So some of you may have noticed the lack of Mission Europe in the title…We are taking a break so I can tell you about some awesome stuff that has been going on in the country where I live, Costa Rica. This past weekend we had a 2 day BBQ Fest hosted by Weber.
Most culinary related events here tend to be quite mediocre and leave spectators wanting more. The BBQ Fest was amazing; it did not disappoint. Armed with a press pass I walked around to meet the teams participating in the competition. A total of 11 teams were grilling their hearts out for the grand prize of 4 airline tickets to Chicago, location of Weber headquarters and dinner at the company’s official restaurant.
Very well organized, aside from the competition being the main event, the festival also had live cooking demos with Kevin Kolman, Weber’s main man for grilling techniques and Oscar O’Sullivan, a local chef and grill enthusiast. Live music was featured each day, food samples were available to festival-goers and a flash mob even took over the scene for a bit.
Now let’s return to the action and talk a bit more about the competition. Many team names were clever and amusing…Smoked Blackberries (a play on the last name of the members: Mora), Wannabe Ticos and Los Bateadores (which roughly translates as the guys flying by the seat of their pants). All teams competed in 6 categories: chicken, ribs, brisket, vegetarian, hamburger and dessert.
Many sights were familiar, such as beer butt chicken and grilled stuffed mushrooms. Credits to the team that used their own home-brewed beer in their chicken, they went the extra mile without a doubt! Uncommon ingredients popped up, including chiverre (squash also known as Malabar gourd) on a savory chalupa and raspberry powder mixed with coca-cola as a basting for ribs. All the stops came out with the dessert category. From grilled cinnamon rolls to grilled carrot cake and even a team that made their own avocado ice cream to be eaten with chocolate covered bacon!
Chatting up the teams and festival goers I uncovered a story that instantly made me fond of the people who told it. The team known as Wannabe Ticos, some friends who just kind of decided to compete for the heck of it, loaded up one of their grills (competitors were required to provide their own) in the back of a pick up and headed to the BBQ Fest. Driving speedily down the highway and taking a sharp turn they soon learned why grills should be tied down to the bed of a truck as they watched theirs fly out of the truck, up in the air and onto the road! A few dents and bends, but the grill survived and they cooked up a storm while having fun. Their enthusiasm was plain contagious.
The BBQ Fest had ice cold craft beer, oysters, lively music, hot sauce, grilled meats and tons of wonderful people everywhere! I have a nice sun burn, the first in over a decade, to prove how much I enjoyed myself under the sun. As for things I wish would be incorporated for round two next year:
- A category in the competition for a Costa Rican inspired grilled dish. In other words someone could make a grilled gallo pinto or combine the local flavors of pejibaye and mango…it could be interesting.
- A professional competition category, not for professional grillers but for chefs who like to grill, maybe with a prize of a class at the Weber Academy (I heard they opened one in the US of A).
- Activities for the adult children…There was a bouncy house, face painter and hamster water balls for little humans…It would be nice to see some activities for adults so that they are not limited to drinking, eating and listening to music…not that I am complaining.
I would like to thank the BBQ fest and Weber organizers for putting together such a nice unprecedented event in Costa Rica. A special shout out to Natasha Loew for lots of incredible hard work, I do hope someone treated her to dinner afterwards. Congratulations to the overall winning team: Grillaz! I am looking forwards to bigger and betters things next year!