I was excited to visit my first food competition event. This was in Temecula, CA. I guess that’s kinda appropriate. There were many competitors and a handful of vendors. Busy but not crowded.
The event was scheduled from 10am to 6pm. We arrived, hungry, at 1pm to find most of the chicken was gone. Having just rocked out on the drive up, the last song on the satellite was OG (that’s Original Gangsta) Gin and Juice by Snoop. He cracks me up whenever I hear this tall, skinny dude with dread locks (imagining him in his video). Now fired up, I’m entering the event to a very good sounding band inside playing some Doobies. Kinda synonymous! I was ready for some food. I was hoping to sample some good, and even great, BBQ. I didn’t want to have the “fair” type of BBQ plate that comes with a half-ear of frozen corn and a turkey leg.
I was happy to find that purchasing entry ($5 each) and several (8) sampling tickets for $10, and an additional (3) rib tickets for another $10. Classic case of eyes bigger than the stomach. My wife and I purchased two sets of tickets…$70 bucks total. Yup 16 regular (pulled pork, chicken, tri-tip, brisket, sausage etc.) samples and 6 rib samples. Had I known the sample sizes we approximately 4oz each I would have done the quick math. That’s 8 samples X 4oz = 32oz (i.e. about 2lbs) of food each, and then the ribs. My wife said she had only received one rib sample from the displays for each ticket, but I received two. Some a bit meatier than others, but I now had nowhere to put it. I just kept taking it all in and eating with my fingers, then the sauces moved to my wrists and forearms. I was really having an issue trying to navigate 1) samples, 2) walking, 3) cold beer, 4) liking my elbows, 5) talking, 6) taking a picture or two and finally, try to keep my white t-shirt (big mistake) clean and wipe my hands with a napkin. Does anyone have a “moist towelette”? Not one friggin moist towelette in the joint. I quickly spot a set of out-houses with the sink stand in front. You know…the kind with the foot pump for water. I just kept pumping and pumping. Just my luck!…no water and no towels. At 1pm,…really? The line to get in was still stacked up and there was no chicken, no water and no moist toweletts. I was starting to get claustrophobic and then started in with the anxiety attacks. “I need a moist towelette”. Luckily there were napkins around at most of the sampling booths. We knew we would be out in the sun so both my wife and I wore white shirts. With all of the licking and finger sampling she escaped unscathed, yet I received only one small BBQ sauce ornament on the bottom edge of my shirt. It wasn’t until we were in the event 10 minutes, and our second sampling, when we realized we had dressed inappropriately; and next time, we’re gonna carry along a fist-full of moist toweletts.
We ended up finding a take-out style container to pile in the remaining 3lbs of food we didn’t eat, so we could have it later at home with the kids. The BBQ was good but realized upon departure that we had loaded up on proteins only. I think I had one very small tortilla (a pulled pork taco) with a small bit of cabbage on top. Other wise I must have eaten 1lb of various pulled pork samples alone. Then on top of that I had some tri-tip, some brisket and maybe only 1 rib. Finally…CHICKEN!, I finally found someone with CHICKEN! I quickly began to talk with the purveyor about what I might encounter with this chicken so I ask, “what kind of chicken you got here?” He says, “BBQ chicken”. I rephrase my question, “where’s it from?” The guy looked at me confused so I quickly pounced on him and said, “is this Southern or Northern Idaho chicken?” I continued to perplex this big hillbilly, probably from one of the local area’s like Chula Vista. Nothing against Chula Vista, but most of the contestants were from surrounding areas…so I had to pick somewhere! I continue, “I don’t believe California chicken is the way to go”. “Only chicken from Idaho or the Michigan area, there along the lakes”. This big cross-eyed dude wanted to stab me in the ear with his tongs… but instead, reached in the bowel and handed me a small taste of his dried concoction saying, “it’s thigh meat”. Finally I got my answer; but was given the most overcooked, tasteless piece of chicken thigh meat I think I have ever experienced. Next booth…
I finally spoke with someone who explained to me that the chicken is the first to be presented to the judges, thus it’s the first to be distributed as samples and is mostly gone this time of day. I assumed the ribs must have been the second item up for judging because by the time we left, most of the ribs were now gone. I felt bad for those entering the event after we left (2:30pm) because there was beginning to be a limited supply of most of the BBQ. The only thing these people were gonna get was the frozen corn-on-the-cob on a stick…mmmm yuck!
Overall, what did I think? Other than seeing every known BBQ grill contraption except a simple 22″ Weber Grill (my forte’), I thought BBQ sauce comes in many renditions…many, many, many renditions. Everyone’s is the best. I remember only three things distinctly. 1) I had one pulled pork that I thought in my mind would have been exceptional in a sandwich with just the perfect pickle. I don’t know what kind of pickle, I would’ve had to experiment. 2) One brisket was actually very flavorful, moist and tender (fatty, but tender). 3) Bring moist toweletts!
This event gets 4 heads of broccoli, cause I’m going to need something to help things out…Now THAT’s funny!