by Colleen Kane
“I love guac-a-mole, so put another lime on the juicer, baby”
–yours truly, just now, making a guacamole lyrical pun other than her go-to “guac it to me.”
To most Americans, Sunday, May 8 was the holiday invented by the Hallmark Institute of Guilt-Induced Gift-Giving called Mother’s Day. To others, it was a day invented by Nachos NY for people to to stuff their bocas with guacamole: the third annual Bell House Guactacular.
Almost as common as guacamole entries in this competition were guac-pun team names: Guac Like an Egyptian, Guac and Roll All Night, Guac Hard….I think I’m still making up these name myself, but you get the picture. I’ll name my favorite at the end.
With over 20 guacamoles to taste and each one not necessarily being so distinct from the next, I felt I finally had an idea of how rocker Bret Michaels felt in all those reality programs where he dated the interchangeable skanks.
The names of the winners and other details are here. But that does little for those who didn’t attend. So coming away from the event, and speaking as a guac maker, fan, and now guac taster, I came up with numerous tips for future competitors and attendees.
- Guactacular attendees should practice judicious sample intake as they make their way through the line, tossing the unimpressive efforts into the trash for consumption by lucky hoboes or rats. Consider the impact on your system (especially the next day) of 20 x your normal intake of guacamole. It’s all fat– but it’s good fat, which means it’s like diet food (except not).
- There was an alarming percentage of bland, boring guacs in this competition. I predicted a tendency to overspice, but in fact the opposite was true. Bland guac in a guacamole competition = instant loss. And rightfully so.
- If you want to win this contest, it’s not enough to simply make a solid guacamole that someone once praised at a taco party you hosted. If that’s all you got, your cash is better spent in other ways than 25 avocados. You have to strive for a guac that has a chance of standing out from 20 or so others. Standouts included ceviche and mangoes as ingredients. (Ceviche won judges choice)
- A less successful standout ingredient was goat cheese. But because it was cheese, I still ate it all, which is more than I can say for some of the plain old traditional guacs.
- If you are wondering whether to be gentle when mixing and respect the avocado chunks or whether to puree your entry into liquid, I personally vote for the former, as do the scientific cook-bots at Cook’s Illustrated. However, do mix as thoroughly as possible– the lone spicy entry in this contest contained some bites of continuing (pleasing) spice heat followed by other bites of blandness.
- I understand the limitations of sponsorships such as Frito-Lay, but still must note that the Guactacular used salted Tostitos chips. An unsalted chip would have better showcased the guacs themselves and lessened eater fatigue.
- Simple shopkeeping tip for competitors: write your team number on your sample cups. (Side note: the eco-friendly sample cups were appreciated, especially since the hundreds of avocados sacrificed for this contest were probs none too local.) At your station, write your team number next to your memorable name with at least some of your ingredients listed. The more ways you give people to remember your team, the more they’re likely to remember it.
- Presentation vs fatigue. After 15 guac samps, my mindset was, “my kingdom for some melted cheese shreds or something akin to a sample serving of nachos!” and then CRAK ‘chos appeared. Their presentation and ingredients were the most inventive in the competition. Unfortunately, the taste was not the herbivorous equivalent to the high of crack cocaine, which makes me suspect the team of being vegans, who are prone to inaccurately pronouncing plant-based creations to be crack.
- Fear not, competitors assigned numbers at the end of the line, it is still possible to stand out. My personal favorite entry was the last one, 21, whose entry with its succulent pepper bits was voted the runner-up People’s Champion.
Best punny team name, as voted arbitrarily by your writer: Guacer, Texas Ranger, whose entry was smoky (using liquid smoke).