Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Event Coverage: 2020 Chain of Lakes Eggfest Winter Haven, FL

The Nibble Me This grilling team kicked off our year by having fun and serving mouth-watering food at the 2020 Chain of Lakes Eggfest in Winter Haven, FL, on Presidents Day weekend.  This Eggfest is hosted by Mannix Pools and Grills, and the proceeds go to Girls Inc. and the Boys and Girls Club of Polk County.

What's an Eggfest?

For the uninitiated, an "Eggfest" is a local food festival where grilling teams cook on Big Green Eggs and serve samples of food to crowds of "tasters." 
  • A local Big Green Egg dealer supplies the Big Green Eggs used.
  • Those Big Green Eggs are sold as demo units at a steep discount.
  • The profits from the "taster" ticket sales typically go to support a local charity.
  • There is usually entertainment, such as; live music, local celebrities, bounce houses, games, and live TV/radio broadcasts
  • Some Eggfests have a competition aspect to them, but they are more about socializing, sharing grilling tips, and having a good time.
  • You can find regional Eggfests here.
Here's a look back at our fun weekend through the eyes of my team's mobile phones. 

What a difference 24 hours and 670 miles make!  Knoxville has been rainy, snowy, and cold lately, so Alexis and I were excited to head South for a warmer climate.

Our team always books a large house for Eggfests.  It is just as cheap as hotels and gives us a kitchen to do our event prep the night before. [Photo credit:  Carson W.]

Certified Angus Beef® Brand beef tenderloin
Carson surprised us and brought a beef tenderloin for our Friday night team meal, along with mashed potatoes, sauteed mushrooms, and broccoli.  We didn't have a grill, so we cooked this in an oven and seared it in the cheapest skillet ever.  The skillet was as about as thin as a soda can, so we were actually impressed with how this turned out.

2020 Chain of Lakes Eggfest food festival for Big Green Egg
We were at the beautiful lakefront event site bright and early Saturday morning.  We prep as much food as we can ahead of time, but certain things just have to be done the day of the event.  [Credit:  Rhonda H]

An empty field quickly becomes a small village as the cook teams roll in and get set up. [Photo credit:  Carson W.]

Mannix Pools and Grills built a "one day store" at the event site.  Their brick and mortar store must have been empty because this event store was fully stocked.

2020 Chain of Lakes Eggfest food festival for Big Green Egg
The Egg family minus the Mini-Max and Mini.

Set up beneath the broad canopy of the oak trees and prepping food for the long day.

2020 Chain of Lakes Eggfest food festival for Big Green Egg
As you can tell by our sweatshirts, it was still a bit chilly in the morning, but it was still way warmer than Tennessee! [Photo Credit:  Sean G.]

2020 Chain of Lakes Eggfest food festival for Big Green Egg
Sean slicing up some beautiful Plant City strawberries for our dessert item.

2020 Chain of Lakes Eggfest food festival for Big Green Egg
Alexis, Carson, Scott, and Laurie assembling 480 Jordan's Drunk Pickles.  We used to make these to order, but that took FOREVER.  So now we assemble them all in the morning, keep them cool in Cambro UPC 300s, and cook them throughout the day.

cooks meeting at 2020 Chain of Lakes Eggfest food festival for Big Green Egg
Before you knew it, it was time for the cooks' meeting.  That is when the organizer thanks everyone, goes over housekeeping items, fields questions, and reiterates food safety.

At 10am, the gates open, and the crowds flowed in.

It was a beautiful day for the event.

The live music this year included Justin Grimes, The Free Whiskey Band, and Hunter Smith Band. 

Sean showing off his pickle socks for good luck. [Photo credit:  Rhonda H.]

2020 Chain of Lakes Eggfest food festival for Big Green Egg
Our menu for the event was "BBQ Shots," inspired by a dish that the Smokey Boys made at the Scenic City Eggfest near Chattanooga last Fall. Everything was in some type of edible "shot glass."  

Jordan's drunk pickles 2020 Chain of Lakes Eggfest food festival for Big Green Egg
We are known for serving Jordan's Drunk Pickles at every Eggfest, people search us out for them.  Nibble Me This is also referred to as "the pickle people" by the crowds at the Eggfest.  They are cored out dill pickle halves stuffed with the ingredients for a Cubano sandwich, minus the bread.  People go nuts for them.

Jordan's Drunk Pickles disappear as fast as we can put them out.

2020 Chain of Lakes Eggfest food festival for Big Green Egg
We all take turns serving, but the fact is that Sean is the FOH (front of house) for our team.  He knows how to work for a crowd and keep them entertained while waiting for the next round of food.
 One of our new menu items was the Brisket Mac - a TexMex cornbread "shot glass" stuffed with tender smoked brisket and creamy poblano mac and cheese.

Certified Angus Beef Brand smoked beef brisket
Of course, it starts with a Certified Angus Beef® Brand brisket.  I injected it with Butcher's Original and dry brined with my NMT Beef Rub v.2 recipe.  Then I smoked it at 275°f on the BGE.

The Brisket Mac at 2020 Chain of Lakes Eggfest food festival for Big Green Egg
We used ditalini instead of macaroni elbows for the creamy poblano mac and cheese because the ditalini is smaller and fits into the cups better.

2020 Chain of Lakes Eggfest food festival for Big Green Egg
Guests trying The Weezer.
Another new item for our Eggfest menu is The Weezer.  The Weezer is a cornbread shot glass stuffed with smoked pork shoulder and Alexis' first place BBQ beans.  We drizzle it with my honey bourbon BBQ sauce and a shake of finely ground NMT Southern Sweet rub.  I call it The Weezer because it has Pork and Beans.

Laurie putting together a batch of  Brisket Mac. [Photo Credit: Carson W]

One of the things I like about cooking at food festivals compared to BBQ competitions is that I enjoy the interaction with the people.   We cook to make people happy, and you see that when you are feeding them.  Getting a score sheet with some numbers from some anonymous judges, good or bad, just doesn't have as much meaning for me anymore.

Our good friends from Pizza-Porta were there, cranking out their amazing pizzas.  Fogo and Flame Boss were also there, connecting with Eggheads.

Another cool thing about Eggfests is getting to meet some of the vendors.  Jealous Devil charcoal was on site, and they are new to me.  I've heard about them, I just haven't tried it until now.  I talked them out of a couple of bags to try out, I'll report back about it in a week or two.

The team is always either prepping, cooking, and/or serving.  There is rarely a moment to stand still until the end of the day.  
 The final dish on our menu is Strawberry "Shot"cake.  It is a crispy angel food cake shot glass filled with macerated strawberries and topped off with whipped topping.  This might be my favorite.

Alexis preparing to bake the angel food shot glasses.

When we were developing this recipe, we found out by accident that if you slightly overfill and overcook the angel food cake, you get a crispy sugar-cookie-like edge around the top.  That accident tasted DELICIOUS, so now we purposely do that.

Strawberry Shotcake at 2020 Chain of Lakes Eggfest food festival for Big Green Egg
Rhonda serving up a batch of the Strawberry Shotcake.  These disappeared as fast as we could make them.

We had an excellent time serving the guests, seeing old friends, and talking food with people. 

Probably NOT the most ideal Place to dump your hot coals, right?  Some of the Mannix guys dumped two 5-gallon buckets of water to extinguish that.

Ouch!  Egg down!

Staff using a front end loader to go around collecting hot coals and disposing of them in the burn pile. [Photo credit:  Pizza-Porta]

Eggfests really aren't about the competition to me, it's more the camaraderie.  That said, we were thrilled to win 2nd Place!  Now we have 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place trophies for this Eggfest over the past three years.

The funniest story from this Eggfest involves a brand new iPhone 11 and a port-a-potty.  If you were there....you heard about it ;)

All too soon, the event was over and we were driving 11 hours back to our home in Tennessee.

Upcoming Eggfest
The North Florida Eggfest is THIS WEEKEND - March 7th.

We can't make it this year, but if you are near that area, this is definitely one to check out!