WTGW 12/21/19: Harmon’s Pub / That Christmas Bar, Canton

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Welcome to Harmon’s Pub: where the sign at the entrance says “seat yourself” but more than half of the open tables have “reserved” signs on them. How does that work, exactly? Do you have to time travel yourself into the future to get yourself a table so that you can place the sign before you actually arrive?

Hmmm.

And then when you finally do find an open table that hasn’t been previously reserved … you get legit yelled at by staff because putting a fifth person at the end of the booth would apparently be a fire hazard. Like, not a friendly “hey, I know it’s busy and you just want to grab a table but unfortunately we can’t have you sit like that.” Or a “you know what, that won’t work, but let me help you find another spot.” Nope, like screamed at because apparently our sitting in that location would cause a literal logjam to the stampede that would surely occur should someone decide to strike a match anywhere in the close vicinity.

And who says Canton isn’t hospitable? We should totally alert the CVB of a new campaign idea.

Luckily a different server saw us looking like we might just head for the hills and perhaps say something unfavorable about our experience (who, us??) and decided to step in. She found another booth on the opposite side of the restaurant in an area that seemingly supported end-of-the-table dining and asked the party of two occupying it if they would kindly switch with us.

And they did.

And we then sent them a drink.

See what being nice gets you, kids? Alcoholism. Let that be a life lesson for you.

Another good life lesson: don’t be an asshat when someone asks you is they can use one of the five unoccupied chairs from your table. Like I get that maybe other people are going to come sit with you eventually, or maybe your group of imaginary friends you’ve invited out for the evening don’t like to be crowded … but, like, our REAL LIVE friend is standing right here and kind of wanting to take a load off to enjoy the meal he’s anxiously waiting to order, so perhaps you can just calm the eff down there, Susan?

This is also how NOT to have us send you a drink as a thank you, even though you seem like you could use about 27 just to put you in any sort of enjoyable mood this evening.

It’s four days before Christmas, folks. Are you feeling festive yet? I mean, the beginning of our trip this week is kind of like the restaurant equivalent of heading to the mall during the holiday season.

WHAT WE ORDERED

But for all our troubles, at least they have White Claw! Yay!

And trivia, but that’s like a more muted yay.

Speaking of trivia, what’s one thing Ted will always order if it’s on any menu, anywhere?

If you answered meat on a stick, you’ve obviously been reading along with us for a hot minute. But yes, that’s one thing that Ted seemingly cannot resist in any restaurant setting. In this case, it was steak – but he has been known to order a lamb lollipop from time to time as well. So for future reference, pretty much meat of any kind is acceptable, as long as its on a stick.

So. Many. Jokes.

He also got the spicy garlic wings.

Fewer jokes, unless we want to go down the path of the fated burger and wing night at the Springfield Tavern.

Shane and I got the sausage dip as an app, as did Cassi and Jason.

Because you can never have enough sausage …. ok, never mind, between that and the meat on a stick story it seems we’re traveling down a dangerous road.

Anyway.

I got the bacon pretzel burger with a side salad.

Shane got the Reuben, after asking the server the age-old question of preference between that and a burger of any kind.

The server recommended the Reuben … and then in what I can only assume was an attempt to be helpful, but since she doesn’t know us at all she has no idea the implications of what she’s about to suggest … she points to me and says “well since she ordered a burger, you can always just split your orders so you each can try the other’s.”

As if. Clearly she doesn’t read this blog, or she would know that SHANE DOESN’T SHARE FOOD.

I mean, how many times do we need to share this GIF on this blog? I mean, before I revert to photoshop magic and change Joey’s face to Shane’s anyway.

I clearly need more free time in my life for these important projects.

Cassi got the wings dinner.

So it’s like wings, but with sides. Interesting concept. It seems like we’ve been ordering this in other forms for quite some time now, right? How nice of them to just make it a compact little ordering process for us.

Jason got the Western burger with fries, along with an order of BBQ wings.

Clearly we don’t have enough food here.

THE VERDICT

Remember that time just a few minutes ago when Shane almost ordered a burger? Well it’s a good thing he didn’t, because having just TWO arrive at the table – mine and Jason’s – was clearly more than our server could handle. She literally couldn’t tell them apart, and had to request assistance to do so.

I mean, I hate to state the obvious and all … but one of them is literally named a “pretzel burger,” which – in my mind anyway – would point a pretty direct finger at the burger that was positioned on a pretzel bun, and not a regular bun. Call me logical and all. But, like, you don’t even have to see the condiments or toppings to figure this part out.

Well since we’re talking about that part already, I should point out that was my favorite part of the sandwich. The actual burger was just OK. So, I guess Jason could’ve taken that part, but just saved me the bun?

Although the burger was actually was the same size as the bun, and we all know that’s a rarity.

Ted’s steak on a stick didn’t exactly rate in his Top 3, but it was still good.

The fact that he can even have a Top 3 in this category is something that should be noted here. I’m not sure what that note is, exactly, but it’s been taken.

He also said that the wings could’ve been spicier.

The jury was out on the sausage dip, with Cassi and Jason liking it, but Shane and I thinking it was a little … strange. Maybe it’s harkening back to our tailgating days where we just heated up some sausage crumbles and Velveeta in a crock pot and called it a hearty dip, but we weren’t crazy about all of the peppers and other things hanging out in this dip. We would’ve preferred just the basics.

Shane liked the Reuben a lot. So the server gets the points for that assist on that one.

Cassi liked her wing dinner, she said that the breading on the boneless wings was really good. But said that the service really soured the visit in general.

Which we would all agree was truthful. Aside from the whole “let’s yell at the new people for trying to seat themselves in an area they aren’t supposed to even though we didn’t tell them it was off limits” debacle that started the night … and the whole “let’s get the chef to come out and inspect the burger situation because I can’t tell a pretzel bun for a regular one” … our  server at our “approved” table was a bit touch and go.

For instance, when a server asks you, after you’ve placed your order for a sandwich, “fries with that?” … well, you kind of think that they’re included, right, and the server is just asking you if that’s an OK option or if you’d like to substitute out, no?

Um, no. Each of those side orders was $2-$3, which we didn’t know until we got the bill. I mean, kudos to her for upselling us, but that sales tactic is a little risky in my opinion.

On top of that, Cassi got charged for a side salad when her meal was a dinner – we’ve been over this already – and should’ve had a salad and tater tots included. So much for revolutionizing the way we order. I take it all back. We’re clearly doing just fine on our own, thank you very much.

Probably the saddest part about our disappointment at Harmon’s Pub is that we had hoped we might have made this a more frequent location, thanks to it’s proximity to That Pop-Up Bar, located across the street.

If you haven’t heard of this place yet, it’s a bar that continuously changes themes, based on the time of year. Being that we’re four days out from Christmas, we of course wanted to make a stop here while it’s themed as “That Christmas Bar.”

I mean, we had to wash the taste of Blitzen’s out of our mouth, right?

And that we did, only in Shane’s case it was replaced with the taste of … well … bourbon. And lots of it.

Let’s just say that this warning on the menu is legit,folks. 

But overall this place was worth the price of the inhospitable nature of our dinner choice across the street and the bourbon hangover that Shane will likely be facing tomorrow. From the décor to the music to the drink specials to the crowd of people under the age of 90 … this is what pop up Christmas bars should be like.

We can’t wait to see what the next theme is. This may become a game to see who can pick the best place nearby each time it changes?

Picked by: Jason
Next pick: Shane

WTGW 11/26/19: Kepner’s / Blitzen’s, Hudson

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Happy Night Before Thanksgiving!

Or, depending on your preference …

Happy Biggest Going Out Night of the Year!

So, you know, no pressure on this pick to be – wait for it – legendary or anything.

I think we’ve all had our rounds at having to choose on this night, seeing as it’s the one “holiday” that always falls on our favorite night of the week. We’ve seen the night Shane got food poisoning and left me to cook my first ever 22lb turkey for his entire family the next day, the night we all got into a heated discussion about the type of breading used on a fish dinner and then made Ted sit in a stack of booster seats (yes, at a bar), the night of many shots, and of course last year’s epic choice of the strangest cabana we’ve ever sat in.

Which brings us to 2019, and our visit to Kepner’s. We had a lengthy conversation about whether this should actually be classified as a revisit, since honestly we’ve been to this place about 4 billion times over the years. Most notably, we celebrated Ted’s birthday here one year (not on a Wednesday), and it’s the place where previous WTGW team members Amanda and Jerrid actually met for the first time (on a Wednesday but when I was out of town so it wasn’t an “official” outing).

But somehow, despite all these visits and feeling like this is one of our go-to divey bars on this side of town – and honestly probably the only one allowed within Hudson city limits –  we just never managed to officially review it.

So here we are.

I specifically chose Kepner’s not only to finally make them WTGW official, but also because we’d heard that there was a new Christmas-themed popup bar called Blitzen’s that was celebrating their opening night this same night. And what says Happy Night Before Thanksgiving like an entire bar dedicated to holiday decorations, music and themed drinks?

We’ll come back to that later. First, let’s eat.

WHAT WE ORDERED

One of the things we love most about Kepner’s is that despite being small and having a divey, neighborhoody feel, they actually have a decent list of craft beers and ciders in bottles/cans, and things other than Bud Light on draft.

In fact, when Shane literally tried to get a Bud Light on draft, he was told that they only have it in bottles, and that Miller Lite was the domestic draft of choice.

So there’s that.

Cassi and I both settled on bottles of a mango habenero cider that according to the description was also aged in a tequila barrel. Well now that just seems like a lot of things all thrown together in one big pot to stew, now doesn’t it?  But, because we all love starting the night with complicated alcohols, we took a chance.

I’m happy to say it was worth it.

Ted, Cassi and I all went through the same progression of thought on what to order for our meals:
Choice #1, the turkey club. Which sounded good under normal circumstances, but then again maybe starting on the turkey consumption 24 hours before Thanksgiving dinner wasn’t the best choice. I mean, given that we also would also be staring at leftovers for much of the forseeable future.
OK, so Choice #2, wings. But again with the poultry.
So then we’re at Choice #3, burgers. But that came with a sidebar a) which burger, since each specialty option had at least one condiment included on the list that we weren’t crazy about.

Yep, this is us, folks. Making dinner as complicated as possible since 2013.

And yet also so simple at the same time … anyone shocked that two of those items on the list were burgers and wings? Anyone? Bueller?

Didn’t think so.

Shane and Ted remembered a burger being on the menu during one of our previous visits that they really loved (called the Clocktower, maybe?), but it seemed to have gone MIA this time around. Because you know how much we love when that happens.

Almost as much as we love when there are things available in the kitchen that aren’t on any of the menus, so we have to rely on the server to maybe – or not – tell us about them. And then maybe – or not – change our minds about what to order after we’ve already scoured the menu for 10 minutes trying to decide what to order. That’s a fun game.

Which we played on this evening, as Jason was all set to order the Ohio State burger, until the server mentioned to us that there was this special “non-menu” burger, which I can’t remember the name of but the description of had something to do with two burger patties being dusted with brown sugar and grilled, then topped with bacon and cheese.

Jason caved and ordered that.

I was surprised Shane didn’t follow suit. He claimed it was because of Thanksgiving being tomorrow, and that he didn’t want to eat that much tonight. Um, who is this person and what have you done with my husband? Anyone remember the full sheet pizza incident?

Instead he got the Unreserved burger, along with, well everyone else at the table except for Jason.

Side note, in case you’re wondering, the house sauce is actually Worcestershire. That will save you the question that we asked the server. Because calling it a “house sauce” when it’s really a simple and already known condiment is always way less complicated than just putting said condiment in the menu description, no?

Ted also got six of the dry rub Cajun wings.

Cassi and Jason got the chorizo stuffed mushrooms as an app, which arrived looking like mini sausage patties. I think “stuffed” should be replaced with “overflowing.”

Cassi joked that they came served on her Grandma’s china. So Thanksgiving came a little early here at Kepner’s.

THE VERDICT

Cassi thought the texture of the stuffed mushrooms was a little strange, but luckily Jason liked them a lot and was willing to clean up what she didn’t want.

Ted said the wings didn’t have a lot of flavor. And his sweet potato fries were salty, which was a new thing that he didn’t remember from our past visits. Or, really, any visit anywhere. Who puts salt on sweet potato fries?

Well other than Cassi, but that’s a whole other thing.

In any case, Ted felt bad giving Kepner’s a bad review, since this is probably the first time it’s ever fallen under that category for us. Our notariety must have come off the radar this time and they caved under the pressure of our first “real” visit.

I almost wrote that without laughing.

But don’t worry, it wasn’t all off-kilter this time around, as the burgers were truly the usual deliciousness we’ve come to expect from this place. I mean, Jason even threw out the words “Top Three” when referencing that special burger. And we all know that’s high praise.

I mean, it almost doesn’t seem fair to other burgers, am I right?

Although because it also wasn’t technically on the menu, we all know that also means we should be get too attached to it, lest it be gone forever after tonight. But here’s hoping.

And here’s also hoping that the service we got tonight was more like Ted’s wings – an abnormality from what we’re used to – than the new norm. Because it was … well … let’s just say it wasn’t good. It was very inconsistent, and while I get that the upstairs area was busy, it’s also only like 10 tables worth of customers so it’s not like even if every table is full we’re talking about a giant crowd or anything.

We also need to talk about the pricing for a minute. Remember that draft Miller Lite that Shane begrudgingly ordered? Yeah, it was $5.50. For a draft domestic, and not in a giant glass like we’ve happily encountered at other locales. And those interesting sounding ciders that Cassi and I ordered? $7 each. For bottled ciders. So, yeah. I switched to a different one after the first round, but that only saved me $1 a bottle. Guess apples really are going out of season?

Ted and Jason were the smartest ones at the table, getting something called the “House IPA” for $3 each. Which if we’re taking a cue from the “house sauce” revelation, was probably just a Lagunitas served with a fancy name.

So speaking of things in disguise … let’s move in to the visit to that holiday themed pop up bar, Blitzen’s, next door.

Yeah, I’m not even sure what to say about this place, other than that our group was horribly out of place there. Like, imagine a bar that’s trying to be cool and trendy with the whole popup holiday thing that seems to be the rage right now … but like 95% of the people in the place were probably approaching their teenage years when the original It’s a Wonderful Life first came out.

Because nothing says trendy like sharing a space at the bar next to your Grandma.

And the drinks – while very tasty – just honestly didn’t seem worth the $8 – $10 each that they were charging. I’m pretty positive had we stayed there for more than one round we probably could’ve easily spent more on just drinks than we did collectively on both meals and drinks next door.

But we did get these cool holiday headbands, though

Shane apparently took the holiday camoflauge option, as he looks like he’s blending into the background. But only facing that direction. Had the other direction been the backdrop what you would’ve seen was pretty much just the restaurant Hudson’s – who holds the liquor license for Blitzen’s – with some sparse holiday decorations thrown up. And more folks seemingly out way too late for the dinner service for their age group. Is the group tour bus late in picking everyone up?

And so we left, and ended the annual “night of more than one stop since we’re apparently pretending we don’t have family get togethers tomorrow” at Bailey Rd Tavern. Where all great nights end up, am I right?

I mean, how much more proof do you need?

And next year, this post will likely be classified as the night we hit two dive bars, with a stop for some expensive cocktails with our grandparents in between. Good times.

Picked by: Steph
Next pick: Ted

Special Event – 4th Annual Scruptious Showdown, Aurora Farms

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Alright kids, here it is: our annual reminder that food judging is harder than it looks.

No really.

All eye rolling aside (you can stop already, I know you’re doing it), we were honored to be asked by the good folks out at Aurora Farms to once again come out at the beginning of June and lend our stomachs and taste buds to the annual Scrumptious Showdown food truck event. The event is in its 4th year, three of which Shane, Ted and I have tested our stomach capacity and will to keep standing upright with all of the buttons still done on our pants like civilized people while sampling some 20 food options over the course of 90 minutes.

So, basically, in less time than it took us to get our entire meals at the Wadsworth Tavern, we were able to try 20 different items.

Twenty.

#perspective.

Thanks – I think – in part to Ted’s general hatred and overall aversion to cheese, we were selected as the group to test all of the meat entries this year. The other group of judges had all of the vegetarian dishes, and then all of us joined together to try all of the desserts. Because it’s just not fair to keep anyone from dessert.

Our day of carnivorous dining was divided into two categories: all things just containing meat in general (read: lots of BBQ and assorted meats of the pulled variety), and then wraps.

Our very first sampling came from the Slop Truck – who apparently think that an entire entrée of pulled pork with a side of ribs and Mac’n’Cheese was sample sized. Perhaps they read this blog and know what kind of portions we treat ourselves to on a regular basis, so thanks, I guess?

Although if they read this blog, then they should also know better than to serve one of the three of us in this group a side dish where cheese is not only one of the main ingredients but also in the title. I have to believe they lost points for that.

After that we tried two variations of hot dogs: the “Polish Girl” from Jones Bones, which was topped with fries and cole slaw, and an unnamed selection from Top Dawg which featured chili, potato straws and mac’n’cheese as toppings.

Wait, what? Because clearly we’re just lazy enough now that we have to eat all the side dishes on top of the hot dog instead of separately?

For those who like to eat their whole meal at one time

Spoiler alert: it still eventually involved a fork, so are we really saving anything here?

Also, I’m sure you noticed that Ted’s nemesis strikes again, so this clearly wasn’t his day.

The amazingness that is the DiLaura’s Wood Fired Pizza truck was back again, serving up the pepperoni pizza with hot honey sauce. If you haven’t seen this marvel of a trailer that heats up to about 4 billion degrees and cooks a pizza in 90 seconds check out the photos from last year’s food truck judging. Seriously. If there was a category for coolest food truck out there they would win hands down every time.

And rounding out the group was Smoke This with a pulled brisket slider which Shane claimed he would eat 15 of if he could. But thankfully he didn’t, because, well, we still had about 15 other things to sample before the afternoon was over.

Full yet?

Don’t worry, only four wraps to go. And dessert. NBD.

In the wraps category, our first sampling was from Funky Truckeria, with a tequila chicken taco.

The second truck I had to go back and try to find the name of on the wrap-up email (see what I did there?) from our friends at Aurora Farms, because, well, let’s just say that that the entrée they served us was just as unmemorable as their name. We were unimpressed. Also, the name wasn’t included because clearly they didn’t win anything. Shocker.

So we’ll just leave it at that.

The third sample was a giant chicken burrito that must’ve weighed as much as my head. Normally this would be a selling point for our group, but honestly it seemed like this one just had altogether way too much going on inside for us to deem it delicious. So much so that I can’t recount any one thing that was in there, just that there was a lot mixed together. It’s like when you’re decorating your living room and can’t decide between beach, cottage, and southwestern themes, so you just try to mash them together and tell everyone it works.

Newsflash: it doesn’t. Stop trying.

Our final wrap was the annual gyro from George’s. A tried and true favorite on its own, but this year they spiced it up a little with some new toppings and some flavor that really made it stand out.

And that’s saying a lot considering which we barely got two bites of it before dessert came around. But hey, it was enough for them to win the category, so good for them.

Shane, as we boxed up the gyros and did a few mental jumping jacks to prepare ourselves for the final round of the afternoon: Hey, I think I’m finally starting to get that full feeling.
Me: well good thing there’s only seven desserts left to go.

Which is why next year I vote that we turn things on their heads and start with dessert. Because, seriously, I think that category just doesn’t get a fair shake having to be judged after we’ve eaten literally everything else in the parking lot.

Although I have to admit that the fact that we could still enjoy these delicacies after everything else we just stuffed ourselves with really does say a lot for the quality of these items.

Take all that as you will.

And they certainly did not disappoint. We started out right back at George’s, with a piece of baclava swimming in ice cream. I say swimming, because, well, remember it was about a billion degrees out there on the blacktop, and so we had to devour this one quick so as to actually enjoy it.

Because I feel about baclava about the same depth that Ted feels about cheese … well … you can guess this wasn’t my favorite in this category. But Shane and Ted were crazy over it, so there’s your benchmark, I guess.

I was more partial to the Italian cherry soda float from Cookery. I mean, if I haven’t already mentioned, it was a little on the hot side out there, and a beverage filled with fruit flavor and whipped cream was somewhat delightful in my opinion. I may have been the only one in our group to think that, but, hey, guess it kind of balances out the baclava debate, right?

In the categories of things you don’t really think would be dessert options, we had fried naan from the Chapati Indian truck, and apricot pierogis from Pierogi Joe’s. Neither of those really wowed anyone in our group. Which is odd, because I seem to remember the fried naan being a favorite from last year. Hmm.

Naan and baclava and iced drinks and WE NEED BIGGER TABLES

What  happens when you let a catering truck give you dessert? Well, let’s just say you definitely get points for presentation and originality. Robestos served us up a little platter of delightfulness, including tiny bite sized portions of yogurt, peaches, waffles and a sidecar of syrup. And guys, tiny plasticware. I mean, come on.

Finally (seriously how many of you thought we HAD to be done by this point? Yeah, us too. Us. Too.) we ended the dessert category with mint chocolate chip custard from Stoddards, and a sundae from East Coast Custard that thankfully Shane and I got to share since there was no way we were going to eat the whole thing ourselves by that point.

Remember what I said at the top of this post about how this whoe food judging thing is harder than it looks. WHO’S ROLLING THEIR EYES NOW, EH?

Exactly.

So to recap, the winners for the day – as voted on by our groups of judges – were:
George’s Gyros – Best Wrap
Smoke This – Best with Meat
DiLaura’s Pizza – Best without Meat (the other group’s pick, as they tried the cheese only slice)
Robesto’s – Best Dessert (I’m telling you, it was the tiny plasticware that won everyone over)
And the Fan Favorite, voted on by those actually paying to purchase food that afternoon: George’s Gyros

Thanks again to the good folks at Aurora Farms for still considering us celebrity status enough to come back out and judge once again, as well as all of the participating trucks for supplying us with enough food to not go hungry for about a week after the event.

So the next time you read a post and think we’ve outdone ourselves eating enough food for a small army … just tell yourself it’s training for this event next year. I mean, that’s what we do.

And stay tuned for the date of Scrumptious Showdown 2020 – we’d love to see you there!

Group shot of all the judges

 

Someone roll us to the car, please

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.

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

Standard

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.