September 2, 2006
The main question facing this years event is can Dr. Tuttle and his fertile sausage imagination be stopped? Is he the DaVinci of sausage making? He has a two year streak going and this is far more consistent than his golf game. He might have found his true calling; orthopedics is getting old and boring (“You seen one broken bone you’ve seen them all.”)
Maybe there’s something about the grinding up of meat tissues that gets the physician drooling, who knows? He’s a generally soft spoken Texan but we all know anybody from Texas is a bit twisted. But then it’s a fine line between insanity and creativity and who can bitch about the outstanding smoked chorizo with chipotle he whipped up last year?
In a not too long ago talk with the Doctor of Sausage he was starting to intimate that he had a few new ideas fermenting and would step up to the plate again. As sure as he can pull hook a Titleist out-of-bounds, we know he’s the champ until someone unseats him in 2006.
New Kids on the Block
We had some outstanding new contributors last year, Lou Cananoco, Ernie Pabon established their bona fides, plus the veterans Grabowksi, Wasilewski, Zider also had some very tasty contributions – and their sausages weren’t bad either.
I’m hoping for this year’s event two things:
1. Is there a new sausage artist out there that will compete with Doc Tuttle?
2. I’m waiting for one of our veteran attendees (many of whom are well traveled) to bring some exquisite new sausage from some new sausage-maker.
Will the new the meat artist come from Bucktown? Cicero? Glenview (is that even possible)? Melrose Park? Missouri? Or will we get some wayward cheesehead contribution from Wisconsin where one of our regular attendees in their usual stupor stumbled across a Packer Fan/Sausage-maker who understood grinding and casing meat.
Those are the two goal posts I want Sausagefest 2006 to drive through. It may mean that we have the day after stomach pain of a bullet train speeding through our colon, but there is no gain without some pain.
After nine years of Sausagefests you might think that sameness might creep into the celebration. Sausagefest 9 had enough unexpected twists to make this year’s theme (The DaVinci Sausage) fit like a glove.
We had more than seventy people attend the event; we finished off thirty-nine bottles of some incredible wines, and many after dinner cigars. The attendees were again as diverse as the sausages – doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs (that’s French for small time thief), a guy who came from Alaska (with sausages and smoked salmon), plus a lot people who work at jobs they’re not crazy about but are making do, and still love sausages.
In terms of first time occurrences there were these:
First reindeer sausages from Alaska
(unfortunately they sounded more interesting than they tasted)
We drank less than 40 bottles of wine
First South African sausages
First Sausagefest bag toss game was unveiled (order yours now)
There were no divorces papers filed within 30 days of the event
I woke up without a hangover
There was no karaoke
Before this list gets too long let’s get to the awards.
Let’s start with a new Award Category – “Best Sausage Pyrotechnics”
Who’d think to invent exploding sausages but that creative spirit, Alan Rohrbach. Alan has supported Sausagefest for many years. He’s the guy who brings Irish bangers, exotic beers, French wines, and is a pivotal part of our end-of-party clean up gang.
This year Chef Alan eschewed the store bought meat and created a sausage that will become famous – Exploding Sausage. While his artistic aim was to create a Jamaican-style Jerk sausage experience he actually surpassed his own objective.
But isn’t great art about not really being in control. The divine muse grabs hold and you just don’t know where you’ll end up.
We can piece this together now, and luckily for the people near the grill when the first explosion happened, they’re pieced back together as well. It was a bit ugly, the phrase touch and go comes to mind, but the medical staff did a great job.
Wanting to commemorate this new style of sausage and realizing that art is always challenging its boundaries, we wanted to award the first ever Best Sausage Pyrotechnics award to Alan Rohrbach!
Best Polish Sausage Award
Moving from the startling new to the familiar, “Best Polish Sausage” was awarded to Ed and Cathy Grabowski. This makes them a three time Sausagefest award winner. The Grabowski’s now have these awards: Grand Champion 2003, 2005 Unique Artistic Achievement, and 2006 Best Polish Sausage. Serious competitors, can’t wait to see what they do for Sausagefest 10.
Unique Artistic Achievement & Rookie of the Year
For the first time in Sausagefest history we have two awards for one participant: Vernon Patrick.
Vernon, erstwhile volleyball coach and Chicago watercraft captain, created a stunning work of sausage. We’re still not sure what to call it. But let’s give some of the details with the understanding that the sum of the parts was greater than the whole.
The dish started with polish kishka. The sausage was steamed with onion in a white wine sauce. The sausage and onion were broken up and mixed together. Mesclun greens were put on a plate and used as base. The sausage and onion mixture were scooped on top and layered out. More mesclun was add in the center of the meat mixture.
As a final and important touch, red champagne grapes were sprinkled over the top of the casserole. The casserole was seasoned with some salt and pepper.
This was served to a late evening crowd who were stunned at the complexity of flavors & textures.
Congrats, Vernon – what a unique dish! Even after writing this I realize that Polish kishkia and salad greens sounds pretty ho-hum but it was the strangest combination of meat, textures, and flavors I’ve put in my mouth since my last Ethopian dinner experience.
Best Achievement with Sausage & Vegetable: John Cananoco
In 2005 we were treated to Lou Cananoco bringing us small peperocine stuffed with sweet Italian sausage. This year his brother, John, continued the family’s winning ways. Maybe it was the older brother trying to out do the younger, or a famliy recipe he kicked up a notch. For this evening, John used small sweet peppers but the sausage had a heat and spice quality that made a statement. “The timid need not eat.”
Were they too hot? They were so good we vacuumed seal an many as we could and cooked them a month later for our own private consumption.
We don’t usually “bogart” sausage entries but, hey, its our Sauasgefest.
Sausagefest Grand Champion
On the eve of Sausagefest 9 there was some heavy money being bet on Richard Tuttle winning his third Grand Championship. In 2005 and 2004 he had distanced himself from the field with his home made sausages. Who could forget the hand-made smoked chorizo sausages he made in 2005? A depth of flavor ready for the finest Cabernets and Rhône’s.
As Sausagefest 9 kicked-off there was a buzz in the crowd. What would Richard do? Chorizo Part Deux? A reprise of his tequila sausage of 2004?
But a funny thing happened on the way to winning the trifecta. An old Sausagefest veteran, Chuck Rizzo, who had taken a two year hiatus from attending, made a Chili sausage that captured the best essence of home made chili. It also captured the Grand Champion Award.
Perfect seasoning captured the “bowl of chili” experience. The sausage was lean, flavorful and hearty – it was chili in a casing. A bit of heat but nothing x-rated, and certainly an easy compliment to a lot of the red wines that were open.
Congratulations, Chuck Rizzo (and welcome back)!!
2007 – Sausagefest 10
The ten year anniversary is staring us in the face. We have taken a goofy sounding party idea to a significantly large social gathering. Each year’s celebration continues to improve. You can expect #10 to be another step up. Thanks to all the attendees and contributors – it doesn’t happen without you!
Before the New Year starts, we wanted to say THANKS to:
Chris Kleiva and Ed Grabowski for grill duty
George V. at Woodfield Media for a great new website
Rick Haering for helping to set-up & the Alaskan smoked salmon
Rich Klott and Alan Rohrbach for the end-of-party tasks
Jack McClure for his great craftsmanship in building a Sausagefest bag toss game
Tom Graan for his always stellar sommelier duties
And for all you Sausagefest friends, start grinding your meat soon. For Sausagefest 10 we’re expecting big things.