Porkless in Seattle No More

Ladies and gents, we have a winner in our free pork contest:  Edd “Cracklin'” McLaughlin of Seattle, Washington.  Although Edd’s name was drawn at random from among eight entrants, he also would have won for distance.  Seattle is a 2,842 mile drive from Greensboro, the home of the NC Barbecue Company, which is providing the prize Battle Box.  Another example of the wonders of the Internet–connecting North Carolina barbecue lovers from coast to coast.

As his contest entry, Edd wrote to say: “I’m stranded out here in the Seattle, Washington area with no access to authentic delicious tasting NC barbecue or the atmosphere of the places where it’s served.  I have a lot of respect for the intensity of its preparation and am always amazed by the subtle smokiness of the finished product, be it Eastern or Piedmont style.  The dips/sauces are other non-existent items out here. I always look forward to the once a year trip I make to NC and NC barbecue is right at the top of the list of reasons why I do.”

It sounds like you’ll truly appreciate this prize, Edd, so congrats on your win and happy eating.  I’ll share your contact info with Ryan Pitz of the NC Barbecue Company and he’ll be in touch to arrange the Battle Box delivery.

Thanks everyone for participating, and I’ll be posting some more of your submissions later this week.

The Oath

Recently I became a Certified Barbeque Judge, according to the Kansas City Barbeque Society. I’ll write more about this life changing experience in the future, but for now enjoy this behind-the-scenes photo of new certified judges taking the KCBS oath in Lexington, NC.

What is the Certified Barbeque Judge oath? I’m so happy you asked: “I do solemnly swear to objectively and subjectively evaluate each Barbeque meat that is presented to my eyes, my nose, my hands and my palate. I accept my duty to be an Official KCBS Certified Judge, so that truth, justice, excellence in Barbeque and the American Way of Life may be strengthened and preserved forever.”


Ever wanted to learn the art of barbecue judging?  Well, right here and right now is your chance. And by right here and right now I mean Lexington, NC in February of 2011.  The Kansas City Barbecue Society, the granddaddy of BBQ organizations, brings its respected judging class to Lexington on February 19 leading up to the inaugural BBQ Capital Cook-Off to be held in April.  (A tip of the snout to Another_Q_Lover for bringing the class to my attention.)

Sign up for the judging class, or to enter the cooking competition (wood or charcoal only, hallelujah!), using the forms below.  Oh, and I should warn you that your’s truly plans to be there for the class, and I am excited already.



Festival Trifecta This Weekend

Looking for something to do this weekend?  Whether you head east or to the heart of the state, you’ll find yourself deliciously close to barbecue.  
The Pork Jam 2010 BBQ Festival takes place about 45 minutes north of Greensboro in the little town of Pelham.  The event is scheduled for Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 pm. Located at 4895 Old US 29 in Pelham, the event benefits the community by supporting the Pelham Volunteer Fire Department.  There will be arts and crafts (over 50 vendors in ’08 and ’09), kids’ games/rides, face painting, hay rides, clowns (run for your lives, children!), door prizes, and live gospel, rock, country, beach, and bluegrass music. Oh yeah, and there will be fresh BBQ and stew served all day long and cooked by the volunteer firemen.  Free admission and parking. For more info or to be a vendor (if it’s not too late), please email porkjam@bellsouth.net.
A little ways to the north and west, the 2nd annual Future Legends of BBQ festival takes place in Flat Rock on Saturday. The event features a youth cooking competition (meaning the youth do the cooking, not get cooked, I think), along with live bluegrass, face painting, appearances by barbecue celebrities like Mike Mills, and more.  Admission is $5.
Meanwhile, down in Rocky Mount the Eastern Carolina BBQ Throw Down, a part of the Down East Festival, celebrates its third year.  The KCBS-sanctioned cooking competition runs from Friday through Saturday. Related events include cooking demonstrations, people’s choice judging, BBQ for sale (of course!), a beer garden, music and more.  The event is free to the public. Visit the website for more info, including a complete event schedule. Also, see the Governor’s proclamation, in which Gov. Perdue proclaims October 8-9 “as the EASTERN CAROLINA BBQ THROW DOWN in North Carolina and urge[s] all citizens to commend its observance.”  Better not disobey the Governor, even if her last name is synonymous with poultry rather than pigs. 

Backstage at Hog Day

The four-person judging team from Hillsborough Hog Day 2010, below from left: Dale Volberg Reed, John Shelton Reed, Joel Grodensky, and Ed Mitchell (not pictured, Chief Judge David Hunt).

They look pretty good considering they just tasted barbecue from 35 cooking teams!

Hillsborough Hog Day Tonight & Tomorrow

The 28th annual Hillsborough Hog Day festival takes place tonight and tomorrow in historic Hillsborough, but I guess you figured that much out from the title of this post. 

Hog Day is a fun, free event that I have been to many times over the years, and the 2010 version of the event promises to be better than ever with the addition of the Hog Day Invitational People’s Choice competition.  Last year’s top finishers from the festival’s shoulder cooking competition will serve their barbecue (cooked fresh this year, let’s hope!) direct to attendees, who will then vote on who has the best ‘cue.  This is an improvement over the usual festival format where only judges get to sample competitors’ pork before it is lumped together to serve to the public. 

Other Hog Day attractions include live music, a car show, a pig calling contest, arts & crafts for sale, and copious amounts of BBQ sandwiches plus various carnival foods (giant turkey legs, gyros, etc. etc.).

Oh, and did I mention that this year’s event also features a beer garden featuring Durham-based Fullsteam Brewery’s beer?  Get thee to Hog Day!

Judge Ribs Not Lest Ye Ribs Be Judged

This past weekend I was lucky enough to help judge the Texas Pete Twin City RibFest in Winston-Salem.  Although ribs don’t hold a place of any real importance in North Carolina barbecue culture (sorry Rib Rabbi, but it’s true), I still didn’t hesitate to sign up when offered a coveted judge’s seat.  And the fact that 60 MPH winds and heavy downpours were forecast didn’t dampen my enthusiasm.  (Luckily, only the rains materialized while I was at the event.)  I was ready to make my first appearance as a bona fide, albeit not certified, barbecue judge.

Receiving instructions from festival organizer Allen McDavid (Photo by Ben "Boss Hog" Pressgrove)

I can attest that the six-person judges panel took its job as seriously as one would expect (i.e., at least somewhat seriously).  We were focused on the task at hand, especially since Ms. Texas Pete 2010 no-showed for her judges gig, leaving us menfolk with nothing to ogle besides the ribs on the table in front of us. 

Festival organizer Allen McDavid spent upwards of three minutes preparing us for our roles as judges.  He paced back and forth in front of the judge’s table and explained…  The ribs would be served one at a time on a numbered plate to protect their identity (lest any of the judges be on the take and working for a contestant).  Each rib was to be judged on four categories–taste, texture, tenderness and appearance.  Each category should be rated between 2 and 9, with 2 being the worst score we could dole out and 9 being the best.  (Apparently barbecue judges cannot count to 10.) A score of 1 would be assigned only if a contestant broke a rule related to the category, such as garnishing with something other than lettuce or parsley.   After tasting the first rib, we should write down our scores, take a drink of water to cleanse the palate, and wipe our hands if we so desired.  And then we were to taste, rinse, wipe and repeat until each contestant’s ribs were sampled.  

Nothing too it, right?  Anyone could be a barbecue judge.  Piece of cake.  Or so I thought until the tasting began.  Continue reading

Texas Pete Twin City RibFest & Blue Ridge BBQ Festival This Weekend

Looking for something ribtastic to do this weekend?  You could do a lot worse than heading over to Winston-Salem (the city so nice they named cigarettes after it twice) for the Texas Pete Twin City RibFest.  RibFest is in its sixth year and features music (Cyril Neville, Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band, and more than 20 others), beer (Foothills Brewing, which is one of the state’s best, among others), activities for kids (highlighted by a pirate-themed magician named Captain Jim who is every bit as creepy looking as you might imagine), and plenty of slow-cooked ribs and other good eats.

But wait, there’s more… this year RibFest features a special appearance by none other than the one and only, everybody’s favorite, the man with the master plan, your’s truly, Mr. Porky LeSwine.  Yes, in a rare lapse of judgment, otherwise lucent festival organizer Allen McDavid invited me to help judge the cooking competition on Saturday.  Roughly a dozen cooking teams from all over the eastern half of the country, including two hometown teams, will compete for the judges’ favor.

And speaking of judges, Miss Texas Pete herself decided to join the judge’s panel, presumably because she heard I was going to participate.  Needless to say, her presence puts a dent in my chances of winning the coveted title of prettiest judge but I still think I can win.  And I’m sure Miss Pete will be awed by my dashing good looks and the fact that I carry a bottle of her namesake sauce with me at all times… it’s like expensive cologne for the barbecue set.

Enough of me rambling, go visit the festival website for more details on RibFest or to order advance tickets.  I hope to see you in Winston-Salem this weekend.  Oh, and if you need a “celebrity” judge for your upcoming BBQ event, you know how to reach me…

Winston-Salem too flat for you?  Head for the mountains of Tryon, where the Blue Ridge BBQ & Music Festival will be taking place.  See this article or the BBQJew.com events page for more details.

Newport Pig Pickin’ Contest This Weekend!

I almost forgot to post this announcement, so sorry for the late notice.  Barbecue festival season kicks off in NC today in Newport, aka “The Town with Old Fashioned Courtesy.”  See the event website and this press release for details on the event, which takes place today and tomorrow.  The barbecue competition is sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society and claims to be “USA’s Largest Whole Hog B-B-Q Pig Cookin,” whatever that means.  I can’t attend but would love a report so drop me a line and some photos if you make it to Newport.