2016 World Food Championships

This year marked the fifth year for the World Food Championships, the fourth time that Anthony and Christene competed at the event, and the first time they competed against each other in the same category.

A quick historical recap…The first year of the World Food Championships, 2012, Anthony and Christene competed together in the Burger category, finishing in 12th Place.  In 2013 Christene qualified for the Chili category and Anthony won an online contest for a paid entry into the Sandwich category.  Christene placed well with her Red Chili, while Anthony finished 9th, earning an automatic invitation to the 2014 event.  After another winning year of chili competitions, Christene again won her Golden Ticket to join Anthony at the 2014 WFC.  That year, Christene turned in an excellent Homestyle Chili, and Anthony improved his category standing with a 3rd Place Sandwich finish.  After three years of nearly a full week of cooking competition, the pair decided to take a break from the 2015 WFC.

Jump to 2016.  With no plans to attend WFC 2016, and just days before the registration deadline, Anthony and Christene both qualified for the Chili category the same weekend with individual wins at the Puget Pod CASI Chili Cook-off and the Washington State Tolbert Chili Championship.

Each year, contestants in each category are required to cook a Signature dish – anything they want to cook that meets the category theme – and a Structured dish – a required dish defined by the WFC.  For 2016, the required chili White Chili, something neither Anthony nor Christene had previously cooked.  With only a few weeks to perfect and submit their recipes, research, tasting, and practice went into high gear.  Christene settled on chicken white chili and her well-received red with beans, while Anthony went with a spicier pork white chili and chili verde.

After nearly 8 hours of shopping, and scouring southeastern Alabama for their needed ingredients, Anthony and Christene and 28 other chili cooks – including two others from Western Washington – settled in for an intense four-hour first round.  Each cook was required to put together and submit a tray with 5 tasting samples and one appearance bowl for each chili.  The scores of the two entries are combined, with the top ten contestants going on to cook in the Top 10 round on the next day; the overall winner after the two days scores are combined cooks against the winners of the other nine food categories to determine the World Food Champion.  The first round’s results ended with Anthony in 8th place, and Christene in 5th for her first appearance in the Top 10.  Christene’s white chili was the highest scoring of the day, while Anthony’s tied for second a mere 0.75 points behind Christene’s.  With awards finishing late Saturday evening, the scramble was on to clean turn-in dishes, buy more ingredients, and finalize recipes to be ready to cook early Sunday afternoon.

For the Top 10 round, Christene decided to stick with her signature red chili, while Anthony cooked a tweaked version of his white chili.  For the Top 10, competitors were required to use one of several flavors of Goya Salsita hot sauce; Christene used their “Smoky Ancho” and Anthony a combination of “Smoky Ancho” and “Plenty Hot Jalapeño”.  Each 2-hour long Top 10 round featured 10 judges, requiring cooks to submit two trays with 10 tasting samples and one appearance sample – too much for one person to move from the cooking area to the judging area.  Fortunately two other Pacific Northwest competitors – who didn’t make it to their Top 10 Steak round – stepped up to assist Anthony and Christene.

At Sunday night’s Top 10 Awards, Anthony moved up three spaces to finish in 5th Place, and Christene jumped two to finish in 3rd Place.  Fellow Washington State chili cook Frank Volz went from 6th to 4th Place.  (In case you weren’t counting, against a field of chili cooks from all over North America, including the 2015 World Chili Champion, cooks from Washington State finished 3rd, 4th, and 5th!)  The overall Chili winner, Liz Kraatz, scored an impressive 93.6667 in the Top 10 round to leap from 7th to 1st Place; Liz ended up finishing the 2016 World Food Championship in 3rd place overall.

Their respective 3rd and 5th Place finishes have qualified Christene and Anthony for next year’s World Food Championships.  They will be taking lessons learned at the 2016 event and applying them to lots of practice to be ready for another shot at the title of World Chili Champion.

Getting into the ‘Que Groove!

Hey, don’t be looking at the amount of time between this and the last post – I’ve had things to see, people to do…

Great happenings on the Competition Barbecue front the last two outings.

In Wenatchee at the Eastern Washington BBQ Championship, we won First Place in CASI Chili, Third Place in Sausage, and our FIRST First Place in Brisket!  Christene didn’t believe me about the Brisket win – she was sure that we had taken a First previously.  She wasn’t convinced until we got home where she was scanning over all the trophies.

This was a nice change after having our worst showing ever at the Sam’s Club Tour event in Renton, Washington.

And now for some obligatory Food Porn:

1st Place Brisket

1st Place Brisket

2nd Place Sausage

2nd Place Sausage

Riding high after a decent showing in Wenatchee, we next headed up to Langley, British Columbia for the 27th Annual Canadian Festival of Chili and Barbecue.  The guys up there – Wayne, Dave, and Fred – always put on a great event, and we were excited to be able to cook it again after several years running the judging side of things.

This is a big, busy event that had nine categories over two days.  Saturday’s “Extra” categories were Hamburger, Chef’s Challenge (Chicken Wings), Homestyle Chili, CASI Chili, and Grill Grates Steak.  (OK, there were also two Kids-Q categories, but I’m a bit too old for those…)  One of the things I love about this event is that Saturday’s category results are announced Saturday, so you don’t spend all evening wondering just how well you did (or did not).

Our results for Saturday were pretty darn good.  Christene’s CASI Chili placed Third.  This broke her 8 Win Streak, but she was happy to lose her First Place spot to long, long time cook Judy Anderson.  Our Chicken Wings placed Ninth, and the Hamburger Sliders took Second.  I thought our steak was awesome (rubbed with Truffle Oil and finished with Truffle Salt), but even though it didn’t make the Top 10, I can honestly say that the Grill Grates on which we were required to cook were fraking awesome!

The sliders, of which I’m particularly proud, got perfect scores from 3 of the 6 judges, and great reviews from the folks in our tent.  This next bit is what was on them – you may want to skip ahead of you’re not interested.

I started with brioche slider buns from Macrina Bakery, and bacon burger meat (bacon ground into the ground beef) from our favorite meat market Double DD Meats.  On the toasted bun we had a Dijon mustard-brown mustard-honey-mayonnaise spread, spicy-sweet pickles, and micro greens, with the smoked burger topped with grilled ham and melted baby Swiss cheese.  Skewers to hold them together, a nice slate tray and a sprinkle of greens to make it pretty, and off to the judges.

If you made it through the description, you really deserve the next round of Food Porn!

2nd Place Burger

2nd Place Burger

9th Place Wings

9th Place Wings

After all that cooking, cleaning everything up, and resetting for Sunday, it was time to inject and season the big meats.  Just wish that there had been time for a nap…

Everything on Sunday’s turn-ins went really smoothly.  I think we’ve got a good handle on our timing for the big meats and two cookers.  Our pork and brisket we were quite happy with, our chicken and ribs…only sorta.  Shows what I know!

When the results came out, we had a Sixth Place in Pork, Fifth Place in Brisket, Fifth Place in Chicken, and Second Place in Ribs.  This is the first event in quite a long time where we were able to place in the Top Six in all four Main Categories.  As always, Christene did a phenomenal job of boxing up our turn-ins.

6th Place Pork

6th Place Pork

5th Place Brisket

5th Place Brisket

5th Place Chicken

5th Place Chicken

2nd Place Ribs

2nd Place Ribs

There was a 10 to 15 minute break between Chicken results and Rib results, as the PNWBA presented plaques to the initial inductees of the Hall of Fame.  While listening to the speeches, I kept thinking “Gotta walk in ribs, gotta walk in ribs.”  We walked in ribs.

With several different teams placing well, I knew it would be close, but I figured we had to be at least in the Top Three.  We were close – we pulled out Reserve Grand Champion (second overall).

All-in-all, the weather was perfect, the event was fun, and we’ll definitely be back next year!

We’re About More Than Just Barbecue!

Barbecue – it’s in our name and it’s in our blood, but it’s not all that we do.

Over the last few months new adventures in catering and competition have led us to recipes and meals above and beyond the barbecue horizon.  I’m going to take this opportunity to catch up a bit!

First Up, Dutch Oven Orange and Bourbon Pecan “Pies”

Orange Bourbon Pecan "Pies" in Orange Halves

Orange Bourbon Pecan “Pies” in Orange Halves

OK, so they’re not really pies in the classic sense.  Using this recipe as a start, oranges were cut in half and the orange flesh removed, leaving a peel cup.  I wish I could tell you this was neat and easy, but it isn’t.  With care, a sharp paring knife and a spoon, you can remove the flesh, but patience is required.  To make sure the “pies” would not tip over, the bottom was trimmed flat.  (Learn from experience:  Make sure to not cut into your orange cup, or you’ll find your filling juice oozing away.)

A 14 inch Dutch Oven was heated up to 350°F, and lined with foil to catch drippings.  The filled cups were placed in the oven and cooked for about 20 minutes, until the filling set.

For the turn-in, the cups were served on the Dutch Oven lid surrounded by edible flowers (Dutch Oven rules prohibit the use of inedible decorations).  This dessert took second place at the competition.

Next, Banh Mi Inspired Sliders

Banh-Mi-Inspired Sliders

Banh Mi-Inspired Sliders

These sliders – featured in the best food photo I have ever taken – were practice for a burger competition.  The hamburger (from my favorite butcher Double DD Meats) was basted in a mirin-honey-soy glaze as it cooked over charcoal.  The toasted potato slider roll from Macrina Bakery was topped with a mayonnaise-honey-sriracha spread, cilantro, and cucumber, and the burger was finished with the classic pickled daikon and carrot.

At the actual competition the burger ended up finishing in Fourth Place.  I expect it would have done better, but I screwed up and bought Macrina olive rolls instead of the potato rolls; the burgers were still really good, but the olive rolls weren’t quite as pretty, and didn’t work quite as well with the Banh Mi flavors.

For a Change, Let’s Talk Oktoberfest Catering

Traditional Oktoberfest Dinner

Traditional Oktoberfest Dinner

Us Raven’s Fyre folks have done plenty of catering, but a traditional Oktoberfest dinner was definitely a first!  We wanted to dazzle, and make sure everyone had plenty to eat and plenty to love.

For the sides, we went with two German classics: Blaukraut (red cabbage brined in red wine) and warm German potato salad.  Of course, it wouldn’t be Oktoberfest without sausage!  As a twist on a classic, we braised smoked German sausages in Pyramid Oktoberfest Autumn Lager with onions and apples.  We decided to round out the meal with what turned out to be the most popular and praised dish, Sauerbraten.  For those not in the know, sauerbraten is beef (or pork or other meats) marinated in a vinegar mixture for several days, and then braised.  Normally a cut of beef such as bottom round is used, but staying true to our barbecue roots we decided to use briskets instead.  Happily, this resulted in what I feel is a much more flavorful dish.

In Closing…

If you made it this far, thank you!  I have other food goodies to cover, but will cut this short before you all get too bored.

See you soon!

Brisket…anyone got a bun?

Got our brisket in. Really loved the taste, but it was so overdone it was nearly impossible to get a good slice.

Chopped brisket it is!

And then there was one…

Here’s your pork!

And the ribs are in…

Two down, two to go!

They look nice, rub and sauce were good, but not thrilled with the flavor if the meat.

Chicken in in Renton!

First time cooking on the new Weber 18.5 in Smokey Joe.

Pretty happy how the chicken came out. Need a little more practice time on the cooker to get that skin crisped.

The flavor, though, was spot on.