Or how I let a judge badge go to my head.
Technically this wasn't my first judging rodeo, but when I was asked to judge the fifth annual Twisted Taco Truck Throwdown I was a bit apprehensive. It's chingos of tacos. Still, I've enjoyed the event in previous years and it's quite possibly the most puro thing you can do on a Saturday afternoon, so I agreed to be one of the judges.
The rules were simple enough. Show up, try a bunch of tacos, write down scores, hang out in cool air conditioned room when not judging tacos and finally turn in grease-stained score sheet. A friend came in with the assist for the day and we made our way down to Taco City, AKA VFW Post 76 to get started.
Again, I always seem to forget the popularity of this event. For starters it's free, so if you missed it this year, make sure to pencil it in for 2016. Secondly, you pay per truck and at $1 al pastor tacos from 4 to 8 p.m., most patient Twisted Taco-goers can do some serious damage with $20.
Picture King William Arts Fair minus the art, or NIOSA minus the necios. The location, which often serves as an uber chill hang for vets and fans of awesome patios, has more of the same interspersed with photo booths, beer booths, taco trucks, lawn chairs and all the picnic tables in the land. Or as my taco assistant put it, "An extension of Fiesta or Cinco de Mayo celebrations, only with heads topped by foam taco hats instead of confetti."
Judges don't have to pay for tacos...or wait for them. If anything we're encouraged to cut in line, wave our nifty judge badge and wait for taco glory. I'm not saying it went to my head, but it'd be lovely to have a judge badge for everyday use. Unfortunately, as awesome as judging this event sounds, it really is a monumental task. By no means does any one judge ever finish a taco, and while most of the trucks came out with guns blazing, some did not. To put it simply, we're not tasting 36 amazing tacos.
But the vendors that did bring their A-game impressed. Truck N' Taco
, which took home People's Choice for their bright red al pastor, also had a tasty freestyle of barbacoa with a smoky chile de arbol salsa. Teka Molino,
this year's Grand Champion with a solid offering presented a tiny little puffy with a bright red sauce that helped cleanse the palate (somewhat, and while on the topic, palate fatigue is very real). Last year's Grand Champion, The Grilled Jalapeño, wowed with a franken-taco of bacon-wrapped, grilled jalapeños stuffed with three cheeses. A personal favorite was the al pastor taco from Mini Tacos El Maicol
with their slightly toasted tortillas, and Sir-wacha's
Asian-themed entries to both categories, a roasted pork banh mi taco and a beef bulgogi and kimchi freestyle.
It's Monday and I'm finally (relatively) back to normal. I even had fish tacos for lunch (as part of a work assignment), so my self-imposed taco sabbatical is clearly over.