Fairfield Tomato Festival Eats
My wife talked me into going up to the Fairfield Tomato Festival this weekend based on the lure of getting my Q fix via the West Coast BBQ Championship taking place at the festival (not that I don't love in season tomatoes). I emailed the BBQ Championship and was told that they can't sell their Q, but that a "non profit will vending samples". With that vague answer I'm assuming aI wont be able to fully gorge myself on BBQ as I've done at the Best of the West Nugget rib cook-off.
Has anyone been to this festival before? Are there other interesting eats there or should I just be happy to get out of the SF fog for a night?
As it turned out, I did judge again on Sunday (and will be at Konocti over Labor Day weekend). The organizers figured it would bias the results to switch judging panels mid-stream. I evaluated 5 chicken, 3 pork ribs, 9 pork butt, and 10 brisket samples. I wrote many comment cards, both for below average scores and for my favorite tastes, to give feedback to the cooking teams. The two best briskets I tasted were both point cut, whereas everyone else used the flat, and I wrote thank you notes to the those teams.
One in particular was arranged quite cleverly in the turn-in box, overlapped shingle style so that I couldn't tell that it was a narrow slice. There were extra slices in the box to fill it up nicely, and on one side and underneath was chopped brisket including the burnt ends. No sauce on this, just richly flavored, moist and fatty beef cooked to the perfect point of tenderness.
re: Melanie Wong
The contestants got quite creative with the "mystery meat" category in presentation. There was a crowd on onlookers snapping photos around the turn-in table. I'm sorry that I wasn't allowed to take any pictures. The six entries that I tasted included:
- grilled and sliced strip rolled up and dabbed with chimichurri
- fajita with heirloom tomato relish
- grilled roulade
- taco with overly salty onions, avocado and tomato salsa
- dried out braised chunks over rice
- Korean taco dressed with diced sweet red onions, sesame/soy sauce, spicy bean paste & lettuce.
My table of judges had never heard of a Korean taco, but they went nuts for the bold flavors.
I think I'll stick to cucumber salad and a peach for dinner tonight. I have a small cooler full of the bbq samples less a bite or two each.
re: Melanie Wong
re: Civil Bear
Hwy 80 is backed up, taking a break in Vallejo. As u know, today's competition was actually 1.5 plus the mystery meat (sponsored by Safeway). I tasted and judged 10 chicken, 9 ribs, 3 pork butt, 2 brisket, and 6 aracherra. Before we got the brisket, one of the experienced judges at my table said that she didn't care for brisket, too often so dry. Then we were served two shining examples, and when I asked her afterwards what she thought of them, she said those were some of the best she's tasted un 5 yrs of judging. Two of the pork butts were great too. However none of the chicken or ribs were excellent In each respect to my taste.
re: Melanie Wong
Thanks for all the comment cards...they do help us competitors.
Glad you liked our Koren Tacos!
See you at Konocti.
Regarding sample serving at contest- We (competitors & promoters) would like to do it, but County Health Dept regs dictate if we are allowed to or not. Some counties want it to make happen (PC) and find a way to get it done, others are simply too eager to "protect" the public from being harmed.
Konocti will allow it and we are eager to make it happen, come out and taste some great Que.
Smitty's Smoke Patrol
Santa Clara, CA
No, unfortunately there will not be any public tasting again this year. The excuse, er reason from the promoters this time is that they are actually holding three sanctioned contests over the weekend. This is a first, and the promoters want to see if they can get it to go off smoothly before adding another component like "people's choice." There isn't even going to be a tomato category this year!
The good news is that there will be another event over the Labor Day weekend. It will be in Lakeport with a "people's choice" from 1:30-4:30 on Sunday and fireworks that evening. I believe the cost will be $2 per sample of chicken, pork ribs, pulled pork, or brisket, plus the teams are encouraged to come up with their own specialties like smoke jalapeño poppers, candied bacon, and the like.
re: Civil Bear
>No, unfortunately there will not be any public tasting again this year.<
I found the same thing about a bbq and music festival in Columbia, Missouri, in late September, where I will be visiting for a family wedding. It includes a Kansas City BBQ Society contest but with no tasting available. My question to you, and others here involved in bbq contest judging, is what is the draw for the public at these bbq contests? I don't see any. The organization (and its contests) seem to me to be a closed-loop kind of thing, feeding on itlelf. Why should I, as a person who loves barbecue and who cooks a fair bit of it, care what the Kansas City BBQ Society does if I can't even taste the bbq at their events? What am I missing about this?
re: Mick Ruthven
I hear you Mick, and I agree 100%. Most of the contests are all about the contestants, with little concern about the public. They tend to be held adjacent to local festivals and events, so the only reason to attend is for the festival and as a bonus you get to see some cool BBQ rigs.
Thankfully, more & more promoters are adding the "peoples' choice" category like at Clear Lake this year, but the health code requirements vary from county to county (like Fairfield requiring all 60 teams to register last year), so not all the teams take on the extra effort & expense of purchasing the required equipment in order to provide samples. For better or worse, the Clear Lake requirements are quite lax, so you should find plenty of $2 samples there this year.
re: Mick Ruthven
As the main grower of the tomatoes at the festival - please come out
Tenbrink Farms has planted over 300 varieties and hope to harvest at least 200 of those
varieties for you to sample and see = It costs $2bucks (or $1buck and some canned goods)
to get into the tent - the only paid entry for the whole festival - keep in mind the Carmel tomato fest and the KJ tomato fest costs $100's of dollars to see such a sight.
As far as the BBQ goes - I guess that is part of the championship guidelines- not the tomato festival rules that they don't give out samples -
not to worry there will be plenty of people having BBQ and also many tomato type dishes
to celebrate the festival - I did a "tomato split sundae" myself last year that was a big hit
the recipe for it was co-created with the then sous chef at FL and now executive chef of RN74 - Jason Berthold - but alas - this year - I didn't book a booth in time -
50,000 to 75,000 people show up for the weekend
FYI the Solano County Health dept are super tough on everyone
You can't believe what we have to do to meet their compliances
I emailed the promoters to find out if food would be available to spectators for sale or tasting but received no response. I'm happy to have found this info on chowhound as I'd be sorely disappointed to head to Fairfield and not be able to try some 'que. As for food being prepped in NSF kitchens or whatever, I've gone to the last two Beer and Barbeque Revivals in Guerneville where food is prepared on-site by various barbqeue teams (I think 25 teams last year) and for a $50 ticket you could eat and drink as much beer as possible for 5 straight hours. There didn't seem to be any health department inspectors or NSF facilities for prepping food on site. Perhaps I should become a bbq judge; that sounds like a good way to ensure tastings!
Here's my post on last year's BBQ contest. The booth that was promoted as selling championship BBQ made terrible pulled pork.
And, I liked the Italian ice booth.
It is fun to taste the many different varieties of tomatoes.