Over at the judges’ tent, things got busy right at 11 a.m. Saturday and continued through the day with the first group judging best taco, drink and “hot Nashville”; the second group, best vegetarian, dessert and smoked; the third group, best Goo Goo dish and best deep-fried; and the fourth group, best Yazoo dish and best "between bread."
The Bites winner of the judging slot, Barbara Please, and I were joined by Tabitha Tune of A La Mode Media, Matt Bolus of The 404 Kitchen and the Scene's Steve Cavendish. Along with lots of food, we had lots of laughs (I wish I could tell you, but judges' confidence and all). But the food … wow. I asked Cavendish how he got stuck with me and he said he actually requested to judge the vegetarian category. I’m sure he’s glad he did.
First up, though, there were a couple of trucks that got their dessert entries and vegetarian entries confused, so we started out with some ice creams. One of those ice creams was a Grape Nuts ice cream with a rum cake (from Riddim N Spice). It didn’t win the category, but Matt Bolus was so impressed, he could barely contain his excitement. (Really, I thought he was being sarcastic, but he loved that ice cream.) After everyone got their bites, I stashed the rum cake in a to-go box and brought it home.
Among the other standouts (for me) were a grilled cheese on pesto bread, a stuffed red pepper, a fried avocado taco, a watermelon salad, a panko-crusted curry pocket, a fried tofu salad, fried mushroom, and tomato pie. The tomato pie from Delta Bound, curry pocket (Riffs’ kare pan), and grilled cheese (from Two Guys in a Lunchbox) ended up being the winners.
Next up, desserts. We saw a couple of repeats from the vegetarian category, including an Almond Joy sundae. My favorites included a white layer cake with raspberries, an apricot layer cake with candied nuts, a cheesecake with a caramel swirl, two different granitas, a watermelon and a horchata granita, a Goo Goo cookie sandwich, and a chocolate pudding with homemade marshmallow and graham cracker.
The winners turned out to be the Almond Joy sundae from Bradley’s Curbside Creamery, the dulce de leche cheesecake from Hoss’ Loaded Burgers, and The Grilled Cheeserie’s s’mores pudding.
Finally, the best smoked entries (to the great delight of all the omnivores at the table) were up last. The category started with a bang thanks to a pork belly bite that my proxy judge (my husband) groaned about for hours as one of the best things he's eaten in a while. He also really enjoyed a cheesy bacon bruschetta topped with pickled okra, several different tacos, and some chicken wings and legs that he said were as good (maybe better) than the wings at Martin’s. The winners in this category were Smoke Et Al’s smoked brisket taco, The Grilled Cheeserie’s “6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon Melt,” and The Mobile Chef, which I assume was either the pork belly or the chicken. Whoever entered the smoked watermelon salad gets a thumbs-up from me for a worthy entry that I’m glad I got to try. Special shout-out also to the folks who brought the vegan chorizo and beans and rice entry to the dessert table (it was disqualified) because it made a great dinner for me later!
Here’s a list of all the winners:
1. Delta Bound (Delta fried catfish tacos with creole slaw, roasted sweet corn salsa and comeback sauce)
2. Riffs Fine Street Food (Japanese wonton pork belly tacos)
3. Smoke Et Al (BLT tacos with pork belly, local heirloom tomatoes, feta and arugula)
BEST HOT NASHVILLE
1. Deg Thai (honey spare ribs)
2. Delta Bound (spicy catfish on a brown sugar pecan biscuit with hot pepper jelly and sriracha honey drizzle)
3. Retro Sno (Red Hot sno ball: cinnamon simple syrup made from pure cane sugar with hot chili oil, topped with whip cream, dusted with red pepper and red hot candies)
1. Smoke Et Al (strawberry watermelon granita, cucumber lime ice, basil oil, lemon salt)
2. Grilled Cheeserie (preserved Meyer lemon and peach lemonade with mint and ginger beer)
3. Delta Bound (ginger peach iced tea)
1. Delta Bound (heirloom tomato pie)
2. Riffs Fine Street Food (kare pan — Japanese curry bread)
3. Two Guys in a Lunchbox (grilled basil pesto cheese bread with mixed vegetables)
1. Bradley’s Curbside Creamery (Almond Joy Sundae — coconut ice cream, homemade chocolate fudge sauce and toasted almonds)
2. Hoss’ Loaded Burgers (dulce de leche cheesecake with scratch-made salted caramel sauce and graham crumbles)
3. Grilled Cheeserie (s’mores pudding with bruleed marshmallow and homemade graham cracker)
1. Smoke Et Al (smoked brisket ‘burnt ends’ with homemade pickle, smoked garlic confit and red onion marmalade)
2. Grilled Cheeserie ( "6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon Melt"- house smoked cheddar, sassafras BBQ glazed thick cut bacon, fried onions, spicy pickled okra on sourdough)
3. The Mobile Chef
BEST GOO GOO CLUSTER
1. Pita Pit (Goo Goo ice cream sandwich - vanilla bean ice cream (made with Hatcher Family Dairy cream), sandwiched between two peanut butter oatmeal cookies with dark chocolate, Peanut Butter Goo Goo Cluster chunks and a sprinkle of sea salt. Edges rolled in additional Peanut Butter Goo Goo Cluster crumble)
2. The Rolling Feast (chipotle ricado and peanut crusted rack of lamb with Goo Goo Cluster mole)
3. Delta Bound (Mississippi-Tennessee Mud Pie made with Original Goo Goo Clusters)
BEST DEEP FRIED
1. Delta Bound (boudin balls with creole mustard aioli)
2. Grilled Cheeserie (fried pimento mac and cheese balls with a houuse pickle and hot sauce)
3. Waffle Boss (deep fried meatball calzone)
1. Delta Bound (peanut butter pretzel tart with Yazoo Sly Rye caramel and herb candied peanuts)
2. Smoke Et Al (Yazoo Pale Ale cooked noodles, Yazoo Sue mustard, Gerst cheese sauce and smoked Cheetos)
3. Pita Pit (smoked cheddar Philly - grilled Philly steak, sauteed onions, mushrooms and green peppers slathered in a spicy, smokey cheddar beer sauce made with Yazoo's Hefeweizen, topped with fresh tomatoes, pepper jack, and a hit of mayonnaise, rolled in a soft pita)
BEST BETWEEN BREAD
1. Tiger Meat (traditional Chicago hot dog)
2. Confeastador (lamb burger: smoked aioli, herbed chèvre, candied sweet peppers, topped with arugula in truffle vinaigrette)
3. Dawg Daze (Greek Dawg: Nathans all beef hot dog served on fresh baked bun, topped with fresh cucumbers, feta cheese and homemade tzatziki sauce)
BEST OF THE BEST (based on number of wins)
1. Delta Bound
2. Smoke Et Al
3. Grilled Cheeserie