….because right now, I feel hungover. A meat, smoke, rub, sauce hangover.
It is an unbelievable weekend, and this year, we took our learnings from last year, and had our act together. Apart from one small hiccup, which could have been disastrous – the weekend was an unmitigated success. We saw some folks we’d met last year, and made new friends this year. It’s really a lot of fun, and has been the Christmas gift that keeps on giving!
The hiccup was at the very start of the judging, when we arrived at 11:05 for the Invitational Meats judging. One woman working the entry to the judges’ tables barked at us, “You’re LATE!” I was all, “Surely she is speaking to someone else!” Because our paperwork said we were to check in between 11 & 11:30. So we got our aprons & pins, and stood in line. They called out if there were any husbands & wives together (we raised our hands), and I got accelerated to the front of the line. Again, nothing alarming or unusual; we’re not allowed to sit together. I get seated, greet my tablemates, and get out my book for signing. Then I see James come in with his group of 6, and I found out shortly thereafter that his table was the last table in the door.
Whoa. There was some screw-up with turn-in times and they seated the judges way earlier than announced. He would have been crushed if he’d missed the cut-off. (And mad at me, who was all, “WE DON’T NEED TO ARRIVE SO FLIPPIN’ EARLY”) As it was, we met numerous people who arrived after us who were turned away and were PISSED. So, I know two things – next year, we’ll be crazy early, and two, the KCBS folks are prolly gonna get some angry letters.
We judged chicken, ribs, pork shoulder & brisket. Wisely, we’d brought insulated coolers, ice, baggies and a wet washcloth in a separate baggie. (Which drew envious admiration both days…. a little trick we learned last year.) The chicken in general was outstanding; most of the meat was above average or better. Then we judged sides, and our table got three different potato dishes that were basically inedible. The first was beautifully presented, but sweet potatoes are more of a gamble in the ‘tater category, and if you overspice them and whip them to the consistency of baby food – eesh. The second was underdone. As in, raw. Ah, no. The third, another sweet potato, was sauced with pure cayenne pepper that left my mouth on fire for quite some time afterward. My seat mates and I were all in agreement, at least.
The big drama comes with desserts, and after the bad sides, we were getting a little pessimistic, joking that we were gonna end up with pudding, tapioca, jello and vanilla ice cream. And as we watched massive dessert after dessert come in, I think a little part of us inside hoped beyond hope that we, too, would get an elaborate three-tiered cheesecake, or a large torte. Our table captain didn’t even get in line until, well, she was last. (grumble, grumble.) So what did we get? Banana pudding. Strange slivers of fruit tart. Flavorless vanilla ice cream mixed with unripe peaches. And six measly grilled peach quarters. James, on the other hand, got large-scale productions (including one that had a solid chocolate cow from Annedores as GARNISH. FOR EACH PERSON.) My hope is that next year will be a different story, but I was definitely disappointed.
Today’s Open competition included sausage, which I was dreading. I don’t normally enjoy this category, on the heels of last year’s submissions (two were so spicy I thought my head might explode, and all of them made me burp unpleasantly.) Sorry for the overshare, but there it is. Again, the chicken was fantastic, we had one awful, almost inedible rib, I almost got a hand cramp trying to pull one piece of brisket (lawzy was it tough), and then…. along came the sausage. And the one entry I gave a “9” to for appearance? Was without a doubt the best sausage I have ever tasted in my life. It was the only thing I gave all 9’s to, and I am still rather blown away by how good it was. We swung by Culver’s for a palate-cooling cone, I put away our extra baggies of meat, and we promptly fell asleep.
The other crazy thing that parallels over-imbibing alcohol is how much water you ultimately consume. During judging, and then once you get home. I feel like I’ve been on some Atkins-cleansing diet for three days. The only thing that sounded remotely appealing tonight was some fruit, and I expect tomorrow will be a meatless day.
And, much like being drunk, I could only do one thing when we hit the radio to hear the Chiefs-Panthers score: laugh hysterically. (34-0. Oy.)