Tuesday, June 29, 2010

ABA Early Times Whisky BBQ Cook-Off Pell City, Alabama

Richard & I headed out late Thursday afternoon for the third stop on the ABA/Early Times BBQ Tour without our partner Gary “Nickelback” Lacky. Gary was out of town on business & would not be returning until Saturday, so Richard & I would have to make do without his box making & tasting skills once again. The three hour drive was un-eventful & we arrived at Pell City which is East of Birmingham early evening. We were greeted by our good friends David & Pam of “Getting’ Piggy With It” & Bill & Jan of “Gooby’s”, & of course Debra Talley & the ABA BBQ Crew! After a self induced anxiety attack I settled down with the help of some meds & a few shots of ET 100 proof! To my friends & family that have experienced my “melt-downs” in person, I can only apologize & hope you do not take it personally. You deserve a trophy for putting up with me & I am fortunate that you don’t take out a restraining order against me. Once I got that out of my system the rest of the weekend would go off without a hitch! After a late dinner at the Pell City Steak House the rest of the evening was spent hangin out & visiting with our BBQ friends & family.

Friday morning began with neighbors Jan & Bill (mostly Jan) cookin up some breakfast as Richard & I finished setting up our equipment & getting organized. Shortly after breakfast Sonny arrived for meat inspection & we commenced to injecting, marinating, & rubbin. Richard & I have finally got this part down to a science & by noon we were all done & ready for some socializing. Jan had once again fired up the grill & provided delish hamburgers for lunch! That woman is amazing! All she does at a cooking competition is cook! Jan we really appreciate you takin care of our nutritional needs! After lunch the temperature reminded us that it was summer in Alabama as the thermometer rose well into the 90’s. With the heat & a full stomach, a nap seemed in order in the air conditioned “Casa DoRag”!

I awoke in time to head over to the “Cook’s Meeting” to get the low down from KCBS Reps Ron Harwell & Tana Shupe. Pretty much standard operating procedure for an ABA contest. So we headed back over to the cook-site to prep for Friday night’s dinner. If you follow my blog you know that we love to cook up some chow on Friday night & this would be no different. Gooby’s, JoBeaz, Team Top Chick, & Getting Piggy With It all pitched in as we strapped on the feed bags. We fed most of all of the ABA Peeps, cookers, fisherman, & several people that were just passin by! A good time was had by all & no-one left hungry. Of course as usual the after dinner “Apple Pie” was a-plenty as we congregated over at “Getting Piggy With It’s” camp. David & Pam had the music jammin & the disco ball turning as we all enjoyed some socializin until quiet time!

As our alarm went off at 4:00 AM our big meats (pork butts & brisket) had been on since Friday evening & it was time to get chicken & ribs ready. Again, it was biz-as-usual. And again, Jan was cookin up some breakfast! She should get a award for the most cookin at a contest! As the morning progressed, our big meats seemed to stall throwing our timing off. We usually have the big meats holding in the Carlisle & use one cooker for chicken & the other for ribs. After some re-arranging we were back on track & we went back to our normal routine. One of our routines is the 10 O’clock Early Times Shot! Ron Montgomery of “Team Top Chick”, David Wilson, Victor Fisher, Allison Smith of “Getting Piggy With It” joined ABA VP David Haygood & Richard & I for a shot of “Early Times 150” which is a limited edition release celebrating ET’s 150th birthday. ET is normally bottled at 80 proof but ET 150 is 100 proof! Very smooth & cool retro packaging. Be sure & get you a couple of bottles of this limited edition Kentucky Whisky, one for drinkin & one for putting up for special occasions!

So after the 10 AM shot it was time to get bizzy. Most everything went off without a hitch although I was not happy with two of our boxes. Our boxes just did not live up to Gary’s but we would have to improvise & make them work. We managed to get everything turned in on time in spite of a storm that arrived just as we were putting our brisket in the box. We kept our focus & got through it without any mishaps. After turn in it is customary for us to sit down & discuss our product & predict where it would finish. This was a strong field & any of the 29 pro teams are capable of taking the GC. We have gotten very consistent with our chicken & today’s offering was about our average. We have cooked better but then we have certainly cooked worse (Cookeville 2008)! We both agreed our ribs were pretty good & should finish well. We also thought our pork was better than we had been turning in but weren’t sure how it would stack up against the other’s. Hopefully top 10? For us brisket is our most consistent product. For many teams it is the most difficult. We again agreed it was good but not our best & I did not like our presentation. So as we headed over to the awards we both thought we may end up somewhere in the top 10 overall. All that was left now was to wait & see.

We arrived at the stage in time to see the last part of the fishing tournament weigh in. Remember, BBQ is the supporting act at ABA events & fishing is the star! I am always impressed at the passion each of the Anglers have for their sport & the care the ABA gives to the fish. They strive to return each fish to the lake in the same condition as they were before ending up in the live well of a fisherman’s boat & I commend them for their commitment. Ok it was finally time to hear the good, bad, & ugly! Desert was the first category. While we don’t participate in desert we are always excited to cheer on our BBQ friends that do. Taking top honors for the 2nd ABA contest in a row was Nancy Montgomery of “Team Top Chick” with her 2nd 180 score! Nancy had scored a 180 in desert at Anderson, SC last month & struck again in Pell City! I had the privilege of tasting her “Hawaiian Orange Cake” & it is awesome! Congrats Team Top Chick! Now on to chicken. Taking top honors was Bub-Ba-Q, followed by Wicked Que, Smoke of the Shoals, TNT Southern BBQ, & Team Top Chick. No call for DoRagQ! BTW, in ABA contest they only call out the top 5. This makes it hard to gauge where you stand in the overall but it does keep you guessing! On to ribs it was Boat-n-BBQ taking the win with House of Q in second. Wicked Que took 4th & Justice Smokers took 5th. DoRagQ managed to place 3rd! Nice! Next in pork it was Swamp Sauce Cookers taking 5th, Smoke of the Shoals in 4th, 2 Men & A Pig in 3rd, & E.M. Azing BBQ in 2nd. Drum roll please…….in 1st was (Hell Yeah) DoRagQ! This was our 1st win in pork completing a win in each category! Sweet! Now on to brisket, it was Smoke of the Shoals taking 1st with Smokin’ Butt Crew, Jiggy Piggy, House of Q, & Bad Boyz of BBQ taking 2nd-5th. Again no call for DoRagQ. Smoke of the Shoals was lookin good on my scorecard for the overall. I was still holding out for a top 10 as they announced the overall results. In 10th 2 Men & A Pig, 9th Cajun Mojo, 8th, Jiggy Piggy, 7th Boat-n-BBQ, 6th Smokin’ Butt Crew, 5th Bub-Ba-Q, 4th Smoke of the Shoals, & 3rd Wicked Que. At this point I did not hear Smoke of the Shoals was 4th & thought they were still going to get the GC with House of Q taking the RGC, well I was correct on one count as House of Q took RGC! Then Bub-Ba-Q came over & offered his congrats! I said “WTF? Smoke of the Shoals has this”. David Wilson said “no they got 4th”! Boy was I corn-fused! Then David Haygood said “and the Grand Champion from Nashville Tennessee, DORAGQ”! No way! Wow……How cool it this! It turns out we tied for 10th in chicken but lost the tiebreaker so we were scored in 11th, & took 7th in brisket. Add those scores to our 3rd in ribs & 1st in pork for a 681.1428 score taking the win! Holy Crap-Ola Batman! David reminded us that we are the first two-time Grand Champions of the ABA as we had won last year in Guntersville. Sweet!

After the shock we headed back over to Casa DoRag to hang out with friends that had come to visit us from Birmingham. Lenny & Angela Morris & their girls Rachel & Claire, George Hadgraft, Wayne Silva, & Michelle Greene & her children Ryan & Shelby & many others came over to hang out & party. Even the Mayor of Pell City Bill Hereford was there to offer his congratulations & enjoy the leftovers! Kevin Rake the Early Times Bass Pro & several Anglers also joined in the celebration & “Apple Pie”! It was out-of-control! The Mayor made Richard & I “Honorable Residents” of Pell City & in turn we made him a “Dishonorable” member of the DoRagQ Gang! He looked cool in the ET DoRag! Hope this is not an election year! Check this out, when DoRagQ won our first GC last year in Guntersville, Alabama, Lenny & “The Girls” were also in attendance! Coincidence or not I informed them they would be accompanying DoRagQ on the rest of our 2010 World Tour! I may have to set up a college fund for the girls! The party lasted several hours with many of our BBQ family paying us a visit & offering their congratulations. The evening ended with a few of us hangin out having a few cocktails, listening to tunes, & enjoying the evening. At some point a second bottle of ET 150 was consumed! Thanks to Pam, David, Allison, Victor, Jan, Bill, & the Dude from Clarksville with the jug of Jack Daniels for the after-celebration & thanks to all for making it a special day for DoRagQ!

Sunday morning it was pretty much back to normal as we finished loading up & headed out for the return trip to Nashville. We arrive home safe & sound & full of great memories. We wished Gary had been there with us as DoRagQ is not the same without him. Hope you can re-join us soon. As for Richard, what a great friend! He makes me laugh & keeps me focused. I would not want to do this without him. You have taught me much about BBQ & life & I treasure your friendship. Thanks for being the “Do” in DoRagQ! Thanks to our sponsors Wireless Plus, Motorola, & Early Times Whisky! We appreciate your support! And finally thanks to the ABA for putting on a great contest. We look forward to the fall leg of the tour. Maybe I can get Lenny & The Girls to visit us again in Guntersville! (No pressure, no pressure)! Our next appearance is next weekend at the Tennessee State BBQ Championship in Lawrenceburg, TN. It will be a tough field, I just hope we can hang with them boyz & don’t make anybody sick! Come by for a visit if you are in the area!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Elvis Has Left The Building!

Last year our good friends Jen & Dan Watson of “The Long Dawgs” told us the Variety BBQ Bash in Memphis was our kind of contest. Lots of drinkin, music, & general all around partying. That sounded good enough to me so earlier in the year we made plans to participate. Nickelback would not be making the trip as he was in East Tennessee helping out a friend so Richard & I got everything ready, loaded, & headed out to Memphis after work on Thursday. We arrived to find many of the teams already there or at least their rigs were on-site. This event attracts many of the MBN (Memphis Barbeque Network) teams and is one of the few KCBS sanctioned events in the area. Upon arrival we were met by many familiar faces such as Jen & Dan of “Long Dawgs”, Barry & Mike of “Swiggin Pig”, David & Mark of “Getting’ Piggy With It”, Bobbie, & Lee of “Music City Pig Pals to mention a few. We set up the cook site & commenced to mosey on over to the Variety Club’s Clubhouse. The Variety Club is a national & international organization which focuses on raising funds for children’s charities. The Variety Club’s mission statement is to “provide life-enriching assistance to children challenged by physical and/or mental disabilities, poverty, abuse and neglect”. They do this in various ways. One is through their “Clubhouse” which has all the makings of a nice bar/restaurant. The organizers provided the Thursday arrivals with a fantastic spaghetti supper with all the trimmins & of course a cash bar! Sweet! It was great to catch up with our friends & we even managed to make a few new ones. After dinner we headed back to the cook site to meet our neighbors for the weekend the “Flamin Kajun” BBQ Team from Denim Springs, LA. On the other side of Casa DoRag were our good friends “Team Top Chick”. We finished off the night socializin & having a few adult beverages until it was time to “hit the hay”.

Friday morning Richard & I finished setting up the cook site & prepared for meat inspection. Pretty much routine, no surprises. We were most worried about making our boxes since Gary “The Box Bitch” wasn’t there. So right after we finished prepping meat we started on boxes. We managed to get them made although not a good as Nickelback’s, but hey we all have our own talents! Richard & I headed over to the “Cajun Catfish” restaurant for sum lunch & to talk strategy. The strategy we came up with was 1. Don’t get drunk. 2.Don’t oversleep. 3. Don’t get drunk!. Ok we got it! Time to Rock & Roll! After lunch we took a tour of the grounds to see who had slipped in on us. We found several celebrities such as Johnny “The Godfather” Trigg of Smokin Triggers, & Myron Mixon of “Jacks Old South” both from the TLC show “Pitmasters”. There was Rod Gray of Pellet Envy the 2009 KCBS Team of the Frickin Year, & 10 Bones BBQ a 2010 Memphis in May finalist & Sweet Swine O’Mine the 2009 winner of Memphis in May. Wow! Holy Crap Batman, all the top teams were here! “Ok calm down DoRag” Richard said, “We’ve been beat by all the top teams”. Oh, Ok…thanks for putting it in perspective “Boy Wonder”! The rest of the afternoon was spent just hangin out & tryin to stay & look cool until the “Cooks Meeting” @ 5 PM.

The “Cooks Meeting” was your standard run of the mill meeting except for the fact that our good friends Bill & Debbie Gauge & Wayne & Maria Lohman were the KCBS Reps. They are all such cool people & great Reps. We don’t get to see them much so it was fun to catch up with them & find out what they have been up to. Soon it was off to “Casa DoRag” to practice for the Margarita contest! Oh yeah, I had loaded up my portable bar complete with my favorite “Don Edwardo Silver” Tequila & all the fixins. If I didn’t win the contest I was gonna have a great time losin it! I bet I made 20 different practice batches before deciding on the one to turn in. I had forgotten my favorite mixer so I had to do some substituting to get it just right. I had quite a “buzz” by turn in time! Once that was over we headed over to “Getting Piggy With It” for dinner. And what a dinner it was. David & Mark out-did themselves for sure! They started out with a sausage & cheese tray, followed by basil stuffed bacon wrapped BBQ Shrimp, Pecan encrusted Pork Tenderloin Pinwheels, Smoked Salmon with honey Wasabi glaze, & Banana Puddin. And for the after dinner cordial, Apple Pie! Whooooooo doggie! That was sum good grub! Oh I almost forgot Pam make about a thousand Jello-Shots! OMG….remember the strategy discussion….Don’t get drunk! HA! I had more alcohol in me that Lindsey Lohan on prom night! Oh & I almost forgot…..My good friend from back in the day Robbie “The Rocket” Rush & his wife Anne were driving up from Jackson, MS to visit. Robbie & I toured the Southeast in the ’70s racing motocross. We hadn’t seen each other in 32 years! Holy shit! I was so excited to see him. They were due to arrive around 9-10 PM. I had to sober up!
Robbie & Anne arrived & I gotta tell you it was a special moment. See I moved around a lot before settling down in Nashville & I don’t have much contact with anyone from “back in the day”. I have never been to a class reunion (except for Cell-Block A) & haven’t been back to Jackson for a visit in years. So seeing Robbie was almost over-whelming! He had not changed a bit! Just as I remembered him. It was really cool to see my friend after all these years. We talked & reminisced about the old daze & old friends, & caught up on what we have been doin for the last 32 frickin years! And yes we had a few beerz & some Apple Pie! So much for strategy! By this time Richard was sleepin with the fishes in Casa DoRag. Robbie & Anne headed to a nearby hotel & I had a few more Jello-Shotz courtesy of Pam! What a great night!

As the sun began to rise Saturday morning I was surprisingly rested & alert. The BBQ Gods had spared me. It was time to repay them by giving all I had left. So after a couple of beers for breakfast it was time to put on the game face. Brisket was at temperature & resting in the Cambro. Pork temp was slowly rising & it was time to start ribs. I checked my boxes & made a few adjustments. Got our prep area ready & started chicken as it was getting closer to “Game-Time”. Robbie & Anne showed up around 11 AM & I gave them the low-down. Robbie was going to be our “runner” since Nickelback was back home. We had our traditional 10 AM shot of Early Times @ 11:15 AM & it was time to do what we do! Box assembly overall went off pretty good although I was not happy with my rib box. Chicken, Ribs, & Pork all were consistent with our normal flavor profile. Richard & I agreed that our brisket was not our best. Maybe a little dry. Robbie & Anne thought everything was fan-frickin-tastic! It’s amazing what friends will tell you for free food! LOL….. Robbie managed to get all the boxes turned in without incident despite a little practical joke by David of “Getting” Piggy With It”. Payback is a bitch my friend! So now all we had to do is clean up & wait for awards @ 5 PM.
With all the leftovers vacuum-sealed & iced down for Robbie & Anne to take back to MS we headed over to the stage are for awards. Along the way wishing our BBQ Friends “good luck”. We were hoping just to get our name called & finish respectable in this elite field of cookers. We started out with a big goose egg with a “no call“ for our Dan Edwardo Margarita! Bummer #1! Then it was on to the main categories starting with chicken. Island Grillers took the win with Pellet Envy, Bar-B-Q 101, Music City Pig Pals, & River City Rub rounding out the top five. Other notables were Swiggin Pig 7th, 10 Bones 8th, Jacks Old South 9th, & Jo Beaz Blazin Butts rounding out the top 10th. No call for DoRagQ….Bummer #2! On to ribs, with Bar-B-Q 101 takin the win, with Pellet Envy 2nd, K&K Kookers 3rd, Jo Beaz Blazin Butts 4th, & Wasted & Basted 5th. Other notables were The Long Dawgs 6th & Learn2Q.com 9th. No call for DoRagQ….Bummer #3! Takin the win in pork was our good friends Long Dawgs with Porkin Da Pig takin 2nd, The Good, The Bad, & the Swine 3rd, Music City Pig Pals 4th, & Sweet Swine O’Mine 5th, Pellet Envy 6th, Learn2Q.com 7th, & Smokin’ Triggers 9th. Again, no call for DoRagQ….Bummer #4! Great! All the things we thought were good did not get a frickin call! Now all is that damn dry sorry piece of spam we called brisket! We might as well start packin! But hey, we gotta cheer on our friends right? So in brisket it was Smokin’ Triggers 7th, Pellet Envy 6th, Pigs-R-Us 5th, Smelly Butts BBQ 4th, K&K Kookers 3rd, & our good friend Barry of Swiggin Pig (AKA Swinging Pig) takin 2nd. And the winner of the brisket category is……WTF….DORAGQ…..you have got to be frickin kiddin me! OMG……..Richard looked at me & said “did they say DoRagQ?” I had to think for a moment but everyone was clapping & slappin me on the back so either I was on fire or we won frickin brisket! What a surprise! LOL….. So we commenced to gettin our award & check with a very surprised look on our face. We were still in shock as they called out the top ten overall. Jacks Old South took 10th, Jo Beaz Blazin Butts took 9th (WTG JoBeaz), City Hogs 8th, River City Rub 7th, Music City Pig Pals 6th (Congrats Bobbie & Lee), Bar-B-Q 101 in 5th, K&K Kookers 4th, The Long Dawgs 3rd (Yeah Dan & Jen), & taking RGC Swiggin Pig (WTG Barry) & the Grand Champion, Pellet Envy, congrats Rod! But no top ten for DoRagQ…..Bummer #5……But we did manage a 12th Overall which is pretty damn good in my book! We were 12th in chicken, 27th in ribs, 48th in pork (WTF?) & I will say it again….1st in BRISKET! Ok, I’m calm now…..I can’t explain the feeling when people like Johnny Trigg & Rod Gray shake your hand & offer congratulations. What a great feeling. Yeah I wish our pork & ribs had scored better but hey….I will take our finish in this crowd any day! The Long Dawgs were right, this is my kind of contest! Lots of fun, food, music, & friends! Book me for next year.
Regardless of our finish it was great seeing Anne & Robbie & getting to spend time with them. Contests come & go but friends & family are there thru thick & thin. It was cool that Robbie helped run our boxes & be a part of DoRagQ. We are gonna have to get him a DoRag to keep in Casa DoRag for any future appearances. Robbie, you & Anne are welcomed anytime. I hope we see you again soon! To the rest of our BBQ Friends & Family, we had a blast & we hope you did too. As we left the contest on Sunday, I had to drive over to Graceland to leave Elvis a slice of the 1st Place Brisket, but the guard said “Sorry, Elvis has left the building”! Elvis may be gone but he still lives through his music & fans. I think he would like hanging out with the DoRagQ Gang. Maybe he could sing “A Hunk of First Place Brisket”!

Keep Troy Black of “Learn2Q.com” & his family in your thoughts & prayers. Troy was taken to the hospital less than a week after the Memphis contest & underwent surgery for several heart blockages. Troy…here’s wishing you a speedy recovery my friend!

DoRagQ will be competing in the American Bass Anglers Association Early Times Whisky BBQ Cookoff in Pell City Alabama on June 18th-19th. Come by for a visit! Who knows maybe Elvis will be in da house!

Thursday, June 10, 2010