Time to come out of my winter hibernation, and finally share where the hell I’ve been the past few months. Plus, I have BIG exciting news to announce! First and foremost, I moved to Houston five months ago for a new job. It was a sudden, unexpected transition accompanied by some jumps for joy and lots of tears, but the job was too good to pass up. The magician still lives in Austin, but he’s moving here this summer! YAY!
And now the BIG exciting news…with a little back story first. Last year, the magician and I competed in the first ever Austin Pork Experiment hosted by The Food Experiments, America’s most exciting amateur cook-off series. We won third place in the audience round with The Oinker, a.k.a. a delicious pork meat-cake topped with sweet potato mashers and chives.
So when Theo of the Food Experiments announced that the Houston Beer Experiment was the first stop on the bigger, better 2012 National tour, the magician and I rushed to enter as “The Magic Hops” for another chance at culinary glory. For the entire month of February, I cooked (and drank) lots of local, craft beer to perfect our dish, Pork and Grits Under the Influence. This year we were not taking any pilsners.
Our final bite for last weekend’s cook-off was a smokey pulled pork served over Bombshell Blonde infused grits garnished with a homemade bread & butter jalapeño, bacon, and scallions. The dish came together exactly as I’d hopped…I mean hoped. I smoked the pork over Lonestar-soaked applewood for 6 hours, and then continued to braise it in Southern Star Bombshell Blonde for another 5 hours until it was fork tender. The grits cooked in Bombshell Blonde along with a few other confidential ingredients. And, the jalapenos, my secret weapons, had brined for a week and were the perfect sweet, spicy kick to top off my Southern classic.
Photo courtesy of the Houston Press.
My competition was intense! My fellow amateur chefs brought it, and we went up against sixteen incredible dishes. (Fried Pork Belly, Guava Wheat Lamb Stew, and Barely Buzzed Beer Cheese Soup just to name a few.) After the judging ended and 250 samples were passed out to the huge crowd, the team captains gathered on stage awaiting the results.
I was nervous and giddy as Theo announced the awards. He finally came to the Grand Prize, and our team hadn’t been called. One more spot left. I fidgeted with anticipation. Then he shouted “The Magic Hops!” The rest is a blur. I freaked out. Someone told me, I literally hopped to the mic like a bunny. I was wearing bunny ears, but the hopping was a pure coincidence.
Our prizes included: sweet cookware from Le Creuset & Analon, a Wusthof knife, a kick-ass t-shirt, Chameleon Cold Brew, and most importantly a trip to Brooklyn sponsored by Brooklyn Brewery to compete in the National Championship against all the tour winners. I am so honored that so many in the crowd loved my food and so proud to represent Houston, my hometown. Thank you to everyone who supported us, The Food Experiments, and Brooklyn Brewery for an amazing day. I look forward to experimenting to create the perfect bite for the final showdown in Brooklyn on December 16th. It’s only
283 282 days away. But who’s counting.