04 May, 2009

Berlin BBQ Championships

Swiss-style steak and stuffed peppers

Saturday morning. I'm awakened from a dead sleep by a clanging cell phone. On the other end of the line is a friend, evidently wide awake and puzzled by my mumbled answer of "what time IS it right now?"

After dragging my reluctant brain into the correct time zone, I ascertain that it is 9:00 am, and my friend is ringing with a last minute invitation to be a judge at the Berlin BBQ Championship. He has a free ticket, and if I want it, I have to be out the door in 20 minutes.

Quickly pulling myself together, I manage to organize clothing, bus route, and a pot of maté tea in record time. This is an offer for free barbecue, after all.

We meet up at the event, miraculously on time, and receive our complimentary t-shirts and event badges. Set on one of Berlin's many semi-artificial beaches near the Spree river, the event is a maze of sun umbrellas, beach chairs, and grill teams. We have a couple of hours to kill before the judging begins, so we wander around a bit to see some of the prep work in action.

My promo shot for the artifical beach

The contestants ranged from teams of professional chefs...

... who managed to prepare gourmet delicacies using only a grill...

... to those with somewhat less technical proficiency.

The contest was divided into 5 courses: vegetarian, sausage, poultry, beef, and dessert. All foods had to be prepared using only a grill. During each round, the judges were randomly assigned to either be served at the contestant's booth or to have a "to go" box delivered to them in the judging room.

After sampling the course, we rated the food on appearance, degree of cooking (i.e. charred, raw, or just right), taste, and how well the main dish and side dishes complimented each other. There was about an hour between each course, as the teams prepared the foods for the next round. (It also gave us a chance to make room for the next samples!)

By the end of the day, we were tanned, sand-dusted, and stuffed with gourmet delights (and a few not-so gourmet attempts as well.)

The luck of the draw resulted in the following samples for me:

My vegetarian course: grilled peppers stuffed with curreid couscous, accompanied by a slice of grilled sweet potato, decorated with a drizzle of balsamico glaze.

My sausage course: a sausage with a polenta patty, accompanied by grilled beet slices.

My friend's sausage course: A main dish of a guitar-shaped Leberkäse (think really gourmet Spam), accompanied by three kinds of amazingly seasoned sausages and a delicious salsa.

My poultry course: Grilled duck filled with apricot-onion stuffing, served with hot and sour sauce.

My meat course. It wasn't as exciting as my duck, but it was an amazingly tasty steak burger. By this point I was totally stuffed, and I still ate almost the whole thing.

My amazing dessert course: an apple tart accompanied by a small cream puff and a small apple-filled pastry... all baked on the grill.

One last image: I didn't get to eat this, but I absolutely love the idea of grilled, bacon-wrapped plums. This has to be on the menu for me at some point in the future.


Anonymous said...

When I think of bbq, I don't think of Berlin. But I think my mind may have been changed :-D. The inventive dishes, all marvelously prepared (and photographed!) look amazing. I especially loved the vegetarian offerings. I'll have to try couscous as a stuffing for veggies. I also liked the look of those polenta rounds.

The fake beach totally cracked me up, and the trucked in palapas. lol

Kristal said...

Couscous makes a great stuffing for veggies, I'd say. And the polenta rounds were great - although polenta is the one dish I seem to destroy every time I come near it, so I don't think I'll be posting any recipes any time soon!

I never knew the name for "palapas" - thanks for the tip! :-)