When I saw this mention by “Civil Bear” for the West Coast BBQ Championships,
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/4950... , I put a call in to my Barbecue Culinary Consultant and we made a plan to be there. Unfortunately, he pulled up lame yesterday morning. While I didn’t have to shoot him, I was on my own for an afternoon in downtown Fairfield.
I got in a little before 1pm when the teams had already wrapped up their rib entries and those competing in the tri tip class were busy prepping their plates to turn-in. The Tomato Festival website, http://www.fairfielddowntown.com/3eve... , promised “Sampling booths available.” However, I soon learned that there was only ONE booth, Big Belly, authorized to offer samples of “Championship BBQ”, but only pulled pork and tri tip. I bought a taste of the pulled pork, $2, and it was wretched. It was not tender enough to “pull”, tasted more of petrochemicals than wood smoke, and the sauce had a metallic aftertaste under the excess of salt and MSG. Toss that one.
One competitor informed me that the teams were not allowed to offer samples to the public, and that it was “illegal”. I’d had my heart set on tasting some great brisket here, and while I saw some beautiful specimens come out of the smokers that sliced through like butter, I didn’t get to try them. It’s really a shame that the contest is set up this way, as several of the competitors really wanted to show off their efforts and get feedback. I had a few surreptitious samples of ribs, chicken and pulled pork snuck to me under the table when I had questions about their equipment or smoking methods.
I’d kept my eyes peeled for a big teddy bear of a guy, who I thought might adopt the handle “Civil Bear”, and I managed to find him! It was fun to introduce myself and get a peek behind the scenes and chat about his competition strategy.
My camera ran out of juice (forgot to recharge the back-up battery) before I could photograph all the teams. Since I could only eat with my eyes, the smoking rigs and colorful team names made up my memories of this contest. I didn’t stick around long enough for the awards announcement so can’t tell you who won.