Sometimes you've gotta take one for the team. That was the case when I was asked to be a judge at the Rock N' Roll Beer-B-Que at the Seminole Hard Rock this past weekend. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing bad about lots of barbecue, and the Hard Rock puts on some good food festivals, making sure that everyone has plenty to eat, the beer flows, and the music plays.
But no matter how much fun, judging these competitions means not only eating the amazing offerings, it means eating everything. That breaks down to about a dozen pork dishes, 11 chicken offerings, and about a dozen different rib and brisket plates. Any way you slice it, that's a lot of brisket...and wings...and ribs...and pulled pork.
Judging with me were members of the Florida BBQ Association (yes, there is a Florida BBQ Association and these members knew their way around meat), Marty & Karen Hyde and Clifford Burke. Also judging the competition was blogger Jeff Eats.
Each item was judged for appearance, taste, and texture, with an overall score given for each item. The meat came fast and furious in a continuous parade of pork, chicken, and beef.
There were interesting offerings, like the pork sandwiches presented on a whole suckling pig.
Some restaurants were, shall we say....lacking in their presentation skills.
Some restaurants got a little too creative. A good example of "too much of a good thing" were the fried ribs. Boneless ribs were rolled in cornmeal and deep fried. According to the judges from the Florida BBQ Association, technically they should have been disqualified because of the bone removal.
Another no-no is using very hot sauce. "It tends to burn out the taste buds", said judge Marty Hyde. "Then I can't properly judge anything that comes after." Hmmm - maybe that's part of the strategy.
What does go over well? Meat cooked until it's fall off the bone perfect, with the right equation of sweet/spicy/smokey.
The overall winner? The Hard Rock Cafe's pork sandwich, which was sweet and juicy. Most unique award went to Whiskey Tango for their suckling pig sandwich, served on a rosemary herb bread.
The judges after debating on the overall winner. Time for a beer.
Florida BBQ Association's Marty Hyde takes his judging seriously. Look at this bling.
This chicken was dancing as his brethren were being grilled and consumed.
The complete list of winners are:
Best Brisket: Bokampers
Best Ribs: Bokampers
Best Pork: Hard Rock Cafe
Best Chicken: Smokey Bones
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Best Overall: Hard Rock Cafe
Most Unique: Whiskey Tango
Fan Favorite: Bokampers