BBQ Events: Bluesaque
I had a great time on Saturday judging the grilling contest at Bluesaque in East Hartford CT. This was a first year contest and from what I could see it was very well run. Congrats to Vito and all the organizers. I hope this becomes an annual event. It was a lot of fun, the weather perfect, the music smoking, the Hooter's girls hot and the Harley's shining.
At Bluesaque, there were 15 teams scheduled to compete in the KCBS barbecue contest on Sunday but only 7 teams competed in the NEBS grilling contest on Saturday. I arrived at 11:00 am on Saturday; just in time for the judges meeting. I was surprised to find out that there were 5 grilling categories and each turn-in would be a hour apart.
That's OK. One of the things I enjoy about a grilling contest is that you never know what to expect. The KCBS barbecue contests are always beef brisket, chicken, pork ribs and pork shoulder. A grilling contest can be whatever the organizer wants it to be. At Bluesaque the categories were pizza, beef steak, pork chops, fish kabob and a side dish.
The pizza entrys were a mixed lot from a Domino's clone to typical tomato sauce and cheese pizza to a black bottomed pie to a fig pizza. When you judge a contest you must judge each entry on its own merits. There's no comparison between the submissions. That being said, my favorite was easily the fig pie. I really expected to hate it, as it looked awful in the box, but it was extremely tasty on the plate.
Up next was beef steak. Out of the six samples we were to judge, 2 were great, 1 really good, 1 average and two that I couldn't believe were grilled. The last two were tasteless and tough with one easily passing for boiled meat.
Next were the pork chops. I'm not a fan of pork chops as we had them all the time when I was growing up. I've had enough pork chops to last me a couple of lifetimes, but I have to admit that I was surprised by how good these pork chops were. There wasn't a bad chop in the category.
After that was fish kabobs. The rules for the fish kabob category was pretty loose. One competitor had purchased pre-cooked salmon for his entry, but this was discovered in the meat inspection. In an act of mercy by the contest rep, (As the contest rep explained it to the judges. Normally this entry would have been disqualified) the competitor was allowed to use the pre-seasoned and pre-breaded Gorton fish sticks. Was this fair to the other cooks? I'll let you decide. Fortunately they placed close to where they belonged; at almost the bottom of the heap.
And lastly was the side dish category. This was a complete crap shoot. The entrys varied from macaroni and cheese to baked beans (tasted liked they were dumped right out of a can), to beans and corn bread, to grilled tomatoes with a cheesy pasta sauce, to some sort of chopped salad (which I and a couple of the other judges couldn't identify until after the judging was complete) and a couple of others that I just don't remember now.
Judging a grilling contest is tough. (Yeah I can hear the violins being played now) It's much harder than judging a KCBS event. As a judge for the KCBS events you know what you're going to get. At a grilling event, everything is up for grabs. For example, I had no idea how to judge the chopped salad entry in the side dish category. It was tasty, but was it an outstanding representation of what it was supposed to be? I'll have more thoughts about grilling contests in a future post.
The overall winners were Purple Turtle Caterers in first place with The Anchormen in close second. Interesting. Purple Turtle took first place in the inaugural Grillin' On The Bay contest in 2006 with The Anchormen taking the title in 2007. Is a rivalry being born?