Sunday, November 30, 2014

BBQ Event: 2014 Pensacola Eggfest

Earlier this month we wrapped up 2014 with our final BBQ trip of the year at the Pensacola Eggfest, where we were invited as Guest Judges.  I don't think we could have ended the year on a more positive note.

Eggfest, big green egg

This Eggfest is sponsored by Kia Autosport of Pensacola and the proceeds go to Chain Reaction, a civic organization who's mission is to develop teenagers' leadership, character, and skills through volunteerism.  I can't say enough about the people we met that were a part of this amazing organization.  Their enthusiasm, spirit, and sense of civic pride was obvious in this event.

When is a better time to throw a BBQ event in sunny Florida than in November when gloomy grey skies and the first ice storms are crawling across the country? 

Sign reads:  "No Beach Setup - walk thru only.  Enforced"   I do not think that word means what you think it means...

We stayed on the Old River side of Perdido Key.

The event was held at the absolutely gorgeous Pensacola Bayfront Stadium - an amazing venue.  The cook teams were stationed around the wide walkway that wraps around most of the stadium.  It was an ideal set up for crowd flow.

I was super excited to have my sister, Rhonda (left), attend with us.  She's been an Egghead for a couple of years but this was her first Eggfest.

Moe Cason (BBQ Pitmasters, Ponderosa BBQ) gave a brisket class before the event.

I had a good time talking with Ivan D about the Smokin' In The Square BBQ Cook off that is a KCBS event in Florida in March.  It is a great early season contest in Florida - perfect way to kick off your competition season.  Sign up now!.

While I had Ivan distracted, my sister tried to "run off" with one of the trophies for this year's Smokin' on the Square.

I finally got to meet one of my online colleagues - Big Green Craig.  In addition to judging the event together, we also had a fun time together at dinner that night with our families.

Demonstration cooks spending the last hour getting set up and food cooked before the crowds showed up.

One of the Green Eggs and Bam! team members checking their Jamaican Jerk Pork loin.

It smelled delicious and I was suddenly ready to eat.

Hot Spots getting a head start on their ribeye with crab remoulade.

It gets a bit nerve racking getting the last things done when you know the crowds are at the gate and just minutes away from serving time.

Big Green Egg's everywhere!
Loved this apron.

Teams take great pride in their tablescapes at Eggfests. 

Part of the Green Eggs and Bam! display included little green men.

Hey Shane D!  You said we needed an expert fruit carver for Memphis in May?  Maybe we can kidnap this team's artist!

Then the gates opened and the crowds flowed into the stadium.

Eggs were busy keeping up with the demand.

The lines were long but moved swiftly so it wasn't bad.

Tasters lined up to taste Moe Betta's savory dry rub wings.

The teams did a fantastic job keeping the food coming.

Team HalleyBeary's pastrami crostini with pickled onions and mustard seeds was a big hit with the crowds.
The First City Church Team had a pork tenderloin with a crazy good red hot sauce.
This was also the first time Trevor actually attended a BBQ event with us, he always skips out.

It was a really good turn out for any Eggfest, let alone just a second year event like this one.

Southern Breeze BBQ Team slicing up their delicious tri-tip.

Lines even wrapped around the corner but they were quick.

Of course, like all Eggfests - a local dealer was onsite selling Eggs and Eggcessories.  Plus - you could buy the demo eggs used only once for this event at steep discounts that you won't find anywhere else.
The teams kicked it into overdrive as the crowds persisted.  [announcer voice:  "Speaking of overdrive, check out the end of year specials at Kia Autosport - the title sponsor!"  ha ha sorry, couldn't resist.]

I was so happy to see such a big turnout - 1300 in attendance.  Each and every body through the gate is more money for Chain Reaction to follow their mission.

There was a lot of pressure on the teams but every one was all smiles!

Team Hot Spots serving up a winning dish.  If you ever need a fishing charter in the Panhandle area, look these guys up.
Judges - Moe Cason, Christina Leavenworth (WEAR 3 News), myself, and Craig Tabor.

I don't know WHAT I'm doing here but it looks like I'm at an ol' time revival and I'm "slain in the spirit" of BBQ. 

Tabulating the scores.
The newest Egg - The Mini-Max was on hand.  Who knew you could fit a whole hog into one of these;) ?

The ultimate Big Green Egg eggcessory?  A BGE green cart with a lift for transporting your egg!

A homemade Egg trailer with two XL BGE, a handwash station, and a street lamp. 

Brent Lane, the emcee from Cat 98.7, did a fantastic job with the broadcasted interview bits during the festival and announcing the awards.  He was energetic and fun without being cheesy. 

Green Eggs and Bam! team were co-winners of the Spirit award.

Team T-Grill & the E's won second place in People's Choice with their chili. This young man did a great job presenting to the crowd and judges as well as accepting their award.

Team HalleyBeary won first place People's Choice with their pastrami.

Moe Betta's wings were a spicy, earthy dry rub combination that pairs perfectly with a cold beer.

Team Hot Spot won second place in both People's Choice and Judges' categories.  Nice catch!

And the 1st place Judge's Choice goes to.....

Southern Breeze BBQ Team and their Santa Maria Tri-Tip Sliders.  It was a simple presentation but executed perfectly and it won the judges over.
 Get the full list of winners at The Pensacola Eggfest's Facebook page.

But we all know who the real MVP of this event was....
The Pensacola Eggfest may only be in its second year but it is a hot, up and coming Eggfest.  If you are an Egger, kamado owner, BBQ enthusiast, food festival freak, or just a local - you MUST put this event on your calendar for November 14, 2015!  There are lots of good Eggfests but I believe the Pensacola Eggfest is primed to become a destination Eggfest drawing people from all over the country for many reasons. I think it will become one of THE Eggfests to attend.
  1. Venue - a beautiful, waterfront location with a brand new stadium and all of the amenities that brings, such as, clean bathrooms (vs portapotties), ample parking, nice layout, PA system, and a jumbotron.  The jumbotron featured onsite interviews with the teams, organizers, and guests and it made for a nice shared experience. That was very cool and something I haven't seen at any other event, even Memphis in May.
  2. Worthy cause - from my brief experience, Chain Reaction is a fantastic organization full of positive, pay it forward types of people. 
  3. Sponsorship - it takes money and resources to make an event like this happen and Jerold Hall and the organizers have pulled in some of the best local corporate partners, such as, Kia Autosport, Cat Country 98.7, Wind Creek Casino and Hotel, and more.
  4. Location and timing - Like I is held in sunny Florida in November when the rest of the country is just starting to get slammed with wet, icy, gloomy, cold weather.  Perfect excuse to get away from early winter weather. 
These Eggfests are not only the place to get the best possible deal on a Big Green Egg, they are also great for getting inspired grilling ideas.  Some of my takeaways from this one that I will be making in the near future -
  • Moe Betta's award winning dry rub for grilled chicken wings - the pitmaster starts with equal parts of salt, black pepper, cayenne, and paprika and then builds onto that with dried herbs and seasonings (garlic, onion, etc).
  • Bam! Sauce from Green Eggs and Bam! - it's like guacamole except it is spicy hot and in a sauce form.  This will rock on fajita chicken and peppers on a corn tortilla. 
  • First City Church's red hot sauce - It tasted reminiscent of Red Hots candy.  It's a sauce made from hot pepper jelly, cinnamon, and maybe some chicken stock to thin it out but has a unique sweet heat flavor.  I'm going to play with this one.
Congrats to Jerold Hall and the organizers for pulling off an impressive event.  We are already looking forward to next year.

As fun and busy as this year has been for BBQ travel for us, I am glad that we are done for the year and can focus on family and the holidays.