It's a Tough Job, But Somebody Has to Do It! September 19 2016
I just got back this morning from a quick (23 hours!) trip down to San Francisco, one of my favorite cities on the planet. It's got a killer food and drink culture, and I always try to visit a few new places (recommended: Cellar Maker Brewing) and stay in touch with some of my favorites (Zeitgeist: much more fun with a group).
I was there judging the Confections category for the Good Food Awards. I have judged before, but this was a new one for me (and pretty delicious, too).
With beer, wine, cider, and probably every other beverage, there are general style guidelines (e.g. "IPA" or "Chardonnay") you can reference when evaluating a particular sample. The Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP, for short) publishes very well-defined guidelines for hundreds of beer styles (Foreign Export Stout, India Pale Ale, Barleywine, etc.). When judging beer, you can compare the sample beer to this ideal, and note any deviations, which usually count as penalties. This removes most of the subjectivity from judging.
But it also reduces the impact of how pleasurable a particular product is (in the BJCP judging system, only 10 of 50 possible points are reserved for "overall impression").
I found it refreshing, then, when I got to the Good Food Awards tasting, and was told only to evaluate each confection on its sensory merits. How did it look? How did it taste? Did it meet your expectations for flavor as it was described?
I had a great time focusing on the flavors I was experiencing, and not worrying too much about what it was "supposed" to taste/look like. There were some surprises in there - who knew I could actually enjoy a marshmallow - and a whole lot of sugar, too.
Not a bad day at the office.