Houston Rodeo's Dutch Oven Dessert Competition Delights This First Time Judge

Little deadlies await at the Dutch Oven Desserts contest.EXPAND
Little deadlies await at the Dutch Oven Desserts contest.
Photo by Gwendolyn Knapp
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On Friday, March 3, the Rodeo Houston's World's Championship Bar-B-Que hosted its annual Dutch Oven Desserts Competition, with 154 sweet entries vying for top honors.

The competition features two rounds of judging, and yours truly, reared as I was from a young age on toaster strudel icing packets and sticks of butter dipped in brown sugar, felt right at home as a first-time judge, sampling nine items during round one.

A Styrofoam handler at work.EXPAND
A Styrofoam handler at work.
Photo by Gwendolyn Knapp

The items arrive in numbered plastic foam boxes, which are then passed to the right among a single table of five judges, who keep quiet and secretive, taking the tasting quite seriously, except for an accompanying frozen margarita or two.

My favorite bite was an intensely sweet variation on classic Grandma food, a blondie-like bar with butterscotch chips and coconut. It spoke to me right out of the box, so I didn't get a photo before downing it. The dessert was likely too sweet to make it any farther in the competition, though, except for a sugar junkie like me, who two days later would find herself in a dentist’s chair having a molar extracted. True story.

Eyes on the prize, Violet, eyes on the prize.EXPAND
Eyes on the prize, Violet, eyes on the prize.
Photo by Gwendolyn Knapp

Desserts that bordered on the sticky bun and cinnamon roll variety seemed to be the norm at my table, with quite a few servings of delicious, albeit rather gloppy variations. The one pictured above had just the right amount of smokiness to set it apart from its competition, though I got the feeling the judges at the table were fairly underwhelmed by our rotation of desserts as a whole.

We didn't get any pie at our table anyways.

There was, however, one unfortunate attempt at strawberry shortcake, seemingly engulfed in lard, which gave the effect of coming directly from inside an animal's body. All I could think of was how Leonardo DiCaprio's character kept warm inside that horse in The Revenant, except, you know, in dutch oven dessert form.

Many shots of whiskey later, I had erased its memory from my mind, and found myself in the line for barbecue at the Goody Girls tent, also lucky to have a friend who was bartending and got me an entry band. That's the thing about the World Championships Barbecue competition; people turn out in droves, but I guess it's only really fun if you know people to get you into a team tent. Goody Girls, going on its 29th year at the barbecue competition, turned out a mean beef sausage and the best corn casserole I think I've ever tasted in my life. I carried my plate through the crowd, watching throngs of jealous onlookers in want of a taste. If only I'd had the gusto to trade that plate for some boots.

Update, March 9, 4:30 p.m. :  Rodeo Houston originally announced the wrong winners (a mix up over team names),  the correct winners are as follows:

2017 Dutch Oven Dessert Winners:

Championship Dutch oven: 110.3 The Bull, Sopapilla Cheesecake

1st runner-up Dutch oven: Houston Proud Yeller Bellies, Chocolate Orgasm

2nd runner-up Dutch oven: Willis Group, Pecan Pie Cheesecake

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