The Report of the Competition in Weissensee
In these years of competitions we have seen barbecue to explode in Europe and multiply exponentially the number of competitions present in the calendar. But what I love about Europe compared to other continents is its profound and complex heterogeneity: you could take a train in the morning and at the end of the day have passed from the sea to the ocean passing through mountain landscapes, listening to different languages at each station, passing through centuries of history from port cities to fortified strongholds. It is therefore not surprising that very often attending a new competition means participating in the baptism of an event that is unique in its kind. The Meat Smoke and Beer on Ice is probably the perfect example of this concept.
If you remember, last year we told you about a competition with this same name. This year Armin Oberndorfer has decided to extend the 2017 Wels competition to a triptych of events entirely held in Austria, which starts from this first in Weissensee and ends in autumn in Graz (for further details consult the Competition Calendar 2018). What makes this competition unique is the location: imagine a 90 meters deep lake and 18 teams intent for two days to make barbecue on its frozen surface. Add to this the breathtaking scenery of beautiful Carinthia and you will have the contours of the truly incredible experience that we had the opportunity to live this weekend.
The event was held at the edges of the skating ring created within the perimeter of the lake and it was really unusual to see the curiosity with which the skaters approached those strange smoking objects along their path. Compared to last month’s experience at WEST, the temperatures have pardoned us: just the previous week in these parts have touched the 24° C below zero but in this weekend they were kept in a comfortable range 0°C-4°C that allowed all the teams to live with relaxation also critical phases like the overnight time. From the organizational point of view everything went well despite the totally new conditions for a barbecue event and this should be accredited to our friend Armin who have done a good job.
Concerning the sportive side instead, it was not a memorable weekend for us but we bring home anyway a third place on the Brisket at the same score of the second place of the friends Bros Hog, lost because of the lowest sixth dropped score (for curiosity about the functioning of the world of competitions read here) and a tenth place Overall. Our biggest compliments go to our friends the belgian BBQ+, Grand Champion and authors of a stratospheric score, going close to the fateful 700 point threshold and the german White Squirrel BBQ, Reserve Grand Champion. A mention of merit to two young Italian teams like the Friuli Violent Grillers and the Luna Smoke who have managed to win over a first place Ribs, two excellent calls in the overall standings (7th and 8th respectively). Very good job guys, keep it up!
We close as usual, with the ranking of the five most beautiful memories that will remain to us from the Meat Smoke and Beer on Ice:
- During this competition our sponsor and friend Federico dal Lago came to visit us and brought us as a gift a beef cut called in Italy Campanello or Pesce (the front part of the beef back leg) that has reached the remarkable threshold of almost 600 days of aging. It is not the first time that it happens and it is certainly not a novelty for us: Federico a long time ago had selected and sectioned a carcase, in its anatomical parts with the intent to try extreme dryaging for personal use or for friends and as time passed, we received plenty of goodies to try. All those who approach extreme aging have the conviction that this means meeting very strong, beefy sensations. Downstream of the experiences lived during the months and culminating now with this tasting, I can tell you that frankly it is not so. If you remember, I wrote a post where I tasted some 100 days dry aged rib steaks, telling feelings of that kind but in that case I had the distinct sensation that we were at the limit of the aging that the flesh could endure. Every time I tasted the cuts from this carcase I instead had the feeling of a meat that could easily remain in the cell for an equally long time without absolutely suffering from it. No sharp or excessively pronounced edges but rather delicate and complex tertiary aromas of charcuterie. Even the maturation, a bit like all things, you need to know how to do it.
- Maybe you remember our report of Tàllya Master Series, the first KCBS competition in Hungary and for all the attending national teams. We talked about our impression of having come into contact with a nation with a great natural inclination towards barbecue for culture and history. At the end of the story we predicted that you would still hear about the Hungarian teams. The KGB, the Hungarian team that won the Tàllya Master Series, attended this event. Here at the Meat Smoke and Beer in Weissensee, the KGBs offered another great performance by placing third. With the KGB the evening of our arrival we paused until late at night to chat and drink together, demonstrating their self as very nice guys as well as really talented. We confirm this today more than yesterday: the Hungarian teams are skilled and you will hear about them often in the future.
- The Meat Smoke and Beer was the umpteenth competition in which we hear the judges say how high the technical level was and in which tasting the preparations of the competing teams we realized how difficult it must have been the judgment. The fact is that the average quality in barbecue competitions year after year is drastically increasing. Strong and dangerous teams are more and more, new ones are learning faster and faster. I clearly remember my first competitions in the circuit, in which there was hardly ever any improvised team from the hosting country with a 100€ gazebo and two recovery smokers, made by two friends we usually found drunk on a deckchair on Saturday night while we were preparing to arrange the boxes and that invariably the next day ended last. Today, those who finish last as a minimum have a catering company and a semi-professional smoker as well as being organized and very focused. A barbecue competition is every day more like a Formula 1 race, where the difference between the first and the last is a matter of tenths of a second and in difficult challenge like yesterday, to finish in the call you have to make an outstanding barbecue because simply good is not enough.
- Over the years I have seen on many facebook posts from many of my foreign friends, especially Dutch (I do not know why) great praise for a rum called Kraken. From the way they talked about it seemed to be a very famous Rum in those parts but personally I never had the opportunity to taste it, perhaps because in Italy it is practically untraceable (ever seen in any Bar, Wine Shop or Cash & Carry). Next to us in this competition there were the very smart Masters of Fire with which we exchanged various tastings, among which finally the famous Kraken. I state that this is certainly not a fine tasting rum. It is quite “easy” to drink, sweet, liqueur and spicy, especially of vanilla and cinnamon. It is a fairly atypical Rum, almost like a Rum-flavored liqueur. Ultimately, I really liked it. Probably not that type of Rum that I would drink in meditation in front of the fireplace but for a noisy and friendly meeting between friends as a competition is, it’s perfect! If you happen try it.
- As we said in the introduction, over the years we have had the opportunity to see really special locations where to organize a bbq event and yet we always see something that can amaze us. Weissensee is a unique melange between a summer seaside resort and a winter sports spot in the cold months. Think of a seaside town and imagine seeing it go below 20° C, as if we were in a scene of The Day After Tormorrow: small docks of the marina immersed in the ice, frozen boats in the position in which they were left at the end of the season, bath cabins submerged under a meter of snow, fishermen’s huts reused as restaurants closed and with stalactites from the eaves. Imagine now, however, not to see a sluggish city but an active and busy one, with many hyper-skilled people who come to skate on the giant track created on the surface of the lake, sports equipment stores with anything in the window about ice skating, cafes on the main road with families intent on warming up with hot chocolates and perennially full restaurants. It’s an unsettling mix if you do not know it.
Also the second competition of the season has come to an end but the intense and homogeneous calendar of this year will not make us wait for the next appointment, in March this time in Italy, at the War of BBQ in Noventa di Piave.