That Food Guy
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
 

SPARCFest

SPARC Dogs And SPARC Burgers

St Petersburg Amateur Radio Club at http://www.sparc-club.org/

SPARCFest 2013 on YouTube:  http://youtu.be/uwQPQmyfw68

 

I suppose the first question is, “What is a SPARCFest?”  That’s an easy answer. It is a Ham Fest put on by SPARC.  Yes, I can clear that up too. SPARC is my radio club, the St Petersburg Amateur Radio Club. A Ham Fest is a gathering of hams, amateur radio operators who come from far and wide to meet, engage in good ham fellowship, meet old friends and meet new ones and perhaps to put a face with the voice they have talked to on the radio. A Ham Fest is also a tailgate gathering where surplus amateur equipment is bought, sold and traded; a good place to look for bargains. They can be local, informal events or large, ambitious undertakings  with manufacturers and retail outlets in attendance. The Ham Fests are natural magnets for the area’s ham radio aficionados.
My club, the St Petersburg Amateur Radio Club, was this event’s sponsor and it was staged at Freedom Lake Park, located in Pinellas Park, Florida. It was an excellent venue for the event. The weather was mild; a cool morning becoming a balmy afternoon. There was lots of cushiony green grass. The rippling blue waters of the lake could be seen between the tall pines trees that provided a moving curtain of shade all during the Ham Fest.

The club also provided the food offering donuts, coffee, sodas, water and SPARC Burgers and SPARC Dogs for sale. Ron, KP2N (that’s how hams do it, first name and call sign) has been the chief cook and bottle washer at these events for many years, or as Donn, N4KII, would say, purveyor of burnt offerings. All kidding aside, Don, KP2N, does an excellent job. My first taste of a SPARCDog was back in June during the  ARRL Field Day. After a long day on the air, talking to other amateur operators all over the United States, Canada and the world, I was hungry and a SPARCDog was just the thing. Since then I have waited, although not always patiently, for another and the opportunity came early this November at the SPARCFest.
This was a morning affair. The first tailgaters arrived even before the sun was above the horizon. In the cool early morning it was donuts and coffee mostly. It wasn’t until midmorning before the brunch urge came to fore.  By then the aroma of grilling dogs and burgers was too much and I ordered one of each, the burger with cheese. Ron, KP2N, served me right away. I took my goodies to the condiment table and applied liberal amounts of mustard, relish and onions to the SPARCDog and a swirl of catsup to the SPARCBurger. Then it was off to the picnic table under the canopy to sample the food.

I sat across from Linda, KI4RV. She was just finishing up her SPARCDog and SPARCBurger. She told me she was thinking very seriously about having another of each. I decided to start with the SPARCDog. It was a fresh bun, toasted over the charcoal grill. The hot dog was grilled and not burnt thankfully. The onions were fresh, only recent y diced.  The relish was the typical sweet pickle relish, from a large jar recently opened. The mustard was from a name-brand family sized bottle just opened. It is my understanding that hot dogs are removed from their casing after being cooked at the factory. Perhaps it was just in the grilling but the dog seemed to have a snap like a sausage still in the casing. The taste was just what you would expect and want from a dog that had been dressed the way you like it.

Next I tried the SPARCBurger. Again, a fresh bun, toasted over the charcoal grill. Whereas the SPARCDog is served on a hot dog boat, the SPARCBurger is served open-faced on a saucer-sized plate. Served from the grill, it is a basic burger; meat, cheese and a bun. With the available condiments, catsup, mustard, relish and onions, I could have made a McDonalds cheeseburger clone minus the dill chips. In used a swirl of catsup to moisten the burger but a small enough amount as to not change the flavor of the burger. It really wasn’t needed. The burger was cooked through but not overcooked, not dried out. The patty was still moist, the juices running clear. Ron, KP2N, seasons the patties with salt and pepper so no additional seasoning is needed. The burger was tasty. He also uses only Nathan's Hot Dogs.
In conversations with Ron, KP2N, he mentioned that he has done catering work in the past. Perhaps that experience is what he called on to set up his kitchen in the park. Raw meats are separate from the other foods, cooked or raw. The meat is kept in lots of ice. The cooked foods are kept in in insulated containers to keep them warm. The condiments are on yet another table. A large dispenser of handi-bleach wipes is in frequent use for surfaces and tools. Food is protected from cross contamination and the food is kept at safe temperatures to prevent spoilage. At first glance the cooking area looks a bit haphazard but there is a purpose to the arrangement, to provide safe food to the SPARCFest patrons. I give this year’s SPARCFest dogs and burgers a thumbs-up.

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