NewEGGlandfest VII - 2014
06/23/14 - 04:52 Filed in: Big Green Egg | BBQ Festival
For the second year I attended the New England regional Eggfest, NewEGGlandfest VII, which is a sponsored by Tarantin Industries the New England Big Green Egg Distributor. The event was similar in many ways to last years event, which was to be expected, but there was a surprising difference too in that the event drew about 1/3 less cooks than last year and attendance seemed to be down too. I wrote a blog about this event last year and for this anyplace where things remained the same, like the location, I will reuse the text from last year’s entry. This blog entry will describe my impressions of the event specifically, including the similarities and differences to last year.
What is an Eggfest: An Eggfest can be many things, but it is some or all of these things: a marketing event, a social event, a learning event, cooking competitions, a chance to get some great food, a chance to buy Eggcessories, a chance to mingle with fellow Eggheads and an all around good time. Each Eggfest is a little different, but they are often sponsored by an Egg dealer, an Egg distributer or the mothership in Atlanta (in the case of the Eggtoberfest). There are two types of attendees: cooks and tasters. The cooks sign up and cook food all day for the attendees. The company sponsoring the event usually provides new BGE’s for the use of the cooks. At the end of the Eggfest the now used Eggs are sold off at a discount, usually in a package with a Nest (rolling cart/stand), shelves, a Platesetter and various other items. It is a marketing event because the best way to sell someone a Big Green Egg is to cook them some food on it. So potential BGE purchasers can come to the show and sample a wide variety of food cooked on the Egg. They can also pick the brains of the cooks and other Egg owners. There is often a store setup up on the site with various Eggcessories for sale. There are sometimes various types of cooking competitions. There are also door prizes and swag bags for the attendees.
NEW EGGLANDFEST VII
Who: The New EGGlandfest VI is sponsored by Tarantin Industries, who is the New England distributer for Big Green Egg products. Their facilities are located up and down the East Coast of the U.S. They are involved in a wide range of products associated with propane: heaters, fireplaces, tanks and cylinders etc, They started carrying propane grills and added BGE to their lineup. I find it a bit amusing to be wandering around the New Egglandfest site, celebrating a charcoal grill, and see the field beyond filled with various sized propane tanks.
Where: The NewEGGlandfest was held at Tarantin’s regional distribution center in Brentwood New Hampshire. This location is in Southeastern New Hampshire about 20 miles (32 km) away from the New Hampshire seacoast and 20 miles (32 km) north of the border with Massachusetts. As viewed on a map it is somewhat centrally located in the 6 state New England region. For me it was 42 miles (68 km) away and about a 1 hour drive. Not a biggie. I used to drive an hour to work, no problem driving an hour to play.
When: It seems to fall on a Saturday in mid to late June and again this year was a week after Father’s Day. The specific date this year, June 21st, also happened to be the first day of summer which I thought was appropriate somehow.
The Setup: Tarantin has a large facility located on a loop road for an industrial park off of NH 125. The facility has a large field and parking area in the back. This rear parking area was where the cooking areas, circulation and eating areas were located. Tarantin had two BGE themed vans parked their entrance as well as a large inflatable Big Green Egg ballon at their main entrance which made it hard to miss. The parking lot in the back was used for the Eggfest, the smaller lots on the sides were used for the cooks vehicles. Where there were less cooks this year, there was some space in the side lots for tasters.I got one of the last of these spaces. Since it was Saturday, there was little traffic on the road and most folks were directed to park anywhere along both sides of the road. There were many Tarantin employees there to direct people where to park. You entered the facility from the front corner and you found yourself in a showroom where all of the BGE’ s and Eggcessories were on display. From there you walked into the warehouse where registration tables were set up, one for folks with tickets and one for walk-ups. After picking up your badge and a swag bag you walked through a main aisle of the warehouse out to the back parking area. Immediately in front of you when you emerged from the rear door was a square covered seating area with tables and chairs. There was judge table running up the left side of the tent and some tables where they served beer. I was surprised to find my ticket entitled me to free drinks all day. Once you walked through the seating/dining area tent there was a large L-shaped circulation space running along the front and left side of the tent.
Showroom: You didn’t enter the show from outdoors. In a clever marketing step, the first place you passed through was the public entrance to the building bringing you to a showroom. From there you continued into the warehouse to register. The showroom was about the size of my dealer’s showroom, perhaps slightly bigger. This is probably to be expected since my dealer gets their products from here. They carried the major Eggcessories, but certainly not everything in the product line. When I attended Eggtoberfest in Atlanta I was amazed at the size of the tent needed to house the company store showcasing the entire product line. At this point I have most of the Eggcessories I need, so my many area of interest was looking at the two early vintage kamados on display. Ed Fischer, the founder of the Big Green Egg Company, served in the U.S. Army and was stationed in Japan. When he returned to the U.S. he began importing pachinko machines from Japan. He also brought in some kamado grills from Japan too. Pachinko grills didn’t really catch on at all in the U.S., but the kamados were selling. There was an example of these imported kamados in the showroom with an orange exterior finish. The way you can recognize one of these is by the vertical row of Japanese characters cast onto the dome where the dome thermometer goes on a BGE. There were some issues with these models and Ed Fischer began manufacturing kamados in the U.S. There is a sample of one of these in the distinctive green finish. These are quite similar to the modern BGE. What was even more fun to see was some of the advertising for The Green Egg as sold by the Pachinko House. The two folks in the pictures are in stereotypical 70’s garbs with very 70’s hairdo’s.
Cooling / Demo Tent: As mentioned when you emerge from the rear of the warehouse after registering, there was a large tent directly in front of you. There were scores of folding tables and chairs where people could get in out of the sun and enjoy their food and drinks. Speaking of drinks, there was a wristband in the swag bag that you wore and it entitled you to free water, soda and to my great surprise beer and wine. In the right corner just as you entered the tent were several large coolers containing the non-alcoholic drinks. Along the right side were a couple tables where the beer and wine were dispensed. The front left corner of the tent was used as a stage. It was adjacent to the large circulation area for the cooks tents and there was a PA system so folks could hear the presenter and I am sure it was also intended to help draw people in from the circulation area. There was a table for the presenter turned on the diagonal facing the center of the tent. Just in front of that were several rows of folding chairs, also turned on the diagonal facing the presenters tables.
Cooking Area: Beyond the L-shaped circulation area, the cooking booths were arranged in the same L-shape. This year it was barely L-shaped as there were only around 15 cooks tents, as opposed to low 20’ last year. The precise number is hard to say because several of the cooks had multiple spots and there were also other areas where the tents were for separate cooks and happened to be immediately adjacent to one another. This year, the short leg of the L only contained a couple cooks tents. The cooks range from people who just love cooking on their Eggs to several competition teams who compete on the regional or national BBQ circuits. Some of these cooks had been to every NewEGGlandfest and had the t-shirts to prove it. One difference I noticed was NewEgglandfest seems a little more family oriented than Eggtoberfest, probably due to a combination of travel and setup costs and Eggtoberfest being more of a big deal. At NewEgglandfest many of the cooks tents were a family affair. The parents and older kids cooked and the younger kids helped give out the food. Sometimes the food was carried around on trays by younger children on foot or on roller blades.
The typical cooking area arrangement was a 10‘x10’ Ez-Up style popup tent covering a table where the food was laid out and served. There was typically a menu posted showing the foods they would be serving through out the day and the approximate times it would be served. Right behind the table was an area where people were cooking on one or more Eggs. The competition teams brought all of their own Eggs, gear, and trailers, which makes sense because it gives them better control and familiarity. In the back, beyond the cooking area were various prep tables or trailers for prep and food storage. As part of a being a cook you get the uses of a BGE. I am not sure what the arrangements are for the larger booths which had multiple Eggs. The show ends at 3:00PM and the loaner Eggs are allowed to cool down and they are sold off with some other Eggcessories at a reduced price. These Eggs were used for the Meet and Greet the night before and on the day of the Eggfest. This is a great way to get an Egg that has been used for only 2 days at a discount price. Considering a BGE may last for 20-30 years or more this is a very sweet deal.
Swag Bag: We were given a green NewEgglandfest bag plus a NewEGGlandfest t-shirt after we registered. Unlike last year where the bag contained several Big Green Egg branded trinkets in addition to the t-shirt, this year that was pretty much it. There was a green egg-shaped plastic tray to help hold the food you picked up at the booths, a wrist band your wore to show you were registered, 2 raffle tickets and a ballet where you voted for the People’s Choice Award for best booth. It sounds like I am complaining, but I am not. The T-shirt is nice and the plastic tray is very nice when you run out of hands to hold the food samples, forks, drinks etc. It will be coming with me to Eggtoberfest and any other Eggfests I attend. I am guessing that the smaller number of cooks and tasters required the event sponsor to scale back. I have zero complaints because as an early registrant I paid $25.00 (vs. $40.00) for my ticket. For this I got all the great food I could eat, I could attend up to 3 BGE cooking demos by a professional chef, free soda & water, the T-shirt, bag and plastic tray. So no complaints. I am sure Tarantin doesn’t get rich running this event, but I am sure they don’t take a loss either.Then there is the dollar value of the marketing aspects of this event.
The Event-Start: The event on Saturday started at 9:00AM. The cooks could arrive at 8:00AM to get a head start on things. Upon arrival I spent about 15 minutes looking at the showroom and we arrived in the cooking area around 9:20. The smaller number of booths was readily apparent. The crowds were very light, and unlike last year, the cooks at only half of the booths already had food out. Another difference from last year was what folks were cooking. Last year from 9:00 to 11:00 the cooks focussed on breakfast and switched to non-breakfast items. I am not sure whether this was a requirement of the show sponsors last year or not, but there seemed to be no such rules this year. Maybe about 25% of the food could be called breakfast related. Last year I was totally stuffed and ready to burst by 11:30. This year I did better. Between less people cooking and me learning sometimes you just need to say no, I managed to stay under critical mass. Though there was a bit less food at any one time, the quality was every bit as good as last year. When new food came off the Egg, it was often a raucous event. There was a booth with a firehouse related theme that set off a siren, there was a cowboy themed booth that rang a cowbell, a few booths had folks on roller blades skating around with trays of fresh food calling out what you should try and still other booths had someone shout out what was being served at the top of their lungs. It made for a rather festive atmosphere for all.
The Event-Linkie Marais: In the last few years Ray Lampe, aka Dr. BBQ, was in attendance. I got to spend some time talking to him last year and he couldn’t have been nicer. I ASSumed he would be there this year as well, but this turned out not to be the case. While I was initially disappointed he wasn’t there, in a strange bit of kismet his replacement was actually the perfect person to suit where I am at with my BGE development. The night before the show I was looking at the BGE Lifestyle magazine at a lamb chop recipe by Linkie Marais. From the picture included with the recipe it was hard to tell if the lamb chops were loin or rib chops. I wanted to try the recipe but I needed to find out which type of chop to use. A little before 10:00 who should walk up to the demo table? You guessed it, Linkie Marais. I gave her some time to settle in and wandered over to say hello and ask that quick question. I told her how I was looking at the recipe only the night before etc., etc. She was most gracious and answered my question and suggested several other lamb recipes she had written that I might like. I came back around 10:15 to get a seat for her first demo at 10:30. While she was setting up and grilling up some corn she fielded a “big picture” baking question for me. Both times I was trying to ask my question, move on and let her set up, but both time she answered the questions, didn’t rush me off in fact turned it into a conversation.
In between Demo 1 and Demo 2, I spent some time talking to her husband Janne, which was very interesting. They are both originally from South Africa and moved to the states around 14 years ago. They have been in New England and Big Green Egg owners for the last few years. Due to owning the Egg he is now learning low and slow BBQ. Lastly it was his first Eggfest. It was fun hearing his observations on his first Eggfest, New England, learning the Egg and winter.
Demo 1 - Linkie Marais - Grilled Shrimp and Corn Salad: This was a great demo. Linkie Marais gave a very good demo. She was personable, tried to involve the audience and most importantly did the demo in a way where everyone there felt like this was something they could do at home. Many times people seem to enjoy a demo, but feel it is not something they can actually do themselves. She broke down all the steps into their basics and showed they were easy to do. People who hadn’t seen Firewire skewers were quite interested in those, since they are a perfect solution for fitting skewers on the Egg. I was interested in learning to do shrimp on the Egg and these turned out perfectly. I must say I am impressed with who ever is selecting celebrity chefs to act as representative for the BGE company. They are knowledgeable, personable, and enthusiastic. Now you may be saying: “Thank you Captain Obvious, this is the way they are supposed to be”. Let me say this isn’t always the case. I have seen celebrities doing demos or talks where you get the feeling this is the last place they want to be and the last thing they want to be doing. I attended one demo where the “star” was in the hall before hand calling someone to tear them a new one about the attendance (or lack of). Both Dr BBQ, whom I’ve seen at several shows now, and Linkie Marais do a great job acting as ambassadors for the Big Green Egg Company.
The Event - Midday: By 11:00AM the crowds had picked up somewhat a bit. The pictures I have posted here of the venue are from 9:20-9:30 when folks were just waking up and rolling in. They allow you to see the booths without the crowds. By 11:00 the crowds had picked up both in the circulation area and at the eating area. The circulation area was about 33 percent full, down from about 50 percent last year. The volume of food coming off the Eggs had picked up and included “traditional” BBQ fare like ribs, sausages, pulled pork, chicken wings plus pizza, chicken breast and some other typical grilled fare. One booth, “Chuck Wagon” which was actually a group of family and friends ranging from 7 to 70 had an arsenal of Eggs lined up like battleship row. They had 9 Large Big Green Eggs and 1 XL. They were my pick for the People’s Choice Award. Despite my promising myself to exercise restraint this year, I found myself returning for second helpings. Last year, they had a whole hog cooking on their XL, This year the competition team Smoking Aces were doing a whole hog on the new XXL BGE. A husband and wife BGE competition team called Yabba Dabba Que were making all sorts of delicious “outside the box” entires. A team who was a family of transplanted folks from Texas who were now living in New England returned again this year. They had some great pork with their own sauces and home brewed beer.
The Event - New Egghead Friends: It was funny because I expected to be totally anonymous at the show unless I happened to bump into a couple Egghead friends. Twice I had total strangers look like they knew me and I knew for sure I didn’t know them. They walked up closer and checked my name badge and introduced themselves to me. It turns out they had both recently found this site and recognized me from my pictures on the site. I tend to forget there are a couple pictures there. It was fun talking to them and it was also nice getting some feedback about the site where I could ask follow up questions. It is also gratifying to know what I am doing is helpful to others. That was my whole reason for starting this site.
The Event - Whole Hog: This year a competition BBQ team, Smoking Aces, was doing whole hog on a new XXL BGE. Last year the whole hog done by the Chuck Wagon booth on the XL weighed about 35 pounds and was a very tight fit. This hog was noticeably bigger, my guess would be 50 pounds, but I am just guessing. It didn’t appear to be as tight of a fit on the XXL as the 35 pound pig was on the XL. Last year the whole hog didn’t finish up until the early afternoon and I was too stuffed to try it. This year the whole hog came off the XXL at 11:30 and I was lucky enough to get the first piece of fresh ham just after it was cut. This was the best piece of ham I have ever had in my life. It was served with two home made BBQ sauces. I tried an excellent mustard based BBQ sauce that only made the best experience even better. It’s funny, but when I saw the XXL for the first time 2013 at Eggtoberfest it was said to have come from requests from restauranteurs. I never thought of it for competition BBQ teams, but this seems like another great use case.
Demo 2 - Linkie Marais - Grilled Pizza: I will admit to attending this demo more for technique than for the actual dish, which was a veggie pizza with mushrooms and onions. I learned she uses 600 degrees for her pizzas, which is the temperature that I have settled in on. She checks the temperature of the stone with an infrared thermometer as do I. She has a very interesting technique of topping the pizza on the grill. She spreads corn meal on the pizza stone and adds the crust, held in her hands not on a peel, directly to the stone. Working quickly, she then tops the pizza. I found this a very interesting technique and I will keep it in mind, but I don’t have the asbestos clad fingers she does. One of her main reasons for doing things this way was it gets around the issue of the pizza sticking to the peel when you go to slip it onto the stone. Only once in a great while do I have issues with a crust sticking and I now check the “stickage” as I add each toppings, so I deal with it indoors. So if you’ll pardon the pun, I will stick to what I am doing for now. The pizza turned out looking just perfectly and it was an interesting and enjoyable demo.
Wrap Up: Despite the lower booth count and lower attendance I both enjoyed NewEgglandfest, maybe a little more since less people made for less waiting. I am looking forward to going back next year. The folks that were there still made plenty of excellent food and there was still a wide variety of food types, from breakfast to dessert and everything in between. This year I managed to use some restraint and not eat myself to the point of exploding. Before I congratulate myself too much, I am sure spending a couple hours watching 2 cooking demos gave me some “recovery” time. I said this last year and I’ll say it again: If your are an Egghead, or are thinking of buying an Egg or know someone who is in the market for a new grill, you should plan on hitting a local Eggfest. The best way to sell someone on the Egg is t cook something for them on it. These festivals help show you all of the creative ways you can use the Big Green Egg.
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