Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Waterloo/La Porte City

Last year Sheri got her nose into the "Contests" section of the KCBS Bullsheet and decided we should cook a brand new double header in Iowa. Yes, you read that right, Sheri decided it. Not only that, but she thought we should travel light and cook under an EZ-Up with the Jambo pit. Well, it was our lucky weekend last year as we won both events.Fast forward to 2009. As most cooks will tell you, we feel somewhat obligated to return to the scene of the crime, entering the events we won the previous year. We don't all do it, but I'd say most do. Okay, even if most don't, we do. Are you happy now? Anyway, this year we had added incentive because Sheri discovered that one of her cousins, Jason, now lives in Waterloo. We found out at a little family get together a couple months back. So catching a double header and getting a chance to visit with Jason and his wife Jamie, were incentive enough to make the trek back to north central Iowa, again traveling without the luxury of our competition trailer.We arrived late, just as we did the previous year. Cindy Wells and the gang had saved us the same spot, only this time Johnny & Trish Trigg of Smokin' Triggers were our neighbors. And just as last time, the Waterloo hospitality was second to none. Everyone went out of their way to greet us. On Saturday morning the event delivered donuts, coffee, juice and the local paper to our cook sites, and the spectators were every enthusiastic about barbecue. In fact, the previous year, I had a conversation with a gentleman who had retired from the boiler repair business. Well, he found me again this year, only this time he wanted me to know that after our conversation last year, he decided to jump into competition barbecue with both feet. He had built himself a mobile pit and cooked six events in 2008, all after we spoke in mid July last year. In addition, he has begun to vend from a roadside location. Man, I had no idea I could have that effect on anybody and I hope he won't hold it against me in the future.We didn't put our best cooking foot forward in Waterloo. We won chicken, finished 11th in ribs, were 7th in pork and 16th in brisket. To our surprise, we finished just in the money for overall at 3rd place. I believe the judges scored us accordingly that day. We couldn't dwell on it too much though, as we had to pack up and head for the next event, fifteen miles south in La Porte City.Cooking contests back to back is tough both mentally and physically. I'm not going to compare it to any endurance sport, but try it yourself sometime. Of the 25 teams in La Porte, something like 21 of them had cooked Waterloo that day. As a result, things were a little more loose at this second event. As you can see by the pictures, Scottie looked like somebody had stolen his best brisket right out of his pit, Shad was cracking the whip on Angie, Darrin's nephew must have lost a bet to have to wear that glove on his head, and somebody kidnapped Kyle's boom box. Yeah, I think we were all a little punchy come Sunday.Not long after we arrived in La Porte, Bob and Kyle Brown of Iowa Outlaws BBQ approached me. Seems Bob had a bone to pick with me over a previous blog post I made giving Nu Way Cafe in Wichita the nod over Maid-Rite sandwiches. Seems Bob grew up eating Taylor's Maid-Rites out of Marshalltown, Iowa and he took a little offense to my decision. We discussed it and ultimately agreed to disagree. Well, that is until Sunday after turn-ins. Seems Bob had a relative stop off at Taylor's just before coming up to La Porte and bring two hot, fresh original Maid-Rite sandwiches up for Johnny and me. There were no pictures. That's because those Taylor Maid-Rites were awesome and the two of us snarfed them down before anybody could get it memorialized. I'm going to be honest, that Maid-Rite was damn good. Without having the Nu Way and Maid-Rite side by side, I'm going to call it a tie. If you've never eaten a loose meat sandwich from either place, you really need to give them a try. Thanks Bob, you made a believer out of me.

Speaking of believing, I believe Iowa has more friendly people per capita than any other place in the world. Everyone smiles. Everyone is friendly. Everyone is excited about barbecue. It's truly amazing. The hospitality is second to none. Well, except for one Iowa team. See Ryan Newsom, chief pitmaster of Big T'z Q Cru, he's a sneaky one. Ryan took our Old School versus High Tech class in Shannon, Illinois this year. Even though we've now taught over 500 students, I remember him because he's the only guy ever whose name I got wrong on the registration. His name tag said "Ray." Not a bad name, just not his name. He took it in stride that day, or so it seems.
Big T'z Q Cru, headed by pitmaster Ryan and his lovely wife Sonya, whipped up on his two instructors at Waterloo, finishing the Reserve Grand Champion of the event. But he wasn't finished there, oh no. At La Porte City, Mr. Newsom graciously presented both Johnny and me a bottle of Crown Royal Reserve in appreciation for the knowledge he gained from the OS vs HT class back in April. Attached was a note saying he'd "see us at the Royal." Get it? See, in this, his first year, Ryan has already won BBQLossal at the World Pork Expo and the Marshalltown, Iowa event in addition to his RGC the day before. At the time, I thought it was a very gracious gesture. I didn't have the heart to tell him that his check cleared. Oh, how naive can one be? But now I know the whole gift deal was a ploy, a way to get Trigg and me to let down our guard and cook a little looser in La Porte. You hear tell all the time how teams will plan things to get other teams or their members off their game. Heck, I saw it in person a few years back with I traveled with the Smokin' Salmons to Stillwater, Oklahoma, right Rick? Anyway, this mastermind disguised as a first year cook had obviously cooked up a scheme to take us out . . . . and it worked perfectly! Big T'z Cru walked away the Grand Champion of the Smokin' In The Park event that day. That picture, courtesy of his lovely bride and teammate, of us three was taken only moments before awards began. That smirk on Ryan's face tells the whole story. His plan was executed flawlessly. That's one Iowan who doesn't treat strangers very nicely. That's all I have to say about that.

Iowa is a great place to compete in a barbecue contest. The weather for the weekend was perfect. The hospitality of the two events was good. The people from the area were friendly and welcoming . . .well, sans one smiling scoundrel, an obvious wolf in sheep's clothing. We finished sixth overall at La Porte City, with a tenth place call in chicken, fifteenth place in ribs, seventh place call in pork and a third place call in brisket. We cooked better the second day despite our scores and finish. The back to back events made it a very long weekend and the drive home on Sunday after awards was a tough one. However, with a little time having passed, I know Sheri and I would do it all again. Both events did a nice job and we can't wait to get back there next year. And in the end, both Johnny and I are very proud of Ryan and his team Big T'z Q Cru for their accomplishments this year. Congrats to them!


Scottie said...

I was lamenting....

dyana said...
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