NORTH BEND — This is what a zillion calories looks like.
I may even be short a couple.
First let me thank Katherine Hoppe from The Mill for inviting me to be a judge for the inaugural Food Truck Off. I wouldn't have missed it.
Second, if they are nice enough to ask me back for round 2 next year, I'm bringing a group of people with me to help eat all the food the judges were served.
Twelve food trucks, 12 meals.
Some were smaller, but others were a full meal — burgers with fries, burgers with tots, ribs with cole slaw and potato salad.
I'm getting full again just thinking about it.
There were several lucky people who randomly sat at the table throughout the afternoon Saturday with Autumn and me. There was the couple from Ventura, Calif., another couple with a little girl, and a guy in a Slipknot T-shirt and his friend — they all got to share in the process.
We had a pretty good system going, I would go get the food from the trucks, Autumn would photograph it, we'd both try it, and then while I figured out how to score the dish, we gave the rest of the meal to the folks at the table.
It worked out, and we didn't waste nearly as much food as we might have.
To a person, they all said how great it must be to be a judge.
Yes, and no.
It's great that they asked me, but I'm no culinary expert. I'm just a guy who over the years has eaten at a lot of restaurants.
And it's great to try a lot of new foods, especially when it's a food trend relatively new to our area.
The tough part is figuring out how much of each meal to eat.
Imagine this — what if a dozen chefs made one dish each for your Thanksgiving meal. You'd probably try to have a little bit of each dish, right?
You know how you feel after Thanksgiving dinner?
That's how I felt all weekend.
When you start a new event like this, you hope everything breaks your way and it can be successful right off the start. There are so many variables — getting the vendors to travel from across the state, the weather, getting the word out so there will be plenty of people. Then putting on a show good enough that people would want to come back.
Saturday is what you call a "Chamber of Commerce" type of day. Perfect weather (70 degrees), sunny skies with nearly no wind and great music from the bands Young Bucs and Gabriel Cox.
Gene, one of the first people I met in Coos Bay when we moved here a dozen years ago, came up to me at the event and said, "Can you believe this weather. I would have paid 5 bucks to come out here next to the bay and watch the bands. These guys are good."
The big draw though was the food trucks and the amazing meals these folks are serving from their restaurants on wheels.
Here are my observations from a few of my favorites served to the judges over the weekend.
Big Fat Weiner served a Reuben Burger. While not a 'traditional' Reuben, this was a great burger. It was not on their menu, but served for judging. I have to imagine it won't be long before this is a regular menu item.
The burger was an 80/20 blend mixed with sirloin. The corned beef was slow smoked for 16 hours with a Cajun rub and had homemade pickled sauerkraut. The sauce was a Thousand Island base with fresh-squeezed lemon juice and a hint of ghost pepper extract.
It was topped with Baby Swiss cheese and served on a butter toasted bun.
Everyone at our table ohhhhed and ahhhed over this one.
Both the tacos were really good. Fuel Mobile Kitchen's taco with marinated chicken and a mango salsa fared really well with the duck taco with grilled peaches served by Mac & Cheese Steaks.
Elkhorn BBQ served up a "drink." The man who served it, called it "a Bloody Mary with everything but the vodka."
It was a lovely presentation with two layers of pulled pork, mashed potatoes, barbecue sauce and cheese, then topped by a cherry tomato, a couple of onion rings, three french fries and three fried green beans.
It looked so nice, we almost didn't want to eat it, but we're glad we did. Every part of this was good on its own, and definitely good together.
With all the food that came the judges' way, I was way too full to try some of the things on the regular menus of the food trucks. Mac & Cheese Steaks served a buffalo mac and cheese that you could also get on a cheese steak. One of the people at our table Sunday raved about this when she got it.
Then there was the Oregon Beaver Burger from The Bun Stuffer. It comes with bacon, cheese, hashed browns and a fried Duck egg. For $10 bucks, it would have been worth a shot.
The $8,500 in prizes were given out Sunday after the event ended.
The winners were:
Best taco: 1. Fuel Mobile Kitchen (Dallas, Ore.), 2. Mac and Cheese Steaks (Klamath Falls).
Best Sandwich: 1. Big Fat Weiner (Gresham), 2. The Bun Stuffer (Roseburg), 3. Afghani Cuisine & German Sausage (Eugene).
Best Global: 1. Eugene Jian Bing (Eugene), 2. Papa's Doggs (Coos Bay).
Best Barbecue: 1. Big Bite BBQ (North Bend), 2. Elkhorn BBQ (Coos Bay), 3. Buzz Burger BBQ (Eugene).
Truck's Choice: 1. Wrappin & Rollin (Roseburg).
Judges' overall champion: Tie 1. Big Fat Weiner, Eugene Jian Bing.
People's Choice: Elkhorn BBQ.
Good news for foodies of all ages, the three local food trucks that won awards at the Food Truck Off and Wrappin & Rollin are all regulars at the downtown Farmers' Market on Wednesdays in Coos Bay.