The judges panel was served their first burger at 6pm, with a new contender arriving every 5 min, sprinkling in a short breaks until we sampled all 19 burgers (actually 18... Darbster Vegan Restaurant couldn't brave the rain and was a no show). Overall expectations were high but the rain can really kill ones mood. It seemed as though that held true for most of the entries we tasted at the judges table but sampling 18 burgers can be a challenge. One or two bites is enough. No need to get sick, although the post-event #MeatSweats definitely hit me hard.
Along with 10 other judges, I was extremely pleased to share the panel with fellow burger blogger Sef - Burger Beast (burgerbeast.com) & Rey De La Osa of Publix Apron Cooking School. #MeatMemory
* Judging was a blind tasting. But some were just obvious...
1) The first burger is always the toughest to judge but with the sesame seed bun, flavored popcorn, thick cut bacon & signature Charm Sauce (Rebel House), this burger wasn't hard to give a sold score too.
2) Morton's of Boca (FAN FAVORITE WINNER) really had a poor showing to the judges. My burger was 100% RARE. Barely seared. It was hard to even take a bite. The flavors were good but RARE! Come on!
Then the alternative burgers arrived:
3) This mahi-mahi sandwich (hard to call it a burger), was cooked well and had a nice sauce to compliment the fish.
4) Then this vegan option from 4th Generation Market arrived that made it hard to swallow. This is no knock on the vegan's way of life but this particular "burger" was not executed well at all. Over cooked. Soggy home-made bun & unknown stuffed ingredients. But for some reason the "burger" served to other judges voted it their favorite. (BEST ALTERNATIVE WINNER)
5) This BBQ Brisket topped burger was presented nicely & as we all know, you eat with your eyes. Thats about where it ended. The pickled onions really overpowered the non melted cheddar, brisket & beef sitting between the texas toast. Gimme-A-Burger has had better showings in the past.
6) Finally. A burger worth raving about. BITE Gastrotruck - This double patty with thick melted cheese topped with a perfectly caramelized sweet onion jam blew everyone away at the judges table. Scoring, by far, the highest overall score. (GRILLMASTER AWARD & BEST IN SHOW)
7) As we hit the backstretch of burgers, the meat started to taste generic. This burger rally had nothing to wow my taste buds but was cooked perfectly. The small taste portion was disappointing. I could of had more...
8) This entry was one of the obvious ones... Check out the serving tray and you'll know who it is. If you haven't been there yet. Do it! Very fresh beef & toppings. Perfectly seasoned. A true american burger! (Shake Shack - Boca)
9) Another solid beef burger topped with caramelized onions and way too many jalapeños. And for the judges, a very small 1/4 size portion to sample. Sometimes you need more than 1 bite...
10) Now this was true presentation. A truffle slider with pickled cucumber topped with a ginger-beer shot. Too bad the meat quality was better. Would of scored higher. This burger from Potions in Motion did score 2nd in Judges Choice & 3rd in Fan Voting...
11) Creativity from Ex-pe-ri-ence Catering on their burger was there but execution fell short. I liked the idea of placing a burger between 2 waffles but all I tasted was syrup. No meat flavor, No Bacon flavor, No mushroom jam or cheese. All syrup.
12) The Sybarite Pig offered a great flavor combination of Tri-Tip Beef and Duck Fat, house-made pickles & havarti cheese. Scored well on my sheet but fell short on other judges palates.
13) Another high score for creativity that fell just short on flavor. Heavy cream cheese taste mixed with the cucumber & coleslaw lacked a certain asian flair that Kapow! Noodle Bar is known for.
14) Then it was time for breakfast. This, possibly frozen patty, burger was topped with bacon, egg & cheese on a brioche bun. Fun. Sort of inventive. Short on meat quality.
15) As we headed down the home stretch I looking for that one or two more stand outs of the bunch. This entry reach that expectation. A chorizo & cheese slider, from Reds Backwood BBQ, on thinly sliced home-made crust-ini with chipotle dipping sauce hit on all flavor cylinders.
16) But the next entry brought me back down to earth. This was a classic bacon cheese burger with red onion, lettuce and tomato. Good flavor, just nothing stood out with this one...
17) This was another basic bacon cheese slider. With thick cut, under cooked bacon that was a bit too soft to even chew.
18) As we reached the end of the burger judging journey the only entry to serve a pretzel bun arrived from Butcher & Burger (Boca Mall)! It brought a smile to my face to see this but again, lack of execution hurt my stomach. Slightly undercooked (pretty much raw), non melted cheese and just way too much of a burger to eat when raw.
A HUGE thank you goes out to Russell, Robert and their entire BocaRaton.com & The Bites! Network staff for fighting through the rain for a second straight year to still host a great event. Also a standing ovation to Wes Bonner "Chief Grill Master" for making the judges we're well taken care of. 1,000+ people who showed up validate that. Here's just a few more photos from the Judges table.