Southern Brooklyn

Grillin’ On The Bay And The Brooklyn Chili Smack Down

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Photo: Crab and Brisket Burger by Smoke in da Eye

They tell me  you could smell the smoke from Grillin’ on the Bay at the train station on Saturday. I still smell like smoke; mixing and mingling with barbecue teams will do that to you. I like it.

Saturday’s Grillin’ on the Bay proved to be another great neighborhood event. About 1,500 people showed up to sample ribs, pulled pork parfaits, grilled burgers and hot dogs and imbibe some hops while cheering on the cooks.

Navigating the schoolyard with its vendors and teams proved to be an interesting experience. Three Men and a Baby Back were selling ribs,  pulled pork sandwiches, corn bread and soda. The school itself was selling hamburgers, hot dogs, pickles, snacks and soda. Befriend the teams and be in the right place at the right time and you could have eaten free. Timing is everything in life.

By mid-afternoon, the schoolyard was packed with teams and people poking around to taste the “left overs” as teams handed out tastes of their “rejects”, or the food not good enough to submit to the judges. One team, The Smoke’n Pit put out full trays of ribs and chicken wings for the public to sample. More than one person exclaimed in delight and wonderment, “If these are rejects, imagine what the judges are eating!”

Now, free food is limited; after all, this is a fundraiser for St. Mark school, but freebies are all part of the barbecue culture. That being said, the joint was cleaned out by 3:00 p.m.

One of the great things about Grillin’ on the Bay is that the cooks are not limited  to only prepare the  barbecue staples. In the vegetable category, the winning entry was a cheese stuffed jalapeno popper, while the seafood soup cioppino took home top honors in the Nancee Gell Memorial Award. The only requirement for the contest, after all, is that entries are cooked on a wood or charcoal grill.

In the cafeteria, chili cooks battled it out for the Brooklyn Chili Smack Down. This year, many of  the cooks themselves served up bowl after bowl of eager eaters looking for that ever elusive perfect bowl of red. There was white chicken chili, habanero chili, bison chili, black bean chili, traditional ground beef chili and yes, even a vegetarian chili. The banter between the cooks themselves was something to see. Each sang their own praises while roasting the competitors. It was a hoot!

Photo: First place Nancee Gell Memorial Award: Cioppino by Rxcellent Q

At the other end of the cafeteria, vendors were hawking up everything from “hair jewelry” to dog toys, to an honest-to-goodness living dog to habanero bacon chocolate chip cookies, and let’s not forget the homemade cupcakes that were baked on site. The habanero bacon chocolate chip cookies sold out, so you’ll have to wait until next year, but the cupcakes are available from Debbie Thomas and her team at The Doughnut Connection on Avenue U.

The barbecue  judges were sequestered in the back of the school gym, which left the rest of the space unused. But people wandered in and out all afternoon and it became a gathering place for many ex-pats of the neighborhood. I overheard many a conversation about how the school looks the same and how “nothing has changed.” But, the most common comment I heard was, “It’s all so much smaller than I remember.” I was glad that they used Grillin’ on the Bay as an excuse to revisit the old neighborhood.

For some reason, Sheepshead Bay itself hasn’t been able to produce a grilling team. For us locals, we’re left to cheer on The Beer Belly Porkers who are from Gerritsen Beach. Jim Ryan and his cohorts made an excellent show of it, coming in 10th overall. C’mon everyone, I like Jim and all, but isn’t there anyone in the Bay who has the chops to grill here? Where’s our hometown pride?

All and all it was a great day for the school and for the neighborhood. Thanks to you and the various sponsors like RUB BBQ, Ridgewood Savings Bank, The Waterfront Ale House, Yelp and, of course, Sheepshead Bites, Grillin’ On The Bay raised close to $4,000 for St. Mark Catholic School this year.

See you next year!

Photos below by Erica Sherman, Randy Contello and Emel Stebleva.

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