Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Halloween ends a scary run of BBQ competitions!

McFrankenboooooooooo (it's Halloween, get it?) BBQ capped off a 4 competitions in 4 weeks run yesterday down in Tucson.  We only had 3 days to unpack from the trip to Tennessee and repack for the trip to Tucson so it was a crazy week!  The event was at the JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort and it was beautiful!  The resort did an amazing job of taking care of the competitors and that is something we greatly appreciate!

Since it was Halloween weekend, the competition had a best booth contest as well as a contest for best costume.  My Wonder Woman costume, once again, impressed the judges and garnered a nice 3rd place finish and 2 free beers as my prize!  Now, Wonder Woman has been a part of my Halloween costume repertoire for almost my whole life.  I made particular costume in college where I didn't have access to a sewing machine.  Being the crafty one that I am (I like to call myself Martha Villa, as I am crafty like Martha Stewart and very good with tools and building things like Bob Villa), I used staples to "sew" the blue skirt on which I painted white stars.  I also spray painted some boots and added the white stripe down the middle.  A yellow eagle sewn on a red tank along with some tinfoil bracelets and headband completed the superhero look.  Here is a photo taken a few years ago...

Seamus got in on the costume action too!  Since he is a Boston Terrier, he went as a Boston Lobstah and was a big hit!!

After another night of no sleep (it's my job to make sure that all the other teams are too drunk and tired so they can't cook...yeah, yeah, that's the ticket), Jim cooked up some great food.  Turn ins were done and it's out of our hands at that point!  We packed up what we could while we waited and had a little more of that Bicentennial Jack Daniels from 1997.  Did I mention how amazing it was!

Wait, let me backtrack because I realize that I didn't give you the back story on the whiskey.  In 1997, I was at the Jack Daniels Distillery and purchased (had someone else do it because I wasn't 21 yet!) a commemorative bottle.  When we were at the Distillery this time, they said that bottle wasn't made anymore and it was worth about $400 on eBay right now and that I shouldn't open it.   I could have sold it or I could have saved it for a special occasion...I think our very first trip to the Jack Daniels Invitational World BBQ Championships was a pretty special occasion!  I made an executive decision and said screw it.  We opened it and it tasted like a million bucks!

Now back to regular programming...the whiskey was, once again, amazing and was shared with good friends that have helped along the way.  I decided that another costume needed to be worn for awards so I went with the German beer maid, or as everyone kept calling it, St. McFrankenboo Girl!!

We ended up 2nd in ribs and 10th place in brisket.  Not our best showing, but after a whirlwind 4 weeks, we'll take it.

A very special thank you goes out to our friend, Scottie Johnson of Cancer Sucks Chicago, for gracing us with his BBQ presence and a 12 pack of Harpoon!!  He has been nice enough to bring us Harpoon beer, since we can't get it in AZ, to 2 competitions.  He truly is a generous man ;)

Now we don't know what to do with all of our free time.  I mean really, what are we supposed to do with an entire week of nothing?!  I guess I could clean the guest room, which, of course, is the site of BBQ tornado.  Or, I could start packing early for the competition next weekend.  Hmm, nothing to do and so much time!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Time to come off the high!

Well, awards did not go as well as we had hoped.  We didn’t get one call in any of the 4 meats and our best call was 15th in chicken (actually we tied for 13th but obviously lost the tiebreakers).  We ended up 25th overall out of 76 teams, many of which are ranked in the top 25 in the country and many of which we beat.  There was a pretty big learning curve out there and now we know a little but more for next time (keep your fingers crossed that there is a next time!).  All in all, we had a great time, met some great people from all over the country and couldn’t have asked for a better experience. 

Now the fun begins…all the crap has thrown into the camper to be unearthed at a later date and the long trip back home is underway.  The foliage did make the trip for me so all was not lost.  We got back in the damn truck and drove all the way back to Memphis after awards so it would be a shorter trip back home on Sunday and Monday.  Shorter?  Is there such a thing when you’ve already driven 1,700 miles ONE WAY!!  Thankfully we sort of like each other so there are still two of us traveling home.  Of course, that may all change by the time we actually make it back to Phoenix ;)  We utilized the KOA Kamgrounds throughout the trip and stayed in their Kabins on the way home so we didn’t have to unload the deck on the front of the camper.  Those things are adorable!  I felt like we were sleeping in Lincoln Log house that I built!  Thankfully they were sturdier because we were awakened last night by 30 mph winds raging through the open windows.  They even have homemade breakfasts!  I think I could live there!  Now we’re on the last leg, Tucumcari, NM back to Phoenix, AZ, which is about a 9 hour drive through these winds.  Nothing like driving across an open stretch of NOTHING and getting pelted by the tumbleweeds that are flying by.  If you talked about a train, a truck, prison and your momma, I think it sounds like the start of a country song!  They are even talking about snow in the higher elevations, but the clouds look like we could get it at any moment.  It’s only 55 degrees but that feels like snow to me!  Hmm, perhaps I should get my wellies out just in case…
Poor Seamus just keeps poking his head up to see if we’re there yet and then lays back down to go sleep some more.  He’s been the best BBQ dog throughout this whole thing so I think we’ll keep him ;) 

Now that we are finally back home, showered, resting comfortably on the couch watching "Dexter", we are uneagerly awaiting tomorrow when it will be time to unpack, go to work, and then repack before heading down to Tucson for another competition this weekend.  Not sure if this makes us clinically BBQ insane or not, but, for now, we enjoy it!  But hey, at least we’ll have next weekend off before the next competition and football and Thanksgiving and football and the next competition and my company Christmas party and football and another holiday party and football and Christmas and football on Christmas day.  Yup, someday we’ll sleep!!  Oh, and for those of you that have seen those ginormous windmills on the way to California and sporadically placed throughout the US, the blades are truly way bigger than they look!  We saw several of them on the back of trucks and they are unbelievably enormous!!  Hey, the little things entertain you on a long trip.

This blog was originally intended to chronicle the trek across country to The Jack, but keep checking back for updates on competitions as well as the occasionally recipe and humorous rantings by yours truly…I promise you won’t be bored!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Once You Go Jack, You Never Go Back!

The sun is up, the smell of BBQ is in the air, the moment of truth is almost here.  Jim’s been cooking since the wee hours of the morning and just finally starting to warm up.  I’m cleaning up inside the “house” because we’ll be leaving right after awards.  It’s very surreal to be sitting here today and to think about the journey that got us here.  Turn ins start in 3 hours which will be the longest 3 hours ever!  Once turn ins are done, we will break down and pack up before awards.  For anyone interested, awards are at 5pm (EST/CST – don’t understand what the hell time zone we’re in right now; 3pm AZ time) and will be streaming live on  They signal is sporadic out here so be patient if the feed isn’t that great. 

With any luck you’ll be hearing McFrankenboo BBQ for something because we did rub the meat for good luck ;)  Oh, and you can bet you arse I’ll be wearing my wellies to awards!

Stay tuned...

The Madness Begins

After another cold night, we awakened to a beautiful day in the “holler”.  Apparently this is the first competition in 12 years where there hasn’t been any rain!  In past years, people have had to post “No Wake” signs so the water would be pushed into their setup areas.  In anticipation of this wet weather, everyone insisted that we purchase rain boots.  This excited me more than Jim but I still went on the prowl for the perfect pair.  Now let me explain a little bit about my search for the wellies.  Hunter wellies are considered to be oldest and highest quality brands in the UK and recently have become a fashion item.  Anyway, I thought they were adorable so I tried on a pair.  Unfortunately, I am apparently a midget with husky calves.  Those wellies didn’t fit so I had to get the ones for husky calves.  They didn’t fit right either!  There are currently three boxes of wellies that need to get returned.  For those of you that are sitting on the edge of their seats, I did find the perfect pair.  I may be a midget with husky calves but I can still fit in kids shoes!!  My Hunter kids wellies are the perfect addition to any outfit.  Some of you may know the story of my grandfather and his rubbers (yeah, now imagine the horrible images that go through a kids head when grampa asks you to go get his rubbers! Blech!).  Any time they predicted rain and he wore his rubbers, which just went right over the shoes themselves, it never rained.  Apparently I have inherited his meteorological superpowers because there is no rain in sight here!!  Now back to our regularly scheduled programming…

Today is when everything for a competition really begins.  You make sure your smokers are ready to go, the meat is trimmed and prepped, etc.  We got all that ready early so we could enjoy the evening and all that they had planned for us.  After the cooks meeting, we headed to our next door neighbors, Jim & Adrian of Sweet Peppers out of New Mexico, for the Wine & Cheese party that takes place at every competition.  It’s a great way to meet even more teams that you may have missed and it lets you have one last bit of relaxation before the chaos truly begins. 

Now it’s time for the parade!!  All of the teams grabbed their banners (thanks to Danny & Kristine from Gold State Engraving in Lake Havasu City for making it) and state flags (thanks to Tom & Paul from I.A.B. 30 for letting us borrow it) paraded through the town square while throwing candy and beads to those on the route.  Ah yes, the route was about 200 yards!  It did end at the Distillery though where they loaded us on buses and brought us up to Barbeque Hill for dinner.  It has the most amazing views and you can see all of Moore County.  Dinner was great and they did allow us two drinks of Jack, which made us a little warmer!  Also, is providing live coverage from the event and interviewed us, which was pretty cool.  In addition to wearing my wellies for the parade, I also wore my kilt.  Now there is a story to go with my kilt as well.  I ordered it February 1 and received it at the beginning of March.  However, upon further inspection, I realized that it was not my family tartan (Fitzgerald) at all, it was Fitzpatrick!!  I had to return it to Scotland so they could weave the correct one.  Needless to say, after about 9 months of waiting for it, it finally arrived last week!  It is really cute so it had to be worn with my wellies ;) 

It’s another cold night so my orange fleece zip up onesie footy pajamas are back on and will hopefully keep me warm!!  Turn in boxes are complete and now it’s time for us to turn in to bed so we can turn in the BBQ of our life tomorrow!

The Distillery Awaits

Today was our day to tour the Jack Daniels Distillery.  I had done it in the past but Jim hadn’t and it’s really something you can do anytime you’re in the area…which is usually one less time the never.  We had a great tour guide that looked like a mix between Santa Claus and Denver Pyle (Uncle Jesse from the Dukes of Hazzard).  He was very amusing and we enjoyed the tour, which dropped us at the White Rabbit shop where you can purchase commemorative bottle of Jack Daniels, Gentleman Jack or Single Barrel.  I have a bottle that I purchased (okay, that someone else purchased for me because I wasn’t 21 yet) in 1997 when I was here, a commemorative Bicentennial bottle, so we had to purchase more to add to the collection.  I mean who doesn’t need a 3 bottles of whiskey right?  Mmm, Tennessee Whiskey…wait, where was I?

Oh yes, on to lunch!  We ate at Miss Mary Bobo’s Boarding House, which is a local tradition.  It actually used to be a boarding house run by Miss Mary Bobo herself but was purchased by the Distillery and made into a restaurant.  It is separate rooms that your group is seated in and it also has a hostess that sit and eats with you while explaining the history of the restaurant and talks about the area.  The food was great!  The most amazing fried chicken you have ever tasted, fried okra, macaroni and cheese, Jack Daniels apples, green beans, chess pie, sweet tea, my mouth is watering just talking about it!  We ate with four other teams that we have competed against in the past and really enjoyed ourselves. 

After lunch we headed into the square for a little shopping and to pick up our barrel head.  We had pre-ordered a barrel head with the Jack Daniels 2010 Invitational Barbeque World Championships logo and our team name emblazoned on it.  It will be a great piece to add to our collection, don’t you think?  This was the last day before the festivities, excitement and work actually start so I carved the pumpkins for our booth (the Jack Daniels logo, AKA the “Jack”-o-lantern, and the McFrankenboo logo) and then we walked around and met some of the teams.  There are actually 4 teams from New England out here so we chatted with them and, as with the six degrees of separation that only happens in New England, there is someone here that used to work with one of my best friends from college!!  What a small world!  There are over 60 teams here in the actual competition for most of the states as well as all over the world like Canada, Switzerland, Poland (insert your own joke here), Germany, etc. 

Oh yes, and Seamus no longer goes after squirrels, it’s Chihuahuas!  I think he thinks they are chew toys…not good.

We Have Arrived in the "Holler"...Hollah!

I know I am a little behind on this so we’ll just update each day because it has been busy, fun, amazing and an all together amazing experience!  We finally arrived in the “holler” Wednesday night after driving through Tennessee into the middle of nowhere!  I was actually amazed at how many “Adult” stores there were along the highway, which scares me even more about what is causing those truck drivers to swerve.  We did find another Dunkin Donuts so all was right with the world again.  As we hit Nashville we saw a sign for the Jack Daniels Distillery and the excitement truly started to settle in.   As we drive through the small towns on our way to Lynchburg, we realized that we weren’t in Phoenix anymore!  I was all set to update Facebook via my phone when, all of a sudden, my signal was gone and probably not to be seen again until we reach Memphis again!!  On a happier note, I have perfect Wi-Fi signal…go figure. 

Upon arrival in the “holler” (actually “hollow”), which is what they call the area here, we can see all the signs welcoming us and that are some teams that have already arrived and look as excited as we do.  We checked in and got our credentials and got to work setting up our spot.  We are in spot #34 which I thought was amusing because that’s Big Papi’s number and I call my truck Optimus Papi (it’s a Chevy Avalanche so it transforms like a Transformer and is big and red with Red Sox stickers and such…get it?).   Everyone is really nice but is definitely working on their own time.  Things are definitely on a slower pace here but it was nice for a change. I do have to say though, they most amazing porta-potties you have ever seen…they have a floral arrangement in them!  I know, I know, little things entertain me.

We attempted to get some dinner on the square but it appears everything closes at 7pm.  I guess there isn’t much to do in “the wettest dry county in the country” so they are either in the confines of their own homes imbibing in the stuff that keeps this town alive or they actually are asleep.  I’m still not sure because I couldn’t understand the language they were speaking!  It is freezing here at night!  Okay, now understand that I have been away from New England for a long time now so my days of going to the bus stop with wet hair only to get the bus and have it be frozen are long gone.  Thankfully, we have been through enough competitions in crazy weather that I know to pack for the frozen tundra or the Sahara.  I guess being right on the “crick” makes a very damp cold and makes for a cold night sleeping.  Poor Seamus just dives under the covers and wedges his way in between us, which works well for us because he’s like our own personal heater! 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Movin' Right Along (just like the Muppets!!)

Well, we are almost there!!  We decided to take a few extra days and enjoy the trip and do a little sightseeing along the way.  By sightseeing we mean the Big Texan Steakhouse, home of the 72oz steak (which reminds me of scene from the movie “Great Outdoors” with John Candy); Car Hendge; a cross big enough for the Jolly Green Giant to worship at; the homes of the 1981 Miss America, an astronaut, Garth Brooks, Troy Aikman and Carrie Underwood.  I vote that some of that money earmarked to “stimulate” our economy should go directly to the Department of Transportation in Oklahoma because the roads are TERRIBLE!  Hell, I feel like my fat is still jiggling!  And we also passed through Shamrock, Texas which is either a sign of good luck or that unique sense of Irish humor mocking us.

We did stop outside of Little Rock for the evening because we were tired and figured we’d get up early and spend the day in Memphis.  We were awakened by rain and the LOUDEST and LONGEST clap of thunder I have heard in all of my 33 years!  The rain didn’t bother me because I got to wear my Wellies!  Jim doesn’t get it but I have always wanted a cute pair of wellies but just can’t justify buying them in Arizona.  Well, I found every puddle imaginable and enjoyed every second of it!  I felt like a kid again…until I found a gray hair, which pretty much ruined that for me.

The rain sort of foiled our sightseeing plans for Memphis so we found the Dunkin Donuts instead!!  For those of you that don’t know, more than a day without Dunkin is like, well, a day without bacon or beer.  Geez, I have to get out more!  We found a great little place called the Bellmont Grill for a late lunch and made sure to get our fill of Yuengling, which I readily enjoyed during my college days in Pennsylvania.  The waitress did card me because she thought that though I was younger than her, which made my day, only to find out that I was actually older than her!  Of course, this made up for the gray hair I found earlier ;)  Now we’re just hanging out having a few adult beverages at the KOA campground (not my ideal camping but it works for quick and easy) and waiting to head into Lynchburg tomorrow afternoon.  The excitement is truly starting to set in and this is going to be a great week!!

Now a word from Seamus…I am sick of the car.  They always leave me in the car when they go and have beer.  I like beer too!  SQUIRREL!  It hasn’t been that bad because I get to sleep in the bed with Mom & Dad in the camper so I guess it’s ok.  Besides, in a couple of days I get the pork shoulder bone.  BIRD!  I do get to run around in green grass which is a nice change from the burnt stuff in our yard.  SKUNK!  I guess I should go now so I can play with my moo cow!!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Let the Journey Begin!

Well, we are on our way!  In the last 10 days we have done two competitions, been to an Arizona Cardinals home game, celebrated Jim’s birthday and packed up everything we could possible need for our 1,700 mile trek to the home of the Jack Daniels whiskey, Lynchburg, Tennessee!!  Day 1 started later in the morning so we could recover from the Queen Creek competition and consisted of a long drive but at least we had some entertainment along the way!  Nothing like seeing a prison uniform on the side of the road or a car pulled over by the police with 2 open 30 pack of beer sitting on the hood!  Poor Seamus doesn’t really know what’s going on nor does he seem to care.  He slept the entire ride and is now excited to sleep in the camper.  We stopped at a KOA campground in Tucumcari, NM and will make it somewhere around Little Rock, AR tomorrow.  The weather is beautiful compared to the full blown summer we’re still experiencing in Phoenix but hopefully we’ll get to a place with actual trees soon so we can see the colors of them changing!  A lot of flat land with signs telling us they have the cheapest Indian blankets and moccasins.  I’m sure tomorrow will be much of the same but at least we haven’t seen it in a while so it will seem new and exciting…yeah, right.  Now we’re off to get some sleep so we can do it all over again tomorrow…and the day after that!!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

What a long strange trip it's been...

What a long strange trip it’s been…and we’re just getting started!  This road started in late August, the last weekend to qualify for the Jack Daniels Invitational World BBQ Champions, or “The Jack” for short.  We traveled to Tijuana, Mexico to attend an event that, at the time, wasn’t even a qualifier. At the end of the event, they had the 15 teams needed to make it a qualifier and we were crowned Grand Champions!  Actually, we were crowned the first ever International Grand Champions, and this was the first win of our BBQ “career”.  With that win, we were placed into the draw for The Jack in our home state, Arizona, with three other teams, Iowa’s Smokey D’s, 4 Legs Up and Smoked to the Bone, also out of Arizona. 

Fast forward one week and we arrived in Mequite, NV for the Smokin’ in Mesquite contest.  Still reeling from out first ever GC, we received that news that our bung (the little rubber stopper from the whiskey barrel) was pulled from the barrel in the The Jack draw!  Holy cow, we’re going to The Jack?  Holy cow, we’re going to THE JACK!!  For some, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity so we were thrilled.  Of course, we were at a competition so we had to focus on the task at hand and prepare for the impending turn ins!  During awards we were happy to see our friend (and the other Arizona team in the draw for The Jack), Jennifer Duncan of Smoked to the Bone, crowned Grand Champion! 

Oh yes, fast forward yet another week, and we are in Grand Junction, Colorado for the Pork & Hops BBQ Challenge!   The weather was beautiful and the grass was lush and green and the trees provided long missed shade.  We were not happy with our meat that day, but I guess the judges were because we ended up with the title of Reserve Grand Champion!  We also won the Kingsford Charcoal Points for that event.  Our friends Kelly and Roni Wertz of 4 Legs Up were crowned Grand Champion. 

We had a 3 week BBQ competition hiatus and didn’t really know what to do with ourselves but, thankfully, time has flown by!  Now, off we go to Lancaster, California for the beginning of the chaos called October!