Monday, November 16, 2015

2015 Pensacola Eggfest

I just got home from judging at one of the best Eggfests in the country - the Pensacola Eggfest presented by Kia Autosport.

This year was another spectacular event with 48 great teams, 1,500 attendees, a horde of fantastic volunteers, fun entertainment, and supporting vendors. The organizers are some of the best of any event that I have attended in the past few years.  Best of all, this all comes together to benefit Chain Reaction - a local teen leadership program.  I'm proud to be involved with such an amazing group of people.  

Here's a quick photo recap of some of this weekend's fun.

Beaches like this are just one of the reasons that this is a true "destination" Eggfest.

There was a fantastic VIP party Thursday night.  There was a Hawaiian Luau provided by the Pensacola Wahoo's Executive Chef, Travis Wilson and crew.  Brent Lane from Cat Country 98.7 was there as Emcee.  Comedian/Actor, Jon Reep, did a stand up set and killed it.    There was a ton going on and it was a top notch event, but my mobile phone just wasn't feeling it so I only have these two - I think both taken by Lisa Long.

L to R:  Me (pirate), Jamie Bradley, Moe Cason, Kazoo, Michael Collins, and Craig Tabor  (pic stolen from Jamie's Facebook)

This crowd shot cracked me up because it makes me look like I was doing "the Robot" while talking with Craig.  Fact is, I was actually karate chopping invisible boards.

We had some down time Friday so I got to hang out for lunch and dinner with Craig Tabor (Big Green Craig) and Michael and Janet Collins of Flame Boss.

Friday was lunch at Crabs right on the beach. I just thought it was cool that a seafood restaurant actually had an offset BBQ pit running out front.

The Grand Marlin, Pensacola Beach, #foofoofest
Friday night was drinks and dinner at The Grand Marlin.  The fried lobster fingers and fresh made chips were big hits for happy hour.  (Thanks, Kristian Fairchild for the spot on recommendation!)

The Grand Marlin, Pensacola, #foofoofest
Expect to see this dish on Big Green Craig and here on NMT because we both want to make a version of their Cracklin' Pork Shank.  It's a sugar cured pork shank (portion below the picnic shoulder), braised and served with an amazing orange mustard glaze.  Michael, Craig, and I got other dishes but all agreed Rhonda's plate was the best.  Oh, the homemade hushpuppies also had smoked gouda in them - fantastic.

Panoramic view of the stadium while the teams were setting up.  This is one of my favorite BBQ venues in part because of the amazing facilities and views.

Sure, it SAYS "All Access" but just try to raid the ball park's locked liquor cabinet and Security gets all "Drop the alcohol and raise your hands!"  (kidding of course)

They actually make great use of the scoreboard big screen throughout the day.  Once the event gets underway, it's used for broadcasting team interviews, organizer announcements, and fun bits.

It was very chilly (45f with strong breezes off of the water) at first and some teams were passing out Bloody Marys to ward off the chill.

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Saw's Street Kitchen made some fantastic pork steaks - completely tender, flavorful, and juicy.

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Jamie and Lisa - busting their butt all day long but always kept a smile on their face.  I can't say enough about all of the organizers - aka "The A Team".

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Tightening up the retaining rings.  You put together 70 Eggs in one day, there are going to be some adjustments to be made!  Great job by the assembly team.

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So I guess all of these smoking Eggheads......

....didn't see this sign!  SCOFFLAWS!!!  ;)

Hot Spots Fishing Charters always have a very strong showing at this Eggfest.  Check them out for a fishing trip, they can arrange something to fit your time and budget with their armada of inshore and offshore boats. 

kamado grill accessory, Chad Romzek, kickash basket
We got to spend some time with Chad Romzek.  He was there introducing Eggers to the Kick Ash Basket.  We have bought one of those for each of our competition kamado grills (2 Grill Dome, BGE, and Vision) but also use them at home.

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Mo Better Wings makes some dry rubbed wings that are perfect with a cold beer.

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Unlike most Eggfests, teams were allowed to set up the evening before but you couldn't stay onsite overnight.  No problem for Michael Collins and his brisket - he just used his trusty FlameBoss 200 which you can control remotely through the Internet with no fussing with ports or complicated set ups. 

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Joe Patti's Seafood fielded a great team.

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Teams get super busy with the last minute preparations just before the gates open to the public.

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Waffles on a Big Green Egg?  Yep.  These will come in handy....

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Once the Sun came up and the winds dropped down a bit, it turned out to be a beautiful late morning.

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Obligatory inflatable Egg shot.

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I love the smell of Connecuh sausage on the grill.

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Yacht Cue had their Green Egg Cart back again this year, but this year it had the mounted Egg outfitted with a Carson Rodizo Brazilian rotisserie setup. 

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Now we're getting down to it, ready to judge.  Jamie and Taylor did a phenomenal job of handling the judging process.  Keeping the 5 judges focused and getting us through the crowd was like herding wet cats through a yarn store.

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We started off judging the Junior Egger division. The 7 teams cooked on Mini-Maxes and all of the judges were blown away with the results.  These kids could have held their own in the main Eggfest!  Here are just some of the entries.

Can't go wrong using Meat Church seasonings, these kids knew what's up.  These two had a bacon wrapped, cheese stuffed pork tenderloin that was perfectly cooked.

#PensacolaEggfest, #FooFooFest, Eggfest, kids division
Double Trouble made fish tacos.  I hate fish but loved these.  The fish was perfectly cooked redfish with blackening seasoning, a creamy slaw to cool off the heat, and a cream sauce (avocado ranch maybe?  I forget).  They also grilled off tortilla chips with guacamole.

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Reserve Grand Champion was "Greenness Eggerdeen: The grill on fire" with her bacon wrapped chicken with a cilantro-avocado salad and bacon ranch sauce.

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Grand Champion was GC Grillers with their Lamb Chops Two Ways and Grilled Lemonade.  Perfectly seasoned lamb that they did as a sous vide and then grilled off.  They were able to talk us through the details of everything they did, down to the individual spice rub ingredients. 

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Nathan Holler of Dog House Deli was pleasing the crowds with their pizzas with arugula, goat cheese, tomato, and homemade Italian sausage.

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I always love teams with creative place settings and costumes.  Her ears wiggled when she squeezed the bottom of her hat. 

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Then the gates opened and the crowds flooded in.

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One of my personal favorites was this mini taco from Team Pigeon Dog.  Flavors just jumped with this one, especially with the slice of lime squeezed on top, and a great mix of textures. 

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The crowds were big but manageable.

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Even when the lines wrapped around the buildings - they still moved reasonably fast.

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Team Green Eggs and BAM! is always a favorite of ours.  They took last years pork tenderloin with their terrific BAM! sauce and tweaked up the rub a bit.  I loved the addition of coffee to their rub.

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Here are all of my fellow judges in one shot.  L to R:  Moe Cason (BBQ Pitmasters), Jon Reep (Actor/Comedian), Andy Marlette (Editorial Cartoonist for Pensacola News Journal), Travis Wilson (Executive Chef Pensacola Wahoos), on far right - Big Green Craig (Grilling Blogger), and in the white shirt - Rhonda Hollis (my sister, BBQ teammate, and judging partner - she judges the stuff I don't enjoy eating like fish, oysters, etc)

Ivan Delabruere riffed on one of Jon Reep's comedy routine topics and presented the judges with the "Metro Jethro". 

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Our very final dish was, fittingly, dessert.  Apple Pie and Smoked Ice Cream.  They smoked the cream on the Egg and then hand whipped it into ice cream, very impressive.

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Overhead view of the crowd.  I love this baseball stadium and hope to actually catch a Wahoo's game here one day.

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We were done judging but the teams were still below cranking out food!

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My only disappointment was that Rhonda and I never did this zorba soccer.  As Jon Reep pointed out, it's not a great idea to eat 40+ dishes over 2 hours and then roll around upside down unless you want the field painted in bright colors.

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Chef Travis Wilson and I talking about the entries.

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Here we are all deliberating about our favorite dishes.  We each give our top 3 favorites and work it out from there.  There is usually a lot of agreement between each judge's picks.

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What do you do after eating 40+ dishes?  We all sat around like it was after a Thanksgiving dinner.  I need to wear pants with an elastic waist band next year.

Rhonda vegging out for a few minutes before we headed back downstairs.

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Judges selfie! Photo credit:  Jamie Bradley
And the winners were...

Judges Award Third Place: Team Margaritaville's Caribbean Pork with Pickled Slaw and Mustard Seed Salsa.  The flavor in this one was amazing!
Judges Award Second Place:  Argo Gators!  I didn't get a picture of their dishes (they had two) but even their condiments were special - They made their own smoked salt (in the bottle) and a tasty sweet and spicy sauce using Jack Daniels Fire. 

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Judges Award First Place:  Yacht Cue's Sriracha Chicken Wing and Waffle Shooters.  They roasted seasoned wings on a Carson Rodizio rig on the Egg and hit them with a Sriracha sauce.  The waffles (shown earlier) were also cooked on the Egg.  The flavor on these were outstanding and the perfect waffles helped temper the spicy heat. 
Congrats to Shad Klahorst and team for a well earned title.

Again, what a great view for an Eggfest.  It's every bit worth the travel to this one. 

#PensacolaEggfest, Jon Reep,
Actor/Comedian Jon Reep was hilarious during his stand up routines and lots of fun to have as a fellow judge.

Of course, one of the best things about Eggfest is checking out equipment and accessory ideas.

I have GOT to make or buy something like this.  It's a cover for a chaffing dish - much cooler looking than my stainless sets.

Working at boating center has it's pluses - check out this custom made holder for a small kamado.  This was one of Yacht Cues.
And in the category of "Shut up and take my money!", we saw the Pizza Porta absolutely kick butt at cranking out about 50 pizzas over 3-4 hours.  I told them I want to buy one as soon as they are commercially available.  It will probably be several months as they are through design, development, and patenting but not in the manufacturing phase yet.  You can make the best pizzas on a kamado grill without one of these.  But these let you make LOTS of pizzas over and over without losing your heat and having to wait for temperatures to recover, saving you time and coal. 

And too soon, it's over and everyone is loading out.
Until next year.....

I mean it when I said this is a destination Eggfest.  Not only is it an extremely well organized event and at a great venue, there are a ton of things to in the immediate area.
  • It is in the middle and a part of the Foo Foo Fest, Pensacola's ten day city wide celebration of arts and cultural events. 
  • The pristine beaches are beautiful year round, even when it's cold.  
  • There are great restaurants all over the region, especially fresh seafood joints.
  • The Naval Aviation Museum on the base is an absolutely must see.  
  • They have some of the hottest fishing year round, inshore or offshore (Give Hot Spots a call!).  
  • For more stuff, just check out Visit Pensacola.
 So get this one on your calendar for next year!  I promise you that you won't be disappointed.

Thanks to Buck, Lisa, Jamie, and everyone for another great event!