BBQ Events: Judging the Snowshoe: II
So, we've talked about the first two entries fish and fattie, now let's talk about the beef and vegetables.
Beef - any cut was the contest requirement. There were some discussions over on the NEBS mailing list about people submitting some of the more esoteric cuts of beef, but unfortunately that didn't come to fruition. I was looking forward to the threatened submission of tongue. I enjoy tongue and would have liked to see some experimenting in this category.
We received six beef steak entries. All of them were ice cold. Not a little cold, but ice cold. The winds must have picked up outside or the temperatures dipped significantly, because the fish entry half an hour earlier were all fairly warm. Fortunately for the cooks, temperature is not a consideration in judging.
We had a mix the usual of steaks. One entry was presented almost as if you had bought it in a Chinese restaurant; as strips in a pile covered in teriyaki sauce. It was tough and overly sweet. A couple were just flavorless.
I hate to say this, but this category was a lousy sampling of steak. Having said that, except for one entry, not pictured here or mentioned above, I would have enjoyed eating any one of these at home. They weren't bad, but not one stands out in my mind for its flavor.
One steak remains in my memory because of the presentation box. Ya see, according to KCBS rules, meat can be presented with a garnish of green leaf lettuce, parsley and or cilantro. Most cooks fill the box with a mix of lettuce and parsley. In the box that stands out in my mind, which is pictured above, only the top half of the box had greenery with the steak fanning down from the lettuce and parsley.
I thought that was a very interesting presentation and one I was thinking about stealing for one of my cooks. But then it happened. When the box was presented and tilted so that the judges could get a good look, the meat slid around the box and ruined the presentation. Ha, right there in front of me was the best reason I know of for keeping the garnish, it holds the meat in place.
Now I hear the howls; "you're only supposed to judge the appearance of the meat, not the presentation of the box." I know I tried to do that, but I think that subconsciously a sloppy presentation affects the appearance of the meat. One other thing I notice about this box is that in the sunlight outside, you can see the grill marks and the pinkness of the meat. In the lighting of the judge's room, it just appeared dark and almost completely brown.
On to the vegetables. Yes, the Snowshoe always includes that nemesis of the pit master, vegetables. But you know what, before judging the Snowshoe two years ago, I thought that didn't like sweet potatoes. The Snowshoe showed me that I do.
This year's vegetable entries were a mixed bag. There were two entries that stood out for taste but both got hammered in the presentation category. First up was a stuffed long green pepper. It tasted very good and was cooked beautifully but it looked like crap. The peppers must have rolled around while they were in the box because the stuffing was everywhere and not too much remained in the pepper. What did remain of the stuffing was a little bland for my tastes, but that didn't hurt its score. A couple of the judges complained that the pepper was too spicy, but I didn't get that at all. There was some heat, but it wasn't overpowering.
Someone presented a vegetable lasagna that was absolutely beautiful. You could see where it was cut, but it looked whole and as if it was cooked in the presentation box. But because of that it was hard to get a whole piece out of the box. I noticed that some judges left the bottom layers in the box when taking their sample. They didn't miss anything. Unfortunately for all it's beauty, the only flavors I could get out of it was smoke. Bleah.
As expected, there was a stuffed mushroom entry. It was OK but nothing great. Last time we had some stuffed portabellos, this time it was standard white mushrooms.
Sweet potatoes were here again. One sweet potato entry was a sandwich with sweet potato slices serving as the bread and a sweet stuffing. It was OK, but the sweet potatoes were chalky, a bit undercooked and not very sweet.
The other sweet potato entry was the star of this category for me. It was a simple grilled slice of sweet potato with a sweet maple, I think, based sauce. Now this was it! This entry got a perfect score from me for taste and tenderness, but got hit hard in presentation. Again, I think this presentation suffered from the lighting in the judge's room. When it was presented, it just looked like a brownish slice of "something." What it was I had no idea.
The simplicity of this entry was surprising. Sometimes cooks, me included, forget that sometimes simple is best. I'm still pondering how the cook got such amazing flavors from just a slice of a potato.
So there you have it. One man's experience and thoughts about the food that was presented to him at the Snowshoe. I'm sure the other judges will have their own thoughts and opinions. Their opinions and conclusions are as valid as mine. We're all right.
Today's random barbeque link: Red Hot & Blue BBQ Grill. Be sure to come back Monday, ol' WhiteTrash has some exciting news for all of you.
The photograph of the steak is courtesy of Ted Lorson from the Q Haven BBQ competition team. You can check out Ted's blog and get his take on the Snowshoe and his entries here at Ted Lorson's Blog.