the chicken, ribs, & pork. I’ll get back to ya on that....later Gator!

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