Raleigh, North Carolina – Tailgating fans are very familiar with various food wars. Many even travel around the country competing in food competitions and the Travel Channel even has a whole show dedicated to the subject – Food Wars. Which part of the country has the best BBQ? We at Inside Tailgating are officiators, but we did proudly pack up the RV to head to Raleigh, North Carolina to check out the 2011 Wolfpack Club BBQ Bowl at the Carter Finley Stadium.
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Eastern North Carolina barbeque has its own kick. Whole pigs are slowly roasted, pulled, and dressed with a vinegar barbeque sauce. The trick to cutting the bitter vinegar flavor is to balance the sweetness with a slow cooked meat.
Disclaimer: Prior to the competition we’ve NEVER cooked, baked, roasted, or buried a pig. We usually try to stay busy tailgating. So we took on the challenge with passionate vigor. It can’t be THAT hard, right?
The Wolfpack Club BBQ Bowl became the venue for Inside Tailgating’s inaugural jaunt into the world of cooking whole hogs. OINK! We were actually filled with anticipation and excitement as the Inside Tailgating RV pulled into the parking lot aside to Carter Finley Stadium in Raleigh, NC on Friday April 15th. We found our parking and cooking area and as we began to unload our equipment we noticed the group next to us was ”The Wolfpack Gang” out of Roanoke Rapids, NC.
As we got to chatting we found out that they were some serious competition. Once the rest of our crew showed up, we handed out our Inside Tailgating aprons; got the grill secured in its proper place for the 20 hour roast, and then Bernie hit the lots to size up the rest of the competition.
There were some awesome team names out there such as “Goldie Hocks and the Three Boars” and the “Boondocks” (complete with replicated old wooden front porch scene seemingly stolen from a black and white picture from your grandmother’s photo album from the 1930’s). Back at the RV we did a team-building huddle and laid out our master plan of attack.
It was confirmed, not even one of us had EVER cooked/grilled/smoked a whole hog before…Ouch! We had bitten off more than we could chew. We were not going to bring home the proverbial bacon on this competition!
We caught a little break as the beers started flowing and team member “Big Head” of The Wolfpack Gang actually shared some of their chef secrets. The Cooks Meeting commenced, followed by more beer and cheers from the Wolfpack Cheerleaders (nice touch by the way) to calm our nerves a bit.
Then the 100 pound hogs showed up! We started off with confidence. The hog was receiving some love and was set to become the glistening brown beast that we had envisioned from the first thought of this competition. A few more beers and the hog was on the grill as evening set in. (Wipes sweat from brow) Then more beer, a cigar and laughs later we were hit by our first crisis: the grill lost gas pressure. After we got that under control, it was time for grill vigil while the other team members got some sleep. Bernie and Sam stepped up to the plate and stayed awake through the night watching the grill and flipping the pig.
On Saturday morning the pig was starting to smell and look scrumptious! The judges came by at 8 AM. They were drooling over the The Wolfpack Gang’s setup and pig. Remember in high school when the cool senior guy walks down the hall and the sophomore girls seemed to melt in front of you? It was kind of like that. Then the judges gathered in the Inside Tailgating station and we held our breath.
We were being judged on the look of the pig, the temperature of the meat, the ability to flip the whole pig over and have it stay in one piece, the taste of the meat, the taste of the sauce. Our crew got a little additional feedback from the judges – that look your Mom gave you when you know you’ve done something wrong. Unfortunately our hog was 20 degrees too cold?! Oops! And we didn’t have a tray to capture the grease. Oops! Big Head and the boys give us some makeshift solutions and we begin to slowly scorch our swine before the celebrity judges made a pass.
So we had one more stab at winning…something. The Wolfpack Club had assembled a group of celebrity judges: Mario Williams, Willie Young and Julius Hodge. Unfortunately, the opinion seemed unchanged. Even with a clever, self deprecating sense of humor and classic Eastern North Carolina salesmanship our chief cook (Sweets) couldn’t sway Mario or Julius to make us #1 on their list.
Next up? We are heading to Margaritaville!