2009 Phantom Gourmet BBQ Beach Party Recap, Part 1: Foxwoods
This year's Phantom Gourmet BBQ Beach Party has two stages: June 19-21 at Foxwoods (Ledyard CT) and June 26-28 at Suffolk Downs (East Boston). I made a Saturday lunch vist to Foxwoods, staying until around 3:00PM. A friend and I hit six of the eight barbecue vendors.
The event at Foxwoods took over an entire employee parking lot, requiring a shuttle bus from the MGM Grand. This area was much more spread out than last year's event at Boston City Plaza. The spaciousness allowed much more room for the crowds, but it also highlighted the painful reality that there weren't any crowds on my visit or the night before.
Two of the vendors—Jack's Down Home BBQ and Awesome Aussie BBQ—ran simultaneous operations at the Beach Party and at the Rockin' Ribfest barbecue festival at the Budweiser plant in Merrimack NH.
Barbecue is at its best when it's served from the smoker to the plate, with no refrigeration or reheating in between. While this is an ideal that's rarely realized, it's something you at least hope for when the event is billed as the collection of the "greatest pitmasters on the planet." The light traffic ensured that most of the vendors were selling meats smoked the previous day or earlier. I got a chance to watch Paul McKay and his Awesome Aussie crew remove briskets and pork butts from the smoker and prepare them for that day's food service.
These events are always good for an Eddie Andelman sighting, and in this regard I was not disappointed. The father of the three brothers who run The Phantom Gourmet, Andelman was a pioneer in the medium of sports talk radio and famous for blending discussion of hotdogs and Chinese food with the sports talk. What was he eating when I bumped into him? A hotdog.
Steve Uliss of Firefly's once again brought deep fryers to offer fried clams in addition to the usual ribs and pulled pork. This year he's added a new smoker trailer, with an Ole Hickory whose carousel can handle hundreds of racks of ribs simultaneously.
This year I got a chance to take a peek at Willingham's smoker, a unique model designed by John Willingham himself and one of only a handful in existence. The meats hang on custom hooks and cook vertically.
I'll have more photos and more thoughts later. Much of my overall opinion of the event hasn't changed from last year. For tips and commentary, see My Recap of the 2008 Phantom Gourmet BBQ Beach Party.