ABA BBQ @ Lake Lanier

Our first BBQ contest judging of the year (and Melanie’s 15th overall) was at the American Bass Anglers event at Lake Lanier, Georgia. The setting on the lake was pretty nice and realistically you’d never know this was also a bass fishing tournament since the boats were all out on the lake most of the day.

Lake Lanier BBQ
Lake Lanier BBQ

Just in case any competition teams happen to read this, we’d like to share our newest BBQ pet peeve: chicken thighs smoked in muffin pans. Myron Mixon did this on national TV and now everyone thinks it’s a great idea. For one, they come out looking like chicken balls which is not the most appetizing form of chicken. Second, it doesn’t seem to pick up any smoke flavor whatsoever. We’re not saying this couldn’t be done well but 50% of our respective entries at this contest were in muffin form (compared to about 2% in the past).

Pigs in the Park – Danville, VA

Pigs in the Park – part of the Festival in the Park – was our first KCBS barbecue judging experience for 2009.   We don’t have very many pictures of the festival which included a lot of crafts, some kids’ rides, a music stage, and a cheesecake competition (alas, we didn’t judge that).

View behind the scenes at Pigs in the Park
View behind the scenes at Pigs in the Park

As barbeque contests go, Danville’s is very well organized and we had a good time.   ‘Cool Smoke’ won the competition, although they seem to win just about every competition we go to.

Huntsville, Alabama

Huntsville isn’t really a daytrip from Asheville but it’s an easy weekend trip.   Our primary reason for going was the Whistle Stop Barbeque Competition where we happened to be judging the KCBS event.

Huntsville Depot

This picture is the historic Huntsville Depot where the judging was based.  As BBQ festivals go, this one had a very nice atmosphere with a well-attended amateur division and a busy entertainment schedule.


After the BBQ festival we went up to Monte Sano State Park which overlooks Huntsville and has some nice hiking trails.    It’s a semi-urban setting for a state park, but if you’ve just eaten a pound or so of smoked meat it’s a good place to burn some of it off.

Palmetto Pig Pick’n

Our first BBQ contest as certified KCBS judges, the Palmetto Pig Pick’n is held in Ladson, SC – just a bit outside of Charleston.
Overall, a pretty interesting experience. KCBS rules mean that we each judge 6 samples of each of the four meats (chicken, ribs, pork, beef). It ends up being quite a lot of food even with relatively small sample sizes. In fact after the judging we pretty much went back to our hotel and collapsed in a meat coma.
Here is Melanie in her sporty competition apron.

Latta Plantation / Carolina Raptor Center

Our trip to Charlotte started with a stop at the Carolina BBQ in Statesville, NC. Carolina BBQ is the 6th location on the NC BBQ Trail we’ve been to and it’s definately one of the best. The chopped pork is incredibly smoky and the sides, which are often just an afterthought, are good as well.

Our trip had two main purposes. One of those was Charlotte’s Oktoberfest which is where we spent most of Saturday afternoon. This year it was held at an ‘expo center’ which seems to be the term for a bunch of quick construction metal warehouses in a parking lot. Compared to the 2006 rendition (which merited part of its own webpage) the location left something to be desired. We also went to Latta Plantation on Saturday morning for a canoe orienteering race. Latta Plantation is a restored home from the settlement days of central Carolina.

On Sunday we returned to Latta plantation. We had primarly seen it from the water during the canoe race, with a few forays into the woods. Besides the plantation, the area has a nature center, horse and hiking trails and is the home of the Carolina Raptor Center. The Raptor center is really a recovery center for injured raptors that also works as a specialized zoo of sorts. There are about 25 or so exhibits, including this quirky little owl who refused to leave the fencing.

If you like owls, hawks, falcons, eagles and so on it’s a great place to spend an hour or two. There is an enormous two-part enclosure for Bald and Golden Eagles. Among the more interesting birds: this is Honeysuckle a semi-albino hawk. She’s not quite a true albino but that doesn’t really detract from the visual appeal she has.

Just down the road from Latta is Lancaster’s BBQ in Huntersville, NC. It’s not a member of the BBQ trail because I don’t think it’s been around quite that long but it’s also a worthwhile stop.

McDowell Woods Score-O

McDowell Woods

We were in Charlotte for a couple reasons.  First – we had to pick up a refrigerator so that we can brew lagers as well as ales, but that’s probably a whole separate entry.  The other reason was the Carolina Orienteering Klubb’s Score-O meet in McDowell Nature Reserve.  There was a two-hour limit on it but it’s still good practice for some of the 24-hour races we’re planning to do later this summer.

orienteering flag

It had been raining all morning so pushing through the foliage left us drenched fairly quickly.  Generally we weren’t real fast but I think our route choices and navigation were good.  We ended up in 4th place overall, including a stumbling sort of sprint through a swamp at the end to get back to the finish line inside the 2 hour time limit (actually it was more like right exactly at the 2 hour limit).


Having already involved beer (or beer-related acquisitions) and orienteering in the day, there was nothing left to do but go visit a new site (for us) on the North Carolina BBQ Trail.  This is Bridge’s in Shelby, NC.  Here you can find, well… pork.  Bridge’s has a fairly strict interpretation of the NC BBQ menu with pork and slaw dominating (although the deviled egg sandwich is vaguely intriguing).  The pork is chopped, the sauce is a warmed tomato-vinegar concoction and the hush puppies are particularly good in pimiento cheese.  (That was sort of an accident originally but it worked out well.)