Friday, March 27, 2009

Grillin' in Brooklyn

Grillin' on the Bay, an annual BBQ competition and fundraiser for the St. Mark School in Sheepshead Bay organized by Bay resident Robert Fernandez, makes its annual return on April 3, as barbecuers from all over the country will be grilling up pulled pork and chicken, all for a good cause and friendly competition.

Authentic BBQ can be found in Brooklyn on a daily basis, and some of the best establishments in the borough will be competing in the cook-off: Kings County BBQ on Quincy Street off Bedford Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant, serving Kansas City-style fare out of their orange truck, and the Fuggetabouit team of Waterfront Ale House on Atlantic Avenue, which happens to also be Fernandez's favorite place for BBQ in the borough.

What are your favorite places for BBQ in Brooklyn?

And for more on the competition, see after the jump.

Grinnin' and grillin': Outdoor cooks to convene in S'head Bay

By Meredith Deliso

(Published in the 3.26 issue of 24/Seven)

Some of the best grillers from Brooklyn and beyond will converge on Sheepshead Bay to turn up the heat and battle over their barbecues at the fourth annual Grillin’ On The Bay.

On April 4, the St. Mark School will host the cook-off, a fundraiser for the school created by Sheepshead Bay resident Robert Fernandez.

The local event, New York City’s original barbecue contest, typically draws teams from all over the country as they compete in four grilling categories: chicken breast, fish, pork and chef’s choice.

Among those from the borough competing are Mike Rosen and Mike Danza, who fittingly make up the team Smokey Mikes, as they make their third appearance at the competition. Danza introduced Rosen to the competitive side of barbecuing several years ago, and the two have been behind the grill together ever since.

“I was just throwing hamburgers on the grill and [Mike] was like, ‘That’s not barbecuing. I’ll show you barbecuing,’” remembers Rosen, who used to live in Sheepshead Bay but recently relocated to upstate New York and who, along with Danza, attends St. Mark Parish. “It’s all a little corny at first, but once you get bitten by the barbecue bug, that’s it, it’s done. We just consider ourselves a couple of bums from Brooklyn that like to barbecue.”

Spending the summers barbecuing and working on different recipes throughout the year, the two Mikes like to keep it simple, working with a basic Weber grill for their equipment and forgoing the good luck charms and flag poles that other teams tend to set up on their site during competitions.

“We believe it’s more in the food process than in the grill itself,” says Rosen, whose specialty is pulled pork. And, though they’d like to win, it’s not just about the grand prize. “We both enjoy the whole camaraderie of everything,” says Rosen. “You all hang out before and drink some beer and tell cooking stories.”

Another team with Brooklyn roots, the Beer Belly Smokers, competing in their fourth Grillin’ On The Bay, likes to keep it simple as well.

“As long as you cook it right – keep it simple stupid,” says Jim Ryan, formerly of Gerritsen Beach who now lives in Queens. “That’s the way we always said it.”

The team does embrace the cheese-factor a bit, with the four members – including Ralph DeRosa, Mike Rynne, Steve London and Tommy Joyce – and their families sporting tee-shirts bearing the name Beer Belly Smokers. And yes, the men do sport beer bellies as well.

“It kind of goes with barbecuing,” says Ryan.

The team met over a grill, with their wives bringing the group together, and they keep coming back to the competition not just for the prospect of victory, but for the fun of it.

“It really is a lot of fun, even the camaraderie with the other teams,” says Ryan, who’s looking to do well in the pork category this year. “You bust each other’s chops. The bragging rights are always good.”

New to Brooklyn since setting up shop this past fall, the Kings County BBQ Truck on Quincy Street off Bedford Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant will also be competing with their Kansas City-style barbecue, as well as the Fuggetabouit team of Waterfront Ale House on Atlantic Avenue.

Beyond Brooklyn, other teams among the more than dozen signed up that will be rolling their grills into Sheepshead Bay include the returning grand champion, Smoke in Da Eye, from Garden City, Long Island, as well as the first year grand champion, Purple Turtle Caterers of Connecticut, led by St. Mark School alum Greg Hunter.

Big names in the BBQ competition world that will also be testing their chops include iQue, featuring Andy O. C. Husbands of the award-winning Tremont647; Josh Ozersky of the Feedbag, formerly of Grub Street, with Robbie Richter, the former Pitmaster of Hill Country; Born Again BBQ featuring Kevin Lincoln founder of the New York BBQ Lover’s Meetup Group; and Atom’s Ribs featuring Matt Fisher, former Pitmaster of Wildwood BBQ NYC. So aspiring ace barbecuers looking to spice things up this summer, take out a notepad and learn a thing or two from some of the best behind a grill around.

Judges certified by the Kansas City Barbecue Society have the pleasure of eating the offerings and will rate the meat and fish based on appearance, tenderness and, of course, taste.

“Does it taste like BBQ? Do you want to eat it or not? Should it be tender or not?” are some of the things judges will take into consideration, says Fernandez.

Those deemed the winners in each category get a percentage of the pool prize, with the remains going towards St. Mark School.

For Brooklynites wondering how much fun it might be to watch others stand behind a grill, obsessively checking temperatures and watching over their meat, the treat is in the barbecue, which will be on sale, and contestants might hand out some of their specialties off the grill for sampling as well.

Chili connoisseurs can also get in on the fun this year, and the chance at a $100 prize, with the addition of the Brooklyn Chili Smack Down. A takeoff of Matt Timm’s popular Chili Takedown, held this past February at Union Pool, the best pot will be the people’s choice, so come hungry.

“I’m trying to convince my wife to do it,” says Rosen. “She makes a mean chili.”

Grillin’ On The Bay and The Brooklyn Chili SmackDown will be April 4 at St. Mark School (East 18th Street and Avenue Z), starting at 11 a.m. with the chili sampling beginning at 1 p.m. The awards ceremony will take place at 4:30 p.m. Admission is free. BBQ will be available for purchase, as well as $10 all-you-can-eat chili. For more information, go to, email or call 917-763-5062.


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