Monday, February 25, 2019

2019 Chain of Lakes Eggfest - Winter Haven FL

We had a fantastic time at the 2019 Chain of Lakes Eggfest this past weekend in sunny and warm, Winter Haven, FL.  An "Eggfest" is a BBQ and grilling food festival featuring teams of Big Green Egg enthusiasts serving their most creative and tasty dishes cooked on the chromatically named kamado grill.  It is all for a good cause, the proceeds from this event benefit the Citrus Center Boys and Girls Club.

Nibble Me This was on hand to serve as a cook team and to perform a cooking demonstration at the event tent.  Here are the behind the scenes pictures of the fantastic time that we had with friends new and old this weekend.

It was an 11+ hour drive for us, so Alexis and I left Knoxville under cover of darkness.  We loaded the truck the night before with everything we would need so we could just get up and go.  Preplanning is the most significant factor in enjoying yourself when cooking at an Eggfest.

2019 Chain of Lakes Eggfest
While we were on I-75, our teammate, Sean, showed up early and helped with the assembly of dozens of Big Green Eggs of all shapes and sizes.  The Eggs used at these events are brand new and used only this one time.  They are sold as "demo Eggs," limited lifetime warranty intact, for the lowest prices that you will find.
Friday was prep day.  Another key to having a blast at an Eggfest as a cook team is to prepare any and everything that you can BEFORE the event.  Ideally, at the festival, you should only be grilling and serving.  

Rolled Flank Steak with Bacon Jam and Smoked Gouda
Prepping Rolled Flank Steak with Bacon Jam and Smoked Gouda for our grilling demo and for sampling. 

I rolled 5 of the flank steaks and reserved one to demonstrate in class.  One of the tricks to an Eggfest is figuring your quantity of samples.  Each of these yields about a dozen 3/4"-pinwheels and each of those cut into 4 sample bites.  So that's 48 samples times 6 or very close to 300 sample portions.

Alexis heating up the bacon jam so it would be spreadable and Rhonda checking one of our recipes.  The phone has become such a valuable tool with cooking these days.  We use the Evernote app for our planning lists, recipes, and such so we can all access them.

Is there any more appropriate place to shuck corn than the tailgate of a truck?  Many hands make light work.

Carrie and Sean coring out the pickles that will become Jordan's Drunk Pickles on Eggfest day.

We got up at dawn and clouds covered the sky.  The forecast the day before had increased the chances of a morning storm.  Ru-roh......

Team Crisbee at the 2019 Chain of Lakes Eggfest
Team Crisbee setting up for the event.  I meant to get by their booth to see if I could get my hands on the new wipe product that they have.  Those seem like an excellent idea for maintaining cast iron grill grates. We already use their sticks to season our array of cast iron pans.

2019 Chain of Lakes Eggfest porks peak
Pork's Peak BBQ was one of our neighbors.  Here one of their members was wrapping scallops with bacon.  I joked that I knew I was in Florida if scallops were fresh enough and cheap enough to serve at an Eggfest.

Pizza Porta at the 2019 Chain of Lakes Eggfest
  Crystal John,  David John, Cortlandt Minnich and Chris John setting up to serve pizzas from the Pizza Porta kamado accessory.

Everybody was busy doing last minute food preparations and setting up their booth. 
The whole reason that we go to so many Eggfests is friendships.  Chris Gentry of Gentry's BBQ, Alexis, and Scott Wehner from Team BAMF saying hello before the gates open.  

2019 Chain of Lakes Eggfest
Just before the gates opened, the cloud cover broke up, and it became "Chamber of Commerce weather."  It was very warm, gorgeously sunny, and we had a refreshing breeze coming off of the lake.

2019 Chain of Lakes Eggfest
The Mannix Pools and Grills team set up an onsite store so Eggheads could buy their favorite grills, rubs, sauces, tools, and other supplies.

2019 Chain of Lakes Eggfest
Teams making their final preparations.

2019 Chain of Lakes Eggfest
Egg Timers BBQ readying their booth for the hungry crowds.

2019 Chain of Lakes Eggfest Grove Roots
My only disappointment was that I wasn't able to buy a shirt from the Grove Roots Brewing Company.  The logo is cool as all get out, and with my last name being Grove, I want one!  I'm headed back to teach a class this Summer, and you can bet I'm figuring out a way to buy or "misappropriate" a couple of those shirts :) 

2019 Chain of Lakes Eggfest Nibble Me This
Alexis, Laurie, and Carrie making the ever-popular Jordan's Drunk Pickles - it's a Cuban sandwich stuffed into a pickle and fire roasted.

Laurie, Carrie, and Alexis stuffing the pickles, which is a tedious thing.  If memory serves, we did 6 jars of pickles which average 36 servings a jar or about 216 Jordan's Drunk Pickles, and we still ran out early.

2019 Chain of Lakes Eggfest
Rhonda, Alexis, Laurie, Sean and Carrie doing the final preparations of slathering the corn with the chile lime butter before grilling.  

BJ Mannix really did his homework before starting this event last year.  He traveled to the best Eggfests in the country to learn what they were doing right.  He has had endless conversations with prominent Eggheads about what they like as cook teams.  He has assembled a dedicated team to produce this event.  He has his family and friends deeply involved in this fantastic event that benefits the Boys and Girls Club - Citrus Center.  I am so impressed with what he has done in two short years, I'm proud to count him as one of my friends.

BJ arranged for a seaplane flyover to kick off the food festival on the lake.  Okay, that probably was just coincidental but now I'll expect it next year too!

2019 Chain of Lakes Eggfest
Our menu for the day, two of the recipes are from my new book.

Once the gates opened, we would be feeding the crowds all day.  They tend to come in waves.

I just can say enough about the location and weather.  Most of the rest of the East coast was socked in with heavy snow, cold temps and rain.  Knoxville was literally flooding and underwater.  Yet here we were, lakeside, with an absolutely gorgeous day.  If you are an Egger, do yourself a favor and put this event down on your calendar for next year - it gets you a much-needed break from Winter's grasp....a haven I guess you could say....we should call it, Winter Haven! 

2019 Chain of Lakes Eggfest Winter Haven
Another benefit to this event?  Winter Haven is right next to Disney World and the Orlando attractions.  Plan a "get away from Winter" vacation next year.  Bring your family, do the Eggfest, and hit the tourist attractions.  It's a win-win.

Mexican Street corn 2019 Chain of Lakes Eggfest
Mexican Street Corn from the Big Green Egg.  Chile butter, Mexican crema, Cotija cheese and cilantro - fantastic!

2019 Chain of Lakes Eggfest
Our great friends, Team BAMF:  Justin Bishop, Alicia and Scott Wehner, and Scott Davis.  They had a killer menu and served the best thing I ate all day. 

Sean and Laurie serving the crowds.  I kept getting called away, and Laurie did a fantastic job replacing me as the meat carver.  See that huge sword (actually a scimitar) she was using?

How gorgeous is this location in Winter Haven, FL?  It's called "Chain of Lakes" because it is on 10 lakes that are connected by a canal system. 

2019 Chain of Lakes Eggfest Jill's Cashbox
The live music was fantastic - Southerndipity, Kitchen Killaz, and Jill's Cashbox all performed solid sets and kept the music flowing.

2019 Chain of Lakes Eggfest
I love this shot for two reasons.  First, Sean laughing and having a good time while he talks with a guest.  Second, this guy in the tie-dye shirt is just leaving our booth and is a festival pro!  Look at him holding food in each hand and his beer in his mouth - a man after my own heart.

2019 Chain of Lakes Eggfest
Sigh...did I mention how beautiful the location and weather were?

I am sooooo stealing this idea!

2019 Chain of Lakes Eggfest
Everyone was having a good time.

The food just kept coming and coming.  Sausages and tri-tip roast at a team's booth.

This is a terrific Eggfest whether you are a taster, a cook team, or a volunteer.  It ran so smoothly, on all appearances.

My man, Chad Romzek of Kick Ash Basket, introduced his latest innovation - the Kick Ash Can.

2019 Chain of Lakes Eggfest
Serving up reverse seared beef tenderloin with a red wine reduction sauce, one of the recipes from our new book.  Photo courtesy of Carrie Godbey

The two Scotts of BAMF showing off their loaded Rodizio.  Photo courtesy of Pat McDonough.

Josh Tahan 2019 Chain of Lakes Eggfest
It was good to see our friend, Josh Tahan of True Craft BBQ.  Photo courtesy of Carrie Godbey.

Justin from BAMF taking a moment to visit our team's booth.

2019 Chain of Lakes Eggfest.
Jordan's Drunk Pickles are a tradition for our team at Eggfests and people get upset when we run out.  We should have made another 100 for this event, I think. Photo courtesy of Carrie Godbey

Rhonda and Alexis checking on the corn.  Picture courtesy of Jennifer Thurlow.

Got to meet our new friend, Pete the Pirate, for the first time.
Our neighbors next door - Pork's Peak

Team BAMF's savory breakfast version of their famous Pound Town.  The pipette was hot sauce and maple syrup and you squeezed it as you pulled the pound cake and sausage into your mouth.  
For our demo, Alexis and I showed how to make our Rolled Flank Steak with Bacon Jam and Gouda Cheese. Photo Courtesy of Pat McDonough.

I was surprised to have a full house for the demo.  Usually most people are too caught up in checking out all of the food.  We had 48 samples and they were all gone quickly.

When you slice the rolled flank steak, it comes out as pinwheels like this.  Photo courtesy of Carrie Godbey.

2019 Chain of Lakes Eggfest Lee Ann Whippen
Lee Ann Whippen of the highly regarded Deviled Pig bbq restaurant gave a demo on how she likes to make lamb chops.  Lee Ann was on the best season of BBQ Pitmasters (when they showed real competitions), Beat Bobby Flay, and more.

That's Pat McDonough in the Just Egg It shirt.  Pat is an awesome Egger that I first met on the Green Egg forum when I was first learning the Egg.  Even if he comes to an Eggfest "just to hang out" you will always find Pat busting his butt to help someone.  Here he helped Lee Ann with her demo. If a team is "in the weeds", he won't hesitate to hop in back and help get them back on track. Sometimes it is as simple as bringing cook teams his special Bloody Mary's to start off the morning.  Pat rocks.

2019 Chain of Lakes Eggfest
The winners get this killer first place trophy and a Mini-Max for EACH MEMBER OF THE TEAM!  Love the backdrop too!
Our final totals include

  • 300 samples Rolled Flank Steak with Bacon Jam and Smoked Gouda
  • 200 samples Jordan's Drunk Pickle
  • 200 samples Mexican Street Corn
  • 100 samples Beef Tenderloin with Red Wine Reduction Sauce
So here are the winners of the 2019 Chain of Lakes Eggfest -

Third Place - Nibble Me This
Everyone is picking on me because they got 1st without me last year 😅

Second Place - our good friends Team BAMF
Sure we'd rather beat everyone, but we are genuinely happy when our friends win too!
First Place - Pork's Peak
Our neighbors made a strong move up from Third place last year to unseat the reigning champ - Nibble Me This.  Way to go, fellas!

So Team BAMF won that Yeti cooler and said, since they couldn't split it 4 ways, they decided to donate it back to Boys and Girls Club.  The organizer BJ conducted an impromptu auction and sold the thing off for $1,000 to one of the guys from Pork's Peak!  How awesome is that?  I get to hang out with some of the greatest people.

2019 Chain of Lakes Eggfest
Another Eggfest is in the books and it was a blast to win alongside our friends! Photo courtesy Carrie Godbey.
Our team is a collection of friends from all over that love grilling and the members of the team change each event based on things like location, type of event, and available time off.  This particular iteration included members from Knoxville, Jacksonville, Tampa area, and Virginia. Thanks so much, Rhonda, Sean, Carrie, Laurie, and especially Alexis for a great weekend!

Again, if you are an Egger or just like food festivals - BOOK THIS EVENT FOR NEXT YEAR NOW!!!!  Come to sunny Winter Haven and get a break from dreary winter!