WL: Our judges put local barbecue to a taste test

Describing the judging process at the BBQ taste test to judges. PHOTO BY DANIELLE STOMBERG—



Judge: Bob Sammons

Occupation: Psychiatrist.

Judging credentials: He’s a Kansas City Barbeque Society certified judge and professional barbecuer.

He travels the barbecue circuit with the OOPS (Outstanding Order of the Pig Society) team. His brisket placed sixth at last year’s Pork and Hops.

He calls himself a “stick burner,” someone who barbecues by throwing wood chips in a cooker.

“I was raised in Alabama. It was a family tradition to have pork shoulder from Gibson Bar-B-Q.”

Tips for backyard barbecuers: Keep the fire low and steady. After the meat reaches 140 degrees, wrap it in foil and simmer until tender.

Judge: Jeff Nakano

Occupation: Orthopedic surgeon.

Judging credentials: “No. 1, I like to eat — A LOT. No. 2, I like to eat meat. I’m a protein eater.”

Take Nakano to a buffet and he’ll pick meat over dessert any day, he said.

Best quote: “One of my dreams in life is to drive along Interstate 40 in North Carolina and eat barbecue all along the way.”

Judge: Dee Coram

Occupation: An owner of Traders Coffee and Tea.

Judging credentials: He became a Kansas City Barbecue Society certified judge in 2007. He’s a self-proclaimed foodie.

He said he’s partial to the North Carolina style of barbecue with more vinegar. “It’s like wine, if you like it, it’s good.”

Best quote: “It was the barbecue rattlesnake that was the worst.” As a college student in Texas, Coram went on a barbecue eating road trip. The beer was good, the rattlesnake was bad.

Judge: Carroll Quarles

Occupation: Palisade police chief.

Judging credentials: Well, he also judged The Daily Sentinel’s doughnut taste test, so he has become our go-to guy for food judging.

Ask him why he’s qualified and he’ll pat his belly and say his wife is known as an expert cook. This year, he entered Pork and Hops Challenge as an amateur cooking team.

Best quote: “I was born and raised in a briar patch in Texas. I lived there 33 years. I’ve eaten barbecue pretty much all my life.”

*Bonus: Quarles told a great story about his 50th birthday party.

He said his wife smoked two briskets for the party. As soon as the food was gone, everyone left.

“It was a humbling experience,” he said.

The barbecue from Famous Dave’s, Eddie’s River City Bar-B-Q and Rib City was all finger lickin’ good, just ask
our judges: Dee Coram, Jeff Nakano, Carroll Quarles and Bob Sammons.

If our judges weren’t so professional and serious about barbecue, we might have seen them drool.

With the Bud Light Colorado Pork and Hops Challenge and State Championships in barbecue coming up on Friday and Saturday at Lincoln Park, it seemed like a good idea to find where Joe and Jane Shmoe can get the best barbecue chicken, beef, ribs and pork in town on an average day.

For the taste test, we asked our judges to meet us at Lincoln Park on an ordinary Tuesday.

Sammons came prepared with an apron. He should have loaned it to Nakano, who came to our contest right after work still wearing a suit and tie.

We decided to make this a blind taste test, meaning our judges did not know where the barbecue came from and within the four meat categories we mixed up the order in which the samples were served. No extra sauce was put on the barbecue during judging.

The judges scored the barbecue for appearance, taste and tenderness. With every bite Sammons closed his eyes to truly concentrate on the barbecue.

The judges’ individual scores were totaled and weighted by the multipliers used in Kansas City Barbeque Society judging. (The society is the “world’s largest organization of barbecue and grilling enthusiasts,” according to its Web site, http://www.kcbs.us. Pork and Hops is judged by its rules.)

When the points were tabulated, the overall winner was clear: Famous Dave’s.

Famous Dave’s won first place in the chicken, beef and ribs categories and took second in pork.

Rib City won for the tastiest pulled pork. Eddie’s took second in beef.

A look at the score cards showed the judges were often not in agreement.

Coram scored Eddie’s higher than Famous Dave’s for taste and tenderness of the pork, while Sammons liked Rib City and Famous Dave’s slightly better than Eddie’s.

Quarles wrote “Yum!” next to his marks for Famous Dave’s beef, but he scored Famous Dave’s and Eddie’s the same for tenderness and distinguished between the two by a point for appearance and taste.

Nakano preferred Eddie’s beef. Coram preferred Rib City’s chicken.

If the results of our taste test weren’t what you expected, remember this from Sammons, a professional
barbecuer. One day his barbecue can win high honors at one contest. At the next competition, it can be on the bottom of the contest list.

Taste is a subjective thing, even with barbecue.

So get out there and put your own taste buds to a barbecue test around town.


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