I’ll be the judge of that June 3, 2011Posted by Peeps in Food, random stuff, Rochester.
Over the Memorial Day weekend, I got to enjoy a new experience.
A few weeks ago, I heard an ad on the radio for the Roc City Rib Fest. In addition to the normal encouragement to attend, the ad mentioned that they were looking for judges for the competition. This sounded kind of interesting, so I mentioned it to my wife. And on a lark a few days later, she signed me up. There was a small payment required, that was to go to charity.
A day or so later, I got an email saying that I had been accepted as a judge for RibFest. It mentioned that there would be instruction on the judging process and that I could take home leftovers. Dude! Leftovers!
So, I showed up at the appointed place at the appointed time.
I signed in and was told to go into the judging tent. I found a chair at a partly occupied table and sat down to wait.
One of the men at the table leaned over and told me that he hoped that I was ready, because they take this sort of thing very seriously. And I replied that I owed not one, but two smokers, and that I do indeed take this seriously.
Shortly thereafter, our table of people was asked to move to make sure that all the judging tables were full, according to the rules. Okay, so I ended up with other strangers. Not a problem.
We then got a short speech on how this was supposed to work.
Now, I already knew that barbecue competitions can get pretty intense, but I had no idea just how picky they really are.
We were told that we were judging on appearance, taste and tenderness on a scale from 2 to 9. Really? 1 to 10 was already taken?
We were to judge each entry on its own merits, and that we were not allowed to change what we wrote down. Okay. Fine.
They explained that it was a double blind judging, so that we would have no idea what we were tasting. Whatever.
As container of ribs started coming in, we were then in the charge of a certified judge, one per table. Water, paper towels and saltine crackers were placed on our table, along with our official judging plate.
Looks kind of like a place mat to you too, doesn’t it? I’m glad it’s not just me. After I took the picture of the “plate”, our table captain told me that there was to be no picture taking during that actual judging. To make sure that no one ever found out who scored what for who. Whatever. I really didn’t want to get rib goo on my wife’s camera anyway. She might hurt me.
They then passed out scoring cards and pencils. You recall that I mentioned that you couldn’t change your scores? Someone apparently got paid to remove the erasers from all the pencils they passed out. Wow.
Oh, and they mentioned that licking your fingers was not allowed. While eating ribs? Come on.
Okay, our table viewed and tasted eight different samples of the pit masters’ art. And here’s what I came away with.
First, there were no leftovers. Bogus.
There were two, maybe three entries I tried that were really good. I would have been happy if I got these in a restaurant.
There were a bunch that were okay. As long as the price wasn’t ridiculous, I wouldn’t object to paying for them.
And then there were two that were terrible. The only saving grace they had was that they were in fact cooked. That’s it. And I was sad. If you spend the money to be in competition, one would hope that you’d tried your cooking on more than just your family.
I came away from this whole thing with two observations. One, I can do better than most of the entries that I tried. My ribs need work, I’m the first one to admit. But on my worst day, I can easily do better than the two samples I hated.
And second, if I ever do this again, I will make sure to stop for beer before I get to the judge’s tent. Ribs without beer are not as good.
Oh, and I’m really glad the judging wasn’t on Memorial Day itself. Because I got to miss this. I might have gotten annoyed.