Take a Bite

Best in smoked meat at 'Up in Smoke'

August 23rd, 2012

smokerNadine Kam photos
Judging the pork entries—and there were way more than this—at the 4th annual "Up in Smoke" smoked meat cook-off Aug. 18 at Aloha Stadium were 3660 on the Rise chef Russell Siu in the foreground, and Craig Nagano with his son Kyle.

I just couldn't say no when Fresh Catch asked me to be a judge in its 4th Annual Smoked Meat Cook-off  Aug. 18, inviting "backyard chefs" to bring their secret recipes to compete for cash and prizes including a grand prize of a Las Vegas vacation for two.

The event took place in the Aloha Stadium Salt Lake Blvd. parking lot, where there were a couple dozen tents devoted to all things smoked: beef, pork, tako, mouflon sheep, goat and macadamia nuts. I hadn't had mouflon since my days dating a hunter. Smoking the meat on site on the Big Island was necessary for preserving, moving and divvying up the game, and everyone's process is elevated to an artform. At home, it wasn't so mythical. Our diet also consisted of teriyaki dove meat from birds he shot in the backyard for practice.

I was told I would be judging smoked fish, but when I got there and saw all the pork samplings, I couldn't resist. When judging, there's always the fear you'll fill up before your work is done, but given the 1/2-inch to 1-inch sampling portions of the delectable smoked meat, I figured I could get away with tasting some of it before the contest started.

smokebeefA handful ofntries in the Smoked Beef and Anything Goes categories.

When Fresh Catch chef/owner Reno Henriques started the competition four years ago to honor the work of hunting friends, judges had to try all the entries. Now it's divided into more manageable beef, pork, fish and "anything goes" categories. Based on my sampling at the tents, I would say the pork is the most difficult category to judge because of the range of flavors involved. Some of the marinades used were more soy based, some sweeter, some very spicy, yet each was so smoky delicious, the winner just had to come down to personal preference after all the other criterion had been met. Entries were judged for flavor, tenderness and appearance, with 75 percent of the vote weighted toward judge's picks, and 25 percent for people's choice.

smoke salmonOne of the smoked salmon entries. Judging was blind so we weren't able to match teams with their entries.

The 1st place Pork category winner and 1st place People's Choice would then compete in the "Up In Smoke" throw down challenge with the Vacations Hawaii Las Vegas Getaway Vacation grand prize, valued at $3,500-plus.

It came down to the judge's pick, Guava Smoked, and People's Choice winner Souza's Smokehouse who did their best with pork supplied by Choyce Products and other food items and seasonings provided by Fresh Catch.  The contestants had an hour to prepare their entries, and Souza's took home the grand prize.

While waiting for contest results, attendees could grab a bite from Fresh Catch and other vendors, as well as ogle the more than 70 classic, street rods and vintage cars that were part of the concurrent "Nobody Cares" car show. A portion of the funds raised from the event will be donated to the Hawaii Chapter of the National Kidney Foundation.

smokefishA couple of the best fish entries. Loved the Guava Smoked salmon belly on the right, enough to be able to find them at the Farmers Markets. It was the second choice of the other judge, who deemed it "too easy." The salmon bellies sell for $12 a pound. Guava Smoked's winning smoked pork sells for $10 per pound.

smokedynamiteI also liked this dynamite-style salmon dish topped with smoky mushroom, surimi and lup cheong, but I'm afraid the salmon itself wasn't smoky enough for a smoke challenge.

smoke1Hunters were well represented.

Below is the winners list. Alas, because of the backyard nature of the offerings, you can't easily find most of these, although some people do offer their specialties by the pound. For instance, you can find 1st place Pork winner Guava Smoked at the Kapiolani Community College Farmers Market on Tuesdays, and at the Blasidell Farmers Market on Wednesdays.
Contact Fresh Catch for more information.
Fresh Catch Kaimuki is at 3109 Waialae Ave.; 735-POKE (7653)
Fresh Catch Kaneohe is at 45-1118 Kamehameha Hwy.; 235-POKE (7653)
For more information, visit www.upinsmokehawaii.com or www.freshcatchhawaii.com.

GRAND PRIZE and People's Choice winner: Souza's Smokehouse

1st place: Guava Smoked, $1,000 cash award and trophy
2nd place: All Game, $ 500
3rd place: Giggles, $100
4th place: VRM Pit Crew, $50
5th place: Smokin Tiki's, $25
Honorable mentions: FBI Smoked, Hard to Beat Smokemeat, BK Smokers, Simply Smoked ABCDE, and Foundation Smokers; $25 gift card each

1st place: DeeDee's, $250 and trophy
2nd place: Guava Smoked, $100
3rd place: Team Nixon, $50
4th place: Flamin' 7's, $25
Honorable mention: Green Bottle, $25 gift card

1st place: VRM Pit Crew, $250 and trophy
2nd place: Guava Smoked, $100
3rd place: Shiggy Smokers, $50
4th place: Capt. Smokey, $25

1st place: Prime Time Smoker, $250 and trophy
2nd place: VRM Pit Crew, $100
3rd place: DeeDee's, $50
4th place: Smokin Tiki's, $25
Honorable mentions: Buck Wild, and Smokey; $25 gift card each

1st place: Souza's Smokehouse, $250 and trophy
2nd place: Guava Smoked, $100
3rd place: Peterson & Sons, $50
4th place: Koa Alii, $25
5th place: Smokin Tiki's, $25
Honorable mentions: Lani's Cattle Co., and Action Smokers; $25 gift card

smokesteveakanaJudge Steve Akana checks out the Smokin Tiki's booth, one of the only ones to offer smoked tako, below.


smoke autoThe "Nobody Cares" auto show was also going on.

smokegrillA grill inspired by the autos.

smokerenoThe man who started it all, Reno Henriques, with his wife Mahea.

smokenutsSmoked mac nuts.

smokeguavaAttendees check out the pork and fish offerings from Guava Smoked, which won the pork prize and placed in fish, chicken and anything goes categories.

smokefbi"FBI" stands for "From Big Island," where owner Cisco Cordero Jr., pictured, is from.

smokeallgameAll Game took second place in the pork category.

smoke chickenThe beef entries looked great, so after judging the fish, I wanted to sample the best of the beef. I asked a judge in the beef and anything goes categories which is the best ... and she passed over this chicken. I was disappointed to see the barbecue-sauce slathered chicken, but she was right. It was really, really good and spicy. The beef all looked delicious but didn't measure up.

smokelanisGoat meat is pretty tough.

smokekumuloaFrom the Kumuloa Foundation, the smoked pork was combined with onions and herbs.

smoke kiaweWeapons of choice, a cache of kiawe and below, apple and hickory chips.


6 Responses to “Best in smoked meat at 'Up in Smoke'”

  1. Lani:

    It was fun and a great pleasure to be surrounded by BBQ enthusiast. I had fun!! Thanks Reno. Now . . . how's about them turkeys??

  2. Pomai:

    Aloha Nadine,

    Excellent coverage! It was truly an honor to serve alongside you and everyone else as judge at this event. As noted on my blog, I'm so glad Linda broke us down into groups for each category vs. ALL of us having to judge EVERY entry. I tell ya', if that were the case, I'd never wanna' eat anything smoked again in my life! As Manolo about that. Been there, done that. lol

    Steve, Gary, Linette and I stuck around to judge the "Up in Smoke Iron Chef Cook-Off", which was between Souza's Smokehouse and Guava Smoked. Souza's Smokehouse beat Guava Smoked by just 1 point, winning the grand prize Vegas Trip. I'll elaborate more on that when I post coverage on my blog.

    Pretty crazy life for you, going from judging a smoked meat competition, to attending a fashion show, all in the same day. lol

  3. Todd Shimabukuro:

    Hi Nadine, mahalo for taking time to judge at this fun event. It is very enjoyable for all us backyard "smokers." We actually felt so honored that you were assigned to judge the fish category with all your expertise and experience. Hope you had fun too!

    Todd from team "DeeDee's

  4. Nadine Kam:

    Thanks Todd, I had a great time! Now we just need to convince Reno to put some of the winners on his menu so more people have the opp to enjoy!

  5. Nadine Kam:

    Yeah, I had to leave a little earlier than I wanted to just to shower and rinse that "smoke" smell out of my hair! Look forward to seeing your post!

  6. Delia:

    Thanks for sharing this!

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