Monday, October 14, 2013

Will the Real BBQ Cooks Please Stand Up! A 2013 Recap

Let's get this straight - I once rode in a limo and got sick!

Now on to the post:

Our 2013 season is essentially over. What a strange year. We find ourselves stuck in the no man's land of the BBQ battle. I guess that's what you expect when you only are able to cook 5 events. The frustration of trying to determine why things go wrong after they go right really makes it feel like you are doing a giant connect the dot puzzle without any numbers. Sometimes the picture looks great and sometimes it looks like a turd!

Here's a brief overview of the season that was 2013:

Our first cook of the season was at the Rockin' Rib Fest in Springfield, MO. I believe this was our fourth year in a row cooking this contest. It's a pretty well run event that is constantly trying to one up itself every year. I liked the new venue at the fairgrounds as it allowed the event to spread out somewhat. However, I have learned if you arrive after 12pm on Friday to set up, the organizer assumes you are not coming and therefore does not have the tent you paid for set up. After some discussion, we were able to get this rectified but decided they could keep their $100 porta-potty ("Hey, it's for charity.") The weather was chilly with some wind but it didn't seem to bother our cook. We ended up 7th out of 68 teams and had a call in brisket. Not a bad start to the season.

We next ventured to Lansing, KS on the first weekend of May. Who knew it would snow? We had wind, cold, rain, sleet and some snow. Worst weather I have ever cooked in. In fact, the weather kept some teams away as only 33 showed up. The organizers had a carnival, bands and fireworks set up for this but the weather wiped all of it out. Despite the nasty weather, we were able to get everything cooked to where we like it. We ended up 6th overall and thinking we are getting things on track.

As work and family commitments increased during the summer, barbecue had to take a backseat. We were able to cook again at Laurie, MO on the first weekend of August against 50 other teams. We had not cooked this event before and decided the timing was right to get back out there. We had a nice shady spot and all the contestants were spread out in the park where the contest was held. It was nice not being elbow to elbow with each other. We had some rain to contend with early in the morning but it seemed not to effect our cook. I had been practicing a different chicken recipe in months before this contest and rolled it out here. The chicken looked great but overall finished 19th. I was hoping for a home run but ended up with a weak liner to second. We ended up 22nd here which was a little disappointing.

Another long break found us cooking the last Sam's Club qualifier event for Region 2. This event took place the last weekend of September in Overland Park, KS. This was the first Sam's event we had ever cooked and the competitors were tough. We had a little rain to deal with but for the most part the weather was very favorable. The cook was solid and we felt we had put great product in the box. When the dust cleared we ended up 10th overall out of 29 teams and just missed being in the top 6 by a few points. We did get a 4th place call in Brisket and was very pleased with that considering the caliber of the cook teams there. I felt we had some redemption for the previous event in Laurie, MO and some momentum heading into the American Royal the following weekend.

Fresh off of Sam's Club the Royal arrived. This was our 8th year cooking this event. We were only cooking the Open as we did not qualify for the Invitational.   I was jazzed as we had everything prepped and ready to go on Saturday and had no major weather issues to deal with for the cook on Sunday. Somewhere between the cook and getting the product into the box, the wheels fell off the wagon. I suppose we were due for a bad cook. I am still scratching my head as to why? Nothing tasted right and nothing looked good in the box. What a disappointment as we put so much work into it and received so little result out of it. We were sucker punched! Part of me did not even want to go to the award ceremony but after all it is the "Royal." I went and stood in the back of the arena by the doors listening to emcee Mike Thompson crack bad weatherman jokes and call the winning names. I knew we would not be called for anything. I hate being right! I got back to the car and pulled away wondering what the hell happened!

So here we are. The current season is over for us. I have more questions than answers. More frustration than elation. BBQ has gotten the best of me again. Thankfully the 2014 season is on the way and hope can spring anew once more.

Seacrest Out!

Friday, September 20, 2013

A Chauffeured Limousine Tour of Kansas City Barbecue Greats

Although I grew up in Kansas City and attended college at one of the local universities, I moved to Seattle after graduation. I spent the better part of ten years out there. Seattle is a great city, but it's not the kind of place you think of when you say "let's go out for barbecue." As you can imagine, a guy who was raised on some of the best barbecue in the nation made a lot of noise in Seattle about the quality of the smoked ribs and tangy sauce back home in Kansas City. And after a while, my friends in Seattle began to tire of my boasting. It was "put up or shut up" for KC barbecue. Unfortunately, it took me a while to finally introduce my Seattle-area friends to the barbecue I loved so much.
As I said earlier, I only spent ten years in Seattle. I returned to Kansas City a few years back. I had a good job opportunity in KC and my wife was also from the area. It was good to be back home, but I still felt the need to share the Kansas City barbecue experience with my friends back in Seattle. So, I arranged to have them come to town for a little dining and baseball. The Seattle Mariners were in Kansas City for a four-game stint last July. My friends and I are all baseball nuts, so I arranged to have them fly into KC for a handful of days. I bought tickets for the second and fourth games in the series. That gave us plenty of time in-between to see the sights and sample the barbecue around town. But, as I wanted to make the experience memorable for all time, I decided to take it up a notch and treat the old Seattle crew to a barbecue and game night experience they'd never forget. (And if I was lucky, they'd go back to Seattle and tell everybody we knew that I was absolutely right about KC barbecue). 
KC has a number of great barbecue restaurants, but one of my favorites is right in the heart of the Country Club Plaza. When my buddies arrived in KC for the barbecue and baseball event, I made sure that they got to try a variety of smoked barbecue deliciousness – but I held the best for last. On the fourth night that the Mariners were in town, I surprised the guys with a chauffeur-driven limo ride from the house to the Plaza for dinner. We feasted like Kings and then jumped back into the limousine for a ride to Kauffman Stadium. The limo I hired from Overland Chauffeured Services was the highlight of the evening. (Seriously, how cool is it to be driven around town all night in a limo?)
The Royals may have lost that night (1-6), but Overland Chauffeured Services made the evening a huge win for me and Kansas City. Nothing beats leaving a baseball game and having a chauffeur-driven limo waiting outside your gate to whisk you through traffic and back home. I still hear the guys back in Seattle talk about the great experience they had here in town. They're already planning to head back to KC next summer. And, I'll know who to call for transportation!
The author of this article, a writer and blogger in Kansas City, contacted Overland Chauffeured Services in KC to arrange for a chauffeur-driven limousine service to take him and his friends to dinner and a ballgame. Overland Chauffeured Services is a world-class limousine, corporate transportation, airport and group shuttle service in the Kansas City area. You can call (800) 575-4845 today to arrange for your own luxury transportation experience. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Using State of the Art Technology to Get Kansas City Veneers

Kansas City is the home of the best barbeque foods in the world. But when you have an area that indulges in that much barbeque, you are going to wind up with people that have problems with the color of their teeth. In all seriousness, issues with chipped, cracked or discolored teeth happen to Kansas City residents of all types for all kinds of reasons. In the past, Kansas City residents had to either put up with the imperfections, or choose to face a series of painful and expensive procedures. In these extreme cases, teeth whitening is not going to work and it is also not going to be permanent. In the past few years, a solution has been developed that will allow people to get the permanent results they want. Kansas City veneers give people a great solution to a common problem.
Kansas City veneers are thin layers of porcelain that are laid over top of the damaged teeth to get the look of white and dazzling teeth. A qualified Kansas City dentist can do a complete veneer installation in as little as two visits. That means that your teeth can go from chipped, cracked or discolored to beautiful in less than a week. When you decide to get veneers done, it is always a good idea to get all of your teeth done as opposed to just one or two. When the veneer is laid on your teeth, it will make them look white and sparkling. To make sure that all of your teeth look uniform, you should get veneers on all of them at the same time.
When Kansas City veneers are installed, your dentist will need to remove the top layer of natural porcelain from your teeth. This is why you should only get veneers from a qualified and experienced Kansas City cosmetic dentist. The process is not painful at all, but if it is not done properly, then it could expose your teeth to problems in the future. A qualified dentist will be able to walk you through the procedure of getting veneers quickly and effectively. It will be one of the best decisions you have ever made.
If permanent Kansas City veneers are not what you want, then consider getting the less permanent lumineers. The dentist will not need to do any work on your teeth and the lumineers can be removed if you would like. It is a great option for people who want the benefits of veneers but without the permanent changes to their teeth.

Friday, October 19, 2012

American Royal Hotel - Great Hotel and Attractions

When you are booking accommodations in Kansas City and want to be close to fine dining, shopping, and all the major attractions, you should reserve you hotel room close to the American Royal Complex. The huge complex has over 300,000 square feet of space for exhibitions. A number of trade shows, as well as the American Royal Livestock, Horse Show, Rodeo and Barbecue are held at the center every year. The center is conveniently located within close proximity of a number of the major attractions in Kansas City.
By reserving accommodations in downtown Kansas City near the American Royal Complex, you will be able to enjoy shopping at Country Club Plaza and the attractions at the Crown Center. You can browse the Kansas City Power & Light Entertainment District and the Crossroads Art District, and spend a day with your family at the Kansas City Zoo. Several of the well known museums in the city are also located in the downtown region, making it easy to see all the attractions during your stay. There are a number of excellent hotels in the area that provide amenities you expect from an upscale hotel.
The Union Hill region of Kansas City is a great location when you are in the city for business, a weekend trip, or vacation. This area is close to Downtown Kansas City and only a few minutes away from Country Club Plaza. Crown Center and union Station are located close by. You will find that upscale hotels in the region provide guests with convenient, interior corridors. Fitness facilities with state-of-the-art equipment, hot tubs, and an indoor pool are some of the amenities. Most hotels provide continental breakfast, but several hotels have their own restaurant on the property.
When you reserve accommodations at an American Royal Hotel, you will find that large groups can easily be accommodated, but many of the hotels are also family friendly, and provide large, comfortable rooms, nay with 2 double beds so that families can stay in one room. Guest amenities include hairdryers, coffee and tea makers, complimentary toiletries, and flat screen TVs. If you are in town on business, the KC Convention Center and Municipal Auditorium and Music Hall are close by. In addition to shopping and the many attractions close to the downtown area, for those who love great jazz, the 18th & Vine Jazz District is located nearby.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

"Put Your Name On It!"

Long time no post. It is amazing how work and family obligations tend to make a person forget other things - like staying on top of their team blog! Let me bring you up to speed on what is going on with all things Holla N' Swalla BBQ.

We decided in the off season to spend some of our winnings on some branding and have a new logo made. We like our old logo but wanted to move in a different direction and put our stamp on the team. We used an online design service that pitted artists from around the world to submit a winning design. We received a lot of great designs (and some crazy ones too!) The decision was very difficult once we narrowed it down to 3 designs. We even  posted some of the designs on our Facebook page and asked for feedback. Here is the winning design:

The artist provided us several alternative versions of the logo that will provide us with some different directions we can go with. We are very pleased with our choice and have had a banner, magnets, t-shirts and stickers made. Like they sing in Disney's Aladdin, it's "A Whole New World!"

In February, we were one of the teams selected by Oakridge BBQ for rub sponsorship. Mike Trump is a local guy who makes a great product. For our competitions, we are using his Secret Weapon chicken/pork rub, the Competition brisket/pork rub and his excellent Santa Maria seasoning. We are very grateful to Mike for selecting us.

So far this season, we have competed in 4 contests. We started the season in Pleasant Hill, MO which was a new venue for us. A great lineup of teams were there. The weather was hot for the end of March which made it a non factor and a blessing we did not have to deal with the cold or possibly snow. Temperatures reached 90 so there would be no snow here. We did stumble out of the gate there by finishing in the middle of the pack. Every category cooked well for us but just did not have that little extra "umph" we needed to put us over the top.

Next came Rockin' Ribs in Springfield, MO. This was the third time we have cooked this contest. We do pretty well here and again that carried over for us as we finished 8th overall. We received calls in all categories but Pork. If ever a category gives us fits, it is pork! Once again, it bit us in the ass and kept us out of finishing in the top 3 overall. It was a solid finish here but it could have been a terrific one with a good pork score.

June found us cooking in Raytown, MO (aka Raintown) for the third straight year. To our relief, there would no thunderstorms this year but only the rays of the sun.  The Louisiana Pellet Grill made her debut here for us. We always cook on the WSM but wanted to add another weapon to our arsenal. We cooked our ribs on it and the finished product was some of the best looking ribs we have ever produced. I sampled the ribs before we put them in box for turn-in. They were salty. What the hell was going on? It was too late to worry about it as we applied more glaze to them and turned them in. They were awful tasting but we ended up getting 8th overall in that category. Go figure! The crappiest stuff we turned in is what the judges liked. Nothing else hit the top 10 for us that day and again we find ourselves stuck in the middle of the pack. Any momentum we built from Springfield is quickly muted here. As far as pork, once again it drags us down!

July hits and we decide to cook in the middle of the heatwave at Glasgow, MO. This is our first time here and the organizer has us set up under a huge oak tree which provides shade for the whole event. What a break for us! The weather is hot and sunny but the shade we have makes it much more bearable. The cook here goes well. Prior to this event, we had been kicking around some different ideas on the pork to see if we can bring this category off of the scrap heap. We decided to cook 4 butts and to trim them out differently. We injected, seasoned and cooked them using our normal process. We decided to change our presentation based on the amount of great money muscle slices we ended up with. We are rewarded for our efforts as we take 1st place in the pork category! Redemption at last but at what price? We hear no calls in the other 3 categories. Did we put all our effort into the pork and ignore the other categories? The results may reflect that but in the end we had trouble with the ribs as I did not bring the pellet grill. They over cooked slightly on the WSM and did not look good. The brisket was average. It was cooked right but had no pizazz to it. The chicken was spot on. We turned in 6 thighs and changed it up by putting in 4 lollipops instead of our normal legs. It seems the judges did not appreciate this and our scores were just average. Overall, there we are again in the familiar middle of the pack spot. I do not like this trend.

Up next is the Downstream Casino contest in Quapaw, OK at the end of August. Normally we are clicking on all cylinders at this point in the season and expect a strong finish in contests we enter. In order for us to do that, we really are going to have to step it up because the competition will not be any easier here. In the words of Coach Herm Edwards, we need to "Put Your name On It!" I am also going to bring the pellet grill to this contest so we can "Put your ribs on it!"

Upcoming Events:
8/31/12 - Downstream Casino, Quapaw, OK
10/05/12 - American Royal Invitational and Open
10/26/12 - Jack Daniels Invitational? (Fingers are crossed!)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Welcome to Our New Sponsor

We are very excited to have Oakridge BBQ as our rub sponsor for the 2012 season! We are very honored to have been selected by Mike Trump as one of his product representatives. His products are top notch and we look forward to adding to his award list and being part of the Oakridge team.

We will get our season kicked off in just a couple of weeks in Pleasant Hill, MO at the Smokin' on Big Creek BBQ contest. This will be our first year cooking this competition. I personally cannot wait to get things started. Even though we have had a warmer than usual winter and practically no snow to boot, I am ready to get this season launched! Hopefully, the momentum we gained at the end of last season can carry over into the start of the 2012 season. It will be hard to gauge because typically that first contest of the season is the one that helps shake off all the dust and rust. I know we will also be facing some top notch teams who have already shaken their dust and rust off.

The rest of our 2012 roadmap is starting to take shape. We will be cooking in Springfield, MO at the Rockin' Rib Fest the weekend of April 20-21st. This will be our third trip to this contest and it is one we enjoy doing.  This year it will not be on the grounds of the Bass Pro Shop but at the Community Blood Center instead. I am going to miss that breakfast buffet in the Pro Shop.

We will also be returning to the Raytown BBQ contest in June and the American Royal in October. We are currently trying to fill in some other dates for the season and hope to schedule at least three to five more contests when all is said and done.

Time to get things started!!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Enjoying BBQ and Horses is Easy at an American Royal Hotel

Kansas City embraces its heritage as a livestock center of the Midwest along with its reputation for being a major BBQ center. In days past, this part of the Midwest was where the Mississippi River met the railroad lines. Cattle coming from the West could come into this area and go up or down the river. They could also cross into the East. Other agricultural goods also followed as more and more land in the Plains came under the plow. That heritage continues in the American Royal festivals that occur every fall in Kansas City. You will find an American Royal hotel is a great place to stay for the fun.

Today, the American Royal BBQ competition is the crown jewel among competitions in North America. BBQ and Kansas City are almost synonymous. People go to Kansas City just to try the dozens of barbeque restaurants that dot the landscape. The American Royal tournament draws people from around the country and around the world. They come to compete for the blue ribbon of BBQ championships. The best judges take samples from dozens of competitors. In the end, only one can emerge a winner in each category. You can experience this if you stay at the American Royal hotel.

Other than BBQ, the American Royal is famous for its long running livestock exhibitions. This exhibition also includes judging contests that offers individuals and teams a great way to see who has the best livestock in the area. There are different categories for competitors. There are categories for Livestock Judging as well as Meat Judging. There is also a separate Crops Judging category. College level and high school level competitors have categories for thee age group. The idea is to advance their knowledge of the field as well as their maturity as individuals. Many families choose to stay at an American Royal hotel.

Horse shows is another reason to visit the American Royal in the fall. Horses are a big part of the American Royal. There are categories including Arabian, cutting horses, hunters/jumpers, quarter horses, and saddle horses. Youth have their own competitions. Each category of competition has its own subcategories. For example, the Arabian division involves competitions in halter classes, western pleasure, English pleasure, and dressage. Throughout the weekend, the horses go through various competitions. In the end, a select few become winners of the Royal. For those coming to see the show, staying at an American Royal hotel make sense.