Archive for the ‘Volunteer Events’ Category

Your Beans and Mystery Meat Need Help

In Food, Volunteer Events on 02/05/2012 at 3:15 pm

For the past two years, your very own HTF has been moonlighting as a BBQ judge.  The first experience was at the San Antonio BBQ Cook-Off, reviewed here.

Since then, I have picked up on a few things which might be helpful for anyone out there who participates in these types of things or has just been generally intrigued by the whole thing.

Since I still claim to be no expert whatsoever, let’s name these the Seven Highly Recommended Suggestions  (and Three Commandments for Judges).

1.  Taste, texture, smell AND visual representationMultiple things get reviewed.  Utensil in hand, the lid is peeled off and BAM!  There is the mighty First Impression, which is (completely unscientifically) calculated at 82% of the overall score.  If it looks weird, it’s probably going to taste weird (even if it really doesn’t).  Here’s a trick: put the food in the container that will get turned in.  Set it to the side for about ten minutes.  Sit down and open it.  Look at it like it’s the first time.  Then you will see what we judges do.  Remember there is no ambiance for us, just a throwaway container and a scorecard.

2.  Bacon is not your savior – Ok, bacon is delicious. I know this, you know this.  And while bacon tends to put people in a happier place, it is not going to make the sun shine, the flowers bloom or your weirdly cooked meat the winner.  There is no magic ingredient, so before you get all crazy and start slapping bacon around everything piece of shrimp, jalapeno and quail breast, just remember, the person next to you is probably doing the same.

3.  Distractions – Just like in real life, under the judges tent, distractions are everywhere.  Tables with chatty judges, MCs who wont stop spouting the rules over and over, saltine fatigue, water bloat and problematic toothpicks.  Not to mention eyeballing the person before you to ensure they didn’t double dip their spoon or fork or worse, get all touchy touchy with their (gasp!) fingers.  Make your entry a sound bite, something that is immediately interesting and tasty looking.

4.  Now is not the time for experimentation – Know your audience.  Most of the time, simple is good.  Simple is also, surprisingly enough, not very common.  Everyone is boarding the crazy train to make themselves outstanding.  But here’s the thing: the judges can not compare entries to one another, which means if it is just delicious, it will get a high score.  Which will move you into the next round.  I’m looking at you, Beans people.  I had burned beans, super sweet beans, beans that smelled like Earl Grey tea and beans that had the color of a misty day.  But if I had a beans with a little cilantro, onion and jalapeno, they would have received a score at least three points higher than any other.

5.  Look for loopholesThe rules of each cook-off are a bit different.  Be creative within the limits of the law.  Sometimes a You Pick It category allows for dessert.  Bust out something interesting!  Now, this does not contradict the suggestion regarding experimentation.  If you are doing a standard entry, try simple.  If you are looking for wacky, make it good.

6.  Think like a judge – Judges are only allowed one bite of an entry.  That’s right, one little nibble of that delicacy of your blood, sweat and tears, delivered with kid gloves.  So make each bite count.  Better yet, tell us your best bites: cut up little pieces for us.  All we get is plastic cutlery so ready-to-go selections allows for personal preference like middle or ends, instead of hacking away at a slab of meat just for a taste.

7.  Don’t be the worst – Judges talk.  Occasionally the really awesomes make an appearance in the exodus discussion but what we really go on and on about are the bad ones.  Number 11 for beans, hello are you out there?  Although you have no idea those beans were yours, let me tell you, they were TERRIBLE.  Seriously bad.  Burned, grey, leaving everyone at the table stumbling for a carrot and fresh bottle of water.  Be noble and don’t submit burned food.

Now for the Judges:

1.  Don’t touch the food.  Seriously, gross.

2.  Stop talking.  It is hard enough to factor multiple items of one bite of anything, score, cleanse a palate and wipe your memory.  Your prattle is not helping.

3.  Don’t be a jerkface.  Judge an entry on its individual merit, not how you would have done it or like it.  Remember, people work hard on this stuff and not just for the duration of the event.

Keep those containers and green grapes coming!  See you at the ***** Cook-Off!

“The Evil Side of Orville Redenbacher” medical fact – Popcorn Lung is a really bad thing and could result in a lung transplant.


To the Rodeo and Back

In Food, Volunteer Events on 02/07/2010 at 11:33 am

Saturday I participated in my last two rodeo events of the year: a 1.6 mile walk/ Stampede and volunteering at the Fajita Corral.

The walk was an enjoyable jaunt with friends, the highlights being the exercise to justify my early morning chorizo/potato and bean/cheese/bacon tacos and the free Lone Star Light at the finish line.  There nothing quite like quick walking in the cool morning sunshine with enjoyable company to a finish line stocked with beer and sausage wraps (due to the aforementioned tacos, I did not imbibe on sausage, which as loyal readers know, can potentially ruin my day).

After a quick nap and lunch, I headed back to the grounds to volunteer with two buds at the Fajita Corral.  Stationed at the execution point, I drifted between making beef fajita, brisket and chicken fajita tacos but mostly created chicken.  Something to the tune of over 2,000 apparently.  That’s Meat Grab, Pinch the tortilla, Roll into the foil, Tuck ends and Pass.  Making this many tacos requires the basics of busy: standing for 5.5 hours, bathroom breaks which require sneaking out and a line of people continuously out the door.  This was by far one of the most organized events I have volunteered and all the committee members were very appreciative.  Ultimately my only complaint, minus the screaming feet and lower back, was the confusion with volunteer food.  We made a WHOLE LOT of tacos yet no one could tell us if we could have one or if we had to pay/wait in line or received a (measly) dollar discount.  I did really enjoy the people and fully support the scholarship behind it.

Needless to say, Saturday was busy and fun and now its Sunday so I’m hibernating and writing my blog (two posts, yeah!).

I-guess-I-have-to-quit-saying-its-Sarah trivia:  Muhammad is the most common given name in the world.


In Food, Volunteer Events on 01/30/2010 at 5:07 pm

Last night was the first public day of the San Antonio Rodeo BBQ Cook-Off. http://www.sarodeo.com/annual/2010_bbq_cookoff.html

As mentioned, I signed up to judge two categories which was more of an interesting insight into food judging rather than an adventure in palate manipulation.  First, after having the usual amount of confusion associated when volunteering at a large, annual event, my friend and I found the tent to sign in.  It was very cold out with a biting windy, and while we were both given two beer tickets, we were not allowed inside the tent for another 45 minutes or so.

The first category was Beans.  Although we were supposed to judge the quarters, we ended up being overflow and judged semis instead.  Apparently this was beneficial because several quarters judges commented afterwards that there had been some serious stinkers.  A short time later I judged the You Pick it category which included any types of meat “except a fully jointed half chicken, beef brisket, or pork ribs.”  Unfortunately there is no indicator of what meat is being tasted but there was definitely some cabrito (delicious baby goat) and pork tenderloin.

So this is how you judge food at the San Antonio Rodeo BBQ Cook-Off:

  1. Sit down at a table of five.  Remove all personal items from the table and put whatever beverage you brought in on the ground.  These things can not be touched until the end of the judging.
  2. In front of you is a flat cardboard box (the kind cokes come in), a plastic cup with water the table monitors constantly refill, saltines, a full cup of plastic silverware and a scorecard with a pencil.
  3. After noting which your table number and which position at the table you are (shout out to my fellow judges at Table BB!), you are handed a container similarly labeled.
  4. Open the container in front of you, take a spoon/fork/knife and get a bite of whatever is in there.
  5. Toss the spoon, recover the container and pass it to the next person.
  6. Savor and rank.
  7. Take a sip of water, eat a cracker to cleanse.
  8. Repeat 24 to 19 times, Beans and Mystery Meat respectively.
  9. Upon completion, waddle outside.

As an amateur, I think I did pretty well pacing myself during the meat category by taking small, flavorful pieces.  Nothing completely blew my skirt up, which was disappointing.  Beans did entail some green pintos (while I give props to the tomatillos use, it didn’t make your frijoles outstanding).  Both categories were very fast paced.

Afterwards I had to sit down with a beer for a while.  Whew!  Maybe I’ll do pie next year…

Random fact: In 1937, San Francisco residents voted to no longer build cemeteries within the city proper.