Teams have been practicing and judges (including two City of Ate contributors) are advised to begin fasting as Oak Cliff is about to get smoked out this weekend for the Blues, Bandits & Barbeque street party.
The festival takes place outside and inside the Kessler Theater and surrounding neighborhood and includes food and drink vendors, the unveiling of a model for a proposed Stevie Ray Vaughan statue, another Better Block Project demonstration, performances by the Sunset High School Bisonette drill team and music performances from Bobby Patterson, Hunter Hendrickson with Jim Suhler, Lucky Peterson and more. Clinton and 7th streets will be closed to traffic, with an outdoor stage set up in the lot of the future Luckie's Smokehouse location across Clinton from the Kessler.
But the real draw is the barbecue contest. Teams will begin cooking at noon Saturday, likely camping out to man (or guard) their smokers until judging begins 24 hours later at noon Sunday. A 22-team, four-category smoke-out would be impressive enough, but the competition rules mandate that teams use only "ethical meat," with brisket, pork ribs and whole chickens supplied by Urban Acres and teams required to document that meat used for the sausage contest is grass-fed and organic -- making it the first of its kind, far as we can tell.
Rob Shearer, a Go Oak Cliff board member and coordinator of the contest, says the 10 judges will be divided into two five-person panels tasked with judging 11 teams apiece so as to not overwhelm them with food from entrants ranging from Bastille on Bishop winner David Uyger to Pecan Lodge's Justin Fourton to civilian backyard grill enthusiasts -- including Shearer himself. Of course, the 300 wristband-purchasing "People's Choice" judges are free to gorge themselves to their stomachs' content.
Details on acquiring the necessary wristband, judging criteria, judges' names and more are after the jump.
The 10 judges are D Magazine editor Tim Rogers, The Dallas Morning News Oak Cliff reporter Roy Appleton, KERA's Jeff Whittington, Smoke chef Tim Byer, WFAA's Jason Whitely, Edible Dallas & Fort Worth's Melissa Boon and, from the Dallas Observer, Andrea Grimes and yours truly. Adding true 'cue cred are D contributor Daniel Vaughn of Full Custom Gospel fame and Geoff Ditto, aka El Smokeador.
Entries will be judged according to the three criteria of the Kansas City BBQ Barbeque Society: taste, tenderness and appearance, weighted in that order of importance.
Shearer expects quite an interesting, nuanced competition, given the diversity of judges and teams.
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"Coming from the [Bastille on Bishop] mussel competition, Zen Sushi did really well with nontraditional preparations," he says. "I wonder if judges will get fatigue from all the brisket, and if some nontraditional takes will do well. But then a traditional guy like Daniel Vaughn is probably going to want the brisket to taste like smoke, pepper and salt and not look for, like, lemongrass and dill."
Adding to the complexity of the contest is the grass-fed meat, which he expects to be leaner. The real wild card, he believes, will be the sausage category, with teams required to case their own meats; only six teams are entering.
The schedule is available here, though there is one discrepancy -- Kessler artistic director Jeff Liles says that Bobby Patterson will actually perform indoors.
Bracelets for tasting competition barbecue are on sale for $15 apiece at the Kessler. From 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, 200 will be available. The final 100 will go on sale at 10:30 a.m. Sunday. Those not able to snag bracelets won't go hungry, of course; Smoke, Luckie's Smokehouse and other food vendors will have food for sale.