I remember very well when I had yet to set my foot in my first BBQ competition but I saw borning in Europe many competitions that would have become a myth. One of these was the BBQ Society Cookoff. You can understand with what satisfaction we attended it now as first Italian team.
The context is once again unique and charming: the banks of a lake a few minutes from the center of Amsterdam, right next to the impressive Papa’s Beach, a quaint local fishing themed, very popular at any time of day.
Never as in this competition, our participation would have been impossible without the tremendous help we received from all our friends of Barbecue Family. Besides the willingness of Frits de Jong and all the Sea Side Smokers, we have to thank Bas Mosman, Joris de Bruin and all the Pure BBQ for logistics support, Eric Ten Hove for meat and the gazebo, Karel Velden for the Smoker (an amazing Turnpike gravity smoker) and last but probably most important, our friend Petra who thought virtually everything else, from the tables, the chairs, the kettle and all the necessary equipment.
On a sporting level we rather sucked, closing the season in the worst way. We weren’t good at making our barbecue and for not missing any experience, we delayed the Brisket turn in, putting us out of contention for the overall ranking.
Fortunately, the TOY ranking has not changed, we have not lost positions and we closed 14th in Europe, a result that in our first year fills us with pride.
For the last time in 2016, we close with the ten things that we bring home from Hoofddorp:
- One thing I noticed walking around the world, is that each country has its own ratio of the cost of food purchased at the grocery store and the cost of a meal eaten at the restaurant. In the US for example, compared to Italy, eating in the restaurant it is in proportion, more convenient than buying the raw material to the supermarket and cooking it at home. In the Netherlands (at least where we were) it’s the opposite: two charges at the supermarket had cost us more or less what it would have cost in Italy, but the meals at the pub, restaurant or a simple kiosk, are in proportion very expensive!
- The Papa’s Beach is a beautiful place on the banks of the lake, decorated in unpainted white wood with different character nautical references. At the center stands a magnificent double-fronted fireplace clad in stone, perennially burning. The place is beautiful but it is very isolated and Hoofddorp is not exactly New York. Yet there is always a lot of people in, especially in the evening when we even struggled to find a seat.
- There is nothing to do with it, barbecue competitions in the north have a unique atmosphere. I had already noticed at Tony Stone last year and I had also confirmed here. It may be cause the coldest weather that makes the atmosphere more muffled or may be the more attention to the details of the Nordic teams, but taking part in a competitions here is like seeing the Christmas markets in a village in Austria or Germany: it’s completely a different world. Seeing is believing!
- In the center of Hoofddorp on the way to the supermarket we stopped with our friend Okker in a fish shop to taste one of the typical dishes of Amsterdam: Pickled Herring. It is raw herring, left pickling to macerate for a few days and served on rye bread with onion and cucumber. The idea may aback but I assure you is one of the best things I’ve ever eaten.
- For Hoofddorp we went to the downtown shopping area, which is realized in a small neighborhood composed of interconnected buildings one to each other, entirely dedicated to commercial activities. Practically a huge shopping center in the open air, integrated in the city center.
- I tried to have an overnight at -10ºC to WEST two years ago but I did not feel so cold as I felt on this occasion, with + 8 ° C, more than 18 ° C higher … There was a crazy humidity that penetrates deep to the bones and despite having put me on everything I had in my suitcase, I will remember the four hours spent trying to sleep in the car for some time …
- The lake waters are perfectly clear and its banks completely equipped for bathing, with whole stretches of sandy beach, deck chairs and umbrellas. As higher temperatures can be in the summer, for people like us who if in the spring there are less than 20 ° C we refuse to eat on patio table, we do a little ‘hard to imagine the lake with bathers, but also during the competition we saw people crossing the lake in thermal suit …
- Both at the auspicious cheer after Cook’s Meeting, either in a restaurant after the competition, we were asked to taste a typical Amsterdam distilled called Jenever which absolutely did not know existed. It is a kind of vodka, but much less strong and much more aromatic, with notes of juniper. To try.
- The cookoff location is exactly on the opposite shore of the lake in which they hold the Tony Stone. Initially, Tony was organized in the same position, alongside the Papa’s Beach until the available space has not become too small for the more than 80 subscribing teams and was moved across the lake. It happens so that the only two competitions I attended in the Netherlands are separated from each other no more than a few hundred meters.
- One thing that very intrigued us is that if you go to an ordinary little italian bar without excessive claims, the chances you’ll find as draft beer a Moretti or a Poretti are very high. Not the same thing happened here, where we visited the various local from the airport arrival to the hotel bistro before we left, we didn’t found the Heineken as we would have expected, but many different beers. Not necessarily stratospheric, but different. While we found plenty of Heineken well promoted in supermarkets.
And now, our thoughts turn now to 2017: appointment at WEST!