Wednesday, May 12, 2010
If you follow me on Twitter, Kellyology, you know that I was was a-twitter with excitement about judging at the Bixby BBQ ‘n' Music Festival last Saturday.
And let me tell you, the festival did not disappoint. It was a beautiful day when I arrived at Washington Irving Park, and as I was making may way through the people and the many,
Mmm, funnel cakes!
Hey! That's Guy Fieri from The Food Network!
So hard not to butt in front of all of the kids in line.
...the smell of barbecue floating through the air made my mouth water.
Staying focused, I managed to make it to the tent I was looking for: The judges' tent.
I’m glad I arrived early as the line to sign in was long. Chad Marazas, a member of the Bixby Rotary, said to me, “Don’t worry. There’s going to be a 30 minute training session, and you’ll figure everything out.” Apparently I looked nervous, surrounded by mostly official Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS for short) judges.
I mean, I’m just a little ol' Okie blogger. What do I know about good barbecue? And from what I’d seen on BBQ Pitmasters on TLC, this barbecue cooking business is serious.
After signing in, picking up my judging supplies,
...getting shuffled around by experience to make the judging tables even,
...and listening to a little pep talk from Lou Miller from KCBS,
I found myself sitting among some very experienced barbecue tasters. They were more than happy to give this little lady some tasting advice.
“You are probably going to taste some of the best barbecue you have ever tasted,” said Tom Sigmon from Springdale, Arkansas. Tom spends most of his weekends traveling to various barbecue championships. “And if you remember only one thing as you taste this barbecue, probably the best restaurant barbecue you have ever had will score only a 6 (an average score on a scale from 1 to 10) at any KCBS barbecue competition.”
I then asked, “So what you’re saying is, all barbecue restaurants are going to be ruined for me forever?”
He replied, “Most definitely. You’re going to want to get your KCBS membership.”
As we waited for the food to arrive I listened to the judges around me talk about their past experiences. They talked about mystical competitions where not only do you get to judge the barbecue, but the sides as well.
They talked of places where there are up to 10 rounds of tastings. Then they listed what they thought were the best barbecue competitions. What struck me as funny was that most of "best" competitions seemed to have a dessert category as well. And these judges seated next to me? They seemed especially partial to the pie category. They were certainly men after my own heart.
Finally the food arrived and before each round was served I was reminded of what to look for. For all of the meats we were looking for three main things:
Was the presentation appetizing?
Was the meat tender, but not over or under cooked?
And how was that flavor?
We had 5 categories at the Bixby BBQ ‘n' Music competition: Sausage, chicken, ribs, pork, and brisket. There were nearly 100 cooks cooking at this competition, and my table got to try as many as seven tastings of each category. After the first two categories, the gentleman were curious to see how I had been scoring my food.
After all of the score cards had been turned in, I told them which pieces of meat I had enjoyed the most. Much to my surprise, my top pics were the same as most at the table. “You have a good palate,” one of them commented. I felt relieved, and began to enjoy the rest of the competition even more.
Needless to say, after the five categories of tasting were over, I was completely full and completely happy. I grabbed my free bottle of bloody mary mix, a thank-you for the judges as provided by Bixby Rotary, said goodbye to the gentlemen I had been eating with most of the day, and I packed up my to go boxes.
Oh, did I forget to mention that judges got to take all of their leftovers home with them for their future enjoyment?
As I walked to my car, watching all of the pit masters packing up their cooking sites, I was sad that my judging time was over. I was especially sad that I would never know who made the sausage that perfectly crispy on the outside and flavorfully tender on the inside, or that perfectly cooked chicken breast with the delicious flavor permeating through out, or that perfectly cooked rib that had me licking it clean to the bone.
You see, there is only one bad bad part about being judge at a KCBS competition. You will never know who cooked the delicious food that you have just eaten. The judging and tasting? It’s blind.
I started to understand why many of the guys at my table went weekend after weekend to these competitions all over the country. It wasn’t just for the funny team names I saw as I walked through the pitt masters camp sites.
And it wasn’t for the pie that you can only get at that one BBQ festival-hosting town. The only way to have the barbecue experience that I had again is to become an official KCBS judge. And as of right now, they might have me sold.
If you’re interested in becoming a Kansas City Barbecue Society judge, visit their website. Maybe you can join me at future barbecue tastings, like the Art of Barbecue in Tulsa September 24-25, or at the Tulsa BBQ Challenge July 9-10.
In the meantime, there is the downtown Bixby restaurant that won this year's People's Choice.
In fact, right now, that's sounding pretty good to me.
Kelly writes Kellyology.net, a blog about life in Oklahoma, motherhood and the general stuff of life, and she's a founding member of The Real Housewives of Oklahoma. She joins us here at TDT as The Southie, covering all the event news that's fit to blog from south of 71st Street.