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!)