Monday, February 8, 2021

Event Preview: Mini-Fest at Tuckaway Shores Resort - Indialantic FL

 [FTC Standard Disclosure] We received no compensation for this post.

When I first started out on my BBQ journey, it was the early days of online communities. Instead of social media, #hashtags, and trending, groups of enthusiasts gathered on bulletin boards and forums like a clan of cavemen gathered around a fire in a cave. On the original Big Green Egg Forum, I heard tales of a private gathering of Eggheads (Big Green Egg aficionados) spending a weekend at a beachfront motel cooking great food for each other. 

Because of demand, it was a hard invite to get but I knew that one day, I would get to this legendary Mini-Fest. That finally happened in 2019 and I loved every minute of it. I thought I would preview the 2021 Mini-Fest since it was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic.

The Mini-Fest is a weekend-long, end-of-the-Eggfest-season celebration. It is a small group, mostly of long-time Eggfest cooks, that gets together to close out the season.

Differences Between an Eggfest and the Mini-Fest.

Regular Eggfests are awesome. At these regional events, a local distributor and/or organizer hosts an event where teams of Eggheads grill up their best foods to serve to ticket-buying crowds. You can buy demo eggs and eggcessories onsite. Typically the ticket proceeds go to a local charity. They are a ton of fun for the cooks and crowds.

Mini-Fest is different on a number of fronts.

  • It's all about cooking and eating. Mini-Fest is an organic event created by and for Eggheads solely for the purpose of cooking together and for each other. No raffles, no sales, and no stress. 
  • No crowds. The only people you are cooking for is fellow cooks. 
  • Mini-Fest lasts for the entire weekend, morning, noon, and night.
  • No schedule of events. It's just a weekend of freestyle cooking. People cook what they want, when they want, and there is always something to eat.
  • No teams, no competition. This is just individuals cooking for other people. There is a ton of collaboration and sharing. "You've got scallops? I've got some beef tenderloin trimmings. Want to make a surf and turf appetizer for everyone?"
  • Fewer Eggs. Because there is no regional distributor with a supply of demo grills, there are only a handful of users' Big Green Eggs on hand but everyone shares and there's always a grill you can use.
Scallops searing in a cast-iron skillet on a BGE Mini-Max.

The Location

I grew up on the beaches of Florida and the Tuckaway Shores Resort is absolutely old-school cool. It reminds me of the days of privately-owned motels with beachy themes, before everything became corporately-owned impersonal towers of steel and glass. It is more like staying at your friend's beach house and that's what I love about it.

For this event, Mini-Fest basically takes over the beachfront resort for the weekend. Everyone stays there, virtually all guests are part of the event, and everything takes place onsite. 

Tuckaway Shores Resort is exceptionally clean, well maintained, and the staff works hard to make our event memorable.

Waking up and taking a morning walk on the secluded beach to start the day is a treat.

I am making sure to bring my surfboards this year because there was a nice swell in 2019.

One of my few regrets of moving to Tennessee is that I miss surfing several times a week.

The kitchenette in my suite came in handy for food prep, sauce making, and washing dishes.

The rooms are each unique in furnishings, but they are all what I consider "Florida beachy" - wicker, shells, driftwood, and pastels. Most of the suites are oceanfront.

One of the best amenities? Tuckaway Shores has an XXL Big Green Egg available to use.

Here I am using the hotel's Egg to help make breakfast on Saturday.

The hotel sets up an event tent in the parking lot and we also have access to the cabana.

The Food and Fellowship - Friday

The food at Mini-Fest is as relentless as the waves that crash on the sandy shores. From breakfast until late at night, someone is always cooking and serving food. Mini-Fest isn't a sprint, it's a marathon.

When I arrived on Friday, the event had already been going for a full day, food was already being served up and the drinks were flowing.

Chicken wings going on a BGE Mini-Max.

The schedule is rough: Cook, eat, socialize, repeat.

Paul cooking bacon-wrapped scallops on a small Egg. Since this is a BYOE event, there are more small Eggs and Mini-Maxes in use than at any other Eggfest.

Paul M. firing up a Mini-Max with a MAPpro torch.

Because there is so much food and so much sharing, the food batches are much smaller. At a regular Eggfest, we plan in terms of 300 of these, 200 servings of that, and 250 of this. Here it is more like cooking 1 batch of 25 is plenty

Sausages cooking away and smelling delicious.

Here I am trimming a Certified Angus Beef® Brand tenderloin on Friday night. The reason for the small crowd was they wanted to see how I tied my roast.

Trimmed, tied, seasoned with my NMT Umami Steak Seasoning recipe, and ready to be reverse-seared. 

Sean and Rhonda whipped up the cherry bourbon sauce recipe that Rhonda and I created with our mom a few years ago.

After the slow roasting portion of the reverse sear. We cooked these to 125°f internal and then let them rest until the carry-over cooking finished.

The fire in the small Egg that we were using had died down a bit and wasn't strong enough for a good sear so Rhonda and I got to teach Sean how to do the "caveman" technique for the sear. He nailed it.

Seared and resting.

Sean slicing and Rhonda saucing them up.

Beef tenderloin with cherry-bourbon sauce.

The great thing about this is no one cooks the entire time. I think we cooked a total of 4 things over 2 full days.

Someone was always passing a tray of food around.

I love the "schedule". Want to hang out and eat? Great. Want to walk on the beach? Fine. Dip in the pool with the kids? Knock yourself out. Feel like taking a nap? Head up to your room. 

Petite tenders cooking on a small BGE and almost ready per the old school Thermoworks Thermapen.

Pat McDonough is the organizer of this event and does a lot of legwork so the rest of us can just eat, drink, and be merry. Excuse the blurry picture - it was late and there might have been some adult beverages involved, so it might have been us that was blurry :)

Pat slicing up the beef roasts.

Another beef roast cooking on a BGE Mini-Max.

John H. slicing up a steak to share with everyone.

The last person up has to turn out the lights.

The Food Continues - Saturday

The next day, some people got up early to catch the sun come up from the ocean and then start breakfast. Others slept in until almost lunchtime. Like I said, this is completely casual with no expectations.

The next morning, we're firing the Eggs back up to make some breakfast.

Rhonda using the hotel's XXL Big Green Egg to make a ton of bacon.

John H. aka "Egret" smoking a pair of fatties for breakfast.

Paul knows how to cook on a Mini-Max. Foil pan won't fit all the way in? No problem, bend in the corners.

These sausage roll-ups were tasty.

A plain breakfast fatty always makes my mouth happy. Stuffing them and wrapping them with a bacon-weave is cool, but at home, I almost always make mine simple like this.

Paul's sausage and egg breakfast casserole was delicious.

Community bar - Anything left here was fair game if you needed a mixer or a splash of something.

The socializing never stops. 

Ginny whipping up something good for the afternoon.

Rebecca, Sean, and Pat cutting up while making scallops.

George firing up a small Big Green Egg with a JJ George Grilling Torch.

The cornbread taco casserole that Kim and Ginny made on Saturday afternoon was so good that I copied it the next week.

Steven Yowell cooking up some fantastic wings on the Mini-Max.

Pat, BJ Mannix, and Steven chatting while cooking the wings. These were some of the best conversations because we all share our tricks and tips. You often hear things like, "That's interesting, why do you do it like that?" or "Ahhh, that's a great idea!". 

TBH, I don't remember what this was called, I think some type of empanada. But it was crispy, flaky and delicious.

I like the setting because it is right next to a residential area. That's the type of beach I went to the majority of my life in Jax, Atlantic, and Neptune beaches. Park at a friend's house and walk a block to the beach.

Here I am making the bacon jam that goes into my Bacon Jam and Smoked Gouda Rolled Flank Steak.

Bacon jam is cheating because it is so good you can put it on or in anything. 

Butterflied flank steak, look at the marbling. I top this with slices of smoked gouda and then the bacon jam.

Rolled up and tying it off.

Rolled flank steak ready to get reverse-seared.

Rhonda caught me in action taking the above shot :)

Sean and Pat hanging out with me at the hotel's XXL.

Sean showing off the roasted potatoes we made to go with the flank steak.

Cheesy roasted potatoes with the rolled flank steak cooking on the XXL.

My Thermoworks Chef Alarm has a data-logger for Max temp so I know when my roast has peaked during the carry-over cooking.

Rolled stuffed flank steak ready to eat!

Lobster tails coming off hot. Steven doing the honors and Kristi proving that as a group, we are incapable of eating food before taking a picture of it :) 

Carrot cake after it had been attacked, ha ha.

Of course, it isn't an Eggfest if we don't make at least a small batch of Jordan's Drunk Pickles.

Kristi made some bacon-wrapped back strap. 

Something was always going on under the Big Top.

Nap? That sounds like a fantastic idea. Ashley was super-mom the whole day and probably could have used a nap herself.

More food going around. It never stops.

Paul frying up crispy onion rings in a wok on the Mini-Max.

This guest had never had a shot of Fireball in her 92 years, so Sean had to change that.
He's incorrigible :)

Sean and Jennifer Mannix chatting while waiting on the next round of delicacies to go around.

I need to bring a good chair this year, I did forget that in 2019, but there was always somewhere to sit.

How someone didn't knock this Mini-Max over during the weekend is beyond me.

More food? Why not!

Looking down over the event site at night. We had zero noise complaints. There were a few non-event guests at the hotel and we invited them to join us.

Bug Out Day - Sunday

Sunday feels like that last day of Summer camp. The local folks went home Saturday night so Sunday is mostly the travelers. But we can't travel on an empty stomach, right?

BJ and Sean packing up on the last morning.

We made a batch of Sean's green chile breakfast casserole so we could have a bite before we hit the road.

The last few of us enjoying breakfast before heading back to our homes.

And just like that....the fun-filled weekend was over.