Bashing Out Some Killer 'Cue

It was an honor to be invited to judge the 2017 Binghamton BBQ Bash, a fundraiser for the Family Enrichment Network, at Traditions at the Glen this past weekend. The event was overseen by the Kansas City Barbeque Society, an organization that runs the majority of the most prestigious BBQ competitions in the country. Because the KCBS was running the judging, they gave the local judges on the panel a tutorial on how to judge an official BBQ contest, and boy, do I know my smoked meats now!

The competitors were Big Dipper, Saucy Hog BBQ, The Belmar Pub, Ozzie’s Brisket BBQ, Binghamton Hots, Muffer’s Kitchen, Marilu’s Catering, and Smokey Legend Gourmet BBQ.

Our judging was double blind, meaning the entries were received, renamed, and then renamed again so that we didn’t know where the food in front of us came from and could be completely unbiased in our assessment of appearance, taste, and texture.

There were quite a few rules insofar as the mechanics of judging went, beginning with the mandate that we not wear sunglasses, with a hilarious BBQ oath in the middle, and a directive on how to arrange our water bottles before we were done. But learning the ropes from the pros was really fun. We judged in two categories: meats and sides. Smokey Legend Gourmet BBQ took home the judges’ prize for Grand Champ BBQ, while Marilu’s Catering won Best Side Dish for its hot potato salad. I also really like Muffer’s Kitchen’s corn bread, with its little chunks of fresh corn, but I know some of the judges felt like it was too cake-y, without enough cornmeal in the mix to count as corn bread.

Smokey Legend’s brisket was almost overwhelmingly seasoned with black pepper and cumin when I tasted what they were serving to the event attendees after our judging was over, but if its offering was one of the two I liked best when judging; it was moist, tender but not mushy, and really beefy.  The baked beans from Smokey Legend were not my cup of tea however – too much ketchup flavor in there made them too tangy without enough depth for me.

The Family Enrichment Network provides supportive services for the optimal development of children and families, running head start programs, community clinics, special education services and even food programs. What a wonderful organization to support on a sunny, not-too-hot Saturday, and I’m so grateful to have met all the certified KCBS judges from around New York State – we had lots of good foodie conversation in our tent before the judging got underway. Congrats to all the winners! What your favorite local BBQ?

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