ISAIAH BRANCH-BOYLE/Durango Herald
It’s truly summer when the Women’s Resource Center’s Men Who Grill takes place. An afternoon of more than 500 dedicated barbecuers and hungry families supporting a good cause all came together Saturday.
And for yours truly, it was an annual gig of judging that is beyond cool. No one enters a competition like this without some serious grilling skills, so there’s a guarantee of good food.
The judges got the star treatment this year, with our own table and canopy and the teams presenting their food. It meant we were much more efficient and much more informed.
La Plata Family Medicine’s Dr. Jordan Loftis, who presented the food for his team, could always fall back on a career as a waiter in a fine restaurant if this doctor thing doesn’t work out. His team won the Judge’s Choice Award, which came with a check for $250, which he promptly donated back to the resource center.
His group, which cooked everything over mesquite wood, served summertime shrimp, which was soaked in beer and marinated, an unbelievably tender beef tenderloin with Creole mustard and horseradish sauces and an Asian/Caribbean inspired pork tenderloin. (The seared tenderloin also won the medical team the Best Beef Award.)
The other members of the team were Loftis’ father, John Loftis (Hmm, does grilling run in the genes, or is it strictly nurture?), Trent Woods, Megan Sarder, Brice Matthews, Savanah Barr, Linda Geer, Berni Romero and Reanan Wright. Behind the scenes was Dr. Elizabeth Maloney and her husband, Jordan, who burned the midnight oil Friday night preparing the sauces.
The attendees got to choose who won the other award that came with a cash prize, and they selected the First National Bank of Durango-sponsored team for the People’s Choice Award. The judges were pretty impressed with them, too, awarding the team the Golden Spatula for best cuisine.
It was admittedly a team loaded with professionals. Their grilled shrimp served with a savory watermelon soup, selected because they thought the day would be hotter, and guests might want something refreshing, was perhaps the most interesting dish of the day. (And I mean interesting in a good way, not the interesting you say when you don’t know what to say and want to be polite.)
The team also served pulled-pork crostini from a whole suckling pig, or as they said in the Cajun way, cochon de lait, and ribeye steaks sliced and served on roasted asparagus with pecorino Romano cheese.
Team members were from J. Bo’s Pizza and Rib Co. and T’s Smokehouse and were Bo “Sweet Meat” Maloney, Liz Cartier, Betsy and Bob Maloney, Chris “The Alligator” Martin and “Big Zach” Williams. (Hey, I don’t name ’em, I just report ’em.)
The Honeyville folks won best seafood for shrimp marinated in their Stingin’ Honeyaki Marinating Sauce as well as Best Use of Local Products. Their booth was an homage to the honeybee, and 6-year-old Katelyn Bowie, the daughter of Vicki Vandegrift and Robert Bowie, was definitely the star of the show, dressed as a honeybee including a golden flower as a ponytail elastic. (The grilled pineapple with cinnamon honey and chokecherry margaritas were pretty sweet, too.)
Smoke Ring BBQ took home the Silver Spatula for best cuisine. T.J. Cleveland’s cowboy beans were, bar none, the best beans I’ve ever eaten. My fellow judges, United Way President and CEO Tim Walsworth, Boys and Girls Club of La Plata County Board Member Marsh Bull and Herald Arts and Entertainment Editor Ted Holteen, and I were still talking about them at the end of the day.
New Country Auto’s Sasquatch-themed booth, with the hairy fellow driving a convertible, not only took the Golden Fork for best costume, it boasted the hardiest grillers (a fur suit in June?) and the most popular photo op for children. As always, the grilled corn on the cob with herbs, lime juice and Parmesan cheese is always a crowd – and judge – pleaser.
The Colorado Mounted Rangers got the Silver Fork for costume, because we didn’t have an award for most service to the community yearround.
The folks from Buzztown, another holding of Herald parent Ballantine Communications Inc., were selected by the Women’s Resource Center staff, Executive Director Liz Mora, Fund Development and Marketing Director Deborah Uroda, Programs Coordinator Christy Schaerer, Director of Advocacy for La Plata Eve Presler, Family Advocate Erin Skyles and some of the best volunteers in town, Judy Abercrombie, Barbara Shore and Sue Griffith, to receive the Ladies’ Choice Award.
My colleagues from the Directory Plus/Durango Herald team made fantastic pizzas (yes, on the grill) with the crispiest crusts ever. The pizza topped with a ton of vegetables, including cherry tomatoes marinated in balsamic vinegar, won them Best Vegetarian Award. Even the carnivores wanted seconds.
And lest you worry that Holteen and I had a conflict of interest, even the veiled “threats” about Friday’s paychecks didn’t convince us to give them the Judge’s Choice Award.
Who can resist two handsome men bearing delicious food? Not this judge, who liked both the bratwursts stuffed with different cheeses and wrapped in bacon and their delivery on bended knee. Eric Sirios and Joe Stone of Rent-A-Man took home the Best Pork Award and thanks for being staunch supporters of the Women’s Resource Center.
AGM Media and 99X Radio took home two honors, Star Power for year-after-year participation – they’ve had a booth every year since the first in 1996, when the event was still Men Who Cook for Women Who Wine – and Best Grilling Under the Influence for the smoked brisket with tequila barbecue sauce and a slice of mango. (They got the best trophy, with three little bottles of Crown Royal glued to the plaque.)
Coldwell Banker’s carne adovada, with both red chile and jalapeños and a cilantro-lime vinaigrette, had to take the Spiciest Food Award, but even the flames couldn’t overwhelm the yumminess.
For not only the most interesting dessert ever, but one that transported me back to Spain, the Marinated Chefs won Best Dessert for Manchego cheese wrapped in slices of guava and quince pastes.
It was a rare year at Men Who Grill, with three pizza entries and no ribs. Smokin’ Armadillo, whose talented cooks have probably qualified for just about every award over the years, brought a new entry that took a lot of effort. They smoked chicken and shredded it, then created patties for sliders. They created their own buffalo sauce to go on it, using African piri-piri peppers, then served their sliders on bread from Absolute Bakery and Cafe in Mancos. Their entry got them both Best Chicken honors and rave reviews.
Finally, but far from least, Bank of Colorado deposited the Team Spirit Award for the hours upon hours of marinating, dry rubs and smoking of their beef brisket. (Deposited ... get it? I’m so witty at midnight!)
The biggest award goes to the Women’s Resource Center, which raised more than $13,500 at the event. That money will help a lot of women build thriving families in our community.
Wishing for rain as they blow out their birthday candles are Dony Goodwin, Kim Pierce, Maxine Sproul, Dale Wingeleth, Avery Begg, Julie Downs, Mary Lou Hall, Lina Hoffner, Garrett Jones, Drew Lewis, Sandra Mapel, Barbara Corrigan, Muriel Mulder, David Wells Jr., David Bennet, Ani Gannone, Shane Benjamin, Betsy Williams, Robert Anderson, Shannon Bassett, Karaline Bassett, Michelle Hendrickson, Kathy Stottlemyer, DebBarnes, Dan Steaves, Shannon Nelson, Char Day, Callie Bartel, CassieBartel, Samantha Alvarez, Dorothy Vaccaro and Jan Scott.
Among the cornucopia of June anniversary couples are Dick and Margie Hanlin, Charles and Mary Ellen Black, Gary and Jan Scott, Dan and Kim Osby, Dick and Louise Bell and Michael and Karen Peterson.
For information on upcoming events and fundraisers, check Local Briefs.
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