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Sunday, June 25, 2017

A Day at the Asylum: Almost Heaven BBQ Bash

Last weekend, the Three Dogs BBQ road show packed up and headed off to the asylum.  BBQ'er's are a little crazy to be in the world of competition BBQ.  So, it was fitting that the 3rd annual Almost Heaven BBQ Bash was held on the grounds of the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston, WV.


This building is the largest hand cut sandstone building in North America and the second largest in the world.  I did not take any of the tours offered but from what I hear the history of this building, which dates back to the 1850's, is quite chilling.  Bulk lobotomies, torture rooms, holding boxes.  You get the picture.


The facility was finally shut its doors in 1994.  Since then, the building has been purchased by a local businessman who is restoring the inside to its original state.  Various historical and haunted tours are run and from what I hear, the former asylum is a must see on the list of haunted places to visit in the United States.  Definitely a unique place to hold a BBQ competition.


So, with one eye on our smokers and one eye looking over our back for ghosts, we fired up our smokers and got down to the business of smoking meat.


To add to the craziness, this competition was an auto qualifier to the Jack Daniels BBQ Championship as this is the only sanctioned BBQ contest held in West Virginia.  Win and you are in.  No sweating out the Jack Draw in August.  Consequently, this contest drew 57 of the best teams from east of the Mississippi.  The field was the toughest we have ever competed against.  How would we fare?

Well, the results were mixed.  Overall, we were very happy with our results, but we did leave some points on the table.  29th place chicken, 3rd place ribs, 37th place pork, and 19th place brisket added up to an 18th overall.  Our pork box was mixed.  "Great pulled, rubbery slices" were the comments.  We agree.  We should have left the money muscle out of the box.  The ribs were spot on, falling one taste and one tenderness point away from a 180.


But the brisket box is the story of the day...


The temperature was rising slowly on this brisket.  I could not figure out why.  When we pulled our brisket out of the foil, the flat split right down the middle.  There was a time I would have panicked.  But, we refoiled and let the brisket rest until turn in time.  I started to formulate Plan B.  Later, when we were building our brisket box, I did try to get some slices.  No luck.  Completely overdone.  I believe that my temperature probe was right in the middle of a vein of fat.  So, Plan B went into action.  I pulled the flat, chopped it up, lightly sauced, and dusted a bit with rub.  We threw it into the box with the burnt ends and crossed our fingers.  I was betting on a lower 10% finish.  You can't imagine our surprise when we came in 19th place.  We were dinged a bit on appearance scores, but the taste and tenderness saved us for sure.  We really appreciate that the judges scored what was presented to them and not what they expected to see.

Congratulations go out to Rocky Top BBQ, our GC and Wolf's Revenge, our RGC.  We would also like to thank Royal Oak Charcoal for keeping the 270 Smokers rolling smoke.  Next up is the Adirondack BBQ Festival in July.

Thanks for stopping by,

Bill

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Catching Up

It has been a busy few months around Three Dogs Headquarters.  While I would like to be able to pay the bills by making BBQ, the reality of life is that I need a real job to pay the bills and fund this addiction, um I mean hobby.  With new owners at work I have been firmly planted in front of a computer helping to carve out a small company from a huge multi-national conglomerate.  So, sitting in front of a computer is not something I feel like doing in the evenings.  But, it is time to get back in the swing of things and make this blog semi regular again.  That being said, lets catch up.  Shall we?

We have been competing.  BBQ is my escape from work.  I am happy to report, the results have been positive.  The third weekend in May found Three Dogs BBQ at the 3rd annual Salt City BBQ Festival in Syracuse, NY.


While we like to take part in competitions in downtown urban settings, the old Clinton Square location for Salt City was lacking in space and had very questionable infrastructure.  This competition was in danger of not having enough teams to be a qualifier in 2017. But, a move to the New York State Fairgrounds solved the space problem and improved the water and electric issues.  With 44 teams participating this year, I think that Salt City may have a bright future.  Toss in some very uncharacteristic Upstate New York weather for May and the weekend was shaping up nicely.  Even George was enjoying the warm weather.



As for our cook, I was not happy with how our turn ins came out.  I am happy to report the judges disagreed with my assessment.  A 9th in chicken, an 8th in ribs, a 4th in pork and a 12th in brisket added up to a 4th place overall.  A very pleasant surprise.  What hurt the brisket was a lack of burnt ends in the box.  They were mushy and just not good at all.  But, we were very happy with the 4th place overall and the chance to walk a few times.  Congrats go out to Good Smoke, our GC and to The Basic BBQ Team, our RGC.




Two weeks later we loaded up the trailer and headed up to the headwaters of the Allegheny River to Coudersport, PA to participate in the 2nd annual Conquer the Grill.  This competition is held in conjunction the Gods Country Marathon.  Why is it called the Gods Country marathon?  A few reasons I suppose.  One, it really is beautiful country up in the Northern Tier of Pennsylvania.


Two, Coudersport is 50 miles from the middle of nowhere.  It should be noted that I am told the Gods Country Marathon is ranked as one of the ten hardest in the world.  That might have something to do with the four mile mountain right at the mid point of the run.  But I could be wrong.

The BBQ competition is held by the finish line of the marathon.  Last year that was in the town square.  But, PennDOT decided that they had to rip Main Street, so the marathon finish and the BBQ was moved to the high school, just outside of town.


I started a rumor that if a member of a BBQ team finished the marathon and won the BBQ competition, there would be a $1000 bonus added to the prize money.  Strangely enough, I could not get any of the teams to bite on that proposition.  Instead, we tried to pass out 9:22 MABA shots at the water stations for the runners.  Again, no takers.  Such dedication.

As for our cook, I felt it was fair to midland.  When all was said and done, we ended up with a 2nd in chicken, a 3rd in ribs, a 6th in pork, and a 3rd in brisket.  That added up to a second place overall and our first Reserve Grand ever!  Needless to say, the four hour drive home was much easier to take.  Congrats goes out to Peace, Love, and Smokiness, our GC and their first as well.




We have been quite happy with our results this year.  Hopefully we can keep the train on the tracks.  Next up, Three Dogs heads down to the Almost Heaven BBQ Bash in Weston, WV.  70 of the best teams in the East will be headed to Weston with one goal in mind: winning the auto entry to the Jack. This will be a true test of our BBQ skills.  Hope to see you there.

Thanks for stopping by,

Bill

Saturday, May 13, 2017

BBQ in the Valley - Jamestown, NY.

Last weekend Three Dogs BBQ packed up the trailer and kicked off the New York portion of our BBQ schedule for 2017 by competing in a first year contest, BBQ in the Valley in Jamestown, NY.  Rain was the main dish.  Lots of rain.  Cold too.  If anything, I learned three things:

1. I'll take hot and humid over cold and rainy.
2. Mud has a knack for getting in places that you would never think it could.
3. Disposable cutting boards make for a clean place to stand while changing your muddy clothes in a muddy trailer.



Even George, who loves to come to BBQ competitions, was not having much fun.


But, enough about the weather.  Let's talk about the competition.

BBQ in the Valley was a first year competition organized by the fine folks at Hidden Valley Camping Area.  I must say, you could not tell it was a first year competition.  Everything ran smoothly, from the Cinco de Mayo pot luck, down to having the tractor ready to pull teams out of the muck when the competition was over.  I do like dedicated electric and water as well.  It will be hard to improve upon this year, but I am sure Bill and his staff are up to the task.

As for our cook, we had another solid cook.  12th in chicken that could have been top 10 if not for the  Table of Angels that slanted the results a bit, 13th in ribs (deserved), 7th in pork, and 7th in brisket add up to a 10th overall.


A better trim job on the ribs and we probably net a few more points.  Details, details...


Time to soldier on, mop out the trailer, and get ready for the Salt City BBQ Festival next weekend in Syracuse, NY.  See you there.

Thanks for stopping by,

Bill

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Kings Mountain Firehouse BBQ Cookoff - Kings Mountain, NC

Last weekend, Three Dogs BBQ kicked off their 2017 season with a round trip down to sunny Kings Mountain, NC to compete in the 21st Annual Kings Mountain Firehouse BBQ Cookoff.


This was a very nice competition held in a field out behind the Kings Mountain Fire Museum.  In a rarity for a competition, there was lots of space for 49 teams to spread out, enjoy the sun, and show off their BBQ skills in what was for many, their first competition of 2017 as well.

This competition is a fund raiser for the fire museum and other assorted needs that the fire department might have.  One of the draws to the competition was a cover band, The Dukes and Smith Band, that was rocking the night as we were preparing to light our smokers.


On Saturday, the day dawned bright and warm.  In a stark difference from New York BBQ, we did not have to deal with the elements.  So weather would not be a factor for this cook.  Very rare for spring BBQ.  So, after day of cooking, it was time for awards.


There were two things that concerned us; recipe tweaks and cooking in an area where we had never cooked in the past.  BBQ is BBQ, but tastes do change from region to region.  What would be our fate?  Our results were very encouraging for our first competition of the season.

First off, we practiced a lot in the off season to improve our chicken.  The results from Kings Mountain are encouraging.  The box below was good enough for 13 out of 49 teams.  Chicken might be back!


Pork was another nemesis last year.  But, after a 12th place finish at Kings Mountain, we are encouraged.  Otherwise, our ribs finished 25th and our brisket 27th.  I knew the ribs were mediocre at best.  The brisket was spot on tender.  I am guessing that the savory sauce for the burnt ends does not work in an area where a sweeter sauce is preferred.  All of this added up to a 19th place overall.  For a team that starts slow and was cooking in a unknown part of the US, we are encouraged.

Next up, we kick off our New York season in pursuit of the Empire State BBQ Championship at BBQ in the Valley in Jamestown, NY.  See you there!

Thanks for stopping by,

Bill

Sunday, March 19, 2017

American Royal BBQ Pilgrimage Day 4: Christy's Tasty Queen

Day four of our American Royal adventure just happened to fall on a Tuesday.  In Kansas City, Tuesday is Tenderloin Tuesday.  At least it is for Rod Gray and his wife Sheri of Pellet Envy fame.  Rod and Sheri spent most of 2016 canvassing the KC area in search of the perfect pork tenderloin sandwich.  As luck would have it, the week before we left for the Royal, Rod declared that Christy's Tasty Queen was the purveyor of the best tenderloin sandwich in the land.  Who am I to debate with such experts when it comes to all things meat.  So, we loaded up the convoy and headed over to Christy's to sample this sandwich for ourselves.


Upon arriving at Christy's, the outside looked like any other roadside ice cream stand that you can find scattered all over Middle America.  The menu inside contained your normal soft serve treats, but also had a menu of savory items such as burgers, hot dogs, and various fried treats.  Our rag tag group of BBQer's from Canada and the US had only one thing in mind.  Pork tenderloin.  We placed our orders and retreated to the picnic tables outside to eat our bounty.


So, what is a pork tenderloin sandwich?  Well, as you can see, it is a piece of tenderloin, pounded semi thin, breaded with what I believe to be corn flake crumbs.  The cutlet is then deep fried, and served on a woefully undersized bun with lettuce, onion, and your choice of condiment (I went with mayo).  This piece of pork was huge.  Roughly 1/3" thick, 1/2" with the breading, and had the circumfrence of a household sandwich plate.  The plan of attack for eating was simple, pick it up and start on a side.  The sandwich was juicy and crispy.  Overall a great sandwich. It compares very well with schnitzel I have had in Germany. My only knock is that the breading could use a touch of seasoning. Overall rating, 🐖 🐖 🐖 🐖 1/2 out of 5.  The tots were an afterthought and definitely not needed at all.  The sandwich itself is more than enough to fill you up.  If we ever go back to Kansas City in the future, Christy's will be a mandatory stop.

Thanks for stopping by,

Bill

Sunday, February 26, 2017

American Royal BBQ Pilgrimage: Day 3 - Joe's Kansas City BBQ

Day three of our pilgrimage dawned sunny and warm.  We were hunkered down in an RV park just outside Kansas City for the next few days until we could load into the speedway for the competition.  The plan for the day was to hit Joe's Kansas City BBQ for some lunch.  I had some inside information that Joe's is in the conversation for the best BBQ you can get, period.  I was drooling with anticipation.


There are a few Joe's locations in town, but we went to the original gas station location.  Half convenience store, half BBQ joint.


As we pulled into the parking lot, a person was right by the red car "loosing his lunch" shall we say.  I was a bit worried about right now.  But we chalked up to a night of drinking and carried on like good soldiers.  I went for a quick stroll around the building to check out the large iron pits, cranking out smoke and intoxicating smells while gently cooking their smoky treats within.


We walked inside the door promptly at opening time, 11 am, to a line that was almost outside the door.  A very good sign for any eating establishment.




While the line was long, people dutifully picked up strategically placed copies of the menu for review.  This ensured that the line moved at a steady pace.  So, after about ten minutes of reviewing the menu and checking it twice, I was confronted with making my choice.  Now, I can get pork and ribs in any BBQ joint back home.  It might not be good, but I can get it if I so choose.  Therefore, I found myself drawn to the brisket again.  More specifically, the Z-Man.  Joe's is well known for this sandwich.  Smoked brisket, thinly sliced, served on a toasted kaiser roll, and topped with smoked provolone cheese, onion rings, and a light drizzle of BBQ sauce.  I ordered one and for good measure, I also added a side of smoked chicken gumbo.  I grabbed my tray and my bottle of IPA (hey, I was on vacation and it was noon somewhere) and scurried off to a table to sample my smoky bounty.


I straightened up my Z-Man and took the first bite.  I think I started to hear harp music in the background.  Outside of competition brisket, this was the best brisket I have ever eaten.  It had the right amount of smoke and was perfectly cooked.  Not falling apart and not like a rubber band.  Just perfect.  The toppings did not over power the taste of the brisket, but complimented the overall taste of the sandwich.  Once the Z-Man was dusted off, I turned my attention to the throw in bowl of smoked chicken gumbo.  In the biggest surprise I would have all week, the harp music got louder.  While the Z-Man had the flavor meter at 100%, the gumbo broke the glass on the meter and pegged the needle.  Best chicken gumbo I have ever had, period.  Including any gumbo I have had in New Orleans.  Ladled over a bit of rice this gumbo is rich and flavorful, loaded with tender chunks of smoked chicken and pieces of okra.  Nirvana in a bowl.

So here I stand, Monday afternoon and I have jumped the BBQ shark.  Nothing was going to beat this the rest of the week when it came to BBQ.  If you are in the Kansas City area and you like BBQ, you have to schedule a visit to Joe's Kansas City BBQ.  You will not be disappointed.  Overall rating, 5 stars out of 5.

Thanks for stopping by,

Bill

Sunday, January 8, 2017

American Royal BBQ Pilgrimage: Day 2 - Plowboys BBQ

Day two of the American Royal BBQ pilgrimage started in downtown St. Louis with sunny skies and temperatures made for shorts.  The RV was hitched up and we piled inside for the short jaunt across Missouri to Kansas City.  Along the way we stopped at our next dining establishment, Plowboys BBQ.


Plowboys has won many awards as both a restaurant and as a competition team.  As you can see below, their trophy case is well stocked.  


The menu contains your basic BBQ staples: ribs, chicken, pulled pork, and brisket.  But, they also add some items that I cannot get at a BBQ joint back in Pennsylvania: turkey and hot links come to mind. They are also known for their BBQ Nacho platter.  The platter was so big, I saw one feeding a family consisting of two adults and two children with some leftover.  It looked really delicious as well.  I might have ordered this monstrosity of chips, cheese, jalapeños, and BBQ meat of choice had I saw an example when I walked in the door.  But, based upon having been voted the best burnt ends in KC for 2014, I decided to try the Burnt End Platter with sides of Cheesy Corn and Cole Slaw.  I also picked up an order of their smoked beef sausage for public consumption at our table.  



The slaw was ok.  A little bland, but the cabbage was crispy and not mushy or swimming in dressing.  I am just used to slaw that has a nice and tangy dressing.  The Cheesy Corn is another thing.  Where have you been all my life?  Have you ever made stovetop mac and cheese?  The kind where your boil your macaroni, then dump in back in the saucepan with milk, butter, cheese, and slowly heat and stir until the mixture is melted and combined thoroughly?  This is how I think Cheesy Corn is made.  As a matter of fact, a Cheesy Corn entry won the vegetable category later in the week at the Royal.  I can see why.  

The burnt ends were good, but not life changing.  I had some that were perfectly cooked, some that were a little on the dry side, and some that were a bit rubbery.  That may have been a function of sitting in a warmer behind the counter.  The sausage was on point.  Not too fatty, seasoned well with just the right amount of smoke and the all important snappy skin.  

There were four sauces to choose from on the table.  I focused on the Sweet 180 and the KC Sauce.  The sweet sauce was a little too sweet for my taste, but I was drawn to their KC Sauce.  A hint of smoke with a good balance of tangyness and sweet.  It paired very well with both the burnt ends and the sausage.  

This visit to Plowboys was a good start to our BBQ tour.  The service was friendly and efficient.  The food was good, but not outstanding.  If I lived in the area, I would come here once a month for lunch. But, I don't think I would drive out way of my way for the burnt ends.  Maybe for the sausage though.  Overall rating, 3.5 out of 5 stars.  

Thanks for stopping by,

Bill