The Norwegians Prove Themselves in Memphis
Last year at about this time, I had a belly full of brisket, still smelled of smoke and was rushing back to the District to put the finishing touches on my story about three international teams competing in the Memphis in May barbecue contest, the so-called Super Bowl of Swine. The weekend was a blast: Besides the heavenly aromas and flavors, imagine men dressed in pig drag, ice coolers turned into motorized transport, and more punny team names than you can shake a pork rib at. Despite the frivolity, it's a lot of work, and the global teams' hopes for 'que glory were dashed when the none of their names were called out from the stage come awards time.
Only one of the three returned this year: 100 Degrees Celsius, under the leadership of Okie-turned-Norwegian Craig Whitson, known in his country as Grillkongen (Grill King) Craig. What a difference a year makes. In its third appearance in Memphis this past weekend, the team took home two second-place trophies, both in "anything but" (i.e., anything but pork) categories. That's after a single third-place trophy in 2007 and squat in 2008.
100 Degrees Celsius, named for the team's preferred sweet-spot temperature of low-and-slow barbecue (212 degrees Fahrenheit), again worked on a tricked-out smoker dubbed Bling-Bling by its acclaimed maker, David Klose of Houston. In an e-mail from his home in Norway, where he is a restaurateur, Whitson said the team was happy with its higher point totals in the hyper-competitive ribs category (it went from 76th place last year to 45th in 2009) but was ecstatic about the two second-place wins, which bring them $1,000 in addition to trophies so big "we had to dismount them to pack them in the largest suitcases" for the trip home.
The winning dishes were beef tenderloin (a change-up from last year's brisket), with a glaze made of black pepper, caramel, cider vinegar and soy sauce; and rack of lamb grilled the same way as last year, "but the apricot sauce was replaced by a pear and apple compote with a bit of fresh jalapeño and a dash of chipotle en adobo," Whitson said. "The combination worked perfectly."
100 Degrees Celsius was one of just two international teams this year. "I think the economy had something to do with it," Whitson said. The other, the Danish National BBQ Team (which Whitson coached), took home a trophy, too, for third place in the beef category. The team, sponsored by Weber, cooked everything on Weber equipment available at any Home Depot, said Jim Boland of Memphis, who worked with both teams. "They had such style and technique," Boland said in a phone interview. "They even baked bread on the grill."
The international teams don't have quite as much to prove anymore, but Whitson is already thinking about 2010. "Will we be back? You bet."
Spoken like a true competitor.
-- Joe Yonan
Posted by: unitcaptain11 | May 19, 2009 5:45 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: billtara | May 19, 2009 7:18 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Joe Yonan | May 20, 2009 7:25 AM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.