Today I was a judge at the Southern Hot Wing Festival, along with my friend, Mary. Neither of us had ever been to the festival, and judging was the perfect introduction since it allowed us to mingle with the teams, sample lots of wings, and drink free beer.
Before judging, we checked out the new MCA gift shop and gallery downtown, and then stopped for hot coffee at Bluff City and completely burned the insides of our mouths, which was super smart. We also found a hidden jungle downtown.
Had we known we were actually late for the judging check in, we probably wouldn't have dallied so much. In my mind, we were two of four judges who would sit at the bar at Ernestine & Hazel's and have a steady stream of wings brought to us. Nope. We were two of fifty? A hundred? judges. Even though we were technically 45 minutes late, we arrived just as they were telling everyone what to do.
There were a lot of rules, and we considered bolting, but fellow judge, Ben Smith, assured us we were in for some fun. He also informed us that being a roving judge was the way to go. Turns out we each had three different tents to visit and we were told to spend 10 minutes at each one. (But no more than 15!) We got our assignments and off we went.
My first visit with the Cargill team was a nice warm up. Their wings were sriracha and lime juice marinated, which was right up my alley. And they hooked me up with a nice big beer.
Once I was done, I went to watch Mary in action. As she sampled the wings, I chatted with the team she was judging and told them that she was actually a vegetarian.
My second team, the Hot Wing Harem, was by far the most fun. You can see why:
An all female team with Indian spiced wings? Heck yeah! When it was my turn to sample, the head chef told me all about how she makes wings for parties and people love them so much, she decided to form a team.
Her husband is Indian, so that's why she stared incorporating Indian spices. The wings were really, really good.
The hardest part of judging was by far having to eat chicken wings while chatting. And for me, the second hardest part was getting all of the chickeny bits out of my teeth so I didn't look like an a-hole.
By the time we got to Mary's second team, Warren and Satchel had arrived. I went to meet them at the gate and we soon ran into Jiro and his buddies, who had clearly been in contact with a face painter and shwag giver outer.
Now that I had the entire Team Oster crew and 3/4 of Team Provencio, judging became even more difficult. Luckily, I only had one tent to go. The Red Wings were a BBQ team turned wing team that modeled their free range birds after Central BBQ. I soon learned that the guys were also affiliated with the Burn My Mouth blog, and we had chatted by email in the past. They claimed to be huge Dining with Monkeys fans, so we had a nice little visit.
The wings were yum, and I wanted to pocket some of their secret rub.
Once I was officially done judging, we started circling around to taste for fun. Unlike BBQ fest, you don't actually have to know anyone on the teams to get a sample. The most happening tent was the Wing Tang Clan, so we went to see what the fuss was about. Satchel loved their super hot wings, even though he needed an entire bottle of water per wing.
Sadly due to the cold, the crowds, and the children begging to go to the Peanut Shoppe, we just couldn't sample all of the wings that we wanted to. There were tons of fun looking tents and all varieties of wings. I really wanted a bite of the Angry Birds.
I'm already hoping they ask me back to judge next year. I'll better prep the monkeys on how everything is going to go down, and probably skip the pre-wing coffee.