WTGW Special Event – Second Annual Scrumptuous Showdown, Aurora 6/2/18

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Folks, if you ever wonder to yourselves why we keep up this little food blog – I mean, other than to remind ourselves of the various mistakes we’ve made in our picks over the past 4+ years and all of the reasons why we should all truly be dead of heart attacks by this point – let this annual post serve as a reminder of the true reasoning behind our actions.

Food. Truck. Judging.

For the second consecutive year we were honored to be invited to serve as judges for the annual Scrumptious Showdown at Aurora Farms Outlet, a free event that offers a space for various local food trucks to open and sell food to patrons for few hours on a Saturday afternoon. Several awards are given out at the conclusion of the event (that’s where we come in), including a fan favorite voted on by the public (the one category we are not invited to judge). This is the event’s third year, and our second year serving as judges.

Celebrity status: activated.

Back off, commoners

The weather for this year’s event was cool and overcast, which was much more conducive to spending a few hours standing on blacktop stuffing ourselves silly than last year’s blazing hot sun and high 80 degree temperatures. I think we’re still trying to blame last year’s water intake for our stuffed-as-a-sausage feeling by the end of the day – even though in reality we know it was really our inexperience with the “it’s a marathon, not a sprint” philosophy that should accompany any event asking you to sample more than 20 foods in one short time span.

I know, it sounds great until the first time you do it. Trust me on this one.

Once again we were separated into two judging groups, with Shane, Ted and I serving as one team. Because we were return judges and hadn’t had the opportunity to eat our way through the “meat” category last year, the event organizers this year gave us that one to start with. We had six entries to judge in that group (while the other group of three judges worked their way through all of the “non-meat” sandwiches). Then the six of us judges combined forces to judge wraps (four entries) and desserts (four entries).

Just in case you don’t feel like using your math skills, that equals 14 samples in the course of about 90 minutes.

Hungry yet?

Now, if you’re like we were last year, you’re probably foolishly thinking that doesn’t sound like much. Don’t let the term “samples” throw you off. Several of these places are known to give out entire sandwiches, thus leaving it up to us to use the word “sample” as a verb of our own accord.

Can we just talk for a minute about how food you have to eat standing up could maybe be a little less messy?

Let’s just say we definitely learned last year to take the organizers up on their generous offering of to-go boxes.

So in this year’s meat category we tried a BBQ chicken sandwich from Jackpot Chicken, a “Judas beef” sandwich from Smokin’ Rock ‘n’ Roll, a sloppy joe from Hatfield’s, all-American burgers from Robesto’s, and a hot honey pepperoni pizza from DiLauro’s Pizzeria.

Our favorite – and winner of the category – was the Judas Beef. It was very tasty, the meat was smoked just to perfection and pretty much melted in your mouth.

Although we have to give props to Robesto’s for the presentation involved with their burgers. Mini root beer floats? Please.

This looks like something I would pin on Instagram under a ridiculously titled and never used board like “picnic goals.”

And special mention also goes out to DiLauro’s, for the amazingness that was their wood fired oven in a trailer. Let me say that again, in case you missed it: a full fledged wood fired pizza oven in the confines of trailer that gets hitched to the back of a truck. The entire group of judges made a pilgrimage to their truck to learn more about this engineering marvel that cooks a personal sized pizza in 90 seconds at 1000 degrees. Apparently it takes three hours to heat up, and then 4-5 DAYS to cool down. That’s right, while you’re at work for an entire week, this trailer is just literally chilling out, waiting to get back to normal temperature. But it’s fully insulated, so after the event they could just close up the sides and drive off. Like, oh here, let me just close up my giant oven and take it back to grandma’s house to park. Cool.

Engineers are smart people.

Pizza truck genius

I mean, come on. It’s a giant oven on wheels. How is that not amazing?

In the wraps category, we sampled a chorizo meatloaf wrap from Wrap It Up, chorizo balls with goat cheese from The Funky Truckeria and a gyro from Gyro George.

While I could appreciate the goal of putting together something different with the meatloaf wrap, honestly there was just way too much going on in that one. Tater tots, corn, sausage = overload. Like, hey, let’s put an entire meal into one flour tortilla and save ourselves the steps of having to actually take out a fork and eat it separately. Ted liked it, but probably more so because his other options were a basic gyro (that Shane was a bit salty this year skimped out on the entire meal of fries and baklava) and something filled with cheese.

Newsflash: the cheese item won. Because the rest of the group can appreciate a tasty cheese-filled item wrapped up and deep fried. Sorry, Ted.

On to dessert, where we were given fried naan from Chopati (who had already won over the non-meat group with their Indian sampling earlier), banana pudding from Hatfield’s, chocolate covered strawberry frozen yogurt from The Little Penguin, and strawberry custard from Stoddard’s.

Side note: can we only judge this category next year? Or at least do it first? Because it’s a little unfair to give us things like ice cream that are impossible to box up and save for later AFTER we’re already full from sampling the rest of the categories. Just sayin.

The Little Penguin truck was definitely the most original of the bunch, since it was essentially a mobilized soft serve frozen yogurt shop. Instead of paying by weight you just pay by container size, then step up to the side of the truck and fill the container yourself from the soft serve taps, then add a variety of toppings.

Where was this place when Ted and Shane had the famous 8 lb sundaes? Because it seems this route might’ve saved us some money.

The group was divided on the winner of the dessert category. It really came down to a toss up in the first two desserts (the naan and the banana pudding), since they were both delicious. Commence internal struggle. I think my pen hovered over the scorecard for what seemed like eternity as I tried to decide which to score higher.

By vote of whole group the naan took it.

Fried dough will always be a winner in my book

But we will surely see you in our dreams, banana pudding. Until we meet again.

I felt slightly less upset about the great banana pudding upset when Hatfield’s took home the fan favorite award, though. At least they got some recognition for their deliciousness.

So another fun year under our belts, and as always we are grateful to the presenters of the event for inviting us back and trusting our love of food as the basis of prestigious awards. Be sure to mark your calendars for Saturday, June 1, 2019, to come check out the fourth annual Scrumptious Showdown at Aurora Farms Outlets along with us. And definitely say hello if you see us there.

Do we look stuffed? Because we are.

In the meantime, if you see us out and about with giant tables of food in front of us, let;s just all agree that we’ll be considering it “training.”  Stop laughing.

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WTGW Special Edition – Second Annual Scrumptious Showdown 6/3/17

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OK, so you know how we often go into places and declare we’re ordering ALL THE FOOD because we’re so hungry? Or how many times the guys end up getting two full meals and an appetizer each, which prompts comments from me about the copious amounts of food we have at one table?

Well, I think we finally met our match.

A month or so ago I was contacted by one of the lovely marketing peeps at Aurora Farms Premium Outlets about our team from WTGW being food judges for their Second Annual Scrumptious Showdown – an event at the outdoor shopping center that invites various local food trucks to not only sell food to patrons but also be judged by a panel for the opportunity to win bragging rights and gift cards to Aurora Farms.

So of course we said yes – because, I mean, hello, have you met us? You want us to come out and eat stuff then tell you what we thought of it? Clearly we have no clue how that concept works.

Although I think we can all admit now that, while we know food, the concept we were a little clueless on was food judging. To say we were slightly unprepared for what we were getting ourselves into is like the astronauts of Apollo 13 telling Houston they have a problem. I mean, we obviously like food. But I don’t think in my whole life I have ever eaten so much in one 90 minute time span.

Must. Train. Better. Next. Time.

Anyway.

When we arrived on a beautiful, sunny Saturday we met not only our hosts from Aurora Farms, but also the rest of the judges. They had invited six judges total – all area food and event bloggers – and split us up into two sets of three for the judging so that all of us didn’t have to judge every category. Which at first we were like, wait, why, we got this. Uh, no. See above comment about ill-preparedness. Because about 45 minutes into the competition I realized the organizers were actually really smart people.

So our group had four categories to judge: best wrap, best vegetarian dish, best cold dessert, and best sweet treat. The other group had both the cold and sweet desserts along with us, and then “best between two buns,” which was sandwiches that weren’t wraps.

Everyone knows when you have a clipboard you’re official

At first I kinda thought we got the worse end of that deal – why do they get burgers and sandwiches while we get boring wraps? But in the end I think we lucked out, because not only were the wraps we tried far from boring, but also all of our trucks gave us so much food that we ended up filling several take home containers.

Seriously, So. Much. Food.

That’s right, back off, you ordinary people. Our gluttony will take over this table.

There were six entries in the wraps category alone. Six. Now, granted, it’s not like we had to eat a full wrap from each truck – but you’d be surprised how quickly a few bites of each flour tortilla filled sandwich can fill you up. Especially when what’s on the inside of those tortillas includes things like meats, cheeses (sorry, Ted) and even pasta. Um, OK.

So the six wraps we tried included a BBQ chicken mac & cheese wrap from Wrap It Up, a slow roasted beef and cheese wrap from Hatfield’s Goode Grub, a chicken wrap from Wholly Frijoles Mexican Street Food, an Open Faced Cuban wrap from Off the GRIDdle, Ahi Tuna Tacos from The Beachcomber Truck, and a gyro from Gyro George.

This is only my corner of the table

The three of us individually scored each item based not only on the taste, but also on things like the uniqueness and presentation. Hatfield’s scored the best on all of our sheets for the wraps – the flavor was out of this world, plus they were the only truck to actually send someone over to talk to us about the dish and how it was prepared, so that definitely scored them points for presentation. They ended up winning the category.

As far as other standouts, the mac and cheese burrito definitely got points for originality. And it should be noted that Ted The Cheese Hater’s first words were “well that cheese isn’t so awful,” which anyone who reads this blog regularly knows to be a compliment. This was also the first item we were presented with after we’d pretty much starved ourselves all morning to be ready for this event, so we had to remember to pace ourselves and not eat the entire thing at once. In the words of a wise person being interviewed by a TV station at a Browns tailgate (i.e.: me), “it’s a marathon not a sprint.”

Hmm, I want mac and cheese … no, I want a buffalo chicken wrap. Let’s put them together!

The Cuban got points for originality, but the meat was slightly dry. The chicken burrito was good, but lacked the uniqueness of some of the other wraps – if you’ve been to Chipotle, you’ve had this item. Ted liked the ahi tuna wrap … but Shane and I thought it lacked flavor. Although I do think mine was missing a lot of the pineapple-y sauce that Ted raved about, so there’s that. And the gyro was very tasty – but, again, it’s not that original (I mean, really, how can you change up a gyro?). But we did appreciate that he gave each of the three of us an entire gyro meal – a sandwich, cheesy fries and baklava – so you now that was going down as dinner later. Thanks, Gyro George. You may not have won the vote, but you won a special place in my stomach for that move.

In the vegetarian category we only had three entries – a stuffed mushroom served in a cute little mini martini glass from Robesto’s Catering, black bean tater tots with a dipping sauce from Off the GRIDdle, and a vegetarian taco from Wrap It Up. The guys were wowed by the mushroom – or maybe just the tiny doll sized martini glasses, it’s hard to say exactly, but they couldn’t stop raving about it. Meanwhile, I was more of a fan of the veggie taco. The sauce on it was so flavorful and a touch spicy without blowing your mouth up. We all thought the tots were super original – and also really good. Personally I would order those in any restaurant. So we were all across the board individually in our scoring, but after the votes were tabulated later it seemed the mushroom in the tiny glass took the prize.

Damn you boys. No more getting wowed by plastic ware. I mean, come on, I didn’t even take a picture of it so it couldn’t be THAT impressive. Sheesh.

So by now you’re probably hungry after reading all that – but we definitely weren’t after eating it. Which means we were absolutely thrilled to find out we still had two categories left to judge. Yay!

And of course it’s my favorite – desserts. Can we please do these FIRST next time? I mean, seriously. I need to leave more room for these things.

This pretty much describes my feeling about desserts

They split the desserts up into two categories: cold, and, well, basically not cold. Personally I think that was just a ploy to get us to walk around a bit more and try to work out a corner of our stomachs for all of the remaining food – but hey, they’ve been smart so far, so I didn’t question them on this either.

For cold desserts there was a turtle sundae from East Coast Custard, iced coffee from Floured Apron, and a cherry chunk custard from Stoddards‘.

I was a fan of the cherry custard – I thought it had good flavor, with just the right amount of chunks in it (that sounds way more disgusting that it meant to, really). A lot of the other judges seemed to like the sundae, but for me there were too many nuts involved. And yes, before you say it, the guys didn’t miss out on the opportunity to joke about that sentence once I made the mistake of letting it fall from my mouth.

But overall in that category it was the iced coffee that won. It was very good, and we did get a nice explanation from the owner about the type of coffee she uses and how it’s brewed. And I have to believe the pink flamingo straw played a big part into presentation.

It’s like having a drink with a friend

I mean, come on. How cute is that?

After we cleansed our palettes with cool treats, it was time for the final category of the day – sweet desserts. At which point the organizers said to us “OK, it’s time for the sweets category, let’s all head over to Jackpot Chicken for our first entry …” Wait, what now? Did you just say “desserts” and “chicken” in the same sentence? That’s like saying let’s go pick out some shoes from Pet Supplies Plus. Hmm.

Turns out they were serving warm apple empanadas. Which were somewhat tasty, although really sticky and difficult to eat until someone chased us down some plastic silverware. Negative points for presentation, thank you very much.

We all also had a laugh when one of the other judges from the other team approached the chicken truck to ask what the shells of the empanadas were mad of, since they were orange and that’s slightly unusual. The answer was this stellar and clearly well rehearsed marketing line: “I don’t know, we buy them frozen.” Genius. Maybe those people should be here showcasing their product instead of you. Just a thought.

After that it was two kinds of cupcakes, a buckeye cupcake from the Sweet Mobile Cupcakery, and a S’mores cupcake from Floured Apron.

Keep ’em coming

While they were both tasty and very well presented (including talks from the owners of both trucks about how the cupcakes are made and why they chose those particular flavors to have us judge), Floured Apron took the majority of the vote to win that category.

Get out the brooms, folks, because that’s a SWEEP for Floured Apron in desserts. Nice job, ladies.

In addition to our judging, people purchasing food from the trucks had the opportunity to place votes for the day’s “Fan Favorite” – which ended up going to Gyro George.

Overall it was a great event. Whoever put the order in for the weather must be better friends with Mother Nature than I am, because we had a picture perfect day to be walking around outside. And regardless of what our stomachs might have to say to us on the subject, we all thought it was fun to be judges. Even as we were unceremoniously stuffing those last bites of cupcake into our mouths, we still realized we were lucky to have been asked to be a part of this fun and interesting event.  Thank you to Aurora Farms for inviting us, and for trusting our sometimes super picky food tastes to judge these trucks and their amazing dishes. We’ll definitely do it again!

That being said, does that give us an excuse to keep ordering ALL THE FOOD so that we can stay “in shape” until next year? I mean, if we tell our doctors we’re “training” for something, that makes the weight we’re sure to gain acceptable, right? 

Do we look full? Because we are.