The Report from the Competition in Riva di Tures
The last flashes of light of the day and a pungent cold in free fall with the passing of the minutes, close the curtain of this edition of the WEST, in the splendid setting of the Dolomites that surround the cross-country ski run of Riva di Tures, site of the contest. For the fourth year the competition organized by the talented MIG gave baptism to the competitive season and I was lucky enough to live them all, in one role or another. But the thing that makes WEST a unique competition is that it manages to do it differently each time. After all, being an extreme competition means precisely this: we are in January, in the high mountains, in one of the coldest points in Italy where it is possible to position a smoker and the climatic conditions therefore play a decisive role. In these four years I smoked under lukewarm (0° C) and copious snowfall as well as in the midst of icy wind storms.
This year the WEST has been characterized by beautiful sunny days that have designed unforgettable scenarios, but as often happens in the mountains in the presence of clear skies, the temperatures have been particularly harsh, reaching at some times and in some places even the -22° C. To understand what it means, take any frozen product from your freezer 3*** and try to keep it in your hands for 5 minutes…. Here not only talk about the repercussions on cooking but also about practical problems, such barbecue sauces hard as a brick or salad for the boxes smashed by the ice-cold. Not to mention the unknowns related to the judgment of a product that is impossible to keep warm for more than a couple of minutes. It’s this kind of thing that makes WEST the most difficult competition ever.
Also in this first seasonal competition we continue the tradition of our “dissociated diet” on the results: we now have several first places on the bulletin board on all four categories, as well as several placings but punctually in each competition we have one in which we make disasters, maybe the same that in the previous event had gone to call, taking a score so low as to kill the overall score. The consistency is not our strong point and this is certain but this said, I think the Barktenders represent a case study: usually the teams have problems with one or more categories, we have instead managed to turn the thing into a kind of Russian roulette. 😀 At WEST we achieved the result of a prestigious first place in the Brisket category, the last one we lacked to complete the collection, after having get close on many occasions, unfortunately compensated by a killer-score on the ribs that has taken us away at least 7-8 positions in Overall. At the walk on the Brisket we add a second in the Mistery Box (5th), in which we invented a kind of Lamb Chili and two good calls in the new experience of SCA on both categories Steak (9th) and Burger (8th). The Grand Champion goes to the Italians Griller Instinct and the Reserve Grand Champion to the Swiss Gecko BBQ to whom our best compliments go.
As closing as usual, we report our personal ranking of the 5 things that will remain of this fourth edition of WEST.
- The first thought could not but go to the new experience of the SCA circuit, related to grilling, which has had baptism both in terms of judging certification that of the actual competition. Obviously the heart of the competition is the Steak category with which it was born and therefore we mainly refer to that category. In terms of performance we have seen a lean, pleasant, light competition, which is exciting even if it is not very tiring and concentrated in a short period of time, not to mention that it requires very little equipment and very low costs. Certainly a very positive experience, to be repeated. In terms of the result, beyond the judgments that on a first competition followed by a first certification are always to be taken with the tongs, our feeling is that there is still a big gap that separates foreign teams from national ones. We have evolved, we are slowly abandoning the legacy of the steak that “if the meat is good you do not need to add anything else” but there is still a substantial gap with those who are more used to making a real recipe of it. We tasted a bit ‘of everything and on average the steaks that were presented by foreign teams were very different and without any intentional offense for anyone, objectively better, more tender, more intriguing. We will get there too, as in all things we need time.
- Much has been said about the motivations behind the success of WEST. This is certainly not a logistically comfortable competition nor convenient for those who participate and yet every year runs out of its registrations in zero time and always attracts a large turnout of visitors. Often the reasons are traced back to its “extreme” character, to its rise to “challenge for the brave” which is certainly true but in my opinion reductive towards the merits of the organizers. One of WEST’s great abilities is to always be the same but at the same time to know how to renew itself each year. The novelties are never lacking, small or large. This year in addition to the aforementioned SCA, one of the most choreographic was the construction of a large igloo in which the judges area was placed. Once again the WEST manages to propose itself as a unique event and to talk about itself. The success of a competition also passes from this.
- Regarding the logistics between the barbecue teams there are two great lines of thought. Teams like our friends Bros Hog with whom we sometimes compare ourselves on this subject, are big supporters of the so-called Trolley Barbecue or in any case of a logistics reduced to the bone as in this occasion, and a group of teams to which we belong too, more inclined to the “superfluous” or presumed so, or those that love to work a little more comfortable. It is not a matter of results but of a mental approach. WEST is perhaps the best opportunity to make assessments. The result is that talking to the Bros comes great satisfaction because with little effort they managed a challenging trip, but at the same time we also feel satisfied, because whatever happened at WEST this weekend saw us dry, illuminated and with hot water available without running everywhere to make up for it. The conclusion is that there will never be a true conclusion: as always there is no a right method in absolute but only the one that most fits with our habits and attitudes.
- If you remember the post about our participation in WEST last year, you know that in particular in this competition, it happens that during the evening of Saturday in a totally random and not planned way, our gazebo becomes a meeting point to taste the beef ribs by Federico Dal Lago or drink the various grappa brought by the many friends we have in the circuit and who come to visit us. During the evening, while tasting Brisket filled tortellini, talking with foreign friends was discussing about what was the name of a particular format of stuffed pasta among the thousand existing in the Italian tradition. Said fact: we cross the corridor between the tents and reach few meters ahead the tent of the friends Burros BBQ, originating in Modena and in which there was yet another community meeting. Of course we could not leave without a dish of steaming broth and homemade tortellini. I have the amazement of my foreign friends in my eyes. We have a thousand faults and maybe more but being Italian means this: love good food, made of a thousand recipes and as many ways to do them and have the pleasure of being together. And a dish of Beef Ribs or steaming tortellini will be never denied to anyone.
- Perhaps not everyone knows the Griller Instinct BBQ Team. It ‘a team not particularly “social”, which has experienced various vicissitudes and various alternations but that is in fact historical in the Italian barbecue scene, being one of the first established since the first edition of the IBC in Perugia. This is to say that what happened yesterday is the culmination of a dream behind which is the work of years and which must represent a great satisfaction. The way it happened, however, unfortunately is a bit ‘the nightmare of anyone who assiduously pursues that dream and that seems a verse of Ironic by Alanis Morisette: we know, we all work and everyone has his commitments. The commitments of the Griller Instinct meant that they could not participate in the award ceremony that celebrated them as Grand Champions for the first time. It’s clearly a shame but that should take away nothing from the joy for a memorable day that these guys will certainly have lived watching the facebook live report. We would have liked them there so to be able to celebrate with them as I’m sure they would have liked it. I’m sure this is only a first time and there will be opportunities in the future. In the meantime: congratulations to you guys, you were great!
The first competition of the season ends but contrary to other years, there will not be the usual long pause between this prologue and the beginning of the actual competitive season: this year the calendar is more homogeneous and will see us protagonists already next month in Austria, at Meat, Smoke and Beer on Ice in the unusual location of Weissensee on the surface of a frozen lake